30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 36 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The petition of certain parents and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That we, the undersigned, declare that we are concerned at the increasingly alarming child care situation, where only one place is available for every ten pre-school children and where, in NSW, only 1 84 out of the 89 1 child care centres in existence offer Long Day Care for the children of working mothers, despite the changing socio-economic conditions in Australia and the increased numbers of working mother.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that you make funds available urgently for Long Day Care Centres and that all funds allocated for child care be directed only to those child care centres willing to provide long day care, preschool and after-school care, holiday care and emergency day care for children.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition form 46 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Member of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present three petitions from 13, 27 and 49 citizens respectively as follows:
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 amendements 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.
Petitions received and first petition read.
Rent Increases in the Australian Capital Territory
– I present the following petition from 299 citizens from the Australian Capital Territory:
To the honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned, strongly oppose the latest rent increases applied to government flats and houses and further proposed rent increases announced by the Department of the Capital Territory.
We call for a public inquiry into the reasons for the increases.
We support the actions of residents and the Trade Union Movement in opposition to the rent increases including the refusal to pay the increases and union bans.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-On behalf of my colleague Senator Primmer, I present the following petition from 148 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government;
1 ) Subscribe to the view that the Australian Broadcasting Commission belongs to the people and not to the Government of the day, whatever political party.
Eschew all means direct or indirect of diminishing the Independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Regret all proposals for the introduction of advertising into ABC programs.
Develop methods for publicity, funding the Commission which will prevent the granting or withholding of funds being used as a method of diminishing its independence.
Ensure that any general inquiries into Broadcasting in Australia which may seem desirable from time to time, snail be conducted publicly and that strong representation of the public shall be included within the body conducting the inquiry.
As residents of the rural area with very limited access to TV chanels we are particularly perturbed about projected cuts in Current Affairs programs on which we rely for up to date information in matters directly affecting our way of life.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
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. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Chaney.
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 programs and allow effective forward planning.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Maunsell.
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 (six petitions).
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That those who have retired and those who are about to retire are being severely and adversely affected by inflation and Australian economic circumstances.
The continuance of the means test on pensions causes hardship to them.
We call on the Government to immediately abolish the means test on all aged pensions.
To ensure a pension for all on retirement, and a guarantee that all Australian citizens will retire with dignity.
Acknowledge that a pension is a ‘right and not a charity. ‘
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Chaney.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. As the Australian Government’s decision to devalue the dollar by 17.5 per cent should improve the trading position of the Australian mining industry, will the Govenment agree to reconsider its attitude towards assistance for the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd in Tasmania and re-open negotiations with both the company and the Tasmanian Government with a view to finding an arrangement which will guarantee continued employment at the mine?
-It seems to be a reasonable suggestion for me to put to the Prime Minister and I will do so, but I would remind the honourable senator that there is at the moment a Senate Select Committee inquiring into this matter and it is due to report, I think, some day next week. The other very important matter in this area is the burden of State taxes and the burden of workers’ compensation flowing from State legislation in Tasmania which has been imposed upon the company. I have yet to hear emanating from the Tasmanian Labor Government any proposals whereby the burdens which it imposes upon Mount Lyell will be lightened in order to help this company in its operations.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is the Minister aware of the recent report that there are alleged to be 2 valuable antique clocks stored in the Sydney Observatory? The clocks in question are reputed to have been brought to Australia by Governor Brisbane. I ask: Will the Minister check the authenticity of this report and, if it is correct, will he then ensure that these valuable items of our early heritage are displayed in such a place and in such a manner to enable them to be viewed and enjoyed by all interested Australians? May I be so bold as to suggest that my State capital, named after Governor Brisbane, would be a suitable location.
-I will have investigations made. If in fact the Commonwealth does own the clocks, I can well understand the honourable senator’s request that they be displayed. One problem about sending them to Brisbane is to know what time at which to set them. Perhaps we ought to send both clocks so that they could show both daylight saving and eastern standard times at the same time.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources. As a matter of courtesy, Mr President, I would remind you that I have a similar question on the notice paper, although it is not identical. I am repeating the question because I have had difficulty in getting an answer. I preface my question by reminding the Minister of a previous question -
– Order! Is the honourable senator asking a question which is already on the notice paper?
-No, it is not on notice. This question contains different material. I preface my question by reminding the Minister of a previous question regarding plutonium which had been exported to Australia. I now ask the Minister if he is aware of a report in the Washington Post on 6 May 1976. The report is attributed in part to Senator John Glenn, of the United States Senate, who stated that plutonium had been exported to Italy, Germany, Japan, France, Norway and Australia, as well as several other countries. The Minister will be aware that approximately 10 lb of plutonium is required to produce a weapon with a force equal to 20 000 tonnes of TNT. Can the Minister inform the Parliament how much plutonium was brought into Australia, for what purpose it was used, whether there are any plans to import further quantities of plutonium and, if so, how much?
-I am delighted that the honourable senator thinks I read the Washington Post. I know that Senator McLaren has been trying to entice me to read Border Watch; perhaps Senator Keeffe will have more success with the Washington Post, As to the last 3 questions which the honourable senator asked, I will seek the information from my colleague and ask him to supply it at the earliest date.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and I preface it by reminding the Minister that new drugs cannot be marketed in Australia until approval is given by the Department of Health.
Such approval has often been very difficult to obtain because of delays- up to years in some cases- before the Department processes applications. I ask the Minister What is the average delay in processing applications to market new drugs? How many applications now with the Department are of more than 2, 3 and 5 years duration? Has the Australian Medical Association recently investigated the lag in marketing new drugs because of its potential seriousness for patients in Australia? Can the Minister indicate to the Parliament the extent, in terms of more rapid processing, of improvements which resulted from new methods of handling these applications?
– It is true that there have been delays in evaluation and subsequent marketing approval of new drugs. As I understand it, the average delay at present is approximately 22 months. There is a wide circulation of detailed guidelines for the preparation of applications and this has greatly improved the quality of submissions which are made. We hope vat it will assist in overcoming the delay occurring in the approval of some applications. Some information which I have before me shows that, of the applications at present with the Department, 25 have been outstanding for more than 2 years, 2 1 have been outstanding for 3 years and 6 have been outstanding for 5 years. I would emphasise that all 6 applications that are more than 5 years old have been assessed on at least one occasion and deferred because of deficiencies in the data that have been presented. The Australian Medical Association has recently investigated the lag in the marketing of new drugs because of its potential seriousness for patients in Australia. The extent of the improvements in the processing of new drug marketing applications is indicated by the fact that 69 new drug applications, together with 7 applications for extended indications, were considered by the Australian Drug Evaluation Committee in 1975-76. In the previous year 37 new drug applications were considered by the Committee.
-Is the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs aware of the view of the Municipal Association of Tasmania that Tasmania was unjustly treated, by comparison with other States, in the recent allocation of federal funds to local government, in that Tasmania’s percentage of the total national grant was 2.8 whereas its population is 3.05 per cent of the total population of Australia? Is he further aware that, as distinct from the other States, with the exception of part of Queensland, local government in Tasmania has the responsibility for the provision of water and sewerage services, both of which are extremely heavy burdens on the local councils concerned? Finally, in view of the fact that the Municipal Association of Tasmania has requested the Prime Minister to take steps to remedy the unjust and inequitable situation, will the Minister take up the matter with the Prime Minister with a view to the provision of such additional funds as are required to put local councils in Tasmania on at least an equal footing with their counterparts throughout the rest of Australia?
– I am aware of the problem as it concerns Tasmania. Indeed, the Prime Minister and I have foreshadowed the taking of action upon it. The situation is that all Premiers agreed at the Premiers’ Conference in, I think, February or April to invite the Commonwealth Grants Commission to work out a formula for the percentage distribution of local government funds between the States. The Grants Commission did that. The percentage that the honourable senator has referred to, 2.8, is the percentage that was arrived at by the Commonwealth Grants Commission and ultimately accepted by the Premiers’ Conference. L beleive, too, that it reflects approximately, if not totally accurately, the same percentage for Tasmania as applied in the previous year under the Whitlam Government.
It is true that the Premier of Tasmania drew attention at the Premiers’ Conference to the fact that the percentage was lower than that which Tasmania would enjoy in a per capita distribution. That was recognised and it was agreed that at an early date the Commonwealth Grants Commission would be invited to make a review of the situation. During that review, of course, the Tasmanian government of the day will be able to give evidence in support of a claim to increase the percentage. When the Prime Minister and I saw the Premier of Tasmania a week or two ago we undertook to arrange for an early review in that regard. In response to the final part of the honourable senator’s question, I am aware of the particular responsibilities of local government in Tasmania in terms of water and sewerage services.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. It relates to the general cuts in government expenditure. I ask: How do the cuts in the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s funding compare with the cuts in the expenditure of other government departments, and what are some of the actual amounts and percentage differences? As the cuts in the ABC’s expenditure are affecting so many good programs of the ABC, is there any way in which this unfortunate situation can be rectified?
– The cuts suffered by the Australian Broadcasting Commission are in fact in the pattern of the economic restraints which were necessary across the whole spectrum of government activity because of the need to reduce inflation and to cut back a deficit which had got entirely out of hand. So, in response to the first element of Senator Young’s question, there was a pattern of such cuts for all departments and of course for authorities such as the ABC. There is no way of precisely identifying who got a particular percentage and who did not. They varied because of specific factor judgments. As I understand it, the level of actual operating expenditure for the ABC in the previous financial year was $ 124.23m. The comparable figure for this financial year is $119m. This is a cut of $5.23m or 4.2 per cent. The fact is that many departments suffered cuts at least of that magnitude. My understanding is that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is considering its financial position at the moment and the Government expects that it will be approached by the Chairman, Sir Henry Bland. When this happens the Government will make a decision on the facts as presented to it.
- Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Can the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications inform me whether Sir Henry Bland’s inquiries will cover such things as the problem of programming at present?
– Programming is entirely a decision for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Commission has absolute and total responsibility for programs. The government of the day does not intervene in any way in the nature of programs or to suggest what might be broadcast or telecast or what might be cut. These are matters entirely for the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The Broadcasting and Television Act gives the Commission the responsibility to provide adequate and comprehensive programs. That is its task.
– If the money is provided.
– By interjection, the Australian Labor Party today would feel that it has no responsibility for creating the inflation and the deficit which have caused these cuts. It is very well to recall that the mess that has come about was created by the previous Government. I would not expect that Sir Henry Bland would approach the Government regarding programs. I would expect that any approach would be as to a quantum of funds for overall maintenance.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. He just said that expenditure on the Australian Broadcasting Commission last year was $ 1 23m and this year it is $1 19m. He claimed that that was a $4m reduction. Allowing for an inflation rate of 12 per cent, is it not a fact that to give the ABC even the same amount of money in real terms this year would require an appropriation of $137m? Is it not a fact that an appropriation of $1 19m means that the ABC this year has been effectively cut by $20m?
-First, as is inevitable, let me correct the figures, because I did not say any of the things that Senator Wriedt alleged. What I said was that the amount of money for the previous financial year was $ 124.23m; that the amount of money for this year is $119m; and that this is a cut of $5.23m or 4.2 per cent. That establishes the basis of the figures. There is no doubt that a cut in nominal amounts obviously must be exacerbated in terms of a cut in real amounts. There is no argument about that. I cannot give from the top of my head the precise percentage, nor can I say whether the government of the day would be willing to accept supplementary budgeting because of escalated costs. As the honourable senator would know from his experience, that is a matter for presentation by the Commission to the Government for consideration by the Government.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question concerning the Prime Minister. Did he notice a report recently that the Prime Minister prevented a couple of South African yachtsmen from appearing in a sporting event in Australia? Is it not a fact that this country earns money by trading with South Africa? Is it not time that we terminated this hypocrisy of this and other governments, whereby on the one hand we trade with South Africa and on the other hand we disallow sporting events? I ask the Minister: Is it not time that governments of this country grew up and realised that sporting events are not events of great international importance with which they should be concerned?
Opposition senators interjecting-
-I am getting so much help from honourable senators opposite that I do not know that I need really add much in reply to the question. I must confess that I have seen no report about the Prime Minister stopping two or three yachtsmen from South Africa or any other country coming to Australia. I doubt very much whether it would have been the Prime Minister anyhow. It most probably would have been my colleague the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I thought the Government’s policy on this matter was quite well known. It is that we are not prepared to support teams or groups of sportsmen who want to come here but who are picked on a purely racial basis. If they are picked on the basis of merit in a sport, as I understand the policy, there is no objection to them coming here, but Australia does not wish to have contact with teams which are picked on the basis of race and race only.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. Yesterday in answer to questions by Senator Georges and Senator Brown the Minister stated that the Social Services Act provided that the Director-General must be satisfied that reasonable steps have been taken to obtain employment before a benefit is payable; that in respect of those already in the work force, their individual application to the Commonwealth Employment Service is evidence of their taking steps to obtain employment for the purposes of the Act; and that, in respect of school leavers, as a class, the benefit would not be paid during the long vacation. Does not section 107 of the Act, which is the relevant section, refer to a person in the singular and his application for benefit? Does it not refer to the fact that the Director-General should be satisfied that such a person has taken reasonable steps to obtain work? If that is the case, does the Minister not agree that a denial of such benefits to a class of people, because of the Government’s general criteria excludes this individual assessment which is required by the Act? Accordingly, does the Minister not agree that the Government’s criteria could well be invalid? Will the Minister undertake to review the harsh and arbitrary guidelines that have been set?
– In recent days I have answered several questions on the matter of the unemployment benefit in relation to school leavers. What was stated as my answer yesterday is largely correct. There is a requirement in the Social Services Act that the Director-General shall be satisfied that reasonable steps have been taken to obtain work. As I mentioned yesterday, it was not considered that this requirement would be met simply by an application to the Commonwealth Employment Service if a student required employment prior to the results of examinations or prior to a firm decision as to whether he intended to return to school next year. These are matters that can be given individual assessment when we are looking at the unemployment benefit in respect of school leavers. May I say that if there is any dissatisfaction with decisions that are taken there is an appeal process to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal which would be competent to give consideration and make recommendations on each individual situation as it is presented.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. It is estimated that some 25 000 Australians are now using citizen band radio and are unlicensed to do so. Having in mind that citizen band operators are licensed in other parts of the world- as an example, it is reported that some 13 million CB transmitters in the United States of America are licensed and have been accommodated on 40 channels- what is the attitude of the Australian Government to bringing about a licensing scheme to allow CB operators in this country to operate legally? Will the Government introduce legislation to legalise CB operators, recognising that CB radio is a part of every day communication and can contribute substantially to communications in this vast continent?
– My understanding is that there is a very large number of unlicensed citizen band 2-way radios in Australia. The estimate that is provided by the Department of Post and Telecommunications puts the figure between 1 5 000 and 20 000; I think the honourable senator said 15 000. 1 am advised also that the United States Federal Communications Commission agrees with unofficial estimates that there are about 13 million sets of this equipment in that country where it has been legalised in recent years. My advice is that the venture of legalisation of CB radio in the United States and elsewhere has struck very many difficulties and very many problems, most of which are not resolved as yet. Because of interference with the technical operation of other equipment, including hi fi sets and electronic organs, so I am advised, new specifications for that equipment are to be introduced into the United States from 1 January next. As a result of that a very large quantity of equipment already manufactured for the American market will become obsolete and could be dumped on the Australian market. If that should happen it will have bad effects. I understand that my colleague, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, has already announced that the whole question is under study by his Department. A comprehensive report will be available for discussion. I hesitate to say that it will be a Green Paper. It is expected to be finalised before the parliamentary recess. At that stage it will be open for public discussion before the Government gives consideration to further action.
– I remind the Minister for Social Security that the number of questions asked of her about youth unemployment, especially among school leavers, expresses the grave dissatisfaction in the community concerning the decision made by her Department in relation to the payment of the unemployment benefit to school leavers. Will the Minister agree that if a young person approaching the end of his or her school career makes written application to a number of employers for employment that is taking suitable steps to seek employment? Would she not agree that in those circumstances the unemployment benefit should be paid and not denied as she has continued to deny it to those people by way of answers to questions?
– The question asked by Senator Georges is based on a matter that has been the subject of discussion, and that is the satisfaction of the Director-General that reasonable steps have been taken to secure employment. The subject matter of the question is the precise matter that I have been discussing. Reasonable steps are not regarded as having been taken simply by an application being made to the Commonwealth Employment Service.
– To employers generally.
– That is right. The sorts of steps that were outlined in the question would, I believe, be the types of steps that the Director-General would require in order to be satisfied that reasonable steps have been taken. After leaving school it may take some time for a student to find a position for which he is suited, to obtain the results of his examination, to present his qualifications to his employer, and in general to take a series of steps to obtain employment after he has left school. These are what we have considered to be reasonable steps in the obtaining of employment rather than making an automatic benefit payable 7 days after lodgment of an application for employment with the Commonwealth Employment Service.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. We are still not getting the answer.
– Oh, nonsense!
-No, it is not nonsense. If a youngster takes the necessary steps before he or she leaves school in anticipation of leaving school- he may do so in August or September or earlier in the year- would that not be considered as reasonable steps to obtain employment? Why should the Minister insist that reasonable steps are those taken after the person has left school?
– I have not been insisting in the precise terms that the senator has just stated. I have been stating that there is a degree of flexibility within the determination of the Director-General as to whether reasonable steps have been taken to obtain employment. If a student were to anticipate his leaving school, at that stage he is not available for employment. He is seeking employment at some date at which he is not available for employment. To suggest that a person may presuppose that he is going to be unemployed seems to me to negate entirely what is an unemployment benefit.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Administrative Services. I refer to my previous questions in relation to the provision of $ 1.7m by the Commonwealth to reimburse local fire brigades for the cost of protecting Commonwealth property, particularly Telecom Australia switchboards, etc. I remind the Minister that on the last occasion he informed me that 2 States had yet to reply to offers from the Prime Minister in regard to the distribution of funds. Can the Minister inform me whether replies have now been received from those 2 States? If they have not been received, will the Minister take urgent action to bring this matter to an early conclusion in the knowledge that the high costs of Telecom charges are undermining morale amongst volunteers in the Emergency Fire Services in South Australia at a time when it is predicted that this year will present one of the highest bush fire risks on record?
-I can inform the honourable senator that 2 Premiers had not replied when I answered the previous question on 1 1 November. One did reply by letter dated 19 November which was received here on 22 November. One Premier still has not replied. I remind the Senate that the Prime Minister originally wrote to the Premiers on 6 August 1976. After all, there is an obligation on the State Premiers to treat this matter with some urgency. I have had a large number of representations from honourable senators on both sides of this chamber and from members of both sides of the House of Representatives regarding the concern being expressed by a large number of fire brigade people throughout Australia. On 6 August this year the Commonwealth Government, over the signature of the then Acting Prime Minister, wrote to all 6 State Premiers and put to them a proposition whereby the Commonwealth was prepared to compensate for the cost of fire services in lieu of concessions previously granted on charges by the Australian Telecommunications Commission. I must say that it is somewhat disappointing that here we are some 4 months later still awaiting at least one reply. It was only in the last week or so that the fifth reply came in. I suggest to senators and members who receive these representations that perhaps they ought to join with me in asking the Premiers to expedite their answers to the Prime Minister’s letter.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry: In the last 3 months prior to 28 November, how many contracts were written by the Australian Wheat Board in Australian dollars and for what quantity of wheat were they written? How much money has the Australian Wool Corporation received from sales of wool from its stockpile in that same period? What will be the estimated losses incurred by Australian wheat and wool producers because the Australian Wheat Board and the Australian Wool Corporation accepted in good faith the worthless assurances of the Treasurer and the Prime Minister that the dollar would not be devalued?
-I should think the Australian Wool Corporation and the Australian Wheat Board are more capable of looking after their exchange problem than the honourable senator is. I will get a definitive answer to that part of his question which is worth answering.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. As he is aware, in the past Federal estate duty has been levied on the residue of a deceased estate after State death duty has been deducted? Is it true that in those States where death duty is being abolished as between spouses, or the exemption level is being raised, the Federal Government has decided to levy the duty on the full value of estates, thus reducing the benefit to the surviving spouse? Is consideration being given to any proposals to alleviate the position of surviving spouses in respect of death duties?
– I am sure the honourable senator will understand the need for an accurate answer from the Treasurer to his question. I shall seek that for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer the Minister to the case of Mr Da Silva, a Fretilin member now in Australia. Is the Minister aware that Mr Da Silva has been charged for operating a radio link with East Timor from a point near Darwin? Is the Minister aware that Mr Da Silva was held in the Phillip Street, Sydney, cells on the night of Friday, 26 November? Why was Mr Da Silva arrested on a warrant instead of being prosecuted through a summons? Who made the decision to proceed on the warrant that was issued on 25 November, almost 2 months after the confiscation of the radio? Why was there such a delay in proceeding by warrant against Mr Da Silva? Will the Minister state whether it is intended to proceed against Mr Da Silva through summary or indictable proceedings in the Darwin Court on 1 December? Why has Mr Da Silva not been granted an exit visa in order to leave Australia? Finally, does the Minister not agree that such proceedings against Mr Da Silva are tantamount to political persecution of Timorese people who wish to see their country freed from the brutal Indonesian invaders?
-I ask the honourable senator to put his question on notice.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I preface my question by saying that the proposed new legislation to provide for greatly increased penalties for trafficking in illicit drugs has been widely commended. However, since the announcement on 2 1 November a further question in relation to this vital matter presents itself. It concerns drug detection agencies. Can the Minister give assurances that all possible resources of manpower and equipment will be made available to assist in the prevention of the import of illicit drugs into this country?
– I appreciate the concern that Senator Walters has expressed in relation to the importance of having all possible resources of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs made available for the detection of drug offences. I recall that at one of the Estimates committees the officer of the Department who is in charge of these matters was questioned at considerable length about the work of his section in the Department. I refer Senator Walters and other honourable senators who may be interested to the questions asked and the answers given to that committee. However, despite the fact that this matter has been recently considered by the Senate I will pass Senator Walters’ question on to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs whom I represent to see whether I can get a further and perhaps more up to date answer.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security whether she is aware that officers in the New South Wales branch of her Department are some 500 to 700 man-hours behind in processing pension and benefit claims and cheques? Is the Minister also aware that staff is being transferred from other projects within her Department to hold the line so that pension payments will not be delayed over Christmas? Is it also a fact that the present rate of absenteeism and sick leave in this branch of her Department is very high, caused by the pressure on departmental staff due to staff shortages? Has the Minister requested reconsideration by the Prime Minister of current staff ceilings to alleviate this sort of pressure?
– I have not had reported to me those matters that have been raised by the honourable senator. I shall seek a report from the Director-General of my Department on the operations of the New South Wales branch of the Department.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Transport aware that during the examination of the estimates of the Department of Transport by Senate Estimates Committee C on 7 October the Committee was informed that a committee would be set up to look at the role and the functions of the body which would emerge from the amalgamation of the Bureau of Roads and the Bureau of Transport Economics, and also to suggest the best type of organisation to perform the functions? I ask the Minister whether the decision announced by the Minister for Transport in his news release dated 17 November to absorb the Bureau of Roads into the Bureau of Transport Economics in the Department of Transport is in line with the recommendations of the committee which reported on this matter. Will the committee’s report be made available to honourable senators? Can the Minister say whether a Bill will be introduced to repeal the Bureau of Roads Act? If so, when is this likely to be presented to the Senate?
- Senator Jessop asks a question which seeks a range of detailed answers, some of which are not readily available to me. I shall seek out the information and let him have it.
– I draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the Gallery of a delegation of the United Kingdom Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The delegation is led by the Right Honourable Lord Drumalbyn, K.B.E. On behalf of honourable senators I welcome the members of the delegation and hope their visit to Australia is both pleasant and rewarding.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I preface it with the comment that the devaluation of 17.5 per cent last weekend and the further increase of costs will now effectively take the Australian Broadcasting Commission out of any competitive activity with commercial channels on the overseas film market. Rumours are already being floated that legislation to reintroduce radio and television licences at higher rates will be placed before this Parliament early in 1977. 1 ask the Minister whether these rumours are fact or just part of the overall nightmare of Australia being governed by a Liberal-National Country Party coalition.
-Rumours are never facts, even when peddled by the Australian Labor Party.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Cotton. I draw the Minister’s attention to an article in the Australian Financial Review by Robert Hangst which refers to the export of beef to the United States. The article states that in American eyes Australia ‘beat the system’ of meat import restrictions next year, so next year will be different. It goes on to say that the American Administration wants to deal with an official who can negotiate on Australia’s behalf and wants to have the matter of beating the system resolved by the end of December. Three things rankle with the American administration: They are Australia’s use of the loophole of the Puerto Rico free trade zone under virtually false labelling, Australia’s reluctance to deal with the problem of low priced Australian beef going into Canada and the influence this in turn has on the American market. I ask: Why did the Minister’s advisers, in a recent letter to me, deny that some Australian exporters are trying to beat the system and are disadvantaging the legitimate exporters of Australian beef to the United States? Will the Minister re-examine my request and warn these exporters who are using roughhouse tactics that their questionable conduct will not be tolerated and, if necessary, withdraw their export licences?
-I do not know how much beef the writer for the Financial Review has ever produced or tried to sell but I was interested in the proposition that what we needed was a good negotiating hand in this matter in the United States of America. I was not too sure whether Senator O ‘Byrne was proposing himself or me as having had some experience in the beef industry. Be that as it may, there has been much conjecture about what has been happening in the area of beef exports to the United States. I have not found it at all easy to have these cases proved accurately. For my own interest I have tried to find out about them to get a true picture and I could not help feeling from a study of the situation that the Japanese position and the United States position were partly connected with the current elections in both those countries. Maybe I am wrong. I am not forecasting an increase in the price of beef, please understand that, but I do expect the situation to be clarified and to improve early in the New Year in both countries. What Senator O ‘Byrne said is correct, and if there are people who are exporting but evading the rules and not doing the right thing between the countries concerned, the matter ought to be tackled, they ought to be found out and we should do something about it. To that extent I will certainly pick up his comments and ask the appropriate Minister how we are placed towards exposing these areas if they are shown to exist.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Science. I wish to pursue a question which I asked on 10 November concerning the development of alternative energy resources in Australia. I refer to some of the issues raised in the 1976 publication of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation entitled Research Program Objectives. Given the difficulties, particularly the environmental problems, associated with the development of nuclear energy, can the Minister say what priority the Government attaches to the development of solar energy and other alternative energy sources? Is it accepted that the initiative for the development or encouragement of these energy sources should rest with the Commonwealth Government? Can the Minister indicate whether increasing emphasis will be given to the development of alternative energy sources, particularly solar energy, by the Government?
-The energy research component of the Budget of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has increased by over 50 per cent in the last 2 years and its level for this year is about $4.2m. Senator Knight’s question prompts a quite lengthy answer which I would not wish to give at this time. Perhaps the most promising component of the program which the CSIRO is undertaking relates to coal liquefaction and that is being carried out by the Division of Process Technology in Sydney in collaboration with a number of other divisions. CSIRO ‘s expenditure on coal conversion research has almost trebled since 1974 and attention is being concentrated on the flash pyrolysis method. This method offers the most promise for providing Australia with heavy oils of which our indigenous crude oils are typically deficient. I have seen this process and I mention it in response to Senator Knight’s question about the ways in which CSIRO is developing its energy research. Basic work is being conducted on coal conversion. Work has been carried out on solar energy for nearly a quarter of a century by the CSIRO ‘s Division of Mechanical Engineering and it has been mentioned in the Senate previously. There have been advances in the area of solar water heaters for both the Australian and overseas markets, and other advances by CSIRO include the development of solar stills for the desalination of brackish water and timber drying kilns in which the air is heated by solar energy.
There are other sources of energy which CSIRO is investigating. These include sources such as wind- which I hear from the Opposition- wave energy, tide and geothermal energy. The matter of energy research generally is important to all of us, and in that respect CSIRO has set up an energy review committee whose terms of reference are very important. I think that all honourable senators will recognise the urgent need for a delineation of those areas of production, storage, transmission, utilisation and conversion of energy and the energetics of biological systems in Australia which would benefit from research in the context of their economic, social and scientific significance to the nation. At the present time, CSIRO ‘s committee on energy review is looking at and evaluating all those areas for our energy research. I hope that that information will assist the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Science. I regret that he will be unable to read out a prepared answer, as he did to the previous question. I ask: Is the Minister aware that in 1974 an agreement was entered into between Australia and the United States for the exchange of information concerning the development of solar energy? Can the Minister tell the Senate what has been the result of that agreement?
-Mr President, I made a mistake because I brought into the chamber a written reply in relation to feral cats. To be short on this matter I would ask the honourable senator to put his question on notice.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. In view of the fact that the latest surveys show that smokers represent a minority of the total community and of each age and sex group measured, I ask the Minister what progress has been made by Qantas towards increasing the amount of non-smoking seating in its aircraft to provide greater consideration for the majority group in Australian society who do not smoke. What is the amount of non-smoking seating, expressed either in numbers of seats or as a percentage of Qantas aircraft, presently flying international routes as our flag carrier?
