30th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 149 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Australia’s extensive road system is a national asset wasting because of inadequate Federal and State funding.
Commonwealth Government funding of roads has fallen over the last six years from 2.9 per cent of all Commonwealth outlays to 2.3 per cent.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide SO per cent of all funding for Australia s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendation by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5, 903m of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads.
Petition received and read.
– I present 5 petitions, similar in wording, from 10, 36, 35, 94 and 69 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth: -
Australia’s extensive road system is a national asset wasting because of inadequate Federal and State funding.
Commonwealth Government funding of roads has fallen over the last six years from 2.9 per cent of all Commonwealth outlays to 2.3 per cent.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide SO per cent of all funding for Australia ‘s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $S,903m of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads.
– I present the following petition from 29 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Australia’s extensive road system is a national asset wasting because of inadequate Federal and State funding.
Commonwealth Government funding of roads has fallen over the last six years from 2.9 per cent of all Commonwealth outlays to 2.3 per cent.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide SO per cent of all funding for Australia ‘s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5,903m of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the five years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads.
-I present 2 petitions, similar in wording, from 38 and 22 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in the 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.
Petitions received and first petition read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens respectfully showeth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, should ensure:
That the Commonwealth Government’s long-term policy should be to provide SO per cent of all funding for Australia ‘s roads.
That at a minimum the Commonwealth Government adopts the recommendations by the Australian Council of Local Government Associations for the allocation of $5,903 million of Commonwealth, State and Local Government funds to roads over the live years ending 1980-81, of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads. by Senator Chaney (3 petitions), Senator Maunsell, Senator Thomas and Senator Steele Hall.
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 delays between announcements of each quarterly movement in the Consumer Price Index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress to pensioners.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in age and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to -
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator James McClelland.
Select Committee on East Timor
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
) A Select Committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the following matters:
the form of Australian aid to the residents of East Timor;
b ) the plight of ref ugees from East Timor;
the fate of six Australian journalists in East Timor;
communications between Australia and East Timor;
the position in Timor, including the conflict between Timorese forces and Indonesian forces and the position of the Timorese civilian population, the origins of the conflict and its impact on the Timorese people; and
f) other matters related to the foregoing.
The Committee consists of seven senators, four to be nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and three to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate.
The Committee may proceed to the despatch of business notwithstanding that all members have not been appointed and notwithstanding any vacancy.
The quorum of the Committee be three.
The Chairman of the Committee may, from time to time, appoint another member of the Committee to be the Deputy Chairman, and that the member so appointed act as Chairman of the Committee at any time when there is no Chairman or the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the Committee.
The Committee have power to appoint subcommittees consisting of three or more of its members, and to refer to any such sub-committee any of the matters which the Committee is empowered to consider, and that the quorum of a sub-committee be two.
The Committee or any sub-committee have power to send for and examine persons, papers and records, to move from place to place, to sit in public or in private, notwithstanding any prorogation of the Parliament, and have leave to report from time to time its proceedings and the evidence taken and such interim recommendations as it may deem fit.
Members of the public and representatives of the news media may attend and report any public session of the Committee unless the Committee otherwise orders.
The Committee be empowered to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it. A daily Hansard shall be published of such proceedings of the Committee as take place in public.
The Committee be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources and be empowered to appointpersons with specialist knowledge for the purposes of the Committee, with the approval of the President.
The foregoing provisions of this resolution, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders.
Investigation into Food Prices
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the Senate requests the Government to undertake an immediate investigation into food prices, including:
a ) wholesaler ‘s markups;
b) the correlation of production costs to retail prices;
the disparity between prices paid to primary producers and the end cost to the consumer, particularly in relation to meat, dairy produce and vegetables; and
the cost of freight applied to foodstuffs outside the metropolitan areas.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. In view of President Carter’s announcement last night that he intends to seek demilitarisation of the Indian Ocean, will the Government now reconsider its strategic assessment of defence requirements in the Indian Ocean in the light of the recently prepared White Paper on defence?
-My colleague in the other place informs me that he has seen a transcript of the remarks President Carter made at his Press conference. He further informs me that President Carter’s reference to the proposed demilitarisation of the Indian Ocean was made when he was detailing arms control proposals which the United States has put to the Soviet Union. As honourable senators will know, members of the new United States Administration have said in testimony before the Congress that the Administration would be interested in negotiating with the Soviet Union on arms limitation in the Indian Ocean. Our Embassy in Washington has been keeping and will continue to keep in close touch with the development of American thinking on this subject. The Australian position, of course, is well known in Washington, namely, that we favour balance, and balance at the lowest practicable level.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. A daily newspaper recently published the results of a survey undertaken at Monash University which revealed that almost 50 per cent of unemployed persons are migrants. It thus appears that there are many more unemployed migrants than official figures suggest. Will the Minister approach the Minister in the other place and inquire whether he is aware of the situation? Will he further inquire as to what provisions the Commonwealth Employment Service makes to ensure that migrants who are unemployed are encouraged to register for employment?
– The survey undertaken at Monash University to which Senator Lajovic referred does reveal a matter of considerable concern. I will pass the honourable senator’s question on to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, whom I represent, and seek an early reply from him.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs: Did the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs recommend to the Prime Minister a year ago the amalgamation of certain areas of the Industries Assistance Commission with the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs? Has the Prime Minister been informed that the Prime Minister’s decision of November last approving this change will strip the Industries Assistance Commission of a great deal of its autonomy and value to both rural and manufacturing industry? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the purpose of this drastic change? Will the amalgamation destroy or harm the independence of the Industries Assistance Commission?
– I shall refer that question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and seek an early answer from him.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether it is correct, as reported in the Australian Financial Review of 31 December 1976, that decision No. 1615 dated 7 October 1976 of the Legislation Committee stated:
Parliamentary Counsel should give particular attention to leaving as much as possible to regulations rather than substantive legislation.
Is it also correct, as reported, that in 1976 the Government gazetted around 300 regulations and ordinances which represented a substantial increase over those gazetted in 1975? If these statements are correct, do they not conflict with the Liberal Party platform in respect of Parliament which pledges the moderation of the dominance of the executive arm of government and maintains:
Parliament should not be by-passed by the unchecked development of the practice of government by regulation or the exercise of ministerial discretions.
Is it proposed to implement these platform commitments?
– I inform my honourable colleague that there has been no attempt nor is there any desire by the Government to by-pass Parliament in any way. In fact the Government has decided that departments should examine legislative proposals and present amending legislation in an orderly and comprehensive fashion. I remind honourable senators that the Commonwealth Parliament has a very heavy legislative program- about 3 times that of either the British or the Canadian parliament in terms of Bills passed. It may well be, of course, that in matters that require frequent updating or amendment, it is more convenient for the Parliament itself for such matters to be handled by regulation. But this is not and cannot be a way of by-passing the Parliament.
Senator Missen is a very distinguished member of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. No doubt he can vouch for the valuable work it has always done in the past and, I expect, will continue to do in the future.
I expect that the Regulations and Ordinances Committee will continue to review all regulations to ensure that its guidelines are not breached. I imagine it will also ensure that proper parliamentary scrutiny of the law-making process is maintained. I can certainly assure the honourable senator that this Government is totally opposed to using regulations or the Appropriation Bills to establish new schemes as our predecessors did with both the Regional Employment Development scheme and the Australian Assistance Plan. I can further assure the honourable senator that the Government will continue to provide separate legislation for any new program or schemes of expenditure and that these schemes and legislation will be debated fully in the Parliament.
-I preface my question which is directed to the Minister for Science by reminding him of a statement he made in reply to a question that I asked him yesterday. He said:
I would indeed welcome greater funds being made available by the Commonwealth for solar energy research- indeed into energy research of all types. I believe about $1. 5m is spent in Australia each year at present on solar energy research.
I ask the Minister where he obtained the figure of $1.5m because I have not seen it published anywhere except in yesterday’s Hansard. I further ask the Minister to indicate whether any research and development programs in respect of the following energy resources are being carried out in Australia and where the programs are being carried out: Liquefaction of coal; electricity from wind energy; electricity from solar energy; electricity from tidal energy; hydrogen from solar energy; oil from plant cellulose; oil from algae; substitution of petroluem derived lubricants; and energy conservation. Will the Minister consider bringing people involved in these research areas and perhaps other experts together to form a national energy policy formulation body to develop a national co-ordinated energy policy for Australia as was recommended by the Fox inquiry?
– If the honourable senator will place the question on the notice paper I shall seek an answer for him.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade advise whether there are any moves in progress or being contemplated to discuss with the New Zealand Government the current implications of the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement as it affects several very sensitive Australian industries, particularly in the field of textiles?
– Yes, I can. Meetings are scheduled to take place in New Zealand between myself, Mr Anthony, the New Zealand Minister for Trade, Mr Tallboys and Mr Adam Schneider, the Minister for Industry on, I think, 6 or 7 April. The date has not yet been determined. Officials from Australian government departments have been in New Zealand examining the whole range of activities to be discussed. They will probably go to New Zealand again before the visit of myself and Mr Anthony. New Zealand officials will probably come to Australia. I am sure that it is known to everybody that the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Robert Muldoon, will be in Australia about mid-March. Discussions are proceeding. As I have said previously, anybody who has any information that bears on an Australian industry problem is very welcome to bring that information to me prior to my visit to New Zealand.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer a question. The Minister will recall my series of questions during the last session of Parliament in respect to the then rumoured devaluation decision and his repeated answers to me that devaluation was not on. I now ask: In view of the record deficit of $5,532m incurred by this Government can the Minister say whether a mini-budget is being planned? If so, will this mini-budget make special provision to offset the considerable liquidity problems of companies which are obliged to pay company tax at the end of this financial year? In view of the high level of unemployment, the record December consumer price index increase of 6 per cent and now the record deficit which, when all taken together, constitute economic mismanagement of the worst degree, will the Government now take the advice it so often gave in opposition, that is, to have an immediate election to allow the Australian electorate to make a judgment of its performance?
-I suggest to the honourable senator that he should get the fellow who drafted the question to draft it in a more coherent style. I ask the honourable senator to put the current question on the notice paper.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to the Joy report concerning the Crystal Brook-Adelaide rail standardisation program. Is the Minister aware that his colleague in the other place last month received a deputation from South Australia, including the State Minister of Transport, Senator Bishop and myself to discuss this project? Has the Minister been informed that at that meeting Mr Nixon invited the State Minister and his departmental officials to consult with Australian National Railways officials in order to make constructive suggestions with respect to a standardisation program alternative to the original plan advocated in the Maunsell report? Is it a fact that Mr Nixon invited the State Minister to consult with him again on this alternative? Can the Minister say whether the Federal Minister for Transport has arranged another meeting to discuss this matter? If so, when will that meeting take place? If not, will the Minister ask his colleague to contact Mr Virgo so that matters associated with this project can be resolved to the mutual satisfaction of both Governments?
– I am well aware of the honourable senator’s interest in this matter. He will recall that I mentioned my knowledge of his and Senator Bishop’s deputation to the Federal Minister in another place some weeks ago. I am aware that Senator Bishop and Senator Jessop saw the Federal Minister and had a discussion on the Adelaide-Crystal Brook railway. I have also acknowledged in this chamber that as a result of the Maunsell report my understanding is that the various parties were to look for a compromise solution. I am aware of that. My understanding was that that search was to be in progress now. I am not aware as to whether there have been any further meetings or whether there is one in contemplation with immediacy, but I will seek out that specific information and let the honourable senator know.
– I direct a question to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. It concerns the Government’s proposed reduction of about 8 per cent in real terms in road grants to the States. I ask: Is the road funds reduction policy an integral part of the Government’s new federalism policy, that is, the policy of phasing out specific purpose payments to the States and making the State governments more responsible for raising the moneys they spend?
-The whole of the Commonwealth Government’s programs and policies is based upon the general philosophy of federalism, the belief in decentralisation from the centre to the States and local government as distinct from the Opposition’s policy of concentrated centralism, the abolition of the States and the shrinking of local government. So, in answer to Senator Walsh’s question, all our policies are so involved. My understanding of the road grants programs is that there have been discussions at both State and local government level and that local government authorities have expressed their views very strongly to my colleague in another place.
– I address a question to you, Mr President. I refer to reports that the Government of Queensland has challenged in the High Court of Australia the right of Territories to be represented in this chamber. I understand that writs have now been filed with the High Court. As the status of senators from the Territories has now been challenged and as the matter is in effect sub judice, can you say whether Territorial senators will have the right to sit in this chamber, to participate in debates and to vote while this case is being dealt with?
- Senator Knight’s question raises matters of constitutional importance and they will be given careful consideration. I think, however, that I should give an immediate reply to enable the working of the Senate to proceed. My immediate reply, therefore, is that, unless otherwise determined by the Senate, I shall continue to recognise the status and rights in the Senate of the Territory senators.
-I call Senator Robertson.
-Thank you, Mr President. I will get this question in while I still have the chance to do so. I address a question in 4 parts to the Minister for Science. Firstly, have 13 nations signed a solar energy pact and agreed to pool their knowledge on solar energy in order to minimise their need for imported oil? Secondly, are these nations members of the international agency which collects, evaluates and disseminates information on solar energy? Thirdly, why is Australia not a signatory to the pact? Fourthly, will steps be taken to make such a move?
– I noted some comments in one section of the media as to 13 nations pooling their knowledge. I have not been able to verify that; nor do I know the exact nature of the association in which they meet. I see no reason at the moment why Australia should be party to any particular agreement. Science generally has a great international relationship in all of its interests. Indeed, I believe that Australia’s main research organisation- the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisationhas sufficient links today with major international research organisations that we are generally aware of projects that are being undertaken. That position applies generally to solar energy research. As was mentioned yesterday, vast amounts are being spent on this matter by some other countries. We are able to take advantage of the findings that are made immediately that knowledge is available to us. I will look further into the honourable senator’s question and give him a written reply on the matter.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Is it correct that yesterday the Government rejected a move from within the Government to give only partial indexation to pensioners and people on unemployment benefits? Does this decision mean in fact that there will now be included in the new pension rate to be paid to pensioners an amount based on the total consumer price index increase which includes, of course, the 3.2 per cent Medibank component? Is it the Government’s case in the present wage case before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that the 3.2 per cent Medibank component should be excluded from any wage determination to be made by the Commission? If so, can the Minister explain the reason for the obvious double standards that the Government has, and in view of yesterday’s decision regarding pension increases based on CPI indexation will the Government now be prepared to review its present submission before the Commission?
– I am very interested to hear spokesmen on behalf of the Opposition apparently opposing the decision of the Government to abide by the legislation which was passed with the Opposition’s support only a few months ago and which provides that the full consumer price index increases shall be reflected in increases in pensions twice a year. Senator Douglas McClelland, by the tenor of his question, apparently is opposing that very proper decision which was made by this Parliament and reaffirmed by the Government yesterday. As to the Government’s submission at the national wage case, the view placed before the Commission by the Government is that the appropriate concept on which the wage increase should be based is the amount payable for basic hospital and medical care. This view is based on the fact that the great majority of wage and salary earnersover 70 per cent of them, in fact- are either single or in a situation in which both husband and wife earn separate incomes and therefore the payment generally is $2.90 or less per person. The Government will be abiding by that submission to the Commission.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Administrative Services. A document issued last month by his Department lists a Mr Baxter as Press Secretary to Senator Wriedt, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. Is he Mr Ken Baxter, a rural journalist who is said to have written regularly under the names of Kenneth Graham and A. K. Holland? If so, in view of Mr Baxter’s new position I ask whether he is still writing under these or any other names since, for example, recent feature articles entitled Farming’ and ‘Sheep on the Comeback Trail’ by Kenneth Graham expressed views with considerable political overtones although obviously they were meant to be read as having been written by an independent journalist. Does the Minister believe that it is proper for a Press Secretary to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate to express views with political import in a manner that purports to be of independent origin? Finally, are there any restrictions on parliamentary staff accepting second jobs, especially where they involve the use of assumed names and the use of facilities of the Parliament that otherwise would be unavailable?
-I am not aware of the private activities of any individual on the staff of any Opposition office holder; nor do I intend to inquire. It is up to the individual office holder to determine what standard of behaviour is required of members of his staff. I would expect that the Leader of the Opposition would take on board the comments made by the honourable senator and come to his own decision.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. By way of preface, I state that I was particularly impressed by the spectacular parade of 1600 service men and women in the Silver Jubilee Review by the Queen in front of Parliament House on Tuesday. I was most impressed with the high level of practised precision of the parade, the fly past by Royal Australian Air Force aircraft and the splendid performance of the combined bands. I ask the Minister: Will he advise the Senate whether it is possible, after consultation with his colleagues in the Cabinet, to strike a jubilee medal as a mark of appreciation from the people of Australia to those who took part in such a memorable parade?
