30th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present 2 petitions similar in wording from 1 30 and 36 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 1 980-8 1 , of which the Commonwealth share would be 41 per cent as recommended by the Bureau of Roads.
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 petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That Australian Government employees strenuously oppose the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill first introduced in the House of Representatives on December 8, 1976. The basis for opposition includes the following reasons:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should reject passage of any legislation to extend powers of compulsory retirement of Australian Government employees unless and until any variation has been agreed with staff representatives.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Jessop.
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, 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. by Senator Maunsell and Senator Jessop.
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled:
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Townley.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble undersigned citizens of Australia respectively showeth:
That the 1976-77 Budget allocation of $73.3m for child care amounts to less than $23 per child per year which is totally inadequate.
That in 39.4 per cent of married couple families, both parents work and of these 59 per cent have dependent children.
That 38.6 per cent of female heads of families work and of these 64 per cent have dependent children.
That present government childcare programs are heavily biassed in favour of pre-school programs, 70 per cent of the funds being destined for pre-schools which only provide part-time services for children and do not cater for the needs of working parents.
That existing government childcare facilities, schools and other government buildings which could be used for childcare programs are underutilised.
Your petitioners humbly pray that urgent consideration will be given to:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate 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 as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Baume.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr President. Is it a fact that you called 2 journalists to your office last night for the purpose of discussing with them a newspaper article concerning the recent visit to Indonesia by Senator Sim? I ask: Would you be prepared to make a statement to the Senate in respect of the matter at the earliest opportunity?
– Yes, I would be happy to make a statement on the matter to the Senate this day.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources and Minister for Overseas Trade. I refer to the front page of this morning’s Australian, where under the heading ‘Miner can’t meet uranium contract’, it is reported that Queensland Mines Ltd, owner of Nabarlek uranium deposits in the Northern Territory, cannot meet its contract to supply 300 tonnes of uranium to the Japanese this year. It is further reported that the chairman of Queensland Mines, Mr James Millner, has stated that because of the borrowing terms imposed by the Government, the interim agreement with the Federal Government to supply uranium from the government stockpile was regarded by the company as impracticable. Is that statement correct? Does the Government intend to take action to ensure that Queensland Mines can fulfil its contract under the 1972 agreement? If the 1972 agreement between the Japanese company and Queensland Mines cannot be fulfilled, will it be detrimental to any future market developed by Australia with the Japanese for the purchase of Australian uranium?
-I have received advice on this matter from my colleague the Minister for National Resources, Mr Anthony. I point out that where the first person pronoun is used it refers to Mr Anthony. Mr Anthony has advised as follows:
On Tuesday afternoon Peko-Ez informed me that the boards of their companies have decided, on legal advice, that they should bring force majeure to the notice of the Japanese electric power utilities. Yesterday I received similar advice from Queensland Mines Ltd. I note that Queensland Mines made a statement to the Stock Exchange yesterday which is reported in today’s Press.
Peko-Ez told me they sought legal advice for two reasons, the first because of the continued uncertainty surrounding development of Australia’s uranium resources exacerbated by the uncertain outcome of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, and, secondly because of the delay in reaching agreement with the Government on the terms of stockpile borrowing. Queensland Mines made similar points in its statement to the Stock Exchange.
As regards the first point, it is well known that the Government’s attitude is that final decisions on the further development of the Australian uranium industry will have to await the outcome of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry.
As regards the second point the Government has been negotiating arrangements with Peko-Ez and Queensland Mines for access to the Government ‘s stockpile to meet early deliveries under those contracts. These negotiations are continuing and we hope that they will be finalised very soon. I would not want to comment on the details of these negotiations which are still under way.
Peko-Ez told me they are expressing their hope to the Japanese utility companies that there will be a speedy and satisfactory resolution of the present situation and that it will be possible to establish a mutually rewarding long term relationship between them and the Japanese companies. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the possible outcome of ongoing commercial relationships between Australian companies and their overseas customers.
As regards the Government’s attitude to the approved export contracts, I repeat what I said in my statement to the Parliament on 25 February 1976, namely, that the Government would wish to see honoured those contracts for supply of uranium entered into prior to December 1972 and confirmed by the Whitlam Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Can the Minister inform the Parliament how many Aboriginal health aides are employed in Victoria? Are salaries paid through the Victorian Department of Health and is the funding through the Commonwealth Government? Can the Minister also advise when the aides were first employed and to which centres they are attached?
– The honourable senator has asked several specific questions. I suggest that they be placed on notice so that the appropriate information can be given.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Education and refers to a report from South Australia that at least 3 colleges of advanced education are likely to face closure or absorption as a result of the submission made by the South Australian Board of Advanced Education to a State Government committee of inquiry? Has the Minister seen the report, has he any knowledge of it, or has his Department any information concerning it? If so, does the report suggest that the discipline of advanced education is undergoing a major change and that there might be too many tertiary education institutions? If the reported recommendations are accepted, how will this affect the Government’s funding program in this area?
– I have seen the report. My understanding is that the South Australian Government, which has a very direct constitutional responsibility regarding all aspects of education, specifically colleges of advanced education, some time ago set up the Anderson Committee of Inquiry into aspects of higher education. That Committee of Inquiry is proceeding in that State, as are similar State inquiries in some other States. My understanding is that the
South Australian Board of Education has made a submission to the Anderson Committee and that the status of the report is simply that it is a submission from that Board. I do not want to comment upon the merits or otherwise of the submissions of the Board. My Government and I will be very interested, as will the South Australian Government, in the final report of the Anderson Committee.
So putting aside the Board ‘s submission, I say this: The previous Government and this Government have accepted some evidence that in Australia there may be a relatively small number of institutions, being colleges of advanced education, which could be improved in a variety of ways in terms of co-ordination or rationalisation. In Tasmania a form of co-ordination and rationalisation has been proceeding, and has occurred already in some respects in Victoria and elsewhere. This is what is under review in South Australia at the moment. I do not want in any way to pre-empt the findings of the Anderson Committee. In any case, when we set up the new co-ordinating commission within the next month, one of the main concerns of the commission will be to work in conjunction with the States to achieve in the end the best institutions we can in terms of quality so that they deliver the highest quality of education that is possible.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate why he allowed himself to be party to a device in putting down a very important statement on the problems that the uranium producers are facing. In answer to a question, which obviously was not a question without notice, he put down a statement that ought to be debated at length in the Senate. Is he prepared to ask the Minister responsible to put down a full statement which can be debated in this place?
-I think the honourable senator has a misunderstanding about question time. As I understand it, questions without notice are questions which do not appear on the notice paper. They are not necessarily questions by which one attempts to ambush Ministers. The honourable senator no doubt will know that a number of honourable senators on both sides of this chamber genuinely seek information when asking questions. I was under the impression that that was the purpose of question time. Those honourable senators advise the Minister of their question beforehand so that a factual, sensible, proper and detailed answer to their question can be given. They are the honourable senators who are genuinely seeking information, not those who indulge in the blood sport of trying to shoot down Ministers by ambushing them with questions. Questions at question time fall into those 2 categories. I do not think I have lent myself into any device. As I understand it Senator Kilgariff is interested in uranium because some of the uranium mines, or all the uranium mines, are in the Territory which he represents.
– Not yet, and that was the purpose of the question.
-That shows my lack of knowledge. I would not have minded if Senator Robertson from the Northern Territory had come to me and said that he wanted information on this matter.
– I do not get the same answer though, do I?
– The honourable senator would have been given the same answer. I think it is fair to say that I do not try to play politics with my answers when people are genuinely seeking information. I have always believed that the proper purpose of question time is for honourable senators to obtain information which they cannot obtain by any means other than asking questions at question time. I do not object to the blood sport side of question time either. If it were not for the blood sport aspect people would have a fairly dull day in the Parliament day in and day out. I think that answers the first part of the question.
As to the second part of the question, I shall certainly ask my colleague the Minister for National Resources whether he will consider the honourable senator’s request to put down a fully detailed statement in both Houses of Parliament on Peko-EZ about which I have answered a question this morning, so that the statement may be debated by the Parliament.
– I ask the Minister for Science a question. I refer to the question on notice which I asked on 16 February this year regarding the nature and extent of solar energy research in Australia and the Government’s actions in and support for that research. Will the Minister make a ministerial statement on the subject providing for public information the detailed information which he has given to me by letter? Alternatively, will he have the letter incorporated in Hansard?
– I am aware of the reply which the honourable senator received. I believe the information he was given is valuable. Basically, it points out the interest which the
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has in relation to solar energy research. As the honourable senator’s question sought some indication of the amount of money flowing to research in other areas, an attempt was made to give that information where it was available. For instance, indication was given that in this year some $862,300 would be spent by CSIRO in a variety of ways. The Australian Research Grants Committee has approved grants this year for various items such as selective surfaces as solar energy absorbers, photo-voltaic and thermo-electric conversion of solar energy to electricity, solar energy concentrators, solar energy systems evaluation, and heat and mass transfer theory applied to solar air conditioning. All these matters are particularly important. I mention them because in the areas of research which may be undertaken from time to time in various universities it is obvious that the Federal Government, in a variety of ways, is supporting the solar energy research which is taking place. The honourable senator asked whether it would be appropriate to incorporate in Hansard the answer that he received. Perhaps it would be acceptable to the Senate if, within the next few weeks, I attempted to put down a statement relating to research on solar energy which could be the basis for some discussion by those who are interested in the subject.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, refers to the unemployment and sickness benefits section of the Department, particularly in Victoria. Is it a fact that a recent survey showed that only 7 per cent of telephone inquiries to the unemployment and sickness benefits section in Victoria are successful? Is it a fact that members of the staff in this section are having to work at least 2 nights a week overtime in almost every week? Is it also a fact that counter officers in this Department have been physically assaulted as a result, they believe, of the frustration caused by the present staff ceilings, and that legal actions are not taken against those who assault officers? Is it also a fact that the high turnover of staff in the section, the subject of question and answer between the Minister and myself earlier this year, is continuing? Finally, what progress has been made in the review of staff ceilings in this section of her Department, which is, as she knows, a growing area with the increasing number of people on unemployment benefits?
-Many points were raised by the honourable senator in his question. I ask that it be placed on notice. I will respond to each point in turn with the information required.
– My question, addressed to the Minister for Science, relates to an article on the front page of the Australian today that states that Australia is likely to lose its grip on Antarctic ore reserves. Has the Minister any knowledge of any ores that have been located either on Macquarie Island or on the Antarctic territory? How does the $6.3m that Australia spends on the Antarctic Division relate to money spent by other countries? Finally, is it the policy of the Department to increase research expenditure in the Antarctic?
-The honourable senator returned in the last few days from one of our bases in Antarctica. Undoubtedly that visit will generate more interest on his part on behalf of his State of Tasmania because of the importance of Macquarie Island as one of our bases. The question of mineral exploration and exploitation in the Antarctic was first raised at the seventh Antarctic Treaty consultative committee meeting in Wellington in 1972, so the matter has been under consideration for some time. It was raised again at the eighth meeting held in Oslo in 1975 and was the subject of a special preparatory meeting in Paris during 1 976. It was agreed that scientific work to provide the background for exploration could be undertaken but no exploration would be undertaken until the matter had been further considered at a Treaty meeting. I am uncertain whether the honourable senator referred to an article in one of the news media today. My reading of the general thrust of the argument gave me the impression that it suggested that Australia needs to spend more money on its Antarctic research. Obviously that is a matter for the Government.
I think this Government and previous Governments gave reasonable support to our Antarctic research expeditions. The Budget for 1976-77 provides approximately $7.5m for this purpose. The cost of sending our ships to the Antarctic is particularly high. Indeed, I had to seek an increase of approximately $500,000 for that extra work. There is always repair work to be done on our bases. Nearly $500,000 is required this year for additional repair work to several of our bases. A great deal more money will be required in forthcoming years to sustain our bases.
– I take a point of order. I am cranky enough this morning to put this point of order to you, Mr President. Senator Webster is presenting a case that he intends to present to Cabinet for a further allocation of money to the Department of Science. He has been doing that continually over the past week. This is a misuse of question time. He ought to give sufficient information to answer a question, and no more.
– No point of order arises. I call Senator Webster.
– I completely agree with the honourable senator when he says that he is cranky this morning and when he says that I am anxious to press for more funds for the Antarctic. I am pleased to say that that is so. However, a variety of comments were made in that article. A number of news reporters were able to travel to our Antarctic base for the first time, I understand, in the history of our involvement there. I have no doubt that the interest being shown by the public generally and the concentrated interest of large nations in resources and scientific research in the Antarctic will be such that it will generate further interest and result in extra finance being spent by all countries on that great continent.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science. Unfortunately it is on the same subject as the previous question. I ask: Is it a fact that Australia is one of the 7 signatories to the Antarctic Agreement of 1959 which has certain territorial claims in the Antarctic? Is it a fact that five other nations, which include both the United States and the Soviet Union, believe that there should be no territorial claims by any individual nation under that agreement? Is it a fact that at the forthcoming meeting to which the Minister referred in his previous answer, one nation, Argentina, will ask that no agreements be entered into on mineral or mining rights in the Antarctic until such time as this matter has been resolved at the next consultative committee meeting? Is the Australian Government taking a firm stand that the sovereignty of Australia’s claims in the Antarctic are not negotiable? If that is the case, has Australia closed any chance of an agreement being reached with those nations which argue that no individual nation has a right to exclusive mineral claims in the Antarctic?
– I appreciate the honourable senator’s question. He implied that I might not be giving sufficient information in the general answers I give to questions. The matters raised by Senator Wriedt are important. I believe that the main thrust of the matter goes beyond the interests of my portfolio and becomes an international legal question. That is a situation in which other portfolios, besides my own, have an interest. I have no doubt that the honourable senator will acknowledge that. In the four or five parts of his question the general thrust is whether there is a challenge to the title to the land and to the mineral rights on the continent of Antarctica. I feel that this is a matter which is best not answered at question time. I shall consider bringing forward a paper on the matter.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry advise whether there has yet been an assessment of the Australian Dairy Corporation’s butter promotion with a view to seeing whether as a result there has been any apparent sustained increase in the sale of butter? Does the Minister consider that the $ lm spent by the ADC and the manufacturers has been spent advantageously to the farmer?
-It will come as an immense surprise to honourable senators to know that I have an answer to that question. I have been informed by the Australian Dairy Corporation, on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry, that the response to the 6 weeks’ butter promotion campaign conducted by the Corporation, which ended on 5 March, was encouraging, but that it is too early to quantify results. As with any marketing campaign it is extremely difficult to relate results to expenditure. It will not be possible to gauge the overall results of the campaign until a suitable period has elapsed following the termination of the promotion in order that the sales pattern of butter can be correctly gauged. The effect on the long term consumption of butter will not be capable of being determined for a period yet. The Corporation will undertake a complete review of its activities. I think we will all agree that it is pleasing to see the Corporation take up this activity.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer to the fact that it was the practice for many years of the now defunct Australian Broadcasting Control Board to conduct public surveys of attitudes to television. The Minister will no doubt recall that the questionnaires which comprised those surveys for a number of years contained questions relating to the control of advertising and other matters on commercial television. Is the Minister aware that those surveys showed that 75 per cent to 85 per cent of Australian people interviewed favoured some control over the amount and content of advertising on commercial television? I ask the Minister: In the current survey which is being conducted into attitudes to television has the question in the questionnaire relating to the control of advertising been deleted? Was the question relating to the control of advertising deleted at the instigation of the new chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal? In explaining his action, has the chairman of the Tribunal said that the question in relation to control of advertising was confusing to people? If so, how did the chairman of the Tribunal arrive at that conclusion?
-Senator Button has asked whether I am aware of the practice of the former Australian Broadcasting Control Board of conducting surveys and putting out questionnaires. The answer is yes. I was an active member of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts which for a number of years inquired into all aspects of television and broadcasting. On frequent occasions the Control Board appeared before that Committee and gave evidence in detail. So I am aware of this practice. However, as to whether the result of those questionnaires showed that 75 per cent to 85 per cent of people were in favour of controls on advertising I am unaware but, of course, there were and still are controls on advertising. The nature and amount of advertising are controlled by the present authority as they were controlled in the past. So I am very well aware of the public attitude and the Government’s attitude in this regard. I am not aware of those matters which Senator Button has raised relating to actions taken by the present chairman of the Tribunal. If the position is as Senator Button has stated it I will direct the attention of the Minister to it and see whether we can get specific answers to the questions posed.
– I ask a supplementary question. In answering my question the Minister said that he was aware of the public attitude and the Government’s attitude towards the control of advertising on commercial television. I ask: What is the Government’s attitude towards control of advertising on commercial television?
-That is a matter that should be stated by the Minister concerned and I will direct the question to him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. In view of the fact that the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly voted this week to ban private abortion clinics in the Australian Capital Territory at least for 90 days while a committee of the Assembly looks at the question, why is it that in the latest issue of the Canberra telephone directory which was distributed in Parliament House last week the Department of Social Security has listed the Abortion Counselling Service in the Department’s help reference page? Is the Minister or her Department aware that the Australian Capital Territory Abortion Counselling Service makes no secret of the fact that it acts as a referral agency for private abortion clinics in Sydney and Melbourne and recently described Dr Davis of Population Services International (Australasia) Ltd as a good abortionist? In view of the Legislative Assembly’s great concern about private abortion clinics, and about Population Services International in particular, will the Minister give an assurance that the Government by publicising the Abortion Counselling Service in that section of the telephone directory relating to its own services is not providing an endorsement for this or any other private abortion organisation?
– The honourable senator prefaced her question by saying ‘in view of the fact that the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly voted this week to ban private abortion clinics’, and then asked why it is that the latest edition of the Canberra telephone directory lists an abortion service on the help reference page of the Department of Social Security. I see no relationship between the 2 matters. The Department of Social Security has a complete page in the telephone directory which lists many organisations which provide services or are directly related to the work of my Department. For example, there is listed the telephone number of the Abortion Counselling and Rape Crisis Centre as well as the telephone numbers of the Pregnancy Support Service of Canberra and other welfare organisations. I am aware through the Minister for the Capital Territory of the action by the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly with regard to the discussion that is to be held on private abortions but the Department of Social Security publishes the telephone numbers listed in the hope that they will be of service. We hope equally that in the future we will be able to provide further information in foreign languages and list as an emergency number the Telephone Interpreter Service. In providing these numbers for ready reference, the Department has been able to have one page reserved for it in telephone directories. The honourable senator asked whether the Minister or her Department is aware of the matters that were raised in the question. I am not aware of the matters that have been raised and I have no information that would indicate whether my Department is or is not aware of them, but I will make inquiries on the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Government considering relaxing the merino ram export embargo? Can the Minister give an assurance that the Government will abide by the decisions of the wool growers, as expressed in the referendum in 1973, until such time as the wool growers of Australia are able to express a contrary viewpoint?
-I had something to do with merino ram export when I was Minister for Civil Aviation, but those days are long gone. I do not know what the current position is. I know that the industry is taking an interest in the matter. What the Minister’s position is I really cannot undertake to tell the honourable senator at the moment. I will just have to ask him and find out as best I can what is the current state of play. As always in this field though there are 2 groups of people, those who want to export and those who do not want to export. Life has not changed, I think.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources and Minister for Overseas Trade. Are Press reports correct that the South Australian Government has made a request to the Federal Government for financial assistance to establish a petrochemical plant at Redcliff in South Australia? Can the Minister state what companies and financial structure will be involved in the proposed establishment at Redcliff? What is the estimated cost and how much Federal aid is sought? Has the Minister seen the results of any feasibility and environmental studies in relation to the proposed project?
-It is understood that Dow Chemical (Australia) Ltd continues to show interest in the Redcliff petrochemical proposal. In fact it is believed that it is talking to the South Australian Government at the present time. Government financial assistance may well be necessary in this project, especially in regard to some aspects of infrastructure. This would be primarily a matter for the State Government. Any consideration of Commonwealth involvement in this regard would certainly require the submission of full details of the development proposal. No such proposal has been received by the Federal Government at this time, nor has the Federal Government received any results of any feasibility information or environmental studies from Dow Chemical.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. Has the Minister been made aware of the hardship of many aged migrants who do not qualify for a pension because of the 10-year residence requirement that is set down in the Social Services Act? Will the Minister give an assurance that this matter will be included in the discussions on the Budget proposals with the object of reducing the time period of residence necessary to qualify for an aged or invalid pension?
-Undoubtedly there would be numbers of aged migrants who do not qualify for pension benefits because of residence requirements. I am not able to say that it is a matter that has had detailed consideration by me, nor am I able to give an assurance that this matter would be included in the discussions on the Budget proposals. A range of benefits and pensions are available to Australian people who do qualify through residence, age or some other form of eligibility. I have not given detailed consideration to widening the eligibility provisions in terms of those people who do not meet the present residence requirements. I have been looking at arrangements for reciprocity of pensions with overseas countries from which these migrants may have come. As is known, there is a very generous system of portability of pensions, but at this stage I have not given any detailed consideration to amending the existing residence requirements.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Education. I refer to a report in this morning’s Canberra Times dealing with a Public Service Board review of ancillary staff for Australian Capital Territory schools. According to this report, the Australian Capital Territory Teachers Federation has said that the review provides for 61 more ancillary staff at Australian Capital Territory schools and for longer working hours. Is the Minister aware that the report in the Canberra Times indicates that at a meeting called by the Teachers Federation yesterday, it was decided by vote that the Minister should, as I understand it from the report, have until 22 April to implement the recommendations of the report and if this does not happen the Federation’s council has been asked to call a stoppage to consider further action? Can the Minister indicate what action he will take on these matters in the interests of education in the Australian Capital Territory?
-In the interest of education in the Australian Capital Territory we will proceed with all expedition but with all thoroughness to get the right result. In fact, we will not be deflected in that by ultimata of any kind. I have made it perfectly clear that we will assist in every way we can to get an effective and speedy result. I think I have made it clear that we will respond to good and intelligent discussion but not to any kind of duress. I repeat that. The simple situation is this: I saw representatives of the unions concerned and of the Australian Capital Territory Teachers Federation late last week. I undertook to ask the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority to speed up the discussions with the Public Service Board and the unions concerned. I understand that this is being done. I want to impress upon people that there is no virtue in speed or pressure for the sake of speed or pressure. What is a virtue is to get the right results in the end. What has happened is that a staff utilisation review has been made. My understanding is that it was basically a very sound review and is accepted as such. The Public Service Board, following its own protocol and principles, has not published the results of the review but it has circularised them to those who are concerned. The results of the review are available to the key people in that regard. I notice that the Teachers Federation has published what purports to be a summary of the results of the review, and so has the Canberra Times. The Government and I are as anxious as anyone to get good results in the end. To achieve that end we will urge proper expedition in discussions. I am not interested in setting rigid timetables to achieve that end.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate for conveyance to either the Prime Minister or the Foreign Minister. It concerns the fact that 100 years ago this week Caroline Chisholm died. She was well known in the 1840s as the first exponent of the functions of a good neighbour immigration service for women who came to this country, some as ticket of leave prisoners and others as bonded servants. It is reported that she lies in a grave in Northamptonshire that is neglected. I ask the Minister: Cannot the Australian Government at least lay a wreath on her grave, if not make a contribution towards giving a decent grave to this woman who left Australia a better place than she found it?
– As honourable senators will know, my colleague Senator Chaney has asked me a question on this matter although not exactly along the same lines. Senator Mulvihill has pursued the idea. I shall take up with my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs the question of whether arrangements can be made for the laying of a wreath on Mrs Chisholm ‘s grave. I understand that the 100th anniversary of her death will fall next week. Suggestions have been made about doing something with the grave. We are looking at that matter. However, hardly a day goes by when most Australians would not have their attention drawn to this woman because her profile is depicted on the Australian $5 note. Perhaps that is a better way to commemorate this woman than erecting some marble 12 000 miles away which really has no significance in bringing to the attention of Australians all the time the great working career of this very famous Australian woman. She is perhaps the most famous of all Australian women to date. I will take up the matter. I appreciate the interest of a number of honourable senators. I will see what I can do.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen a statement yesterday by one of the aspiring leaders of the Opposition, the honourable member for Oxley, to the effect that Australia could face another currency devaluation? The statement is reported at page 506 of the House of Representatives Hansard. In view of the uncertainty which such irresponsible statements create in the field of industry and commerce will the Minister reassure the Australian people that no such step is contemplated by the Government in the immediate future?
– The honourable member for Oxley is the Opposition’s problem, not mine. I think the Senate understands my general view on these sorts of speculations. I would have thought such speculation is extremely unwise. I should imagine the honourable member’s odds have lengthened considerably.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, refers to pension allowances for wives and children of repatriation beneficiaries and to the recent statement issued by the Minister dated 10 March which indicates the increases in the main repatriation pensions to apply from 5 May. I ask: As no mention was made in that announcement of a possible increase in the allowance to which I have referred, has the Minister decided not to increase those rates? I draw to the Minister’s attention the fact that it is some years since those rates were adjusted. There is certainly a need to have regard to them. Will the Minister indicate whether he has rejected the increases or are they the subject of a review by him?