– No one will believe me when I say that while I do not have any information on feral cats I do know what is the seating and smoking capacity on Qantas aircraft. If the Senate will forgive me, I shall refer to the brief I have before me. I understand that seating for non-smokers amounts to 50 per cent in economy class and 40 per cent in first class in relation to Qantas, and between 30 per cent and 35 per cent in relation to Ansett and TAA, with Ansett being slightly less than TAA. Non-smoking seats are decided on the basis of in-house surveys and monitoring of passenger preference. I have a lot of other details on this matter, but what they show is that there is a steady increase in the efforts by the airlines, notably Qantas, to make facilities available for non-smoking passengers.
– I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. Is the Minister able to advise what is the slightly lower percentage which applies to Ansett?
-Not at the moment, but I will take the question aboard and get the answer for the honourable senator.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. I believe that the problem to which I shall refer prevails not only in the Department of Veterans’ Affairs but also in the Department of Social Security. However, as I believe that I must confine myself to a question of one Minister, I ask the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs: As eligibility for pensions is now based on income, can he inform the Senate when new application forms for a Service pension will become available so that questions as assets need no longer be answered by applicants?
– I cannot give now the particular answer sought. As it is a matter of importance that it should be accurate, I will obtain the information and let the Senate know as soon as possible.
– It is with some trepidation that I ask a question of the Minister for Science. In view of the most disturbing news that the cattle ticks in the northern areas of Australia are rapidly becoming resistant to all known insecticides, can the Minister advise the Senate whether the eradication progam is to be varied and, if so, in what way? How does he currently see the future of the beef industry in the north?
-In response to the second part of the question, one would have confidence in the beef industry in the north. This is not necessarily from the point of view of the incidence of tick but also as a result of work that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has undertaken. This may result in the breeding of cattle resistant not only to the climatic conditions but also to some of the other features which are of annoyance to cattle and which cause a deterioration in their condition as they approach the time for export. For instance, conditions of extreme heat prevail in the Northern Territory. Attempts are being made to breed stock that will be able to put up with such conditions and to introduce that stock into the Northern Territory. Perhaps that will be achieved by cross-breeding, as is being done at the research station in Rockhampton. Some of the British breeds are being crossed with brahmans and afghans. We are finding that it is possible to produce resistence to heat, to cattle tick and to the fly which annoys cattle and other stock so much. Chemical control has been a timehonoured method of controlling cattle tick. Although it has brought in its train very complex problems of resistance in the tick it continues to be the most important management method for many graziers and is indispensible so far as quarantine is concerned.
– I take a point of order. I think that the Minister is getting miles away from the question that was asked of him in the first place. He has referred to the afghan as being a type of cattle. I think that we need some elaboration on these types of things. The Minister ought to confine himself to the question he was asked, Mr President. I ask you to rule accordingly.
– I call Senator Webster.
-Mr President, the answer that I gave was very much to the point of the question. It is one of particular importance, although apparently it does not appear that way to Senator Keeffe, who, being a senator from the northern part of Australia, should see it as being of importance. The facts that I have given are, to the best of my knowledge, correct. I was saying that chemical control is one of the time-honoured practices. Quite a lot of information is available relating to resistance to chemical treatment and the way in which not only mankind but also our exports may be affected by the use of chemical control. This is an important matter which the CSIRO is investigating. I think it would be better if I were to prepare a paper for the honourable senator on this matter.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. By way of preface I refer to the very sensitive role that Australia’s Ambassador in Belgrade has to perform in a country which is beset by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation powers on the one side and the Warsaw powers on the other. Could the Minister dispel the many rumours circulating that the Australian Government is at odds with its man in Belgrade, Ambassador Booker? Has he returned to Australia or is he returning to Australia? If so, who is looking after the house there in his absence?
-As I understand it, our man in Belgrade, Mr Booker, has written a book entitled The Last Domino. Is that the same gentleman?
– That is the same man.
-I am advised by my colleague in the other place that Mr Booker has indicated that he might retire at the conclusion of his Belgrade assignment. I understand from the briefing note that I have from my colleague that as at the date of the note, 29 November, Mr Booker was still the Ambassador in Belgrade.
– Is he here or there?
-I understand from this note that he is in Belgrade.
– Has the Minister for Education received or made a decision on a submission that was made in September to the Interim Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority by a group of Canberra teachers and parents to establish a modern traditional government primary school that was not open-plan and had a structured approach in areas such as reading, spelling, language, reasoning and communications? Without asking the Minister to pre-empt any decision that he may not have made on this matter, I ask: Would he be prepared to view favourably any similar efforts by parents and teachers in other parts of Australia? Would he be prepared to ask all the authorities and commissions under his control, such as the Curriculum Development Centre and the Schools Commission, to give such moves their full encouragement and expert assistance?
-My recollection is that I have had before me such a representation with regard to the Australian Capital Territory. Again from recollection, the present progress is that I have referred the matter to the Interim Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority for its study and advice to me. I do not think that that advice has yet come to me. The honourable senator should bear in mind that the Interim Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority under the new ordinance will be set up as a permanent authority to administer schools within the Australian Capital Territory, and therefore this is a matter on which I should seek its advice. I have done so. I believe that my Government is keen to encourage, where possible, community groups to get together and, where we can do so, to allow them to establish schools conforming to the principles of education that they hold to be the vital principles. Where that is so in the Territories for which the Commonwealth Government has responsibility, we would encourage them, consistent of course with respect for basic curricula which must prevail throughout Australia. In the States this would be a matter for the individual State governments. There is a general tendency now- one which we would encourage- throughout Australia to seek innovation not only in one sphere of education but throughout the education spectrum. The general answer is that we would encourage such a trend.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science. I refer to a statement attributed to the Minister of Mines and Energy in South Australia, Mr Hudson, who indicated that the South Australian Government would approach the Commonwealth Government to discover whether it would be possible to establish in South Australia a solar energy laboratory of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Can the Minister inform me whether such an approach has been made? What would be the Government’s attitude to such a request?
– I am of the opinion that the South Australian Government provided a submission to the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources on this matter. I am advised that on the question of solar energy that submission indicated that the South Australian Government was prepared to consider material assistance in the event of any decision by the Federal Government to establish a CSIRO research centre in Adelaide. Senator Jessop would be aware that the CSIRO Energy Review Committee, to which I referred a few moments ago, is still considering the matter of energy research generally. I have no doubt that the
Committee will consider that request of the South Australian Government when it comes to its report. I am unable to say anything further on that point at the moment. Undoubtedly if the CSIRO feels there is advantage in establishing a centre, advantage will be taken of that kind offer which has been made by the South Australian Government.
- Mr President, yesterday in the Senate in answer to a question from Senator Mulvihill I said that I had been instructed that the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development had not received a letter from Mr Justice Fox and his colleagues. I have now been informed that my instructions were incorrect. The Minister has in fact received a number of letters from Mr Justice Fox. One of them was concerned with the interpretation that has been placed on the Commission’s first report. I understand that the Minister has discussed the matter satisfactorily with Mr Justice Fox. I remind the honourable senator that the Government intends to await the second report of the Commission before it formulates any further policy or takes any further decision in relation to uranium mining. This attitude of the Government was fully explained in the Minister’s statement to the House on 1 1 November and was reasserted by the Prime Minister only yesterday. I regret that I inadvertently gave an incorrect answer.
- Mr President, the Senate will recall that yesterday Senator Primmer asked me whether I was aware of a letter sent by the Thai Embassy to Thai students in Australia asking them to report on anti-Government students. Senator Primmer was good enough to give me a copy of the alleged document. My advice is that there has been a translation of the letter dated 3 November and reportedly it was sent to all Thai students under the supervision of the Thai Civil Service Commission and Government officers on study leave. This is the one that Senator Primmer had given me. The Government itself cannot and would not seek to deny the right of diplomatic missions in Australia to have access to and to advise their citizens. At the same time foreign students in Australia must have, and have, the same freedom to speak as have Australians. We would be concerned at any attempt to prevent this. Recent political events in Thailand have caused some concern to Thai students abroad. As far as we are aware, no action has been taken against Thai students returning from Australia as a result of their activities in Australia.
As to the second part of the honourable senator’s question, my Government is aware that some Thai students in Australia have expressed concern for their safety should they return to Thailand. The question of granting permanent residence to such students is a matter for the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) but we do have responsibility for Australian Government sponsored students under the Colombo Plan. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs stated the Government’s policy in the House of Representatives on 13 October 1976 as recorded in Hansard at page 1827. I repeat the Minister’s assurance that we will continue to approach the question sympathetically and with understanding.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the first reports of the Local Government Grants Commissions of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, together with related statistical information in respect of Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales. Due to the limited number available reference copies of these documents have been placed in the Senate Records Office and the Parliamentary Library.
Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement relating to these documents.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I table the first reports of the Local Government Grants Commissions of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. In accordance with the new federalism proposals, these 3 States have established Local Government Grants Commissions by statute to distribute funds to individual local government authorities. These reports detail the rationale behind the distribution of funds and the amounts to be received by individual authorities in 1976-77.
In addition to the reports of the Grants Commissions in these 3 States, I also table figures on the distribution of Commonwealth funds to individual local government authorities in Queensland and Western Australia for 1976-77. Queensland and Western Australia have established Interim Local Government Grants Committees but have chosen, at this point of time, not to establish this body by statute. Under the arrangements agreed to at the Premiers’ Conferences, States are able to operate Grants Commissions under administrative arrangements until the end of the 1977-78 financial year, but thereafter statutory arrangements are to apply.
Honourable senators will note that the New South Wales Government has added $3.9m in State funds to the Commonwealth funds and distributed these to local government in a lump sum. I also table details which will allow honourable senators to distinguish the relative contributions of the Commonwealth and State governments to individual local government authorities. The Commonwealth Government believes it is desirable that the community be able to identify the specific responsibilities and finances of the individual governments concerned. The Commonwealth has, therefore, sought the assurance of the New South Wales Government that in future years Commonwealth and State grants to local government are clearly distinguishable.
For the information of honourable senators, I mention that Commonwealth funds are today being paid to the States for onpassing to local government in accordance with the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Act 1976. All States except Western Australia are being paid today. The Western Australian Grants Committee has only recently reported and arrangements to pay the other States were already well advanced when the Commonwealth was informed. However, the Western Australian Government shall be paid tomorrow.
– by leave- I move:
I think it was three or four weeks ago that the first report of the Tasmanian Grants Commission was tabled. Obviously Tasmania was not mentioned among the States listed by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). I presume that payments to local government in Tasmania would have been made at about that time.
– That is right.
-That is all I wish to know. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I table the final report of the Darwin Disaster Welfare Council. The report is dated March 1976 and has recently been distributed by the Council. I seek leave to make a short statement with regard to that report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Darwin Disaster Welfare Council was established in early 1975 following the devastation of Darwin by cyclone Tracy at Christmas 1974. The Council membership was drawn from people in the welfare, religious, commercial, political and other sectors of the Darwin community. The Council received Commonwealth funding, over 12 months, amounting to $62,000 through the Department of Social Security. The objectives of the Council are stated in the report as being:
The report is a very detailed one and serves a very useful purpose in recording the welfare implications of a major disaster.
Senator ROBERTSON (Northern Territory) by leave- I commend the report to all honourable senators and remind them that the Darwin Disaster Welfare Council was set up and funded within 2 weeks of cyclone Tracy hitting Darwin. Credit must be accorded to the Labor Government and, of course, to Dr Patterson as Minister for the speed with which the Council was set up. The feeling in Darwin at the time and certainly in the 12 months following cyclone Tracy was that it was very fortunate for Darwin that we had a Labor Government at the time because it took a number of speedy actions to alleviate the distress. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has indicated that the membership of the Council was drawn from all sections of the community. I would go a huie further and say that the Council was very fortunate to have as its chairman Mr Harry Giese, M.B.E., a most experienced administrator who gave excellent leadership at a time when it was needed.
I should like to draw attention also to the first Director of the Council, Mr Ray Norman, who was the Executive Director of the Young Men’s Christian Association and was lent to the Council for 5 months by the YMCA. Again it was the situation of the right man in the right place at the right time. At that time Ray exhibited qualities of team leadership and sound organisation. He was a good administrator. He was popular and acceptable to the people within the Territory. I should like to pay tribute to the 5 months which he spent as Director. Certainly the success of the Council is due in no small part to his activities. He was followed by Mr Max Dumais from the Northern Territory Council of Social Services. He is a well qualified social worker and a person quite experienced in Australian Assistance Plan work. It is interesting to note that had the Northern Territory Council of Social Services been funded earlier there seems little doubt that we would not have needed to set up the Darwin Disaster Welfare Council. I stress at this stage, although perhaps there is no need knowing the feeling of many members on the other side of the chamber, the value of the councils of social service. They must be there to do the work that is needed to be done all the time, but they must be there in times of emergency. Had they been operating and funded well at that time they could have taken over immediately the cyclone struck.
I should like to indicate the value that I see in the report. Firstly, it shows how the Council operated for that 12 months. That in itself is a valuable historical exercise. Secondly, it shows the place of the social welfare agencies in times of emergency. In fact it goes on to recommend that there should be a welfare component in the national disaster organisation. This point is not always accepted. I commend it to the Minister. The report makes other recommendations upon which I will not elaborate about the way agencies might work together in times of emergency. I think it is very important that this sort of record is produced. It is one of the reasons why I have been pressing very hard to have a manual produced by the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund. I feel that at the end of the Fund’s time- it has come to an end at the moment- it could produce a document which would show how we ought to operate under these conditions and how we ought to handle the money which comes in from those many generous people who make money available. Then we will learn from experience and not make the mistakes which, perhaps, we made at that time.
I make one cautionary note in conclusion: The off the cuff comments that will be found at the back of the report might not reflect the view of all the people of Darwin. They are very interesting but I suggest they be read with that thought in mind. They are off the cuff and spontaneous comments made 6 months after the disaster.
I commend the members of the Council for the work they did, the hours they spent and the energy they expended. There is a deal of satisfaction in doing this sort of work. There is also a deal of satisfaction in knowing that others appreciate what you are doing. I should like Mr Giese and the other members of the Council to know that the people of Darwin appreciate the efforts they have put in. On that note, I seek leave to propose a motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 24 of the Metric Conversion Act 1970 1 present the annual report of the Metric Conversion Board for the year ended 30 June 1976. 1 seek leave to make a statement relating to that report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Honourable senators will recall that the object of the Metric Conversion Act is to convert progressively to the sole use of the metric system of measurement in Australia. It was planned that conversion would be substantially complete within 10 years; that is by mid- 1980. I am pleased to report that the Board estimates that the program is on schedule with about 70 per cent of the task completed. Of the 150 detailed programs, all are either complete or well under way.
It may be of interest to review the progress that has been made in various sectors during the last few years. In education, teaching in all grades is now in metric units though some imported texts, notably from the United States, use non-SI metric units. These texts should be revised now that the United States has passed an Act to convert to the metric system. The majority of primary industry sectors have converted and all wholesale selling and statistics are in metric units. Virtually all packaged goods now carry metric markings of their contents. In the majority of cases this is solely metric and the sizes are rational metric sizes. A survey in August 1975 revealed that 65 per cent of engineering companies had converted half or more of their products while 36 per cent had converted all their products. All new projects in building and construction are now in metric units and all plans must be lodged in metric units.
Whilst there are still some problems in converting industrial materials, notably in timber sizes and polythene pipes, many conversions are complete. A range of metric fasteners, nuts, bolts, screws, etc. is now readily available. Transport is wholly converted, with freight rates now being fully metric, and speed limits signs, distance signs and flood level indicators are all metric. The associated media reports, including motoring journals and tourist literature, are substantially in metric terms. This month should see the completion of the conversion of all petrol pumps to litres. The retail sector is actively being converted but there is much to be done. Good progress is being made in the conversion of retail scales but it has become evident that regulation by the local authority is necessary to achieve smooth and orderly conversion by geographic zones. In real estate, some 80 to 90 per cent of all advertisements are now solely metric.
I should like to tell honourable senators that the planning phase of the program is complete. Consequently, the many committees established by the Board meet only infrequently to review progress or to discuss specific problems which occur. The activity is well into the implementation phase and the cost of the Board’s operations has again dropped this year. This trend will continue. Nevertheless, metric units are still not part of everyday speech and many people still use the old imperial units. It is likely to be many years before the metric units become part of our tradition and culture, but I expect that as the last sections of the retail trade convert during the next few years, and as children who have been taught only the metric system join the work force, this situation will quickly change. Honourable senators will find further details of the work of the Board in the report which I commend to their attention.
-by leave-I should like to speak in relation to the report on the metric system. When this report was brought in originally it was accepted in the usual way. It has been the practice over many years for lots of reports to be brought in which no one expected would be acted upon. I do not think this report was expected to be acted upon.
– Yes, it was.
- Senator Sim might have his own views on this matter. Although metric conversion was started by a Liberal Government, it is one of the looniest actions that has ever been taken in this country. This system has been brought in at very great cost to the country. It has virtually amounted to the introduction of a foreign language which hardly anybody can understand. Wherever one may go at present, after all these years, the amount of knowledge that people have regarding the metric system is very small. The fact is, irrespective of what honourable senators might say, that even the people who supported the introduction of the metric system do not understand much about it. When Mr ‘Goof Whitlam was Prime Minister of this country he had a dispute with one of his Ministers, Mr Clyde Cameron, about the pronunciation of ‘kilometer’. He pronounced it ,1.;11 nueter’, while Mr Cameron preferred ‘killometer’. The Professor of Greek at Sydney University who taught Mr Whitlam said the word should be pronounced ‘KILL-o-meter’. These people cannot even agree among themselves on what they are talking about. How do we know what people are talking about when they are talking in metric terms?
There is no doubt there could be reason for the application of the metric system to goods we export in order to get a uniformity of comparison of measurement when dealing with other countries. But can anybody tell me what need there was to change acres into hectares? Do we export hectares and what relation does the measurement have to people outside this country? But it does concern the people inside this country. How many people understand hectares? Yet people understand acres.
Then there is the change of measurement from miles to KILL-o-meters or kil-OM-eters- whatever you like to call it. I thought it was KILL-o-meters. Look at the expense that was caused in Australia in altering all the road signs throughout this country. That expenditure must have been very considerable indeed. The amount of money that has to be spent to bring in this system amazes me. What advantage can we get in Australia from people travelling around looking at signposts they do not understand after we have incurred all this expense?
The change also affects the packaging of goods. I remember that when the dairying industry had to go over to the metric system a large number of bottles was apparently wasted because a new size was introduced. That involved more cost to this country. This is the sort of thing that has been going on. It goes to show that in accepting reports parliamentarians really should be more vigilant. We as the Government at the time and as honourable senators on the Government side should have been more vigilant at that time. The expenditure that has taken place over the period of years by now must be a pretty considerable sum. It amazes me that this Government is sufficiently metric mad that, while it is cutting down on other things of great imporance I understand that the money provided for the madness of metrication has not been reduced in any shape or form.
Can anybody tell me there is an advantage in travelling around Australia in kilometres rather than miles or in buying land in hectares rather than acres? Nobody in this chamber can honestly tell me that the money that we spent on this looney idea of metric madness has achieved as much for the internal workings of Australia as we would have gained if that money had been devoted, say, to the portfolio of the Minister for Science and used for a scientific investigation, and more particularly an investigation into the health and welfare aspects of medical science. I believe such an expenditure would have had much greater benefit for Australia. Week after week we find people sending in petitions in connection with this metric business. Despite the views of a few parliamentarians who might exhibit a superficial knowledge better than that of the ordinary citizen, wherever I go I find that few people really understrand metrics. As I said, we are now talking a foreign language in this country and we do not understand it. As far as I am concerned it is a stupid waste of money in the main. I think that if the Government were fair dinkum about cutting back expenditure this would be one area in which it should cut back.
– by leave- I move:
I do not want to deal at any great length with the report or about the metrication process in general but I should not like the impression to get around that the Opposition shares Senator Wood’s view. I believe that Senator Wood should have expressed those views much more firmly than he did many years ago when the first report of metrication came down. He is far too late. The reason we support the metric system is because of its simplicity. I suppose the introduction of this system is one of the few things that the previous Liberal-Country Party Government did that I would support. Metrics in fact is an international language, not a foreign language. The introduction of this system means that our students and our scientists can speak the same scientific language that students speak in other parts of the world.
I wish to assure the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) that there are some expressions that will not disappear from our language because of this cultural change. The expression: ‘Give him an inch and he will take a mile’ refers very well to what the Minister does at question time. I do not think there is any possibility of that changing to: ‘Give him a centimetre and he will take a kilometre’. I shall not seek leave to continue my remarks because I understand that my colleague Senator Button wishes to express the opposite view.
Senator WOOD ( Queensland )-Mr President, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Senator Grimes spoke as though I should have made clear that I was talking for myself. I do not think I gave the impression that I was speaking for anybody else. I was speaking for myself, and I want to say that there was considerable support for the scheme from the Opposition.
– I did not mean to give that impression at all, senator.
Debate (on motion by Senator Webster) adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 33 of the Criminology Research Act 1971 I present the annual report of the Australian Institute of Criminology for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– Pursuant to section 43 of the Criminology Research Act 1971 I present the annual report of the Criminology Research Council for the year ended 30 June 1976.
– Pursuant to section 28 of the Legislative Drafting Institute Act 1974I present the annual report of the Legislative Drafting Institute for the year ended 30 June 1976.
That the Senate take note of the papers.
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I present the report and transcript of evidence of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on its inquiry into Australia and the refugee problem.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the report.
I wish to make only a few remarks concerning this important report. The major part of the inquiry was conducted under the chairmanship of my colleague and friend Senator Primmer. I should like to pay tribute to his fairness and impartiality on a subject which was one of sensitivity and controversy. I should also like to say that the members of the Committee, in considering a report which is highly critical of 2 governments, in my belief acted in the best traditions of Senate committees. I think we all realise that Senate committees are not the creatures of Executives; their responsibilities and obligations are to the Senate. I wish to say in fairness to the members of the Committee that I believe this was uppermost in their minds in considering this report. As I said, this report is a highly critical one. It is critical of 2 governments. It is critical of departments for the lack of understanding and appreciation of the problem of refugees as distinct from migrants. But despite the criticism in the report I believe that the major part of the report- which I hope the Senate and hopefully the Government will take note of- has a positive side; that is, the recommendations which cover a wide field.
I also wish to pay tribute to the Secretary of the Committee, Mr Peter Hocking, who had a most complex task in preparing the draft report. It was a complex task because it covered an extremely wide area. There were many areas of controversy and many contradictions, particularly in statistics which we had to try in some way to bring together. Perhaps before drawing the attention of the Senate to one or two of the recommendations I should read to the Senate the last paragraph of the report. I draw this to the attention of Ministers of this Government. It is on page 86 and in paragraph No. 629. However we may criticise the hide-bound attitude of the bureaucracy, we believe that Ministers have a responsibility and that that responsibility has not been exercised. The report states:
Finally, the Committee draws attention to the need for positive Ministerial involvement in the matter of the settlement of the Vietnamese, Timorese, Indochinese and other refugees. We regret the failure of Ministers- in the face of available evidence- to react decisively and with sensitivity to the refugees’ needs. These latter qualities are basic requisites to the Ministerial directives and initiatives which are required, if the problems which have been raised in the preceding chapters are to be resolved and the recommendations which are made in the final chapter are to be implemented. Until this is done, some refugees may be little better off in Australia than they would have been had they remained in their own countries.
These may appear to be strong words but the Committee believes that they are justified. I quickly draw attention to a few of the major recommendations and conclusions in the report. The first is the urgent need for the formulation of a refugee resettlement policy. Unfortunately in the very troubled world in which we live today there is no guarantee that Australia as a lucky country will not be faced with this type of problem again, and maybe very soon. Unless we have a policy which is well thought out and which enables us to respond quickly and effectively to refugee crises I am afraid that the problems and the muddle which have been the major factor with Vietnamese, Timorese and other refugees will recur. The Committee has laid down in the report what it believes should be the essential features of a new refugee policy. It believes that refugees, who in some senses may have the same problems as many migrants, come here in most dramatic circumstances, confused and separated from their families with little or no possessions. They probably do not know where they are until they arrive. This happened with Vietnamese, Indo-Chinese and maybe Timorese refugees and, unfortunately, in the world in which we live today it is likely to occur again.
There is a need to reconsider prevailing attitudes. It is apparent to the Committee that considerable reorientation of basic thinking must take place amongst ministers and a number of departments if a refugee policy is to be formulated on the basis of the general principles which the Committee has laid down. We think that Australia has a part to play in the overall approach to refugees, the international approach through the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. We believe also that there is great dependence upon voluntary agencies but that there is great need for co-ordination of the work of these agencies. The Committee recommends the formation of a refugee policy council, an advisory council comprising a number of government departments which must be involved and the major voluntary organisations. We believe that this council should be within the staffing and control of the Prime Minister’s Department, that there should be overall planning and coordination of government activity and the establishment of an interdepartmental committee on refugees. One of the lessons we have learned is the complete lack of co-ordination between the government departments involved with refugees. If one thing stands out clearly it is that. If we are to meet these problems in the future there must be established this type of inter-departmental committee which can react quickly to these problems when they arise. We recommend very strongly that it too should be under the control of the Prime Minister’s Department. Obviously this is a senior Department which is not involved in the day-to-day administration. It is the Department which in our view is the best equipped to be the co-ordinating and convening authority.
The Committee believes that settlement committees should be established. My colleague Senator Sibraa saw the United States settlement of Vietnamese refugees and, from his report, the United States has been far more successful than we have, despite the huge numbers it took. One of the reasons for this has been the community participation in helping to settle them. In Australia there was some community participation but it was not co-ordinated or sufficient. That is not to say that there is not good-will and a willingness among the community, but until that good-will is harnessed these problems will inevitably arise. The Committee has made a number of other positive recommendations which I commend to the Senate and the Government.
This report is an important report. In many ways it has been one of the most difficult references that the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence has had to deal with, but it dealt with it in a spirit of humanitarianism, believing in the need to face up to the world situation and the part Australia must play, but above all to see that these unfortunate people when they come to this country for refuge are treated in a humanitarian manner which appreciates their problems. Unfortunately this has not occurred on this occasion. In saying that I am not being critical of the many people, voluntary organisations and others who played a very conspicuous part. The major fault was lack of coordination at, I regret to say, government level. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
-by leave-I thank Senator Sim for his remarks about my chairmanship of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence and I reciprocate by saying that Senator Sim as chairman of that committee in the latter part of the reference did an excellent job in bringing about the ultimate report. As he said, it was not an easy reference. It was far from easy. We were delving into an area on unknown ground and a lot of the evidence that was received took a great deal of searching for and researching. One could speak at some length of the problems with which the Committee and its staff were confronted, problems such as interpreters and various interpretations of the same matter being given by various people. The secretary, Mr Hocking, put in many hours of work to tie up all the loose ends and finally present the Committee with a draft report. These problems were part of the reason the report took so long to present to the Senate. It is to the credit of the Committee as a whole that it was able to change horses in mid-stream and still have a consensus on the findings.
I agree with Senator Sim that with some departments there was a great deal of buck passing, petty jealousy and a total lack of co-ordination. Whilst the Australian populace put its heart out to the refugees from Vietnam some 18 months ago, in my opinion there was a feeling abroad that once they were brought here they were safe and all would be well. The facts which emerged from our investigation show that all is not well and that a great deal more work needs to be done by governments and departments if we are to bring refugees into this country again in similar circumstances and if they are going to settle down and live a fulfilling and rewarding life in this country. I believe that a number of refugees who have been settled in this country from Vietnam, as the report indicates, would have been better off if they had stayed in their own country. Many of them will be a burden on their families and the taxpayers of this country until they pass on. They are not of a fit state of mind and have not had sufficient education to be able to cope with the intricacies of life in a society that is totally different from their own. Some of the human tragedies, which are still there for anyone to see at places such as Wacol, would be an eye opener for many people in the community. There are wives with children still separated from their husbands, sons and daughters separated from their parents, none of them knowing where the others are. Unfortunately, for reasons best known to themselves, prior to or upon entry into this country many of these people gave false names, addresses and ages. That is a problem with which they and the bureaucracy in this country will be confronted for a long time. I do not wish to say anything further at this stage, Mr President, and I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator KILGARIFF (Northern Territory) In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969,I present the report relating to the following proposed work:
Consolidation into Bankstown of the Bankstown and Lidcombe Government Aircraft Plants operated by Hawker de Havilland Australia Pty Ltd at Bankstown, New South Wales.