-I thank the honourable senator for a very interesting suggestion. I shall certainly take up the matter with my colleague in the other place. I also thank Senator O’Byrne for his very kind remarks about the 3 Services on parade. I think we all agree that they did a magnificent job on that day.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware that journals of trade unions receive a much more favourable postage rate in the registered publications service than do journals of employer organisations, including farmers’ organisations? Can the Minister take steps to correct this anomaly?
– I am not aware of the matter. I shall direct the attention of the Minister in another place to the substance of the question and seek a response.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the lack of reference in the Queen’s Speech to the operations of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, and the pending appointment of an ombudsman, and in view of the lack of a tribunal to which anybody who has been denied citizenship can appeal, do we have a solution from Mr Justice Hope, mindful of specific submissions from people like myself, to bridge this gap in our civil liberties code?
-I am well aware of the interest which Senator Mulvihill has shown in this area over a long period. There are problems when people are denied citizenship because of an adverse report alleging some security risk as they have no avenue of appeal, apart from one to the Minister. I shall have to pass the question on to the Prime Minister because Mr Justice Hope is reporting direct to him and not to anybody else. I shall pass the matter on to the Prime Minister and seek the information for the honourable senator.
-I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. A circular has been received today by many members of the Senate from an organisation named the Association of Romanians in Australia, calling for funds for the Romanian earthquake appeal. While I am certainly not questioning the bona fides of this organisation, I ask whether the Minister is aware of it. Does the Government recognise the organisation as a suitable vehicle to handle funds for this very distressed country? Is it the intention of the Government to sponsor an appeal to enable Australians to give much needed help to the thousands of Romanians affected by the earthquake?
-I shall seek that information from the Foreign Minister.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I understand that Mr David Anderson has resigned from the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee as from 28 February. Can the Minister advise when the byelection will be held to fill the vacancy? As the Minister himself has pointed out that useful submissions have been made by the NACC on matters of education, health and welfare, employment, language, customs and land rights, can we be advised when it is planned to hold the next meeting of the NACC? It is almost 12 months since the last meeting was held. When can we expect a report from the NACC on matters which concern it?
-I read an announcement of the resignation of Mr David Anderson. I have no information with regard to the holding of a by-election nor of the next meeting. I shall refer these matters to the Minister and obtain the information for the honourable senator.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to the announcement yesterday of the trade deficit figures for February. It is reasonable to assume that the higher level of imports for that month reflects payments for imports for which commitments were entered into prior to the devaluation of the dollar in late November 1976? If so, is it likely that this effect will be non-recurrent? Is it expected that the anticipated result of the devaluation, namely, a decrease in imports, will emerge in the coming months?
-That is the forecast given in my papers which I read this morning. That is the general understanding from the figures which we have. This is how I expect the situation to develop from the point of view of the Department of Industry and Commerce, because naturally we have been very watchful of this and very concerned about it. So our opinion, which is quite separate from that of the Treasury, is the same as that expressed by the honourable senator. I also thought when I read the material that it equally could have contained the observation that the Australian import-export situation is one of very wide variation and is never to be taken month by month as a reflection of anything that might happen.
– I ask the Minister for Education whether he is aware that students in at least one high school in the Australian Capital Territory have been given identity cards with the following words on them:
This card must be presented when borrowing school library books, when enrolling in elective subjects and prior to excursions. Preference will be given to students who have paid school fees.
Does the Minister agree that such a requirement contravenes section 13 (4) (a) of the Schools Commission Act 1 973 which establishes that the primary obligation of governments is to provide and maintain government school systems of the highest standard which are open without fees or religious tests to all children? Was this apparently illegal instruction regarding identity cards issued by the Minister? If not, what is the Minister’s view of it and what action does he intend to take?
- Senator Ryan will know, because she was enthusiastic that it should happen, that education in the Australian Capital Territory is now under the control of a statutory body, the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority, the establishment of which she strongly urged, and that any decisions on such matters would be made by that authority. They would not be made directly or otherwise by the Minister. It is as well to remind the Senate that whilst the Government and the Minister have a residual responsibility -
– This is so and we cannot have it both ways. Last year it was advocated that we should have a statutory body to make the day to day decisions. I do not in any way abdicate from my responsibility as the Minister, and I shall come back to that shortly. However, if an identity card has been issued- I think that identity cards are issued at every university and, I fancy, at every college in Australia, and I have not heard any suggestion that that ought not to be so- I shall look into the matter. I doubt whether it offends section 13 (4) (a) of the Schools Commission Act as the honourable senator suggested, but I shall be happy to bring the matter to the attention of the chairman and chief executive officers of the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority and seek their reply. I also shall look at it myself.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. I ask the Minister, who still has responsibility for education in the Australian Capital Territory, whether in his view schools have a right to charge fees as opposed to requesting payment of optional fees.
– The Whitlam Government held the view during its 3 years in office that schools had that right, and during the period when that Government, which had the same political philosophy as Senator Ryan, was in office schools charged similar fees for services. Nobody has disputed that and I understand that it is not in dispute now.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Has the attention of the Attorney-General been directed to recent Press reports that a large quantity of pornographic literature, which includes photographs dealing particularly with acts of depravity committed on children, is being sold readily to the public in a number of States? Can the Minister indicate what steps the AttorneyGeneral can take to prohibit the sale and distribution of scurrilous publications of this nature?
-The Attorney-General was asked a similar question yesterday in another place. The literature is alleged to have been on sale under the counter in New South Wales and Victoria. In the past films have been brought into this country pursuant to regulation 4A of the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations and they are classified by the Film Censorship Board. Literature is presented to the officers of the Attorney-General’s Department. If it is indecent or obscene it is prohibited under regulation 4A. The Attorney has had inquiries made of officers of his Department and he has been informed that as far as they could ascertain, literature of the type referred to by Senator Tehan and by the Attorney yesterday in another place would be prohibited. From time to time articles of this description come before them, and in the past they have prohibited them. If such items are on sale in Sydney and Melbourne and if they have come from overseas, it is assumed that they have come in illegally. However it is very difficult to police the import of articles of this type because of the various methods by which they may enter Australia.
Following representations from New South Wales, the Attorney proposes to call an early meeting of Ministers dealing with censorship to see what steps can be taken to impose some limit on this type of material in the States and Territories so that material that would be prohibited at the point of entry would also be prohibited from sale in shops around the country, whether that point of sale be sex shops, newsagencies or any other kind of outlet.
-I ask the Minister for Education whether he recalls saying yesterday in answer to a question from Senator Colston in respect to student loans:
I repeat that this inquiry is an inquiry into student loans as a supplement to- as an addition to- and not a replacement of student allowances. It is utterly clear that that is so.
I ask the Minister whether he will confirm that the terms of reference of the Committee on Student Loans that is looking into this question state, amongst other things, that the Committee is to give consideration to the following matter:
. to the possible relationship of such a loans system to continuing schemes of Government scholarships and grants, either
Are the Committee’s terms of reference as I have quoted? If they are will he explain the answer that he gave yesterday?
– The situation can be explained simply by drawing the attention of the honourable senator and the Senate to the total answer I gave to several questions yesterday in which my aim was to indicate that the Government’s policy was for loans, if they are introduced, to be a supplement to and not a replacement for allowances. The honourable senator correctly recited the terms of reference of the Committee on Student Loans. He was reading from them. If in that part of the answer which he read I implied that the terms of reference did not allow for a wider substance, I make that correction now. The purpose of my answer- I think I said it some 3 times- was to say that the Government’s policy is not to replace allowances with loans but, if we do introduce loans, to have them as supplements.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question of the Minister for Education. I do not believe that the question can be brushed off as easily as that. I have quoted the terms of reference of the Committee and I quoted an extract from his reply in which he made it quite clear that the inquiry is not dealing with a replacement for student allowances. I ask the Minister: Was he aware of that when he made the statement or was he deliberately misleading the Senate, instances of which we have had before from the Minister?
-Senator Wriedt ‘s track record of allegations of deliberately misleading has been one of total failure. He starts from that point now. I was not attempting deliberately to mislead the Senate. If the honourable senator had listened to me when I was on my feet 2 minutes ago, he would know that I said that if in that part of my answer- it was a part of a total answerI was incorrect in not acknowledging that the terms of reference included that item, I would correct it now.
– You were confused.
-On the track record, the only confusion consistently has been that of Senator Wriedt.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. In view of reports of American army witnesses before an American Senate subcommittee that some 19 civilian targets in America had been attacked with live bacteria during germ warfare tests, can the Minister give the Parliament an assurance that no such tests have been carried out in Australia by the military or other authorities?
– I have no personal or ministerial information on this matter. I shall seek it for the honourable senator.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security: Is she aware that in the High
Court in Melbourne yesterday the Commonwealth argued that unemployment benefits were a gratuity rather than a right? Is this the Government’s view of all social service pensions and benefits? Can she give us some definition of ‘gratuity ‘ in this context?
– I am not aware of the arguments put forward in the High Court in Melbourne yesterday but I am able to say that there is a Social Services Act which provides for benefits and pensions for Australian people if they meet the terms of eligibility for those pensions and benefits.
-Can the Minister for Social Security confirm reports that persons who receive lump sum settlements for workers compensation claims are no longer covered by Medibank health insurance for any recurring trouble caused by the injury which is the subject of that settlement payment? Can the Minister explain this policy and can she ensure that steps will be taken to inform all people who accept lump sum payments for injuries suffered at work of the consequences of the settlement.
– I will have the matter referred to by the honourable senator investigated. I shall discuss with the Minister for Health the provisions of the Medibank scheme of health insurance to see what information can be provided on the matter that has been raised.
– My question I think concerns 3 Ministers. It is specifically about the Whyalla shipyards. I am not talking about the national questions now. Senator Cotton will remember that late last year he had consultations with the trade union movement about the general problems affecting the shipbuilding industry, including discussions about future consultations. Later, in answering questions about Whyalla, he talked about other activities which his Department had considered for replacing the shipbuilding industry if it went phut. I now ask the Minister or Ministers responsible: Are they able to say whether, having regard to the dissimilar industrial records of Whyalla and Newcastle, there is continuing interest in the Whyalla industry, and whether the Whyalla industry might expect the Government to review the provision of other activities to replace shipbuilding because of any downturn which might occur?
-I am pleased to try to answer that question. I should like to observe that the honourable senator throughout all these problems in the shipbuilding and steel industries has been most constructive and helpful since he has a lot of knowledge of the industrial area, which I respect. We all know that the overall position of shipbuilding presents a problem which affects Whyalla and Newcastle. In the overall consideration of Whyalla the replacement possibilities have been and are continuously being studied. As soon as I can I intend to get to Whyalla to look at some of these problems more closely. I have had a fairly careful look at Wollongong-Port Kembla. I need to do some work in Newcastle. I had hoped to go to Westernport, another part of the steel industry, tomorrow morning. I cannot do that but some officers of my Department will be there. The work is going on in an attempt to look at the overall position. I think it would be of value to the Senate if I were to observe here that we have to look at the whole steel industry with very clear eyes because manufacturing industry in Australia ought to be capable of being based upon a capacity to add value and opportunity to the great raw materials of the country. The steel industry’s record over the last few years, of loss of its export markets and loss of its competitive advantage, is of considerable concern to me and, I am sure, to all honourable senators. I am taking a very serious interest in the steel industry and have been doing so for quite some time now. As a part of that, of course, Whyalla is very much involved.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. How does the Government intend to respond to President Carter’s call for demilitarisation of the Indian Ocean? Will it welcome this initiative and will it take the steps necessary to support it?
-I suggest that the honourable senator read in Hansard tomorrow the reply I gave earlier to Senator Wriedt.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Education because I am becoming more confused about the student loans issue. Is it a fact that it is Government policy that any student loans will be supplementary to current student allowances? Is it also a fact that the terms of reference of the committee inquiring into student loans state that the committee should look into the possibility of student loans replacing current allowances? If that is so, are the terms of reference given to the committee at variance with Government policy? If the terms of reference are at variance with Government policy, why was the committee given such terms of reference when the Government would seem to have indicated that it has no intention of accepting any recommendations in relation to student loans replacing current allowances?
– The Government has indicated, both in its election policies and subsequently in its Budget decisions, that it supports student allowance schemes of the nature of the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme and others, and that, unlike the Opposition, it supports those schemes with a realisation of the need for the allowances to be increased in view of increases in the cost of living in times of inflation. Its stated policy, as set out in the Government Parties’ platform, was that it would undertake an investigation of student loans and that it would regard student loans, if adopted, as being not a replacement for but a supplement to allowances. When the inquiry was set up it was decided to give it a wide scope because throughout the world there is a whole variety of different forms of student loans. It was felt that the committee would be too restricted if its terms of reference were narrowed down to only one level. The committee ‘s terms of reference enable it to look at all the forms of loans which exist in the various parts of the world. I think that is natural. I am not responsible for the confusion of the honourable senator. The statements that have been made by the Government are basically clear. Our policy is that allowances should be paid, with a possible supplement by way of loans. No decision has been made on whether loans will be introduced; an indication has been given only that we will investigate loans. Why would anybody, including members of the Opposition, object to an inquiry the terms of reference of which are wide enough to take in the various loan schemes which exist in the world?
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Following the reported anger of the people of Britain to the reference made by the Leader of the Opposition to Her Majesty the Queen becoming the Queen of Sheba, has the Minister any knowledge as to whether the Leader of the Labor Party intends to send a formal apology to Her Majesty?
-A11 1 can say is that the age of miracles has passed.
-I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister: Is it a fact that during Her Majesty’s visit to Canberra at each of her points of visit she was preceded by a team of consultants who sprayed the area with fly spray? What was the cost of this operation? By whom was it performed? Was it designed to suggest to Her Majesty that there are no flies in Australia or no flies on this Government?
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order. I refer to the standing order which provides that the Sovereign’s name should not be used disrespectfully in the proceedings of the Senate.
-I shall read standing order 4 1 7 to honourable senators. It states:
No Senator shall use the name of Her Majesty or of Her representatives in this Commonwealth disrespectfully in Debate, nor for the purpose of influencing the Senate in its deliberations.
I could not detect disrespect in the question. It involved a matter of cost and so on.
-In respect of the facts pertaining to the question, I shall attempt to ascertain the information requested.
-I ask a question that has not been asked previously. I direct it to you, Mr President. It has been reported that senators opposed to the referendums have met to prepare a case. Can we be assured that no officer of the Senate will be involved in the preparation or will assist in the preparation of such case?
-I have heard your question, Senator Georges. I shall give this matter consideration.
– My question, which is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows on the question asked by Senator Walters. Is it not a fact that on AM this morning it was stated that an official on behalf of Her Majesty -
– The Press Secretary to Her Majesty.
-Is it true that the Press Secretary to Her Majesty denied that the Queen was in any way concerned about the alleged statements of Mr Whitlam? Is it also not true that certain people in the Liberal Party- I am sure that Senator Walters would be one of themresent the fact that Mr Whitlam ‘s speech in King’s Hall the other night completely overshadowed that of the Prime Minister and that Mr Fraser’s speech was termed boring and dreary?
-Honourable senators should know that I do not listen to AM or any other radio program. Therefore I do not know whether it is a fact or not, but I will accept the honourable senator’s assurance that it is. I can understand Her Majesty’s Press Secretary saying that. I mean, why should he be concerned about what is said by has-beens?
– Is the Minister for Education aware that at Yuendumu- an Aboriginal settlement in central Australia- attendance of Aboriginal children at school is very poor despite the operation of a bilingual program there? Is the Minister aware that teachers at the school attribute this poor attendance significantly to the closing by the Fraser Government of the school kitchen which, during the period of the Labor Government, employed Aboriginal mothers to prepare hot midday meals for the children? Is the Minister aware that the kitchen facilities are now lying idle, the mothers are unemployed and the children are malnourished and are absenting themselves from school because they have no food to bring for lunch? Will the Minister investigate the possibility of providing funds to reopen the school kitchen program?
– Having visited the area I am well aware of the conditions there. The attendance of Aboriginal children at Aboriginal schools is a much more complex matter than the honourable senator realises. Over the last 5 years there has been a steady decline in the attendance of Aboriginal children at school, I think to the disappointment and concern of both the Whitlam Government and the Fraser Government and certainly of myself. I think much of the reason has been the tendency now for Aboriginal parents to move from the settlements to the outstations and reserves. This tendency to move outwards may be connected with land rights. It may also be connected with the strong feeling of parents that they want to bring their children nearer to their traditions.