– The statement referred to by Senator Bishop was issued by me and it concerns the automatic increase in the main repatriation disability pensions and Services pensions following the 6-monthly review of the consumer price index. This is in line with the automatic provision which took effect under legislation passed by this Parliament last year in implementation of Government policy. The reason that there is no reference to or any increase announced for dependants’ allowances as they are known is that the legislation refers only to the major penions and does not provide for indexation of the dependants’ allowances. A number of other allowances of one kind or another are not indexed either. In that sense it is correct to say that no increase will take place in the dependants’ allowances. There has been no decision in that regard and so no reference to it was made in the statement.
I point out that the Government and other governments, including the Government of which Senator Bishop was a member, have taken the view that the necessarily limited resources of government in this area are better concentrated on providing for increases in the major disability pensions and Service pensions rather than spreading them too widely over a whole host of allowances which, of course, would include the allowance to which Senator Bishop refers. These allowances are the subject of recommendations by the inquiry conducted by Mr Justice Toose. He has made some recommendations in relation to the future of such allowances. These recommendations, along with all his other recommendations, are at present being considered by a special task force of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. When decisions are made in these matters I shall announce them.
-Would the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunicatons agree that it would be more equitable if all telephone calls throughout Australia were charged on a time of call basis rather than on a distance between regions basis? Is the Minister aware that equipment is available to enable introduction of a charging system based on a time of call? Would the Minister consider directing Telecom to spend some of its huge profits on that equipment?
-Whilst I have no doubt that what the honourable senator asserts sounds and probably is very sensible, it would be a braver soul than I who would enter into that kind of decision making. In any case, it is a matter for the Minister concerned, so I forgo the luxury of adjudicating on the first part of the question, although recognising that it is a sensible question and one that needs investigation. I am not aware that the equipment is available. I will ask my colleague the Minister to have a look at the matter. I note that Senator Lewis referred to the very large profits of Telecom. Some defensive mechanism within me makes me respond by saying that the figures as they have been represented in public disguise the fact that within that area Telecom is required to make very large contributions towards capital funds for its development. Therefore it is not a true construction of net profit to look at the gross figure which was traded around the countryside. Nevertheless, having said that, I will transmit the honourable senator’s question to the Minister concerned.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence: Is it the intention of the Government to retrench all or most civilian employees at the Edinburgh air base in Adelaide by June of next year?
-I will have to seek detailed information from my colleague in the other place, and that I will do.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Does the Minister recall whether or not the Liberal and National Country parties while in opposition repeatedly warned the Labor Government of potential abuses inherent in the Medibank proposals, particularly in association with bulk billing? In spite of honest operation by most doctors, does it now appear that a small percentage of doctors and patients are regularly abusing Medibank, as we predicted would be inevitable? Can the Minister advise what measures might now be necessary to create proper controls and sanctions to prevent, detect and adequately punish any dishonest practices in the health insurance area?
– I believe it was accepted that there could be abuse of Medibank, just as many health schemes in other countries have suffered from abuse of some of the provisions within their schemes. The Minister for Health has stated that some 32 cases are under investigation and that these represent a very small minority of the 20 000 doctors in Australia. The Minister has stated that he has instituted a complete review of bulk billing in respect of services provided to patients other than pensioners and their dependants and repatriation beneficiaries. I think it is known also that the Government has been concerned about the abuse of bulk billing related to pathology services and has already implemented measures to curb abuse and over-use of those services. I believe that everyone would accept that it is a fequirement of the Health Insurance Commission to see that there is no abuse of a system which is costly to the people of Australia, as such abuse would defeat the purpose of having the universal health cover which we now enjoy.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs and refer to an answer which he gave yesterday on United States policy toward East Timor. I ask the Minister: Is he aware that Mr Oakley, the United States official whom he quoted yesterday, stated to the United States congressional hearing on East Timor this morning Australian time that the United States did not formally recognise the incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia. In view of this position, as stated by Mr Oakley, will the Minister ascertain the attitude of the United States from the United States authorities and inform the Senate accordingly?
-I shall do that, Mr President.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and refers to the situation in East Timor, which has been raised already by Senator Primmer. I point out to the Minister that the eyes of the world are on
Australia in this matter, which is at present before a congressional committee in the United States. It appears that information is being given to that committee that was not fully made known to the Australian Parliament. I ask the Minister: Is it true that the Government does not consider the East Timorese to be refugees but to be evacuees? Can the Minister explain the meaning of the term ‘evacuees’ and differentiate between it and the word ‘refugees’? Will the Minister reconsider the heartless application of medical grounds for rejection of applications, especially as effective medical treatment for these people does exist here? Further, will the Minister review the occupational criterion that is applied in order to adopt a more humanitarian attitude towards this tragic problem?
– In recent days I have answered several questions on this matter. I think some of the matters mentioned in the honourable senator’s question have been raised already in questions and answers have been given on them. I suggest that the specific questions that have been raised today be placed on notice so that definitive answers can be given by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services. Whilst members of the Senate are aware that the Minister acknowledges that he does not read newspapers, the reading of newspapers is nevertheless to other members of the Senate, especially those from the distant States, the only way of keeping in touch with what is happening to their constituents. I ask: Is the Minister aware, therefore, that when Western Australian members do not receive Tuesday night’s newspaper, together with the newspapers for Wednesday morning and Wednesday night until Thursday afternoon, it limits the degree of responsibility they can accept on behalf of those constituents? What happened this week is not an isolated case but is now being accepted as the norm. Will the Minister therefore investigate the situation and, whatever the problem is, endeavour to find the solution?
– I cannot see how I can investigate a matter which is none of my business. I thought the honourable senator would have been here long enough to know that newspaper deliveries here are your business, Mr President, and not mine. Last week I answered a question asked by Senator Walters about Tasmanian newspapers. I thought that if the honourable senator were so addicted to reading newspapers she would most probably be addicted also to reading Hansard. She would then have read my answer, in which I said that I am responsible for newspapers in members ‘ electorate offices but not within Parliament House. I understand, Mr President, you are responsible for buying newspapers and delivering them. Therefore, I suggest that the honourable senator should apply to our local newsagent, the honourable President.
– I am having this matter investigated with a view to providing a more satisfactory delivery of newspapers. I did that following the question asked last week by Senator Walters. A similar question has been raised now by Senator Coleman. I hope that next week I shall have some firm advising in respect of this matter.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and arises from a speech made by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs to the Rural Press Club on 10 March, in which he stated:
It remains the general policy of the Government that no assistance to industry will be given without prior resort to the inquiry procedures specified in the Industries Assistance Commission Act.
Does this mean that the Government has abandoned its Ministerial Review Committee procedure for providing additional secret protection for Australian firms tendering for Government contracts, which was outlined in an Australian Financial Review editorial headed ‘A Licence to Steal ‘ on 4 October? How many times has the Ministerial Review Committee met? Is the Minister the convenor of that Committee? How many decisions have been made?
-I shall consider whether that question should be answered. It refers to a sub-committee of Cabinet. Normally, things that happens in Cabinet committees are not disclosed.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. It is partly associated with her capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that there is no government assistance for research into the causes of multiple sclerosis? As approximately 1 1 600 Australians suffer from this disease and allied diseases can the Minister say whether the Government proposes taking any action to correct this apparent anomaly? Is it a fact that Australian multiple sclerosis societies are funded largely by voluntary agencies? As multiple sclerosis tends to become manifest in the early 30s and as this severely affects the family as well as the patient, can the Minster say whether any special welfare provisions apply for people suffering from this chronic condition?
– The amount of funds made available in 1977 by the Commonwealth Department of Health under its national health and medical research program total approximately $22,000. This research is regarded by the Government as of great importance in the study of multiple sclerosis. I assure the Senate that the Government will continue to encourage medical research into this disabling disease within the limits of available resources for research in forthcoming Budgets. With regard to other assistance, my Department, through the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service, provides rehabilitation for patients suffering from this illness provided that they meet the eligibility requirements of being capable of undergoing treatment through rehabilitation services and then undertaking gainful employment and that they are eligible to receive a pension under the Social Services Act.
The organisations which assist multiple sclerosis societies largely are voluntary organisations. In many cases they have sought recognition under the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act which would give them a degree of stability in funding that they do not enjoy at present. With one notable exception, in Queensland I think, I have not been able to find that these organisations are eligible for assistance under this Act. Most of the work they are doing is medically orientated and more in the form of treatment than vocational rehabilitation. I have been able to approve one small grant for part of a unit in Queensland. Applications from other organisations will be seriously considered to see whether they are eligible under the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act for funding in either capital or current expenditure areas.
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. Has the Government been advised that unless there is co-operation from the States the Federal Government’s federalism policy with respect to allowing individual States to impose income tax surcharges could become virtually unworkable? Does the Minister concur with this view? If so, what indication has he received concerning the views of individual States on the income tax surcharge proposals?
– The imposition of stage 2 of the federal proposals on revenue sharing will be discussed at the Premiers Conference on 12 and 13 April. There has been some suggestion that unless all the States concur it will not be possible to bring about stage 2. In fact, there is a viewpoint to the contrary, that it would be possible for the Commonwealth to act unilaterally in this matter. Let me make it perfectly clear: Whether a State elects in the future to impose an income tax surcharge will be a matter entirely for its own decision and discretion in the same way as it is a matter for the States at the moment to decide whether to impose the massive array of indirect taxes and charges that they impose today. What is not understood, because the belief is peddled that the Commonwealth is the great taxing agent, is that the States and local government together today spend more than one-half of all public finance in Australia. They are in fact the big spenders collectively and not the small mendicants. It is possible for the States to impose very wide ranges of taxes, indirect and potentially otherwise. That decision will lie with them, as always. They can, if they wish, expand their revenue. They can cut taxes. I am not to give a definitive view whether the legal views on the unilateral ability of the Commonwealth to act lies one way or the other. I merely say to the honourable senator that it is my understanding that the Commonwealth could act unilaterally and that, if it did, it would be possible for the States to impose a surcharge if they wanted to. But, in any case, that luxury of discretion always will be available to them.
-I want to follow up the question asked of Senator Carrick by Senator Colston. Am I correct in understanding him to say that the Commonwealth has before it 2 different opinions in respect of the constitutional position of the States in respect of stage 2 of federalism and the collection of an income tax? If that is the position can he indicate which of those 2 opinions the Federal Government intends to act upon and adopt as its position at the forthcoming Premiers Conference?
– That is not what I invite Senator Wriedt to understand. I said that there was a public dialogue and that is quite different from the Government having 2 opinions before it. I acknowledge that some people have said in public dialogue that the Commonwealth could not act unilaterally but that I understood that the Government had an alternative view. The viewpoint that the Government proposes will be put forward and will be known at the Premiers Conference. In case anyone has any doubt in this matter I repeat that what is intended is to facilitate what the States have always asked and that is that they should have available to them a wider array of tax-raising potential than in the past. All States have asked for that ability and that will be facilitated. Whether they want to use one or other weapon in that armoury will be a matter for the States themselves. It will not be for the States to say that we are forcing anything upon them. It is fair to say that in recent High Court decisions there is now revealed a very substantially greater potential for the States in indirect taxation. The armoury potentially is already there for the States. The States today have a very wide capacity to raise revenue just as they had the capacity to cut taxes in recent Budgets.
– I ask the Minister for Administrative Services whether he is aware of the disquiet and the anxiety among the Australian Capital Territory drivers of the Commonwealth car fleet because of as yet unsubstantiated statements that responsibility for the Commonwealth car fleet in the Australian Capital Territory is to be taken over by his Department? In view of the uncertainty and concern of the drivers as to their future employment can the Minister make a statement to clarify the position?
-That is a reasonable and sensible request and I will take the matter up with my colleague, Mr Staley. If something is to be announced perhaps we ought to put a statement down in the Parliament. I will see whether that can be done for the honourable senator.
-Yesterday Senator Cavanagh asked me a question concerning an ordinance providing for the independence of magistrates in the Australian Capital Territory. I have noticed that the Attorney-General answered a similar question in the House of Representatives yesterday, a fact of which I was unaware when Senator Cavanagh asked me the question. I understand from the AttorneyGeneral that an ordinance dealing with the magistracy in the Territory and providing for independence or emphasising the fact that magistrates have independence from the Public Service has been in the course of preparation and printing and it is hoped that it will come into force tomorrow.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the third seminar on International Trade Law organised by the Attorney-General’s Department and held at the Academy of Science, Canberra, on 19 and 20 June 1976.
-On behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts I present the one hundred and sixtysecond report of the Committee relating to an inquiry into the financial administration of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– I move:
The one hundred and sixty-second report relates to the Committee’s inquiry into the financial administration of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. The Committee considers it important to emphasise that this inquiry presented a number of problems which were exceptional and unique. For example, it was the first time, the Committee believes, that the relationship between a Minister and his permanent head had been aired in public before a committee of the Parliament. It was also the first time that a Minister of State had appeared before the Public Accounts Committee. Furthermore there were occasions during the inquiry when conflicting evidence was given by witnesses of particular events which occurred in relation to the matters under review, thus making it more difficult for the Committee to determine what in fact had happened and, where appropriate, to apportion responsibility. Despite these problems the final report of the Committee was accepted unanimously.
The inquiry was originally undertaken by the ninth Committee following the tabling of a special report by the Auditor-General on 5 March 1974 which dealt specifically with deficiencies in the financial and administrative control over the receipts and expenditure of public moneys by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. The delay in tabling the report in Parliament is due to 2 double dissolutions which necessitated 3 reconstructions of the Committee in the period 8 April 1974 to 14 January 1977. It is the practice of the Committee to conduct inquiries in depth. Consequently, submissions were requested from the Department on all matters raised by the Auditor-General in his report, while submissions on specific matters were also requested from the Department of the Treasury, the Public Service Board, the Australian National University, Captain S. J. Benson, C.B.E., Applied Ecology Pty Ltd and the Department of Transport. Evidence was heard from witnesses in relation to all submissions, with the exception of the Department of the Treasury, whose submission was considered to be self explanatory.
On 4 December 1974 the former Minister, the Honourable G. M. Bryant, E.D., informed the Chairman by letter that he wished to appear before the Committee to present evidence in relation to the inquiry in the form of a submission. Mr Bryant appeared before the Committee on 6 December 1974 and tendered a comprehensive submission based on all the minutes of evidence and all the submissions presented by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to that date. He was invited to make a statement in relation to his submission and he did so. Due to the comprehensive and self-explanatory submission presented by Mr Bryant, the Committee considered that it would not examine him in relation to it. Following the tendering of Mr Bryant’s submission Mr Dexter, the permanent head of the Department, of his own volition, submitted a further statement on 24 December 1974, commenting on matters raised by Mr Bryant. During the drafting stages of this report the eleventh Committee invited Mr Byrant to make written comments on Mr Dexter ‘s statement of 24 December 1974. These comments were received on 4 and 10 November 1976. Mr Bryant included in his submission statements criticising the AuditorGeneral’s method of reporting. After considering these statements and the advice given by the Auditor-General to the Committee, the Committee could see no reason why it should suggest or recommend any change to the AuditorGeneral ‘s present reporting procedures.
Mr Bryant also drew the Committee’s attention to 4 instances where departmental witnesses gave incorrect information to the Committee concerning his involvement in the setting of the date for the National Aboriginal Consultative
Committee elections, the claim that the Department was unaware of expenditure commitments entered into by Captain Benson until the accounts were received, the number of blankets purchased directly by his office and the date the Department was informed of the proposal to purchase landing craft. The report fully covers the circumstances of each case. The Committee took a view that Mr Bryant and the staff of his ministerial office were a single entity for the purposes of the inquiry. It was apparent to the Committee from the evidence given that both Mr Bryant and Mr Dexter had similar views on their powers and responsibilities under section 64 of the Constitution and section 25 (2) of the Public Service Act respectively, but that in the exercising of those powers and responsibilities there were significant differences.
It is axiomatic that a Minister is answerable to the Parliament for the administration of his Department under the doctrine of ministerial responsibility and has the power to intervene in the day to day affairs of his Department. Nevertheless, the Committee believes it is important that effective lines of communication be maintained between Ministers, departmental heads and their departments. The Committee’s main conclusions are contained in chapters 14 and 15 although conclusions on specific matters appear at the end of chapters 2 to 13. The main conclusions reached by the Committee in this report are:
The Permanent Head of a Department shall be responsible for its general working, and for all the business thereof, and shall advise the Minister in all matters relating to the Department.
Thus the Committee believes that the permanent head is responsible for the organisation, supervision and control of the day to day financial administration of his Department. Mr Dexter must therefore assume responsibility for his Department’s failure in this regard.
Board bears certain responsibility for subsequent events.
In making the comments and criticisms that appear in this report, the Committee has given due weight to the problems and difficulties faced by the Department, particularly in the early period of its development. Nevertheless, the Committee is not convinced that the Department’s problems, unique as some of them may have been, could not have been overcome by a greater degree of co-operation between the Minister and his permanent head and handled expeditiously within the existing financial framework provided by the Audit Act, the Treasury Regulations and the Treasury directions. I commend the report to honourable senators.
– In presenting the one hundred and sixty-second report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts, Senator Baume outlined that the final report which has been presented was agreed to unanimously by the members of the Committee. I do not think he mentioned that the statement which he has just presented was also agreed to unanimously by the Committee. I think it is important that that fact should be noted. In view of the fact that the report and the statement have been agreed to unanimously, there should not be many remarks for me to make at this stage as a member of the Committee. However, I would like to make a few points at this stage. It was suggested that a number of problems faced this Committee. One of the problems concerned the fact that 3 differently constituted committees were charged with the task of investigating this affair. In fact, only one member of those Committees followed the whole of the proceedings right through. I was one of a number of members on this last constituted Committee who did not have the opportunity to hear any oral evidence with regard to the whole of the investigation. The only evidence available to those of us who were on the last constituted Committee was by way of transcript. This in itself provided some problems for those people who had the responsibility of preparing the report and agreeing to the parts that have now been incorporated in it. I think it is important that these aspects be looked at when the report is being considered. At this stage I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Baume) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day Tor the next day of sitting.
– I do not wish to enter into discussion on the body of the report except to say that I am at strong variance with certain sections of it. At a later stage I will explain in what way I am at variance. Will Senator Cotton, who is in charge of the chamber at the moment, use his endeavours to bring this report into the House for debate as early as possible so that honourable senators may give some expression of opinion in defence of people who I believe, on what has just been said, have been not fairly treated. I think a case ought to be made by those of us who were closely associated with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs during the time in which the problems arose on which the Committee had to report. I think it is important that the Senate should not allow the tabling of any report which would prejudice any person unfairly, especially people which the report apparently takes as being within ministerial responsibility, such as members of staff, who would not have the opportunity perhaps even to present evidence to the Joint Committee of Public Accounts or would not have the chance of rebutting anything that appears in the report. I leave it at that. I ask the Minister to expedite the debate on this important report.
– I think the honourable senator ought to have a response from me. I know of his great interest in the matter. I was in the Senate when he expressed concern about it. I know of his concern. I think his request is fair, reasonable and completely proper. I will do what I can to see that the matter comes up for debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-Is it desired to postpone or re-arrange the business?
-On behalf of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-On behalf of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Government (Senator Withers) notifying me that Senator Rae has indicated that he wishes to be discharged from further attendance upon the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
Motion (by Senator Cotton)- by leaveproposed:
That Senator Rae be discharged from further service on the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
– In speaking to the motion, I wish to say that I am surprised that from time to time the Senate can be informed of a resignation from a committee without any indication of whether it is a Government decision or a party decision. I believe that there is a particular reason for Senator Rae’s resignation from this Committee. His resignation was given voluntarily as a result of some action of the Committee, and although his discharge will be agreed to it may be for a reason that the Senate does not accept. I think that to ask for an honourable senator to be relieved and for someone else to be placed in the position is a very vague way of dealing with the matter. I do not know the facts, but I would be most anxious to know the reason why Senator Rae resigned.
– in reply- Like Senator Cavanagh, I do not know the facts either. That makes two of us. I think that these matters can be regularised later on, but I am in a very simple position now. This is something I was asked to do and I have done it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I wish to inform honourable senators of the resignation from the Commonwealth Service as from Friday, 1 8 March, of the Government Printer, Mr Frank Atkinson, to take up a position in the Victorian Government Printing Office. Mr Atkinson will commence duty in his new position at the conclusion tomorrow of the conference in Canberra of Australian Government Printers, of which he is the host.
Mr Atkinson became Australian Government Printer in 1972 after holding the position of Assistant Government Printer (Technical Services) for 2 years. Before that he was in the teaching service in New South Wales. Mr Atkinson is an honours graduate in commerce and was a Churchill Scholarship Fellow. In his work as Australian Government Printer he was able through his dedication and enthusiasm as well as his mastery of the business of printing to accomplish the transition in the Government Printing Office from the old hot-metal method of printing to the most modern process of computerised typesetting. He did this with minimal disruption to the work of the Printing Office and the work of the Parliament.
The Government Printer holds a special position in relation to the Parliament. He is above all else, in effect, the printer to the Parliament. Of special interest to the Senate is Mr Atkinson’s work in the introduction of visual display terminals for the production of the transcripts of committee proceedings. I am sure all honourable senators wish him well in his new post. He will take with him to that new position a wealth of knowledge and skill as well as an imaginative approach to his calling.
– by leave- The Government would certainly join with you, Mr President, in wishing Mr Atkinson very well in his new post. There is no doubt that the work he has done has been extremely effective. One has noted the general improvement in the visual display area. Equally, to deal with the transition in the technical world of printing as Mr Atkinson has done I think is very fortunate for us. I did not know that we would have regarded him in effect as printer to the Parliament. I am glad to have it drawn to my attention. I realise that Mr Atkinson has done a great deal for us. I hope that he will be equally effective in Victoria. He carries with him our very best wishes for success in his new work.
– by leave- On behalf of the Opposition, I extend our best wishes to Mr Atkinson in the furtherance of his career. Mr Atkinson has been and is a distinguished public servant. He qualified as a compositor shortly after the Second World War and went on to complete an honours degree in commerce at the University of New South Wales. As you said, Mr President, he was later awarded a Churchill Fellowship. Prior to joining the Commonwealth Public Service, Mr Atkinson was in the teaching service of New South Wales, and in 1 970 he became Assistant Government Printer (Technical Services). It was in October 1972 that he was appointed to the position of Government Printer.
It will be recalled that the Whitlam Labor Government was elected to office in November 1972 and, during the period when I was Minister for the Media in that Government from December 1972 to June 1975, Mr Atkinson was a senior officer in my Department. He performed one of the most difficult jobs of any officer in the Public Service. At that time a tremendous amount of printing was being done, and we also saw the evolution of the committee system of the Parliament. Everyone wanted printing done, and those who wanted it done wanted it expeditiously. Mr Atkinson was always calm, he was always polite, he was always diligent. He was responsible for introducing the photo typesetting and ancillary processes and equipment for the printing of Hansard. That was done at a time when I was the Minister responsible to the Parliament, and I know the many hours of work that were involved for Mr Atkinson. He was also responsible for the introduction of the visual display terminals for Hansard committee transcript production.
It has been said that Mr Atkinson is going to the position of Victorian Government Printer, and it is somewhat ironical, I believe, that the position of Victorian Government Printer attracts a much higher salary than the position of Australian Government Printer. It is quite anomalous that a man of Mr Atkinson ‘s outstanding ability is being lost to the Australian Public Service because the Victorian Public Service pays the comparable position a significantly higher amount. Our best wishes go to Mr Atkinson and his family, and certainly Victoria is securing the services of a highly competent printer and public servant.