– by leave- In response to a question from the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) in the House of Representatives on 4 November 1976, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) agreed to consider setting up a select committee of the House to look into tourism. Mr John Howard, Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, acting on behalf of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, has today moved to establish a select committee of the House of Representatives to inquire into tourism. The terms of reference of the Committee are:
To examine the significance and potential of tourism in the Australian economy and whether it has special features in comparison with other industries, with particular reference to its effects on:
Honourable senators will be aware that some segments of the tourist industry have been experiencing difficult trading conditions. It is an industry which is particularly susceptible to fluctuations in levels of economic activity. The problems of the industry are exacerbated by the increasing numbers of Australians travelling overseas. The latest figures available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that during 1975-76 Australians spent $5 19m travelling overseas while overseas visitors spent $255m in Australia. The Government ‘s decision to devalue will, of course, assist in narrowing the gap between travel debits and credits.
The tourist industry is an important industry. It is a significant employer of labour, employing up to 5 per cent of the work force. It is important to State economies, particularly Tasmania and Queensland. It is the life blood of some regions. The Gold Coast and the Snowy Mountains are but two examples of this. Tourism has important social implications. It is a means by which Australians as well as overseas visitors can learn more about our country and our heritage; and it is a worthwhile means of using increasing hours of leisure. In short, the many facets of this important and growing industry contribute to the Australian economy through: urban and rural development; decentralisation; new and expanded employment outlets; contribution to foreign exchange earnings; avenues for profitable short and long term investment; a contribution to education; new avenues for improving community health and welfare, both physical and mental; a deeper understanding of different cultural standards and community attitudes; a wider base for international understanding and goodwill.
It is against this background that the Government has decided to establish a select committee to inquire into tourism. The terms of reference are broad and the task is of some magnitude. It is difficult therefore to set a firm deadline for the committee to complete its inquiries and prepare a report. However, I am sure we can rely on the enthusiasm of the members of the committee to complete their task as quickly as possible. Because of the involvement of Commonwealth, State and local governments in tourism, specific mention has been made in the terms of reference to the responsibilities of the three levels of government. Honourable senators may know that last September I appointed a Government Members Committee on Tourism under the chairmanship of Senator Rae. This Committee has been working most diligently and has received many submissions. Its report is due to be completed before the end of the year. I feel sure that its findings will be of interest and of considerable use to the select committee. I move:
– by leave- The Opposition commends the Government for having acted on the suggestion of the honourable member for Robertson (Mr Cohen) to establish a select committee of the House of Representatives to inquire into the tourist industry. As the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) has said, it is an industry which is important economically to Australia and to the States of Australia. It is also very important economically from an employment point of view. The Opposition has noted that the Minister for Industry and Commerce last September appointed a Government Members Committee on Tourism under the chairmanship of Senator Rae. When the suggested committee is established by the House of Representatives it will be the first time that Labor members of the Parliament have been asked to contribute their knowledge and experience to the deliberations on such an important subject. For instance, casual employment in the tourist industry used to be one very important way for university students to obtain practical experience and gainful employment during vacation periods. Unfortunately, that is now one of the industries which is somewhat restricted in employment opportunities.
In September or October 1974 the Whitlam Labor Government referred to the Industries Assistance Commission for investigation and report the subject of whether or not short term assistance should be provided to the tourist accommodation industry. I emphasise the words tourist accommodation industry’ as distinct from the terminology of the terms of reference of this proposed select committee, which refer to the tourist industry generally. The IAC made some recommendations to the Government in November 1975, shortly after the Whitlam Labor Government was dismissed from office. I do not think it made any recommendations that short term assistance should be provided to the tourist accommodation industry but it did make some comments about debt reconstruction and better communication between employers and the work force of the industry.
The Labor Opposition will welcome the opportunity to nominate 3 Labor members to serve on the committee, but we believe that the subject is of such importance to many aspects of Australian life that a deadline should be set for the committee to report to the Parliament. When the matter comes forward in another place we will welcome the opportunity to serve on the committee but we will suggest that a report be presented to the Parliament by 3 1 May so that the Government can consider the recommendations of the committee and, if necessary, agree to any recommendations the committee might make for inclusion in the Budget to be brought down for the next financial year.
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– On behalf of Senator Withers, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 30 November, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not oppose this legislation; in fact, it supports it. If anybody is interested in the subject, the reasons why we support it are set out in the House of Representatives Hansard of 16 November 1976 at page 2729.
– in reply- I thank the Opposition for its support of the Bill. I am sure that honourable members will take up Senator Button’s invitation to them to refer to the reasons stated in another place. I am pleased that he has been prepared to state the Opposition’s position so succinctly and that the Bill is to have a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
- Mr Chairman, I do not know what view Senator Button will take of the proposition I am about to put, but, in view of the invitation that he has already impliedly extended to me, I suggest that I be allowed to move in one motion the whole of the amendments to this Bill that have been foreshadowed by the Government.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Is leave granted to Senator Durack to move 3 amendments together? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The amendments refer to clauses 2 and 8, which read in part:
In clause 8, after proposed section 19ba, insert the following proposed section: “ ‘ 19baa. Where a Department of State of the Commonwealth is abolished and, immediately after its abolition, a Department with the same name as the abolished Department is established-
In clause 8, after sub-clause (2) insert the following sub-clauses: “(3) After the commencement of this sub-section-
Territory, or in an instrument under or having effect for the purposes of such a law, to the Treasury Regulations shall be read as a reference to the Regulations referred to in paragraph (e); and
Regulations referred to in paragraph (3) (e) or of those directions. “(5) If a Department of State of the Commonwealth by the name of the Department of Finance is not established on or before the day on which this Act receives the Royal Assent, sub-sections (3) and (4) shall not come into operation until the day on which such a Department is established.”.
Amendments agreed to.
– There is one further matter to be dealt with. As a result of those amendments having been passed it is necessary for me to move an amendment to the title of the Bill, which reads at the moment:
A Bill for an Act to amend the Acts Interpretation Bill 1901.
Amendment agreed to.
Title, as amended, agreed to.
Bill, as amended and with an amendment to the title, agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That the Bill be reported with amendments.
– I take the opportunity to ask the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) a question. It follows on that section of the Bill which relates to the decision of the High Court of Australia in the Seas and Submerged Lands Act case and to the indication by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to Sir Charles Court of the Commonwealth Government’s position on this decision. I ask the Minister: Has the Commonwealth Government to this stage given consideration to the question of legislation relating to industrial activities carried on beyond coastal boundaries, as I think they are defined in the Bill?
– I think that there are several matters involved in the questions asked by Senator Button. The honourable senator mentioned some correspondence between the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Premier of Western Australia. As I understand it, that correspondence deals with the whole question of the effect of the decision of the High Court of Australia in the Seas and Submerged Lands Act case, namely the sovereignty of the Commonwealth Parliament offshore below the low water mark. The decision of the High Court in the Seas and Submerged Lands Act case has raised a number of very difficult questions as to the respective jurisdictions of the Commonwealth Parliament and the State parliaments.
It has been stated on a number of occasions by the present Commonwealth Government that it proposes to hold- indeed it is holding- discussions with the State governments in respect of a variety of problems which, as I have said, have arisen out of that decision of the High Court. They apply to mining, to fishing, to the application of criminal law and to the application of industrial law. As I understand the position, discussions are being held on each of those topics. Probably different groups representing the Commonwealth and State governments are holding those discussions. They are of a very technical nature and they will of necessity take time to resolve.
I understand that Sir Charles Court, the Premier of Western Australia, has made a proposal to the Commonwealth Government which would involve a devolution in some way to the State governments of the sovereignty which has been accorded to the Commonwealth Parliament by the High Court decision. I am not familiar with the details of the proposition. I have not seen the actual proposition that Sir Charles Court has put forward. Of course, it would not be appropriate for me to express here any view on behalf of the Prime Minister. That is a matter for the Prime Minister. I understand that he has already replied to Sir Charles Court. I think that correspondence already has been made public in the Western Australian Parliament. No doubt there will be further correspondence. I am not able to make any reference to it in the Senate this afternoon. It will be a matter for future decision by the Prime Minister as to the extent to which he will make public the correspondence between him and the Premier of Western Australia. The making public of such correspondence has always been a matter for decision between the Prime Minister and the Premiers.
I turn to the specific point that Senator Button has raised in relation to the application of industrial laws. He said, I think, ‘the industrial laws’, but I suppose he means the industrial laws in a wider sense than purely workers compensation laws or laws relating to industrial relations. They may be laws relating to common law damages, for that matter, for actions arising out of industrial accidents and so on. I understand that discussions about those matters will be coming within the area that I mentioned previously, namely the discussions at the officials level between the State governments and the Commonwealth Government.
I am not aware of there having been any resolution yet of the difficulties in relation to any such matters. I have just checked and found that I am correct in that assumption. However, I am sure that I can say this much: The Commonwealth Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), whom I represent in this chamber, and I are concerned as to the situation that has arisen as a result of the decision of the High Court in respect to State laws. I appreciate that there have been High Court decisions subsequently which have gone some way towards clarifying the application of State laws. I think that everybody is awaiting with great interest a further decision of the High Court in a case in which a gentleman by the name of Robinson is suing the State of Western Australia in respect of the application of a State Act. That decision is being awaited, particularly because of its impact on historic shipwrecks off the Western Australian coast. Apart from that expression of the concern we have and the need for progress to be made as speedily as possible, I am afraid I cannot be any more specific in answering Senator Button’s question.
Bill reported with amendments and with an amendment to the title; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 30 November, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not oppose the Qantas Airways Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1976 or the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1976, but I want to take the opportunity to make a few remarks. In particular I emphasise the fact that there appear to be somewhat different attitudes to Qantas Airways Ltd, which is the Australian Government-owned airline, and to Ansett Transport Industries Ltd, which is the subject of the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill in which the limits of borrowing seem to have reached fairly fine proportions. I think this is probably symbolised by a statement made in another place by a Government supporter on 16 March this year. The honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) said:
No matter what one thinks of public enterprise we do have the ongoing situation of maintaining Qantas and TAA … It does not matter whether some of us feel from time to time that we ought to sell our interests in Qantas and that we ought to sell TAA to private enterprise.
It is rather a preconceived idea about public and private enterprise that the present Government has, particularly when one looks at the tremendous record of Qantas. It is a pity that there should be any thought of trying to penalise our own carrier. The Government’s attitude is probably highlighted again by looking at the loan for Ansett Transport Industries Ltd. Any significant increase in the borrowing ratio could result in a breach of the conditions of the ATI debenture trust deeds, which specify that borrowing ratios are a limit of SO per cent of secured liabilities to total tangible assets after deducting loans on aircraft and a limit of 75 per cent of total liabilities to total tangible assets after deducting loans on aircraft. In respect of the second limit the figure was 72.5 1 per cent in December 197 1.
I want to talk in a little more detail now about the Bills. The purpose of the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill is for the Commonwealth to guarantee loans raised by Ansett Transport Industries to finance the purchase of its seventh Boeing 727-200 series aircraft. In this instance the proposed Government guarantee will be limited to US$8m, or its equivalent, which represents 80 per cent of the cost of the aircraft and associated equipment. The aircraft under consideration is planned for delivery in December 1976. The Boeing 727-200 series aircraft has now been in operation in Australia for a number of years and apparently has proved to be superior to the earlier DC9 and 727-100 models. It is said that the new aircraft is quieter and has greater passenger capacity and comfort. Most importantly, it is less demanding on energy resources.
I want to compare Trans-Australia Airlines and the very businesslike company ATI. It has taken ATI 6 months longer than TAA to apply to purchase its seventh 727-200 series aircraft. I want to quote again what the honourable member for Swan said in another place. He said:
One does not have to look far to realise that in a private enterprise system it is usually profits first and people last, whereas in a public owned enterprise it is usually the people who are looked after first and profits are of less importance.
– I wish it was so.
– You can make comparisons. I have travelled on most airlines around the world. Qantas is competing in a market with almost wholly private enterprise airlines and it is coming out in front. I will give a few figures afterwards. It is true that it was estimated earlier this year that Qantas would be in trouble to the tune of something like $20m. This has been considerably decreased. I will give the exact figures later.
The domestic airline industry is a mixed industry. There are the 2 major operators, and there are some commuter lines which are tied in with one or other of the 2 major airlines. Let me give a couple of personal experiences with Ansett Airlines of Australia. Recently I was coming back from a remote area in the north west of South Australia by a commuter airline. Because my booking was handled by the Ansett agency I resolved that I would continue from Adelaide to the east in an Ansett aircraft. When my copassenger and I arrived at Adelaide, the aircraft to the east had not taken off, but Ansett would not transfer our baggage or hold the aircraft for another 2 minutes to load myself and my copassenger. Yet before I had booked on that flight I had been guaranteed that I would be able to get on it. Honourable senators can imagine that I was most unhappy. I cancelled the Ansett ticket and transferred to TAA straight away.
Some little while ago I wanted to travel from my home city to another provincial city with
Ansett Airlines. It was important that I be at my destination by a certain time. It was guaranteed that I would be there by then, but I was taken to a provincial city half way between my point of departure and my destination. I was unloaded and the aircraft flew on to Brisbane. I was not allowed to protest because it was said: ‘It is just one of those things that happen.’ I missed the meeting I was supposed to attend, which was a very important one. I complained to Ansett Airlines and I got back a very nice letter of apology, but it did not make me a satisfied customer.
If we are to have a 2-airline policy at least let us have 2 airlines operating on an equal basis, not with the private operator, Ansett Airlines, holding numerous advantages over the public operator. Let me give one or two examples of preferential treatment. Under the Liberal Party philosophy Ansett has a monopoly over TAA in Western Australia. Business in that State is worth in excess of $5m a year. My colleague speaking in support of my remarks will expand on this, so I will not go into all the details. Rather than lengthen the time of debate I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a small table.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Coleman)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-One of the criticisms that have been voiced by Government supporters is that TAA showed a smaller profit and has a larger staff. I think the safety record of TAA is unsurpassed, and so is the safety record of
Qantas. They are both publicly owned airlines.
There is obviously much greater emphasis on passenger comfort and on safety factors and less emphasis on profits in both instances.
-Are you implying that there is no regard for safety?
-I think you are a bit too touchy, senator. I did not say there was no regard for safety factors because the organisation previously known as the Department of Civil Aviation m this country keeps most airlines in line so far as safety is concerned. Even if airlines wanted to be reckless in the pursuit of profits, there are certain basic safety measures that must be taken. I think honourable senators would know that in the air accidents that have taken place- I have said this in this chamber before- they very frequently involved lighter aircraft. It is not because the lighter aircraft are hot of reasonable quality, but because the people flying them in remote areas do not take the normal take-off and landing safety precautions and frequently do not allow enough time between bottle and throttle. That is what happens in a lot of small aircraft crashes.
The existence of loan guarantees for the purchase of aircraft enables Ansett Transport Industries to borrow certain funds on more favourable terms than would be possible without such guarantees. This tends to maintain the profitability of the airline. In other words, the Australian people are subsidising Ansett Transport Industries while it continues to maintain its high rate of profit. This company has over a long period of time placed great reliance on long term borrowing and this borrowing has increased considerably. During the period 1966 to 1972 the ratio of long term debt to shareholders’ funds increased from 1.3 per cent in June 1966 to 1.9 per cent in June 1971. A few moments ago I quoted the thinness of the limits so far as borrowing is concerned. It is obvious that there has been preferential treatment. In addition to extra loans for TAA the Government should take steps immediately to rectify the monopoly that ATI has created in northern Western Australia. Assistance should be given to TAA to enable it to fly on routes which it does not have the right to fly on, where the franchise is retained solely by Ansett Airlines. I suppose one of the glaring examples of this monopoly is the route from Cairns to Weipa and Weipa to Thursday Island on which the fares are exorbitantly high. Another indication of ATI preferential treatment over both Qantas and TAA is afforded by the share of the 3 airlines in Air Nuigini. TAA has a 12 per cent holding, the New Guinea Government has a 60 per cent holding, Qantas has a 12 per cent holding but ATI has a 1 6 per cent holding.
I just want to make a few more remarks in relation to some of the shareholding in ATI. I know that free enterprise is this Government’s God and that it feels this is the only way business in this country ought to be run. But ATI does receive preferential treatment. Incidentally, ATI is 9.8 per cent controlled directly by overseas shareholders, 10.S per cent controlled by nominees residing in Australia but who may represent some overseas corporates and 23.3 per cent controlled by TNT which in tura is 34 per cent controlled by overseas interests. Those few facts will throw some light on this great Australian company that my opponents from the other side of the chamber are always boosting up.
The case of Qantas Airways Ltd is somewhat different. Under the Qantas Airways Ltd (Loan Guarantee) Bill the loan is guaranteed to finance the purchase of 3 Boeing 747 series aircraft. Qantas will negotiate the loans in its own name with the backing of a government guarantee. The negotiations will be subject to consultations with the Treasurer on the borrowing arrangements. The proposed government guarantee will be limited to an amount of $US117m or its equivalent, which represents 80 per cent of the total cost of the 3 aircraft and associated equipment. Qantas is currently replacing its smaller and less economical Boeing 707s with the Boeing 747 series aircraft. The aircraft financed under this Bill will comprise the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth Boeing 747s to be operated by the airline. This airline has had a lot of experience and obviously it is dedicated to this type of aeroplane. The airline also intends to take advantage of the favourable terms of purchase offered by the aircraft manufacturer at this time. It is estimated that these terms of purchase will result in a saving of $US7.8m on each aircraft if delivery is in 1977 rather than in 1978.
The recently tabled Qantas Airways Ltd annual report indicates that the airline suffered a loss on operations before tax of just over $14m compared with $4,351,000 for the previous year. The operational loss- I referred to this earlierafter taking account of two abnormal items of income-exchange gains on overseas loans and surplus from sale of assets- was $7,207,000 compared with an operating profit of $6,360,000 last year. The loss was quite small when one remembers the earlier projected loss for the company. Qantas ought to be congratulated on having managed to reduce its operating loss well below the projected figure. In addition, this operating loss is well below the losses incurred by most other international airlines. A perusal of the 1975-76 annual report indicates a number of pertinent points. The majority of the total passenger volume on the Australia-Europe run was carried by Qantas Airways. Record figures were again achieved by Qantas in all facets of travel. Again to save time, I ask to have incorporated in Hansard a short table.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Coleman)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-The profitability of the airline has come under question by our parliamentary opponents from time to time but it must be stressed that although this year’s operating loss is large in terms of Qantas’ previous record it is much lower than was originally anticipated, but there are a number of imponderable factors that come into this, including increased fuel charges and the world-wide downturn in air traffic. That certainly did not help the airline’s operations in the past financial year. Most aviation experts agree that in future years there will be an increase in air traffic. If Qantas is able to get these planes in time it will put them in an ideal situation to be able to cope with the projected increase in traffic.
I conclude on this note. Qantas is our flag carrier and our international airline. It would be dangerous and shortsighted if this Government which is so obsessed with free enterprise were to invest the domestic trunk operators as the second international flag carrier of Australia. I say that mainly as a note of warning. I am sorry to have sounded rather boring but the figures had to be quoted. I think they ought to go on the record because there are many misconceptions about the 3 major Australian airlines: Ansett Airlines of Australia I think that is the current name- Trans Australia Airlines and Qantas. It is obvious that even though the same rate of profitability may not be shown by these 2 airlines which are owned by the people their delivery of service in my view is superior to that of the privately run airline.
– The purpose of the Qantas Airways Ltd (Loan Guarantee) Bill is to authorise the Treasurer to guarantee loans raised by Qantas Airways Ltd to finance the purchase of 3 Boeing 747 series aircraft. As my colleague Senator Keeffe said, we on this side of the chamber do not oppose the legislation. However, I want to take up some of the time of the Senate in defending Qantas against some of the attacks it has been coming under lately because these aircraft are being purchased at a time when, as I said, Qantas is coming under fire from its critics, not the least being spokesmen of this Government. Already the honourable member for Bowman (Mr Jull) and the honourable member for Swan (Mr Martyr) in another place have made attacks on Qantas Airways Ltd. We have also seen attacks from representatives of travel industry interests. This seems to be part of a world-wide trend; it seems to be a trend towards attacking the major international carriers. They are large and they are obvious targets for criticism for virtually anything from fare structures to services provided.
That criticism, particularly of Qantas, emanates largely, I believe, from ill-informed sources. In Australia criticism of Qantas falls into the familiar pattern of the Government’s attacks upon public enterprises, ranging from Medibank to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It stems from the Government’s de-socialising mania, a mania which has not been seen in Australia since the Bruce-Page Administration in the 1 920s. The Government seems determined to discredit public enterprise by abuse and vilification. Hence the attack upon Qantas. Such attacks are blatantly wrong, as can be seen by examining the performance of our international airline. In terms of airline safety, Qantas runs second in the world, outshone only by TAP, the Portuguese airline, according to a recent survey which has just been published. In fact, Qantas is among the select group of airlines which have not had a fatality in over 10 years; in the case of Qantas, in more than 30 years. I quote 2 paragraphs from the October 1974 issue of a magazine called Flight International. The article reads:
Australia has been described as a ‘police state’ as a result of the severity of its air-safety regulations and enforcement. Nevertheless it is one of the safest air-transport nations and the national flag carrier Qantas has not had a fatal accident in the last 28 years. Captain Ron Gillman recently visited Australia to discuss air safety with Qantas.
Captain Gillman who wrote the article goes on to say:
An airline which has operated for 28 years without a fatal accident has beaten the law of averages by such a wide margin that it cannot be a matter of chance; there must be a sound reason or reasons.
I think that the reasons for this impressive safety record can be summed up in the phrase that is used in the most recent annual report of Qantas: Technical integrity’. There is no doubt that Qantas has developed a particularly fine system for training both its flight personnel and its servicing and maintenance crews. It should also be noted that the standards of Qantas in safety far exceed the minimum international requirements placed on other airlines. Naturally the maintenance of those standards involves increased costs, but the airline believes that it is worth it. The investment in training personnel has also paid dividends in terms of productivity. Productivity per employee has increased by more than 150 per cent during the last 10 years. Again that is revealed in the annual report of Qantas for 1975-76.
Qantas has committed itself to a policy of safety above every other factor, inclusive of cost. Some other international carriers do not observe that principle and they pay dearly for it. In fact, one such airline which operates into Australia tried at one time to cut costs by reducing the safety margin. It has taken that airline years to recover from the terrible circumstances that resulted from that decision. However, some Government spokesmen are now suggesting that Qantas should pursue such a course. If adopted that would entail serious dangers to air travellers. The article in the magazine Flight International goes on to say:
In airlines where the primary question is ‘can it be effective? flight-operations managers and those concerned with safety find it hard to justify expenditure on training and equipment. This is particularly true when there is a lack of sympathy or understanding at director level. I once heard an executive say that his airline could afford to have one fatal accident every seven years. Although this may have been statistically accurate, the idea is morally abhorrent and an attitude such as this must militate against any improvement in safety standards.
In the light of that comment I think it is again pertinent to quote another extract from the article entitled ‘Safety is no accident’ which appears in the October issue of the magazine Flight International. The article goes on to say: the fine record that Qantas enjoys is attributable to a management which is not prepared to narrow safety margins in the cause of economic expedience, an engineering division that follows this example, an operations branch with the right policies, and a training organisation with the expertise and integrity . . .
If anything, those words are even more relevant in 1976 than they were when written and printed in 1 974. The safety record of Qantas is far better today than it was then.
I now want to discuss the quality of service that Qantas provides for its passengers. Some
Government spokesmen have suggested that the in-flight service provided by Qantas is poor and that many Australians prefer to travel with other carriers or that many foreign passengers avoid our airline. That is simply untrue. If one looks again at the 1975-76 annual report of Qantas and at the statistics one finds the fact of the matterthat is that Qantas handles 45 per cent of all air traffic that comes into this country. I think that statistic indicates the airline’s success and popularity. Moreover, a recent survey of Qantas passengers taken over the 12 months ending 31 March 1976 revealed that 76 per cent of the passengers that came into Australia had flown previously with Qantas. Surely that must demonstrate the satisfaction of passengers with the excellent in-flight and on-ground service provided by Qantas.
I think a final word on this matter could be put by the conservative critic Max Harris who recently described Qantas in the Australian newspaper as being ‘our most enduring and freakishly successful cultural export’. Mr Harris, rating Qantas the world’s best airline, went on to say:
It is not only the world’s safest airline, but possibly the world’s most consistently excellent in-flight airline.
Criticism has also been directed at the overseas marketing efforts of Qantas. It has been suggested that the airline is lazy and that it has been negligent in selling its services overseas. Again I believe that is untrue. Qantas operates a highly sophisticated and efficient marketing operation overseas. There is heavy advertising in the media both in Europe and in North America. During the last parliamentary recess I was in the United States looking at the presidential elections. I was amazed at the number of people who commented to me on a series of television advertisements that were then being shown in the United States by Qantas. They were making a tremendous impression in that country. Also anybody who went to a travel agency in the United States or who went into any of the major places to purchase tickets was confronted by some extremely good brochures which were on display and which were the basis of promotional efforts to sell package tours and to attract people from the United States to Australia.
In the international travel sphere Qantas is beset with many difficulties, many of them stemming from the regulations of the International Air Transport Association. Chiefly Qantas is confronted by competitors who are able to offer cheaper rates on international air routes. I think the most successful airline in that regard is Singapore Airlines. Singapore Airlines is also the fastest growing airline in the world. According to the Australian Financial Review of 17 November 1976, Singapore Airlines experienced a 15.75 per cent growth rate in 1975, compared with 5 per cent experienced by Qantas. Singapore Airlines is able to achieve that result because of its cut-price offers and free extras on international air routes. Singapore Airlines is not a signatory member of IATA and thus is at liberty to take that course.
Aside from that cut-price competition, Qantas is hampered by the tremendous distances that have to be flown to reach Australia. Also, and very importantly, it is hampered by the costs of operating from Australia because Qantas has to operate from Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, and I think its aircraft are still landing in Darwin. If we look at some of the large overseas international airlines and realise that KLM operates internationally only out of Amsterdam and that Lufthansa, which is a huge airline, operates internationally only out of Frankfurt and marginally out of Munich, we can understand the huge problems with which Qantas is faced.
I think that Qantas led the way in offering cheaper air services and air fares in this country. Air fares are certainly less expensive than they were a decade ago. For example, the fare from Sydney to Europe in 1965 cost about 30 weeks average salary; in 1975 the cost of that trip has been cut to 6 weeks average salary. The same situation does not apply to Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia. We have the situation of those airlines racing off and applying for increased air fares as soon as the consumer price index goes up or there is a wage rise. I submit that if Qantas had done that over the last 20 years it would not be flying an international airline now; it would be in the real estate business. In reply to the charge that the Aus.tralian tourist industry is supposedly suffering because of Qantas I can only repeat that I believe this is nonsense. It is largely up to the Australian tourist industry, with the full involvement of the Federal Government, to revitalise itself if it wishes to prosper.
I turn now to the regional and domestic air services in relation to the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill which is concerned with Ansett Transport Industries. I think it is a truism to say that Ansett would dearly love to devour Qantas. In my opinion- certainly it is only a personal opinion- I think what we need in Australia is one airline only and that is Qantas to deal with domestic, regional and international routes. Again I point to the example of Lufthansa which is the only German flag carrier that operates in West
Germany. I also believe that Ansett should never be allowed to encroach upon Qantas’ traditional markets in Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Indonesia. However, it is a well known fact, as Senator Keeffe has said, that Ansett has considerable influence over the Liberal-National Country Party Government. I wonder whether Ansett will be favoured once again by the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon). If Qantas were Australia’s only airline it would be better able to provide new services such as the one requested by a Government member of the House of Representatives recently which I think was also mentioned here some Dme last week by Senator Sim- a stop-over in the Pilbara area en route to Bali. I believe that in fact Qantas offered to stop over in Port Hedland as early as June 1976. I wonder why the Minister for Transport is so slow in approving this service and is preventing this service from coming into being. Is it because of pressure from Ansett on the Government or is it because Ansett wants this route for itself? I am certainly of the opinion that Qantas should have that route from Port Hedland to Bali.
In conclusion, I think that many difficulties confront Australia’s international freight carrier at present. Firstly, it suffers from cut price competition abroad; secondly, it does not know precisely what the Government’s policy for the future will be; thirdly, foreign governments are continually meddling in the international air travel industry; and finally, at home, competitors such as Ansett are continually trying to poach lucrative regional routes from Qantas Airways. In the light of these factors, instead of abusing Qantas I think this Government should be prepared to defend our national airline and to point out proudly many of its achievements. After all, it is a company that employs 13 000 people throughout the world, 1 1 000 of whom are living in Australia. It has served Australia well and with distinction in the past. It has done so at a time when it has endeavoured to take a large number of Australian people out of Australia on holidays at as cheap a rate as possible and with an unsurpassed safety record. I hope it will continue to do so.