With regard to the question concerning facilities for providing meals at schools and the other associated nutritional or health matters, my own belief is- I can stand correction on this-that during the period of the Whitlam Government and for some years in any case there has been some argument that it is the responsibility not of schools but of parents to feed children properly, because if schools provide meals or clean clothing or shower facilities it takes from the parents a sense of responsibility. I emphatically reject that principle. I am not seeking in any way to be partisan in politics on this matter. The honourable senator has raised a vital point that concerns those of us who have dealt with Aboriginal children. The need to provide a learning environment as well as a healthy environment at school for Aboriginal children is vital. Perhaps my final comment should be that one of the big difficulties has been that in Aboriginal families, including the extended family, there is no study orientation to impel the child from the home to school. Much of the poor attendance of Aboriginal children at school in recent years has resulted from a disinclination on the parents’ side to bring the children to school.
This is a subject that significantly worries the present Government. We are undertaking a considerable number of reforms in Aboriginal education, including the recruitment of Aboriginal teacher aides and the upgrading by in-service training of Aboriginal teachers and teacher aides, so that there will be a more direct link between the school and the families. We are trying to devise a series of mechanisms which will attract better attendance. I am bound to say that the honourable senator’s suggestion contains some merit. Last year I sat with some Aboriginal elders at a school and suggested to them that they might help by encouraging the children to come to school. They answered in their own fashion, through translators, to this effect: ‘Yes, we agree that western education has something good to give our people. But we also believe that it has some bad things to give. We would like to reserve the right occasionally to take our children back to our traditional homelands and teach them the true values as we understand them’. That is something which I think should be understood.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer the Minister to the then Opposition’s policy on industrial relations in 1975 when the present Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, announced that the whole thrust of the Opposition’s policy was directed towards preventing industrial disputes from occurring. I also refer the Minister to the statistics published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on 4 March this year showing that 3.8 million working days were lost during 1976. 1 ask: Is that the highest figure for man days lost in Australia since 1 929? Does that figure suggest to the Minister that the priorities in industrial relations set out by this Government have not been achieved?
– I shall refer the specific question as to working days lost and their relevance to previous statistics to the Minister whom I represent and obtain his comment. As far as the other part of the question is concerned, I emphasise that the policy on which the Government was elected in 1975 remains the policy of the Government. I believe that the Minister whom I represent in this chamber has made great efforts in implementing that policy and I have every confidence that it will be successful.
– I ask a further question of the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs to the one asked of him by Senator Walsh concerning the reduction in payments to the States for roads this financial year and the Minister’s apparent agreement that that is indicative of the new federalism policy of this Government. I ask: If that is the case- that is, if a reduction in the payments to the States in a particular area is indicative of the new federalism policy- does he still agree with the answer he gave to a question asked of him by Senator Walsh on 27 April of last year in which he said that the arrangements under federalism will be more generous for all the States? Will the Minister clarify just how they will be more generous- if in fact reductions in payments mean generosity?
– Really, Senator Wriedt must do better than that. To put into my mouth words which I did not use is, as usual, naughty; in other words, I did not say that the federalism policy meant a reduction to the States. I said that the whole body of federalism permeated all the decisions and policies of the Government, including the roads policies. Senator Wriedt has invited me to direct my mind to whether the federalism policy will mean an increase or a reduction in moneys provided to the States. Since the
Opposition is interested in letters between Premiers and the Commonwealth, I draw the attention of Senator Wriedt to Sir Charles Court’s letter to the Commonwealth in which he commended as far-sighted stage one of the federalism policy, which is the money stage.
I remind Senator Wriedt that the States will get this year under stage one at least $89m and perhaps $99m more than they would have got under the Whitlam Government’s formula. I remind him that this year they have got $140m instead of $79.9m in local government funds. I remind Senator Wriedt that now, for the first time, the States will get what they have unanimously requested, that is, the gearing of their moneys to a fixed percentage of income tax so that their revenues will grow at the same rate as the Commonwealth’s revenues grow. I also remind him that that is the policy which Mr Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia, advocated should be implemented and which he berated the Whitlam Government, of which Senator Wriedt was a senior Minister, for not implementing. So the Labour Premiers have in fact asked to be done what we have done.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. In view of the fact that the Minister obviously has figures in his head as to increased payments under general revenue grants, will he now tell the Senate something that he always fails to tell the Senate, that is, by how much the specific purpose payments will fall and by how much the loan arrangements with the States also will fall?
-Senator Wriedt has asked me this question before. If he looks at Hansard he will find that I have said -
– I have to keep asking you.
-If Senator Wriedt desires to ask me about this every day I will be delighted because one of the great achievements of this Government is that it is making for the first time at the State and local government levels a correct and true sovereignty and a greater independence for the States.
– Give us the figures.
-I drew Senator Wriedt’s attention to the variations- the fluctuation;, -that occurred in relation to specific purpose payments throughout the whole 3 years of the Whitlam Government’s term of office. Specific purpose payments vary year by year. Indeed, if Senator Wriedt were to look into the matter he would find that there were some years when his Government cut back on specific purpose payments and some years when it expanded them. The inference in his question is that there should always be an increase. That is nonsense. Federalism basically aims to increase the general purpose moneys paid to States and local governments, to widen their decision-making, and in the end to reduce the amount of section 96 grants; but nowhere does it suggest that every year, in recession or in prosperity, specific purpose grants should be on the same keel. I must remind the honourable senator that it was his Government that created the disastrous recession which forced that Government to cut back on specific purpose grants and which forced us to do the same.
-Yesterday, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack asked me 2 questions arising from absences from duty of Mr James Dunn, the Director of the Foreign Affairs Group of the Legislative Research Service of the Department of the Parliamentary Library. I have discussed the questions with Mr Speaker. The answer is as follows: Mr Dunn was given a month’s furlough, in addition to some normal recreation leave during the summer recess of the Parliament, from 4 January to 3 February inclusive. On Monday of this week, 7 March, he began a period of 2 months furlough. On each occasion the Parliamentary Librarian, when considering what action should be taken on Mr Dunn’s application, carefully weighed the disadvantages of not having Mr Dunn’s services against the desirability of granting an officer his properly earned entitlement to furlough after 30 years’ service to the Commonwealth. On each occasion, also, the Librarian discussed the matter fully with me, as Chairman of the Library Committee.
At the present time the staffing of the Foreign Affairs Group is: Dr Claire Clark, Acting Director, who is a highly qualified and experienced officer; Mrs Ann Kent, who is an experienced Legislative Research Specialist in Foreign Affairs (Grade 3); Dr Frank Frost, who specialises in Asian and Pacific affairs and who has been travelling overseas at his own expense to gain experience during the summer recess- when he returns to duty on Monday next, 14 March 1977, he will be Acting Legislative Research Specialist Grade 3. Mr Andrew Chin, a Librarian Class 2, who provides subject specialist library services to the Group. Mr Martin Indyk, the 1977 Parliamentary Political Science Fellow, a specialist in Middle East affairs, is on attachment for the period of Mr Dunn’s absence.
Mr Dunn’s expenses when travelling while on furlough are not met from Commonwealth funds. I understand that they are met partly by voluntary aid agencies and partly from his own pocket.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) I ask for leave to make a personal statement arising out of a question asked of you, Mr President, by Senator Georges.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Senator Georges asked you, Mr President, for an undertaking that no officer of the Senate would be made available to honourable senators who are attempting to prepare a ‘No’ case in accordance with the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act. I point out that it would be an impossible situation if any honourable senator seeking as a senator the advice of the Clerks were denied access to the learned Clerks. However, I wish to inform the Senate that last night those honourable senators who are interested in the ‘No’ case for referendum met and I was elected provisional chairman for the purpose of discussing the preparation of the ‘No’ case. The whole matter was canvassed thoroughly. There was no suggestion from any honourable senator that we should seek to have your authority to approach the learned Clerks of the Senate for assistance in the preparation of a ‘No’ case. I think that all the honourable senators who were present in that room are quite competent to write a ‘No’ case without having to embarrass you or the Clerks of the Senate. Having made that statement, Mr President, I hope that it clears any sense of anxiety that might be in the mind of Senator Georges or the minds of his colleagues who are sitting on your left.
-On 24 February Senator Wriedt asked me a question without notice concerning the funding of education and whether the Prime Minister had written to the Premiers on this matter. The Prime Minister wrote to all Premiers on 2 1 February 1 977 seeking exploratory talks on the possibility of more even funding arrangements across all education sectors. For the information of honourable senators I seek leave to table the text.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Pursuant to section 1 1 of the States Grants (Nature Conservation) Act 1974 I present agreements between the Commonwealth and the States of South Australia and Western Australia relating to the acquisition of land for nature conservation purposes.
– by leave -I move:
I seek leave to make my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a document entitled Australia’s Population: A summary of the first report of the National Population Inquiry.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to modify the application of section 16 of the Referendum (Constitutional Alteration) Act 1906.
Motion (by Senator Bonner) agreed to:
That the Aborigines and Islanders (Admissibility of Confessions) Bill 1976 be restored to the notice paper and consideration resumed at the stage it had reached in the last session.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from Senator Messner requesting that he be discharged from further attendance upon the House Committee.
Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Messner be discharged from further service on the House Committee and that Senator Lewis be appointed to the Committee.
Debate resumed from 9 March, on motion by Senator Lewis:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the speech of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second be agreed to:
To Her Most Excellent Majesty Elizabeth the SecondMost Gracious Sovereign:
We, Your Majesty’s loyal subjects, the members of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to thank Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
The presence in Australia of Your Majesty and of His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh has once again brought the greatest pleasure to your Australian people. We, their representatives in the Senate, are grateful for the opportunity to re-affirm our allegiance to you as our Queen.
– When I spoke last night I dealt with some arguments, if they can be graciously called that, which were put forward by Senator Walsh. I then referred to the visit of Her Majesty the Queen to this Parliament. I desire now to turn to some aspects of Her Majesty’s speech which show this Government as a reform government operating this year with a considerable attachment to the desire to achieve social and political reforms which are of considerable importance to the people.
In the course of her Speech Her Majesty spoke of the necessity to protect individual liberties and human rights against unwarranted intrusions and made reference to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the Commonwealth Ombudsman and pending legislation to come forward this year relating to the Human Rights Commission which is to be established and also to freedom of information. I wish to speak in general terms about those 2 pieces of legislation. They have not been seen by members of Parliament yet but we look forward to the bringing of these matters to public attention this year.
I welcome very much the opportunity we will have to consider a Bill to establish a human rights commission. Over the past few years the Parliament has at times given some consideration to this matter. Under the Whitlam Government a Bill on human rights was introduced, but after a considerable amount of criticism that Bill left the notice paper at the time of the dissolution of the Parliament and was not restored to the notice paper and proceeded with by that Government. I think we ought to recognise that at that time there were a number of problems which were not met by the legislation which the then Government introduced. Under our international obligations we have a duty to proceed with human rights legislation and to ensure that actions which breach human rights in this country are brought to public notice, that there is a spotlight put on them and that what can be done is done to ensure that those problems are overcome and people do enjoy their rights.
We in this part of the world, in a democracy which has been in existence now for nearly 1 50 years and with the experience we have gained, must set some examples. We must show other and newer countries that it is possible to maintain a democracy and to have full expression of human rights. Although at the time I was not in the Parliament I as a member of a legal committee did make a considerable study of the human rights Bills of 1973 and 1974. 1 know that there are problems for us in such legislation. There are problems because this Parliament operates as a legislative body over only certain aspects of life and the State parliaments have considerable powers in areas where human rights also may be affected. The Bill at that time endeavoured to sweep aside this distinction and to impose powers which were regarded by State parliaments as an infringement of their rights and responsibilities. It is obvious that the proposal now to be put forward is not designed to obliterate the distinction between the responsibilities of the Commonwealth and State parliaments. When this commission is established I hope that it will have considerable power and significance and be able to do a great deal to improve human rights in this country. I hope that we will get good legislation in relation to human rights and see the commission operating practically throughout Australia.
The second piece of legislation announced by the Government is the proposed freedom of information Bill. This is a matter for which many of us in the Senate and in the other House have worked for many years because we believe it is essential that there be legislation which makes available, as of right, a mass of material which the Government has but which is often tucked away in the records of government and does not become available to the public so that there can be full and rational discussion of issues. There is no doubt that Australia and Great Britain are rather secretive so far as government is concerned. Professor Spann, one of the leading authorities on government, has pointed out that these governments are among the most secretive governments outside the Soviet bloc. I think this is changing. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has been committed for some considerable time to changing this. He has made announcements and a considerable number of speeches about it. Obviously, it is an area in which the Government has a great deal of concern.
This matter was also raised during the time of the Whitlam Government. I asked many questions during its period of office about what was happening to a proposed Bill dealing with freedom of information. An interdepartmental committee met and made a report which many of us felt was disappointing because it did not go to the essence of the matter. It was rather constrained in protecting the information services of the Government and was not really based upon a principle that government material generally ought to be available to the public; rather, it faced the other way and said that it ought not be disclosed unless it was safe to do so. Consequently, we never saw that Bill tabled during the period of the Whitlam Government. I am glad to see that a Bill is now to come forward.
It is terribly important that the Bill be one of substance and one in which there is established the principle of making information available to members of the public generally and of keeping the restrictions and exceptions as limited as possible. I think that in this proposed legislation, we will have to watch the exemptions which apply in the United States of America legislation. I trust that our Bill will be based substantially upon the United States experience. The operation of the legislation introduced in the United States some 10 years ago was not terribly successful at first because of the extent of the exceptions. Since 1 974 it has been amended. I believe that now it is operating quite effectively in making documents available to members of the public.
A draft of such a Bill is to be found in the minority report of Commissioner Munro of the Royal Commission into Australian Government Administration. That Bill should be looked at very carefully also because I believe it contains a great deal of value as to the way in which legislation ought to be framed.
I think we must watch the exceptions to such legislation. If Cabinet documents are excluded to some extent, as would be the case, it is very easy to say that if a document or associated papers are Cabinet documents they should not be disclosed to the public. Of course, that can mean that attachments such as reports, statements of fact and other documents which are of great value to the public will remain undisclosed. It is possible that so much documentation would be attached to Cabinet documents that really very little in essence which was of value would come forward. 1 think all the exceptions must be considered very carefully by this Parliament so that they do not become too restrictive.
Another area of this legislation about which considerable concern must be expressed, is whether it will require departments of government to set down and to disclose their rules and procedures so that members of the public will know who is responsible for this and who is capable of doing that. This is an area likewise in which in the United States it was found very necessary to have provisions to enforce the disclosure of government rules and procedures so that members of the public could not be fobbed off and not be able to get to the actual material they wanted.
Lastly, on this subject, I think that any proposed legislation should set out the method by which information will be disclosed- how members of the public will come to apply for it and, without too much difficulty be able to obtain information for a relatively small price. Therefore, in the practical operation of such a scheme applicants should not be turned aside and have problems put in their path. I think all these areas will be important. But the essential point at this moment is that such a Bill will be coming forward to be debated in the Parliament and by the public. It will be in this year a useful road in political reform.
I turn to another matter referred to in Her Majesty’s Speech, namely, the consultation of the people which is proposed this year. This will take place not only in regard to 4 referendum proposals but also, as I now see, in regard to a national song. On a lighter note one wonders how enthusiastic will be the campaign for the national song. When the poll is held and people in their accustomed way find themselves outside polling booths there may be no how-to-vote cards for the song handed out but will the records of the songs be played? Will we have a cacophony of sound coming to us with each band trying to persuade us of the value of its song? I hope not. I think it might disturb the other things we have to do on that day. I hope that there will be a considerable interest in this expression of opinion by the people as to which song they prefer.
Of much more significance are the referendum proposals which are to be dealt with on that occasion. I was concerned to read this morning an article which my colleague Senator Peter Rae wrote in his regular column in the Australian. I think I must point out that it will be necessary for all of us when we go before the people before the 2 1 May, to endeavour not to distort. Rather must we put before the people positive arguments for or against proposals. It is easy to take things out of context or to distort. The people of Australia unfortunately have a long record of making many decisions on constitutional change in an atmosphere of confusion.
I wish to refer to a couple of matters which I think are relevant to this question of consulting the people and a couple remarks which Senator Rae made in his article this morning. In that article he suggested that the primary or principal argument put forward for simultaneous elections was cost. That, of course, is nonsense. We know that there are many arguments, of which that is one, but it is one which must be taken in context. He stated in the article:
At times I Tear that some of those members of the ALP and lately, and regrettably, some of the Liberal Party, who are advocating this referendum proposal will hit upon the brilliant idea of entirely eliminating the wasteful expense of holding elections at all!
I suggest that that statement is of such extremity and nonsense that it is not really worthy of the argument which he desires to put.
– You say he is distorting the principle?
-Yes, I am saying that raises an argument. One can always take arguments for the reduction of elections to an absurdity. Nobody in this country or in this chamber has any idea that we would be better off without elections.
– And therefore he is not honest?
– I put it as an exaggeration of argument which is not worthy of him. I would not put it any higher than that.