Debate resumed from 23 March on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– When the debate adjourned last night I was speaking on the statement put down in the other place by Mr Staley. I was supporting Senator Hall ‘s remarks when he upbraided and castigated Mr Staley for the comments he had made about the 3 boundaries commissioners in South Australia. Prior to the adjournment I had had incorporated in Hansard a chart showing the percentage of votes received by the respective parties in South Australia over a period covering 37 years and 14 elections. I am sure that Senator Messner for his own education has had a look at that chart this morning. He interjected quite often last night, and I welcomed those interjections. He should be better educated since looking at the chart. The chart indicates that at no stage in the 37 years to which I referred did the Liberal Party ever receive 46 per cent of the vote. Mr Staley complained that 46 per cent of the vote would ensure that the Labor Party in South Australia could always win office under the new redistribution. That was the crux of his argument that the boundaries in South Australia were rigged by the present commissioners to ensure that that would happen. I want to quote what Mr
Staley said, although Senator Hall has already referred to it. At page 328 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 17 March Mr Staley had this to say:
I have mentioned the electoral system in South Australia. Let us go back and look at the ‘Donnymander’ that has taken place in that State. I have put the proposition, which has been carefully worked out, that with 46 per cent of the vote the Don Dunstan Government could be returned in South Australia. What the Dunstan Government has done in South Austrlia illustrates the real nature of gerrymander. There is the question of the definition of the word ‘gerrymander’. There are many ways that one can describe a gerrymander. But the traditional way is to explain that gerrymander is derived from the word ‘salamander’, Governor Gerry and ali that. The original approach takes account of the fact that boundaries can be so drawn as to totally distort an electoral situation. That has nothing to do with criteria but relates to the precise way in which boundaries have been drawn. This is what has been done in South Australia. Boundaries have been drawn so as to bring about a result which is good for Labor, which enshrines that Party in office and which makes it extraordinarily difficult for non-Labor to defeat Labor in future elections. This is not an impossible task but it will be extraordinarily difficult.
Senator Hall complained about those remarks by Mr Staley, and I support him in his complaint. I think those remarks are a slight on the distribution commissioners in South Australia. As both Senator Hall and I have pointed out, they are an independent body of people under no restraint or orders from politicians or the Parliament. They will bring in a redistribution which in their view is the fairest that can possibly be applied to that State. As Senator Hall pointed out, in South Australia we now have an electoral Act which is the fairest in Australia.
Senator Messner, by way of interjection, made some comment about independents when I was referring to the very low vote received by the Liberal party. Of course, it is inconsequential how many independents we have. What we have to look at is the number of votes received by any political party. We well know that the Liberal Party would never be in office, even in this Parliament, if it did not have the support of splinter parties to make up its numbers. It could never win 50 per cent of the vote in its own right. The Labor Party is the only party in Australia which has ever received 50 per cent of the popular vote in its own right. None of the other parties has ever been able to do that. What Senator Messner is endeavouring to say is that we should lump together the percentage of votes received by independents and those received by the Liberal Party and say that represents the Liberal Party vote. That is quite wrong indeed, but no doubt, when he follows me in this debate he will try to argue that way. In the view of fair thinking people that argument will not hold water.
If we quickly run down the figures in the chart which I had incorporated in Hansard we will see that the Labor Party has never received less than 46 per cent of the vote in South Australia. I admit it went close to doing so in July last year when we received 46.32 per cent of the vote.
– You are lucky to be in Government.
– When we look at the Liberal Party percentage of the vote- Senator Townley will be interested in this- we see that it received 3 1.53 per cent of the vote. That is a very low percentage indeed. As a matter of fact, this was the lowest vote the Liberal Party has received in South Australia in 37 years, over a period of 14 elections. Why was it so low? It was because the Liberal Movement received 19.04 per cent of the vote. But nobody in his right mind could transfer that 19.04 per cent of the vote to the Liberal Party. If the preferences had been allocated right across the board a lot of those votes would have come to the Labor Party. I would say that we still would have finished at least 14 per cent ahead of the Liberal Party.
Senator Messner can get very little consolation from trying to draw a red herring across the trail by saying that we should take account of the independents. It is perfectly evident that if the independents receive a large vote it is because the people who vote for them do not want to vote for the Liberal Party. As I said, I support what Senator Hall has said. I hope that, in response to his call for an apology from Mr Staley, Mr Staley will make such an apology. If he does not make an apology, the best thing he could do would be to resign from the Parliament, just as the honourable member for Hotham (Mr Chipp) has done today. I understand he has done this because he is browned off with the policies of the Liberal Party. Mr Staley would be in good company if he were to resign also and create a need for a byelection in Victoria in his electorate of Chisholm and see how he would fare with the electors. I want to take the opportunity on this first reading of the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Export Duty Amendment Bill 1977 to refer to a matter which I have raised twice already in this Parliament. I raised it first during an adjournment debate on 2 December, when I expressed my concern over a document put out by the Minister for Health, Mr Hunt, in which he claimed that the present Government was making funds available for community health centres in South Australia. I disputed the fact that this Government was funding or had initiated those health centres. I referred to the matter again on 10 December during a debate on the Income Tax (Companies
Superannuation Funds) Bill 1976. I again pointed out that I was not satisfied that what Mr Hunt had implied was correct. On 1 7 January I received a letter from the Department of Health written on behalf of the Minister for Health. It read as follows:
My dear Senator,
The Minister for Health recently wrote to you concerning 1976-77 Commonwealth grants, under the Community Health Program, for projects in your State.
As foreshadowed in that letter, details of the allocations decided upon by the States for individual projects have been sought, and I have attached, for your information, the allocations applicable to the projects in your State.
However, I must emphasise that these allocations are tentative and may be varied by the State authorities during the course of the year, depending on changing circumstances. They may be regarded only as current estimates.
The Director-General of Health enclosed a document, to which I referred in my speeches on 2 December and 10 December. I have that document before me. On 15 March I received from Mr Hunt a letter which read as follows:
Mr dear Senator,
You will recall that, on 10 December 1976, during the First Reading Debate on the Income Tax (Companies Superannuation Funds) Bill 1976, you requested certain information concerning community health projects in South Australia.
In order to provide an accurate reply, it was necessary to obtain some of the more detailed information from the State health authorities. This has now been obtained and is incorporated in the attachment to this letter.
RALPH J. HUNT
I have that attachment before me also. The Hansard staff assured me earlier today that there would be no difficulty in having both these tables incorporated in Hansard. I have approached you also, Mr President, and indicated my intention to seek leave to have both those documents incorporated in Hansard so that people who read Hansard can see that all the community health projects which have been commenced or are in the course of commencement in South Australia, with the exception of one, were initiated by the Whitlam Government under Dr Everingham, who was then the Minister for Health. That was my argument when I raised this matter on those 2 previous occasions. I was concerned that Mr Hunt had implied that the Fraser Government has initiated all these community health projects. I seek leave Mr President, to have those two documents incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– As a matter of interest, will the honourable senator indicate to me the origin of the documents? Who prepared them?
– I am quite happy to do that. The first document is a copy of a document which I received from the Director-General of Health. It was attached to the letter from the Director-General, Mr Gwyn Howells, dated 1 7 January, which I have just quoted. The other document was attached to the letter dated 15 March which I received from Mr Hunt, the Minister for Health.
– We are very happy to have the documents incorporated, Mr President.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
The documents read as follows-
-I thank the Senate. I incorporate these documents to show just how these projects have been initiated and the amount of money which now has been funded to bring these projects into being. That is all I wish to say in relation to those matters. I hope that after the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) has considered my remarks they will give him some encouragement in the future when he makes announcements about funding, construction or any other matters concerning the Department of Health. Also I hope that he will take notice of what I said on 10 December last year. In future he should include on documents the dates when projects were first initiated so that there will be no further confusion, whether a Liberal Government or a Labor Government is in office- I am confident that there will be a Labor Government very soon- as to which government initiated the project, the date of commencement of construction, the date of occupation and any other details.
– I wish to make a few comments on the statement made by Senator McLaren in respect of the electoral situation in South Australia. Firstly, I thoroughly repudiate his statement in connection with the remarks of the Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr Staley, in the House of Representatives. I do not think that there is any way in which the statement of Mr Staley can be interpreted as criticism of the State Electoral Districts Boundaries Commission. In fact, the Boundaries Commissioners merely followed the terms of reference given to them under the Electoral Act. There is no question of their having any discretion in the matter. The terms of reference refer precisely to the existing boundaries being preserved to the maximum extent possible. In no way, therefore, can it be interpreted that the Minister’s remarks were criticisms of the Boundaries Commissioners. That is an unfair conclusion to draw. Senator McLaren has done what Labor politicians have been doing in South Australia for umpteen years in order to justify their stand on the issue of the so-called one vote, one value. He has taken a set of figures which simply show party votes, comparing one party with the other, since 1938 to the given date. He had those figures incorporated in Hansard last night.
He made no statement at all as to whether compulsory voting applied in various circumstances; whether there were elected to the House of Assembly in South Australia independents who supported the government of the day; or whether many seats were contested in those elections. As he well knows there was a period of 10 to 1 5 years when less than half of the number of House of Assembly seats in South Australia were actually contested, being either safe Liberal seats or safe Labor seats. Consequently, there is no way that he can draw a statistically balanced judgment merely by comparing percentages of party votes. I cite as an example the 1959 election. I think it was held on 7 March. In that election 2 1 of the 39 House of Assembly seats were uncontested. I think that totally destroys any argument that Senator McLaren may advance on the basis of the figures which he had incorporated in Hansard.
– What were those numbers?
-There were 21 uncontested seats out of 39 seats. Another point is that compulsory voting in South Australia was introduced in 1944. To refer to a time earlier than that is not to give any statistical balance to the interpretation of results after that date and before that date.
– There were only 2 elections before that date.
-That is true, they were held in 1938 and 1941. Senator McLaren emphasised those elections last night and related the 1938 election result to the fact that the Liberal Party in South Australia gained only 3 1 per cent of the votes in the 1975 election. I totally repudiate Senator McLaren’s statements. I hope that he will see the light himself and correct the table which he had incorporated in Hansard last night.
– I rise to point out to the Senate that concern should be expressed at the failure of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) to consider seriously questions from registered industrial organisations and to answer to the fact that he misled the House of Representatives on 1 June 1976 in respect to the provisions for amending the rules of registered industrial organisations. The Government Ministers particularly involved in industrial matters, that is the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott), seem to follow advice which is sadly lacking in this most important area. Last week, during the Address-in-Reply debate, I was about to warn the Government that if it proceeds with proposed legislation for the establishment of an Industrial Relations Bureau and with the proposed amendment to the Trade Practices Act, namely the new section 45D, it is simply buying a fight with the whole of the trade union movement when consultations about these matters should take place.
I shall return to the fact that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has failed to explain to the Senate or the House of Representatives his misleading of the Parliament on 1 June last year. I refer again to the question I asked the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Senator Durack, on 25 February 1977. I remind the Senate that this is a matter which affects a large number and broad range of unions and registered industrial organisations throughout
Australia. It affects all those organisations which may or may not have changed their rules since 1 3 November 1974 to conform with the relevant Cameron amendments of 1973. There is a large group of unions in that category. Those unions which cover in excess of one million workers could have their rules challenged by virtue of the fact that they place faith in the assurances of the Minister or his predecessor. This does not involve only trade unionists. If the Government is not interested in trade unionists it should think about the union funds that are involved- the funds of those unions whose rules could be under challenge. Yet, since 23 December 1976, the Minister has known that according to the Australian Industrial Court decision his statements have been proven to be contrary to fact. This is a serious situation. This is a matter of concern in my own organisation which has 167 000 members throughout Australia. I know that in a number of other organisations it is also a matter of concern. We are dealing with a large number of members of trade unions throughout Australia.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
- Mr President, the reason I rose to speak was to indicate that the 2 Ministers so vitally responsible in the industrial relations area, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and the Attorney-General, have failed in their task. I know from what Senator Durack, the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, has said that Senator Durack believes that Mr Street did not mislead the House. But he admitted that if the judgment of the Court was correct, what Mr Street said was not in accordance with the facts. I do not know what the definition of the term ‘misleading the House’ is, but under those circumstances he misled not only the House, but also all those unionists who hang on his very word and who took his advice and the advice of the previous Minister, Mr Clyde Cameron, in respect of that matter.
I do not want to engage in political point scoring. In fact I did not raise this matter until 2 months after the decision of the Court. It was felt by me and by others that within that time, reasonably, the Minister would have been able to deal with the matter, to study the judgment and to make recommendations to Cabinet to remedy by legislation the situation created. However, we did not see that. On 23 February 1977 I asked my first question about the matter. Then I waited for a month and there was no answer given to me in respect of the matter. I think that is shameful.
I remind the Senate that were this matter affecting business organisations the Government would act, of course, but as it is affecting registered industrial organisations the Government thinks that the matter has some low rating on its list of priorities. I thought that the Government well understood that it needed registered industrial organisations and a reasonable approach by them to assist in getting this country out of the mess in which we find ourselves. But, as I mentioned, the Government is playing into the hands of those registered industrial organisations of the extreme left which desire to opt out of registration under the Act. They are doing so because the Government is making it almost impossible for a large number of other unions to operate because of its failure to recognise current problems and to consult with registered industrial organisations about them.
I turn now to the Attorney-General. On 25 August last year I wrote a letter to him after giving a great deal of thought to what was required to be done about the Act. I included in my letter a suggestion that action should be taken to amend section 171c of the Act which enables the Court to make orders in respect of consequences of invalidities. I made out a case for that matter and said that the case for repeal of section 171c does not depend and never has depended upon the view that it is unconstitutional. It is rather that an industrial court cannot be the body to which unionists are expected to resort for relief against breaches of rules, that is to say under sections 141, 140 and 143, and at the same time have licence to validate breaches of rules. I would have thought that that would have been accepted by any person interested in natural justice. I said that it is the existence and exercise of section 171c more than any other factor which has destroyed the confidence of unionists in the Court and which inevitably will destroy their confidence in any court in which that same or similar power is vested.
Senator Button was speaking for a wide section of union opinion in the industrial labour movement when he said in the Senate on 3 June
There is a decline in respect in industrial circles Tor the Industrial Court. There is confusion about its judgments. There is no understanding of where it is going. There is no confidence in approaching that Court seeking justice in an industrial situation not only because of political reasons- it has been a political court in the past- but also because of the calibre of the work done in that Court because it does not consist of specialists in this very difficult and important jurisdiction.
– Was he speaking of the Commission or the Court?
-He was speaking as to the Court. Previously, Senator Button, on 2 March 1 976, as reported at pages 3 1 5 and 3 1 6 of Hansard, had dealt with the immediate occasion for these remarks, namely, the judgment of the court in proceedings under section 171c in the Hospital Employees’ case on 27 June 1975. But similar dismay was caused in the decision of a strong and responsible bench in Allen and Ford versus Laragy and Others on 7 August 1975 where the Court defeated an application for an order under section 141 by validating under section 1 7 1 c the very breach of rules complained of. I again say that surely the Industrial Court should not be the body to which unionists are expected to resort for relief against breaches of rules and at the same time have licence to validate the breaches of rules complained of. The present and continuing position is that for many unionists it is regarded as worse than useless to take serious breaches of rules to the Court. For some unions the rule of law has ceased to apply to the administration of unions.
It is appreciated that some mode of special validation will be required in some cases although to a limited extent. This can be met by provision of a simple re-registration procedure. I have made this point previously in the Senate but I made it to the Attorney-General specifically by letter on 26 August last year. A draft of a proposed new section 139a was prepared. I believe it was prepared in the interests of the view that trade unions ought to determine their own mode of operation and method of self government consistent with their administrative requirements and the wishes of their rank and file and not have some form of reconstruction superimposed upon them by a court which has not the understanding of the history of the organisation or the wishes of the rank and file. Theoretically we could have a situation where the rank and file have determined the rules under which they wish to operate, where votes have been taken under plebiscite rules, and still the Court could superimpose, under section 17 Id a scheme of reconstruction that is not consistent with the wishes of the members.
Section 171c as originally drafted by Mr Justice Sweeney and which was set out in the appendix to his report was itself administrative in character although it was to be exercised by the Court and was only later given the quality of an explicitly judicial function in the redraft by Mr Comans when preparing the Conciliation and Arbitration (Organisations) Bill of 1974. I do not wish to go through the whole of the letter which I wrote to the Attorney-General on that occasion which, among other things, dealt with section 141. While I am talking about section 1 4 1 I point out that I raised the question of subsections (2) and (3) of section 141 in my letter to the Attorney-General. My letter was dated 26 August 1976 and I received a reply on 26 January 1977 which stated:
I refer to your representations concerning amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1 904 as amended.
You will recall that sub-sections (2) and (3) of section 141 were inserted in the Act when the High Court found that the Industrial Court did not have the power to freeze funds involved in a Union amalgamation.
Mr President, and members of the Senate, that is just not true. The facts of the matter are that the High Court decision which was referred to by the Attorney-General was brought down subsequent to the amendments to sub-section (2) and (3) of section 141. We have the first law officer of the Crown advising a member of the Parliament that an amendment to one of the principal Acts of this Parliament took place because of” a decision of the High Court, when in fact, that decision of the High Court was taken subsequent to and not preceding the amendments to the Act. I feel that that statement calls for some explanation. How can the first law officer of the Crown so misadvise a member of the Parliament? In my own simple way but with some experience of trade union administration I sought to put some views to the Attorney-General. He replied in a single page letter to which, on 9 February, I replied as follows:
I refer to your letter of 26 January 1977, concerning the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I was surprised to read in your letter that you seemed to be under the impression that sub-sections (2) and (3) of section 141 were inserted in the Act when the High Court found that the Industrial Court did not have the power to freeze funds involved in a union amalgamation.
The decision in that case was brought down on 7 June 1972, 5 days after Act No. 37 of 1972 was assented to, and months after the Government had decided to proceed to amend that particular section.
Irrespective of that, your letter failed to deal with the arguments contained in my letter dated 26 August 1976, concerning sections 171D, new section 139a, sub-sections (2) and ( 3 ) of section 1 4 1 and failed to mention section 171c.
I would be obliged to receive a considered reply to my letter of 26 August 1976.
That letter was written to the Attorney-General on 9 February 1977. Presumably, because of the time which has elapsed, it has ended up in some too-hard basket in the Attorney-General’s Department. Here we have 2 senior Ministers of the Government giving incorrect advice to me and to the trade union movement- I will not use the word misleading because the Minister objects to that- about matters which are of great concern to the trade union movement as a whole and particularly to registered industrial organisations. One of the main reasons the Government has found itself to be in the mess it is in, as far as amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act are concerned, is that it has failed to consult with registered industrial organisations. It has relied on peak councils, none of which are registered industrial organisations. Of course, the Government must get the opinion of peak councils but it really does not even have the opinion of peak councils because we heard from those councils what happened as far as consultation was concerned about the previous amendment. The secretary of the Department simply telephoned the officers of the peak councils and asked them what they thought about the matter and told them that the amendment would be coming in. That is not consultation.
In any event, when one is amending an Act which affects any organisation, surely that organisation has the right to be consulted. This is not a secret society. Unions have been registered for over 50 years. Each and every organisation is entitled to know from the Government what amendments are proposed to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, what provisions are sought to be inserted, how they are to be worded and what effect they will have on the administration and democratic functioning of the registered industrial organisations. I again say that the Government should not act as a secret society. Furthermore, I believe that if incorrect advice has been given to the Minister from the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, regard should be had to that fact. In considering amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which affect the registration of industrial organisations, surely the Government should also consult, for example, the registrar. The registrar is the man who should have knowledge of the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. He is in close and regular contact with officers of registered industrial organisations.
I have taken longer than I thought I would on that matter. I was going to deal with the attempt of the Government to amend the provisions of the Trade Practices Act. I was going to detail at some length the objections which I certainly have to those proposals. But I believe that a debate on the first reading of a Bill is not the occasion when one should do that. That should be done when the Bill is coming forward. I hope the Government sees the light and withdraws those provisions before we have to battle them out here. They will not only be battled out here but also elsewhere. They are draconian provisions. They will set the whole of the trade union movement in Australia against the Government. That is not a situation which I desire. In fact, I have sought to avert that situation over the period that I have been a trade union official. I do not believe that the trade practices legislation is an appropriate vehicle to cover the activities of trade unions. It can be said and has been said that certainly there needs to be discipline and coordination in industrial affairs so that there is not anarchy, and so that innocent people are not hurt or thrown out of work. The time appears to be coming when the Government, in consideration of not proceeding with these provisions, could request the trade union movement to uphold and maintain the provisions for settling industrial disputes.
For many years there have been written into the rules of registered industrial organisations provisions for the implementation of the objects of the organisations and the disciplining of members so that a member of the organisation cannot take action which is in the nature of anarchy and affects drastically the other members. Naturally, there is very broad freedom within individual unions in this respect but each registered industrial organisation has such rules. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has rules for the conduct and control of industrial disputes and the ideal situation would be for the ACTU to be left to uphold and enforce its own rules, if necessary by the threat of expulsion of affiliated unions which do not uphold those rules. But surely at this time, even under this Government, the sorts of measures we are debating are not necessary and I believe that they will never be necessary. Circumstances could arise in which other legislation could well be amended but the minute we bring into operation this sort of provision, which is aimed at even legitimate strike activity, you will have the whole of the trade union movement on top of you.
The reason for speaking today is to appeal to the Government not to proceed in this way. I appeal to it to heed the views that are expressed to it from time to time by the majority of the trade union movement and I request the Government when considering amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act or to other Acts which affect registered industrial organisations not to do it in a secret society fashion, but to have full and open discussions with all registered industrial organisations so that their views and the views of their members through them can be put to the Government. If the Government did that, it would not fall into the traps into which it has fallen as a result of bad advice that apparently has been given. I again request the Minister to take my comments to the Ministers concerned. I would be obliged to have a considered reply to my question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations in relation to action to be taken to remedy the current situation, and a considered and factual reply to my letter to the Attorney-General of 26 August 1976.
– I rise to reply to some of the comments that have been made in this debate and to make my own comments. When we debate the first reading of a money Bill one never knows what to expect. This has been a most peculiar debate insofar as it started with Senator Ryan speaking on Aboriginal affairs and we have since debated various subjects including accusations against a Minister of the Crown, a suggestion that the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) should resign, and just now suggestions of a falsehood by the first law officer of the Commonwealth. One must have sympathy for the remarks made by Senator Harradine and in the main I thoroughly agree with the latter part of his remarks. Possibly he has a grievance which he has continually referred to in this chamber over a period because of the incorrect information which was given to him by a representative of the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) on the rights of certain unions under the amended Conciliation and Arbitration Act. However, Senator Harradine must remember that there has been some 12 months or more for the unions whose cause he is championing today to change their rules in accordance with the amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act- the Cameron legislation- which were passed by this House for the sole purpose of the unions’ putting their house in order and having democratic elections.
Because certain of Senator Harradine ‘s supporters could not get elected at democratic elections, they defied the law and made no attempt to alter their rules. Instead they made an agreement with this Government when it was elected to change the Act so that they would not have to hold democratic elections. Senator Harradine ‘s solution to the problem is to appeal for another agreement with an incompetent government which cannot carry out its obligations or properly advise. The Government rushed through legislation in accordance with that agreement to change the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the Minister representing in this chamber the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Sreet) gave us certain assurances.
However, like all legal opinions, it was only an opinion and the true purpose of an Act or the true meaning of words is not known until there is a court decision. Therefore, although the Minister possibly has acted in good faith, according to the decision of Mr Justice Smithers, the Federated Clerks Union of Australia and other unions were not covered by the amendments to the law.
There is no question in Senator Harradine ‘s mind of the unions’ adhering to the law and conducting democratic elections. He wants the Government to enter into another agreement so that it will not be necessary for such elections to take place. Honourable senators will remember the provisions for the collegiate system of voting and the 1 5 per cent provision relating to the election of a decision making body. All the objections that have been raised seek to avoid the democratic vote of the people in certain unions. One must lose sympathy for the object of Senator Harradine ‘s advocacy although I do have great sympathy for him in that he was basing his argument on ministerial advice that proved not to be correct. I do have great sympathy for him when he gets false documents and statements in a prepared reply by the first law officer of the Crown and is told something which is not true in order to justify a Minister’s action.
One of my main purposes for rising is to correct the suggestion which Senator Messner made today that Senator McLaren was wrong in the use of some figures. Senator McLaren originally rose in the debate to support Senator Steele Hall in his attack upon Mr Staley for his accusation against 3 respectable citizens of South Australia. Senator McLaren took it somewhat further by saying that if there is anything wrong with the present electoral system in South Australia, there must have been something vitally wrong with it before the existing Act in South Australia came into operation. He gave figures to show that at no time during the many years of the Playford Government was it ever elected by a majority of voters. He showed that on every occasion the Australian Labor Party never received less than 40 per cent of the votes and that a government, receiving a minority of votes, was elected. Senator Messner replied that this could not be accepted as the criteria or as representing the true position because Senator McLaren had not taken into account the occasions when seats were uncontested. He cited the case when in one election 2 1 seats were uncontested. I believe that on that occasion most of the uncontested seats were safe Liberal Party seats. I am not sure about that, but I think honourable senators at least will find that the Labor Party and the Liberal Party held an equal number of the uncontested seats.
While Senator Messner thinks that he destroyed Senator McLaren’s argument, I submit that the tabling of the document in Hansard yesterday proves conclusively that under the system that was in operation in South Australia Senator McLaren was correct. As Senator Messner has told us today, compulsory voting was introduced in 1944. There was a big jump in the vote for Labor in South Australia from 1944 on because more people were voting. But Senator Messner cannot say that there was not a gerrymander in 1953 when Labor received 50.97 per cent of the total vote- that was a majority of the votes- and was defeated in its attempt to gain government by a party that received 36.45 per cent of the vote.