– in reply- The 2 Bills that are before us- the Airline Equipment (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1976 and the Qantas Airways Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1976- as the Opposition has indicated have bipartisan support in this Senate. My remarks will be brief. I rise simply because of a number of comments that were made by both Opposition senators who spoke during this debate. Before I comment upon the points that they made I simply say that all Government members and senators would agree that Australia is very well served by its international and national and interstate and intrastate airlines. Considering the difficulties of a nation with a huge and diverse continent and a small and sparsely populated area, and with a scattered population, the internal airlines serve us remarkably well. Equally, considering the particular difficulties of Australia as a continent remote from the trade and tourist routes of the world, Qantas Ariways Limited serves us very well indeed. Qantas, as one of the leading carriers in the world, has a remarkable reputation. I want to make it perfectly clear that my Government pays tribute to the excellent service of the 3 main airlines that have been mentioned.
In the first place, though, I want to make it clear that my Government would reject many of the statements made by Senator Keeffe. Implied in his comments was a suggestion that in a search for profitability, Ansett Airlines of Australia, in terms of safety and comfort may have lower standards than Trans Australia Airlines. In my judgment, if, as I understood it -
– That is not quite true. You are misinterpreting my remarks a little bit.
– Let me therefore clarify this matter. Does Senator Keeffe say that the standards of safety of Ansett Airlines are in any way lower than those of TAA?
– TAA is superior.
- Senator Keeffe has made it clear that I did not misinterpret what he said. This is playing with words. What in fact the socialist ideologist always does is to seek by the power of words, by the demagoguery of words- to try to damage others other than the socialist organisation. Let me make it abundantly clear that there is not one tittle of proof anywhere that the quality of excellence- of safety and comfort- of Ansett Airlines has any superior not only in Australia but anywhere in the world. Let us make that perfectly clear and put it on the line. If indeed the Senator Keeffes of this world have any proof otherwise let them say so. It is interesting to note that Senator Keeffe has made it clear that he is willing to fly on Ansett Airlines as well as on TAA. I want to make it abundantly clear that Australia, in terms of its air safety and its safety standards, is second to none in the world. I ask Senator Keeffe whether he denies that. I ask Senator Keeffe whether it is true that the standards of safety of Ansett Airlines are lower than those of TAA. If he had information that they were, during the 3 years of Whitlam government when did he go to the Whitlam Government and show proof of this and urge the Whitlam Government to do some thing about it? His silence is enormous in this regard. I think it is fundamentally important -
– I rise to order. The Minister is trying to be provocative. I did not make accusations. He is trying to find them somewhere. He is now inviting me to indulge in an unruly scene in this Parliament. I refuse to do so. If he wants a debate, he can have it on the adjournment tonight.
- Mr President, that kind of trick is no good. Let me tell you why- and I invite honourable senators present to record this: During Senator Keeffe ‘s speech he made inferences that the standards of one of our domestic airlines in terms of safety and comfort were substantially lower than those of the other airline. That is a serious statement to make and, indeed, to make for public consumption. When I sought to test this theory I found that there was no substance to it. When I again sought to test by asking Senator Keeffe when, if this were his knowledge, he sought to do something about it during the 3 years of Whitlam government he suggested that I was provocative. I simply record the facts.
– I rise to order. I suggest that the Minister is misrepresenting what Senator Keeffe said. I remind him of the response by Senator Keeffe to his question. The question was not just about safety, it was about the general services of airlines. Senator Keeffe said that he thought TAA was better. That remark could be a marginal thing. He could have meant it in respect of questions of comfort in aircraft and the service of handling of baggage. I suggest that this matter should not be blown up to the extent of a debate here. Senator Keeffe has expressed his preference, as have many people, for TAA. Some people have a preference for Ansett. So I suggest that the Minister’s response is rather too strong altogether in respect of the senator’s point of view.
-I imagine that Senator Keeffe can protect himself. I remind Senator Bishop that my question to Senator Keeffe was explicitly, entirely and in unqualified terms on safety standards and not on comfort. The reply was that on safety standards alone TransAustralia Airlines is superior.
– I suggest that when the Minister reads the Hansard tomorrow he will find that he made the same mistake. He referred to the excellence of the service.
– I made that point because I did not intend to be provocative. I intended to make the position clear. I invite Senator Bishop to agree with me. Is it not a fact and would it not be agreed by the Opposition that the quality of excellence of the Australian domestic and international airlines has no superior in the world? I think that Senator Bishop who spoke with some expert knowledge would agree that that is right.
– I will make my own comments during the Committee stage. I have got reservations.
-The interesting fact is that it is all right for Opposition senators to take points of order but when I seek to test the quality of the points of order, they retreat.
– Would the Minister like to sit down and I will answer his question or would he like me to answer in the Committee stage?
-I will hear the honourable senator’s answer in due course. I am now replying in the second reading debate. I am not replying to a point of order. Mr President, did you recognise or uphold a point of order?
– I did not. Carry on, Senator Carrick.
– In summarising the second reading debate I simply make the point that those who try to imply that one airline in Australia has a lesser quality of excellence than the other do a grave disservice to both airlines. Both airlines have produced a quality of service which is renowned and respected throughout the world. Both Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia move together in providing a competitive system of airlines in Australia to allow freedom of choice for Australians. That is as it should be. It should be possible for the Australian people to choose, whether by way of their value judgment of comfort or otherwise. That is a matter of taste and fashion. This is what we have sought to do. I think it a grave pity that people should imply that profit making is bad and that it suggests some degree of inferiority. I recall that some eight or nine years ago the then chairman and founder of Pan American Airways, Mr Juan Trippe, told me something that I think is of great importance. He said: ‘When you travel on an airline make sure that the airline is substantially profitable. Profitable airlines are safe airlines. They are airlines which have produced, by the management and efficiency of their finances, an ability to ensure safety’. Rather than being an evil or an error, profitability in an airline is healthy and effective.
I note and reject the concept put forward by Senator Sibraa that the ideal situation in Australia would be to have only one airline, Qantas Airways Ltd, which he said, as I understand it, would gobble up Ansett and TAA. Those who are now criticising Ansett for the routes that airline flies and the service it gives presumably recognised during the 3 years of the Labor Government the effective service that that airline was offering. During that period of time the Whitlam Government maintained the basis of competition between the 2 airlines which applies today. I commend the Bills to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills together read a second time.
-I rise to respond to an invitation by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). I was rather surprised that he took such a strong attitude in view of the fact that the Bills are not being opposed by the Opposition, even though some speakers have attempted to revive the longstanding argument about the 2-airline policy in Australia. The Minister knows as well as I do that there has always been a long-standing argument, particularly in this place, about the 2-airline policy. It is true that over the years I have taken part in many arguments and said that TransAustralia Airlines was inhibited by the policy adopted, particularly in respect to the associated facilities enjoyed by Ansett Airlines of Australia I am not talking about service facilities or the general safety of the airlines. It is clear to me that when the 2-airline policy was established in Australia TAA got into the general transport act last and, consequently, is presently embarrassed by the arrangements. That does not mean, of course, that the Opposition does not accept the 2- airline policy; it does. The Labor Party made it clear when in government that it accepted the 2- airline policy. It pronounced that publicly so that the airlines would know what they were operating under the conditions that had been established formerly. If one were to go to South Australia and see the headquarters that have recently been built by Ansett for all its services- I am not just talking about airline services- and compare them with the TAA headquarters in South Australia one must reach the conclusion that the advantage the Ansett organisation has is much greater than any government ever gave to TAA. I must admit that while the Labor Party was in government it did not promote the associated services for TAA that would have put it in a good position.
– You gave it more nonsmoking seats.
-That is a silly remark. Senator Keeffe referred to the quality of service. Quality of service is really a matter of assessment by the passenger. Many people consider that the service of Ansett is as good as or perhaps better than that of TAA. Most of the Labor Party members, as everybody well knows, consider that generally the quality of service is better when they fly with TAA. We made no alteration to that viewpoint at any time. It is a matter of choice by the passengers. It would seem to me most unusual that a Minister of the Crown should adopt such an attitude. After all, his job is to defend Australia’s own airline. Labor has always supported Australia’s own enterprises whether a Labor or Liberal government was in office. Senator Carrick would respond to that by saying: There are the socialists coming out’. I think that Ministers, provided they are satisfied with the services of a nationalised enterprise, should support that enterprise at least as strongly as they support a private enterprise.
While the Minister may have objected to Senator Keeffe ‘s comment, or slant as he put it, his preference in quickly defending Ansett was surprisingly lop-sided. Most of us agree that safety standards in Australia are certainly the highest in the world. Our services, comparatively, are fine. But the passenger has got the right to decide, under the policy which is accepted by the Government and the Opposition, whether he prefers one or other of the airlines. The arguments of my colleagues have been only in relation to allowing the national operator into certain lines which to us seem restricted. Under various Ministers, including Senator Cotton, Senator Paltridge and Senator Henty, we have often argued about that matter in a technical way without getting too upset provided we make headway.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) We are in Committee. We are dealing with 2 Bills together and we are dealing with the clauses of those Bills. I suggest that we try to avoid making second reading speeches. I call Senator Keeffe.
– I make the observation that we had agreed to assist the Government to get through its very heavy legislative program. Generally speaking, that agreement has been observed. But I was amazed when the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) today was grabbing at crumbs to start a first class brawl in this chamber just for the sake of his own ego and his own paranoia. He has been doing that time after time. When he is asked a question at question time- it does not matter how simple the question is-he uses the opportunity to deliver a tirade.
There are a whole number of things I want to know before this Bill goes to the third reading stage. If the Minister does not want the Parliament to get up before 1 January that is all right with the Opposition. We are here to work. If the Minister does not want these Bills through in a hurry that is all right with us too. He had an opportunity to have both of these Bills passed three-quarters of an hour ago, but instead of that he wants to start an argument. The Opposition will never withdraw from an argument. There are a couple of things on which I want replies from the Minister. In his defence of that great free enterprise organisation, Ansett Transport Industries Limited, the Minister said that that company does not dominate the local flying scene and that it provides services superior to any other airline in the world. Generally speaking one would have thought that he owned half the shares in it. I am not sure whether he owns the private Australian shares or foreign shares. This debate is starting to develop into a dog-fight instead of being sane and orderly.
The Minister said that the Australian Labor Party in government never did anything to break the Ansett monopoly. I remind him that TransAustralia Airlines applied to run a service on the Western Australian coast. Of course with the aid of the then Opposition that was effectively blocked by the Ansett organisation. I also remind the Minister that one of his predecessors with responsibility for civil aviation on that side of the chamber, Senator Cotton when he was Minister for Civil Aviation, once made a statement in this chamber that if it was the last thing he did he would break the old system of parallel take-offs and landings. Parallel take-offs and landings are a joke around the world and Australia is the only country in the world where they occur. Everywhere else there is a real attempt to provide service for the people regardless of whether there are one, two or more airlines. But Senator Cotton did not succeed.
When the Labor Government tried to do the same thing, particularly to give service to country people, it was also unsuccessful. This service is needed in country areas like Townsville, Cairns, Port Hedland and all sorts of other places. Of course Port Hedland does not have 2 airlines operating. But in places in the Northern Territory and in Queensland where 2 airlines operate the system should be changed. If there were a rationalisation of timetables obviously both companies would continue to make a profitAnsett no doubt being a few pegs in front. Greater service would be provided for the local people. But the Labor Government could not break the system. Do honourable senators know why nobody could break parallel take-offs and landings? It is because Ansett controls and dominates it with all its threats and everything else that goes on. If Ansett wanted to get into a dogfight in the air it could probably bankrupt other companies. I wanted to ask about those 2 points.
I now ask the Minister a question on the background statement I made here earlier. Perhaps he can give me some explanation on it because I am perturbed about it. I ask him firstly whether the Ansett monopoly in Western Australia gives that company a profit on turnover of $5m a year and why the Government is going so close with its loan organisation. I wish to quote some figures. It appears my notes have come back from Hansard in a badly mixed condition, but that is not Hansard’s fault. The Minister would recall that in my speech previously I mentioned the figures of 50 per cent and 75 per cent. The amount of the borrowings may or may not go close to breaching the debenture arrangement that Ansett has. I should like answers to those questions just for starters.
– I shall be very brief. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) referred to my remarks about having one airline throughout Australia. That is my own personal opinion. I have not discussed it with my colleagues. I certainly come down in favour of the sort of system which Lufthansa German Airlines runs in Germany where there is one airline throughout the whole country. Under that sort of system I believe that there would be better service and more efficiency. The Minister mentioned safety and profitability in relation to Pan American World Airways. Perhaps that was not the best example that he could have mentioned. I pointed out in my speech that Qantas Airways Ltd faces huge difficulties with distance and the number of places from which it operates in trying to compete profitably with other international carriers. As far as safety and profitability are concerned I come down strongly on the side of the quote I mentioned in my speech earlier. I shall quote only part of it again. It reads:
The fine record that Qantas enjoys is attributable to a management which is not prepared to narrow safety margins in the cause of economic expediency.
-Mr Chairman -
– Is the Minister going to reply or is he just replying to certain questions.
-(Senator DrakeBrockman) -I have called the Minister. I cannot tell you what he is going to do.
– He does not close the debate in Committee.
– As long as he does not close the debate.
-What I was endeavouring to do was to comment upon what I diagnosed as the only question asked of me by Senator Keeffe. Rightly or wrongly I took it that the only question related to the profitability of the Western Australian routes. If there were other questions I had not diagnosed them. I do not have with me the details of the profitability of those routes. I undertake to get that information and have it conveyed to the honourable senator.
-The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) probably did not understand the other questions I asked him. I shall repeat them in detail now that I have gathered the correct notes. In fact I asked whether any further significant increase in the borrowing ratio might result in a breach of the conditions of the existing Ansett Transport Industries Limited debenture trust deeds which specify that borrowing ratios inter alia are a limit of 50 per cent of secured liabilities to total tangible assets after deducting loans on aircraft and a limit of 75 per cent of total liabilities to total tangible assets after deducting loans on aircraft. I ask whether that is in fact true. Ansett has had a long reliance on long term borrowing. I gave the figures when I was speaking earlier. The Minister made no comment on that. He wanted to talk about my socialistic ideals instead of answering the questions that I had asked. The ratio of long term debt to shareholders funds increased from 1 to 3 in June 1966 to 1 to 9 in June 1971. That has some significance and there must be an explanation for it. What is the explanation?
– I repeat that on such matters, without any forewarning and they being highly technical, I do not have that information readily available but I shall seek it out and I shall get a written reply for the honourable senator.
-That is not satisfactory. We are considering 2 Bills to which originally there was no opposition. We made our remarks trusting that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in a calm way would give us the answers. Instead of that the Minister went berserk and now we are at the stage where he does not know anything about the Bills he is putting through the House. That is just not good enough. Of course there is a way around this. He could defer a vote on these 2 Bills until after dinner. Never mind writing letters to individual members of Parliament. That is a great habit of this new Government. When one seeks information by way of a question one sometimes gets a private letter because the Government does not want the answer disclosed publicly. But if it does not want the answer disclosed publicly on this question there is something shady about it.
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 20 October, on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Historic Shipwrecks Bill 1 976 is legislation which the Opposition does not oppose although later on I will be commenting on certain penal provisions within the Bill and suggesting that they be closely looked at in any future review of this legislation. This legislation is a relic recovered by this Government from the administration of the Labor Government because it was on 2 June 1975- only 4 or 5 days before I became Special Minister of Statethat the Whitlam Government decided that legislation should be drawn up to protect historic wrecks. By that decision which was taken 5 months before we were dismissed from office it was proposed that the responsible Minister have power to declare wrecks, relics from those wrecks and maritime sites associated with those wrecks as being of historic significance. It was decided that that Minister should have power to declare an area surrounding a maritime wreck to be a restricted area and have power to amend or revoke such a declaration, and that the Minister have power to control the recovery of maritime wrecks and their relics, including the power to issue licences to competent persons to carry out research. It was proposed that the Minister be empowered to dispose of relics as he thought fit. The Labor Cabinet’s decision of June 1975 proposed the appointment of keepers of the register in each State and the appointment of Federal and State officers to police the provisions of the Act. The register of historic wrecks was to record the declared wrecks and maritime sites.
Basically all those decisions which were taken in June 1975 by the then Labor Cabinet are embodied in the provisions of this Bill. Therefore, the legislation appears to be on all fours with the proposals emanating from the Labor Cabinet decision of June 1975, except perhaps for certain penal provisions now appearing in the Bill which should be the subject of comment. But firstly I wish to say something about the Piggott Committee’s report on museums. This Committee was established by the Labor Government in April 1974 and it presented its report to me as the then Minister in October or early November 1975. That report was tabled in the Parliament at that time. The Committee was established by the Labor Government to advise on the desirability of establishing an Australian institute to develop, co-ordinate and foster collections of historic, cultural and scientific material of national significance. In its very well documented and excellently prepared report, which I commend to all honourable senators for reading, it had a number of comments to make on the subject of maritime and historical archaeology. Those comments are to be found in chapter 14 of the Piggott Committee’s report at page 89. 1 will pick out a couple of comments to indicate why the Opposition supports the provisions of this Bill. In paragraph 14 the Piggott Committee had this to say: 14.2 The recovery and identification of relics from shipwrecks is known as marine archeology when it is carried out for historical purposes. In many countries, marine archeology has become one of the most important aspects of field work by archeologists. While manne archeology is probably more important in investigating distant centuries from which too few written records have survived, it is nonetheless a rewarding field in new lands in which written records of shipping and cargoes are plentiful. Marine archaeology, moreover, is a vital source for those Australian museums which belatedly are investigating and exhibiting maritime history.
The Committee is concerned that the legislative powers and procedures at present in force cannot protect historic shipwrecks in Australia from indiscriminate looting. Future research in marine archaeology will be severely impaired because of the scores of significant shipwrecks which have been pillaged, damaged or disturbed by amateur archaeologists and treasure seekers in the last two decades. Since the invention of the aqualung in 1943, and the subsequent popularisation of underwater activities, diving in search of shipwrecks has become a popular sport and, on parts of the Australian coast, an unsystematic industry. In some wrecks relics have been recovered in a responsible manner. In other wrecks the divers have looted what they assessed as marketable and have blown up or discarded the remainder often the remainder has been more important, historically. 14.3 The Special Minister of State . . .
This report was written in October 1 975- has been given the responsibility for preparing legislation to ensure the protection of marine sites, wrecks and relics. We believe that the proposed legislation will do much to prevent indiscriminate looting and salvage, although the extent and effectiveness of the legislation will depend upon the outcome of the appeal to the High Court on the constitutionality of the Seas and Submerged Lands Act.
Then the Committee goes on to report certain interferences with very valuable marine and historic archaeological wrecks. So far as I have been able to ascertain there are only 2 States- South Australia and Western Australia- which have any legislation in this regard or which is in any way relevant to this subject. There is the Western Australian Maritime Archaeology Act 1975 which, as the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) said in his second reading speech, has been put under challenge in the High Court. The legislation now being enacted will fill the vacuum in the event of the High Court declaring invalid certain provisions of the Western Australian Maritime Archaeology Act. In South Australia Mr President, the State from which you come, there is the Aboriginal and Historical Relics Preservation Act 1965 which I understand might be able to be applied to marine relics but which apparently to date has never been used in that regard. Therefore, bearing in mind clause 19 of this Bill relating to arrangements for State authorities to perform functions in relation to historic shipwrecks and relics, it might well be desirable for the Commonwealth to ask the States other than Western Australia and South Australia to pass some complementary legislation to this Historic Shipwrecks Bill. I note that the Dutch shipwrecks which are mentioned in the 1972 agreement between the Netherlands and Australia are now to be brought within the protective provisions of this Bill without a need for prior declaration to be made by the Minister. There was, and I assume there still is, an Australia-Netherlands committee which considered old Dutch shipwrecks and relics therefrom, on which committee the Netherlands has 2 representatives and Australia has 2 representatives. The 2 Australians were Associate Professor Bash of the History Department of the Newcastle University in New South Wales, and Professor Bolton, the Professor of
History at the Murdoch University in Western Australia, both of whom have contributed very substantial and valuable work to the effective deliberations of the Australia-Netherlands committee on old Dutch shipwrecks.
The Labor Opposition believes that the principles set out in the legislation are there to ensure effective preservation of Australia ‘s maritime link with the past and that therefore this is essential legislation. I have said before and I reiterate that it is almost on all fours with the legislation that the Labor Cabinet decided in June 1975 should be presented to the Parliament. However, as I said earlier, there are certain penal provisions within this Bill which need looking at closely when one compares this Bill with the provisions of the Western Australian Maritime Archaeology Act. For instance, sections 8 and 9 of the Western Australian Maritime Archaeology Act, Act No. 66 of 1973 of the Western Australian Parliament, are the sections dealing with offences. Section 8 of that Act deals with destruction of or damage to any maritime archaeological site, ship or relic. The penalty for the commission of an offence under that section of the Act is $2,000 or imprisonment for 12 months or both the fine and imprisonment. In other words, the maximum penalty which can be imposed under that Act is $2,000 and 12 months imprisonment. But clause 13 of this Bill relates to damage to or interference with or disposal or removal of an historic shipwreck and/or relic. In other words, clause 13 is somewhat analagous to section 8 of the Western Australian Act, out the penalty for the commission of an offence under this clause is $5,000 or 5 years imprisonment or both. So under the Western Australian Act the maximum penalty is $2,000 and 12 months imprisonment and under the Commonwealth legislation the maximum penalty is $5,000 and 5 years imprisonment. A Vh times increase in a fine might be attributable to inflation between 1973- the time of the enactment of the Western Australian Act- and 1976, but a 5-times increase in the term of imprisonment imposed can in no circumstances be related to inflation. I believe that when one looks at the comparable provisions of the Western Australian Act and this Bill, the question of the penalties being brought into line one with the other should be closely considered in any future review that the Government might make of this legislation.
Section 9 of the Western Australian Act, to which I have briefly referred, relates to protected zones and sets out certain offences, the penalty for which can be $1,000 or imprisonment for 6 months or both. In other words, the maximum penalty under that section of the Act could be $1,000 and 6 months imprisonment. Clause 14 of the Historic Shipwrecks Bill relates to regulations being made to prohibit certain activities in a protected zone and clause IS relates to the question of permits for exploration or recovery of shipwrecks and relics. Those 2 clauses appear to be comparable to section 9 of the Western Australian Act, under which the maximum penalty is $1,000 fine and 6 months imprisonment. Under clauses 14 and 15 of this Bill the maximum penalty is $2,000 fine- twice as much as in Western Australia- or 2 years imprisonment- four times greater than in Western Australia- or both.
Section 17 of the Western Australian Act relates to a person failing to report new finds and provides a penalty of $500, but under this Bill there is provision for a penalty of about $1,000 for non-compliance in that regard. I also draw to the attention of the Minister the somewhat restrictive defence that is accorded under clause 17 (2) of this Bill compared with section 17(3) of the Western Australian Act. Clause 17 (2) of this Bill states:
It is a defence to a prosecution of a person for an offence against sub-section ( 1 ) if the person proves -
I emphasise that word ‘proves’-
That a notice setting out a description of the place where the remains are or the article is situated, being a description that is sufficient to enable the remains or article to be located, was given to the Minister by another person before it was practicable for the first-mentioned person to give such a notice.
The Minister might note that under the Western Australian Act it is a defence to a prosecution for an offence under this section to show- not to prove but to show- that the accused knew or had reasonable cause to believe that due notice had been given to the Director by some other person and had been acknowledged by the Director. I suggest that the words ‘or had reasonable cause to believe’ could well have found a place in the provisions of this legislation.
Those are only some of the matters to which I draw the Minister’s attention. I suggest that the penal provisions of this legislation could be brought more into line with the provisions of the Western Australian Act, or vice versa. In addition, the Minister’s power of delegation under clause 30 appears to be extremely wide. If I might say so, I doubt very much whether, if this legislation had been presented to the Parliament last year by the then Labor Government, the majority Opposition, now the Government, would have approved of such a wide ranging provision. I also note that under the Western Australian Act when a declaration is made declaring a site to be a protected zone, that declaration shall be laid before the Western Australian Parliament within 6 sitting days following its date of publication. I do not suggest that such a provision should apply under the Commonwealth legislation; nonetheless I believe that provision could well be made in any future review of the legislation for an annual report on the operation of the legislation to be presented to the Australian Parliament. After all, it is very important legislation. It is legislation which has a great bearing on the history of this country and on the maritime archaeological finds of this country. It is legislation which can affect the civil liberties of Australians. I should have thought that provision for the presentation to the Parliament of an annual report would well have been warranted. Having made those general criticisms of the machinery provisions of the legislation, I say on behalf of the Opposition that the general principles embodied in the Bill are welcomed by the Opposition and that the Opposition therefore does not oppose the passage of the Historic Shipwrecks Bill 1976.
– I wish to speak briefly in support of the Bill. I will endeavour not to cover the ground that has been covered adequately by the previous speaker, Senator Douglas McClelland. The sea has always had a great fascination for man. Too often, unfortunately, it has become a fatal fascination. The introduction of the Bill in the first place intrigued me. In preparing for consideration of it I have been able to do a most valuable amount of reading, which I have found very interesting and which I recommend to all honourable senators in their leisure hours to enable them to learn something about the wrecks around the coast of Australia.
As a representative of an island State of an island nation I am well aware of the vast coastlines involved. In the latitude where I live the vagaries of the sea, the vagaries of ships and the vagaries of those on board those ships have done a lot to re-write the history of Australia and the history of the seas around Australia. I was interested to see it mentioned in the second reading speech of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) that it has been estimated that there are 2000 wrecks around the coastline of Australia. Many books have been written about shipwrecks, but one that I like and that I have had a good look through is called Wrecks in Tasmanian Waters by Harry 0’May It was published in 1950. At that stage over 600 wrecks in Tasmanian waters were listed. Of course, that was before the Tasmanian Transport
Commission decided to go into the shipwrecking business.
There are many stories amongst those shipwrecks of tragedy and heroism and of good and bad luck. I would like particularly to mention two, both of which involved ships that were wrecked at King Island. King Island has the great misfortune of being in the middle of a strait and in the middle of the Roaring Forties. For many years it has been the graveyard of many ships heading in the general direction of southern Australia. The Cataraqui was one. She was a ship of 800 tons. On 20 April 1845 she sailed from Liverpool with 369 emigrants and crew. The story goes that the weather got worse and worse and that eventually it prevented any observations being taken for 4 days. She was finally wrecked at 4.30 a.m., with no warning, on the coast of King Island. The story continues that many of the doomed passengers came on deck only to be swept away instantly by waves and that by 5 a.m.- the wreck being at 4.30 a.m.- all who were below the decks had drowned. Daylight revealed about 200 persons still clinging to the wreck. At 5 p.m. she parted again with 70 people still clinging to the forecastle. Eventually only nine of the 423 people on board reached shore alive
Another wreck of interest was the wreck of the Netherby, which was a ship of 944 tons. She was wrecked in 1 866 with 500 souls on board, but not one life was lost. She went onto the rocks in much the same fashion as the Cataraqui. As a point of interest, it is just as well that things did happen in that way because the forebears of a member of another place, Mr Ray Groom, were on the Netherby and we would not like to have lost them. There were one or two other interesting wrecks that I just happened to come upon in various places. For example, there was the Comet, which left Port Philip for New Zealand in 1862 and which was never heard of again. It was described as being crowded with gold diggers. Then there was the Madagascar, which left port in 1853 with a full complement of passengers and 70 000 ounces of gold and which was never heard of again. So the search for shipwrecks is not necessarily without reward.
The loss of material things and of people’s lives has been terrific. Let me read from just one passage on one page of the Australian Encyclopaedia. I will save time by not reading the names of the ships. I will just make a few references to the lives lost. There are references to 121 lives being lost, to ships missing with all hands, to 3 lives being lost, to 8 lives being lost, to 10 men being drowned, to 4 lives being lost, to all the crew either perishing on the wreck or being killed by natives directly they landed, to one man being saved, to 9 lives being lost, to all hands being saved, to the crew never being heard of again, and so on. The story is so painfully similar in so many cases. The loss of life was tremendous.
I do not think that we really have any idea of how many people perished, particularly in the early days. But even in later years there have been too many wrecks. They have been not merely matters of ships being crushed in bad seas and so on. We have had modern sagas like the loss of the Blythe Star, which turned over in a calm sea on a fine day, and the Straitsman, which sank within 30 feet of its mooring in the Yarra River. It is all very much a part of history. When one goes back into the early history one sees that it all apparently started at about 3 June 1629 with the Batavia being wrecked on the Houtman Abrolhos. It is one of the particular wrecks that we are talking about when it comes to considering the legislation before us.