Perhaps the other part of the article which I think is worthy of a different comment is where he states:
The instantaneous nature of the media enables people to make a day-to-day appreciation of the actions of their government.
If a government fails to communicate to the people on a day-to-day basis and loses popular understanding and support then it deserves to be thrown out.
I strongly challenge this ‘instant coffee’ idea of government- that governments must every day find themselves in happy agreement with the people. Operating over a period, governments must sometimes do things which are unpleasant. In Australia Federal and State governments constantly have to face elections and often find that they cannot do the long term or long range things they want to do. There is an inclination by governments to do things which are popular but governments should not always endeavour to be popular. Therefore I challenge the sort of argument put forward in the article, this instant idea that popularity must always be the aim of government. I believe that the governments which, in this instance, are putting forward ideas for the determination of the people, are looking at a more long range prospect of more important changes. I believe that this should be the way in which we approach these issues as they are put before the people this year.
The other matters which I should like to refer to were raised in the Queen’s Speech and in debate in the last day. One was the housing voucher scheme, which I think is one of the most interesting initiatives which the Government has put forward. If one listened last night to Senator Grimes unfortunately I think one heard that unintentionally he was confusing the people of Australia when he said that the scheme is an experiment which will provide $70m over the next 3 years for only 1500 families in 3 capital cities- Sydney, Melbourne and Hobart. He went on to say that the scheme cannot produce any increase in housing and he rather deprecated the scheme. He may not have intended it but he did give the impression that only 1500 families were affected, not 4560 in all. The scheme to assist 1500 people in 3 major capital cities is intended to be an experiment.
I think it is important that governments more and more should adopt schemes that are experimental, that they should not find themselves committed to something that is a long range program, on full departmental scale, with officers who then perhaps have a vested interest in the continuity of the scheme. There should be more of an experimental approach by government, seeing how the schemes work, having them properly analysed and thereby monitoring them for the period of the experiment. I commend the Government for doing this with this scheme which will be monitored over a period. I do not agree with Senator Grimes that the scheme should be deprecated because it is only an experiment.
The second thing with which I wish to deal is notan a ction of the Government but a decision of the Government which must come up in the near future. It is the decision in regard to the continuity or otherwise of the Australian Assistance Plan or some substitute for it. We all know that the experiment of the Australian Assistance Plan which was introduced by the Whitlam Government came to an end at the end of a 3 year period last year. It was carefully analysed and conferences throughout the country had a look at this scheme. The conference here in Canberra which I attended overwhelmingly expressed a great deal of pleasure in the success which that scheme had achieved. It was only partially completed but what it had done was to increase greatly the awareness of social development in localities throughout Australia that was needed in this community and it brought the ordinary members of the community into active operation with it.
Of course, we are in a period when some continuity of funding for the scheme has been given by this Government to June of this year. But after that time, whether the States continue to operate the scheme or a scheme of a similar nature will be a matter of a great deal of importance. I feel that this time is terribly crucial because there are persons employed in various regional councils for social development and there are activities of voluntary organisations tied into the scheme. A lot of work is being done by these organisations at the moment to assist with employment for school leavers and these things need continuity. The various State social welfare ministers met in Sydney on Friday, 19 November 1976. They passed a number of resolutions at their conference which they sent to the Federal Government and which, of course, are known to other governments. At that conference they said that they regretted the announcement that all Federal funding of the Plan would cease from 30 June 1977. They indicated that they wanted to continue new schemes on their own bases.
I know that in Victoria the proposal for a Victorian assistance plan has gone a long way. But the State Ministers felt that the Commonwealth Government must continue a financial responsibility for at least part of the funding of such a scheme. Because I think it would be of interest to honourable senators generally I should like to incorporate in the Hansard record the resolutions of that conference. I seek leave to do so.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT(Senator Davidson)- I assume that the document is capable of being incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
-I thank the Senate. I believe that the requests which so many State Ministers have made to the Government deserve a positive answer and I hope that the Government will shortly give such a positive answer so that all the advantages of this scheme will be gained by the country and will be continued and not fall into disuse. If a thing like this dies it is extremely difficult to restore, and the benefit of that enthusiasm and activity will be lost to this country.
I believe that what is revealed in the Queen’s Speech and in the Government’s program is a steady progress towards economic recovery in this country. We all know that there are great problems in regard to unemployment. I, along with others in this chamber, am very concerned about youth unemployment. We see it as something which will be cured in the end but which in the short term can have terribly great social consequences. I hope that the initiatives the Government has taken in these areas will be continued and expanded. It is quite obvious that we must avoid a situation in which people who have left school and have had training which perhaps is not as good as is necessary do not have the opportunity to get jobs. We must ensure that they are not demoralised and that they become useful people working in society and making their own individual contributions to the skills of the people of Australia. Senator Messner spoke last night of the necessity of skills and of the necessity to promote people who have training and trade qualifications. Such qualifications are in very short supply in the community and that shortage will dog our tracks for many years if we do not give it particular attention now. I think that those things need urgent and early attention.
The economic program which the Government has revealed and which it has followed is one for which I think it should be commended. I realise that people have different views on what should be done about this or that, but I am glad that the Government has not been panicked at any stage by campaigns waged for this particular tax cut or that particular scheme but has continued with its general program. I believe that if the business community is able to see the development of steady progress it will expand in the months ahead. The Government had put and is putting before the people a generally interesting and useful program for the attention of the Parliament this year, and I have very great pleasure in supporting the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply.
– The Opposition does not oppose the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I had the privilege of hearing Her Majesty’s Speech, but before I deal with that I should like to congratulate Senator Lewis on his maiden speech in this chamber. As I have said before, I think that after a senator has made his maiden speech he becomes one of us; he feels that he is part of the chamber. I spoke to Senator Lewis the night before he made his speech and I know that he had some anxiety about it, but I think he did himself credit yesterday. He made a short speech with very little substance because he was speaking in approval of a document which had very little substance. I rise to support the motion with some difficulty because, as Senator Walsh said, the Speech was an embarrassment to Her Majesty. She is an educated woman. On this occasion she was here to open the Parliament, and the gallery was full of prettily dressed ladies in new hats. I have never before seen the Press Gallery so well attended. One would have thought that they had heard that I would be speaking. All were assembled and waiting for the vital words which would indicate the Government’s policy for the ensuing session of Parliament, the policy of a government that was determined to rectify the economy and to improve unemployment.
The Queen, knowing what was expected of her, was humiliated in that she had to read a statement which expressed only some insincere emotions of the Government and what it intends to do. The Speech told us what the Government had done and referred to the freedom of information legislation which is to be placed before the Parliament and to the establishment of an industrial relations bureau. Those were the only proposals contained in the Government’s program for the ensuing period. The Government has no legislative program. Whether that is all the Government intends to introduce I do not know, but certainly nothing further was spelled out in the way the public expected the program to be spelled out. We have heard the proposals referred to in speeches made by Government senators, and in that respect Senator Lewis found some reason to attack teachers who are taking action to improve their industrial conditions and to restore benefits which they had previously but which have been taken away from them.
Senator Lewis was followed by Senator Bonner, who made some astounding accusation that unfortunately today Australians are becoming lazy. That is a frightful accusation to make against Australian working people. Certainly the 200 teachers in South Austrafia who are prepared to follow their profession but who cannot get employment are not lazy. Certainly those who are waiting around the gates of factories looking for employment from time to time are not lazy. Certainly the members of the farming community about whom Senator Lewis spoke yesterday and who are living in impoverished conditions are not lazy. To accuse without proof and without naming specific groups of people is to make a serious indictment of the Australian public which one would not expect from any representative of the people of Australia. As I have said before, there are numerous reasons for people leaving employment. Their conditions of employment could be justification for their terminating their employment in a particular industry. The attitude of management could be another reason that justified the termination of their employment. When society does not have sufficient employment to offer everyone who is willing to work, it has compulsory idleness which is bad for the man who has not been trained to use his leisure time. In regard to people who elect to be unemployed, it is much more beneficial to society to have such people unemployed than to have them employed in industry and taking the place, perhaps, of an individual or of a married man with family responsibilities who does not wish to be unemployed.
I wish to speak today on a particular subject, following what Senator Lewis said about the hardship being experienced by farmers in Victoria. Senator Lewis painted a picture of the difficulties which the farmers are facing today and which are probably greater than ever before. Although they were loyal to the Government in 1975, those farmers have no justification for continuing that loyalty today. It is not often that I speak on farming problems. Senator Webster once asked me by way of interjection why I hated farmers. It is true that 1 have not championed their cause on every occasion and that I am much opposed to large amounts of the taxpayers’ money going into subsidies for wealthy pastoralists, Prime Ministers, etc. But that is not so where there is hardship in farming communities, as in the case of the soldier settlers on Kangaroo Island in South Australia. The Government has threatened that this month it will evict from their settlements 8 families who have spent 20 years building up their farms. Those people have no opportunities for retraining or for getting other employment and will be left to rot on the unemployment scrapheap for the rest of their lives. I think this question of the oppressed section of the farming community needs to be discussed by me and others.
– Mind you, it is a State Minister who makes that decision, is it not?
-No, senator. The Federal Minister has given notification that he will not finance the program after June of this year.
– The State Minister makes the decision.
-No, he does not. I think I could give you some facts on the question but I do not know that the important question is who makes the decision. The important question is what is happening at the moment. I spoke to the Gosse (Kangaroo Island) Land Committee last Friday. Its members feel that they now have some support because of the highly commendable interest in their problem shown by the President of the Senate who, regrettably, is not in the chamber at the moment. The individuals involved are impoverished because of the conditions under which they have to operate. They are a group of people to whom society owes something. They went on to virgin land on Kangaroo Island, land that for the first 100 years of white settlement was not considered suitable for development. It was not until 1 938-39 that an experimental farm was set up on Kangaroo Island for the purpose of development. These farmers therefore faced the hardship of developing this land, this virgin soil. Their families faced the hardship of isolation and all the problems of a farmer trying to succeed. These individuals were soldier settlers who were given land as some form of compensation for the activities in the last war. As I have stated, the first experimental farm was set up in 1938-39. In 1945 soil surveys of the Hundreds of Seddon and MacGillivray were carried out and the areas were found to be suitable for development. From the years 1950 to 1961 the Government cleared land to the extent of 12 000 acres per annum for the settling of ex-soldiers. The clearings were divided into 1 74 soldier settlements. The people were settled not under a State Act, but under the War Service Land Settlement Agreement between the Commonwealth and the State of South Australia. I believe that in the Second Schedule to the Act other States were involved. The fact that these people were provided for under the War Service Land Settlement Agreement Act meant that they had some entitlements. The eligible person was one who had been honourably discharged from the Services after not less than 6 months’ war service. Therefore, under this agreement, a soldier settler had to have at least 6 months’ war service. Here the term ‘war service’ had the same meaning as in other Acts. It did not apply to those who just took up arms and saw little conflict; it referred to those who had seen at least 6 months’ active service. Paragraph 3 of the Schedule provides:
Land settlement under the scheme shall be carried out in accordance with the following principles:
Settlement shall be undertaken only where economic prospects for the production concerned are reasonably sound, and the number of eligible persons to be settled shall be determined primarily by opportunities for settlement and not by the number of applicants.
Applicants shall not be selected as settlers unless a competent authority is satisfied as to their eligibility, suitability and qualifications for settlement under the scheme and their experience of farm work.
So not only did applicants have to be returned servicemen to be suitable for selection, but they also had to satisfy a competent authority as to their suitability. Therefore those who were selected were those with the capabilities of succeeding. As those selected had those capabilities and they are being evicted from their farms today, I suggest that the first condition of section 3, that is, that the settlement had to be such that it could provide a reasonable living for the people, does not apply in regard to the development on Kangaroo Island. Therefore there was either some non-compliance with the Act or faulty consideration of the allocation at a particular time. The paragraph further states:
Under farming conditions the plots were not capable of that result. Paragraph 3 continues:
The settlement was under the supervision of the South Australian Lands Department. Subparagraph (7) of paragraph 6 of the Schedule states:
In making the valuations, the officers shall have regard to the need for the proceeds of the holding (based on conservative estimates over a long-term period of prices and yields for products) being sufficient to provide a reasonable living for the settler after meeting such financial commitments as would be incurred by a settler possessing no capital.
Therefore officers had to assess the rental of the lease based on a long-term period of prices and yields for products. How this assessment was made of virgin country for which there was no record of yields and the capability of the land to provide a reasonable living, I do not know. This raises the question- Senator Hall would be interested in this- raised by the Leader of his Party in the South Australian Legislative Council when he spoke on the matter in the Council in 1972.
– It was a different party then.
– It may well have been but the reality is that Senator Hall owes some allegiance to Mr De Garis today, although I understand that they were not good friends at the time Senator Hall was in State Parliament. But having accepted the Party he is back under the cloak of leadership of Mr De Garis, the duly appointed Leader in the South Australian Upper House. I do not think that he would say anything today that would denigrate or somewhat belittle Mr De Garis who is a capable man, and who knew what he was talking about when he made those remarks in 1 972. In a letter to the Gosse (Kangaroo Island) Lands Committee on 14 November 1 972, Mr De Garis stated that in his opinion, and the opinion held by Mr Justice Bright in his Declaration on the Zone 5 case, the original rents at 6/6 DSE were illegally fixed. Of course Mr De Garis went on to point out that Mr Justice Bright apparently was investigating a question in a Zone 5 case and whilst this land on Kangaroo Island was not Zone 5 nevertheless the conditions were the same. Here we have a Supreme Court judge saying that the rents were illegally fixed.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I was referring to the plight of the soldier settlers on Kangaroo Island. I mentioned how they pioneered virgin land that was thought unfit for development during 100 years of settlement by white man. People who had good war service were selected to settle on Kangaroo Island. They and their families suffered hardship in the development of their settlements. In your absence, Mr President, I mentioned that I attended a meeting of the Gosse Lands Committee last Friday. The Committee was appreciative of your concern for this settlement. I take the opportunity to convey to you the appreciation of the Committee members for the efforts that you have made on their behalf.
I pointed out that 1 74 people were settled on Kangaroo Island. The project was directed at farming wool and fat lambs. In 1957 all new seeding and re-seeding was carried out by the Australian Department of Lands. Yarloop clover was used. After some investigation in Western Australia in 1946 it was found that this clover badly affected the fertility of ewes. Therefore, it was impossible to farm fat lambs and wool on Kangaroo Island where Yarloop clover had been introduced. This type of clover is a fast breeder. It has spread throughout various areas and it has a different potency in different locations. Those settlers farming on the hills seemed to have some chance of overcoming its detrimental effects. To succeed on Kangaroo Island it was necessary to achieve a lambing rate of 80 per cent during the lambing season. With the introduction of Yarloop clover by the Lands Department in South Australia, which was the agency for the administration of the Commonwealth agreement, the lambing rate fell to 24 per cent. This spelled doom to the farmers. Those who have succeeded in the land settlements met a certain provision of the Act. If they could invest private capital into the scheme they had a responsibility to do so. This was not an essential requirement of the Act but those who had money could thumb their noses at the Lands Department and transfer the purpose of their holding so that they put wethers or cattle on the properties. They have succeeded. Those who had nothing and were relying on the Lands Department for credit from time to time were advanced credit only for the continuation of wool and fat lamb production. Because of the mistakes that the Lands Department had made, this was impossible.
I have a letter sent to sections 48 and 5 1 of the Hundred of Gosse. It is signed by J. R. Dunsford, Director of Lands, South Australia. The letter states:
The problems of sheep breeding in your area are known to the Department and it is considered that only if settlers like yourself will persevere with trying to improve your lambing percentage and continue to seek the assistance and cooperation of the Department of Agriculture will a worthwhile solution to the problem be found.
In a previous letter to sections 48 and 51, Hundred of Gosse, dated 9 January 1968, Mr Dunsford, Superintendent, War Service Settlement Branch, Director of Lands, said:
I have to advise that the Minister of Lands has approved of advances, as set out hereunder, being made out on your behalf under the provisions of the War Service Settlement Agreement Act.
Further on he stated:
I am further directed to advise that you should make every effort to breed your own replacement stock in order to hold if not reduce your annual Departmental commitment which is already over $6000.00. In view of this you should buy a percentage of ewes suitable for mating this season and additional rams if necessary.
At all times there was a compulsion to stick to the impossible task of farming fat lambs and wool. Mr Dunsford wrote to section 5 of the Hundred of Borda. He said:
In connection with the Budget and Farm Management Programme submitted by you for the period 1 November 1972 to 31 October 1973, 1 have to advise that they have not been approved.
I enclose a photocopy of these and request that you submit an amended budget and programme on the basis of sheep production being a more significant factor of your operations. Forms are enclosed for this purpose.