– What is the validity of that argument when it does not take into account electorates that were not contested?
– What I am saying is that in the election of 1953 a party which received 50.97 per cent of the vote remained in opposition.
– But what is the percentage of the total electorate?
-The total vote was the total vote of the electorate.
– Of the people who voted?
-Yes, the total of the people who voted.
– But some of the electorates did not vote.
– I do not know whether that is so.
– But that is the whole basis of Senator Messner ‘s argument.
-No, it is not. Senator Messner spoke about the occasion when there were uncontested seats.
– He said ‘on most occasions ‘.
-He said, ‘on occasions’. In one election, there were 2 1 uncontested seats. But when all seats were contested in the March 1968 election, Labor received 51.98 per cent of the votes and was defeated by a party that received 43.82 per cent of the votes.
– What percentage of the seats were contested by the Liberal Movement on that occasion in 1968?
– There was no Liberal Movement then.
– No, there was no Liberal Movement then. The Liberal-Country League Government was returned to office with 43.82 per cent of the vote in a fully contested election. Therefore, I think honourable senators will see that there was a gerrymander. However, that is history. Senator Hall has told us of the alteration which he claims has brought about one of the most democratic election systems. The atmosphere of politics has been taken out of this area by the appointment of 3 holders of public office who we would suggest have the highest credentials in the State and whose honesty and integrity is beyond question. Therefore, any suggestion that a gerrymander exists under the present conditions implies that these 3- men are corrupt in their administration. Senator Messner said that the terms of reference of the Electoral Boundaries Commission were at fault and that a Commissioner had to take into consideration that existing boundaries had to be preserved as far as possible. That is not to say that that consideration has to be overrated. The 10 per cent variation in electorates which applies in South Australia brings about a situation which is as close as one can get to the principle of one vote, one value. The idea is not to create new boundaries but so far is practicable to keep the existing boundaries which will be limited, diminished or increased in size according to the 10 per cent variation. There is no permission for the Commission, other than the 10 per cent variation, to act in any way other than to have an equal division of electorates, wherever those electorates might be. The credentials of the 3 men appointed are beyond question. Senator Messner then says that Mr Staley ‘s remarks could not be accepted as criticism of the 3 individuals on the Commission because they are compelled to observe their terms of reference. I shall quote Mr Staley ‘s words:
Boundaries have been drawn so as to bring about a result which is good for Labor, which enshrines that Party in office and which makes it extraordinarly difficult for non-Labor to defeat Labor in future elections.
Surely that statement represents a deliberate and determined attack upon the Commission, a Commission with the responsibility of drawing up electoral boundaries. The Minister has said that boundaries have been drawn up. His expression implies that the whole purpose of deciding the boundaries was to bring about a result which was good for Labor. In the eyes of the Minister for the Capital Territory these men have lost all right and respect. They have lost their decency and integrity because, according to the Minister, they have set out to do something to enhance the position of the Labor Party. One would have thought that Senator Messner, as a South Australian knowing the standing of the 3 gentlemen concerned, would have spoken in support of Senator Hall on this question because there was an attack against these 3 individuals. Senator Hall is to be commended on the attitude he has taken. I think that his request for a public apology is justified. There is also justification for his extreme request that the Minister should resign. I am confident that there has been such a blatant, filthy and dirty attack upon the 3 reputable people in high positions in South Australia that the Prime Minister will insist upon the resignation of the Minister. We have already seen one forced ministerial resignation. Now we have the possible resignation of Mr Staley. Mr Chipp resigned from the Liberal Party of Australia today. Senator Rae has decided that he will no longer sit as a member of the important Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs and his great legal mind will be lost in the consideration of the Committee’s business. We can see the complete disintegration of the Liberal Party from which Senator Harradine is hoping to get some sense. I give it up as hopeless.
Senator HARRADINE (Tasmania)-Mr President, I wish to make a personal explanation.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes. Senator Cavanagh during his speech said that I was representing those who sought to avoid democratic elections. Mr President, for your information and for Senator Cavanagh ‘s information I state that I have only recently fought an election as President of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association. It was a rank and file election conducted by independent secret ballot. The result of the election was that I was reelected as president of the Association with 85 per cent of people voting in my favour.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed.-
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
– During question time this morning, the Leader of the Opposition, Senator
Wriedt, asked whether I would make a statement concerning a discussion I held yesterday with 2 journalists from the Melbourne Age.
I inform honourable senators that yesterday I received a letter from Senator Sim relating to the publication in the Age of extracts from a private and confidential report prepared by him following private discussions with leaders of the Association of South East Asian Nations. Senator Sim stated in his letter that, in a telephone conversation on Sunday, 20 March, Mr Walker, who wrote the articles, admitted to him that he knew that it was a private and confidential report. Senator Sim further stated that he suspected that a copy of this report was removed from his office as one copy was missing and that it appeared to him that the security of senators’ offices was at risk.
I asked Miss Michelle Grattan, chief political correspondent of the Age, and the writer of the articles Mr Tony Walker, to discuss the matter with me in my office. With the concurrence of honourable senators, I will incorporate in Hansard the text of the statement which I made to Miss Grattan and Mr Walker. Copies of the statement are at present being circulated in the chamber.
The statement read as follows-
Miss Grattan, Mr Walker, I have asked you to see me in connection with certain articles which have appeared in the Melbourne Age this week. The articles relate to a visit by Senator Sim to ASEAN countries earlier this year.
As I understand the matter, the articles were written by you Mr Walker. I further understand that you, Miss Grattan, are in charge of the Age Canberra Bureau.
I am much concerned about these articles, for the following reasons-
My understanding is that the articles were based upon a confidential document prepared by Senator Sim and that, in writing the articles Mr Walker, you were aware that the document was confidential; if so, this may raise the question of the standards of reporting by members of the Press Gallery to whom are issued Press passes for admission to this building.
A further concern is how a copy of a Senator’s confidential document came into the possession of an unauthorised person and I understand, Mr Walker, that you have a copy; if so, security in this building may be involved;
3 ) It may be that a question of privilege is also involved and I have asked the Clerk of the Senate to look at this aspect.
I take a serious view of this matter but, before taking any action, I invite you both to make any submission to me, in writing, which you would like considered.
– In response to my invitation to Miss Grattan and Mr Walker to make any written submission they would like considered, Miss Grattan advised me by letter last night that her editor had given instructions that there would be no reply and that it was intended to publish an account of the interview in today’s edition of the Age.
My primary concern in this matter lies with a possible breach of security of senators’ offices, and any question of privilege which might thus be involved. I am sure that all honourable senators will share my concern.
– by leave- I move:
I presume that I have leave to speak briefly to the motion at this stage. I do not wish to speak at length on the statement because I have had extended to me the courtesy of receiving a copy of it before I came into the chamber. I would wish to consider the implications of this matter before taking any particular view. What I am mainly concerned about at this stage is the fact that in the statement you made, Mr President, to Miss Grattan and Mr Walker the last paragraph reads:
I take a serious view of this matter but, before taking any action, I invite you both to make any submission to me, in writing, which you would like considered.
I trust that that does not mean that any action will be taken until such time as this Senate has had time to consider your statement to the Senate, Mr President, because you are seeking also an opinion from the Clerk to which reference is made in the statement.
– It should go to the Privileges Committee, should it not?
-The statement reads:
My primary concern in this matter lies with a possible breach of security of senators’ offices and any question of privilege which might thus be involved.
I do not know that this is a matter on which we should decide immediately whether it should go to the Privileges Committee. That would not be my view at this moment. I believe that we ought to have time to consider it before we make any decision about what happens to it. I make the point that no action, I believe, ought to be taken until such time as we have been able to consider the matter more fully. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) by leave- I merely rise to my feet in response to the observations made by Senator Wriedt who leads the Opposition in this place. Under the Standing Orders of the Senate, as I recollect them as I stand here, no matter can be referred to the Privileges Committee unless a prima facie case has been established in the Senate and the Senate by vote resolves that the matter be sent to the Committee. So, bearing this in mind and speaking as a Senator, at this juncture I am agreeable to follow the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that the matter stand adjourned so that it remains in the custody of the Senate itself. The Senate can further consider it and decide whether or not a prima facie exists before any further action is taken.
-by leave- I know that we on this side of the chamber have had no opportunity to discuss the matter, but I would like to put a firm view at this stage. My view is that what has occurred is to be regretted. I refer to your action, Mr President, in interviewing 2 members of the Press and talking upon yourself the authority to investigate a matter which should have been the right of the Senate as a whole. I would have thought that, if some question of privilege were involved, the person aggrieved- in this case, Senator Simshould have raised the matter here in the Senate. I think it ought to be made clear at least by someone that the action taken by you, Mr President, may be viewed as an action which can intimidate the freedom of those who represent the Press to write reports and to disseminate news without some fear that they may be brought before the Presiding Officers of the Parliament to explain their actions. That appears to involve a view that there may be likely intimidation of a very important arm of this Parliament, that is, the Press.
– Absolute rot.
– That is not so. I will take the matter up more fully later but I think it ought to be made very clear at this time that it is not the role of the Presiding Officers of the Parliament to interview members of the Press to question their actions in such a way which may intimidate them in any future reporting of matters that come before the Parliament. I put this view and I put it firmly. I put it now rather than later.
– by leave- I think it is a pity that Senator Georges has intruded a new element into what is in fact not a debate on your statement, Mr President, but simply the convention of one or two honourable senators being given leave to make a short statements preparatory to what will be a subsequent debate. On behalf of the Government I certainly repudiate any implied criticism that has been made by Senator Georges of your action, Mr President. When you received a complaint from
Senator Sim, you took appropriate steps to investigate it. You reported that immediately to the Senate. Views on this matter can be expressed in a subsequent debate. I suggest that that would be the proper time for Senator Georges to express the remarks that he has made. I trust that other honourable senators before seeking leave to make statements will consider this point and will not seek to debate the matter at this stage. I accept the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) when moving for the Senate to take note of the statement. I suggest that the Senate leave the matter now for consideration and subsequent debate. I move:
– I seek leave to make a very short statement.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the motion that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting as I am entitled to do. I am much concerned that whilst we have given leave for Government supporters to speak and leave has been given for Senator Georges to speak, leave is not now given to Senator Gietzelt. I do not know the reason. Perhaps we were too generous in granting any leave in view of the motion that has now been moved. Once leave has been given to one honourable senator I do not think it should be refused to another on the same subject. We know that Senator Gietzelt does not make frivolous contributions on any matter. He may have something to tell us. He should be given leave. The fact is that he has not been given leave. Perhaps I should ask why the debate should be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting? Is it an urgent matter that we need to consider, as Senator Wriedt said, or should we discuss the matter now?
I think the President was very conciliatory. He did his best to protect the security and the interest of honourable senators. He called the 2 people involved in the allegations before him to see whether he could find the truth of the matter. He then invited them to make a submission in writing. I think it was grossly indecent, arrogant and perhaps dangerous for Miss Grattan to reply, on instructions from her editor, that a written submission would not be made and that the interview would be published in today’s edition of the Age.
– I think that is the right decision.
– I do not think it is right. I think such an arrogant reply, when someone ‘s honesty and lack of observance of privilege is in question, is definitely a matter for the Privileges Committee. If there were an early debate I would support my Leader. In view of the attitude of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack), who would not give Senator Gietzelt leave, I must question whether we should adjourn this debate to another day of sitting.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (3.8)- I address myself to the motion in response to the observations made by Senator Georges. I think honourable senators will concede to me at least some knowledge of the elements of the history by which these matters relate to Parliament itself. Without going into the history, I merely indicate at this juncture that any observations made upon the proprieties of the attitude that you, Mr President, adopted are entirely wrong. Members of the Press are here only at the express permission of Parliament. The Parliament embeds the authority to govern the Press in its behaviour inside this place in the Presiding Officers. It was perfectly proper after a complaint was made to you, Mr President, by an honourable senator- whether just or unjust I do not question-that you should immediately take steps to discover the validity or otherwise of the matters that were the subject of complaint. You had no duty other than the course which you followed. I regret that there has been any impugning of your propriety in this matter. I am gratified that Senator Cavanagh has supported you.
– I wanted to make some short comments a moment ago on the statement that you, Mr President, have put before the Senate. Whilst the statement does not reach conclusions it nevertheless makes a number of assumptions which I believe you are entitled to make. I think we are entitled to make some comments upon those assumptions. Either we are dealing with a private and confidential report or we are not. If it is a private and confidential report those who are associated with the preparation and distribution of it should deal with it as such, taking account of their own experiences and their own understanding of the issue involved. I think it has to be said that your statement, in which you draw conclusions based upon what Senator Sim said to you and his assumption that the document had in some way been removed or could have been removed from his office, establishes in my mind and I am sure in the minds of those who will publish this document that the journalists concerned may have been in some way associated with the loss of the document or the removal of it. In the circumstances I think it ought to be made clear that that is purely an assumption at this time.
I do not know the 2 journalists concerned particularly well. I accept the fact that they are first-class senior journalists who have been associated with this place for a considerable time. They are acting under instructions of their employer in this matter. I think it ought to be put on the record that the Senate does not at this stage accept that the journalists were in any way involved in getting a copy of the private and confidential document other than through some other channel or some other agency. In reading the document in the short time it has been before us I certainly draw the conclusion that the journalists may have been involved in the possession of the document. I think it ought to be established that it is not your intention, Mr President, to suggest that they were involved in some breach of security in this building. I think that is a very serious charge. Let us face it, your statement, Mr President, will receive considerable publicity. It should not be suggested therefore that the Senate, without any investigation and without any inquiry, agrees with your estimation. It may well be, of course, that your estimation is correct. I am not in a position to know. I accept completely your integrity in the matter.
I do not think the Senate should be put in the position where it can, on the basis of a very short report, establish that in some way or other the journalists have acted improperly in this place with the document. Many documents which I prepare are typed in the typing pool and then delivered to my office. I do not know whether Senator Sim avails himself of that service. In point of fact I often have had documents delivered to me in my office that belong to Government senators and I have had to call back the attendant to take them to another office. There are many ways in which a document can be misplaced or wrongly delivered. In the circumstances I think we are entitled to say that this is an interim report. It is a report which does not necessarily implicate the journalists concerned and in no way should they be regarded as being censured or criticised by the Senate.
– I rise to a point of order. I did not want to interrupt Senator Gietzelt. I thought that he may have had something, as Senator Cavanagh suggested, peculiar to contribute by leave, but it is quite apparent from his remarks that he did not debate the issue before the Chair, which is that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. The Senate has moved on from debating the statement. The Leader of the Opposition sought leave to continue his remarks which is, in fact, a suggestion that the debate be adjourned; that is the effect of the action he took. The discussion, if it is to continue, in my submission must be relevant to the question of whether the debate be adjourned to a later hour this day or to the next day of sitting.
– On the point of order, I want it to be made quite clear whether or not the Minister is closing the debate. If he is speaking on a point of order, that satisfies me.
– I was speaking on a point of order.
– Honourable senators must make their remarks relevant to the motion, that is, that the debate be adjourned to another day.
– I rise to question whether or not this debate should be resumed on another day. We have heard a statement which to me, and I think to most people, clearly implied that an accusation has been made against 2 journalists that a paper has been stolen from a senator’s office.
– There is no accusation.
– If one reads the statement, Senator Sim further stated that he suspected a copy of this report was removed from his office as one copy was missing and it appeared to him that the security of Senate offices was at risk. That is a serious accusation that it was stolen or that the journalists were dealing in stolen property. I do not know what else it could mean. Quite frankly, I am amazed that that accusation has been made. I am amazed that people on the other side are so sensitive about what is obviously some sort of a leaked document, however it was leaked. I have been in this Parliament for 3 years. I have heard the present Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and people sitting opposite now quoting from ministerial documents and from Cabinet documents which have obviously been leaked. It has become part of the life of this Parliament, no matter how much I or anybody else regrets it, and I think it is far too serious a matter to allow the debate to be adjourned. No one can make any other assumption from the statement of the President, with due respect, than that Senator Sim has made an accusation that someone has gone into his office and has stolen a document. One may legitimately say,
I believe, that at last some of the leaks are coming back on the Party that used to make such a fuss of leaks and used them so effectively against the then Government. That Party does not like it and is kicking about it, but I am very concerned about what is normal journalistic practice in every country in the world. The journalists would not have been fulfilling their duty if they had not written the articles based on the document they received, however they received it.
– Depending on how they received it.
– Are you suggesting they have stolen it? Are you suggesting that the document is stolen? If you do suggest that, stand up and say so.
– Definitely not, but you said no matter how they received it.
– I am saying no matter how they received it. We have had the situation of the very same newspaper buying documents to use.
– You are condoning it.
– I may not condone it, I may not like it, I may be very critical of it, but what concerns me is that this Senate and, with due respect, this President may be seen to be protecting a senator who has been caught outcaught out in Indonesia, as it happens. Are we allowing the President or this Senate to be used to try to protect someone who has been caught out, as we all have been or will be caught out in this place at some time? I think it is a serious debate and should not be adjourned to the next day of sitting.
– I wish to support the motion which has been moved by Senator Wriedt, and I do so because I believe that this is a serious debate and therefore ought to be adjourned. The more serious the debate is the more are the arguments for adjourning it. We cannot have a proper inquiry into the subject without knowing the facts.
– But to the next day?
-Yes, that is the standard form.
– Why not to a later hour this day?
-Because I do not think that we are in a position to acquire the facts of this matter at a later hour this day, or I am not in a position to do that. I do no know about anybody else, but I am certainly not in a position to acquire this information. I was in the position when I was Minister for Repatriation and Compensation that documents were constantly being leaked to me from the AMP Society and from the National Mutual Life Association. I do not make any secret of the fact that I used them and I used them to very great effect. I aroused the admiration of the people of Australia for the way in which I used them. But I had no connection with the purloining of the documents. Whoever it was within those organisations who was purloining the documents, it would have been one thing for me as a politician to say that I was using them but it would have been totally different for the person who was employed by the organisation to say he was engaged in legitimate political activities in stealing his employers’ documents and giving them to me, whoever he was. This report is based apparently on the statements that have been made by Senator Sim that to the best of his knowledge a document has been stolen.
– He suspected.
-He said that to the best of his knowledge a document had been stolen. That is what Senator Sim said. He said that to the best of his knowledge a document had been taken, anyway. I do not know that there is much point in arguing about the verbiage. A document disappeared, and it appears to have been improperly taken. By way of coincidence or in some other manner the contents of the document appeared in a newspaper. I do not think that anybody is alleging in this statement or anywhere else that the person who took the document was the person who wrote the article. If one reads the document, it does not say that. Anybody could have taken the document and handed it on to somebody else. We do not know all of these matters.
Mr President, your report refers to general security in Parliament and to the missing document. Of course, if the journalists were given a document, if it came into their hands, I believe they would use it in the same way as I would use documents and many other people would use them. But this is another matter, and a much more important matter, which is raised here, and that is the security of Parliament itself. If a senator says that documents have been stolen, that is a matter which requires some investigation. I do not think that it is a matter which can be dealt with at a later hour of this day or by all of us jumping up here and giving our opinions on the subject when all we know is the statement we have just heard. It is a serious question that ought to be examined and, for that matter, ought to be adjourned to the next day of sitting or whatever the appropriate occasion is. when there has been some time to consider it and we can debate a serious matter seriously.
– I support the remarks of my colleague Senator Wheeldon. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) has already moved that the Senate take note of the paper and the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack), after some discussion, moved for the adjournment of the debate to the next day of sitting. At the present time we are discussing that matter. As I see it, there are a number of points involved.
– I rise to a point of order. Under Standing Order 431, the following is one of the motions that are not open to debate: That this debate be now adjourned.
-That is not the motion.
– The honourable senator said it is not the motion, but the last 2 speakers have said that that is the motion to which they are speaking. I agree that there was a subsequent motion that the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. My point of order is taken on the adjournment of the debate.
– There is no point of order.
-For Senator Tehan ‘s information, we are debating the motion that the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. That is the motion before the Chair. As I was saying, there are a number of important points. The first one, as my colleague Senator Georges said at the outset, is that we on this side of the chamber have not yet had an opportunity to read the statement, let alone to give it consideration. I think that the first thing all of us have to do is sit down and read the statement and give it some consideration. The other ingredient is the point that was raised by my colleague Senator Wriedt as to whether the paper that has now been presented by you, Mr President, is worthy of a subsequent motion for the matter to be referred for consideration by the Privileges Committee of this Senate, and that cannot be done in a matter of minutes or hours. That too needs further consideration. There are also involved quite serious matters such as the rights and entitlements of journalists to publish material that comes into their possession, and I certainly uphold that right. But more important so far as members of Parliament are concerned is the question of the rights and privileges of members of this Parliament. I can recall some years ago my erstwhile colleague Dr Patterson complaining to the House of Representatives that certain sugar papers had been taken from his room. If I recollect correctly, and I speak subject to recollection, when it was reported to the Parliament consideration was given to the Commonwealth Police being called in to investigate the matter. It may well be that consideration should be given to taking similar action on this occasion.
I am not saying that Senator Sim is right in his suspicion. Perhaps we shall find out after inquiries have been made. The simple fact of the matter is that Senator Sim prepared a document which he says was private and confidential. As I understand it, a copy of that document appeared in a Melbourne newspaper. Senator Sim suspects that a copy of that document was removed from his room. Again I emphasise that I am not saying that Senator Sim is right in his suspicion. However, the matter is worthy of consideration. But I certainly agree with my colleague, Senator Cavanagh, that the editor of the Melbourne Age and not Miss Grattan or the journalist involved is remiss in giving instructions that there should be no reply to the President’s statement. I think that is a very serious matter. For all those reasons and because I think the matter is worthy of more serious investigation by all members of this Senate, I support the motion that debate of the matter be adjourned until the next day of sitting.
– I also support the motion. It is rather unusual to see the Opposition acting in an independent way on this matter. It is rather nice to see. I point out that in today’s Melbourne Age we find that the only piece of the reporting on your statement, Mr President, that has been left out is your reason No. 2. I have read this report very thoroughly. Whilst it does report on reason No. 1 and reason No. 3, the reason No. 2 that you very clearly put to the 2 reporters in your office has been left out of the report in the Melbourne Age. I was wondering whether perhaps leaving this debate until another day will give the Melbourne Age a chance to rectify this.
-Mr President, as this has now opened up into a debate we might have been better off had we had the opportunity to consider your statement in a little more detail before debating it, as the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) has suggested we might do. It is obvious that debate is now going to take place in full flight. I want to make my comments how- this is no reflection on you, Mr President- because I am doubtful whether the incident has been handled in the way in which it should have been handled.
It looks as though this may have been a case for the Senate Standing Committee on Privileges to examine or for an inquiry of wider scope to be undertaken. It is quite obvious that an accusation has been made by an honourable senator on the Government side that somebody has removed a letter from his office. It is tantamount to a charge of theft to claim that someone has gone into an office and taken out an important document and handed it to someone else.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. It is quite clear from Senator Keeffe ‘s opening remarks that he regards the matter as being open to debate at large. He is now commencing to debate the matter. I draw your attention to the fact, Mr President, that we are debating the question of whether debate on this matter should be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– That is the specific motion before the Chair, Senator Keeffe, and that is the motion to be debated.
– I am not under any illusion, Mr President. I appreciate what Senator Chaney has said. Whilst we are debating the question of whether this matter is to be the subject of debate on another day, it is quite obvious that one is not breaching the Standing Orders by making relevant remarks on the subject matter on which debate is to be adjourned. That is precisely what I am trying to do. An accusation has been thrown around that a document was illegally removed. People are coming under very grave suspicion. I know one of the journalists concerned fairly well and would consider that journalist to be of unimpeachable character in relation to this sort of thing. That is the reputation of the other journalist too. I think they have to be defended in these circumstances. I have no quarrel with the working journalists in the Press Gallery because in the main they are people of great integrity who try to do a job. Consequently, if they are going to be accused in this way somebody has to defend them. Obviously, that defence is going to come from the Opposition side of the chamber.
– No one has been accused.
– It is a case of a very poor choice of words. The Government of the day is notorious for leaking documents like a sieve; they are going out everywhere. If a document has been leaked and an accusation is going to be made that it has been stolen it is not improper -
- Mr President, I suggest this is not pertinent to the subject under discussion.
Senator Keeffe ‘s remarks should be ruled out of order.
– Yes. The motion before the chamber is that debate of this matter be adjourned to another day. That is the motion under immediate consideration.