The story of the Batavia in itself is probably one of the grandest shipwreck stories in all history, of any country. If it were a 20th century thriller full of all the intrigue, mutiny, robbery, rape, murder and execution it would be worth reading. But as it happened 350 years ago the story is all that much more intriguing. We are very fortunate in that the documentation of the time was quite good. I understand that on that shipwreck alone there have been written 3 novels, one play, many historical works and numerous articles. When it was finally discovered by Dave Johnson and Max Cramer in 1963 it was identified and recovery of the wreck started. This is where the Western Australian Museum’s Department of Maritime Archaeology came into its own. It is a tremendous organisation. I understand that it is now one of the leading authorities on this sort of work in the world. The reading that I have been able to do on the methods of recovery and the very great salvage work and preservation work that has been undertaken on that alone is very interesting. Again I commend that to honourable senators, without reading it now.
I conclude by saying that it is unfortunate that legislation is needed for the purpose involved. The fact that it has to cover acts of outright vandalism, indiscriminate looting, impetuous souveniring or accidental destruction or damaging is unfortunate, but I agree that under the present circumstances it probably is necessary.
There are societies now for preserving these shipwrecks. As we are all aware, there are monuments and plaques all round Australia. They are very much part of Australia’s history. There is a great need to retain history of this sort and to take the necesary steps to ensure its maintenance and preservation so that it does go down for historical purposes from here on. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill.
– The fact that I live in the centre of Australia a thousand miles from the sea does not prevent me from getting the urge to join in this debate. Of course there are no shipwrecks in the centre of Australia, though there may be other wrecks. Many of us who joined in the debate on the Australian Heritage Commission Amendment Bill in the last 2 weeks indicated our interest in the preservation of our historical objects, buildings and so on. Today, we are debating the Historic Shipwrecks Bill. Like the Australian Heritage Commission Amendment Bill, the Historic Shipwrecks Bill is a most essential piece of legislation. It is designed to protect known shipwrecks and those yet to be found. One feels sorry that it has taken so long for this type of legislation to be brought into the Federal Parliament and enacted. We have seen various efforts within the States that have proven successful to some degree, but it has taken a long time for Australia to face up to producing this legislation to protect historic shipwrecks.
Senator Archer referred to various books that he had read. Recently I read an article in the Hemisphere, volume 18, No. 8, of August 1974. 1 will read part of the article which I think illustrates the excitement and hardiness of ship’s navigators and crews in earlier days. The article mentions the Dutch ships referred to in the Agreement Between the Netherlands and Australia Concerning Old Dutch Shipwrecks. It reads:
The remains of five Dutch ships wrecked during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries on the western coast of Australia mark the Hollanders’ way to the East Indies. Freighted deep with valuable merchandise, building materials and chests of silver, the galleons, outward bound from the Netherlands in three fleets every year, rolled their way eastward. Homeward bound, the East Indiamen carried equally costly cargoes of pepper, cinnamon and clovesworth their weight in gold to spice-hungry Europe- and exotic luxury goods from all the countries of Asia. Other vessels, apart from those in the regular fleets, sailed in convoys throughout the year to carry on the commerce which was the foundation of Holland ‘s greatness in Europe.
They plied one of the world’s richest sea-routes; outward bound round the Cape of Good Hope, then via the southern Indian Ocean and the western coast of Australia to Java and the Moluccas. Homeward bound, they sailed by way of Mauritius and the Cape. The Dutch trade routes to and from the East Indian archipelago thus approximated a vast triangle stretching right across the Indian Ocean. Within that triangle many ships were lost during the two centuries. But, in all those years, only five vessels were reported wrecked on the inhospitable coast of New Holland, as Australia was then called.
During the past eleven years, skindivers have succeeded in locating and identifying four of those five lost ships; they are the Batavia (1629); Vergulde Draeck (1656), Zuytdorp (1712) and the Zeewijk ( 1727). Unfortunately, however, as all these vessels were known to have carried chests of silver coinage, when their remains were located they fell prey to unscrupulous treasure hunters.
Three wrecks were discovered between April and July 1963, which was, therefore, a crucial year in Australian underwater archaeology. Something had to be done to protect the wrecks from skindiving vandals. Legislation was prepared, and in November 1964 the Western Australian State Parliament passed the Museum Amendment Act, popularly known as ‘the Wreck Act ‘, by which the Western Australian Museum was made the legal custodian of all wrecks scheduled as being of historical importance.
Relics so far recovered by scientific excavation are of such quality and variety as to elevate the wrecks to a high level of international significance. Needless to say, they are also of tremendous local interest, for their stories are part of the saga of Australian maritime exploration.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-I seek leave of the Senate to make a statement on behalf of the Senate Select Committee on Mount Lyell Mining Operations.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I make this statement on behalf of the Committee. The Committee met on every day last week and had a report in draft ready at the weekend when the Government’s devaluation decision was announced. From this decision major benefits accrue to the company. The full effect has to be assessed and this will take a little time. Therefore, the Committee has decided to take further evidence in Canberra on Friday as to the effect of devaluation on the company’s position and now expects to report to the Senate later that day.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– May I raise a point? I notice that this Committee is to meet on Friday. I thought the Parliament was meeting on Friday too.
– The Committee has been given leave to sit.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– Australia, and in particular Western Australia, is and will continue to be rich in maritime history. There has been much criticism about the plundering of historic wrecks and the way in which people in their enthusiasm to discover wrecks and exploit them have caused considerable damage. At the same time we must recognise that over the years many dedicated people, people with feelings, have endeavoured to save as many of these historic wrecks and their contents as possible. I commend particularly the Maritime Museum in Fremantle. It was my pleasure this year to be able to go through that museum and see the work that these dedicated people have carried out. I suggest that anyone who has not been to this museum would find it very rich in Australian maritime history of the Western Australian coast..
The Bill defines ‘historic shipwreck’. It says that this term will automatically include all the Dutch shipwrecks. It also includes the remains of a ship declared to be of historic significance under clause 5(1) or provisionally declared under clause 6(1). In reading that definition it calls to my mind the situation in the Northern Territory. I do not know of any historic shipwrecks in the Northern Territory which come within the classification of the shipwrecks we are discussing under this legislation, such as the Dutch shipwrecks of some 300 to 400 years ago. As far as I know we do not have any such wrecks in the Territory. The Macassars and various people came down to our northern shores over some hundreds of years but there is little or practically nothing left to indicate their presence, other than mounds of shells and so on.
In discussing historic shipwrecks we must consider what is an historic shipwreck. I suggest that even ships which were wrecked in the last war could be classified as historic wrecks. I call to mind a Japanese submarine that was sunk some 110 kilometres north-west of Darwin in relatively shallow water. This Japanese submarine, No. 1-124, was sunk on 20 January 1942 by United States and Australian warships. There were no survivors and the submarine, which contains the remains of its crew, has since lain on the floor of Australia’s continental shelf, about 20 kilometres south of Bathurst Island. Over the years, particularly the last few years, interested people have seen fit to endeavour to enter the submarine. As it is of no commercial value I would suggest -
– That was suggested but it has not been proved. I suggest it is of no commercial value. The only reasons for entering this Japanese submarine, which I suggest ought to be looked on as a war grave, are sensation and plundering. To my mind this submarine also should be protected by law. Perhaps it is different from the Dutch ships of 300 to 400 years ago because there is this agreement between the Australian and the Netherlands governments. I think that at present this submarine has no legal protection. Having heard that entry may have been gained to the submarine- and there has been suggestion that one or two articles or gear have been taken off it- the Japanese are very distressed that this should happen. I think I can do no better than read a Press statement which was put out by Mr Sinclair when he was Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs when I endeavoured to initiate some action some few weeks ago to ensure that a person in Darwin who had been endeavouring to enter the submarine should desist. The statement reads in part:
The Australian Government shares the view of the Japanese Government that the submarine and the remains of its crew should be regarded as a war grave, and that it should be left to lie in peace. The Australian Government also agrees with the view of the Japanese Government that the submarine remains the property of the Japanese State, and that no other parties have any right to it.
Earlier plans to salvage the submarine by salvage companies and individuals operating from Australia were apparently abandoned following a statement of similar concern by the previous Government in 1 974.
It is to be commended for that. However, a person in Darwin has recently begun new preparations to salvage the submarine. The statement continues:
Australians can sympathise with the feelings of the Japanese people for the protection of the remains of their servicemen. Indeed, Australians would react in a similar way if any attempt were made to disturb, for example, the wreck of HMAS Perth lying in the Sunda Strait near Java, and the remains of its Australian crew.
If one wished to carry that thought forward one could think of the Repulse and the Prince of Wales in the Strait of Malacca off Singapore. The statement continues:
The Australian Government believes that any interference with the submarine would cause great distress to the families of its crew in Japan and could harm the friendly relations existing between the Australian and Japanese people’.
Mr Sinclair added that the Australian Government was in touch with the Japanese Government about the legal consequences of any interference with the submarine or its contents should such action be taken without the express consent of the Japanese Government.
As I see it, we are now protecting those ships which had been destroyed by storm and in various other ways some 300 or 400 years ago. I suggest that this submarine should also be looked upon by Australia as an historic wreck. To my mind the legal situation is somewhat clouded at present. Perhaps there is no legal situation. I understand that the Australian Government and the Japanese Government are discussing the matter. I suggest that all necessary action be taken to ensure that this submarine is also looked upon as an historic shipwreck or at least as a war memorial so that the submarine cannot be tampered with in the future.
I support the legislation, as I indicated previously. I am extremely interested in seeing that we protect what we have left of our Australian history, whether it be through the Australian Heritage Commission or through legislation such as that which we are considering on historic shipwrecks. I hope that this legislation will ensure that all those wrecks are protected. I think it has been said already that some SOO wrecks have been found and identified and that another 1S00 known sunken ships are waiting to be discovered. I hope that the legislation is enacted as quickly as possible to ensure that these wrecks and their contents are safeguarded for the future.
– I take this opportunity to speak briefly to the Historic Shipwrecks Bill 1976. My colleague, Senator Douglas McClelland, dealt with the legalities in the Bill and compared it with State legislation. I found the account given by Government senators of the early history of the shipwrecks very interesting. It was at the stage cf hearing that account that I decided to gathe together a few notes which I had to give a more modern history which I consider to be pertinent to the Bill.
It was in the beginning of the 1950s that it was known to some historians that there were wrecks off the Western Australian coast. A man named Robinson, who was an underwater diver and who was very active in looking for those wrecks, located one in August 1957. He claimed that the wreck he had found was the Gilt Dragon. After taking legal advice, Robinson reported the location of the wreck and his discovery of it to the Commonwealth Receiver of Wrecks in
Fremantle, pursuant to the provisions of the Commonwealth Navigation Act. After that time neither Robinson nor anyone else was able to relocate the wreck which was situated under a reef at least some 3 miles off the Western Australian coast. It was not until 1963 that the wreck was rediscovered by Robinson, Henderson, Henderson’s son and some other people.
– It was all in the Independent in 1969.
– Yes, I know. For the present it is enough to say that the group fell out and there were some bitter arguments between Robinson and Henderson.
– There could be a suit for defamation.
-Senator Chaney can have his say later on. In the meantime I have the floor. There was some hostility between Robinson and Henderson. Of the group, Robinson was the only one to report the wreck again to the Commonwealth Receiver of Wrecks in April 1963. He claimed an interest in that wreck. The Commonwealth took no discernible interest in the wreck. The Receiver never formally took possession of it or carried out any other procedures to exercise control. At about the same time the Batavia wreck was discovered in 1963, and between 1963 and 1964 there was a period when quite a number of divers were going down to these wrecks and retrieving some of the articles of historic value. It was in that period that the dispute between Robinson and Henderson became most significant. There was no doubt that Robinson was working the Gilt Dragon at that time. Henderson contended that Robinson had taken no part in the discovery and that it was he and his son who were doing most of the work.
Quite a Press campaign was run. Robinson was the one who was being run down by Henderson who was a journalist on the local newspaper. This resulted in the Museum Act Amendment Act of 1964 being passed in November 1964. This was the first piece of State legislation on the subject. Subsequent to that Robinson ceased any work on the wreck and kept making representations to the Western Australian Museum to be allowed to assist in the salvaging of the wreck, but he did not get anywhere with that. Robinson was at odds with the Museum. Henderson was a reporter on the Sunday Independent, and a series of articles was run against Robinson. Robinson brought a libel action against the Sunday Independent, and damages were awarded against the Sunday Independent. State legislation was again amended in 1969 to a minor degree. Robinson had loaned his coins to the Museum and they were seized. There was an action in the Supreme Court concerning who had the right to a lot of coins. That action was determined on the basis that all the coins should be returned to Robinson because it was conceded that they were in his possession before the Act of Parliament.
Robinson has contended all along that the proper authority and the proper owner for these wrecks is the Commonwealth. His actions have been consistent with that claim from the very beginning. Because of the inactivity of the Commonwealth it was necessary for someone to do something, and the State has legislated. Robinson says that it does not give him any recompense or any credit for finding the wreck. If the Commonwealth is the true owner of the wrecks, then there is a provision in the Navigation Act which recognises a claim for salvage, which would have to be considered, entitling him to payment for a reasonable remuneration for the time and effort he had already given. The only way in which to clear the air was to have the validity of the State legislation decided and to have declared what is considered to be the position with the Commonwealth legislation, which should prevail, and that the Commonwealth should be dealing with the action,
The case was heard in Sydney before the High Court of Australia in March 1976. The Full Bench convened and all the States, except Queensland, were represented, and they intervened. The case lasted for 3 days and is still awaiting the decision of the High Court. The decision is expected at any time. According to the Western Australia Registry the case is between Ellis Alfred Robinson, plaintiff, and the Western Australian Museum, defendant. I have been led to believe that if the decision comes down before the legislation is enacted and if the decision is in favour of Robinson there is every chance that a vacuum will exist. During the period until the legislation is enacted the wrecks are open to plunder. Whether or not that is true, I do not know. I will leave it to the Minister to answer.
– in reply- I thank honourable senators for their support of the Historic Shipwrecks Bill 1 976. 1 thank Senator Douglas McClelland, who spoke initially on behalf of the Opposition, and his colleagues for their support. During the course of his remarks Senator Douglas McClelland adverted especially to the penalties set out in the
Bill. If I recall his speech correctly, he particularly adverted to clause 13. As I recall his argument, it was that the penalty in the Western Australian Act was a fine of $2,000 and 12 months imprisonment whereas in sub-clause (3) of present clause 13 the penalty is $5,000 and 5 years imprisonment. I shall refer to clause 17 in a moment.
This Bill has been drafted not only with general consultation with our State colleagues in all the States, but with particular reference to our colleagues in the State of Western Australia Both the Western Australian museum and in particular the State Crown Law Department of Western Australia were very closely associated in commenting on the drafting of this Bill. They made very many valuable suggestions. I am informed by my advisers that the penalties as set out in this legislation have been recommended by the Attorney-General’s Department as being in line with the sort of penalties which ought to be imposed in these areas. The State of Western Australia particularly has been consulted about those penalties. I come immediately to what Senator Mcintosh has said. I think it is as a result of Western Australia’s experience with Mr Robinson and the trials and tribulations that have gone on there that Western Australia would support more severe penalties which are now being adopted in the Commonwealth legislation than they adopted in their own legislation back in 1973.
I advert to a matter raised by Senator Douglas McClelland concerning clause 17. He drew the attention of the Senate to sub-clause (2) which states:
It is a defence to a prosecution of a person for an offence against sub-section ( 1 ) if the person proves . . .
It then sets out a number of things. Senator Douglas McClelland said that the Western Australian Act would have basically the same sort of thing but that it used the word ‘show’. I suppose that one should not call upon one’s own knowledge in this area. But really, where a statutory defence is given to a person who is charged with an offence, naturally the onus of proof shifts. The onus shifts to the defendant to prove the statutory defence. Subject to better advice than I am able to provide out of my own head, I see very little distinction between the word ‘proves’ as used in sub-clause (2) of clause 17 and the word shows’ because it basically comes to the same thing. If one has to ‘show cause’- a more general expression which is used in courts- it really means the same as ‘prove’ or ‘establish’. The words are used interchangeably.
My colleague from Tasmania, Senator Archer, made a most interesting speech. Quite obviously he has done a deal of interesting research on the history of wrecks and the great number of people who have lost their lives at sea especially in the last century when so many migrants came to this country. Senator Kilgariff, the man furthest from the ocean of any person in the Parliament, I would imagine, as I understand it especially raised in his speech the matter of a Japanese submarine off Darwin. This is a matter which is presently being looked at by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Japanese Government. I would hope that as a result of those negotiations and flowing perhaps out of this Bill the Australian Government will be able to take the proper steps so that the people who at the moment are attempting to raise and salvage this submarine will be prevented from doing so so that this submarine may be treated as it ought to be- as a Japanese war grave. The Japanese Government is keen that the submarine should be treated in that way. I urge those who are seeking to do things to this submarine for mere monetary gain to desist not only in the interests of Australian- Japanese relations, but out of simple humanity and decent regard for the deceased of a war that is now somewhat long past.
Senator Mcintosh made some remarks about what the Bill is really all about: There will be a possible legislative vacuum should the High Court rule that the Western Australian Museums Act has no application off-shore in the State of Western Australia. I am advised, and the Government is advised, that flowing from the High Court’s decision on the off-shore legislation which was passed by the Senate in, I think, 1 973 or 1974, it is more likely that the High Court will rule that the State of Western Australia has no jurisdiction in this area vide the Museums Act. It is for that reason that this Bill is being brought in as a safeguard. Should the High Court rule in that way until the Commonwealth was able to pass legislation, there would be a legislative vacuum in this area.
As Senator Archer pointed out, we do not even know where some of these wrecks are. From memory, one is said to have had 70 000 ounces of gold on board at the time it was sunk. These wrecks are quite valuable. They ought not to be the prey of people who go out merely to seek the bullion or the valuables within those wrecks. They have a greater value to Australia’s heritage and marine archaeology than the mere monetary value of the assets which might be contained within their holds. It is for that reason that this legislation is being brought into the Parliament.
It is also for that reason that the amendment which I have circulated and which I shall move on behalf of the Government in the Committee stage provides for the legislation to be brought in by proclamation. The original intention of this legislation was that it would be introduced but not passed until the High Court decision came down. As a result of a request from Western Australia, it is now thought that the more sensible way of doing it is to pass the legislation but not to bring it into force except by proclamation. Depending on the judgment that comes from the High Court and the content and force of that judgment resulting from the Robinson case- and who knows, it could come down tomorrow or it could come down next year some time- the Government will then act by proclamation.
I thank the honourable senators who have spoken on this matter. I thank the 4 speakers in this debate especially for the interest they have shown in this very important matter. It is a matter which is going to be of greater importance. As Senator Douglas McClelland said, a lot of it arises out of the Piggott report on museums. Marine archaeology is going to be a growing and more interesting discipline within Australia. I believe it will be part of our tourist attractions in the future. These are things that ought to be preserved. I thank honourable senators for their support of the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I have an amendment to clause 2 which reads:
The effect of this amendment will be that upon assent the Act will come into force in relation to the Territories but will not come into force in relation to the waters of a State until it is proclaimed. Subject to there being no necessity to do anything desperately urgent arising out of the Robinson case, the Government would hope to enter into arrangements with the States so that there can be a sensible administration of the Act.
– If I understand the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) correctly, the Opposition would not oppose the new proposal by the Government to amend the Bill. Under the existing Bill, without the new amendment, it is proposed that the Act shall come into operation on the day on which it receives the royal assent. It is now proposed that the following words shall be added:
But shall not apply in relation to waters (including waters above the continental shelf) adjacent to the coast of a State until a proclamation has been made declaring that this Act applies in relation to waters adjacent to the coast of that State’.
If I understand him, the Minister is saying that if in the Robinson case the High Court declares the Marine Archaeology Act of Western Australia to be invalid then this Act can be proclaimed and will take up the hiatus that has been covered by the decision of the High Court in the Robinson case whenever that might be declared. If that be the situation, as I understand it to be, and in view of the importance of the protection of these wrecks and relics, the Opposition would not oppose that provision.
– I do not wish to speak on the amendment but as the Bill is being taken as a whole I wish to make some remarks in respect of clause 9 of the Bill. I am gratified that the Government now seeks to move an amendment which, obviously, will have to go back to the other House for its approval or otherwise.
– It has not been in the other House; it originated here. ‘
-Did it? I suggest that, in the wisdom of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers), there is a possibility of another amendment to clause 9. Taking the Bill as a whole, clauses 5 and 6 give permission to the Minister, where he is of the opinion that the remains of a ship in Australian waters are of historic significance, to publish a notice in the Gazette vo that effect. Clause 9 states:
Obviously, if someone has an article from a shipwreck he must hand it over or notify the Minister that he has got it if it is of sufficient historical value to be included in the national collection. If the person does not give notification the penalty is $1,000. One would expect to find portions of shipwrecks around Port Hedland and around the coast of the Northern Territory. The Opposition doubts very much whether many people in the community at Port Hedland and on the west coast read the Commonwealth Government Gazette. I do not think many of the Aboriginals in Arnhem Land read the Commonwealth Government Gazette. But some of these people may have something in their possession which their grandfather left to them and which they were legally entitled to hold until such time as the Minister issued the notice in the Gazette. Not knowing that the notice was issued, they may find themselves in breach of a Commonwealth law and liable to a penalty of $ 1,000. Surely this is not right. Surely the Government can recognise that it should not do that to the citizens of Australia? My forefathers might have got something from a shipwreck and left it to me and it might be in my shed at home at the present time. My point is that nothing wrong has been done until the notice appears in the Gazette. The point I am making- this was drawn to my attention because of my activities on the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances- is that such a clause could never be included in a regulation because the Committee would refuse it. Surely, whilst we recognise the need for notification and the right of the Commonwealth to take possession, there should be some provision so that when a person unknowingly has possession, custody and control of an article a policeman does not call on him and say: ‘That article is from a shipwreck. A notice has been published in the Gazette. Therefore we will have to take you to court. You did not notify the Minister. ‘ I do not know whether the law would be applied harshly but it is possible that this Bill could cause such a person to be in breach of the law. I think this sort of provision is creeping too often into legislation in this House, although it is not being included in regulations. Members of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee who would never permit such a provision to be put into a regulation should be just as emphatic to see that it is not permitted in an Act of Parliament. I appeal to the Minister- I have not been directed by my Party to do this- at least to make the provision that before being proceeded against a person must knowingly have had an article in his possession. I would think that his training in the legal profession would show the justification for such an amendment to the Bill. I wish to record my protest at such a clause, which would make criminals of innocent, decent living citizens in this country.
– I thank Senator Douglas McClelland for his support of the amendment. Senator Cavanagh raised an interesting point. I point out that in clause 8 the Minister has the power to cause the notice to be published in such newspapers, periodicals or other publications as he thinks fit.
– There are few publications in Arnhem Land.
-I understand that. Senator, I am in some difficulty here tonight because I have not got a member of the Parliamentary Counsel staff with me. I imagine that if the word knowingly’ was to be inserted it would be inserted in clause 9 after (1) (a) as follows: ‘A person knowingly has possession, custody and control of an article’. If I had somebody from Parliamentary Counsel who could advise me I would deal with this matter immediately. May I leave Senator Cavanagh with the assurance that I will bring this matter to the attention of the Attorney-General and Parliamentary Counsel and ask that the word be inserted- if it does not distort the purpose of the Bill- by way of amendment in the House of Representatives. I will certainly do that for the honourable senator at first light tomorrow morning. I imagine that the matter will not be dealt with in the other place before next week. Provided I am advised accordingly by Parliamentary Counsel I will certainly accede to the honourable senator’s request.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance. The word ‘knowingly’ is the suggestion of a layman. It may not be legal. There might be another phrase such as ‘without reasonable cause’ or some other wording. But the Minister understands the intention.
-Before we deal with the Bill as a whole I wish to refer to one or two other clauses. I particularly wish to deal with clauses 17 (2), 23 and 30 of the Bill. During the course of his reply to the second reading debate the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) adverted to the references I made to the provisions of clause 17 (2). The Minister sought to make a distinction between the word ‘proves’ and the word ‘shows’ as it appeared in the Western Australian Maritime Archaeology Act. I accept what the Minister said in that regard but I also point out to him that section 17 (3) of the Western Australian Act states:
It is a defence to a prosecution for an offence under this section to show that the accused knew -
And these are the words that I particularly emphasise- or had reasonable cause to believe, that due notice had been given to the Director by some other person and had been acknowledged by the Director.
I suggest to the Minister that the words ‘or had reasonable cause to believe’ are of some significance in a defence to any prosecution that might be taken against an accused person. I suggest that the Minister might give consideration to having included in 17(2) the words: ‘or had reasonable cause to believe that it was given to the Minister by another person’ after the words was given to the Minister by another person’ in the second last line of clause 17(2). In other words, I am suggesting that clause 17(2) should read:
It is a defence to a prosecution of a person for an offence against sub-section ( 1 ) if the person proves -
I do not mind the use of the word ‘proves ‘- that a notice setting out a description of the place where the remains are or the article is situated, being a description that is sufficient to enable the remains or article to be located, was given to the Minister by another person, or had reasonable cause to believe that it was given to the Minister by another person, before it was practicable for the first-mentioned person to give such a notice.
I am sure that the Minister can see the validity of the point that I am making. A person could well believe that another person had given the notice to the Minister but the second person had forgotten to give the notice, with reasonable intent or whatever would be the circumstances, to the Minister. Therefore I think, the principles of justice being what they are, there is validity in a comparison of the Western Australian Act and the provision in this Bill. I suggest that it would be reasonable to take that suggestion on board. Before I proceed with the other matters, perhaps the Minister would like to comment on that point.
– There would be no difficulty in accepting the suggestion of Senator Douglas McClelland. I should like to have the advice of the Parliamentary Counsel as to the wording of it. I give an undertaking that words to that effect will be inserted into clause 17.
– The Opposition appreciates very much the conciliatory attitude adopted by the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) in this matter. It goes to emphasise the importance of Committee deliberations on a Bill of this nature where the civil liberties of Australian citizens can well be in the balance. I emphasise the importance of the Committee deliberations and I appreciate the attitude that is being adopted by the Minister on the subject.
The other matter that I wish to raise- I do not know what the solution to the matter might berelates to clause 23 (2) which gives very wide powers of inspection. Clause 23 (2) states:
Where an inspector has reason to believe that a person has failed to comply with a notice given to the person under subsection 1 1 ( 1 ), the inspector may make application to a Justice of the Peace for a warrant authorizing the inspector, with or without persons and equipment to assist him, for the purpose of ascertaining whether the person has failed to comply with the notice -
a ) to enter any specified land or premises; and
to search any land or premises so entered and -
These are the words I draw to the Minister’s attention- to break open any cupboard, drawer, desk, box, package or other receptacle, whether a fixture or not, on the land or in the premises.
That provision gives very wide scope to any inspector to do anything that he might choose to do once he has entered any specified land or premises for the purposes of searching and then of his own volition breaking open any cupboard, drawer, desk, box, package or other receptacle, whether a fixture or not, on the land or in the premises.
I do not know the answer to this problem. I know that the Minister is prepared to co-operate in these things as he has already indicated. I really feel that that provision is of far-reaching significance. It has far-reaching consequences. It could very much interfere with the liberties of the Australian subject. I suggest, as my colleague Senator Cavanagh suggested in referring to another provision, that if a provision of that nature were written into a regulation the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of this Senate would not agree to it. I suggest strongly to the Minister that he either explain the matter reasonably or be prepared, in the conciliatory attitude in which he has approached the Bill, to have another look at it to see whether it can be broken down in the interests of justice.
– I am quite prepared to have another look at the provision, but I am advised that it has been the standard provision in the Customs Act since 1900. In fact this form of wording tends to be the standard form of all search warrants issued by justices of the peace. Sub-clause (3) of clause 17 reads:
If, on an application under sub-section (2), the Justice of the Peace is satisfied by information on oath or affirmation that the issue of the warrant is reasonably required for the purposes of that sub-section, the Justice of the Peace may grant a warrant accordingly.
The word used is ‘may’. So there is an obligation on the inspector by oath or affirmation to satisfy a justice of the peace that he ought to have these powers. He must satisfy a justice of the peace. I hope that in the due administration of the law any justice of the peace to whom application was made for a search warrant would satisfy himself that the inspector really has cause and can satisfy him. After all, should the inspector go beyond what he is entitled to do, he has given the information on oath or affirmation. I would imagine that most inspectors would be fairly loth to put their names to an oath or affirmation to obtain a warrant in these terms unless there were real justification for it. I say again, it is not as though this power is written in for the inspector; he must satisfy a justice of the peace. However, as I said, my main interest is to get a Bill which the Parliament approves and which will work. I shall certainly draw this matter to the attention of the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) and ask him for his comments on the matter.
– I appreciate what the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) has said. He would understand from my earlier remarks that I had some difficulty in finding a solution to the problem. I understoodalthough I was not sure- that a provision of a like nature had existed in the Customs Act for some time. Nonetheless, having said that, there is always a feeling- a suspicion- on the part of people that, once a justice of the peace issues a search warrant of that type, a person occupying a position of authority, by the wearing of a uniform, might exceed to the utmost the powers of the search warrant rather than use the minimum powers of the search warrant when that might be sufficient for the purpose.