At no time did the Lands Department permit settlers to discontinue fat lamb production. Owing their obligation under the war service settlement agreement, farmers were compelled to continue a type of farming that was doomed to failure.
As I have stated, 174 soldiers settled on Kangaroo Island. Only sixty-two of them are now left. Twenty-one of them were interviewed and told to vacate their properties. I am informed today that this number has been reduced to twenty because one settler took another way out. He committed suicide. The stress was too great for him. Twenty settlers are now under threat to vacate their properties. Eight of them have been given to the end of this month to make substantial reductions in their indebtedness under the war service settlement agreement or they will be evicted from their homes. The farmers were informed that 18 additional letters were being processed. That means that 39 settlers of the 62 settlers who are left are now under some threat as regards the continuation of their holding in the land on Kangaroo Island. Sixtythree per cent of the soldier settlers are under threat from the Department of Lands under this scheme- a scheme we thought was for the advantage of those we settled on the land.
This matter was recognised by the present Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). On 23 August 1972 he introduced the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1972. 1 think that this fact replies to Senator Steele Hall’s statement that the matter involves a State Minister. In his second reading on the Loan (War Service Land Settlement) Bill 1972, Mr Sinclair said:
For the current financial year, the sum provided for war service land settlement purposes in South Australia has been increased by $2,500,000 compared to the levels that have ruled over the past few years. This significant increase has been made available for 2 broad purposes. Firstly, there exists on Kangaroo Island a unique combination of circumstances that has led to serious financial difficulties for many of the soldier settlers there. I use the word ‘unique’ advisedly. The problems of the Kangaroo Island settlers arise from a combination of physical and biological problems. Clover disease is prevalent, particularly in the western part of the Island. It is believed that this disease is caused by high oestrogen content in pastures which contain a predominance of certain strains of subterranean clover such as Yarloop, Geraldton. Dwalganup and, to a lesser degree, possibly also Wooginellup. In lambs, the disease is reflected in low survival rates while in wethers it can cause up to 10 per cent mortality per annum.
Therefore the Minister well knew in 1972 of the impossibility of the situation and the difficulties there. He went on to say:
This difficulty in maintaining flock numbers on Kangaroo Island is compounded by seasonal feed shortages, high cost of replacement stock, limited transport facilities and the higher than average production costs on the Island. In addition, the age level of the settlers is steadily rising. There are other islands carrying soldier settlement, like Flinders Island. Clover disease exists elsewhere in Australia. But nowhere else in or around this continent does the unique set of difficulties recur that are faced by soldier settlers and others on Kangaroo Island. There is unfortunately no one solution to these difficulties. What is needed is a range of measures.
Nothing has been done. The indebtedness has increased. Now, as I have said, there are soldier settlers who, having been there for 20 or 30 years, are in the position of being evicted from their homes. There is no comparison between the situation on Kangaroo Island and the compassionate story told by Senator Lewis last night of the poverty of soldier settlers in Victoria. The point I make is that Mr Sinclair was prepared to act in 1972 but he is not prepared to act in 1977. Senator Missen quoted Senator Rae’s article in the Australian today in which Senator Rae said that the idea that it takes 3 years to judge a government is rubbish. After being in office for less than 1 5 months the present Government has decided to kick off their properties those who were settled on this land by an Act of this Parliament in return for their long service overseas.
This matter worried Dr Forbes, the former honourable member for Barker, which is the electorate that covers Kangaroo Island. He took the opportunity while the Australian Labor Party was in power to condemn its Minister for Agriculture, Senator Wriedt, for not assisting these people. He made the same plea as I am making today. But Senator Wriedt never threatened those people with eviction at any time during his term of office as Minister for Agriculture. Dr Forbes is recorded in the House of Representatives Hansard of 16 April 1975 as having said:
I would like to place it on record that I have made numerous representations to the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt), as he is now called, about a particular group of disadvantaged settlers in my electorate. I refer to those on Kangaroo Island.
He went on to state:
Most of them are now in their early 60s or even older- an age at which most people think about retiring. After 25 to 30 years of back-breaking work, many of them are in debt to the tune of $40,000, $50,000, $60,000 or even more. They have properties which are completely incapable of supporting anybody but themselves. They have no chance whatsoever of doing what most farmers expect to be able to do; that is, to improve their properties or to accumulate to such an extent that they can assist their sons on to the land. The end result for many of these farmers after 25 to 30 years of being in this scheme will be that they will walk off their properties when they are no longer physically capable of continuing any longer, with absolutely nothing and go on to the pension.
But Mr Sinclair has acted before the time anticipated by Dr Forbes and said ‘You will go off by 3 1 March and you will rot on the dole for the rest of your life. ‘ Dr Forbes added:
We have asked the Government to set up an inquiry, to look into the problem or to take remedial measures. The scheme should not produce that sort of result. It indicates some basic weakness or defect. When we were in Government we chose, in conjunction with the agent States, the properties that would be used in the scheme. Even though that is so, it does not make any difference to the situation, which our Government did from time to time move to alleviate. But, when we have a situation in which people will have to walk off their properties with nothing after 30 years of back-breaking work, there is something wrong and something needs to be done. I support the legislation.
The situation has not improved since that time. The difficulties have been recognised by Mr Sinclair and Dr Forbes. It is only because of its economy drive that the Fraser Government will not support these people in such a way as to enable them to continue on their farms. Some concessions were granted by Mr Porter, the present honourable member for Barker. In the Islander, which is the weekly newspaper circulated throughout Kangaroo Island, of Wednesday, 2 June the following report appeared:
The Federal Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair has agreed to defer any decisions on the fate of Island settlers until after the outcome of an inquiry planned by the Legislative Council.
This was revealed today in a statement issued by the member for Barker, Mr James Porter.
We have that assurance. The Legislative Council of South Australia established an inquiry into the position. I say that there were certain limitations in that it was thought that perhaps there should be some query on the inquiry, but I restrain from making comments on it because the inquiry’s report has not been made public. The article in the Islander went on to say:
Mr Porter; said that following his meeting with the Gosse Committee and some of the settlers who had been interviewed recently, he had asked Mr Sinclair that no further action be taken before the inquiry’s findings were handed down.
Mr Porter said Mr Sinclair had given this undertaking pending notification of the terms of reference of the inquiry and provided the report was made known by October this year.
Of course, that was October of last year. While safeguarding himself by saying that the report had to be made known, he indicated then that he would not disclose his hand as to the attitude he would take if the report was not released before October. I am informed that the report was tabled in the South Australian Parliament on the last day of the sitting of that Parliament and that, because the report named individuals and the amount of their indebtedness to the Government, it was withdrawn at the request of Mr Chapman, a Liberal Party member of the inquiry, and cannot be made public again until that Parliament sits later this month. Mr Sinclair made it known that he would take no action if the report could be made available by October. We do not know what is in the report; it may contain a solution to the problem. But because of the economy drive by this Commonwealth Government 8 soldier settlers have to get off the land.
Along with the problems associated with the impossibility of farming fat lambs on Kangaroo Island the settlers have the difficulty of transport costs. They are served by the Troubridge, a South Australian Government vessel which caters for cargo and tourists. It is a roll-on roll-off type of ship and necessitates the loading of trailers which are simply driven on to it. In the period from November to February, which is the tourist season on Kangaroo Island, often it is found that when the ship returns to the Island there is no space in which to return trailers which took cargo to the mainland because of the booking of cars owned by tourists. Then because the trailers are not on the Island farmers cannot get the next shipment back to Port Adelaide and because of cars returning to Port Adelaide there is no room for cattle. This happens during the very season when cattle are at their prime and bring reasonable prices at the market. It is well known that many farmers have rounded up their cattle, put them in trailers and taken them to the wharf only to find that they cannot be loaded. They have had to take them back for the period from Thursday to Tuesday and agist them in paddocks close to the loading point so that they can be reloaded on the Tuesday. Such delays cause dehydration of the animals, especially heifers. This has an effect on the condition of the stock when it reaches the market. Apart from the cost of transporting stock from the farms to the boat and from the Port Adelaide wharves to the abattoirs in South Australia, for the boat trip alone the cost is $1.75 each for sheep and $13.55 each for cows or grown cattle. This is an added burden to those trying to seek an allowance.
The Government provides those people who are indebted with a living allowance of $2,000 a year for the maintenance of themselves and their families. That sum is far below the poverty level set by the Henderson Committee. It is about half what we accept as our standard wage. It may be unfair to say that this is their living allowance because the Government will provide $176 for hospital benefits, $ 1 10 for motor vehicle registration, $ 150 for life assurance, $250 for petrol, fuel and grease for private motor vehicles, $120 for telephone and mailbag charges and $30 for household insurance. With all the costs which the Government will allow, the total that they can receive is $3,436 per annum. That is the sum on which these farmers are trying to raise families, to educate children, and to send them to the Adelaide University or to colleges of advanced education. That is their permissible income limit at the present time.
As I said before, there are 63 people under threat there. The question is what is to be done. Every Minister has admitted that there is a problem on Kangaroo Island. Much of the problem was brought about by the administration of this agreement. We must accept responsibility.
Whatever their faults and whatever their indebtedness to the Commonwealth, we should not throw them off their farms at this stage. Mr Sinclair promised that he would wait for the South Australian report, but it cannot be made available. I request that he not take action at least until that report is available. This very energetic Gosse (Kangaroo Island) Lands Committee suggests that the solution is to give the land to the farmers and to let them make private arrangements for financing their farms. There is heavy debt. I put a question on the notice paper yesterday in which I asked for the annual cost of administering this scheme on Kangaroo Island and the indebtedness of the farmers. It could well be that the cost to the Government of administering the scheme is in excess of the indebtedness and what it will get out of the scheme.
The farmers are under a financial obligation to a department which says that they must produce fat lambs on fodder that is not capable of producing fat lambs. That was brought about by the department’s action in respect of the sowing of Yarloop clover 10 years after the danger of that feed was reported. If they are untied from this financial obligation they will be able to approach private finance companies and arrange the financing of their farms in the way they desire. Then they may gain some success. I am advised that at present the farmers are breaking even with their expenditure and income over the year. For the last 3 or 4 years they have broken even, but they face an accumulation of debts and interest back to the time they went there. Those debts and liabilities are increasing. It would be possible for them to exist at present if they did not have to face the accumulation of interest on those debts.
There are two other points I want to make. The investigation into this matter was prompted by this Gosse (Kangaroo Island) Lands Committee. In its submission to the South Australian committee of inquiry it said
Committee survey shows that in 1 975 average cost of production per acre was $ 1 4 and the average return per acre was $1 1.50. One detailed farm survey over a period of 10 years shows an average cost of production per acre of $ 1 5.33. The average return per acre for the same period- $15.33 To summarise, while production costs per acre are less than returns per acre a property is viable. For 10 to 20 years settlers have physically confronted many of the higher than average production costs, e.g. clearing of properties, maintaining rapidly depreciating machinery, attempting to overcome soil and animal infertility problems and, particularly in latter years, not employing labour for seasonal work such as crutching.
I mention only one other point. There is some doubt about the ability of the Department of
Lands to decide whether a settler is solvent or not. I have an illustration of this point. The valuation of a farm by the Department of Lands was some $28,000. The farm next door, which was separated by a dividing fence and which had no more additions than the other farm had a valuation for probate duty of some $65,000. Where it is a question of the indebtedness of the farmer the valuation is low but where it is a question of government taxation the valuation is high. All these things need careful consideration.
With this knowledge I am pretty sure that Liberal Party senators from South Australia will support me in this plea in relation to Kangaroo Island. The Gosse (Kangaroo Island) Land Committee stated that the first solution to the whole problem was for the Commonwealth and the State to get out, to wipe off the farmer’s debt, giving him back the land and letting him battle with the finance company. Secondly, the Committee suggested that if we thought we had a greater obligation to see them through we should appoint a royal commission to inquire into the whole land settlement aspect on Kangaroo Island. It was suggested that there should be a 12-month moratorium and that we should withhold our hand until such time as a committee of inquiry looked for solutions rather than deciding who was in the wrong. Senator Lewis was concerned for farmers in Victoria. They do not face the plight which Kangaroo Island farmers face. It behoves all of us to see- whatever may be the necessary economic policy of the Governmentthat we do not throw soldier settlers off their blocks.
– The Address-in-Reply debate is always an important item in parliamentary procedure. It affords a full scale discussion on the Government’s programs and on events and developments within the Australian community generally. It is also related to the continuity of the parliamentary program because it is associated, as everyone knows, with the opening of the parliamentary session. In this case, it is the second session of the Thirtieth Parliament. This time the Address-in-Reply debate has added interest because of its association with Her Majesty the Queen. At the outset I indicate my support for the terms of the Address-in-Reply. In so doing I join with other honourable senators who have offered congratulations to Senator Austin Lewis of Victoria. We offer him congratulations not only upon his arrival in this place but also upon the very thoughtful, interesting and helpful maiden speech which he made here yesterday afternoon. In reflecting upon the things he said we were also reminded appreciatively of the presence and of the contributions made by our friend the late Senator Ivor Greenwood whose work as leader and as a Minister was of great satisfaction to us. His zeal and passion for justice and his capacity for work made him an outstanding man and senator. Australia was certainly poorer with his loss. Senator Lewis comes in his place with many gifts of mind and of person. He has indicated these in his maiden speech. We certainly wish him well. The presence of the Sovereign in our midst, of course, has given us a great deal of pleasure. For her personal qualities, for her capacity as a sovereign and for her graciousness we are very grateful. We also received a great deal of pleasure from her presence. This, of course, has opened up in public discussion the role of a head of state in any nation and the type of head of state most suited to a nation’s needs. The moment that topic arose we had a debate relating to a republic or a monarchy. I suggest that the Queen’s visit to Australia on this her silver jubilee is an occasion for a full program. The effect of the visit will not be a revival of the argument of what I have seen described as unquestioned royal ethos but rather a serious look at the alternatives and to ask whether the alternatives are better than the system we have at the moment. If there are any better systems we have to ask what they are. To start with, all that we see in the argument in the present public discussion as far as republics are concerned seems to me to be negative, radical and reactionary.
These arguments are a poor foundation in which to find something to replace the constitutional monarchy with something which I can only see in the public debate at the moment as being a vague republic. As I read the public debate I hear no argument to convince me of the advantages of a republic as far as Australia is concerned. All that has happened in the public debate so far, as described by the Canberra Times, is that the waters have been muddied. The argument that republicism will give us an Australian national identity is an argument which is back to front. After all, let us establish the Australian national identity and then let us consider what we want to do. The mere fact that if we impose upon the Australian community another system it will create an Australian national identity in my view is quite absurd. The constitutional monarchy, the establishment of the Queen of Australia, provides the Australian nation with the best possible head of state system.
It is true that all human systems have their deficiencies, because they are human systems. But the monarchy system has the greatest number of safeguards. What is more, it has the benefit of a very extended and extensive historical experience. There is nothing to take the place of deep and well dimensioned experience. But I think we ought to say to the people who might describe themselves as royalist enthusiasts that they must guard against the over expression of sentimentality. If any person would argue in favour of a constitutional monarch as head of state, all arguments must be placed with realism and, what is more, with contemporary, practical thought. So against this background and in this atmosphere Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, after 25 years on the Throne and as Queen of Australia, comes among us to celebrate her silver jubilee. Her Australian community celebrates that jubilee with her with a great deal of enthusiasm and satisfaction.
She came into this chamber on Tuesday afternoon and sat in this place on what I suppose the records call the Throne. She delivered a speech which was prepared by the Government. So I suppose the Speech from the Throne could be described as a ceremonial and formal document. Looking at the document I am bound to say that I personally wish that it could have spelt out in greater detail some programs for the session ahead. It is apparent, on reading the Speech which was delivered from the Throne, that it consolidates that which has been presented by the Government in former times, that it indicates that the program which was laid out earlier is an ongoing program and that provision is made for its fulfilment.
In the ceremonial and formal address which Her Majesty was pleased to deliver there were ingredients which called to our attention certain standards and values. While they may have a certain morality about them, they are heavily underlined with stern political reality. When Her Majesty talked about the character of Australian society, about the resources of the Australian continent and, further, when she went on to assert that they held great promise and great challenge, she was reminding the Parliament of the political conditions which are necessary to fulfil the promises of which she spoke and to meet the challenge to which she referred. She then put down in detail what she called the commitment to that challenge and, further, what she described as a concern for the fulfilment of the promise.