– I am doing my very best to stick to the subject matter of the ad hoc or impromptu debate, if one could call it that. I thought I was staying fairly well within the guidelines that the lady on the other side of the chamber from the apple isle attempted to lay down. She opened the ground widely in her remarks. I am not going to speak at length but I do want to make those two or three pertinent points because undoubtedly debate on this matter has been opened to the extent that comments will be made about it over the next few days. I think the 2 people concerned need some sort of defence while this subject matter is to be debated. It will probably be debated in the Press; I do not know. But certainly it will be discussed around the corridors of this Parliament. Silence will be imposed on honourable senators until we come back to debating this subject matter, whether it be some time next week or when we return after the Easter recess.
With very great respect, Mr President, sometimes after debates of this nature have been opened up in a preliminary way they go on the notice paper and we do not see them again for an awfully long time. When the matter comes back to us it will be full of rust and a lot of things could have been pushed under the carpet. I am suggesting that this sort of accusation should not have been made. I doubt very much whether we ought now to allow debate to be adjourned for any lengthy period without finalising it. If possible, I suggest we should finalise it at this point of time. I reserve my right to participate in the debate at a later date.
– I want it to be understood that my statement intends no allegation against anyone. I wish that to be perfectly clear.
– I seek some further advice from the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) as to whether it can be taken that this motion to adjourn the debate and make it an order of the day for the next day of sitting will mean that the matter will be placed on the notice paper and not debated until some convenient time in the future, as this is often what occurs. I think the issues that are involved here are much more serious than some people realise. Firstly, there is the issue raised by Senator Sim that he suspected that someone had taken a document from his room. That in itself is a serious charge because the offices of honourable senators in this Parliament should be inviolate. There is no way of getting around that. If any complaint is made, not only should security be checked, but also a method should be devised for improving security.
The other matter involved is the publication of that document. I thought you were very generous, Mr President, to those people who published the document. This has brought to a head a matter which needed to be brought before the Senate and the public. The people of this country should not tolerate the practice of documents being leaked, documents being stolen and people publishing information to which they have no right. I take this as a part of the whole campaign by the Press to try to run the country and the Parliament. It has been doing this for a long time. In fact, it used this method so effectively against the Labor Government that eventually it was able to destroy that Government. The point is this: During the time that I was the Presiding Officer there was a case of a person from the Press Gallery being caught in the office of the then Prime Minister. He eventually lost his Press pass for Parliament House. It was a very harsh penalty; his Press pass was actually his livelihood. But it should be well known to people in the Press gallery that it is a great privilege for them to be able to come into the Parliament. That should be brought home to them.
The main point I wish to make is that the editor of the Age, in instructing his agent in Canberra not to write to you, Mr President, because you were generous enough to make a simple decision about the whole case, Was contemptuous of the Parliament- the Presiding Officer and, in effect, the Senate itself. That is why this matter should be considered as soon as possible. A time should be set on the next day of sitting for this issue to be debated. I hope that the Minister will be seized with the serious nature of this matter and give us an assurance that as soon as the ordinary business of questions and other matters is over on the next day of sitting this matter will come up for clarification. The sooner it is cleared up the better it will be for all of us.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 17 March, on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Before the debate commences I suggest that a cognate debate be held on the Apple and Pear Stabilization Amendment Bill 1977, the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Amendment Bill 1977 and the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Collection Amendment Bill 1 977.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– We are discussing cognately 3 Bills which deal with the stabilisation of the apple and pear industry. Honourable senators will recall that every year since 1971 the Senate has had a number of long winded debates about this industry. On every occasion honourable senators from Tasmania in particular have concerned themselves with the state of the industry and supported or opposed the proposals that have been put forward by the government of the day. Having considered the slanging match that has gone on from year to year, the Opposition has decided to move an amendment to the 3 Bills with which we are dealing. It is my intention to move that the Bills be withdrawn with a view to bringing forward Bills which increase the rate of stabilisation payments of $3 per box of apples and $ 1 .20 per box of pears and /or provide supplementary assistance measures to facilitate adjustments in the fruit growing industry and to provide assistance directly to individual fruit growers till such times as a coherent planned policy, by which the Australian fruit growing industry can prosper, is determined. The Opposition believes that the Senate should give serious consideration to this amendment. We believe that the reasons for the amendment, which I shall now outline, ought to be seriously considered by the Government. We recognise that the apple and pear industry requires tangible assistance if it is to survive. We have come to this conclusion following the years of debate in this place. This applies particularly if the industry is to survive in States and regions where it is orientated for export markets.
I do not think that any honourable senator needs to be convinced that the collapse of export markets has had a disastrous effect in a number of fruitgrowing regions throughout Australia. We therefore request the Government to reconsider in dollar terms the extent of the assistance to be given to the export orientated industry with a view to raising the level of that assistance. The amendment also asks the Government to reconsider giving additional or alternative assistance direct to growers while a policy by which the apple and pear industry will prosper is determined and implemented. The amendment does not seek to pre-empt the Government’s decision making. It does not tie the Government’s hands. It impliedly rejects the Government’s specific assistance measures to apple and pear growers as being insufficient. It questions the criteria by which the Government considers that the assistance can best be given to the desparate fruitgrowers of Tasmania, Queensland and Western Australia and this beseiged export industry. It rejects the Government’s cavalier attitude to the hardship of fruitgrowers in the Stanthorpe region in Queensland, the Goulburn Valley in Victoria, the Huon Valley in Tasmania and the south-west region of Western Australia.
I recall that on the last occasion when similar measures were debated we tried to represent the various regions of Australia and the interests of the domestic market where States had access to their own market and where States which had lost their overseas markets were endeavouring to obtain access to such domestic markets. In previous debates in the Senate, I and other Opposition senators have indicated our preference for people-based assistance programs rather than commodity-based assistance programs. Of course, Government supporters have disagreed with that suggestion. They have questioned whether that is the best way in which assistance can be given to the industry. By moving this amendment the Opposition challenges the Government to increase the assistance on a commodity basis if it believes that this is the sole and best way to assist fruitgrowers in the fruitgrowing industry. We are saying that if the Government believes that the extension of support provided under the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Amendment Bill 1976 is the best way of assisting the industry, the least it should do is to increase the extent of that assistance to take into account inflation, extra costs and charges. If the Government refuses to consider our amendment it can be condemned for, in effect, implementing by stealth one aspect of the Industries Assistance Commission report, namely the reduction of the stabilisation scheme, and ignoring all the other recommendations.
Several recommendations in the IAC report are relevant to the problem of the fruitgrowing industry. For example, one recommendation is the establishment of area development authorities to determine specific problems in specific areas. If any State would come within the jurisdiction of that recommendation it is certainly Tasmania. Another recommendation was the implementation of adjusted assistance measures to assist people who wish to leave the industry. When we consider that the tree-pull scheme has been phased out, it is clear that some additional attention has to be given to the industry. Of course, the Government has every right to reject the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission. However, it has no right to sit back and continue insufficient interim measures which have the effect of forcing more and more fruitgrowers out of the industry without even providing any substantial form of compensation. I believe that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) is in dereliction of his duty. Government senators concerned with the plight of fruitgrowers will also be in dereliction of” their duty, both as supporters of the industry and as honourable senators in this House of review, if they permit the Government to steamroll these 3 Bills through this chamber. I believe that the Opposition will have the support of Tasmanian senators opposite, particularly Senator Wright. I shall quote his assertion last year. He said:
We want the maximum support under the scheme to be $3 a case and we want it to be indexed. If defence forces retirement benefits payments for superannuants from defence forces can be indexed in full, the cost to a producer can be indexed in full for 1978 and 1979 to take account of inflation.
When Senator Wright was commenting on this matter last year, he tried to persuade me that I should look at this matter in a more tolerant and sympathetic fashion.
– What did you say?
– I read Senator Wright’s speech. During the last parliamentary recess I did a lot of research and I visited a number of fruit growing areas in order to determine whether Senator Wright was correct in endeavouring to persuade me that we needed to do more than what had been done in the past. The importance of the apple and pear industry to Tasmania and to regions of Victoria, Western Australia and Queensland is well known to members of this Parliament. Every year for the last 6 years, as I said when I opened my remarks, apple and pear legislation has been brought before the Parliament and, notwithstanding that, notwithstanding the occasions when those Bills have been passed from year to year and assistance has been given, can honourable senators seriously sit here and say that the problem has been resolved? I think it has to be admitted without doubt that the problems are still with us.
Senator Wright is one person who has been quite vocal on this issue in this chamber. I draw his attention to what happened. One of his House of Representatives colleagues who claimed to be concerned about the state of the industry, Mr Goodluck, in his attempt to move an amendment in the other place, sought to suggest that when we were in Government from 1972 to 1975- the Whitlam Government- we were not concerned with this problem. I draw the attention of honourable senators to some of the facts. In 1 974 the Labor Government provided support under the stabilisation and special assistance schemes which amounted to a maximum of $2.80 a box for apples. It is true that in the following year the support was reduced to $1.60 a box. That was done in the belief that a lower level of support in 1975 was justified in anticipation of a higher return expected for apples in Europe. That did not take place. We know that in 1976 the Industries Assistance Commission suggested the complete phasing out of the stabilisation scheme. The fact is that there have been movements up and down but because there has not been an improvement in the industry, I think, we are completely justified in moving precisely what Senator Wright suggested should have been done on the last occasion. If the amendment proposed by the Opposition is carried, it will permit a fundamental re-think of the best ways of assisting the industry to survive. Apple and pear growers no longer survive the seeds of attrition which will continue to germinate if the inadequate interim measures proposed by this Government in the 3 Bills that we are considering are accepted without amendment.
The Minister shows his continued ignorance of the needs of the industry by maintaining last year’s interim measures at last year’s level of support at a time when fruit growers are confronted with the challenges of this year and the increased costs of this year. I have before me a document sent to me by Brian J. Newman, the manager of the Australian Apple and Pear Growers Association, in which he indicates the increase in cost involved in this industry. He establishes without any shadow of doubt that if indexation were applied- and that was the cornerstone, I suggest, of Senator Wright’s approach to this issue- there would be a justifiable increase not from $2 to $3 a box but from $2 to $3.58 a box because the increase in costs has been sufficient to take up the slack of $1.58. So the Minister, in just continuing the low level support which he has suggested, ignores the fundamental problem. Nobody will be given the sort of assistance needed to enable them to carry on in the affected regions.
This further exposes the fact that the Minister lacks the basic nous to try something new, vital and different instead of the worn out and time eroded proposals that on their own have not materially placed the industry on the road to prosperity. As far as I am concerned, as shadow Minister, while I hold this position I am going to be concerned about the fate of people in rural areas. I am going to be concerned about the fate of those who live not only from agriculture but also in a relationship with the canning industry and the whole rural infrastructure.
– While we have such a measure of agreement, let us get together on union interference.
– I will deal with that shortly. The proposed arrangements stand only as a crutch upon which this geriatric government supports itself while claiming to be the saviour of rural Australia. Time and time again in this House I have pointed to the fact that this Government is only continuing initiatives begun 5, 6, 7 and 8 years ago in respect of agriculture in this country. There is no fundamental rethink, no attempt to come to grips with the basic problem that is facing agriculture in so many sectors today. This Government cannot justifiably claim to be the saviour of rural Australia. That is one of the tenets upon which the National Country Party for many years has attempted to fool all of the country people all of the time. It is extremely difficult to take this Government seriously when it rejects the proposals of an independent inquiry as unacceptable but fails to implement alternate solutions to grapple with the problems that such an inquiry has revealed.
I applaud the fact that the Government has rejected the Industries Assistance Commission’s inquiry. As I have stated several times in debates on these matters, I do not think that the IAC takes into consideration the human and compassionate factors in respect of many sectors of agriculture in Australia. It is too much concerned with the economic and rationalist argument. As far as I am concerned, that is not a starting point to enable people to live according to and to enjoy their own lifestyle. The record and prospects of the industry indicate that it has suffered a period of decline and that there is very little likelihood of improvement in the near or even distant future. Notwithstanding this mountain of evidence the Government claims, by the very introduction of this legislation, that the needs of the industry can be satisfied by the continuation of the 1976 level of assistance. I am sure honourable senators from Tasmania do not accept the Government’s prime contention that the needs of the industry can be maintained by continuing last year’s level of assistance, because nothing can be further from the truth. The Industries Assistance Commission had this to say in its final report on the prospects of the industry:
While it is not possible to predict accurately the long term competitive position or trends in freight and exchange rates, it does not seem likely that the adverse circumstances of the recent past will be reversed. Average returns from apple exports to Europe will continue to be subject to considerable marketing pressure and marketing disadvantages and the Commission does not see any prospect for their improvement. Although the situation facing pear exports to Europe is somewhat better than for apples they too face the same freight and exchange rate problems. There is no evidence to suggest that over the longer term returns from pear exports to Europe will increase in real terms. A somewhat similar situation exists in respect of the North American market.
The effects of these pressures were summed up by the IAC and I found an echo of them in the Outlook Conference I attended a few weeks ago. The Outlook paper for apples and pears began with this assertion- and I am quoting from one of the papers delivered because it seems to me to be relevant to this debate:
Australia’s 1977 apple production is expected to be substantially larger than the small 1976 crop. However, the value of the crop is forecast to be only some 7 per cent greater in money terms. Further, input cost rises and the increased volume of inputs necessary to produce and market the larger crop are likely to result in reduced income for growers.
Apple growers are going to have to look very hard and long in an endeavour to find a message of hope in the Government’s offer on this occasion. They are going to be Very, very concerned about those who are projecting the future of the industry. In the opinion of the Opposition the Government is simply telling the apple and pear growers to grin and bear it. It is an admission of a complete bankruptcy of ideas, a statement that the Government does not have an answer to the desperate plight of growers. I believe there is an answer to the desperate plight of growers. This Government which has the legislative responsibility for the industry has failed to meet that challenge. A measure of the dishonesty of this Government is that deep down in its heart it knows that it offers only a sop to growers. Christ on the cross cried ‘I thirst’, and those who saw his plight offered him vinegar. That is the situation with this piece of legislation. It puts off for another year the fundamental look which is necessary to save the industry.
The depths to which this Minister will stoop in order to cover up the gross inadequacies of his Government are no better illustrated than by his reference to those States which have declined to participate in the supplementary assistance measures. The Minister knows only too well that there is no export industry in the States to which he has referred in his second reading speech in the other place as having declined to participate in the scheme. Why would they wish to contribute from their limited funds when the benefits will flow to growers in other States? The Minister referred to 2 States which refused to contribute to his scheme on the basis of a $ 1 for $ 1 subsidy. It is rank hypocrisy for a Minister in a Government which offers the elixir of new federalism as the panacea for Australia’s economic ills to complain when States exercise their rights which that policy confers upon them. Time and time again in this place we have heard Senator Carrick talk about the new federalism policy and the rights of the States. Yet, when the States say that in no way should they be called upon to make a contribution to the export sector of the apple and pear industry, the Minister has the temerity to attack them, that is New South Wales and South Australia. Perhaps the Minister is suggesting that the people of the Australian Capital Territory and of the Northern Territory should contribute funds to a supplementary scheme to subsidise exporters in other States. This matter is just as irrelevant to them as it is to the Government of New South Wales and South Australia. There is no export industry in those places.
The Minister knows how ludicrous he would appear if he dared to suggest that the Territories should come into the scheme on a financial basis. The reason the Minister has mentioned the nonexport States is to attempt to make cheap political capital. It is about time that aspect was put aside. We are concerned with the fate of the industry: We are concerned with the fate of groups of people in various parts of our country. This is not an issue from which to make cheap political capital.
– What hypocrisy?
– I think it is important to indicate to the Senate and to the Australian public the reasons why some States have rejected the concept of providing State funds for export schemes of this nature. The New South Wales Minister, in a letter of 6 January 1977, quite rightly pointed out that the New South Wales Government would not now, or in the future, be involved in such support schemes. In point of fact, the South Australian Government pointed out that it would not be involved in the $ 1 for $ 1 subsidy scheme and that it would write off $270,000 which it had made available to some sectors of the industry. The consequence of that action is that the South Australian Government has made a greater contribution than it would have made if it had participated in the $ 1 for $ 1 scheme. It must be added, Senator Walters, and those other honourable senators who are trying to interject, that this attitude is consistent with the attitude expressed by the previous New South Wales Liberal and National Country Party Government in 1975 and early 1976. There- is no reason why those States should be called upon to make any contribution to the rationalisation plans to put the industry on a permanently viable basis.
What has the Fraser Government done? It has not converted loans for canneries to grants. It has merely deferred payment. It has done nothing for the apple and pear growers. It refuses to become involved with industry rationalisation and stable marketing for the whole fruit canning industry. I ask: Where is the survey to show the defects which are in the marketing of our apples and pears in Australia? Where is the inquiry being held to show the great loss that is taking place in this industry? Something like less than 40c in every consumer dollar goes to the grower. The rest of the amount is spent in the distribution and retailing of the product. The Tasmanian Government is aware of the existing stabilisation proposals and has accepted them. But it has gone a step further. It has offered a supplementary assistance scheme on a $ 1 for $ 1 basis. This scheme was put forward and accepted by Tasmania last year. The Tasmanian Government is currently legislating for an interim export marketing authority in its own right, as distinct from the responsibilities of the Australian Government, to give much needed assistance to fruit growers in that State. It is hoped that the Minister will not refuse the State’s application for a licence. To do so would be a dereliction of duty.
Having taken up the applications from some fruit growers in Western Australia with the Department and the Minister I know how difficult it is to get a licence to export apples and pears. It was only with the greatest amount of pressure that finally we were able to get the Apple and Pear Corporation to accede to the request from the fruit growers in Western Australia to get access to international markets. From the evidence I have presented I believe it is clear that it is Mr Sinclair and the Fraser Government which lack sensitivity in relation to the economic plight of fruit growers, not the States. There is a sensitivity in the Opposition about this problem. We trust that there will be a sensitivity from the Government. The Federal Government has constitutional responsibility over marketing and exports. It should use its powers in the national interest to provide a plan for the recovery of the fruit growing industry. To make cheap political capital out of the plight of a section of the Australian community- the apple and pear growers -is to treat it with contempt. We in Opposition say that we are prepared to consider an increase in the commodity based propositions but we do not believe that is sufficient. That is why we have suggested that the apple and pear growers throughout Australia, associated with the export industry, should be given direct assistance to maintain the growers in a viable industry on the farm.
The Opposition was once amazed at the manner in which primary producers were prepared to accept what this Government doled out to them in the name of assistance. But this is no longer the case. It is evident that there has been widespread dissatisfaction throughout rural Australia. Primary producers are beginning to realise that their hopes were dashed in December when they returned a coalition Government. In all its policy programs the Government suggested it wanted to make agriculture viable, buoyant, and prosperous. Yet what Government senator can seriously suggest that there has been any tangible improvement in agriculture in the last 1 5 or 16 months? This coalition is bankrupt of ideas and possessed only of a policy which is continuing to send apple and pear growers, and other primary producers, to the wall. It is this sector of agriculture which is hardest hit in Australia today. It is true that the dairying industry is in a very similar position. Dairying and fruit growing are 2 grave problem areas in agriculture today.
What of this Government’s hopes for the future of the industry? The Minister again exhibits his complete and utter lack of ideas. He paints a very dark picture but offers no hope to producers. He offers only the maintenance of an existing scheme. The Minister states quite emphatically that the assistance cannot continue indefinitely. That is what he states in his second reading speech. What then are his plans for the future? They are not to be found in his second reading speech. Is there some other plan? Surely we are entitled to know what that plan is because it cannot be found in the policy of the Liberal and National Country Parties. The best the Minister can offer is a vague hope that things will improve. In 1975 we were condemned when we suggested that conditions would improve because we reduced the subsidy from $2.80 to $1.60. That was the basis upon which we made our economic judgment. We were proved to be wrong. For the sake of apple and pear growers the Opposition hopes that the Government will grasp the nettle and accept the amendment. If it does not do so growers will be in an even more pathetic state.
But what of next season? The Minister is expecting a phasing down of assistance measures. He is hoping that the economic circumstances of the industry will make this possible. He fails to describe the basis upon which this theory is based. I have referred to the estimates of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and of the Industries Assistance Commission. Those estimates must surely cause some concern to the industry. The facts of the case are such that the now infamous Blind Freddie and his dog can see that there will be no economic recovery for this industry in the foreseeable future. Without Government direction and participation we cannot hope to see any tangible benefits to the apple and pear growers. At a time when the industry and fruit growers require direction and assistance to improve marketing methods and quality control for apples and pears sold domestically and overseas, this Government continues the interim measures at last year’s level of assistance.
Mr English, the general manager of the Committee of Direction of Fruit Marketing, at the Outlook Conference emphasised the need to establish a sole export marketing authority to prevent the ludicrous situation of Australia virtually competing against itself with a multiplicity of brands and a great variety in packs. There is no suggestion in this legislation that the Government is grappling with that idea, and who is better able to give that sort of advice to the Government than that gentleman? What better organisation could there be from which to get advice? There is nothing to suggest that its proposals have received even the consideration of the Government. Mr English pessimistically has the feeling that it might be too late to move in this direction because of the extent to which our export market has dwindled.
If the Government refuses to accept the Opposition ‘s amendment it is putting the last nail in the coffin of this industry because the income of apple and pear growers is at the bottom of the list and some of them are earning considerably less than the lowest paid manual worker. It is an industry which has over 3000 growers and employs a substantial amount of labour. We are concerned not only with agriculture but also with the canning industry, with those who profit from the activities of a particular fruit growing region and with the whole infrastructure that must be, will be and is affected by the failure to effect a substantial improvement in the living standards of those people who operate in this industry.
On the last occasion that this matter was debated, as is customary for the Government parties, the endeavour was to sheet the blame in some other direction, usually in the direction of those associated with the working section of the industry or those associated with the distribution of the industry’s products. I am sorry that Senator Wright has left the chamber but I refer him to reports which have appeared in recent times in the financial columns of our newspapers. He has made a great endeavour to suggest that if freight costs could be reduced, if wharf labourers and others associated with the industry could be persuaded to accept lower wages there would be some chance for the industry to revive. I refer him to the statement of the Prices Justification Tribunal about James Patrick and Co. Pty Ltd which was ordered as a result of the discussions before that tribunal to reduce its charges. I also draw his attention to what the Prices Justification Tribunal had to say to Seatainer Terminals Ltd which was ordered to cut its charges by 10 per cent and what it had to say about the rip-off by Sir Reginald Reed who received in 1976 in excess of $700,000 in directors fees and more than $l.lm in commission between 1972 and 1975.
If there are to be any savings in the cost of distribution of those products we should not expect those who have to perform the duties to carry the burden. It should be borne by those in management who are using their privileged, position to get the maximum return for their management skills. I suggest that there are a lot of rip-offs taking place in the whole distribution process of our agricultural products and that the Government ought to be examining how best it will overcome the disparity between what the consumer pays whether on the domestic or overseas market and the very poor return to growers. So I formally move:
Leave out all words after “That”, insert the Bill be withdrawn with a view to bringing forward a Bill which
Increases the rate of stabilisation payments to $3 per box of apples and $ 1 .20 per box of pears and /or
Provides supplementary assistance measures to facilitate adjustments in the fruit growing industry and provides assistance directly to individual fruit growers till such times as a coherent planned policy, by which the Australian fruit growing industry can prosper, is determined.
If there is any understanding of the attitude which the Opposition is taking on this legislation we can expect from at least Senator Wright and other honourable senators from Tasmania who have spoken from time to time on this subjectand we should bear in mind those honourable senators who were axed following the stand they took on 1 1 November 1975 when these matters were debated- a more sympathetic approach to the amendment which I have moved on behalf of the Opposition.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Melzer)- Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– I support these 3 Bills which we are debating cognately. They are the Apple and Pear Stabilization Amendment Bill, the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Amendment Bill and the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Collection Amendment Bill. The first Bill is the substance of this debate, the other two merely dealing with machinery matters. I address myself to some of the matters raised by Senator Gietzelt. It is interesting that although in response to an interjection by Senator Wright he said he would deal with the union matter later in his address, he did not deal with it at all despite the fact that this must be a significant factor in the costs faced by the apple and pear producers in Australia. The Government rejects completely the amendment which was moved by Senator Gietzelt, as it did in the other place. It is complete hypocrisy to suggest that the Government is doing nothing. Most of the problems in the industry were created by the previous Government and I refer in particular to inflation which, I point out for the benefit of Opposition senators, in 1975 in respect of rural properties was double the general rate of inflation. During that year the general rate of inflation was about 16 per cent while the cost of rural production rose by nearly 30 per cent. This is one of the largest problems being faced by rural producers.