The other matter I wished to raise was the general power of delegation which is covered by clause 30 of the Bill. This subject is interrelated with my remarks during the second reading debate where I suggested that an annual report should be made to the Parliament upon the working of this legislation, because under clause 30 the Minister, who is responsible to this Parliament, is given a very wide power of delegation under this Bill. Clause 30 states:
I am practical and reasonable enough to realise that a Minister does not delegate his powers unwisely or unnecessarily, but there is provision in this Bill for the widest possible power of delegation by a Minister, although there is no provision for a Minister, whoever he may be, to make an annual report to the Parliament on the provisions of this Bill. I do not mind the power of delegation being exercised by a Minister. In order to carry out his ministerial functions he has to be provided by the Parliament with general and very wide powers of delegation. I found that in my experience as a Minister of the Crown. Nonetheless, because, and especially because, he is being provided by this Parliament with very wide powers of delegation, ipso facto there should be a responsibility on the Minister representing the Executive Government to make a report to this Parliament. Whilst I do not try to tie down the Minister’s general power of delegation, I implore the Minister to consider giving an undertaking, if he is not prepared to amend the Bill, that it is intended that there should be presented to the Parliament an annual report on the administration of the Historic Shipwrecks Bill, particularly as it affects the powers of delegation in regard to the responsibility of the receiver of shipwrecks.
– I appreciate what Senator McClelland has said but I am advised that one of the reasons that the powers of delegation tend to be wider than might be thought fit is that, as the honourable senator will recall, under Part III of the Bill, particularly in clause 19, there is a capacity for the GovernorGeneral to make arrangements with the Governors of the States. As I recall the second reading speech it is the Government’s intention that the arrangements although entered into by the Governor of a State would be run by the museum authorities in the State. I think it would be fair to say in respect of Western Australia that the most capable authority one could think of to administer this law would be the Western Australian Museum, especially its Marine Archaeology Branch. It not only has enormous expertise in this field but in terms of some aspects of restoration and conservation work it is a world leader, as one honourable senator opposite said recently. That is one of the major reasons for giving such wide powers of delegation. If one is to make proper arrangements one has to be able to delegate almost the totality of one’s authority to the museum in the various States to carry out this marine archaeology work.
– We concede that.
-I would have to seek further advice on this but it may be difficult therefore for the Minister to make a report. I give an assurance that any arrangements entered into with a Governor of a State would provide that the State to whom the delegation was made would be under an obligation to report to the Minister who would under normal procedures table a report in the Parliament. I think we can rely on that being done as part of the normal administrative process. It may mean, of course, that there will be 6 different reports tabled in the Parliament, but this might be better than having one report tabled by me because honourable senators from a particular State who have an interest in this area will be able to look at what the museum authority in their State has done. I do not think there will be any resistance from our colleagues in the 6 States to the suggestion that where arrangements are entered into they should advise the Commonwealth Government annually on how they have exercised the powers that have been delegated to them under this Bill dealing with the administration of historic shipwrecks.
– I very much appreciate what the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) has said and that he understands that the suggestions coming from the Opposition have been put forward in a constructive manner in order to improve the legislation so far as it affects the Australian Parliament. I say to the Minister’s colleagues that if they adopted the conciliatory and receptive attitude that he has adopted to the constructive suggestions put forward by the Opposition the Government would have its legislation passed much more expeditiously.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Withers) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 30 November, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– When the debate was interrupted last night I was making certain remarks about this Government’s attitude to local government and public transport. I want to repeat for the record a section of the Australian Labor Party’s policy statement for the 1 972 election. It states:
It is very touching to see the new-found interest of the Liberal Party in the field of public transport. I hope it is not just a passing thing. Honourable senators will recall that when I spoke yesterday I pointed out that the money the Government is providing in this Bill is nowhere near what the Government suggests it is because most of this money is coming from provisions made by the Labor Government. I remind honourable senators on the other side of the chamber that it was under a Liberal-Country Party government that expenditure on public transport decreased continually from 26.3 per cent of all Consolidated Revenue funds in 1960-61 to 17.9 per cent in 1970-71, 10 years later. In line with that drop in finance, passenger journeys on public transport decreased from 1 122 million in 1961 to 948 million in 1971, but at the same time the population of Australia increased by 24 per cent. When I was speaking yesterday I felt it necessary to quote a series of figures to back up my contribution to the debate. There are some further figures to which I wish to refer but I will ask for the incorporation in Hansard of only one small table.
Whatever problems the public transport system may now have can generally be attributed to the lack of concern and finance which was the result of previous Liberal-Country Party governments. In March 1973 the State governments, realising that at long last a Federal government was concerned about such problems, submitted a program of expenditure for a 5-year period to 1977-78. That 5-year program which was submitted by the various State governments is the one that this Government is now emasculating. Other major projects in the field of public transport by the Labor Government during its term of office included an allocation of $ 17.26m in 1973-74 for railway rollingstock, electrification of railway lines in Queensland and New
South Wales, purchase of hydrofoils and ferries for Sydney, and the erection of bus shelters in Sydney, Perth and Adelaide. Like so many of the other great innovations of the Labor Government, urban transport is about to become a new toy under the so-called spirit of new federalism. Under that new federalism, urban transport will be whittled down rapidly or progressively, depending on the mood of the Government.
The Australian public is well aware of the importance of urban public transport programs. In recently published opinion polls, 52 per cent of those interviewed indicated the need for more spending to improve the public transport system. It is also interesting to note that 67 per cent indicated that they travel by private car. One of the great problems of current everyday living is that cities, particularly those with narrow streets in the centres, are being choked with private transport. That leads me to the important topic of the current or impending energy crisis and the effect it will have on transport for the next 20, 30 or 40 years. Some 30 per cent of Australia’s total annual energy budget goes to power the various forms of transport and 95 per cent of that energy is of hydrocarbon origin. I have a short table showing a number of interesting facts relating to the energy consumption of city transport modes, and I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
– I thank the Senate. That table shows clearly that public transport utilities such as buses, trams and urban trains are far more efficient than the private motor vehicle. I hope that the Government, not only in the implementation of this Bill but also in the implementation of other policies, will take a long range approach and not the shortsighted approach that appears to be the mode of today. After all, the Government has abandoned the policy of decentralisation, so one can only assume that it is going to push millions more into the cities in Australia, which will mean that public transport will become more and more necessary and we will need the type of public transport which is available at a price within the range of the average worker. In the contribution I made yesterday to the debate I covered most of the facts. Those I have put tonight are my final points, and I repeat that the Opposition does not oppose the Bill.
– We are discussing a Bill to appropriate moneys for the purpose of urban public transport. I listened with interest to Senator Keeffe and I must say that I agree with him in relation to the expense, in terms of our energy reserves, that the private motor car is costing Australia. It is quite clear that the motor car has become a symbol of our affluent society, and today we see not just one motor car in private garages in Australia but quite often two or three. One of the problems facing the Government is that in order to conserve energy and in order to conserve petroleum it has to devise ways to get people out of their motor cars, but that is not easy. However, I agree that we ought to take more interest in urban public transport. I have read some extracts from a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on innovations in urban transportation. The report states that in OECD countries: the forces of economic growth and industrialisation exert powerful influences on urban environments. As personal income rises, consumer demands and preferences change . . .
Among the preferences of consumers two commodities stand out: housing and the automobile.
But no matter how the preferences in housing vary from country to country, the yearning for the automobile is universal. In every society, as affluence increases, the automobile becomes a visible sign of that affluence. The automobile has come to stand for mobility, convenience, privacy and independence, as well as a symbol of economic achievement.
The report also demonstrated how the total number of motor cars had doubled between 1958 and 1967 in most OECD countries, and no doubt since that time it has almost doubled again. As the level of car ownership increases it generates a major demand for improved throughway roads. Freeways have been built, opening access to outlying areas and facilitating further movement to the suburbs as the city populations have increased. These new areas were inadequately served by public transport and demand for mobility has been met by the private car. As the urban sprawl and the use of cars has increased, urban public transport usage has declined. In addition, rising wage rates, especially in the transportation industry, have raised operating costs without necessarily increasing productivity. As a result, the road and public transport spiral has arisen. As roadways are built the trend towards car usage increases and the use of public transport declines even more rapidly. I think that is quite evident.
This Bill recognises the need to provide further money because of the increased costs which have occurred since the inception of the program in 1973-74 and which will continue up to June 1977. Of course, that is typical of every sector of our community, where cost pressures and wage increases have caused tremendous problems associated with the financing of various projects. I have mentioned the road-public transport spiral. In Australia’s case this spiral has been accentuated by the inability of the urban public transport systems to update their rolling stock. They are thus dependent on outdated equipment which cannot keep pace with the general development of labour productivity.
A paper was written by Nicholas Clark entitled ‘The Costs of Operating Urban Public Transport Services in Australian Cities 1970-71 ‘. It was delivered at the University of Melbourne and published in the Department of Civil Engineering Bulletin No. 1 1. It shows that in that year urban public transport services in Australia cost approximately $290m to operate, while the revenue from passengers amounted to $175m. Clark estimated at that time that the operating costs would rise to between $350m and $375m by 1973-74 due to increases in labour changes. That is exactly what we are faced with tonight. This appropriation of $20m is largely to meet in part the increased costs of labour and material. It does not quite cover the increased costs.
I support the view that we have to do something to encourage people to get out of their motor cars. How are we going to do it? Obviously we have to provide better, more frequent and more comfortable modes of public transport. This is an extremely costly thing to do. It would be very difficult indeed now to change the life styles of people and to get them out of their selfish mode of transport. I know that we have paid attention to developments overseas. In other countries there have been developments in the area of rapid personalised transit systems. There are one or two places in the United States of America that have developed this form of transport and it is proving to be quite satisfactory. The Messerschmidt company in Germany has experimented with and, I believe, plans to install that type of transit system in that country. But it would be difficult to do so in Australia. We have a different set-up altogether. Our population is not quite so dense. Therefore these propositions may not be appropriate in Australia at the present time, although I think that fairly soon we will be able to consider a scheme of that type for some areas in Sydney and perhaps even Melbourne.
Motor cars bring with them great problems. Senator Keeffe mentioned some of them. We have to put up with pollution, with the problems associated with the generation of sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons from unburned fuel. The Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment presented a report to the Senate earlier this year in which it suggested that a lot more attention needed to be given to the effects of those pollutants on the upper atmosphere and the ozone layer. I believe that this is an area in which Australia ought to take a more aggressive stance in international monitoring so that we can help to overcome these problems. Road accidents are a permanent hazard as a result of our motor vehicle traffic. Road costs and energy considerations have been mentioned. Senator Keeffe mentioned that, I think, approximately threetenths of Australia’s total energy budget goes to powering the various forms of transport and that petroleum provides for at least 95 per cent of that fraction. Am I right in saying that, Senator Keeffe?
– Yes, 95 per cent.
-That is a lot. It is certainly a matter that ought to be of concern to us. I share the view expressed by Senator Keeffe that we should deal a little more with this area of public transport in the future. I support the Bill and commend it to the Senate as an indication of this Government’s good faith and intent to do more in this field.
-In rising to speak to this Bill I wish to point up the need for urgent action in Victoria in the matter of urban transport. In Victoria we have roads choked with cars. We have freeways that get one from point A to point B in record time but which tip one out at each end into small suburban streets that are quite unable to cope with the amount of traffic using them, and one spends more time getting out of those small suburban streets than one spent on the freeway in the first place. We have drivers who are paying ridiculous amounts of money to park their cars and who have to park their cars long distances from where they work. The physical wear and tear of driving under the conditions we have on Victorian roads at the moment is very bad. We have cars that are becoming more and more battered because of the conditions under which people have to drive on crowded roads and because of the lack of proper places in which to park them.
Cars are becoming more and more expensive to buy. As has been said, cars are polluting our atmosphere more and more every day. The insurance charges imposed upon those cars are rising constantly and startlingly every month. The cost of the petrol used to drive those cars is rising. It has risen in the last week and, we all know, will rise again and again. That will happen because, for one thing, the product itself is becoming scarcer and scarcer. The cost of building roads is now in the region of billions of dollars, and governments, State and Federal, are finding it more and more difficult to cope with those costs. It is more difficult to cope with the ever-growing network of roads that have to be built and maintained. The quality of the roads that are being built now, despite the cost, is just not up to the constant usage that is made of them. Again and again one hears about roads that have only just been built breaking down in a rather disastrous way and, of course, causing all sorts of accidents.
While all that goes on we continue to ignore public transport. While we spend billions of dollars on roads and all the things that go with the use of motor cars we spend very little on public transport. In fact, we tend to denigrate it. In Victoria we have trams that do not run according to timetable. So people do not use the trams. That results in the fares on those trams being increased. Fewer people then use them. Fewer trams then run. The costs increase further. And so we go on in ever decreasing circles. When one does find a tram and can get on it one finds that the journey is slow and wearying because the trams are old and the tracks are old. The whole service thereupon tends to fall into the pattern of being used less and less by people who must get from point A to point B in a given time and in a condition that will enable them to work. The trains that we have in Victoria were, in the main, built in the last century. The fares are high. The trains do not run according to timetable. Travellers are left standing on platforms. This happens week after week.
The trains and trams throughout Victoria do not run on Sundays and do not run at night. They do not run where the great mass of the population is now building houses and they do not go to where the people want to go. So again fewer and fewer people use them. There are no links between lines. So people have to travel miles out of their way into the city and out again to get to places that really would be very close to them if they could go across country. Nothing is being done about providing services to link up with lines that are in existence. In many parts of Victoria at the moment train lines for both passengers and freight are being closed. The State Government says that trains are to be replaced by buses. Elderly people, people without cars and people who do not drive cars are being left high and dry and literally do not know what to do to get from one place to another, to get from country towns into the city.
The State government says it will replace these trains with buses, but the State Minister of Transport says the buses will be private buses and we know that very soon those services will not run because there is no way the buses can run at a profit. We know there are not enough people in those areas to enable the buses to operate at a profit. What we maintain is that public transport is a utility; that people are entitled to know that they can travel about this country without having to buy a motor car. That is what we get back to all the time. The people are no longer given a choice. They are forced into buying a motor car. They are forced into servicing the motor car lobby or the oil company lobby, whichever we choose to call it-and it is probably all the same. Whatever we call it, it is the great God that is being fed while people are being left high and dry.
The Minister of Transport in Victoria says that these country lines must be closed because they are uneconomic and people do not use them. Unfortunately people will use those that remain open because they have no choice. Those that are left have carriages that are cold. The service is slow. The carriages are uncomfortable. They were built SO years ago. The same can be said about much of the suburban transport. These trains are to be replaced by private buses. The private buses cannot be worse than some of the transport in the country, but what I am saying is that it is quite within the province of the State Government to provide transport in these areas that is better than the private buses that we all know will not run for very long because there will not be any profit in that sort of transport.
Public transport is a utility that people have a right to expect. It is not necessarily a moneymaking proposition. People have a right to transport other than a motor car and without making a profit for car manufacturers and oil companies and without causing governments enormous costs in maintaining roads for the community. Unfortunately, more people will be driven to use public transport which it seems will not be available for long because this Government is spending less on country roads. Country roads are falling into disrepair all around Victoria, and more and more people therefore will need public transport that we evidently will not be able to supply. The buses that will replace the trains in country areas cannot match modern rail cars for comfort, speed and economy. They cannot carry the mail, parcels and other goods that trains have been carrying and that modern rail motors could carry. We all know that rail travel can be speedy, smooth and air-conditioned, but funds are needed. For many years the rail system has been allowed to fall into disarray. It appears that States like Victoria are entirely incapable of coping with this problem.
In contradiction of the Minister’s claim in his speech that initiative was taken by the Minister for Transport in 1971, 1 ask the Senate to recall that until the Whitlam Government came to power no money was made available to the States for transport. Such money as was available came from general allocations, and so States fell steadily behind in keeping their transport at least in touch with the twentieth century. In 1971, at a meeting of the Australian Transport Advisory Council, it was said by the Minister that there was an urgent need for a report on needs for a capital investment program for urban transport, but there was no money, and there had not been any money for a long time. To crow as the Minister did in his speech that provisions in this year’s Budget for urban transport meant a 90 per cent increase over the amount made available in 1975-76 is poppycock, because prior to a Labor government no Federal money was made available. Any money made available prior to that was an advance. No money was made available to the States for transport until 1973 and onwards under the Labor Government. The Labor Government recognised that in this day and age with oil becoming a scarce commodity we had to go back to a system of public transport; that the motor car-oil lobby would have to bow out.
The report of July 1972 in which the Federal Government gave a firm commitment to assist to improve urban public transport was again a token. There was no money. We all know that we all fall into the trap of forming a committee, passing a resolution and thinking we have solved the problem. Obviously the Government prior to December 1972 thought the same. After all, everybody had a motor car, so why did it have to worry about public transport? In Victoria State Minister of Transport Meagher indicated his commitment to upgrading urban transport. When the Whitlam Government produced a prototype of a modern rail carriage that could speedily and comfortably transport people, that could be produced on a Commonwealth basis and that could become standard, took it to Spencer Street and invited people to inspect it and comment on it he did not even acknowledge the invitation, let alone inspect the prototype. So we have people of that miserable, small, petty frame of mind under the thumb of the motor car lobby ignoring the problems of ordinary people when it comes to urban transport.
The Whitlam Government had to catch up on 23 years of neglect. The Minister’s speech complained that the Whitlam Government would commit itself to a new rolling stock program only on a year by year basis, but what the Minister failed to say was that it had a hostile Senate putting it under a continuing threat of lack of Supply and that it faced enormous demands for social services that had been neglected. It had to catch up in a myriad of social service areas. So the Labor Government was forced into such plans, but at least it started. At least it did what no Liberal Government had done. It acknowledged that urban public transport was an important part of Australia and that something must be done.
As the Minister said in his speech, it is important to learn from experience, and that is what we must do in so many parts of Australia and certainly in Victoria. Before we pull up rail tracks and abandon rail transport, can we just look a little way into the future? If we follow what we have done before, as with trams in Melbourne, we will pull the tracks up this week and in 2 years time we will be spending millions of dollars replacing them because at last governments will have realised that public transport is essential to our way of life. It is essential to a future in which fuel will run very short.
We complain bitterly at times about people using their cars, about only one person riding in a big, modern car, but for so many people in urban Australia the car is the only means of transport.
There is no public transport near their homes. There is no public transport that goes near their place of work. The only thing they can do is to buy the infernal motor car and suffer it for the rest of their lives. For so many of them it is even worse. Many of the new areas where they build their homes are not serviced by public transport. If the husband gets to work by using a car, his wife has no possible means of getting the children to school or getting to the doctor or to the shop. So a second motor car is bought. More roads are needed. There is more pollution, more worry and more expense.
Good public transport for people can provide clean, non-pollutant, fast, efficient transport close to the work location of people. It can supply inter-suburban links so that people do not have to go miles out of their way- if they can ever find the public transport to travel on. It can provide all night transport. Strange as it may appear to some of the powers that be, people do have to travel after 10 o’clock at night. In some areas they have to travel after 8 o’clock at night, or would like to. At the moment sometimes there is no transport after 6 o’clock, 8 o’clock, 10 o’clock or 12 o’clock at night. I have a son who wanted to be an apprentice in the rail industry, but it meant that he would have to do shift work. He was only sixteen, so he could not drive a motor car. But he could not get public transport so that he could be at work at the time his shift started. For these reasons he had to give up the work he wanted to do. It is ridiculous that in the modern 20th century when we can put men on the moon the whole of a city can close down at 8 o’clock unless a person has a motor car and unless he can drive a motor car.
Sunday transport in parts of Melbourne is completely non-existent. There was a time in Melbourne when the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board bought a beautiful park in what was the outskirts of Melbourne. It used to run trams to that area so that people could have some relaxation in a country area. That park is now I suppose almost inner city but, despite that, a person cannot get a tram out there on Sunday because the trams do not run. So we have gone backwards. Our grandfathers had glorious pictures of what people could do. In the modern 20th century we have scrapped all those glorious ideas in favour of the great and holy motor car. All these things, all this way of life, have been killed by the motor car lobby. Fortunately the motor car lobby may be about to be killed by the lack of fuel for the motor car, as with so many other plans that were killed.
Once in Melbourne we had an outer circle and an inner circle railway. It was a beautiful logical concept that ran in a circle around Melbourne. It meant that a person could get from point A to point B without having to travel into the city and out again. But that was too logical for our modern-day legislators in Victoria. So the whole beautiful concept of 2 circles going around Melbourne to make transportation simple and easy was scrapped, again for the motor car. There are rail easements on properties all over Melbourne where our grandfathers planned to have links between railway lines so that all the people would be able to get with ease and in comfort from one place to another place. They again were all scrapped.
The State Government in Victoria is quite bankrupt of ideas when public transport is mentioned. We know public transport is expensive, as has been said. But look at the cost of private transport. Look at the cost from a pollution point of view. Look at the cost from the point of view of the number of people who are killed or maimed every weekend by motor cars. Look at the cost of maintaining roads and parking areas and the many other things that go with motor cars. In Melbourne we had picture theatres pulled down so that petrol stations could be erected. Dairies were pulled down to allow petrol stations to be built. We are now waiting with bated breath to see what will replace the petrol stations when they are pulled down. The Victorian Government scrabbles from one point to the other. In my view it is up to the Commonwealth Government to take the initiative and to take positive steps. It should not make empty gestures but should at last fight the oil lobby and take an increased financial responsibility for a public utility so as to improve the quality of life in the major cities and the provincial cities of Australia.
– in reply- The Senate has been debating the Appropriation (Urban Public Transport) Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to provide a sum of $20m to cover increased costs in State projects, projects which are already approved under the Commonwealth and State Urban Public Transport Agreement. All honourable senators who have spoken have expressed their support for the Bill. I thank them for doing so. Honourable senators have drawn attention to what appears to be throughout the world and in every city of the world an intractable problem, a problem which is growing despite the hundreds of millions of dollars being poured into it. The simple fact is that in every part of the Western world today, in every city, the problem which has been described during this debate is one that seems to be defying the reforms of the government of the day. That does not mean at all that governments should not seek to do something about it.
Some suggestion has been made that until the Whitlam Government in 1973 brought out a program of urban public transport improvement, no mention had been made by the Liberal-National Country Party side of politics of programs that were foreshadowed.
– Do not get provocative. That is not precisely what was said.
– This is not only nonprovocative but I think also Senator Melzer will say that I have paraphrased exactly what she said, and in fact had Senator Keeffe been listening he would agree that Senator Melzer said that the Whitlam Government was the first to foreshadow any kind of program.
– I said, to pay the money.
– The honourable senator is modifying that. I simply remind the Senate for the purpose of the record that the McMahon Government foreshadowed at the end of 1972 that that governent would, if it was re-elected, allocate over a period of 6 years grants totalling $330m for urban public transport. That was a firm commitment made in 1972. I repeat, an amount of $330m was to be made available over a period of 6 years. In 1973 the Whitlam Government committed itself, in its term of office, to a sum of $138m over a period of 5 years. I say that not in any contentious fashion but merely to remind honourable senators that all sides of politics have recognised the problem and have attempted in a massive way to cope with the problem. I should remind honourable senators also that in fact the sum of $64.6m will be made available to the States this year compared with $33.8m for the previous year. So that is a token of the bona fides of the present Government in confronting what is one of the most baffling problems for modern governments. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 2 November, on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
(9.39)- The purpose of this Bill is to clarify the situation regarding the payment of Australian tax by the foreign recipients of royalties paid by Australian companies. The amendments arise as a result of a legal challenge by a Canadian mining company which has cast doubt on the previous practice in relation to the payment of royalties. This Bill will ensure the continuation of the previous practice regardless of the result of the legal issue on which an appeal is being considered. As such the Opposition does not oppose the Bill. The circumstances giving rise to the need for this Bill illustrate the potential difficulties which will arise when Stage 2 of the federalism policy is implemented. Over the years numerous amendments to taxation laws have been required to plug loopholes which had not been anticipated when the original laws were drafted. In view of the complexity of taxation laws this is not surprising and no doubt amendments of this nature will be required while people have the skill and the determination to turn features of the tax laws to their advantage. However, radical changes to the taxation laws do need the utmost consideration in view of the potential pitfalls.
This Bill amends the Income Tax (International Agreements) Act, which is the Act which authorises double taxation agreements between Australia and various countries. Those agreements broadly deal with 2 issues: Firstly, the tax liability of residents of other countries and income derived in this country and, secondly, allowance for foreign taxation paid by Australian residents on their overseas income. Into this rather complex arrangement the Government proposes to intrude a power in each State to legislate to impose a surcharge or give a rebate on personal income tax in that particular State. Although the Commonwealth will set the rate of tax in Australia and will remain the collecting and administrative agency, the surcharges and rebates will be a matter for the States. I am referring specifically, of course, to what we will find as the federalism policy progresses- the policy introduced by the present Government.
To date the Commonwealth has provided no indication of how it proposes to deal with the various administrative complexities which will arise from the decision to hand taxing powers back to the States. In particular no indication has been given of the effect of that decision on the double taxation agreements with other countries. For example, a resident of a State is given credit for foreign tax paid on overseas income. No indication has been given whether the responsibilities for the credit will be shared between the Commonwealth and the State and, if so, on what basis. No indication has been given whether tax paid by a foreign resident will be shared between the Commonwealth and the State in which it is derived and, if so, again on what basis. No indication has been given as to whether the change in internal taxing arrangements will require major re-writes of the double taxation agreements with every country. These are important questions in relation to which the legislation gives us no indication of the answer.
I ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) whether, perhaps with the assistance of his advisers, he can provide information in response to the following questions: Firstly has the Government made any decisions concerning the implication for double taxation agreements as a result of the proposed introduction of stage 2 of the federalism policy and, if so, can he tell the Senate what are those decisions? Secondly, what on-going work is being carried out to consider the implications of the changes? Can the Minister inform the Senate how far that work has proceeded? Thirdly, will it be necessary to redraft the provisions of the double tax agreements as a result of the introduction of stage 2 of the federalism policy? Fourthly, have any discussions been held with any overseas countries in relation to these matters and, if so, to what extent?
In seeking that information on those 4 points I realise and I am mindful of the fact that they involve technical taxation issues. However, the Government is anxious to sell the federalism policy and it will be quite unable to do so until many of the doubts surrounding the nature of that policy and the effects it will create have been removed. There is a secondary reason for seeking the information. Quite clearly the matters to which I have referred will involve some considerable degree of complexity. This Bill illustrates the dangers involved in piece-meal changes to important taxation laws and, with respect to the Government, illustrates that the nature of those changes will need careful consideration.
For example, this Bill contains what can be fairly described as a potentially dangerous provision in clause 9. Clause 9 does not purport to amend the existing Act but to place a gloss upon its interpretation. That is hardly a satisfactory way of dealing with laws which need to be drafted with as complete precision as is possible. We in the Opposition wish to ensure that if wholesale amendments to existing legislation are required those amendments must be carried out carefully and in such a way as not to mislead people who are affected by the nature of the provisions. Attempts to re-write our tax laws along the lines proposed in clause 9 will have to be resisted. There is a suspicion that the techniques employed in the drafting of clause 9 have been used because it was simply too difficult to do it by any other means.
Changes to the tax laws as a result of the federalism policy will be difficult. The Opposition accepts that. However, in conclusion, as I do not wish to dwell at length on the Bill because of the fact that the particular areas can be identified- I hope I have identified them for the Minister- I point out that the Opposition will not be satisfied if the changes that are being introduced by what may be termed as corner-cutting methods and which appear to be used in the drafting of the Bill currently before the Senate are to be the policy to be adopted by the Government in matters of this nature. The very complexity of the taxation laws requires us to be precise in any rewording of any Act. I dare say that this is the first time that we have been confronted with that sort of problem which I have raised because of the Govenment’s new federalism policy. I seek from the Minister some advice as to whether or not the Government has in fact given consideration to the effect that the federalism policy- that is, the possibility of the States being able to raise taxes, surcharges, etc- will have on the double taxation agreements.
– The Income Tax Laws Amendment (Royalties) Bill 1976 is an extremely complex and technical piece of legislation. There are 3 matters to which I would like to refer. I hope that the Senate will bear with me while I try to explain them. First of all, as was pointed out by Senator Wriedt, this Bill stems from the decision recently handed down in the Sherritt-Gordon case. Consequently the Government has taken the decision to re-define the term ‘royalties’. There has been some reliance in the past on the United Kingdom definition of that word. That has relevance insofar as it affects our arrangements with the United States of America and Canada in relation to our double taxation agreements. However, while the Bill re-draws that definition it does so extremely widely.