Later, the gracious Speech spelt out the role of the productive, private sector and the responsibility it had to provide employment, given incentive encouragement, and conditions under which it could provide that employment. The employment opportunities and the unemployment situation in Australia are serious matters. It is the subject of a great deal of public debate and discussion. The sharp increase in unemployment figures has not only been the subject of political and public argument; it also has been of great concern to the people involved and to the leaders within the Australian community. By far the more dangerous ingredient in this situation is the attitude to work which is developing. In recent days a number of people, and I have been among them, have raised in this Senate questions relating to what is known as a confidential Government document, part of which discloses the fact that of the total number of 354 000 people who are unemployed in the nation, more than 141 000 people registered as unemployed voluntarily resigned from their jobs. In frank terms this means that 40 per cent either declined or refused to work and accepted from the taxpayer considerable amounts of moneys, which have now been increased, with further benefits for their dependants.
Companies which provide work opportunities are complaining at the same time about the difficulty of securing employees and the greater difficulty of retaining those employees, and in this regard the Australian Industries Development Association is reported as saying that the practice of employees staying ‘a few days to get enough to live on’ and then collecting unemployment benefits was ‘very widespread’. It is also reported as saying that in the metals industry there was a general feeling of ‘unfashionability of factory work to the young’, and that this dislike and the unemployments benefits being ‘too high and too easy to obtain ‘ made it almost impossible to retain staff. Industries which reported high turnovers and commented on the easy accessibility to the dole were the chemicals industry, the sporting goods production industry, the metallic products industry, capital intensive industries and the furniture removal industry, and most of the people surveyed in these industries complained of the quality of the available work force. It was stated that there was a genuine hard core of unemployed people, many of them highly skilled, who had been left without a job because of the closure of industries. The report of the Association’s comments concludes by stating the Association’s view that there was a majority, comprised mainly of young people, which was influenced by considerations other than the desire to work. This was confirmed by the Victorian Farmers Union a few weeks ago when it drew attention to the fact that the jobless benefits were obviously high enough to make people not want to seek work. Fruit growers, the Union maintains, are having the greatest trouble in finding fruit pickers. It is all very well to say that society owes a living to people who are unable to find work, and I believe that society has an obligation to people who want to work but who genuinely cannot find work. However, I question whether society owes a living to those people who do not want to work, will not work and are not bound by the work ethic. As the Queen said, it is the work ethic which produces committed nations; it is allegiance to the work ethic that has produced concerned nations.
I submit that a country like Australia cannot live with a report which tells us that 40 per cent of unemployed people have resigned and do not want to work. I put it as strongly as that. We cannot live with a situation where employers warn that the turnover is too high and the dole is too easy to get. We may argue about the terms I have used but the point is that this is an expression of the views of a large section of the Australian community. The problem is one not only for government and industry. It has some stronger values than that. Leaders of thought, leaders in education, social welfare and community education, also have a responsibility to remind the Australian people that if we talk about having the right to work, when the opportunity to work comes it should be taken and not ignored so that people can live at the taxpayers’ expense. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said only yesterday in the House of Representatives:
The obligation that the Commonwealth has to those who could work but who do not want to work is something which I think honourable members should be able to examine if they feel inclined to have proper concern for the way in which taxpayers’ dollars are spent. There have been widespread allegations of abuse in this matter. The Government would be derelict in its duty if it were not prepared to try to examine that aspect.
The Prime Minister went on to confirm the Government’s concern in this matter when he said:
When we have the results of the Norgard inquiry into the Commonwealth Employment Service I think we all might be better advised about the facts of the situation.
There is great concern about unemployment. There is a great community concern about people who are unemployed because they do not wish to work and have resigned from their jobs. In response the Government generally and the
Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) have taken steps to meet this situation because a whole range of responsibilities must be undertaken by governments, Ministers and leaders in our community. Honourable senators will recall the occasion in the middle of January when the Minister for Employment and. Industrial Relations and the Minister for Productivity (Mr McPhee) announced some apprenticeship schemes. Two major initiatives were announced to help the employment opportunities of young people who were seeking and were prepared to enter the skilled trades. A great deal of intensive work had gone into the dual problems of youth employment on the one hand and skilled labour shortages on the other.
The Senate will have heard of the establishment of the CRAFT scheme- the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprentice Full Time Training. The Minister when announcing the scheme drew attention to the need for an increase in the supply of skilled tradesmen, describing it as a vital ingredient in economic recovery. He said that apprenticeship is the main source of our future tradesmen. CRAFT will provide rebates to employers in respect of all apprentices who are released to attend technical colleges for compulsory full time basic trade training. Rebates also will be payable in respect of apprentices undertaking approved full time off-the-job training. The key feature of this scheme is the incentives provided, because the rebates will be free of Commonwealth taxation. The scheme aims to encourage the provision of technical training in the early stages of apprenticeship and to speed up the acquisition of basic skills and increase the productivity of apprentices. Sums of money have been set aside for this and there has been some response to the scheme. Speaking a couple of weeks ago in the other place, Mr Street gave some idea of the general progress of the scheme. As he said, it was an extension of the former National Employment and Training scheme. He also said that there were now more than 14 000 people in the NEAT scheme, of whom 1 1 000 were in part time training whilst engaged in employment. Referring to the CRAFT scheme, he said that something like 60 projects were in operation all over Australia involving some 12 000 young people. This was a report on the progress of the scheme as late as the end of February.
The next aspect of Her Majesty’s Speech which attracted my attention largely because of my association with Senate committees was her reference to education. Her Majesty said:
My Government is improving the existing arrangements in education in pursuit of equality of opportunity for all Australian students.
I suppose that the pursuit of equality of opportunity has been undertaken constantly by governments of all political persuasions. The style tends to fluctuate from time to time, and the results change as circumstances vary. Naturally, the pattern follows the political philosophies of the day. The big risk is that in any program involving the pursuit of equality of opportunity anomalies arise constantly. Of course, the pursuit of this equality of opportunity must go on; it is something that must proceed.
A feature of Australian education in the last 10 years has been the enormous increase in demand on the one hand and the enormous increase in availability on the other hand. A recent edition of Australian Educational Review gives us some idea of the funds and the percentage of resources that have been put into the area of education. I share with the Senate some references from the Australian Educational Review. Expenditure on education compared with expenditure on other public services illustrates the growing priority afforded education in the last 10 years. Education was the largest single consumer of recurrent expenditure of the public services and the rate of growth in expenditure on education exceeded that of other public services. Health services were the next highest consumer of recurrent funds. I am referring to a decade which runs between 1964 and 1974. The Australian Educational Review added that this recurrent expenditure for education in 1964 values increased by 161 per cent by 1974 compared with an increase of 130 per cent for health services. It stated:
It should be noted when comparing expenditure for education and health that, before the introduction of Medibank, recurrent costs of health services in Australia were borne out of private expenditure to a greater extent than was education.
The journal goes on to state:
With this reservation, however, growth in expenditure for education was greater than the growth in expenditure for all other public services competing for public finance. Education was the most expensive item provided by the public sector.
I leave that quotation as it is. It should be qualified but I use it more for illustrative purposes than anything else. It raises not only equality of opportunity but also the matter of value for money so far as taxpayers are concerned. It also throws into public discussion the results of all this public expenditure on education. Education contributes vastly to a nation’s growth. Over the last decade the greater equality of opportunity for education has provided a great many more people with satisfaction in their education programs. I believe it has also provided them with a greater variety of opportunity.
The latest entry into this discussion on value for money and what is received and returned from the vast expenditure of taxpayers’ money is a provocative article on universities which, I guess honourable senators would know, has appeared in this week’s issue of a journal we know as the Bulletin. Some very serious charges are made in Mr Peter Samuels’ article. The article reveals what the Bulletin calls ‘an appalling waste of taxpayers’ money’. It lists a series of diplomas and degrees and the charges made in connection therewith are bound to cause some disputation. The author declares that the degree granting business is a huge industry. Last year, over 288 000 Australians were enrolled at 102 universities and independent colleges. He says that there are some 50 000 staff members and that this financial year universities will receive $ 1,200m or approximately $150 per taxpayer. I might have lifted those figures out of their context, and I make no further comment about or reference to them. There will doubtless be answers and qualifications. I merely point to these figures as a matter of public discussion in a reputable publication which has a very wide circulation. I merely point to the money that is involved and the extent of the training and tertiary education which is given.
I draw attention to the value of this kind of education to the community and to whether all of the money spent and all the education received is being used for the well-being, growth, development and stability- call it what you like- of the Australian nation. I know that the value of such education cannot be measured easily. I do not think it can be measured at all. One hopes that in a program of that kind there has been some equality of opportunity. I think it is true to make the observation in a debate of this kind that in times of economic restraint priorities in education need to be under constant review. I make this observation because all of this is closely related to the employment situation. All of this is related to the reluctant social conditions which emerge. All of it is related to what is referred to in the Queen’s Speech as the productivity section of our community.
I was interested to read the comments of an education expert from Adelaide. Brother Michael Lynch of the Salesian College in Adelaide drew attention to the fact by making what the Adelaide Advertiser described as an attack on cash for studies. He said that there appeared to be a need for reduced spending on
Humanities of doubtful intellectual validity’. He went on to affirm that there was some lightweight tertiary education going on under the name of sociology and that this could do with some cuts in funds. He went on to say:
While nobody would maintain that the role of the university should simply be to provide professional and vocational training, far more harm is done by those who hold that universities should develop their own criteria without any regard to the professional and vocational factor.
I make these observations simply because there is also a concern in the community in relation to the vast sums of money that are spent in this way. Nobody would deny the opportunity for any citizen in this country to receive the best possible education.
I find that too many of our institutions are under attack in terms of standards and procedures. Indeed, an eminent educationist has attacked one of the major disciplines of the Adelaide University. I have no knowledge of the accuracy of his comments. I have no knowledge of the discipline concerned. But when it becomes the subject of a major news item, other people who know more about these things than I do will also be involved. I do not think that a nation such as Australia at this point of its growth and development, a nation for which there is so much hope and which is endeavouring to meet so much challenge can afford to have its major, senior and high level disciplines in educational institutions under attack. I hope that in this development of equality of educational opportunity for all people those who are in charge and who carry a heavy responsibility- they are all eminent and distinguished people- will recognise that there must be returned to the Australian nation in some way or other value for money.
In further pursuit of this emphasis on equality of opportunity, I note with some considerable satisfaction the announcements by the Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, relating to technical and further education. I think this matter relates closely to equality of opportunity as referred to in the Queen’s Speech. Senator Carrick has indicated that there is likely to be a shift of resources into the technical and further education field. He has outlined plans for the establishment of what will be known as a post secondary education commission. Within the structure of this new commission there will be 3 separate councils- a universities council, an advanced education council and a council on technical and further education. One of the important purposes of these councils will be to ensure that the needs of each sector are identified and presented for consideration by the Government.
These councils will have the right of investigation and they will be expected to conduct detailed negotiations with the various institutions and authorities. They will be regarded as important and authoritative sources of advice each in its own particular sector. The views of the councils of course will be reflected ultimately in the commission’s report.
I want to place emphasis on the aspect of the commission relating to technical and further education. Because it will be a separate body within the post secondary education commission, I hope it will give greater recognition to the demands of this development in the education field. The Government has a firm intention to pay special attention to technical and further education, particularly in the allocation of governmental resources and in the development of co-operative arrangements with the States. I think this is important. As I read about technical and further education I have a feeling that in recent years it has tended to lag behind the development in university education. All this development of the new post secondary education commission is consistent with the policy announced at the 1975 elections. The Government at that time stressed that it saw a need to reassert the value of technical education and to give due recognition to the contribution that it makes to the community.
The importance of technical education is fairly obvious. References to it which Mr Street has made in another place confirm this. Representations made by employers and others in the community have also proclaimed and made clear the need for the training of technicians and people with technical skills. What appeals to me in this new commission is the emphasis which has been placed on further education. This is extremely necessary because of new approaches to the matter of education for communities and particularly as far as the development of the nation is concerned. After all, that is what the Queen ‘s Speech was all about. In reading a recent publication relating to community education I noted that two or three points were laid down which I think can find their way usefully into a discussion we are having this afternoon. The article states:
All education requires serious thought by every man about his relationship to society. The failure to think about this leads to educational tyranny which is manifest in the classroom and the community at large. Non-formal educationor forms of further education- can liberate man from the classroom and consequently its tyranny over his life choices.
Further education would increase man’s capacity to shape his environment, physical and social, and will give him the opportunity and the capacity to bring about change. This will result from his understanding of himself. The article continues:
The goal of education -
In the non-formal and further spheres- is to provide avenues for group and individual identity and integrity . . . Non-formal education is not part of the established economic and social system, therefore it can be a vehicle to assist people in shaping new social orders -
New opportunities- and economic systems.
Knowledge is a tool for developing and amplifying power. Thus, -
The discipline of further education and- non-formal education offers a variety of options and opportunities for the powerless to acquire and use power.
I do not propose to take the argument further in relation to what is meant by power but I give the quotation as it comes. I believe that further education provides opportunities for people who live in the community at large or people whose earlier educational opportunities may not have been all they would have liked or for people whose opportunities for further education now are such that it will enable them not only to acquire new skills to take on fresh employment but most of all to get a greater degree of satisfaction out of life. I believe that further education will contribute to community growth and satisfaction. Indeed, if I may put it this way, in relation to my earlier remark, I think it will contribute to the development of the work ethic and the responsibility ethic.
On the last page of the Queen’s Speech there was a reference to foreign policy. Her Majesty indicated that the Government was pursuing constructive foreign policy and through its foreign policy the Government is seeking to contribute to the establishment of a stable international environment in which people can live in peace, co-operation and self respect. Those are words with which we would all have total agreement. It becomes a matter of discussion and debate as to the means whereby the establishment of a stable international environment can be maintained. Madam Acting Deputy President, as you would know and I think most honourable senators would know, I have the privilege of being involved at council level with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. These duties took me to one or two of the island nations within the South Pacific area during January. While my discussions may well have applied to the matter of the institution of parliament, anyone would know that any senator going into those areas would immediately become involved in discussion as to Australia’s role in the South Pacific, Australia’s contribution in the South Pacific and
Australia’s relationship to the nations in the South Pacific. Let it be emphasised that our neighbours in the South Pacific area are nations -most of them are independent nations.
As I was able to observe whilst in the area and as I was interested to have this confirmed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) in King’s Hall the other evening, the greater part of the British Commonwealth of Nations has a relationship to or is located in the South Pacific area. Let it be underlined that if that is the case Australia is by far the largest nation in this part of the British Commonwealth of Nations, the largest nation in the South Pacific, the nation to which so many of the new nations are turning for leadership, advice, assistance, encouragement and indeed in some instances, protection. Therefore our relationship to the South Pacific takes on a new degree of importance not only for the areas which I have just mentioned but also because, as everyone now very well knows, there are other nations interested in the South Pacific. Therefore it was not without significance that towards the end of last year our Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Honourable Andrew Peacock, made an important announcement in relation to the contribution to be made by Australia to the nations of the South Pacific. He pointed out that countries of the South Pacific occupy a position of particular importance in Australia’s external relations. The Minister said:
Australia regards itself as an integral part of the region with closely shared interests and aspirations.
One of the most important ways and means that we have to give evidence of our shared interests and aspiration is to look not only again but constantly at our program of development assistance. The Australian Government has been concerned for some time that in some respects our development assistance program needed revision and towards the end of last year the Government carried out a detailed review of its program and decided on major modifications and improvements. I believe, speaking from some experience, that this has already removed some problem areas and will add considerably to the effectiveness of our relations with these countries and will add to the effectiveness of any development assistance program.
It is important that in a very rapidly changing area of the world in which there is quite a variety of international interests the South Pacific countries know as precisely as possible, not only for the immediate future but for a number of years ahead, the amount of funds involved and the forms of assistance they will be receiving from the major donor countries- and in this area Australia is the major donor country. This information will enable the South Pacific countries to plan their economic and social development not only with assurance but also with complete satisfaction. In recognition of that principle, the Australian Government has committed a total amount of some $60m in bilateral aid to the countries of the South Pacific over the 3-year period from 1976 to 1979. 1 think it is important to point out that that represents a fourfold increase in Australian aid compared with the preceding 3 years. The broad allocations are: For the current financial year, $15m; for 1977-78, $20m; and for 1978-79, $25m. The commitment also is to be on a rolling 3-year basis, which means that in 12 months time a forward commitment will be made for the following year and, if necessary in the light of circumstances prevailing at the time, the commitments for the remaining 2 years can be revised.
It is not sufficient to say that the provision of funds is the only or the ultimate form of international aid and development assistance. Important as money is, and important as technical assistance and the attendance of people with special skills and expertise are, there is approaching a period in our history when the donor nations and the nations in particular geographic areas of the world must give new and expert attention to the whole philosophy of development assistance and international aid. That could be the subject of some further discussion in this Senate; indeed, when the Bill relating to the Australian Development Assistance Agency comes before the Senate we could have a very important debate and discussion, with a sharing of knowledge and views, on the very important matter of international development assistance. As I have said before, such assistance has become much more than a matter of international charity. Rather, it is an expression of our interdependence with our neighbours, wherever they may be. It also has become a way in which Australia, as a rich nation with a vast quantity of resources, can play its responsible, helpful, useful, and indeed leading role not only amongst its neighbours but in this section of the world.