The freight equalisation scheme has been of immense benefit to Tasmanian apple producers. It was an initiative of this Government. The relaxation of the rural reconstruction scheme and the widening of eligibility for the unemployment benefit to cover rural producers have helped many apple producers. Senator Gietzelt referred to the lack of support by some State Governments in the subsidising of apple production. He said that the main reason he supported that attitude was that State taxpayers would be supporting an industry that concerns only a small number of producers. What he was really suggesting was that all taxpayers in Australia should contribute to the problems in those States. He also suggested that there is a great need for diversification and mentioned my own State of Western Australia where apparently he had trouble persuading the Western Australian
Apple and Pear Corporation to agree to diversification or to an increase in the number of exporters. I am very proud of the record of the Western Australian Apple and Pear Corporation in diversifying its markets and I will demonstrate later in my address the extent to which our Corporation has managed to achieve this diversification of markets.
What we are debating here is a proposal for a maximum price of $2 a box of apples up to 2 million boxes sold at risk in markets in Europe, including the United Kingdom, and a maximum subsidy in relation to pears of 80 cents a box up to 1.4 million boxes for sale at risk in markets in Europe and the United States. The meaning of the term ‘at risk’ probably is apparent to all honourable senators. At risk sales constitute about 75 per cent of our export apple sales. To put things in perspective, apple production in Australia is averaging 21 million boxes a year, which represents about 5 per cent to 6 per cent of the gross value of our rural production. Exports, which account for about 20 per cent of our total apple production in Australia, represent about 1 per cent of the value of our rural exports. Tasmania, which is our largest apple producing State, produces about one-third of our total production, but because of its small population it exports two-thirds of its total production and provides 50 per cent of Australia’s export production.
In my State of Western Australia, the apples grown represent only one-seventh of the Australian apple production. Western Australia also has a small population and exports about half its domestic production, which accounts for slightly less than one-third of the total Australian exports. I mentioned earlier that Western Australia has been very successful in diversifying its markets. The fact that Australia would encounter trouble in the marketing of apples in the European Economic Community must have been obvious to most people many years ago. I have before me some figures which show that sales of Western Australian apples to the United Kingdom in 1975 amounted to 860 000 bushels. In 1976 they amounted to 720 000 bushels, and it is estimated that in 1977 our exports to the United Kingdom will show a drop to about 160 000 bushels. The position in Western Australia is not due entirely to diversification. Unfortunately, Western Australian producers suffered a rather calamitous loss of production through hail. It is forecast that the Western Australian production will drop from its level of 2.54 million bushels last year to 1.7 million bushels this year. This is due entirely to the hail problem.
Apple exports from Western Australia, which come under the heading of ‘other markets’, have remained steady for the last 3 or 4 years at 340 000 bushels. In particular, we have managed to build up a very good market in the Gulf countries. Exports to those countries have increased from 14 000 bushels in 1973 to 93 000 bushels in 1 974. That represents a very dramatic increase. In 1975, 122 000 bushels were exported to the Gulf countries, and in 1976 we exported 127 000 bushels to those countries. It is estimated that from the current harvest we will export 126 000 bushels to the Gulf countries. I wish to mention one of the lesser acknowledged problems concerning the hail damage that was suffered by the Western Australian producers this year. Because of the widespread effect of the hail, the cost of picking the fruit has been a great deal higher. The rejection rate can be as high as 60 per cent or 70 per cent and this adds tremendously to the cost of picking the apples.
There is no denying that many apple and pear producers in Australia are in tragic circumstances. Fortunately for the Western Australian producers, most of them are diversified. Their apple and pear production is sometimes a sideline. Sometimes it is the major area of production but very seldom is it the only area of production for those producers. Tasmanian producers are not as well situated in this regard because for many of them apple production is the only source of income. I support the measures which the Government is introducing as interim measures. Senator Gietzelt made great play of the forward planning that is needed in the industry. It is not only a government responsibility; it is also an industry responsibility. As I said before, it must have been obvious to all apple producers for many years that they would be faced with the problems they are facing now. I am a great supporter of short term subsidies to overcome short term aberrations in a market or to allow producers to adjust to a new situation. I am not a supporter of long term subsidies to any industry.
We need a local apple and pear industry in Australia. Of course, it must be obvious to all honourable senators that this local production is doing quite well without any subsidy whatsoever, with the exception of the freight equalisation payment to the Tasmanian growers. I strongly urge the industry to investigate alternative markets. However, there is a particular problem in regard to Japan which could take a very large amount of Australian apples. Unfortunately, the apple production in some States of Australia is infected with codlin-moth particularly your State of South Australia, Mr President. Also, the Western Australian crop in particular is affected by fruit fly. The Japanese will not accept fruit from any State in Australia if one State has either of those 2 problems. I believe that our Government is supporting the carrying out of a great deal of work in investigating methods to reduce the incidence of these 2 problems. But probably the best solution will be the introduction of some method of fumigation of the apple itself to encourage the Japanese to accept this fruit. As I said before, the Gulf countries will take more and more apples. This is one example of an area to which we can diversify our exports.
In conversation with one of the leading exporters in Western Australia, he pointed out to me that there was a problem last year with the standard of packing of some of the Tasmanian apples that were sent to the United Kingdom. This was one reason why the Australian exports to the U.K. were very badly priced. We did not receive anywhere near the price for our apples that some other countries received for their apples. It is well recognised that one of the greatest problems in the apple industry is that it is through necessity a labour intensive one. Because of this, the industry faces more costs than most other industries. I have mentioned inflation. It creates a particular problem in respect to apples and pears over and above the problems it creates in respect of most other rural products. This is because of the high labour content in the industry. Also, the freight costs are increasing all the time. For example, it cost $4.88 to ship a case of apples from Western Australia in 1976. In 1977 it is expected to cost $5.90 a case. The handling costs are astronomical and getting higher. Many of the problems arise from the costs on the wharf. There are many problems to be solved on the wharf in the handling of fruit. I could give examples of that. Mechanisation is one way that many rural industries have overcome their problems. This is not so relevant for the fruit industry. But it is experimenting with growing apple trees in the form of a hedge which makes handling, picking and pruning much easier. This is one example of how costs could be reduced.
Another important area must be the building up of the local market. The local market has declined gradually over the years. I have in front of me the Bureau of Agricultural Economics figures which indicate that in 1971-72 local sales reached the peak of about 42.4 kilograms per head of population. It is projected that in 1974-75 local consumption would have fallen to 33.2 kilograms per head. I think it is important that the people responsible- the industry itself and the Government- should assist in this area to build up local sales. It is critical. We must build up our local markets as we have done with other rural products. I do not think anybody would disagree that the export market prospects for Australian fruit, in particular apples and pears, are not good. The main reason is that traditionally we have depended on the United Kingdom market. Because of the United Kingdom’s entry into the European Economic Community that market is not so readily available to us now.
Another important reason why we are not getting as much fruit into the United Kingdom now, is that in recent years controlled atmosphere storage has been developed. Instead of the United Kingdom’s local production being available purely seasonally the local produce can be fed onto the market 12 months of the year. The market is not now available to the traditional suppliers of apples, in particular, and pears to the United Kingdom. I refer to Australia, South Africa and New Zealand which are all in the southern hemisphere. Formerly we could send supplies to the United Kingdom during its off season. South Africa, New Zealand and Argentina have increased their production. Argentina has almost doubled its export production in the last 2 years.
In the few minutes remaining to me I will address myself to the area of assistance generally. I would like to quote from the Industries Assistance Commission’s report dated 16 January 1976 which is headed Fruitgrowing Part A: Fruitgrowing Reconstruction. I refer to the paragraph on page 4 which reads:
Costs of assistance are also taken into consideration. More help can be given to the people concerned at much less cost to the nation if it is not given by way of assistance to production. The futility of product based support as an adjustment measure is illustrated by a Bureau of Agricultural Economics estimate that in 1973-74, despite direct production subsidies averaging more than $14,000 per grower, net farm incomes of Tasmanian apple producers averaged less than $6,000. Assistance to growers was absorbed not only by production costs but also by costs of marketing and low export returns. Personal assistance designed to help people to adjust to changed circumstances is considered to be far more efficient. Such assistance can be provided by increasing the options available both for people who decide to stay on and those who decide to leave.
That is rather an astronomical figure. The report is saying that the taxpayers of Australia are contributing $14,000 to each grower in Tasmania to help him to survive. In fact he is receiving only $6,000 of that amount. The problem with production subsidies is that there are some efficient producers and some inefficient producers. Many of the more efficient producers are actually encouraged to increase their production if the subsidy is high enough. This tends to disguise the true position of the industry and gives the producers a false sense of security. It could be much kinder to make them realise that their industry is in trouble and that they should be assisted to leave that industry.
I think that the people of Australia should be grateful to the Industries Assistance Commission for presenting these sort of factors before them. Rural subsidies can be seen in the Budget. All governments are accused by others unfairly of assisting the rural sector. The largest area of assistance given to people in Australia is given in the form of tariffs. They are a hidden factor; they do not appear in budgets. It takes organisations like the Industries Assistance Commission to bring these things out into the open. I strongly urge the Government, if it can find a way of doing so, to evaluate regularly the effects of tariffs on the people who work in the industries affected. A lot of publicity has been given in the last few months on the assistance given by way of tariffs to the shipbuilding industry. This is one example; I could give many others.
– Do you realise that by supporting the legislation you are doing exactly what the IAC says you should not do?
– I am saying that I support the legislation as a short term measure. I also support the IAC recommendation that there should be a very serious look at the industry by the industry itself and by the Government. I believe this is happening at the moment. As I said before, the position must have been obvious to all producers and to the previous Government. Very little was done by the previous Government.
Address-in-Reply: Presentation to Governor-General
– Order! In accordance with my advice to the Senate yesterday, the Address-in-Reply to Her Majesty the Queen’s opening Speech will be presented to the Governor-General at 5 p.m. today. I invite honourable senators to accompany me on this occasion. Cars will be available at the front steps of Parliament House at 4.45 p.m. to take honourable senators to Government House.
Sitting suspended from 4.30 to 8 p.m.
– I report to the Senate that, accompanied by honourable senators, I this day waited upon the Governor-General and presented to him, for transmission to Her Majesty the Queen, the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty on the occasion of the opening of Parliament, agreed to on 17 March 1977. His Excellency was pleased to make the following reply:
Mr President, in the name, and on behalf of Her Majesty The Queen, I accept the Address-in-Reply. It will be my pleasure and my duty to convey to Her Majesty the message of loyalty from the Senate, to which the Address gives expression.
– 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 Senator Lewis, Senator McAuliffe, Senator Douglas McClelland, Senator Messner, Senator Rae and Senator Walsh to serve on the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations.
Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveagreed to:
That the Legislative and General Purpose Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations be appointed and that the senators indicated, having been duly nominated in accordance with standing order 36AA, be members of the Committee.
– by leave- I inform the Senate that the Government has taken a further step in implementing its federalism policy with the appointment of Commonwealth, State, local government and citizen members to the Advisory Council for Inter-Government Relations. Honourable senators will be aware that the establishment of the Advisory Council, a basic part of our program of reform to improve the functioning of Australia’s political institutions, was provided for in the Advisory Council for InterGovernment Relations Act 1 976 which received royal assent on 26 October 1976. The Advisory Council will review and consider matters relating to the improvement of co-operation and coordination between the different spheres of government.
Mr President, the Government is committed to the protection and advancement of Australia’s political rights. This commitment has been demonstrated in a wide range of reforms: The rapid advance to statehood of the Northern Territory, now underway; the granting of a greater degree of self-government for the Australian Capital Territory; active support for the participation in the Hobart Constitutional Convention; the decision to put to the electorate the 4 referendums on 2 1 May; our undertaking to introduce freedom of information legislation; and our fiscal policies of tax sharing and tax indexation which will render State governments and the Commonwealth government more accountable to the electorate. Central to this commitment is a determination to strengthen our federal system of government.
The Australian Federal system will be strengthened by the clear delineation of responsibilities between the 3 spheres of GovernmentCommonwealth, State and local governmentand by the promotion of effective co-ordination of activities and co-operation between them. The Government saw the need for existing Federal institutions, such as the Premiers Conference and the Loan Council, to be supplemented by an independent body, a body more detached from day to day administrative problems, which could keep our federal system under constant review and come forward with proposals to achieve closer co-operation and co-ordination within that system. The Advisory Council is such a body. It will be an important and independent source of advice on the most desirable allocation of governmental functions, responsibilities and revenues.
The Act provides for a Council of 22 members: Five representatives of the Commonwealth- 3 Government members and 2 Opposition members; 6 State representatives- one from each State parliament; 6 local government representatives; and 5 citizen representatives. I am pleased to announce the following membership of the Council:
Representing the Commonwealth will be The Hon. W. C. Fife, M.P.; Mr I. B. C. Wilson, M.P.; Senator B. F. Kilgariff; The Hon. E. G. Whitlam, Q.C., M.P.; The Hon. T. Uren, M.P. Representing the States will be The Hon. W. A. Haigh, M.L.A. from New South Wales; The Hon. A. J. Hunt, M.L.C. from Victoria; The Hon. D. W. Simmons, M.H.A. from South
Australia; The Hon. I. G. Medcalf, M.L.C. from Western Australia; The Hon. Kathleen Venn, M.L.C. from Tasmania. The Queensland Government has declined to nominate a State Government representative. Representing local government will be Alderman A. G. Percival from New South Wales; Councillor W. Thwaites from Victoria; Councillor F. A. Rogers from Queensland; Rt Hon. J. J. Roche from South Australia; Councillor A. Stickland from Western Australia; Warden R. L. Britton from Tasmania. Representing the community will be Mrs P. Bernard from New South Wales; The Hon. P. Howson from Victoria; Mr H. E. Peterson from Queensland; Mr H. S. Lodge from Western Australia; Professor Russell Mathews from the Australian Capital Territory.
Professor Russell Mathews, who is the Director of the Centre for Research on Federal Financial Relations at the Australian National University, has accepted a 3-year appointment as Citizen Chairman of the Council. Professor Mathews is a distinguished authority on Federal affairs and his extensive experience will be of considerable value to the new Council. The Government is most pleased that he has accepted the important position of Citizen Chairman of the Council. The membership of the Council brings together a broad spectrum of knowledge and experience of the whole system of Australian Government. The independence of advice from the Council will be preserved and strengthened by the appointment of a Citizen Chairman. Governments will not dominate the affairs of the Council.
The 3 members selected to represent the Commonwealth all have close knowledge of the impact on the general public of the activities of all spheres of government. They will also contribute informed views and experience of the functions of the Commonwealth Government. The States will bring their own individualities to the Council. Local government from all States will be represented by experienced councillors and aldermen. The citizens appointed to the Council reflect views from different sections of the Australian community. All are respected members of the community who have indicated their willingness to contribute to the work of the Council as a service to the community. A range of views will be presented and healthy interaction will take place.
The balance of the membership of the Council should be a clear indication that no one sphere of Government will be predominant in the Council.
The Commonwealth seeks, through the membership of Council, the co-operation and improvement of communication between all spheres of Australian Government. By reference from the Premier’s Conference- there would be nothing to prevent the Advisory Council from seeking a particular reference on its own initiativethe Advisory Council will examine problems which emerge between the 3 spheres of Government. Local governments, through their State Premiers, will be able to have matters brought to the Premier’s Conference for reference to the Council for examination and report. The Commonwealth Government will consider possible references from local government in Queensland. The choice of Hobart for the secretariat is a further indication of the Commonwealth Government’s efforts for fair representation of the smaller States. The Council will hold its initial meetings in Hobart. It may if it so wishes hold meetings in other centres around Australia. The Council will be able to draw on the varied resources and views of the whole community.
The secretariat will be small and skilled in utilising the resources of Government departments, instrumentalities, universities, and other educational bodies, and private organisations. Outside researchers will be employed where appropriate, and the secretariat will present well researched opinion for the Council’s consideration. All the resources of the Commonwealth will be available to the Council. I call on the States to declare their commitment to make their resources similarly available. In addition to its annual reports the Council will publish other reports on inter-governmental problems.
The costs of the Council are being shared by agreement among the 3 spheres of government. It was intended that the Commonwealth and the States each meet 45 per cent of the council’s cost, the remaining 10 per cent being contributed by local government. Following Queensland ‘s nonparticipation in the Council, the Commonwealth will contribute an extra 7 per cent. The Commonwealth Government has made provision for $65,000 in its additional Estimates for 1976-77 to establish the Council and secretariat.
Much of the detail of the operation of the Council will be a matter for the Council itself to determine. The Council must decide whether it will hold public hearings, whether it will meet in committee, when and where in Hobart it will establish its secretariat and how it will draw on the many avenues of research and advice open to it. The Council possesses only advisory powers. It does not exist to pre-empt the decisions of governments. It exists to provide an effective means of encouraging public debate on the practical resolution of problems facing governments in Australia. The activities of the Council will make governments fully aware of the options which face them. The governments concerned will be solely responsible for the decisions they make.
The Commonwealth will be putting forward for discussion at the Premiers’ Conference next month possible references to the Council. I would expect the Council to convene its first meeting at the earliest opportunity after this Conference. I wish the Council well in its important work and look forward to receiving its first report. I seek leave to move a motion to take note of the statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
- Mr President, this statement follows on from legislation introduced into the Parliament some time ago following the decision by the Government to appoint this Advisory Council for Inter-Government Relations. It is alleged, as the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) said in the statement, that this is an instrument which will ‘further’ the Government’s policy on the new Federalism. Firstly, this statement indicates that this body will be no more than a facade to indicate the Government’s alleged concern to improve so-called Commonwealth-State relations, especially through the new federalism. The only aspect of this statement which I think should be acceptable to everybody in the Senate is the fact that the secretariat of this body will be established in Hobart and that the initial meeting will be held in that city. That will give the members of the Council an opportunity to study how a good State is run under a good Labor Government. That is the first thing, probably the only thing, that can be said in support of the statement.
I want to refer to just one or two of the points made in the statement. We find, for example, that on the first page the Minister stated: the Government is committed to the protection and advancement of Australian ‘s political rights. ‘
I do not question that as a statement in its own right. It is a matter of opinion, I suppose, as to how much this Government is committed to do that. But in what way the creation of this Advisory Council affects the rights of Australians is beyond me. Possibly it might affect the rights of the States but that again is a matter of opinion. How it is supposed to protect and to advance the political rights of Australians I am not sure. To illustrate the weakness of the Government’s position in creating this Council we find these words, again on page 1 of this statement:
This commitment - that is the commitment I have just referred to- has been demonstrated in a wide range of reforms.
We find two examples of those reforms. The first one is: active support for and participation in the Hobart Constitutional Convention.
It astonishes me if the Government thinks that there is anything new about that. I was under the impression that both the Labor Party and the Liberal Party have consistently supported the various constitutional conventions. They have attended them and contributed to them. We had a lengthy debate in this chamber only recently about the referenda. The Liberal Party contributed to the Hobart Constitutional Convention and has contributed to such conventions for many years. Why should that fact now be put forward to support the argument that this Government has taken on a new attitude under the new federalism? The second matter I would refer to is this point which appears in the statement: the decision to put to the electorate the 4 referendums on 2 1 May.
I know that there are some honourable senators on the Government side who would not even support that decision. We saw what happened in the debate on these issues only two or three weeks ago. We saw the flip- or is ‘double flip’ the correct term- that the Liberal and National Country Parties have done on that issue. It astonishes me that those points should be used to support the creation of this Advisory Council. The next point in the statement was: our undertaking to introduce freedom of information legislation.
That is a worthy motive but we have not seen that legislation yet. Until such time as we do see it, again it seems to me to be spurious to use that point to support the formation of this Advisory Council. The Minister went on to say:
Central to this commitment is a determination to strengthen our federal system of government.
That is a bit of rhetoric that the Minister is entitled to use but we will see, as time goes by, how the new Federalism strengthens the Federal system in this country. Today I asked a question of the Minister, as I think Senator Colston and Senator Walsh also did, in an effort to learn from the Government whether it understands the constitutional implications of the implementation of stage 2 of the new federalism. We will see when the scheme works out whether it will strengthen the Federal system.
On page 2 of the statement there are set out the people who will be representing the Commonwealth on this council. They are the Honourable W. C. Fife, Mr I. Wilson, Senator Kilgariff and Messrs E. G. Whitlam and Uren.
– How many Ministers are on it?
-Exactly! Precisely! We are told about this Government’s massive concern for Commonwealth-State financial relations and how important the new federalism is. Yet with great respect to the 3 persons I have mentioned, Mr Fife–
– I take a point of order. If this matter is to be debated I think it would be fair to all honourable senators listening to the debate which is now centring on detail included in that paper if a copy was before us. So far as I am aware there is no copy of the statement on this side of the chamber.
– It has been circulated.
– I thought copies were distributed. One is being provided now.
– In view of the point of order that has been taken, I point out that I indicated earlier I was quite happy for this document to be incorporated in Hansard, in which case I would not have taken up the time of the Senate in speaking to it. However, the Minister wished to read it and therefore it becomes a matter of debate. I come back to the 3 representatives on this body from the Government side. I say with great respect to the 3 persons concerned, as Senator Douglas McClelland pointed out, that they are not senior members on the Government side. If this Government is so concerned about the new federalism, why is not a senior member from the Government side included on this body? Yet the Opposition which was not responsible for the creation of this Council, has seen fit to have as its representatives the Leader of the Opposition, Mr E. G. Whitlam, and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Uren.
I quickly flick over to page 3 of the statement where there appears what perhaps is a typographical error related to this because it says:
The 3 members selected to represent the Commonwealth all have close kowledge of the impact on the general public of the activities of all spheres of government.
I do not know whether that is a typographical error and the Minister meant to say 5 members but I point out, Mr Minister, that there are 5 members , not three, selected to represent the Commonwealth. The 3 Government supporters are not the only people representing the Commonwealth. I turn now to the 2 members for the Opposition, Messrs E. G. Whitlam and Uren. No 2 members of this Parliament would have a wider knowledge of the whole sphere of CommonwealthState relations than they would and their knowledge covers many years. We on the Opposition side have seen fit to put them on this Council as worthy representatives. They are people with a proven knowledge of and record in Commonwealth-State relations. I am not sure to what extent the other gentlemen from the Government side have that experience.
– As an ex-Minister Mr Fife might have some.
– Yes. I realise he is a former State Minister. I was not aware of that until Senator Withers advised me just before I rose to speak. I would be very surprised if anyone of those 3 Government members have anything like the background in this area which Mr Whitlam and Mr Uren have. As this whole matter of Commonwealth-State relations will be a continuing major dispute and major problem in this country in the years ahead I would have thought that this Government, under its new federalism policy, would have seen fit to put on the Council people of some stature in this area. I some to the section setting up the representatives of the community. I find that for some reason Tasmania is not represented, nor is South Australia. I do not know about South Australia but I understand that there was a nomination from Tasmania. There could well have been a nomination from South Australia. Perhaps the Minister might be able to tell us why those 2 States are not represented.
– Perhaps Mr Howson could be the representative.
-I understand Mr Howson is representing Victoria. Nevertheless, the Minister might be able to advise us what happened. Were nominations received from those 2 States? At the bottom of page 2 of the Minister’s statement he has this to say:
Governments will not dominate the affairs of the Council.
I am pleased to hear that. I do not think the Federal Government will dominate, in view of the representation which it has on the Council. I draw the attention of the Minister and of the Senate to the fact that Queensland has declined to put a representative on the Council, that is a representative of the Queensland Premier. This is referred to on page 3. The Minister stated:
Local Governments, through their State Premiers, will be able to have matters brought to the Premiers Conference for reference to the Council for examination and report.
Poor old Queensland, of course, will not have a State Government representative on the Council.
– Perhaps it did not have anyone up to standard.
– I hope, Senator Missen, that your comment is reported in the Queensland Press. The Minister stated:
The Commonwealth Government will consider possible references from local government in Queensland.
Am I to believe that because there is no Queensland Government representative on the Council, any submissions from local government in Queensland will be at the discretion of the Commonwealth Government? The Minister has stated that the Commonwealth Government will consider possible references from local government in Queensland. So, presumably because of the brawl between the Liberal Party and the National Country Party in Queensland and because, as we know, of what the Liberals in Canberra think of the Country Party in Queensland, one can assume that that is a little slap in the face to Mr Bjelke-Petersen to remind him that the stick is still being wielded in Canberra. I have referred to the fact that Hobart is the site for the secretariat. That is the only really positive part of the whole statement.
It appears that the budget for this Council will be in the area of $ 1 40,000. From reading the document one assumes that the Parliament will get annual reports and periodic reports on various aspects of Commonwealth-State relations. If this Government thinks that the new federalism and this Council are so important, and if all it can find is $65,000 of its own money to put up for a secretariat, what sort of research does it imagine the secretariat will carry out with a budget of $ 1 40,000. In the last year we were in government the Bureau of Agricultural Economics had a budget of $3m. That is the sort of money that is needed if we are to have effective research and if we are to employ the right sort of personnel.