I put it to the Senate that there are circumstances in which it could well be that payments which are in the nature of capital- for instance, payments for know-how or perhaps even payments which are in a lump sum for secret formulas that have been purchased from overseaswould not be deductible from the income of companies and taxpayers in Australia but which payments would be subject to the deduction of tax at the rates set out in the Act as they went overseas from Australia. Also those amounts might very well be subject to taxation in overseas countries. I will come back to that point in a moment because it is not entirely clear whether the double taxation agreements would apply in these cases. So I am putting that a situation could arise whereby in the normal course of business an item is not deductible for taxation purposes in Australia but is subject to tax, and maybe double tax.
The second point is that the matter at issue in the Sherritt-Gordon case derived from problems in the interpretation of the definition of a royalty, stemming from amendments to the Income Tax Act back in 1968. It has been held, of course- I refer to clause 9 which Senator Wriedt mentionedthat, because of the doubt that has arisen due to those original amendments which were effected back in 1968 and which have been held by a number of authorities to be the cause of quite a badly drawn section in the original Act in 1968, it is possible to interpret that particular clause as excluding people who are due to be paid royalties back-dated to 1968 but who have lost their right of objection following the amendments which were announced originally on 5 July 1976. So it is quite feasible that because of the redefinition of the term ‘royalty’ that has been included in income, people in that area will have lost the right of objection as far as dealing with the Taxation Department is concerned. Consequently, they will find that they have no right of appeal because assessments had not been issued on that income prior to 5 July 1 976. 1 am sorry that this is such a technical matter but it is important to recognise that a serious inequity could arise.
It might well be said that because the Act was drawn in the form that it was in 1968, no one would have contemplated a challenge such as resulted in the Sherritt-Gordon case. But the facts are that because of the considerable doubt in the original drafting of what might have been clause 9 or its equivalent in the original Act there could have been expected to be a reasonable challenge to the definition of ‘royalty’. In that event, it seems inequitable that people should lose their right of objection as from 5 July 1976 if no assessment has been issued. The whole purpose of the Bill, of course, is to try to clarify the definition of ‘royalty’. This is a matter which indeed needs clearing up. I ask that the Minister refer the item to the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). While I do not oppose the Bill, of course, I should like clarification of that matter and assurance that there will be no problem in the future as far as the particular definition that I am speaking of and the likely events that could flow from it are concerned.
Another point is that there is no clear statement that as yet an agreement has been reached with the United States and Canada over whether or not they have the same corresponding definition of royalty as is set down in this Bill. That is a matter of particular concern since we are certainly in no position to assume that the governments of those countries will adopt exactly the same stance as ours in relation to the taxation of these items. I understand that negotiation is going forward with those governments in order to come to a conclusion over this matter and others which are features of any amendment that might come in respect of the double taxation agreements. But there does not seem to be in this Bill or in any of the explanatory memoranda any statement as to whether or not that has actually come to pass or whether or not there has been any assurance that that will be the case. I think that has particular relevance insofar as we are considering the considerable doubt that might occur over what might well be termed ‘retrospective effects’ of this taxation law. Retrospectivity in taxation is something that is always to be eschewed. It is something that ought not to apply in general circumstances. Taxpayers ought to have the right of course to plan their own affairs as they see fit. They should not have imposed on them unfairly retrospective taxation. I ask that the Minister look at this matter again. As I said before, I support the Bill.
– It has been rightly observed by both Senator Wriedt and Senator Messner that this is a complex piece of legislation. They both referred to clause 9. Of course they would have read with tremendous interest the second reading speech of the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), so I shall not repeat it for them. I think that the explanatory memorandum gives some detail of the particular matter to which they adverted. I shall read it out and then perhaps go on to other things. We will then take it from there. The explanatory note on clause 9 which deals with amendments not to affect the interpretation of previous law states:
As noted in the explanations of other clauses of this Bill, the amendments to be effected by the Bill are not intended to alter in any practical way the intended operation of the provisions of the existing law that are being amended, but are to remove doubts as to their operation. This clause specifically declares that the proposed amendments are for the avoidance of doubt and, in particular, are not to be taken as implying that the definition of ‘royalty ‘ inserted in the Assessment Act in 1968 did not apply in relation to payments made to residents of countries other than the United kingdom, or for the purpose of double taxation agreements in which the term ‘royalties’ is not defined.
That is the clear purpose of clause 9 as explained. Before proceeding to some of the detailed points, I should like to pick up an observation made by Senator Wriedt. It is very true that with the taxation laws of a country- it would be true of the Australian taxation laws- the Government is charged with raising revenue from the people for the purposes of the people. This is done by various methods of taxation. The taxation laws have become extremely complex and complicated through time for a couple of reasons. The people have insisted on more and more things being done for them by governments whether one likes it or not. Governments have had to raise revenue to do these things. Equally, in lots of cases the taxation laws have had to be devised to cover the situation of people who do not want to pay their share of the revenue and who want to evade taxation in one way or another. This is traditional. It happens. That is one of the reasons why the laws become complicated. It is one of the reasons why the laws sometimes become a huie difficult to understand. I think we all understand that problem. I am sure that Senator Wriedt and Senator Messner do. I do, because at one stage of my life I was a practising public accountant. That was in my more prosperous years. Senator Wriedt and Senator Messner asked me questions about some of these matters. What I suggest to them is this: Recognising the complexity of this legislation, what I shall seek to do after this debate is overbecause neither of them opposed the legislationis to ask the Treasurer and his taxation officers to write a letter to me for both Senator Wriedt and Senator Messner which should set to one side any doubt as to the genuine situation here. I may not be able to get the matter finally defined tonight.
asked whether there were any decisions about the implications of double taxation agreements for stage 2 taxation sharing arrangements. The answer is that there has been no Government decision on this matter. It is yet to be worked out in discussion with the States. That is lying ahead of us to be done. He also asked what on-going work has been carried out on this. There is a committee of Commonwealth and State officials who have noted the point. The Committee is to examine the matter in the course of detailed work in the preparation of the overall stage 2 arrangements. Senator Wriedt further asked whether it would be necessary to redraft the agreements. At this stage one cannot answer that question precisely. That is not known in the present level of official considerations. Finally, he asked whether there had been discussions with other countries in this particular matter. The answer is that so far there have not been discussions.
Senator Messner has suggested that capital amounts may be subject to a tax by this legislation. I am assured by the officials- we will get this from them by letter- that this legislation, like the 1968 amendments, applies only to amounts that by ordinary concepts are income. Capital amounts will not be taxed. There is a further point that in a question of retrospectivity- a matter of some concern to Senator Messner- it would be a matter of concern if out of the blue income which was clearly not subject to tax, after it had been derived, were to be made subject to tax. This is not the case in this specific matter which, in effect, is a one-off case concerning a Canadian company. Since the law was amended in 1968, assessments have been made on the basis that the amendments gave effect to the intention made plain by the then Minister in his second reading speech that they would apply to amounts flowing to all other countries. In the 8 years since, it has generally been accepted by taxpayers concerned that the 1968 amendments did have that effect. This has been accepted by the countries to whose residents the amended provisions have been applied. It has also been accepted by Australian governments and Parliaments since 1968, for example in ratifying and legislating to give force of law to double taxation agreements, the provisions of which were based on the 1968 amendments. Of course, many of them have come through the Senate at various times for such ratification.
A further point was raised by Senator Messner that there have been discussions with Canada and the United States to revise the double taxation agreements. Both countries, in effect, give credit for our tax on royalties. Those comments cover the outstanding points raised by both Senator Wriedt and Senator Messner. I assure the Senate that I will, as I said, get from the Treasurer a letter which makes the points that have been raised as clear as they can be made in the current state of what might be called negotiations for stage 2 of the other matters.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
-Briefly, I should like to ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) for some additional information. When Senator Messner and I get the information we have sought could we also have some information on the role of the committee that the matter was referred to, the composition of the committee, when it was first constituted and how often it meets. I ask that question because it is evident from what the Minister has already said that these steps have been taken and these amendments are being made without their consequences being worked out between the Commonwealth and the States. That is the substance of the first question I put to him. I would appreciate it if the Minister would ensure that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) gives me details of the committee and what it will be doing.
– I think that is useful information for which to ask. I will get that information for Senator Wriedt. I think he would agree that we are considering a case which needs to be closed off pretty smartly because other people may try to avail themselves of these loopholes. A High Court matter is pending. These are clear areas in which governments and tax officers must move fairly quickly to close up the potential loopholes. I think Senator Wriedt ‘s query about the committee is proper and I shall get the information for him.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 November, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition will not oppose this Bill. It notes that the Government intends to phase out over a period of 3 years the levy which was introduced by the previous Government. We are talking of the levy which was imposed on coal exports by the previous Government last year. It is appropriate that when a company extracts minerals which are a national asset the nation should receive some part of the proceeds to compensate for the reduction of the national asset. This is a principle which is now accepted by all major parties in this country. Despite the efforts of the previous Government to make this a reality in Australia, it unquestionably brought a great deal of criticism, by the mining industry generally, on that Government. All the States reserve the right to carry a royalty which is payable to those State governments. The original form of the tax was in the nature of the royalty payment made to the States.
As to the devaluation of the Australian dollar, the mining companies do not appear to have welcomed that move with a great deal of enthusiasm. The Japanese steel mills have indicated that raw steel output for January-March 1977 is likely to be of the order of 26 million tonnes, which will be about 10 per cent less than the output for the current quarter. This means, of course, that Japanese demands for coking coal will diminish accordingly. With the overall general slackness in the international economy at present there will be continuing reduced demand for high grade steaming coal. It is interesting to consider that mining shares on the Australian share market have not responded favourably to the announcement of last Sunday. There was a rise on Monday but the greater number of shares fell again and today, of the 65 mining stocks traded, only five of them rose. Thirty-eight of them fell and 22 remained unchanged. Coal stocks, I might add, were included amongst those that fell.
As the greater proportion of our exports of coal are transported in chartered vessels, normally at freight rates which are expressed in American dollars, the effect of the devaluation will be to increase the cost of exporting coal to a greater extent than the rate of reduction of the coal levy itself. There will be other side effects in such areas as insurance. Most insurance is placed on the London market. It is underwritten in London, normally in currencies other than the Australian dollar. The consequence of that will be an increase in the cost of insurance policies as a result of the devaluation. Perhaps these are not matters on which the Opposition would necessarily criticise the Government, much less condemn it. Although we criticise the manner in which the Government has handled the economy over the past 12 months, as we have already indicated, there appeared to be a need for devaluation. However, we ought to consider, when debating the legislation before us, that these side effects will take place. Much heavy equipment is imported by the mining industry. This will mean increased costs to that industry. We can expect an increase of about the same rate as the devaluation itself. In the case of the Norwich Park project in Queensland which has been developed by the development company, Utah, the effect of devaluation could add $30m to $40m in additional establishment costs.
The gentleman who claims to be one of the great supporters of development in Queensland, namely the Queensland Premier, is holding up one of the most important coal mining developments in Queensland, Norwich Park. I am not making any apologies for Utah because that company has done extremely well out of its mining operations. I suppose that it would be enjoying the bonanza of bonanzas in the mining industry in this country in recent years. Nevertheless, the present impasse between Utah and the Queensland Government is, in fact, slowing down and deferring the development of that coal resource in Queensland. It seems almost impossible to find out what exactly the position of the 2 parties is. Utah apparently claims that the Queensland Government wants to charge too much for rail freight in the transport of the coal. One would have assumed that the Queensland Government would have been giving every consideration to assisting Utah in this development because I think it is safe to say that Utah cannot anticipate the same rake-off as it received in its previous development projects in Queensland.
Despite all that we will not oppose the legislation. The Australian Labor Party, although differing in some respects in its approach towards the mining industry in this country from the approach of our opponents, accepts the need for the continued development of the mining industry. If in fact it can be established- to some degree it has been- that the imposition of the levy created difficulties for some companies, it ought to be remembered that subsequent to our introducing the legislation imposing the levy we made it clear that where companies were forced into difficulties because of the imposition of the levy we were prepared to negotiate with those companies to relieve them of any burden which appeared to be unreasonable. So in that context the decision that was made by the Labor Government last year was not far removed in spirit from the legislation that is before us. For those reasons we do not oppose the legislation.
-I find it interesting to hear from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) that the Opposition is not opposing this legislation, the Customs Tariff (Coal Export Duty) Amendment Bill. That is in contradiction of the line that the Opposition took in the other place. The opening words of the Opposition spokesman on this subject, Mr Keating, in debating this measure were that the Opposition opposes this legislation. Actually, in the other place the matter went to a division. I am pleased that in the time that has elapsed from 21 October until today, 1 December, the Opposition has changed its mind. It might well have changed its mind on this subject well before 1976 in fact. Last year in this place we had a debate about the effect of the coal export levy. I am pleased the present Government has seen fit to announce that the levy will be phased out commencing in this financial year.
In the debate in this place last year I pointed out that the mining industry was an industry the future of which is particularly important to the State from which I come, namely, Queensland. In that debate I pointed out in detail that $250m at least had been invested in Queensland by the coal industry, not just in terms of extracting coal from the ground but in terms of providing homes, railways, ports and infrastructure which are of permanent value to a part of the Australian nation. At that time the previous Government was bent on introducing a levy which has done the coal industry no good. There is some evidence to suggest that it did active harm in the 12 months which have passed since it was introduced. Without doubt, the decision by the previous Labor Government to introduce a coal export levy damaged Australia’s international reputation as a potential point of investment. As was pointed out in the debate last year and as has been borne out in fact, potential investors in the future of our nation very much feared the future of investments in the mining industry in Australia under a Labor government. Having introduced the levy, there was no reason to expect that at some time in the future the Labor Government would not indeed have seen fit to increase it. The form and manner in which the levy was introduced were purely discriminatory. The levy was not justified on any rational basis; it was justified on the basis of dislike for certain mining ventures, dislike for certain industries and firms, but never on an objective basis.
It is worth pointing out at this point that coal has only recently become a highly profitable industry in Australia. There are many firms still involved in mining of all forms, including coal, in Australia which are not making a decent profit. Coal having reached the stage of development where it was starting to return reasonable profits, the Labor Government in its own paranoia and dislike of international money and certain international firms, slapped on a coal export levy which did no good for the future of this country and in fact did no good for the future of Australian firms which were involved in the coal mining industry. It was not surprising that those who might have looked to investing money in this area of enterprise in Australia to provide jobs, decentralisation and a sound basis for the economic development of our country and my State of Queensland in particular, had no reason to be optimistic about the future that they faced when investing money in that area. In fact there is reasonable evidence to suggest that the effect of that coal export levy flowed over into other areas of investment and specifically other mining areas of investment in Australia.
Having imposed the discriminatory levy on those who produced coal in Australia there were those who felt that there was no reason but that a Labor Government at some time in the future might not choose to impose other such levies on other mineral projects. The dampening effect that that one piece of legislation, imposed for no good reason, had on the whole pattern of development and plans of development of mining in Australia, coal in particular, was very profound. I said that the levy was discriminatory. It operated equally against profitable companies and marginal companies. It made no differentiation in its application between those different types of companies. Nor should it have. But in justifying it the then Minister and apologist for the Labor Government spoke only of the ‘Utahs’ and so on, the companies which had invested vast amounts of money in this industry and which were just starting to realise a substantial profit. In their paranoia about these companies members of the former Government chose to impose a levy which did great damage to more marginal companies operating in the area.
The fluctuations of profitability in all mining areas, including coal, are well known. The effect of such an action, with the knowledge of those who may be interested in investment in mining that at some time in the future profitability may well plummet, was profound indeed. It is not so long ago that Mount Isa was thought to be a place flowing with milk and honey. I think all of us in this place know what has happened to copper prices in the last couple of years and we all know that Mount Isa has its difficulties in planning for and looking to the future. I might say that Mount Isa Mines Ltd has been an extremely good employer, as it has been for some time now. It has not dismissed staff although its staff numbers, by natural wastage, have declined.
This situation shows that for reasons which are beyond the control of the national Government the profitability of what appeared to be a flourishing and sound mining venture can very quickly decline. Such is the pattern of mining ventures. Coal has not declined. Coal has continued to earn for Australia a large amount of money in exports. But there can never be any guarantee in the mining area that this will continue indefinitely. Uncertainty, proven potential for fluctuations in that area and a government which was bent on discriminatory policies against the mining area were factors which had a stern and marked effect on the development of the mining industry in Australia.
I cannot emphasise strongly enough the effect of that in real terms, In the debate last year I pointed out how the coal mining industry alone in Queensland had been responsible for the creation from scratch of several flourishing towns. It had been responsible for bringing many thousands of workers to certain areas of Queensland and naturally providing housing and jobs and a livelihood for many thousands of Australians who may or may not have been Queenslanders before they chose to make themselves part of that mining venture. That is what mining means in real terms. At page 2153 of the House of Representatives Hansard it is reported that in the debate in the other place Mr Connor said:
Today, particularly in the coalmining industry, Labor’s policy holds despite the fulminations and vilification of the present Government.
There are no facts which support that in real terms. The Labor Government’s policy set out to damage areas of the coalmining industry. We reject that policy. We look forward to a time, and we think we see the signs now, when the mining industry once again will provide many jobs for Australians, provide a real alternative future away from the factories and the overcrowded capital cities of our nation, and will continue to play its part in the pioneering and development of our nation.
I mentioned a few minutes ago that the coal industry was not a particularly good profit earner until fairly recently. Until 1974-75 the average profit rate, so far as one can strike a figure, was approximately 3.5 per cent. The boom in coal came subsequently and, when the boom came, the Labor Government lowered the boom, so to speak. I am informed that the coal levy added 2 1 per cent to the total cost of production of that industry. So while the levy may have sounded a fairly small amount, in real terms as a proportion of the cost of producing a tonne of coal it was 2 1 per cent, which is significant when we are trading on an international market and do not have the protection that some other Australian industries have. We know that the lowering in cost competitiveness of Australian coal led Japan, our major consumer, to look to other countries as potential suppliers for the future when the present contracts expired. The countries we know Japan investigated as potential suppliers of coal were Canada, Russia, Poland, the United States of America and South Africa. There is no doubt that our major customer in that area was looking to other suppliers and I take it that that is what Mr Connor meant when he said that the Labor policy was a good one and we abided by it. What a mockery of the facts. It does not matter what words Mr Connor may have used in that debate. It does not matter what justification he may have used when Minister. The facts are that those who wish to buy the product speak louder.
There are some indications that the Government’s policy in the mining industry in general, and in the coal mining industry in particular, will bring profits. I mentioned the Mount Isa mine a little earlier in relation to copper production. Mount Isa Mines is now interested in developing some coal mining areas in Queensland. MIM has never previously been involved in the export of coal but it presently has, as is public knowledge, plans to expand and upgrade the Collinsville area. In a merger with Collinsville Coal Pty Ltd there are plans to develop this area further and recently MIM stepped up negotiations with Japanese steel mills in relation to this development with a view to exporting coal through the Bowen area. That sort of development can only be good as a future basis for the development of the north of our country. MIM has further interests in coal deposits in other parts of Queensland, particularly with Thiess Holdings Ltd, another Australian company. I believe it is involved in exploration in certain areas of the Hunter Valley in New South Wales. So the multinational bogey has no part in this debate.
I am informed that presently there is expenditure of $2,000m on new pending projects for the coal industry and encouragement to invest is all to the good. All the information is that the removal of this discriminatory, punitive and quite irrational tax will encourage some of that development. Senator Wriedt referred to the Norwich Park development which is another area of interest of Utah Construction and Mining Co. I have sought detailed costing of what the actual investment, details of investment and proportions of investment will be from the various companies involved and interested in developing coal is Australia. I am told that those details are very difficult to get because with the delay that has now happened as a result of the slow down in interest in developing the coal industry in Australia over the last 12 months some of the costings have become out of date and that the new costings in the pickup we now see will not be sufficiently accurate. So I can give only previous costings which can be taken as approximate.
I am told that the cost of infrastructure for the development of the coal industry, whatever the total figure for development may be, is approximately 75 per cent of investment. That is, of the money which the companies are investing in the industry, approximately three-quarters is spent on providing such things as railways, ports, roads, town dams and all the things associated with building new towns or developing existing towns. Three-quarters of the money which is being spent by these companies is going into building in a very real and definite sense the material surroundings of the citizens of this nation. Twenty five per cent of the total cost goes towards actual development of the mining deposits. That needs to be borne in mind.
I shall give a couple of examples before my time runs out. In Queensland one such potential development is at Hail Creek. This is an area which has been looked at for some time and there has been some change in the interest of certain mining ventures. The question now is whether they want to be involved. I am told that currently the partners who are looking to develop it are Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd and Australian Associated Resources, a company which has been involved in coal exploration in Australia since 1965 and is interested in many coal deposits in Queensland. The Hail Creek area was first researched in 1969. It was evaluated in 1971 and we are looking forward to getting it off the ground in 1977. That means that since 1971, when it was first evaluated as a potentially profitable area of mining, 5 years have passed, three of them under the Labor Government, and in the last 12 months the coal mining industry has faced this iniquitous levy. It is believed now that all partners will be committed by August 1977. It will take a minimum of Vh years to construct the infrastructure and get development to the point where the project will be underway. That is the sort of lead time we are talking about. At a stroke we can destroy or set back by many years investment and development in a very important industry. This is effectively what happened under the Labor Government.
On today’s prices it is estimated that approximately $400m will need to be spent on the
Hail Creek development and, if we say that 75 per cent of that goes on infrastructure, it means that at today’s prices, which will undoubtedly have changed by the time it is finished, approximately $300m will go into the building industry, into the building of roads and railways, dams, ports and other facilities. There will be $300m direct investment in the permanent development of Australian society. The Norwich Park investment was previously costed at approximately $240m. The Thiess-Peabody-Mitsui consortium- Broken Hill Pty Ltd has taken over the Peabody interest- has a number of plans. The Moura and Kianga fields which are run by the consortium now employ 1000 men. It plans to develop Mount Nebo which will employ an additional 800 men and will cost certainly in excess of $500m. This was a project which was mooted in 1971. Planning commenced in 1974 and came to a halt, all planning suspended, in the last 18 months of the previous Government. It was only with the change of government, with changes of attitude and policy towards the mining industry, that there were indications that the Mount Nebo project would go ahead.
I believe that we should welcome this. It is all too easy for those on the other side to pour scorn, to use invective, to use their own particular brand of paranoia against the mining industry. They choose to overlook what that means in real terms to the working man and woman- the average Australian citizen. They choose to overlook the fact that the building of railways and ports, certainly in central and northern Queensland, has led to the development and opening up of vast areas of our nation, not just for mining but in services to the other primary industries which surround those areas, and certainly as a potential tourist development. By the development of roads they have enabled transport through those areas to be far more easy, far more attractive. They have led many people through Queensland to look at the fascinating developments that are taking place- fascinating indicators of the future trends of our nation. It is not good enough that those sorts of enterprises are dismissed with the invective of multinational profit, which apparently is a dirty word in mining terms.
As a Government member, I welcome the attitude of this Government towards properly planned mining development in this nation. As a Queensland senator I particularly welcome the opportunity for future development in the coal mining industry in my State. I congratulate the Government on its foresight; firstly in reducing the levy and, secondly, in announcing that ultimately it will be phased out over 3 years.
Without a doubt those who wish to invest for profit in the future of this country, and they are entirely justified in that, welcome this decision, as will many ordinary Australians who look forward to reaping the benefits of employment and a higher living standard from the decision.
- Senator Martin has obviously become enmeshed in the intricate web of fantasy spun by the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). Senator Martin seems to believe that all that is required is some incentive from government for major developmental projects to get off the ground. Apparently it has not occurred to Senator Martin that before any project can really get off the ground there has to be a market for the product. Apparently Senator Martin has not heard about the recession that has gripped the western world for the last 3 years. Apparently she has not read today’s newspapers either. The Australian Financial Review states:
No high hopes on Japanese coal, iron imports.
That is after the partial repeal of the coal export levy and after the devaluation. The Australian Financial Review went on:
The portents are that there will be little or no growth in Japanese demand for Australian iron ore and coking coal in the coming quarterly period and that not until well into the future will new iron ore projects in Western Australia have even a chance of getting off the ground.
In case it has not occurred to Senator Martin, the Japanese demand for coal is intricately linked to the Japanese capacity to make and sell steel and to buy iron ore; and what is true of iron ore is substantially true of coal. The article continued:
The Japanese are now talking of making cuts in their raw material import program. . . .
That is what the Australian Financial Review stated. Plucked from today’s issue of the Australian we find these headlines:
Robe doubt on currency gain.
Gloomy outlook for zinc miner.
That was a report from EZ Industries Ltd. There is a quantitative ceiling on demand for most mineral products at the moment, and it does not make any difference how many bribes this Government offers. While there is no demand for a commodity the commodity will not be produced and there will be no investment-led boom.
I am not at all surprised that Senator Martin welcomes this measure and supports it. Senator Martin also supported the theory of the investment-led recovery which was being peddled by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Treasurer at the beginning of this year.
She supported the theory of rising business confidence and rising consumer confidence which has been peddled by the government throughout the year. She supported the theory, the fantasy, of the Treasurer that consumer sales were shooting upwards. I suggest that Senator Martin look at the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures for consumer sales in September. They record that in fact consumer sales went down in real terms, as they did in August. Senator Martin supported the theory that the disastrous investment allowance, which will cost the revenue $600m in this financial year alone, would likewise lead to an economic recovery. Senator Martin has supported all the inept economic measures of this Government, which it continues to introduce while the country continues to slide deeper and deeper into recession.
– Yes, but she is nicer than you.
– She is much less accurate.
– And much less paranoid.
– What is popular is often at variance with what is true, Senator Baume. The existing tax, which this Bill seeks to reduce and ultimately to phase out, certainly is not perfect. Many valid points were made by more intelligent spokesmen for the Government Parties than Senator Martin, particularly by Dr Edwards in the House of Representatives on 2 1 October, as to what is wrong in purely economic terms with the tax as it has been applied in the past. In Dr Edwards ‘ own words: the basic objection to the duty that I have mentioned, namely that it is ‘inefficient’. I use that word in the technical economic sense. It works against the economic maxim that we should encourage those activities that we can do best.
Dr Edwards continued:
The industry is not uniformly profitable. That is a major objection to the duty, as it falls haphazardly on the profitable, the barely profitable and the unprofitable mines alike. Its incidence is most uneven and unjust.
Unjust, I suppose, carries connotations of value judgments, but nevertheless the basic point which Dr Edwards made is correct: A duty of this type, applied as a flat rate on output or production, can in fact lead to the closure of projects which in economic terms are efficient and viable.
Our criticism of the Government in relation to this measure is not based on the fact that it has contemplated a change in this tax but that it has offered absolutely no replacement. The Government has completely opted out of its responsibility to the Australian people, the responsibility with which it is now charged to ensure that the Australian public receives a fair financial reward from the depletion and the exploitation of our assets. This tax was introduced last year, and certainly it was not perfect. It was introduced because of the windfall gains which had accrued to companies mining Australia’s accessible high quality coal reserves. The windfall gains were of this magnitude: In January 1974 the price was around $US18 a ton. In June 1975 that price had risen to almost SUS50 a ton, a price increase of some 270 per cent in a period of less than 18 months. Of course, it was felt by the government of the day, and felt quite justifiably, that some of the windfall gain which otherwise would have accrued overwhelmingly to the mining companies, which were exploiting our prime coal assets, should be taxed away. Any government with a greater sense of responsibiluty to the people it purports to represent and less beholden to the interests of mining companies would agree with that judgment.
It has been suggested by some, and it might seem superficially attractive, that the windfall gains on these prime coal deposits, or on any other mineral bonanza, ought to accrue to the States in which they are located. There are purely technical objections to that which are identical to the argument Dr Edwards used against the flat rate export levy. It is impossible to devise any form of taxing away super profits, any form of profit-related tax, which can be satisfactorily levied by a State government. It is true that State governments can levy graduated royalties, as is done in Broken Hill, but that system is vulnerable to precisely the same criticism that Dr Edwards has made against the coal export levy. Only a government which has the power to levy a profit related tax as a form of company income tax can satisfactorily ensure that the windfall gains accrue substantially to the Australian people without at the same time imposing distortions on company decisions of the type which would lead to a less efficient allocation or resources. That is what this Government ought to do. But, of course, in this matter as in most other matters it has abdicated its responsibility or caved in to pressure from a Country Party that is financially beholden to foreign mining companies.
Most of the high quality, easily won coal is in Queensland. Senator Martin appears to believe that we ought to be grateful to the corporations which are currently mining this coal and which in the future will mine some more of it. It is interesting to note that about 20 per cent of Queensland’s known reserves are suitable for open cut mining but that 80 per cent of Queensland’s current coal output comes from open cut mines. Of course, the open cut mines are those which have the lowest cost of production. So the most prime of our prime coal deposits are being disproportionately mined at this time. That may be a wholly justifiable policy provided that the Australian nation is receiving a financial reward commensurate with the rapid depletion of its prime coal reserves. That could be arranged if this Government would accept its responsibility. Of course, the Government will not accept its responsibility.