Her Majesty’s Speech was a short one and was in general terms. As I said at the beginning, one would have wished that it might have spelled out a little more detail, but a study of the Speech reveals that it was designed to point, and succeeded in pointing, to the fact that the Government is dealing with very difficult situations in the social and economic areas of the nation. I am sure that as the session goes on Her Majesty’s hopes that we will be able to stabilise the economy and to pursue the goal of social reform will be more than fulfilled. As one of her loyal senators in this place, I am pleased to support the motion moved by Senator Lewis.
– It is pleasing to be able to reply to the Queen’s Speech in this chamber. It was with great enthusiasm that Australia welcomed Her Majesty to this country so that we could participate in the Silver Jubilee celebrations. I am pleased that I was able to join in the enthusiasm shown by people in this capital a couple of days ago, an enthusiasm which I am sure will be shown by people throughout the rest of Australia in the days ahead. I was pleased to listen to Her Majesty’s Speech, but I am afraid that in preparing it the Government was not candid about the ineptitude it has shown. It is a pity that such a reference was not included in Her Majesty’s Speech. I say that not in any way as a reflection on Her Majesty, who read the Speech which was written for her, but as a reflection on the Government itself, which would not show the current position with regard to its actions.
I intend this afternoon to look at the background to the poor government which is being exhibited in this place and to the people of Australia. In doing that, I will trace some aspects of the promises this Government put before the people in 1975. In the emotion-filled days of late 1975 Mr Fraser delivered an equally emotionfilled policy speech. At that time, of course, he was the caretaker Prime Minister. He and his colleagues made a grab for power and would not allow a democratically elected government to conclude its 3-year term of office. Nowadays we hear many a suggestion to this effect: ‘Let us wait for 3 years to see what we can do in that time’. But, casting back to 1975, we recall that the caretaker government came into power because it would not allow a government elected by the people to go for its full 3 years. However, now that the Liberal and National Country Parties have been in power for about 15 months it is timely for us to look back at Mr Fraser ‘s promises and to determine whether those promises have been reflected in performance. Regretfully, when they are examined in detail one can see that those promises have not been so reflected, and there does not seem to be any suggestion that in the near future they will be reflected in performance.
The Government’s actions since 1975 have served to produce nothing but a catalogue of failure, mismanagement and broken promises. It is unfortunate that that was not shown in Her Majesty’s Speech. It is therefore pertinent now to consider some of the statements Mr Fraser made in his policy speech on 27 November 1975. He predicted that the performance of a government led by him would be noted by the people, but how hollow and how false those predictions now appear to be. How disillusioned the people are becoming with a leader and his party who claimed that they had the ability to turn on the lights. It seems that the only thing that is happening is that the gloom is increasing daily. In the opening remarks of his policy speech in November 1975 Mr Fraser said:
Let us all as Australians determine to restore prosperity, defeat inflation and provide jobs for all.
There are 3 principal elements contained in that short statement: Firstly, to restore prosperity; secondly, to defeat inflation; and, thirdly, to provide jobs for all. I propose to consider those elements this afternoon and to see the extent to which the Government has backed up its promises with performance. For convenience, I shall discuss the aspects in the reverse order of that used by Mr Fraser.
I intend to deal firstly with the employment situation. In that respect it should be remembered that one of the promises was to provide jobs for all. I have a table which sets out employment statistics for February 1975, 1976 and 1977, and shortly I will seek leave to have that table incorporated in Hansard. Before doing so, let me point out that I have used the February statistics because they are the latest available. I could have used the January statistics which in raw terms would have shown a worse performance by the Government, but I have used the February statistics which are the latest available. The January statistics show the same type of trend as I am going to show with these statistics. The statistics for February 1975, 1976 and 1977 show that there is a worsening trend through those 3 years. This table shows the number of unemployed people in Australia as a whole. In 1975 the number was 297 747. In 1976 it had increased to 303 739. By 1977 the February figures showed over 346 000 people registered as unemployed. For Australia as a whole the proportion of the work force which is unemployed has increased also over those 3 years. It increased from 4.99 per cent in 1975 to 5 per cent in 1976 and to 5.7 per cent in 1977. 1 represent the State of Queensland so I should like to say something about the unemployment figures there. It is well to recall that out of the 6 States, Queensland now shows the second highest level of unemployment. The level of unemployment in Queensland is greater than the national average. Using the raw figures for the month of February for those 3 years, we find that the situation has worsened. The number of unemployed has risen from 49 000 in 1975 to over 50 000 in 1976 and to over 54 000 in 1977. There was a slight reduction in the proportion of the work force unemployed from 1975 to 1976-6.3 per cent down to 5.95 per cent. But unfortunately by February 1977 this number has increased again to 6.38 per cent which is greater than for 1975.
I cite these figures to show that clearly the situation has become worse in 1977 than it was in 1976. It was worse in 1976 than it was in 1975.I seek leave to have this table incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Melzer)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-Still speaking about employment and employment opportunities, it is worth remembering that in February last year the drop in the number of unemployed over that of the previous month was 40 200. In February this year the drop was a meagre 7921. These figures are stark reminders of how serious the unemployment situation is now and the lack of improvement that there has been over the last 12 months. In fact unemployment is worse now than it was a year ago. Yet in the policy speech in 1975, one of the major planks of the present Government was that it would provide jobs for all. It is abundantly clear that the Government is not living up to this promise. So what is the Government saying about the situation? Of course it is very sensitive about it. At any time that the employment situation is revealed and the number of unemployed is shown, there are quite defensive statements about it. So it is pertinent, I think, to look at some of the statements that are being made by the Government at the present stage. The Treasurer, Mr Lynch, in his Budget Speech on 1 7 August last year said:
It would be rash to predict any early reduction in unemployment; movements in the remainder of calendar year 1 976 are unlikely to be great.
By 1977, all going well, we should see the start of a more concerted fall.
Of course there will be a fall in 1977. Normal seasonal movements will ensure that, but the fall does not suggest that things are going to be any better in 1977 than they were in 1976.I stated a moment ago that the fall from January to February this year was a very meagre one, especially when compared with that of last year. Of course there will be a fall. But we know that last year the Government decided that it would no longer produce seasonally adjusted figures. Therefore, it is ever so difficult to look at the figures and compare them with those of months of last year or months that have just gone by. The only thing one can do now with any degree of accuracy is compare month with month; for example, February this year with February last year, or as we go on, March this year with March last year. But what a great way it was for Mr Lynch to put it. He said: ‘All going well, we should see the start of a more concerted fall’. Could not the Government be more forthright and say what it is going to do to see that there is a concerted fall? This concerted fall is not showing itself at the present stage. I expected that a government would do more than say: ‘All going well’.
When the February figures were announced a little while ago, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, in commenting upon them, simply said that unemployment had peaked. He was not concerned sufficiently to point out the dangerous situation which is developing. He did not bother to compare, as I have done, the February figures for this year with the February figures of last year or the year before. He did not bother to state how small the drop had been from January to February compared with what it was last year. In other words, he was trying to fool the public that the situation is not a bad one. The situation is a desperate one. But Mr Street did not allow this to be shown by his comments.
The previous speaker, Senator Davidson, made statements about the number of people now unemployed who had left their jobs of their own accord. This seems to be a favourite ploy at the moment. But do those people who make these statements about people who have left their jobs of their own accord bother to ascertain why they did leave? Have they interviewed young people, as I have, who really had no alternative, because of the situation under which they were working, to leaving their jobs? When those people do leave their jobs, even though the cause may have been great for them to do so, they do not qualify for unemployment benefits immediately. They have to wait for 6 months even though their reason for leaving may have been valid and may have been a good one.
I believe the prize for the most ostrich-like defence must go to Mr Eric Robinson who claimed that unemployment figures were largely a myth. A myth indeed! It is a pity that Mr Robinson, who claims that unemployment figures are largely a myth, does not speak to some of those who are unemployed through no fault of their own. 1 wonder whether Mr Robinson has ever seen people who have been unemployed through no fault of their own and who have to queue up for a meal at the end of the day- a meal handed out by charity. Has he ever seen a person who has been unemployed look throughout the day for a job and at the end of that day not only have to queue up for a meal but take his family as well so that they can have a decent meal? This is going on today. It is going on in the State that I represent- the State that Mr Robinson lives in. Yet he says that unemployment figures are largely a myth. What a hollow way of trying to defend his own Government’s actions. It would be worthwhile for Mr Robinson to confer with his colleague the Queensland Deputy Premier, Treasurer and Liberal Leader, Mr Knox. On 3 February this year, addressing a group of Brisbane businessmen Mr Knox said:
The second task which the newly-elected Government had to undertake was to reduce the level of unemployment in Australia.
There can be no doubt that it has been singularly unsuccessful in its attempts to reduce unemployment.
It would be well for people who say that unemployment is a myth- members of the Liberal Party- to talk to their colleague in Queensland who lays it straight on the line that this Government is not doing what it said it would do in 1 975 in relation to employment. It is obvious that this Government has failed to deliver the goods. It has not lived up to its promise to provide jobs for all.
I outlined earlier 3 pertinent elements of Mr Fraser’s policy speech. One of these was that his
Government would defeat inflation. The Government promised to defeat inflation but it has exhibited the same complete lack of success. I shall shortly seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a further table. It is the second table that I have and the last that I shall seek to incorporate. It shows the quarterly consumer price index figures from September 1974 to December 1975 for Australia as a whole and for the capital of the State that I represent. For those of my constituents who read this speech in Hansard- I believe there will be a few- I point out that the CPI figures are not available for any place in Queensland other than Brisbane. That is why I mentioned Brisbane in this table. When I say Australia as a whole I refer more precisely to the weighted average of the 6 State capital cities. An inspection of this table clearly indicates that since the change of government in 1975 the present Government has been singularly unsuccessful in honouring its promise to defeat inflation. For instance, if we take 1976-I mentioned that 1974 and 1 975 are shown in the table- we see that in March, June, September and December quarters the consumer price index increased by 3 per cent, 2.5 per cent, 2.2 per cent and 6 per cent respectively. There was a similar type of pattern for Brisbane. In the March, June, September and December quarters of 1 976 the consumer price index increased by 3.2 per cent, 2.3 per cent, 2.5 per cent and 6.2 per cent respectively. If one compares these figures with those provided for 1974 and 1 975 one can see that the battle against inflation is not being won. Yet in Mr Fraser’s policy speech of 1 975 it was stated that the new government would defeat inflation. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the table which shows the quarterly increases in the CPI from September 1974 to December 1976.
The ACTING DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Senator Melzer)- Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– These increases in the CPI occurred despite the statement by Mr Lynch in last year’s Budget Speech. He said:
As we have stressed from the outset, we have made our first priority the absolute necessity to combat inflation.
Even though the Government might be trying to combat inflation it is not being successful. It is not living up to its election promise. There has been criticism of the Government over its failure to honour its election promise regarding inflation. It is easy for the Government to brush this aside as politically motivated comment. Again, if we refer to statements by the Deputy Premier in Queensland, can the Government say that his comments are politically motivated? Referring to the then impending CPI figures for the December 1976 quarter, Mr Knox said:
To a very great extent, the Commonwealth has itself to blame for that- it won’t be able to blame the unions, the States, or industry.
The impact of the Medibank levy must have serious repercussion for the fight against inflation, and the resulting wage demands must pose serious problems for every section of industry and business in Australia.
I believe the passage of time will demonstrate that the restructuring of Medibank was poorly timed, and that the imposition of a levy or tax- because that is really what it is- was inappropriate given the prevailing economic conditions. However, that is for the future, and we must await with both interest and apprehension the release of the CPI figures.
Of course, those CPI figures have now been released. They show a massive 6 per cent increase for the December quarter. For a Government that lays great claim to reducing inflation it has made some peculiar decisions. Let us consider, for example, those decisions which have increased the rate of inflation: Meddling with Medibank, the new federalism, terminating quarterly company tax adjustments, weakening the Prices Justification Tribunal and the Trade Practices Commission and, of course, devaluation. All those decisions have helped to increase the inflationary pressures in Australia. Finally, in the trilogy of promises that have not been backed up by performance I refer to the restoration of prosperity. This was mentioned in Mr Fraser ‘s policy speech. He said:
We must determine to restore prosperity.
All the current evidence suggests that there is no feeling amongst the community that there is any reason to be confident while this Government remains in power. Certainly, wage and salary earners could be forgiven for not having confidence. The Government appears before the Arbitration Commission and pleads that real wages be lowered for wage and salary earners throughout Australia. How hollow the words of support for wage indexation in Mr Fraser ‘s policy speech of 27 November 1975 must appear to these people. How hollow all his promises appear now. If we go through Mr Fraser ‘s policy speech part by part, promise by promise, we can see that little thought was given then to whether those promises would or could be honoured. They certainly have not been honoured.
I should like to turn to an aspect which is much different from the economic situation I have been talking about in order to have a look at one more statement made in that policy speech. Very haughtily, Mr Fraser said:
There will be no more jobs for the boys.
No more jobs for the boys indeed! I think we would be able to compile a great catalogue of jobs for the boys. Let me just mention a few. I shall start with the lesser ones, those that could perhaps be considered candidates as jobs for the boys. I will move on later to those which are definitely jobs of the boys. Let us first consider Mr David Hay who was appointed as head of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. He is the father of Andrew Hay who is currently on Mr Lynch ‘s staff. Another appointment which may be a candidate as a job for the boys is that of Mr Harry M. Miller. He was appointed as a member of the Board of Directors of Qantas Airways Ltd. He is an organiser for the National Country Party. Mrs Maureen Barnett ‘s appointment as head of public relations in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs could be a marginal case, but she could be a candidate. She is the wife of Mr Fraser’s Press Secretary. I believe that Mr Wayne Gibbons was a member of the ministerial staff and that he has since been appointed to an Australian Embassy in South America. Mr Adrian Lynch, who has been appointed Assistant Director of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s food production and rural development division, was formerly Press Secretary to Mr Sinclair.
Those I have mentioned so far are possible candidates for application of the term ‘jobs for the boys’; but let us have a look at those to whom the term really can be applied. Mr John England, who was formerly the National Country Party member for Calare, is now the Administrator of the Northern Territory. But what about Mr, now Sir David Fairbairn? He was Minister for Air from 1962 to 1964. He also held other portfolios. He was Minister for National Development from 1964 to 1969, Minister for Education and Science in 1971 and Minister for Defence in 1971-72. Sir David Fairbairn now has been appointed Ambassador to The Netherlands. The appointment was made on 15 December of last year. No jobs for the boys indeed! What about
Mr Gordon Freeth, who formerly held many ministerial positions? His first ministerial position was Minister for the Interior and Minister for Works, which he held from 1958 to 1963. He held ministerial positions right up until 1969, when he was Minister for External Affairs. Mr Freeth has been appointed High Commissioner to London, his appointment having been announced on 20 February of this year. What happened to the statement in the policy speech that there would be no more jobs for the boys?
The complete lack of honesty and the complete incompetence of the Fraser Government should lead to an election now if Mr Fraser really meant what he said in 1975. But I doubt that he did mean what he said when he made his grab for power. He will cling to his ill-gotten power for as long as possible. This being so, his Government must cease its program of ad hockery, it must begin to be honest with Australians and it must deliver the goods. It can do this by adopting the correct strategy. In the minds of the electors it must do so. Their patience, understandably, is wearing very thin.
– I rise to support the Address-in-Reply to the Speech which Her Majesty the Queen delivered a couple of days ago in opening this session of Parliament. I do so with a measure of pride. I believe that it is an opportunity for the members of this chamber to look at where this country is going, to identify the problems and to seek and demonstrate the solutions. I was a little disappointed by the somewhat gloomy story that Senator Colston told for some 30 minutes or so in which he quite clearly identified the enormous problems that the socialist government so clearly created in this country during its 3 years of office. He did not suggest in any way any of the many and necessary solutions. So, from that point of view, it was somewhat disappointing to see that amount of time being devoted to identifying the problems that he and the Opposition that he now represents successfully brought about.
Before continuing my remarks in this debate I should like to add my congratulations to the new member of this chamber- Senator Lewis from Victoria, who was so correctly and properly appointed by the Victorian Parliament- on the occasion of his maiden speech. I believe that it was a speech the brevity of which would do us all a great deal of good if we were to take some notice of it from time to time. Indeed, besides its brevity, it had in the manner of its presentation and its material a very worthwhile contribution to make to this debate. My only regret was that, although Senator Lewis undoubtedly would have ultimately become a member of this chamber, he is here on this occasion because of the untimely death of Senator Ivor Greenwooda member of this chamber who must surely be ranked among the most elegant men in mind and manner ever to have graced the Australian Senate.