But this great body, this Advisory Council which is so vitally important to the implementation of the new federalism policy, is a body to which this Government is prepared to give a lousy $65,000. And the Government expects to get some results! This is the true measure of how much the Government really believes the sorts of things it has been telling us for months. It is indicative of what we will see in the coming months. I have been critical, and I have intended to be. Originally I did not intend to be critical. I do not argue with the view of the importance of a proper research and advisory body which can advise the Federal Government in this area. I only wish the Government was dinkum about the matter. If it really believed all these things it would make sure that adequate resources were devoted to the Council so that the proper personnel with proper expertise- one has to pay for that- would be available for this body. I know the legislation has been passed. We will see in time just how well this Council can perform.
– I believe the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) is to be congratulated for his idealism which I know he holds very dearly in relation to this matter of increasing the efficiency of inter-governmental relations in Australia. But while I share his idealism I do not share his optimism. While I wholeheartedly support his attempts, because attempts have to be made to have our system work more efficiently than it is working now, I think we would be in a state of euphoria with our heads in the clouds if we thought some easy way of consultation could be arranged whereby over a few years the very basic differences in the political operations of the States and the Commonwealth could be reconciled and we would have a scene set whereby the States would approach each difficult question in relation to the Commonwealth in a state of cooperation. In fact, as we know, the States often approach the matter in a state of buccaneering enterprise. The States, for their own political purposes, blame their Commonwealth colleagues, if necessary, for their own deficiencies or inability to obtain sufficient money for their own projects.
I am sure optimism has to be tempered with a practical approach. It is a tremendously difficult job. We have plenty of examples at the present moment such as the ability of State governments in South Australia, for instance; of the Dunstan Government from time to time blaming completely the Commonwealth Government for its own deficiencies. We have a situation in Queensland today involving the difficulties of the transfer of land for Aboriginal purposes approved by the State Government. That is a specific instance where very great difficulties will arise in the future. One must realise, I think, that State politicians and State Premiers see their responsibilities ending at their State borders.
This is a well known fact which all honourable senators know in their hearts. Therefore, I say in passing that I support the Minister in his move. I wish htm all success, but I think we should not predicate future operations and our outlook on federalism on the basis that we can achieve the great national voice which we need in the Federal Parliament by talking sweetly to a number of State governments which, from day to day, repudiate the very co-operation which we seek. On that basis I certainly offer my support to the Minister. As I say, I hope his optimism is well founded. I very much doubt it in the short term.
Debate (on motion by Senator Carrick) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 17 March, on motion by Senator Gietzelt:
1 ) A Select Committee of the Senate 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 refugees from East Timor;
the fate of six (6) 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 consist 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.
10) The Committee be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources and be empowered to appoint persons 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.
– I indicate at the outset that the Government will oppose the motion. Every Australian will agree that the events in East Timor represent a real human tragedy. Inevitably, whenever and wherever there is conflict, whether internally or externally created, the results are tragic, the more so because the main sufferers all too often are innocent civilians who have no wish to be involved. In recent years there have been plenty of other examples of such tragedy both within and without our own region. There is no reason to single out East Timor. Vietnam, Angola, Chile, Bangladesh, Laos, Nigeria, Cambodia and many other nations, too many to mention, have undergone civil war or external aggression and in all cases the effects of conflict have been appalling. The Australian Government has continually used its every effort to avoid or prevent such conflicts, but our capacity to do so is inevitably limited.
To interfere in the affairs of other nations is often the worst way to deal with such problems. In its policy on Timor the Australian Government has nothing to be apologetic about. The record speaks for itself. The Government has adopted a position of firm principle while at the same time carefully balancing Australia’s interests and responsibilities and keeping in mind the significance to Australia’s national interests of our relations with Indonesia and the area covered by the Association of South East Asian Nations. This has not inhibited the Government expressing its policy.
Perhaps because of the attitude of the Opposition I should once again restate that policy. It is a policy of opposition to the use of force as a means of solving international disputes. That is a fixed and strong position in our foreign policy. It is without qualification. In addition the Australian Government supports the selfdetermination of the people of East Timor. It is fair to say that the Australian government has been more outspoken than any other Western government in support of an orderly process of decolonisation in East Timor. Finally, our policy is one of providing humanitarian assistance- the best possible assistance- to those in need. It is our concern, and should be every Australian’s concern, to ensure that whatever suffering has been brought about as a result of conflict in Timor, or anywhere can be relieved, and can be relieved as quickly and effectively as is humanly possible. I stress again that it is our objective to aid the victims, not to seek our scapegoats.
In addition I remind the Senate that the Government’s policy on Timor has been pursued vigorously both within the United Nations and through its contacts with the Indonesian Government. Before 7 December 1975, the Government sought to avoid conflicts breaking out by attempting to encourage talks between the factions in East Timor. In the United Nations it joined with delegations of other countries in the region in efforts to gain the backing of the United Nations for the attempts then under way to get round table talks going between representatives of the various factions. I stress once again that the Government’s stated policy at each and every stage of developments relating to Timor has been placed forcefully and without ambiguity to the Indonesian Government. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) in January and again in April this year pressed for a cessation of hostilities in East Timor, pressed for the withdrawal of Indonesian troops from East Timor, pressed for the holding of a genuine act of self-determination, pressed for the return to the territory of the International Red Cross. Not only did the Foreign Minister himself press these points but also they were continually pressed through the normal diplomatic channels. In addition the Government has not recognised Indonesia’s incorporation of East Timor although for practical reasons we have accepted some of the realities and the practical reasons are these: We believe it important that the suffering of the people of Timor be relieved; we believe it important that effective humanitarian aid and assistance be given; we believe that families separated by the Timor troubles should be reunited. Would the Opposition have us do otherwise? Would it ask us to create a situation in which the suffering of the people of Timor was, in fact, prolonged? Would it ask us to prevent the reunion of families? Is this what it asks the Australian Government to do?
– Be fair. You are just running away from the issue.
– There speaks the voice of the past. Senator Gietzelt talks about conscience. What would be the Australian conscience if because of the past we refused to help people in the present? Such an attitude would be a barbaric attitude of stubbornness and pride and we do not want a bar of it. The Government is still opposed to the use of force by Indonesia in East Timor. We have made that clear. But the fact is that neither Australia nor any other member state of the United Nations, nor the United Nations itself, has been able to arrange for the implementation of an orderly and peaceful settlement in Timor. The plain fact is that Indonesia now takes the view that East Timor is an internal matter. I felt it important to point out once again to the Senate the Government’s stated and restated policy on Timor. It is not a policy of appeasement. It is a policy which is firm and realistic. There is nothing to apologise for.
I now turn to Senator Gietzelt ‘s motion. The motion seeks to establish a select committee to inquire into a variety of events relating to Timor. Firstly, I would remind the Senate of the capacities of its committee system. The Senate committee system has a proud record of investigation. It has achieved this record by carrying out tasks for which it is best fitted and in respect of which it has a capacity to make inquiries. I do not believe that Senator Gietzelt has presented a case which reasonably comes within the scope of a Senate committee. The proposed committee would have no power to seek and obtain evidence outside Australia, yet this is a matter which has occurred outside Australia. In addition the reference, and Senator Gietzelt ‘s own speech, suggest that what he is seeking is a witchhunt into what happened in the past, a witchhunt into the misdemeanours of his own current leader.
It is a matter of deep regret that a matter of such gravity should be raised as a result of the Australian Labor Party’s internal leadership troubles. Clearly what Senator Gietzelt wants is a chance to find some dirt to fling at the current Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam). I do not mind his doing that, but he should not be using the forum of a Senate committee to resolve the difficulties which the Australian Labor Party now faces. In addition Senator Gietzelt made a number of accusations about the honesty and propriety of the actions of public servants in the Department of Foreign Affairs, people who are unable to defend themselves in this chamber. To that extent his was a cowardly attack. Reading through the transcript, Senator Gietzelt ‘s remarks amount to innuendo, interpretation, rumour and rhetoric. It was an attack on his own leader, an attack on defenceless officials, and a sabre rattling and offensive abuse of our nearest neighbour.
The Senate committee system has a worthy reputation for inquiry, investigation and report. It is a reputation it should seek to uphold. In investigating matters relevant to Australia’s internal affairs it is without equal, but the Government does not believe that its function is to set about determining relations between nations. This has never been its duty. The Government is dealing with a delicate and important situation and the worst way to deal with such a situation is to allow it to be confused by playing internal party politics and, even worse, internal party political problems. If Senator Gietzelt wishes to attack his leader, to raise questions about his leader’s past actions, surely the place to do so is in his own Party’s caucus room. As I said earlier, this Government is interested in the present and future, not in the past.
It is our intention to get some help to the people who have suffered these tragic events. The Government has repeatedly expressed its regret and concern about the loss of life and human suffering which resulted from the fighting in East Timor. In fact, the Government has been in the forefront of most countries in providing humanitarian assistance to East Timor. Australia has consistently supported the relief operations in East and West Timor of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Government expressed its disappointment and regret that the International Committee of the Red Cross operation in East Timor came to an end. The International Committee of the Red Cross relief operation came to an end when three-quarters of the original Australian pledge of $250,000 had been spent. The Government then indicated that it would be prepared to pledge a further $250,000 if the International Committee of the Red Cross relief operation was resumed in East Timor. It made strong representations to the Indonesian Government and to the then authorities in Dili that an International Committee of the Red Cross presence in East Timor be allowed again. It became clear, however, that the Red Cross would not be allowed to return.
In the circumstances the Government was anxious to find ways of continuing to assist in East Timor. The Indonesian Red Cross was the only available channel for such aid. In October 1976, therefore, the Government provided $83,000 to the Indonesian Red Cross for humanitarian aid in East Timor. A second contribution of $250,000 was made available to the Indonesian Red Cross in December 1976. The Australian contribution has been spent on medical and relief supplies and on upgrading and providing clinics and hospitals and is thought to have had a direct effect in helping to alleviate the suffering of at least some of those people in East Timor who have suffered because of the fighting and disruptions to peace that have occurred. We have done something real and concrete. In the circumstances, it is a real contribution to assisting the victims of Timor- a more realistic contribution than any attempt to hunt witches or provoke greater problems.
Senator Gietzelt mentioned the deaths of 5 journalists at Balibo on 16 October 1975, before we came to Government. The Australian government has made persistent attempts to determine the fate of the 5 journalists from Australia killed at Balibo in East Timor in October 1975. Substantial obstacles have stood in the way of the inquiries, mainly due to the fact that the deaths occurred in a foreign territory during a period of undeclared hostilities.
After a long period of representations the Government succeeded in getting a team from the Australian Embassy in Jakarta to Balibo. Although the team had no authority to insist on the appearance of witnesses or persons with knowledge relevant to the deaths, it was able to interview, among others, Tomas Goncalves, who claimed to have been the Apodeti leader during the attack on Balibo. In Australia the Department of Foreign Affairs interviewed at length the Kota leader Jose Martins who claimed also to know how the journalists died.
In response to the requests for assistance in following up statements by Mr Martins alleging that certain Indonesians possessed knowledge of the event at Balibo, the Indonesian authorities stated that they believed that they had cooperated as fully as possible and could not agree to pursue the matter further. The Government has studied other accounts of the deaths of the journalists. It has, without success, sought to interview those who were alleged to be eyewitnesses. There have been, and continue to be, many conflicting accounts of the journalists deaths. The Government investigations, as the papers placed in the Parliamentary Library by the Minister for Foreign Affairs show, have not led to a substantial account of the tragic event. But it cannot be claimed that the Government has failed to do what it can to determine the facts surrounding the deaths of the 5 men. No new avenues of investigation have been opened up to suggest that any additional form of inquiry would add to what is known already. The experience of the Government on this issue to date suggests very strongly in fact that any new inquiry would achieve little more than going over the same ground with the same results.
Before going over the well known accusations and counter-accusations, claims and counterclaims surrounding the Balibo affair, we should also keep in mind the sensibilities of the nextofkin, some of whom would prefer to let the matter rest in order not to be constantly reminded of the grief and pain they have suffered already. The Government shares public concern in Australia about the fate of Mr Roger East since 3 December 1975 when he declined an invitation to join an evacuation flight from Dili. The only information available about him has been obtained at second-hand and contains conflicting allegations. On the one hand, it is said that Mr East was shot by Indonesians in Dili on about 7 December 1975. On the other hand, it is stated that he went with Fretilin forces and supporters into the mountains at about that time. The Government’s inquiries have been as exhaustive as possible in the circumstances. They include approaches to the previous so-called Provisional Government of East Timor, the Indonesian Red Cross and, on many occasions, the Indonesian Government.
All at the Government’s request the United Nations special representative, Mr WinspeareGuicciardi, inquired about Mr East during his visit to Dili in January 1 976, without success. No new evidence has been brought to light that raises hopes that Mr East’s real fate might be now discovered. I do not see how a Senate committee would be able to produce new facts. As to Timorese refugees, the Australian Government has provided assistance to refugees from Timor and has been sympathetic in according them right of permanent residence in Australia. The Government has emphasised the need to alleviate the suffering caused by the conflict in Timor. To this end, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) reached agreement with President Soeharto in Jakarta in October last year that Australian and Indonesian officials should meet to resolve the problems of the East Timorese refugees who came to Australia without their families. Several such meetings have now taken place, and progress is being made towards finalising the arrangements which will have to be made for the family reunion of persons concerned. In addition, the Government is considering applications for entry from Timorese refugees now in Portugal. Discussions with the Indonesians about arrangements for the reunion of separated families have so far made good progress and the Indonesian authorities have been co-operative and forthcoming. But, it is a strong possibility that if a Senate committee were to launch an inquiry into the Timor issue, progress on reuniting refugees might have to be suspended until the inquiry was completed. This would be of little comfort to those suffering the effects of separation at present. I ask: Is this something which Senator Gietzelt wishes on his conscience?
Many allegations of Indonesian atrocities and large scale killings in East Timor have been made. Some are disturbing, but others are clearly exaggerated and unsubstantiated.
– Which one?
– Wait for it. It is alleged, for instance, that the number of people killed in East Timor since the troubles started could be as high as 100 000. A source for this figure is a statement by an ex-UDT leader Lopes Da Cruz who said in Jakarta that there had been 60 000 casualties in the conflict. This statement was later clarified and it transpired that this figure included the 40 000 refugees in West Timor and others whose lives had been disrupted. There is no substantiated evidence that 100 000 people have been killed. That figure would seem to be exaggerated by a factor of ten. The allegations that 100 000 people have died as a result of Indonesian actions have not been supported by any concrete evidence. These allegations depend on hearsay and second hand evidence coming from persons who would have had no opportuity to make even a cursory check through the whole of the territory of East Timor.
There have also been allegations of atrocities committed by Fretilin followers on which some documents have been produced with photographic evidence by the provisional government of East Timor authorities and by the Indonesians themselves. Once again I ask: What would a Senate committee achieve, or more, what would it not achieve? The establishment of such an inquiry has ramifications extending far beyond Australia’s relations with Indonesia.
Does Senator Gietzelt suggest that the Senate should set itself to inquiring into the actions of every other country whose activities are such that they should offend Australia? This would be a dangerous precedent indeed even if the Senate had the capacity to get the full facts of the mattera capacity in the circumstances such as those which it does not have. The Government believes that our best efforts should be directed to humanitarian aid. We do not want to create a situation in which our aid is prevented. That would do more damage than good. One would hope that Senator Gietzelt would agree that our main priority should be to relieve the suffering. The Government’s stand is clear. It will continue. As I said at the outset, the Government will oppose the motion.
– I think it is unfortunate that in a debate of this nature the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) has introduced matters of a partisan nature such as the present competition for the leadership in the Labor Party and what might be Senator Gietzelt ‘s motives for moving this motion. I am not a mind reader. I do not know what everybody’s motives are. I can assure the Senate that as far as I am concerned and as far as the overwhelming majority of members of the parliamentary Labor Party are concerned, this matter was brought forward because we believe it is serious and warrants the consideration of the Senate. We hoped that this was a matter in which we would be able to achieve this much vaunted bipartisan approach to political questions. I spoke to a number of members on the Government side of the chamber for the very purpose of effecting this objective of trying to achieve a bipartisan approach to this matter and, if possible, having talks with them as to any amendments that might be made with regard to the composition or nature of the committee or the scope of the terms of reference.
This is a very serious question for Australia. It will be very deplorable if foreign policy debates in this country are to be returned once again to what we had to go through in the 1950s and 1960s when whatever was said about foreign policy was meant for domestic consumption and not intended in any way to try to resolve the serious foreign policy problems that faced us. We have already seen- we are seeing it constantlythat the crises that are involved in the major disputes within foreign policy can effect the very life and death of a nation and to reduce this matter to the level of some partisan argument about what Senator Gietzelt thinks of Mr Whitlam or Mr Whitlam thinks of Senator Gietzelt does no honour to the Parliament or to Australia. It certainly does no service to Australia when we reduce parliamentary debate to this level.
asked a number of rhetorical questions. At the beginning of his speech, for example, he asked whether we wanted the Australian Government to stop giving aid to Timor. Of course we do not want the Government to stop giving aid to the people of Timor. There is nothing whatsoever in the motion that we are debating which would in any way suggest that we have anything remotely resembling such an absurd proposition on our minds. We are asking for an inquiry. We are not saying that anything ought to be done by way of Executive action whatsoever. We are merely asking for an inquiry. That this straw man should be put up that we are in some way going to cut off aid to Timor because we will have a Senate committee of inquiry into the origins of the conflict is a proposition which completely baffles me and has no relevance whatsoever to what we have been putting forward.
We have tried to be as reasonable as possible in putting forward all of those things which we think are relevant to the question: What were the origins of the conflict, what happened to the people of Timor themselves, what happened to the Australian journalists who were certainly murdered by somebody in Timor- that seems to be clearly beyond dispute; we want to find out who did it if we possibly can- and what we can do by way of extending aid and giving additional assistance to the people in Timor. That is what we are asking. I cannot see that this can in any way be taken as some slanderous attack on the Government. Labor was in government during a large part of these proceedings. I was a Minister in the Government during these proceedings. So was Senator Douglas McClelland. So was Senator Wriedt. We were all Ministers in the Government, but we believe there ought to be an examination of this matter.
Senator Withers has asked us whether we should be investigating every country which has done something wrong or something of which some of us disapprove. He said that this is not the only instance where events of this kind have taken place. Of course it is not the only instance. Unfortunately we live in a rather unpleasant world and things like this seem to be going on all the time. There is one very significant difference about what has happened in Timor, and that is that Timor is an island only a few hundred miles from the coast of Australia. Parts of Timor are much closer to parts of my own electorate of Western Australia than is Perth where I live. This motion does not ask us to investigate something that happened in central America or disputes between Zaire and the Congo. This is something which is happening on our very borders and something which has directly influenced Australian citizens because Australian citizens were murdered there by somebody. Let us not say by whom they were murdered. But Australian citizens were murdered there and that warrants some investigation. Surely Senator Withers cannot say that the strain on the staff of the committee secretariat of the Senate is a serious argument for not proceeding with this investigation.
– I never put that.
– I thought the honourable senator was saying that the Senate did not have the committee resources. 1 thought that was what he said. I am sorry. That was my impression. I thought there was some discussion about the resources of the committee system. If the honourable senator did not say that I do not understand him. If that argument is put forward I can only say that we have a very strange order of priorities in this Parliament when I consider some of the matters that have been considered by committees. To say, for example, that we have the resources to investigate the Middle East, and nobody is more interested in the Middle East than I am, but we do not have the resources to investigate Timor is a very extraordinary way of looking at our geography and a very strange way of looking at the issues which impinge most directly on this country.
Senator Withers has said that such a committee would have no power to seek and obtain evidence outside Australia. It certainly would not have power to subpoena people from outside Australia or to compel them to come before it. But it would have every power in the world to make requests to people to give evidence. At this very moment one of the members of the staff of the Legislative Research Service in this Parliament is attending a committee of the United States Congress to give evidence. He was requested to go there. That committee could not have compelled him to go. He was requested and he went. This is a question of international law. We can make a request the same as a committee of any other Parliament or legislature can make a request. In fact I recall that when I was a member of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange the General Counsel of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission came to Australia and gave evidence to our Committee. We could not subpoena him, but we requested his presence and he very obligingly came.
– What happens if they will not come?
-If they will not come we cannot hear what they have to say. I would have thought that was fairly obvious. If they will not come they are not there. That is perfectly true. A problem which lawyers are confronted with every day is that all the witnesses they would like to have do not turn up. All you can do is try to do your best. Presumably some people will come and others will not come. Some of the people who do not come would have been very valuable and some of the people who do come are not worth listening to. Of course that goes on with any committee of inquiry. If the witnesses do not come they are not there. At least we can request them to come. It seems to me that there are at least some requests to which interested parties will respond. The Indonesian Government itself has been providing evidence or information to the United States House of Representatives Committee which is examining this matter. I would be very surprised indeed if the representatives of the Indonesian Government did not provide some information if a committee such as the one proposed were constituted. It would seem to be an extraordinary action on their part if they did not.
I am quite positive that there were people who were in Timor, people who claimed to have been in Timor and are at present in Portugal or elsewhere, who say that they have seen things happening and who would be prepared to give evidence to such a committee. There would be a wide variety of people who would come forward. To use the argument that we could not compel them to give evidence, I believe, gets us nowhere whatsoever. The United States Committee cannot compel anybody outside the borders of the United States or anybody within those borders who has diplomatic immunity to give evidence but it is still managing to hold an inquiry about a country much farther from the United States than Timor is from Australia and much less important to the United States than Timor is to Australia. The United States House of Representatives has agreed to hold this inquiry.
Senator Withers also says that this proposed committee would be a witch-hunt. There is no witch-hunt about this when one is trying to obtain information. Senator Wriedt asked by way of interjection about the Nuremburg trials when people were actually prosecuted. I do not think that that exercise could be described as a witch-hunt as could not the action of the United Nations itself- this is something which members of the present Government Parties applauded and I would applaud- which, after the Soviet intervention in Hungary in 1 956, created a commission of inquiry under the chairmanship of Sir Leslie Monro from New Zealand in terms not very different from those in this proposition in that there should be an investigation into the circumstances relating to the intervention by Soviet armed forces in Hungary. That was agreed to. Was that a witch-hunt? Are we now saying that that should not have taken place, that there should not have been an elaboration of the facts and of the events that occurred in Hungary in 1956? Of course there should have been. It is very important that history should be recorded, that it should be written so that people know what happened however unpalatable the events may be.
I realise that such inquiries may perhaps cause some distress to the relatives of the people who died, although I must confess I do not know how their distress will be added to by the fact that somebody appears to be trying to unravel the truth of the deaths of their relatives. Why this should make them more upset I really do not know. I would have thought the contrary. Of course it can be distressing to unveil the truth. But, as the old saying goes, the truth shall make you free. If you know precisely what happened it is the best means of preventing something like that from happening again in the future. For example Senator Sim has claimed- I think he was interjecting a moment ago- that there is no fault on the part of the Indonesians and that the atrocities were committed by Fretilin. I know that anybody who is interested in this matter will largely have made up his or her mind by now. But as we have seen on all sorts of committees of this Parliament people who have often made up their minds can when they hear evidence change their minds.
If Senator Sim is correct and the Indonesians behaved properly and the atrocities did not occur- they were exaggerated, or they were necessity atrocities, or whatever it is that is being put to us- by all means let us get the evidence about each aspect so that we do not have an unjustified slur cast on the good name of the Republic of Indonesia. That is serious too if people are going to go on thinking that Indonesia went into a neighbouring piece of soil to Australia and murdered 100 000 people, and they did not do it. That is very bad, very bad indeed, that people should harbour such ill notions about our large neighbour when those notions have no justification. I would have thought that those who believe that the Indonesians behaved correctly would welcome the opportunity for clearing their client, if I may put it in those terms, the opportunity for which an inquiry of this nature would make available to them.
– This is justification for an ombudsman.
– Precisely. As Senator Missen says, this is the justification for an ombudsman. That is precisely what he does. He is not prosecuting people. He is drawing attention to administrative actions taken by somebody or other, which should not have taken place, in order that they may be noted and that something may be done to prevent similar things from happening in the future. That is what this is all about. That is the purpose of this proposal which comes before us tonight.
– To bring out the truth or the falsehood.