Senator Martin accused the Australian Labor Party of being paranoid about multi-national corporations. I am not paranoid about multinational corporations, but it just happens to be a fact of life that if Australian companies reap excessive profits from their operations in Australia ultimately more of those gains accrue to the Australian Government and the Australian people than would be the case if the excessive profits were made by companies which are owned abroad. Let us look at just 2 companies- 2 closely related companies- which are operating in this field in Queensland, namely, the Utah Development Corporation, which is 89 per cent owned by Utah International of the United States of America, and Central Queensland Coal Associates, 85 per cent of which is owned by Utah Development and 15 per cent by Mitsui. On last year’s output the value of this coal export tax remission to those 2 companies alone will be in the vicinity of $20m. Moreover, when this measure is compounded with the windfall gains which will accrue as a result of the Government’s grossly irresponsible decision to devalue the Australian dollar by 17V2 per cent, the gains to those 2 companies are magnified many times.
If one takes into account the 15 million tonnes of coal that they exported last year and the maximum potential increase in price for that coal of $10 per tonne one finds that they will be gaining from devaluation a windfall of $150m in addition to the $20m that they will gain when this Bill becomes an Act. Of course, it is an oversimplification of the position to say that these 2 companies will receive the full potential $10 per tonne increase in the price of coal because it is conceivable that some of their contracts will be re-negotiated. Since the Japanese in the past have been leniently disposed towards renegotiating contracts with Australian suppliers when unforeseen circumstances disadvantage the suppliers, it is not unreasonable to expect some adjustments to be made when unforeseen circumstances advantage the suppliers. So the actual gains accruing to Utah Development and Central Queensland Coal Associates will be somewhat less than $150m. But there can be absolutely no doubt that they will be very substantial.
This BUI, which was obnoxious at the dme it was introduced in September, has become far more obnoxious because of the decision taken subsequently by the Government on devaluation. Dr Edwards, whom I have already mentioned as being one of the better informed- in fact one of the very few informed- supporters of the Government in this area, in discussing this BUI on 21 October, stated with respect to devaluation and the alleged discrepancy between Australia’s internal cost levels and the cost levels of our competitors and the exchange rate:
The facile conclusion that some draw in the current situation from these sorts of facts is that we should devalue the Australian dollar. I stress that that is not and cannot be on while the current economic instability in the Australian economy persists.
I have no doubt that Dr Edwards wil be able to quote those words to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer within a very short time if he feels disposed to do so.
If the Government believes that moves such as this remission or phasing out of the coal export tax Will induce an export-cum-investment led recovery from the deepening recession which it can now no longer deny exists, the exacerbation of which is the direct result of its inept policies, then it is sadly misguided. Its belief in this matter Will be as fallacious as its previous beliefs that the very fact of the election of a Liberal-Country Party government would lead us out of economic recession, the belief that we were going to have an investment-led recovery, spurred on by the useless and scandalously costly investment allowances, the belief that consumer recovery was under way and the fantasy after fantasy which have been produced by the Treasurer and the Prime Minister and which, without exception, have been contradicted by the subsequent revelation of the facts.
The Government wil fail to achieve the objectives which Senator Martin so blithely asserted that it would achieve for 2 reasons. Firstly, while the recession in the economies of our trading partners persists, there is a quantitative or quasiquantitative ceiling on demand. The preconditions for an export-led boom and perhaps an export-led recovery from the economic recession are buoyant and growing demand among our customers, and that Will not occur until economic recovery has occurred with some four or five major overseas customers. The second reason why a measure such as this, even if it did succeed in substantially stimulating the level of investment in coal mining or any other form of mining, Will fail, is that this type of mining is highly capital-intensive. It has a very limited demand for labour. If many new projects did get off the ground the demand for labour in the short term- in the construction period- would be somewhat higher but it would not be so once they settled down into steady production. Because they are competitive industries and because they are capital-intensive-the cause and the effect are all mixed up there; the capitalintensiveness is a cause of their competitiveness and their economic efficiency- they are not and never Will be substantial employers of labour. This move will fail, as all the Government’s economic moves have failed
In conclusion, I think Dr Edwards is again worth quoting. But before quoting him I mention that I have dropped the names of a couple of political parties from this quotation from Dr Edwards’ speech. With the names deleted, Dr Edwards said on 2 1 October:
The problems of the . . . Government were said to be due to the former . . . Government, due to conditions overseas, due to successive Treasurers or, as a last resort, due to the Treasury. They were never due to the Government itself. I hope that, after reflecting at greater length on their mistakes, honourable members opposite will come to recognise the true situation and to accept their responsibility.
Of course, when Dr Edwards made that statement he was asserting that that was the action of the Australian Labor Party when it was in power. He was saying that the Labor Government blamed the former Government, it blamed the Treasury and it blamed conditions overseas- all of the things which this Government is doing right now. This Government has added one scapegoat to the list. It is the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, which granted a wage increase of 2.2 per cent. For a quarter, this was significantly less than the Government itself forecast in its own Budget Papers as the expected rate of increase throughout the entire financial year. So the Government can have its choice about whether in fact the 2.2 per cent increase in wages granted by the Arbitration Commission for the September quarter was more than the Government genuinely expected. If that is the Government’s genuine belief, then it has deliberately misled the Parliament and the public with the figure it published in Budget Paper No. 1 on page 117, where it forecast a growth in average earnings of 12 per cent throughout the year. Finally, I repeat Dr Edwards ‘ final phrase:
I hope that, after reflecting at greater length on their mistakes, honourable members opposite will come to recognise the true situation and to accept their responsibility.
They have certainly not accepted their responsibility in bringing in a Bill to phase out an admittedly imperfect tax and replacing it with absolutely nothing, in spite of the now intensified need for some taxation measure to ensure that a fair proportion of the wealth of Australia’s prime mineral deposit accrues to the people of Australia
– It has been said that a socialist is an unsuccessful person whose last chance to get something is a chance to get a bit of yours. I think this must have been running through the mind of a lot of the mining companies when legislation to introduce a coal export levy was first brought down in August 1975. The mining companies had invested a considerable amount of risk capital. It was capital that was not otherwise available in Australia then and which is not available now. The companies used this capital to open up what was literally virgin scrub country, to build towns, railways, ports, dams and so forth. As soon as they started to get on their feet and make a profit the previous Government decided to take it off them by an added tax measure. The Utah Development Co., which seems to have borne the brunt of the levy, was successful with mining leases on which other companies had drilled. It took up the leases on an entirely risk basis, and as we know it was successful.
Senator Walsh mentioned the windfall that this has proved to Utah. Nobody is doubting that. He did not tell the whole story and mention the windfall that there has been to the Australian nation as a whole. He did not mention the tax that Utah has paid, the jobs it has provided, the jobs in ancillary industries and the income tax paid by employees of Utah and employees in ancillary industries. The story is endless. The coal mining industry came to the aid of Queensland at a time when it was suffering from the ravages of drought and depressed wool prices. Of course we are now suffering from a depressed beef market. The economy of Queensland, and the economy of this country, would have been in a far worse situation if the mining companies had not been able to get off the ground.
The coal export levy was introduced on 19 August 1975. The duty was $6 and $2 per tonne based on an analysis of carbon on a dry ash-free basis. It was payable on the first tonne shipped, irrespective of whether or not the mine was profitable. The production problems of individual producers were ignored, and it added 2 1 per cent to the total costs of the coal industry.
It also inhibited expansion and new developments. The Australian coal industry directly employs more than 2 1 000 men. It produces 70 million tonnes of black coal per annum. It exports approximately 32 million tonnes or 45 per cent of its total production. Export earnings, which are in the vicinity of $ 1,000m per annum, are now 10 per cent of visible export earnings for the Australian economy. The export duty imposed an immediate loss of cash. Many producers had to reduce their capital replacement expenditure to a level much lower than they otherwise would have.
The export duty was levied shortly after a world boom in the steel industry and a consequent world wide shortage of coking coal. Nobody denies that. But when it was introduced a reduction in world steel demand was already under way. The downturn in steel demand led to an over-supply of coking coal. That has already been alluded to in this debate. This resulted in a fall of about $ 1 per tonne in the base price for deliveries during 1 976-77. A further consequence is a decrease in deliveries of about 20 per cent. Japan currently takes about 85 per cent of all our coal exports and 38 per cent of our entire coal production. Because of this levy, Australia lost its competitive edge and important opportunities to diversify its markets were not there any longer. This meant that we were not able to compete so successfully on overseas markets. The first shipment of coal that went through Hay Point, the big Utah port in my area, did not go to Japan. It went to another overseas market on a spot sale basis. Of course the recession in the steel industry in Japan meant a slowing down of deliveries and demand for Australian coal. But because of the added cost to the industry in Australia we were not able to compete on the world market for spot sales. The result was a decline in the coal industry in Australia.
The export levy cannot be passed on to the buyer. It must be absorbed by the producer. At Collinsville at the northern end of the Bowen basin in Queensland there is a type of coal that is not saleable in Australia. The company operating there made overtures to Taiwan and a 30 000 tonne sample shipment was sent to Taiwan. The seam of coal in question is estimated at about 60 million tonnes. The company was not able to sell that coal because of a difference in the price that equalled the amount of the levy. So a potential sale of 60 million tonnes was lost. That coal has now been thrown out as rubbish. It could have been quite a viable export to the Queensland and Australian coal industry.
Australia is the third largest black coal supplier after the United States of America and Poland. Some sections of the industry are unable to compete favourably with other suppliers such as the United States of America, Poland, Canada, South Africa and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics because of the duty. Japan has expressed concern at the cost of new developments and the reliability of supply. Investment funds have not been readily forthcoming because investors have been too afraid to invest their capital when this levy was likely to go on and on. It has been scaring people away from other investments. If one subscribes to the priniciple that to be successful is sinful, we can put a levy on almost anything we export. This is a principle to which I do not subscribe.
The removal of the duty would naturally increase the possibility of new projects and help them get off the ground. Areas that have already been mentioned in my State are Norwich Park, Hail Creek, Nebo and Gregory. New projects could lead directly to about 10 000 construction jobs and eventually directly to the employment of 4500 in the coal mining industry itself. In addition people would be employed in ancillary jobs. As a yardstick, it is estimated that for every one person employed directly in the mining industry 5 people are employed indirectly. Of course the State governments would also benefit in increased royalties. I have no quarrel with the proposition put by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt). Coal is a natural resource and something should come back to the people of Australia. I have no quarrel with royalties. There would be profits in rail freight. In Queensland there was a unique situation. In hindsight it is probably easy to say that it was bad public relations to have such a low royalty at the start. But the whole system was worked on de-escalating freight rates. We have a magnificent rail system to the Utah coal fields. It did not cost the taxpayers one cent- not one cent. The whole idea was that the cost would be paid back on the basis of freight rates.
Thai students in Australia
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Yesterday I asked a question of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) relating to the status and standing of students from Thailand in this country. Today after question time the Minister extended to me the courtesy of a further reply. I would like to speak somewhat briefly on this matter. In a letter dated 13 October this year addressed to members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives- a letter which I believe most members of both Houses would have received- a group of Thai students in Australia said:
We, a group of Thai students in Australia, would like to express our deep concern about the imminent threat of intimidation by the repressive military regime which recently grabbed power in Thailand.
Later in the same letter they said:
We therefore beg you to give immediate consideration to granting permanent residency to any Thai national now in Australia who cannot return to Thailand for fear of life or liberty, and to ensure the security and well-being of all Thais in this country, irrespective of their political beliefs. We further request that the Australian Government grant refuge to Thai students and others who are forced to flee from Thailand in fear of their lives and liberty.
Yesterday I referred to a letter which I said I believed had come from the Thai Embassy in Canberra. I would like to read into the Hansard a translation of that letter. It reads:
The following is the translation of a letter received from the Students ‘ Section of the Royal Thai Embassy.
No. SR 1009/Special
Thai students under supervision of the Thai Civil Service Commission and Government officers on study leave.
We have received a memorandum from the Thai Civil Service Commission regarding the reforms undertaken by the Thai Authorities and requested that all students under the supervision of the Thai Civil Service Commission undertaking studies or training in Australia are informed of the reasons necessitating the implementation of the present reforms and policies of the Thai Authorities.
We ask for your co-operation to remain silent and to pay attention to your studies as usual and to co-operate, support and abide by the National Administrative Reform Committee’s decrees and policies. We further ask for your cooperation in observing the behaviour and activities of other students or groups of students. If, in your judgment, they are acting in opposition to the National Administrative Reform Committee, you are asked to warn them and immediately report to us, especially if the student or students involved are government officers on study leave.
We would like to thank you in advance.
I understand that the Thai Embassy has admitted the fact that it did send out the letter. Today in reply to a question which I asked Senator Carrick said, in part:
The Government itself cannot and would not seek to deny the right of diplomatic missions in Australia to have access to and to advise their citizens. At the same time foreign students in Australia must have, and have, the same freedom to speak as have Australians. We would be concerned at any attempt to prevent this.
On 1 3 October in the other place the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) gave further information on the adjournment debate in respect of a question asked earlier in the day by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). The Minister said in part:
I make it demonstrably clear to everybody that Thai students and others still studying in Australia with some time to go before the completion of their studies obviously are not required to go home. If the students are successful in their studies, under the normal policy applying they can seek residence status in Australia and in line with normal policy their requests would be considered at that stage. Even if the students have not successfully completed their studies in Australia- in other words, if they have been unsuccessful or have dropped out- they are not precluded from seeking permission to remain in Australia as permanent residents. Again, in line with normal policy, the requests would be considered.
The Minister later said in reply to the same question:
I believe it has been demonstrated quite clearly by myself as the responsible Minister, and by this Government since we came to office, that we have a compassionate approach in relation to the reuniting of families. I can assure any of the Thai students in Australia who fear for their safety should they return to Thailand, or be forced to return to Thailand, that their application to remain in Australia will be treated with the utmost sympathy.
They are rather noble words but to me the use of such terms as ‘they are not precluded from seeking permits to remain as permanent residents’ and, later on, that ‘requests would be considered’ is really not good enough. We all know the criteria that government departments lay down and that bureaucrats apply in relation to people seeking admission into this country and, at other times, the criteria that are laid down when the powers that be are trying to exclude someone from this country.
We have a classic case at the moment of a Mr Salemi from Melbourne, who has been involved with Italian migrants for a number of years, having to take a case to the High Court in order to prevent a move by the Government to exclude him from this country. I do not want to see any Thai students placed in a similar situation. As I said, the potential is there for these people to be excluded from Australia, for all sorts of reasons, despite the very nice terms used by the Minister for Immigration. All honourable senators have been involved in such cases over the years. We know the minor technicalities by which people can be excluded from Australia
I refer now to matters that were raised in the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence in relation to Vietnamese migrants, which was presented today by Senator Sim. To me, the situation in which the students from Thailand find themselves at the present time is exactly the same as the position in which Vietnamese students found themselves as a result of events in Vietnam in April 1975. Paragraph 4.14 on page 39 of the report has this to say:
The events of April 1 975 prompted many students to consider the question of whether or not they would be allowed to remain permanently in Australia.
In paragraph 4. 1 5 the report states:
While assurances were given on 3 April 1975 that the students could defer their obligations to return home, and their visas were extended to 3 1 December (after which time the situation was to be reconsidered), the Government expressed the hope that many would be able to return and contribute to the reconstruction of their country when peace was restored.
In paragraph 4. 16 the report states:
It was not until 1 1 November 1975 that an announcement was made giving sponsored students from South Vietnam and Cambodia the right to apply for permanent resident status irrespective of whether they had completed their studies, terminated their studies or still faced a further period of study in order to complete their courses. This decision also enabled those private students who were still studying or who had abandoned their studies to apply for resident status if they did not wish to return home. The Committee endorses the final decision to allow all students to apply for permanent resident status, but notes that much confusion and anguish would have been avoided if the decision had been made:
Prior to the fall of Saigon in the case of private students; and in the case of sponsored students, at the time Saigon fellwhen, for all practical purposes, their return-home obligations (and the obligations on the Australian Government) had lapsed.
In evidence before the Committee this was put loud and clear by a wide ranging representation of Vietnamese students in Australia. These confused students who should have been busy studying in order to complete examinations were so confused, because of the Government’s unclear state of mind at that time, that they were spending more time worrying about their futures in Australia or elsewhere than worrying about their studies.
At that time also the question arose of the financial status of many of these students from Vietnam. The Committee received a great deal of evidence on that matter. The Committee was informed that many of the students were in severe financial difficulties at the time of the fall of Saigon. The report goes on to point out how many students were involved and what was the situation. The Labor Government at that time provided financial assistance to see those students through, particularly the private students who were relying on assistance from their families. Of course, after the fall of Saigon all of that family assistance fell by the wayside. So, firstly, I believe that there is a need for a much stronger statement to be made by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs in relation to these students. He should give some definitive statement that they will be allowed to stay in this country. Secondly, I see a need for the provision of some financial assistance for many of these students. Thirdly, a matter that was raised by the Committee was the lack of communication between the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and the students concerned. The Committee noted in paragraph 4.20 of its report:
It is clear to the Committee that communication with the students was generally ineffective. Instead of being conveyed directly to all of the students, information ‘filtered through their ranks’ from those who had overheard the Prime Minister’s replies to questions in Parliament and from persons and departmental officials to whom they had turned for practical assistance.
I do not wish to say anything further, except to reiterate what I have said already. I believe it is time in this instance that the Government and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs came down with a definitive statement so that these students can know what is the Government’s intention and so that they will have some surety of security and not be placed in exactly the same situation as prevailed in relation to Vietnamese and Cambodian students 18 or 20 months ago.
– I rise to join in the remarks made by Senator Primmer. I was not aware that Senator Primmer was raising this matter in the adjournment debate this evening. As I have been in communication with a number of Thai students in recent times and as I have been in correspondence with both the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) in respect of this matter, I want to add some comments to what Senator Primmer has said and generally to support the plea which he makes for a number of students who are now left in a dangerous situation, for reasons which I think have not been entirely covered by Senator Primmer, and who should now have the benefit of being able to stay in this country.
We know what happened to many students in Thailand at the time of the overthrow of the government. We know that those students in this country who may have taken a political stance which was not friendly to the present Thai Government would be in very great danger if they are forced to return to their country. I am satisfied that those students to whom I have spoken are in genuine fear and are in a genuinely difficult situation and that the Government ought to greet them with a great deal of sympathy and concern. There are many of them. There is one in particular on whose behalf I have made a plea in relation to his application for permanent residence. I made that plea by letter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs on 25 November of this year. I am not surprised that I have not yet had a reply about the whole matter. In that letter to Mr Peacock, amongst other things, I said:
I have also been informed that there are a number of sponsored students under your ministerial responsibility, who are reluctant to lodge their applications for permanent residence, as they feel that this may speed up requests from the Thai authorities for their return to Thailand. I am aware that, if they fail to observe their bonds, they will be held responsible by the Thai Government for twice the cost of their education, and it obviously will be impossible for them to meet such claims.
I want to say something later about the question of bonds. As to the activities of the Thai Government, I have seen a translation of the letter which Senator Primmer has read tonight. It seems to me that, if that Government is prepared to go to such deep degrees of surveillance of students here, it is likely to do something to students who return home. Students are fearful that even if they put in the application this may lead to some speeding up. Obviously they will have to do something about that and put in applications. At least one student whom I saw and on whose behalf I have written has put in an application for permanent residence.
I want to say something also about the difficulty which these students have with respect to bonds. Well before this matter arose and before the overthrow of the Government I had cause to write again to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, in a matter which is not in any way completed, on behalf of a young Thai girl who is now married to an Australian, who in fact has broken the bond and who is not returning to take up work as a teacher in Thailand. It was brought to my notice then- I think this is the typical position in which students find themselves- that on breaking the bond students are required to pay twice the amount of the cost of their education in Australian terms. In the particular case about which I wrote on 6 September and which is unresolved there is a claim against the girl for $ 1 8,000, which she will not be able to meet.
– For what period of time was that?
– She came here as a Colombo Plan student in 1971; she graduated in 1974; she did a post-graduate computer course in 1975; and she married in January 1976. So she was here as a student for about 4 or 5 years. Apparently twice the cost of the education has to be paid, and I am informed by the students that if it is not paid the Government will bankrupt the guarantor back in Thailand, who would be a parent. Therefore there is another pressure on students to return. Not only might they be treated badly physically or imprisoned but there is also a question of financial cost. I hope that this Government will intervene and try to reach some accommodation with the Thai Government as to students who cannot go back because of the danger they will face.
Two Ministers are involved in this matter. The Colombo Plan students are the concern of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the private students are the concern of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. On 25 November I wrote to Mr MacKellar in regard to Professor Apichai Puntasen who escaped from Thailand at the time of the coup. He seems to me to be a genuine man He was an adviser to the Democratic Party Government which was overthrown. He is here now and he is seeking permanent residency. He has not been granted it yet. His time has expired and he has been given some extension. I have joined with another organisation which wrote to him. The New South Wales Association of Immigration Reform took up his case and wrote to the Minister on 1 1 November, asking that permanent residency be granted to the professor. I have written to the Minister supporting that application in the hope that it will be granted, because obviously he is a political refugee who has no hope of going back. If he did go back he obviously would suffer a certain fate at the hands of the new Government. That is another exception. There may be more people who have escaped from Thailand and who have managed to get here. There are obviously many students in Victoria, and no doubt in other States as well, who are concerned and who are in genuine danger and under genuine threat from the present Thai Government. I join with Senator Primmer in hoping that our Government will give the most sympathetic consideration to the students ‘ request for permanent residence in this country.
-The background to this matter has been covered very well by Senator Primmer and Senator Missen. It was raised earlier today, as Senator Primmer mentioned, and information was given by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). Senator Primmer also referred to the statement made in the House of Representatives on 13 October by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). I am able to give further information from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on this matter. I am able to state that there have been requests from groups of Thai students to the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to be granted permanent residence in Australia prior to the completion of their studies. In all such approaches the temporary resident status of the students concerned has been assured by the Department. In accordance with the current student policy and the policy that would exist at any time in the future, private students would be able to apply for permanent residence in Australia on satisfactory completion of their studies.
As Senator Missen has said, there are 2 departments involved in this matter. Where there are government sponsored students, for example, under the Colombo Plan, there is a commitment for them to return to their home countries. This is of course a part of the Australian Government’s aid program to assist and develop the countries concerned. However, the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs does make it clear that any claims by students to stay in Australia under the circumstances of which we have been talking would be considered on their merits. As has also been stated, the Government did make a special decision after consideration of the special circumstances to allow Vietnamese and Laotian students to remain in Australia upon approval of applications for permanent residence. The Minister, in his speech on 13 October, mentioned the compassionate approach that the Government would have to applications that are made. I believe that on his behalf I can give the assurance that those matters that have been raised by Senator Primmer and Senator Missen will be dealt with in the interests of the students concerned.
I have no information with regard to financial assistance that may be required by the students under the circumstances about which we have been speaking, but I shall refer that matter to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and obtain a response from him. With regard to the general question of applications that are received y the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, I can give the assurance that these will have a most sympathetic consideration and, I believe, an assurance that help will be given to the students who find themselves in those difficult circumstances that have been mentioned in the Senate tonight.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1 1.23 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice:
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following information in answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
While unable to provide detail of the kind sought, an understanding of the scope of the past program to Indonesia can be obtained from the following summary, by sectors, of project expenditure since 1949-50:
A more specific view of the components of the civil aid program may be obtained from the full description of the projects ongoing as of July 1975 or commenced in 1975-76, set out in Table I below. As many of the ongoing projects commenced a number of years ago the current program may be seen as broadly representative of Australia’s civil aid activities in Indonesia since 1965.
Statistics are not routinely compiled differentiating between the equipment element of projects listed in Table I and other cost components such as professional or technical supervision or advisory services, design costs, feasibility studies, freight and other overhead charges.
Most civil aid projects undertaken by Australia have an important training element. This training is carried out incountry as well as in Australia.
During 1975 a total of 397 Indonesians undertook training in Australia or overseas under Australian awards and, of these, 27 were associated with Australian civil aid projects. The remainder were studentships and traineeships under the Colombo Plan. Training ranged from postgraduate degrees to short on-the-job attachments with Australian organisations.
A sectoral summary of Australia’s 1975 training program for Indonesia is set out below as an indication of the type of training Australia has sponsored in recent years:
Assistance in carrying out exploratory and design work for the proposed Jutigede dam and power station on the Cimanuk river in West Java. The project includes investigations of flood control irrigation development and the feasibility of power generation.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator ‘s question:
However, detailed marine biological research is required before causative factors are fully understood. I can assure the honourable senator that the Department of Health will continue to keep this matter under close scrutiny.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is presumed that the second part of the question relates to exports to the United States market. Apart from special arrangements made for five Northern Territory and Kimberley meatworks entitlement to export to the United States market is not determined on a geographic basis. Rather, entitlements are for individual exporting firms some of whom have meatworks in both the north and the south.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(a) Annual production for individual meatworks is provided in confidence by the companies concerned and cannot therefore be made available.
and (5) The information requested is not available. In general, abattoirs draw cattle for slaughter from the region adjacent to the slaughter facilities but factors such as cattle prices, freight costs and seasonal conditions influence the pastoralists choice of market outlet during the year.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
-The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) The majority of cattle holdings in the Kimberley region of Western Australia are pastoral leases granted by the Western Australian Government The question of stocking rates on these leases is the responsibility of the Western Australian Minister for Lands and Surveys.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In recognition of shipping difficulties from north-west Australia the Australian Meat Board has been specially reserving a part of the United States of America import quota for these and certain other meatworks. To my knowledge there has been no approach from Demco for an increase in this special allocation.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice:
What is the projected staff ceiling for the Department of Industry and Commerce as at 30 June 1977.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable senator to the answer given by the Prime Minister to Question No. 1246 in the Senate Hansard of 9 November 1976, page 1774.
asked the Minister for Education, upon notice:
What is the projected staff ceiling for the Department of Education as at 30 June 1977.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I would refer the honourable senator to the answer provided by the Prime Minister to Question No. 1246 on 9 November 1976. (Senate Hansard, page 1774.)
Department of the Capital Territory: Staff Ceiling (Question No. 1261)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice:
What is the projected staff ceiling for the Department of the Capital Territory as at 30 June 1977.
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the Prime Minister’s reply to Question on Notice No. 1246 which appeared in Senate Hansard on 9 November 1976, page 1774.
asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
This commitment on the pan of the Government was reaffirmed by the Prime Minister on 1 November on the occasion of the Chrysler investment announcement. He said then that if the Industries Assistance Commission finds that action is necessary to make sure that local manufacturers hold about 80 per cent of the local market, then action will be taken by the Government to see that this is achieved.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
ILO Convention on Indigenous and Tribal Populations (Question No. 1308)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As indicated by the Queensland Premier in the Queensland Parliament on 20 October, his Government is seeking legal advice on the matter.
Discussions will be continued with the Queensland Government on the question of ratifying the Convention.
Cyclone Tracy (QuestionNo. 1341)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Northern Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (l)(a)Yes.
I am also informed that the records show that the defence forces received similar notifications.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
In relation to the answer to Question No. 922, were categories of appeals dealt with in each State by each Social Security Appeals Tribunal other than those categories mentioned in Question No. 922 for the two quarters mentioned in Question No. 922. If so, what were these benefits and, for the three separate quarters ending March, June and September 1976, what are the detailed results of the appeals in question corresponding to the headings provided in the Minister’s answer to Senate Question No. 130, vide Senate Hansard. 4 May 1 976, page 1515.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The information sought by the honourable senator is shown in the tables below.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Was the Productivity Promotion Council of Australia consulted prior to the creation of the Department of Productivity. If so, what are the details.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Productivity Promotion Council was not consulted prior to the creation of the Department of Productivity.
The Government is, of course, in constant touch with representative organisations in a variety of fields and, as appropriate, considers their views in formulating its decisions.
It is not the normal practice, however, to consult such bodies specifically in relation to changes in Ministerial responsibilities.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice:
Has the Minister investigated a report in the Brisbane Sunday Mail on 7 November 1976, that residents of Palm Island have protested at the Royal Australian Air Force using an Aboriginal sacred area, Cordelia Rock, as a target for bombing practice. If so, (a) what have the investigations shown, and (b) what further action does the Minister intend taking.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I have not investigated the specific report. However I can provide the following information to the honourable senator. The Halifax Bay weapons range was declared as an air gunnery and bombing area on 13 June 1945. The area contains three islands, namely Rattlesnake, Herald and Acheron, as well as three rocky outcrops, one of which Cordelia Rock, is used as a practice bombing target. The use of the Halifax Bay range is a necessary part of the operational training programs of Mirage and FI 1 1C crews. Since 1945, although the range has been frequently used, there has been no indication through official channels that the area may be of significance to the Aboriginal people.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 December 1976, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1976/19761201_senate_30_s70/>.