I was pleased to note Senator Lewis’s representation on behalf of primary industry. He identified some of the problems of primary industry. Certainly he identified the basic importance and character of primary industry in relation to the total Australian economy. I want to talk very briefly on the 3 traditional areas of primary industry in this country. Those 3 basic areas of primary industry are the areas of wool, wheat and beef production. As Senator Lewis said, primary industry in this country is basic to the whole social and economic development of our community. In the realm of primary industry itself I want to make the point this afternoon that I believe that the development and strength of the Australian wool industry is just as basic to the absolute balance of primary industry itself as primary industry is basic to the balance of the Australian economy.
It is pertinent to note that the areas of wheat and beef production figure largely in the Australian scene; yet only some 1 5 per cent of the beef and wheat produced in the world ever enters into international trade. In the Australian context we have to find a market in those 2 areas for some 65 per cent of our total production. Consequently the tiniest variations in relation to that 1 5 per cent of the international trade that is referable to beef and wheat have quite gigantic effects on the market for those products in the Australian economy. On the other hand, generally speaking wool finds for itself without much difficulty a market overseas for 95 per cent of its production. But the enormous difference and the reason why I believe it is basic to the balance of primary industry in this country is that in the area of wool we produce the most and the best in the world. Consequently it is an item which has real and proper significance to us and which must be related to the overall balance of primary industry.
I think it is worth noting something of the reaction that occurred in relation to the somewhat desperate decline in wool prices in the late 1 960s and early 1970s. Certain things happened as a result of that decline. In the first place there was an immense increase in the production of wheat, culminating in 1968 in the greatest production on record in Australia. That record production here was matched by massive production around the world and was followed by a quota system in the Australian wheat industry which operated for only a short time.
The other and perhaps even more significant and disastrous result of the problems in the wool industry in the late 1960s and early 1970s was an almost frantic transfer of emphasis from wool production to beef production, almost willy-nilly. There was a measure of panic, with people selling merino stock for 50c a head and buying cattle at $120 a head. Perhaps this was the beginning of the real imbalance which developed, and naturally we are now desperately trying to return balance to primary industry. The desperate move from wool to beef in this country not only was an expensive exercise but also immediately brought a deterioration in the quality of Australian stock. That was another negative in this operation. Careless breeding and the use of unsuitable land were corollaries of the move from sheep to cattle in the early 1970s. These things were highlighted and increased by the boom in cattle prices in 1973 and 1974. Since that time the industry has been in a somewhat disastrous state and it is urgently trying to find a solution to its problems. These are matters of maximum concern to this Government.
What were the results of these extreme movements in prices, whether high or low, in rural enterprise and rural industry, and how have they been combated? The wheat industry saw the problem many years ago. More than 30 years ago it was able to form a stabilisation marketing scheme, although not without a prelude of many years of trauma. The Australian Wheat Board has been a most successful operator ever since those days. The wool industry, after incessant debate for 20 years, in circumstances of disaster found a measure of unity between producer organisations and, in conjunction with the government of those days, the Liberal-Country Party Government of 1970, brought into being the Australian Wool Commission which was the prelude to the Australian Wool Corporation. So once again a large stabilising marketing corporation was developed which has been of extreme value to the wool industry and consequently to the balance of Australian primary industry.
Years of debate on the wool issue finally resulted in acceptance of the basic recommendations of the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the establishment of the Corporation. It brought about acceptance and implementation of the flexible reserve price system in the market place and acceptance and implementation of a principle which meant that stockpiles were part and parcel of successful marketing operations; that they were not something to be avoided like the plague but were something which had a real part to play in a proper supply control situation. It is my view that the final and total recommendations of the Australian Wool Corporation should be implemented as soon as is humanly possible, for in them probably lies the ultimate salvation of this industry and with it a return to balance and strength across the whole canvas of Australian primary production.
The beef industry is in a desperate situation. Clearly there is a great and urgent need for a measure of stabilised and controlled marketing. However, this is a much more difficult problem in beef production than it is in grain production or wool production, or the production of fibres across the board. It is more difficult because- the beef industry seems to be more susceptible to market variations around the world than almost any other industry. Evidence of that is very clear in that only a couple of years ago beef exports to Japan fell from 100 000 tonnes to 8000 tonnes in something less than 12 months. Stockpiling and storage in the beef industry is a difficult problem. Beef is a product that clearly is perishable, and solutions are difficult to find. The vagaries of climate as well as prices around the world have a significant bearing on any measure which aims in some way to control the supply and the price of this product.
I believe, however, that a couple of things need to form part of any solution to the problems of the beef industry. In the first place I believe that a real measure of producer agreement has to be found. This was found in the wheat industry and the wool industry and I believe that it is necessary in the beef industry. Over and above that there has to be effective implementation of some sort of classification and grading system in the marketing of beef, just as it was necessary for producers, manufacturers and retailers in the wool industry to recognise the value of scientific or objective measurement as a proper means of selling wool. So it is my belief that for the survival of the major areas of primary production, and, indeed, the survival of the small and medium size businesses in commerce and industry around Australia, it is necessary for individual’s engaged in primary production to get behind a massive and identifiable corporation that can and will successfully promote research and sell their product. Probably in that sort of circumstance alone lies the ultimate survival of the industries that have more to contribute, and probably have a greater potential, than any other section of the Australian economy.
In addition to the necessity for marketing and research corporations, a requirement is the abolition of estate duty. I shall make a few remarks on that matter towards the conclusion of my speech. In the meantime, I believe that it would be unfortunate if I did not use this occasion to make one or two observations about the constitutional monarchy, the strength of the constitutional monarchy, what it stands for and what it means to us. It is seldom that we have the honour of having the British and Australian Monarch to open a session of this Parliament. That has happened this week. So we must ask ourselves: What is the significance of the monarchy in the constitutional setup of Australia? It is significant indeed, for gone are the struggles between church and state and gone, one would hope, are the struggles between the Executive, the Monarch and the Parliament. We have gone a long way in the development of constitutional monarchy in the Australian scene. It has contributed a great deal. It has been an evolutionary and not a revolutionary process. Towards the end of 1975 we saw a dangerous circumstance. I believe there was a possibility that the Executive would have attempted- perhaps it did- to operate without the word or say-so of the Parliament. This would have been a tragedy.
The presence of the monarch in our country, particularly here in the Parliament, has seen arise a little man as a promoter. He is a somewhat little known author- a quite undistinguished one-time editor of a small university pamphlet- strutting across the stage as the promoter of a republic. I do not think this was much more than an unmannerly exercise. I do not think it has had a great effect on the Australian people except perhaps to reveal the promoter as somewhat pathetic. When ultimately asked the question, ‘what does the republic and the concept of a president really have which you think is good and which makes it so essential?’, his answer was that he really did not know whether it would be better or worse than a constitutional monarchy but he supposed we should try it. That seems to be a pathetic sort of logic from one who would assume unto himself the qualities of an academic, whatever they may be.
The constitutional monarch in the Australian context stands as a symbol of unity and as a symbol of the strength of a family. As Senator Tehan and others have said in this debate, the family unit is, hopefully, still the basic unit of the Australian society. The monarchy as we see it in the constitutional circumstance is removed from high pressure politics and, consequently, it has an enormous amount to commend it over the sort of presidential circumstance which is totally associated with an emotional, political era, sense and atmosphere. I believe that the constitutional monarchy as we have seen it develop through British countries and in Australia is something which we should be loath to forsake. It has shown a great capacity to remain as a relatively non-political symbol in which peoples of all sorts of beliefs and attitudes can find a measure of agreement and unity. It is a symbol which has so much in its favour over the high pressure, emotional type of presidential republican circumstance and we as Australians should tend to be proud of the monarchy and of its evolutionary circumstance. We should not seek to copy some other institution.
The Queen’s Speech was criticised by one or two honourable senators. I recall Senator Grimes not really criticising the matter in the speech but criticising it because it was brief. Of-course it was brief. That is one of the advantages which it has over the speech I am making at the moment. Basically, it was brief because it was an outline of a continuing policy. It was an outline of a policy which, in 3 years or so, hopes to correct some of the enormous problems which arose in Australia in the 3 years of socialist experiment. There have been a number of references to specific items in the Queen’s Speech. Among many other things it emphasised the Government’s determination to improve industrial relations. I suppose there could be no more significant area to which all of us should direct our efforts than industrial relations. In Australia we have an enormous potential. We will never reach that potential unless we are prepared as a total community to seek it out, unless we get back to a circumstance where initiative does reap a reward and where there is some sort of privilege for a measure of thrift. Australians must discuss intelligently rather than sneer at such things as profit in the community. In some sections of the media it is popular to sneer at the word ‘profit’ as if it is something foul. Yet whether it is an individual, a company or a State, without profit there will be no investment, no development, no productivity and no jobs. So all of us have to be adult enough to understand and admit that profit is an essential part of our community.
I make very brief mention of the Government’s continuing efforts in the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I believe its efforts are indicative of a real measure of responsibility. For the first time in some three or four years the Government has seen fit to go into the Arbitration Commission and argue a case which is relative to the capacity of an economy to pay. Quite clearly, the son of massive wage hike which has characterised 3 years of Mr Whitlam ‘s Government has been the most significant contributor to the basic problems of inflation and unemployment which confront us today. Mr Whitlam, in his 3 years in office, did not see fit to accept the responsibility of referring to the Arbitration Commission the problems of the capacity in an economy to pay. The tying of one’s self totally to the consumer price index has considerable shortcomings. I instance only one circumstance. The consumer price index can move quite dramatically because of a strong movement in one or two items. But this takes no account of the change in demand which may well and which normally does follow an extreme increase in the price of any specific item. So the CPI is not an infallible index which one can simply follow in a mechanical process and solve all the problems relating to wages. I think it is pertinent that I should quote the views expressed by the present Leader of the Opposition, Mr E. G. Whitlam. It is significant to recall these words. Among other things, in January 1975 Mr Whitlam stated:
The other thing that I wanted to say in this connection is the cause of unemployment now, and it is, frankly, the excessive wage increases. It’s always unpalatable of course for any Labor leader or any Labor member to say anything about wages and salaries about organised labour because as in Britain and New Zealand there are institutional affiliations between the Labor Party and the employees’ organisations. But one has got to be frank in these facts.
There is no point in going over the history of inflation. I don’t say that the inflation at the time that we came in or even in 1973 was due- let alone primarily due- to wage increases and claims. But it is indubitably primarily and almost solely due to wage increases and claims today.
He went on further:
The fact is that wage claims in the last 12 months have so greatly reduced the profitability of employers that they have ceased to employ as many as they used to employ. Now this is the fact. You can’t make people employ. And while things are as unprofitable as they are now: That is as long as wage and salary claims take up so much of the take and reduce profits so much as they are, then there is going to be great unemployment in Australia.
– Who said that?
– That, amongst a lot of other wise things which he said on that occasion, was a statement by the present Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam. He certainly acknowledged that the problem regarding wages and salaries is a contributor to inflation and unemployment, but he did not do as this Government is desperately trying to do and have the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission recognised as the final determiner of wages and salaries.
Earlier in my speech I said that I would refer to the other area of primary industry that needed swift attention. I indicated that in my view the development of marketing corporations of massive capacity was one move which would see the survival and growth of the family farm, the small unit and the small business in Australia. However, I want to refer now to the need to abolish estate duty as soon as possible, and that may well be this year. I admit and accept that the Liberal and National Country Parties in the late 1960s and even last year made contributions to the lowering’ of the burden of estate duty but I believe that the time has come for its abolition. It is important to recall that some 96 per cent of primary industry in Australia is in the hands of family and small company operations. On a productivity per capita basis the Australian farming community is the most efficient in the world. Farming is an occupation which is confronted with great difficulty. It is subject to the vagaries of climate and market.
In closing my remarks I call the Senate’s attention to the problems associated with estate duty and state why I believe it is time for its total abolition. I remind the Senate that federal estate duty produces something less than 0.39 per cent of total revenue; it is twice as expensive to collect as any other form of taxation; it has not had its rates changed in the 40-odd years it has been in existence; and six per cent of taxpayers provide between 35 per cent and 40 per cent of the duty that is collected. The tax is nothing more or less than one which produces the dismemberment of economic units, a dismemberment which this or any other country can ill afford.
– And the family units.
– As I said earlier, this matter concerns mainly the family units. In fact, 96 per cent of Australian primary industry is conducted by the family unit or is a family operation. So anything which tends to destroy these economic units is something which we should seriously consider abolishing. A further problem is created because of the non liquid nature of the assets involved and this, as well as other reasons, drives young people away from the land, and with them go the compounded knowledge of generations. This is a loss of a national asset and on that ground also we should consider the total abolition of this duty.
Estate duty tends to force people as they grow older to retain a significant amount of their assets in a relatively liquid form which denies development investment in the long term and job opportunities. This will be very clearly evidenced by the results of the courageous action of the Government of Queensland in abolishing this duty. Already we are seeing significant moves of investment capital and job opportunities from the southern areas of Australia to Queensland. The abolition of estate duty and the establishment of marketing corporations are significant and necessary prerequisites for the continuing development of primary industry, the family farm and the small business operation in Australia. I have pleasure in supporting the motion before us.
Debate (on motion by Senator Mulvihill) adjourned.
– by leave- I move:
That this House:
That the terms of this resolution be conveyed to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
As a result of an initiative taken at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting at Kingston in 1975 the member countries of the Commonwealth have decided that a day should be set aside each year to mark the existence and significance of the Commonwealth. That day, the first of which we shall celebrate next Monday, 14 March, shall be called Commonwealth Day.
The Commonwealth is a unique and important institution. Its 36 member nations are spread throughout the world and comprise nearly onequarter of the world ‘s population. The Commonwealth is a free association of nations characterised by a great diversity of race, language, culture and economic backgrounds. It is bound together not by force or legal restraints but by a long standing history of co-operation at many levels of Government and by a continual exchange of knowledge and experience. The very informality of the Commonwealth structure means that there is no encroachment of the sovereignty of individual members. The Commonwealth is more intimate than the United Nations and the rivalries brought by superpower relations are more distant. The Commonwealth provides a major forum in which free and uninhibited discussion can take place in a sympathetic atmosphere of friendship and equality of the problems and alternatives that face modern international society. Nowhere else, not even in the United Nations, do more than 30 heads of government come together as they do at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting and spend a week or so discussing major issues concerning the world.
The Government regards the Commonwealth as a significant force for co-operation and understanding in the international community and believes it should be used to make a real contribution to resolving contemporary international problems. We believe that the matters to be raised at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in London are so important that we have established a task force composed of all relevant departments to examine the issues and advise on how we may most effectively approach them. The Government has also initiated consultations with Commonwealth leaders in our region so that we can have the benefit of all their views. The Commonwealth is an active and important organisation that can contribute significantly to international affairs. I believe it is most fitting, that in the year of Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee, and at a time when Her Majesty is here in Australia, a decision be announced that, as from this year, Commonwealth Day will be universally recognised as being the second Monday in March. It is with much pleasure that I inform the Senate that Her Majesty the Queen will deliver her Commonwealth Day message for 1977 on 14 March.
I commend the resolution for the consideration of the House.
- Mr President, I speak very briefly now in my capacity as the Australasian Regional Councillor for the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and refer again to my visit to parliaments of the South Pacific during January. In my conversations with the representatives of each of those parliaments I discussed the matter of Commonwealth Day which had been presented to me by the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. I welcome the opportunity of commending the announcement which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) has made this afternoon. I further welcome the fact that this decision has come from the Government. The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has long been a champion of the Commonwealth and has done a great deal throughout the world for the extension not only of the Commonwealth itself but also of the standards, views and values which it maintains and upholds. This is a good move and I am pleased to support the motion.
- Mr President, I also wish to speak upon this matter very briefly. I think that the motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) has the endorsement of all members of the Senate. It should be noted- it is probably unique- that the flexibility of the components of the Commonwealth and the attitudes of its members to the various problems that have confronted the world have been the strength of the Commonwealth. I think that this was exemplified even in the conflicts which arose in South East Asia. Some members of the Commonwealth were involved and some were not. Possibly that diversity of action was a positive characteristic of the Commonwealth. On that note I commend the motion to honourable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I have received Message No. 1 from the House of Representatives requesting the concurrence of the Senate in the appointment of a Joint Committee on Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory. Copies of the message have been distributed to honourable senators.
Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveagreed to:
– I inform the Senate that I have received letters from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) and the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) nominating Senators Bonner, Cavanagh, Chaney, Coleman, Kilgariff and Robertson to be members of a Joint Committee on Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory.
Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveagreed to:
That the senators nominated be appointed members of the Joint Committee on Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory.
Senate adjourned at 4.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 March 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770310_senate_30_s72/>.