-That is right; to bring out the truth or the falsehood of the various allegations. Senator Withers says to us this evening that there is no substantiated evidence that 100 000 people in Timor have been killed by the Indonesians. Apparently the more reliable estimate is that there were only some 10 000 who were killed. Well, that is 10 000 people. If it were one-tenth, if it were one-hundredth, or if it were 100 000, surely in a country with a population of 450 000 to have that number of people killed is a matter of some concern. If it were only 10 000, if my arithmetic serves me correctly, that is over 2 per cent of the population; and that is a pretty substantial number of people to have killed off in the course of a few months. Without dragging up the matter of the Vietnam war again, I point out that we became involved in that conflict with much less evidence of anything happening than we have about Timor. There seems to be a great deal of evidence. It may be unsubstantiated evidence, whatever that means. I am not quite sure what is meant by the term ‘unsubstantiated evidence’. If somebody is prepared to swear that something has happened it is evidence. I suppose what that means is that it is uncorroborated evidence; I do not know. But it certainly is evidence and evidence from reliable persons. It was not a Labor Government that appointed Mr Dunn to be our Australian Consul in Portugese Timor, as it then was. It was a then Liberal-Country Party Government that appointed him there. Apparently those Parties were satisfied with his services. He was then appointed to a senior position within the Parliament during the period of office of the same Parties now in Government and when the presiding officers belonged to the same Parties. I can only assume that there must have been most reliable references given as to his capacity and integrity by the Department of External Affairs, as it then was, before he was appointed to his present occupation. Are we to say that, when he comes forward and puts to us statements of events which he alleges and which he says from his experience in gathering evidence have taken place in Timor this is just unsubstantiated evidence and we do not need to go into it at all? I do not believe that this is so. I believe there is much more to be done about the charges that have been made by Mr Dunn and other people.
In conclusion, I say that, if the argument is used, as it has been, by Senator Withers, that this is a new role for Senate committees one can only comment that it is only very recently that we have had Senate committees making inquiries at all of the type that are now being made. That argument could have been used when the Public Accounts Committee was established. It was a new role for the Parliament to have a Public Accounts Committee. When the Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence was appointed, that was something new that was happening. It is something that should have happened before. We are not going to be able to make proper judgments about matters about which we ought to be able to make proper judgments if such judgments inhibit us. Certainly what has happened in Timor and what are the nature, character and history of the actions of the Government of Indonesia are of very great importance to Australia. It is of very great importance to know whether that Government is a government which was responsible for the murder of between 10 000 and 100 000 people or whether it is a Government which has been quite unjustifiably accused. It is important for us to know that. Senator Withers says we do not know that now. The matters are unsubstantiated. We have an opportunity of substantiating any evidence that has been put or rejecting any evidence that has so far been sent around the place in all sorts of directions. That can be done only by a properly informed inquiry by members of this Parliament. For that reason I support the proposition.
– For a number of reasons that I hope to clarify in the next few minutes, I do not support the proposition that is before the Senate. I preface my remarks by saying that the circumstances of East Timor are such as would be regretted by all Australians and indeed by a wide range of people in the world. The matter that really concerns us, the matter with which we have to concern ourselves, is the practicability of doing what is proposed. It is our view that it is very likely that this sort of exercise will develop a great measure of friction, a great measure of charge and counter charge. It will be inconclusive in the long term and will therefore generate strain between ourselves and our Indonesian neighbours and those people who are closely related to Indonesia in the context of South East Asia. It will also increase the strains and the problems in those areas where we can ill afford to have such an increase. In a large measure, it may well be detrimental to the people we want to help. It may well be detrimental to the East Timorese from the point of view of their capacity to move as refugees to this or to other countries. It may also be detrimental from the point of view of our having access to the sort of information we may need.
Looking at it as quietly as we can, I suppose that we could contribute more to this unfortunate situation by trying to develop an atmosphere in which the Indonesians themselves will talk with us and with others and gradually come to the point where there is a revelation of what has been occurring and a determination to overcome the problems of the past. The problems of the past are certainly there, but we cannot fix them in the context of the past. All we can do is seek to establish a relationship with our major partners both in this part of the world and beyond it in which the sort of circumstances which have led to this debate do not occur in the future.
During his talk to us this evening Senator Wheeldon asked the question: What will happen to Australian aid to East Timor? That was a proposition put by the Leader of the Government (Senator Withers), and Senator Wheeldon implied that nothing would happen to Australian aid to Timor. That is a proposition that I hope is true, but I do not think it will bear the test of reality. As tensions increase and as charge and counter charge are made between any two countries the probability of aid reaching those who need it must become less to a marked degree. I believe that that is the situation. Conceivably, we could be jeopardising a measure of aid and a measure of understanding between the Indonesians and ourselves over this whole problem. Senator Wheeldon also made something of the fact that Timor is so close to Australia, that it is much closer to Australia than Senator Wheeldon is to parts of his massive and mighty electorate of Western Australia, and of course that is so. He went on to say that because of its proximity, Timor was enormously important to Australia. I would agree with that, but surely we have to look at Timor in the context of the whole South East Asian world, in the context of Australia’s defensive situation, and in the context of Australia’s economic, political and social relationships with the South East Asian countries in particular. Of course Timor is important because of its proximity to Australia, but the rest of the South East Asian world is almost as close and we have to make sure that an emphasis on one specific item in that part of the world is not going to disturb in any measure the strength and certainty of our relationships over the much wider field.
I make the point that the position of this Government on the East Timorese tragedy has been consistent for a long time. It has been as consistent as a government as it was in Opposition, and it is a matter of some regret to me to find, as I read it, that the position of the Opposition on the same problem seems to have changed from the one it took when it was in government. It seems to me, as far as I can ascertain, that there was considered to have been a tacit approval by Mr Whitlam when he was the Prime Minister of this country of the propositions put by the Indonesians in relation to East Timor.
– We are still prepared to have an inquiry.
-The point I am making is that this was the attitude of Mr Whitlam and the Labor Party when they were the government. Now that they are in Opposition, that tacit agreement and all that it meant seems to have changed. Whether or not there is a different emphasis in their approach to foreign affairs and whether or not it is relevant to different personalities is not for me to judge. But I make the point in passing that certainly there has been an apparent change in the attitude of the same people in Opposition from the attitude they promoted when they were in government.
It is true, surely, that the Portuguese, as colonialists in East Timor, as far back as September 1974 had made it quite clear that they were unable and unwilling to take the responsibility they should have been prepared to take in the development and the security of their territory. So the withdrawal of the Portuguese and the revolution in their own country as well as in Timor was part of the context of the problem as far back as September 1944. It must have been quite clear to the Government in those days that the sort of situation which developed was a real possibility. Indeed, it must have been clear that it was a probability. I understand that the then Government took the view that East Timor as an entity had little hope of achieving any form of viability. A suggestion was made that if East Timor was not going to be economically viable there was not much place for it. I am not suggesting that that is a reasonable and responsible attitude, but it was certainly an attitude which prevailed over a very long time, and it is the sort of attitude which is extremely damaging to so many of the small communities around the world. I do not believe that it is the sort of attitude we should promote, and it could well be that in the long term East Timor’s viability, if you like, and that is a strange word, would be much more substantial if it were part of a larger combination of countries or units which were determined and able to develop East Timor to the extent to which it is capable of being developed. In other words, East Timor might have a greater possibility of survival and development if it were not left as an isolated unit 300 miles or so from the North Australian coast.
I said that the present Government, when it was in Opposition and since it has been in government, has been quite consistent in its attitude to the East Timor situation. We have said, and we said long ago, that certain things should happen- that there should be a cessation of hostilities, that there should be a withdrawal of Indonesian troops, that there should be a readmission into East Timor of international humanitarian aid, most probably by way of the International Red Cross, and that ultimately we should find a method whereby there could be an act of real, proper and well policed, organised self-determination. These were the propositions that we put forward when we were in opposition and they are certainly the propositions that we have continued to put forward as a Government.
I believe that one significant difference between our view and the Opposition’s view of this problem relates to the matter in which the problem can or should be overcome. I quote a few words I said in a debate on this particular issue back on 5 May 1976. Referable to the propositions that we suggested were basic to a solution, I said:
I can see no way in which that situation could be established effectively except through the intervention of the United Nations.
I believe still that the appropriate body to do something of real constructive value in East Timor is the United Nations. If the world is going to see individuals flying around and individual nations taking umbrage at what occurs in any of a thousand different places and taking it upon themselves as individuals or as single nations to seek the solution we will be in a pretty hopeless position. If the United Nations is able to carry out the functions for which it was established, this sort of thing in the future may well be solved without all the problems -
– You could not even get the United Nations representative into East Timor.
-We attempted to get the United Nations representative into Timor. I am glad the honourable senator mentioned that. Mr Winspeare Guiccardi came to Australia but we could get him no right of entry and no guarantee of his security. I would assume that as he was a United Nations representative it would have been the responsibility of the United Nations to take all sorts of necessary steps, all the steps it could take, to guarantee his security. This would be the normal process. He was a United Nations man and he had to have a measure of security guaranteed, but he was unable to get that measure of security.
– You could have put a warship in.
– The sort of security we could have granted him, I suppose, would have amounted to ultimate confrontation on a military, naval or air level. I believe that probably that was the only way-
– You just said a few moments ago that the United Nations should have done something about that.
– I am saying that that would be the only thing we could do. The United Nations did exactly that sort of thing in the case of Korea but not in this circumstance. To think that, in order to solve this problem, Australia should go to the absolute ultimate of its capacity is to suggest that we should be looking at actual armed confrontation. I do not believe Australians are interested in that sort of thing. I do not believe that that is the way in which Australia as an individual nation should set about trying to solve this problem.
In December 1975 the Australian Government played a leading role in having a motion put though the United Nations General Assembly which promoted the very matters to which I have referred. Then again on 20 March 1976, 1 think it was, our Foreign Minister (Mr Peacock) appealed to the Indonesians to withdraw their troops. If course the appeal was not successful, but so many appeals in so many areas are not successful. It was a genuine, proper and sincere appeal. It was an unsuccessful appeal. On 14
April 1976 the Australian Government sought to have passed and did have passed by the Security Council of the United Nations a motion relating to these matters. But, of course, it was not within the capacity of the United Nations as it stands today to carry out the proposition. It seems to have lost its capacity, for a number of reasons, to establish for itself a measure of international police force activity.
I have said before in this chamber and I say again that ultimately any party or any organisation which is to promote and implement the rule of international law- and that is immensely important- cannot in the long term be successful unless it has the capacity to impose that law. In our own society we have a police force and we have the law courts. We have the proper method of establishing the law and of imposing the law. Until that sort of situation, idealistic though it may be, exists within the structure of the United Nations it will be a body of very limited capacity.
We have mentioned, and the proposed amendment mentions, the case of the journalists. Of course we are concerned about that sort of thing; but it is improbable that any information that could come to a committee such as that proposed would in any way solve the problem. Journalists who find themselves in that sort of circumstance accept a real measure of risk. That is normal in the conditions that existed, regrettably, in East Timor. It is the sort of thing that all sorts of investigations and questions, all sorts of charges and counter-charges, are not really going to repair.
With reference to the Indonesian-East Timorese-Australian circumstance, perhaps we are failing to recognise that Australia is the only country of the Association of South East Asian Nations that has stood out with strength and conviction. It seems to me significant that the other member countries, namely, Indonesiabecause, of course, it is a party to the whole problem- Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines, and beyond them Japan, have made no tremendous protest. We have not seen from them the sort of emotional protest that seems to have come from at least some sections of the Australian community.
– Colombo condemned the Indonesian action.
– It has not happened amonst the ASEAN nations. I believe these nations are of extreme importance not only to Australia ‘s security but also to its trading relationships and to its ultimate projection in political and social fields. It seems to me that at the present time, in the context of South East Asia and the geographical area of which Australia certainly is a base and basic part, those countries are in a situation in which there is a greater measure of stability than there has been for perhaps the past 25 or 30 years. The problems in Vietnam and the problems that existed for over 20 years in Malaysia, with its involvement with communist terrorist organisations, have in large measure subsided. I believe it would be a tragedy if an action or an attitude were taken which tended to divide this country from a group of nations which are more stable than they have been in the past 25 or 30 years. To strain the relationships between Australia and Indonesia and our other friendly neighbours in the area can do no good to Australia. It certainly can do no good to Indonesia. Indonesia is involved with Australia in an aid program, airways and in all areas of trade. There is a distinct and growing involvement. It could do no good.
– It could do no good to whom?
– It would do no good to Australia or to Indonesia. If this matter is carried beyond the point it has now reached it is my fear that it will do no good to those people directly involved as the problems of war and revolution occur. It would do little or no good to the East Timorese cause itself. As I have said before it would arouse an enormous measure of confusion, the sort of confusion which results from charges and counter-charges.
In the Australian of 17 March Mr Hayden is reported to have said that it was impossible to assess the figures- these are the figures which refer to the circumstances in East Timor- accurately or authenticate them. If that is so, how can the sort of inquiry that is proposed by the Opposition in the Senate achieve in reality a great deal or, indeed, anything other than confusion and distress to which we certainly do not wish to add. Even the United States has already indicated a virtual de facto recognition of Indonesia’s presence in East Timor. Some of the assertions made by Mr Dunn in America yesterday and today have had a large measure of doubt- let us leave it at that- cast upon them. It is fairly obvious that the reputed number of 60 000 to 100 000 people killed in East Timor could well have been 8000 or 10 000. I am not saying that that is not a tragedy; of course it is. But if there is a difference of approximately ten to one that sort of difference and unreality may apply to a lot of other evidence, stories and suggestions which are being made. If the proposed committee were to be confronted by suggestions and evidence from either side which are related to the truth by a factor no greater or no less than ten to one it would be in a pretty serious and hopeless situation in trying to resolve the problems that confront us.
I wish to draw attention to three or four major points. I believe that the proposition to establish this sort of a committee can achieve virtually nothing. The committee would not have the capacity to make inquiries and obtain realistic and proper information to enable it to solve the problem. It is far more likely that it would be confronted with all sorts of suggestions of which there was no proof. It could lead to confusion; it could lead to a worsening of Indonesian and Australian relations; it could and probably would lead to a worsening of the situation from the point of view of the Timorese themselves. There is only one body to whom we should be appealing, a body which could take up the cudgel in these circumstances. Atrocities in East Timor have occurred. Atrocities have occurred in any of a dozen countries around the world. I wonder why we have not sought to investigate those. Why are we not seeking to investigate the things that are happening and have happened in Cambodia, Laos, Angola or in any of a number of other countries? It is the province of the United Nations. Regrettably, it seems to be unable to fulfill that responsibility.
As I have said before, I believe that this is an impractical suggestion. It does not seem to me that the establishment of this sort of a committee with the capacity it would have operating in Australia, would give us the solutions to the problems of East Timor. It is far more important that a mature and adult relationship should be developed between the major countries in the area so that the problems of the past will not occur in the future. If these countries can talk to each other in an adult and mature way, if they are prepared to admit fault and failure here and there and if they are prepared to come to some reasonable compromise, of course they can solve the problems that confront the smaller nations in this region and around the world but this will happen only in those circumstances. I have referred to the importance of our relations with Indonesia and said that we could contribute little or nothing by increasing any strain in that area or in the Asian countries beyond Indonesia. Whilst we would be the first to admit the problems that exist and the tragedy that has occurred we do not believe that the committee would have the capacity to do anything more than create further irritation in a situation in which mature consultation and compromise alone will find the solutions for the future. That is what we should be looking for. We cannot amend or fix in any way what has regrettably occurred but we certainly can and must seek to ensure that it does not occur in the future.
– I shall speak briefly on this matter because the points I wished to put to the Senate have already been adequately and eloquently put by my colleague Senator Wheeldon. I wish to take up some of the matters which have been raised by various speakers on the Government side. I felt terribly sad to hear Senator Withers give that weary, stale, flat and unprofitable speech about the Government’s attitude to the issues raised by the proposal moved by the Opposition and the issues raised in the amendment which has been circulated in the Senate in the last few minutes. I think that the Government’s attitude to the problems of East Timor right from the beginning has been: ‘If we sit on our hands and do nothing the problem will go away’.
Senator Scott, in attempting to rationalise that hand-sitting position, asked all sons of rhetorical questions about why Australia did not do something about what is happening in Laos, Cambodia and other countries as though this was vitally relevant to a problem which is occurring right on our own doorstep. With respect to Senator Scott, that is the difference. The fact is that the problem of Timor is 400 miles from Darwin. This problem is different in terms of responsibility in our neighbourhood. Senator Scott not only invited us to see the problem in a global context of moral responsibility but also insisted that we should try to develop a mature and adult relationship with Indonesia. I would have thought that that is precisely what this Government has not done in the last few months.
There is nothing mature and adult about a relationship in which one so-called adult goes out of his way, falling over backwards, to make sure that, on any issue, he does not offend the other adult in the relationship. There is something extremely childish about what happened in Jakarta a week or so ago when the Australian Ambassador was called before Mr Malik and told: ‘If you do not lay off your criticisms of what is happening in East Timor, if you do not stop these criticisms occurring in your country, there will be demonstrations against your Embassy in Jakarta and, what is more, we will raise the question of your moral responsibility in connection with your behaviour towards the Aboriginal people over the last 200 years’. That son of threat does not seem to me to be part of an adult relationship. I do not know what Senator Scott thinks an adult relationship is but that is not my concept of a mature and adult relationship.
It was also very sad to hear Senator Scott trying to make rather cheap political points about East Timor. I said in the Senate 9 months agoand I repeat it now- that the Labor Government made mistakes in judgment about East Timor. There is no doubt about that fact. It made mistakes and errors of judgment but in a somewhat different context from the sort of situation with which this present Government is confronted. To try to make a point-scoring exercise out of that situation at this time seems to me to be trying to ignore the whole issue raised quite specifically in terms of the motion moved by Senator Gietzelt and the amendment which has been circulated. That really is symptomatic of the Government’s attitude towards the East Timor problem. It is exactly the same sort of approach as its current attitude towards unemployment. Unemployment, with which it has grappled for 1 8 months, suddenly becomes a myth. The Government has been wrestling with a spook for all this time. East Timor, with which the Government has not been grappling for 18 months, has suddenly become something that it does not want to talk about any longer and the Senate, which can throw out governments in Australia, cannot even set up a committee for fear of upsetting the adult and mature relationship to which Senator Scott referred. The Senate cannot even set up a committee to inquire into matters like Australian assistance to the East Timorese people, Australian policy concerning refugees, the reuniting of families from East Timor and the disappearance of Australian journalists in East Timor. The mighty Senate which can topple governments here cannot even set up a committee to do that, according to the views of Senator Scott and Senator Withers.
I support holding such an inquiry and the proposed terms of the inquiry to which I referred a moment ago. The terms are not really terribly far ranging in their consequences. They are not terribly far ranging in the information which they seek. I hope that the Senate will agree to set up a select committee to inquire into these matters. Only 2 days ago Australia was accused in the United States of America of not having done anything about this matter. Congressmen asked: Why has not Australia set up an inquiry?’ That is a very good question. The answer should be sent back by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) to the United States: ‘Australia has not set up an inquiry because we want mature and adult relationships with Indonesia and we do not want to offend the Indonesians in any way’. That is the honest answer which should be given but it has not been given. Instead we get all the glib sorts of answers which have been given in the Senate tonight.
I dislike quoting my own speeches but 9 months ago in this Senate when we were discussing this question of East Timor I said in a speech that the key issues with which we could really be concerned were the issues of humanitarian aid and communication with East Timor. They are still the key issues. The great tragedy of East Timor is that people outside East Timor do not know the correct figures as to how many people have been killed. I agree; we just do not know. That is a tragedy. Whether the figure be 10 000, 2000, 60 000 or any of the other figures which are being bandied about the fact is that we do not know. One of the reasons why we do not know is the connivance of this Government in its mature and adult relationship with Indonesia in stopping radio communications with East Timor.
– Both governments.
– I take your point, Senator Bonner. It was both governments. This is more serious than the silly little arguments between 2 political parties in Australia. The reason why we do not know the correct figures is the failure of communication. There is the whole area of humanitarian need in terms of medical care and matters of that kind about which there is just no information. That again, Senator Scott, is what makes this matter different from other situations and different again because it is happening right on our border. I find the Australian psyche extraordinary in that we can go overboard saying what great people we are because of the gifts we gave to Bangladesh, Biafra and places like that and what great and wonderful people we are for the door-knock appeals for Biafra. But what about what is happening in East Timor? It is no different in human terms. The reason why we do not go overboard about that situation and say what a great people we are and indulge in doorknocks and that type of activity is the simple fact that governments in this country have put the wet blanket over the whole issue and have tried to obscure it from public discussion; people have co-operated in that activity. That is the tragedy of East Timor which we ought to face up to. That is another reason why we ought to appoint the Senate select committee proposed in this motion.
If we go back to the debate of 9 months ago, we find that exactly the same problems were being talked about and exactly the same issues were important but nothing has been done about them. It was quite possible then for anyone with imagination to predict that the problem of East Timor would not go away as the Government has hoped, and probably as the Labor Government hoped. The hope was that it would just disappear, that the problem would be cleaned up in one night by the Indonesian Army going there, that there would be a deathly silence for a few days as there was in Goa, and then it would all be over: And we need not bother about it any more. We could then get back to talking about the football, the cricket and the size of the deficit. But that has not happened. That result is something which I believe anybody could have predicted.
What is the situation now? Briefly I wish to refer the Senate to an interview on AM this morning. I quote from the transcript of the interview with Congressman Fraser in the United States relating to a congressional committee hearing in America. In answer to a question Congressman Fraser is reported as answering in these terms:
Congressman Fraser: While the United States has been a principal military supplier to the Government of Indonesia for the past decade, there appears now to be substantial evidence that United States military equipment was used by the Indonesian forces in East Timor.
Ray Martin: Has the State Department admitted that?
Congressman Fraser: Well implicitly they have because we’ve discovered now, to our surprise, that is those of us in the House, that last year, the United States Government suspended new commitments to Indonesia for a period of 6 months, apparently because our Government believes that our military equipment was being used in East Timor.
It is worth noting that there has been no corresponding action by the Australian Government. The transcript continues as follows:
Ray Martin: Is it normal though for the State Department or the Pentagon to cut off military equipment without telling Congress?
Congressman Fraser: No, it ‘s very unusual.
Ray Martin: If they are admitting that American weapons were used, the Hercules, or M 1 6s were used, where does that leave you now in terms of violation of the arms agreement?
Congressman Fraser: Well I suppose the recourse is essentially a political one.
In a later part of the interview Congressman Fraser referred, as Senator Scott and others have mentioned, to the figures relating to the number of people killed. That does not seem to me to be very much to the point. There were differences of opinion about the matter. But then, referring to the problem of East Timor, Congressman Fraser said:
Well I think the most important thing we may do here is simply elevate the visibility of this issue.
That is the point in having a Senate select committee. We in Australia should be prepared to elevate the visibility of the issue. That is all that is really intended by the proposal to set up a select committee. The purpose in raising the visibility of the issue is, Congressman Fraser states:
This may lead, this new administration, with I think a more sensitive concern about human rights, to look into the matter more carefully. That is what I hope might happen. If they do indeed believe there is a continuing problem of some magnitude, rather than get into a confrontation with the Indonesian Government, perhaps in concert with other nations which are important to Indonesia, there might be a sitting down and talking out of this matter with the Indonesian Government and try to come to some sensible resolution of the probelm
Later on the Congressman makes another interesting comment. It relates to an interview with refugees about alleged atrocities in Timor. Later on the announcer makes this comment:
Committee Chairman, Congressman Don Fraser, thanked the Australian official -
That is Mr Dunn- for coming so far to testify and for what he called his ‘valuable information’. But other congressmen wondered aloud why the Australian Parliament had not held its own inquiry. Mr Dunn suggested that Timor and Indonesia were perhaps a little too close and too sensitive.
Let us face up to the reality of that. Let us appoint a committee of the Senate to look into the matter. It is not an issue about which we can afford to be too sensitive. Its not an issue about which we can continue to sit on our hands hoping that the problem will go away. In terms of Australian sovereignty, it is not an issue in which we can continue to raise our arms in front of our eyes, hoping that the Indonesians will not see us. I think that the sort of behaviour which has gone on in so-called diplomatic circles between our 2 countries in the last week or so is bordering on the pathetic in terms of the Australian Government’s stance. I think we are fools to believe that if we condone that sort of behaviour now over an issue like this, we will never run into that sort of behaviour again. Of course, one show of weakness invites further shows of strength from the other party in what Senator Scott is pleased to call a mature relationship. I commend the motion to the Senate.
– I regard this matter of a proposed select committee on East Timor which is before us tonight as one of considerable importance and one to which I think we have to give serious consideration. I do not come here to criticise the Government for any actions it might have taken. I do not come here to criticise any of my colleagues, some of whom have a different view on the subject. That is their judgment. My judgment is something I must answer for. I do not come here tonight to criticise the Australian Labor Party for its past record in regard to this matter. It is fairly acknowledged by Senator Button that that record is not as good as it might be. I do come here to urge that there is a necessity for an inquiry in relation to allegations which have been made over recent months and which, of course, have been made for some considerable period.
I believe that for some 20 months there has been an interest in the Senate about the situation in East Timor. I think that is unique. It is to be found more in the Senate than in the House of Representatives. East Timor has been a matter of constant questioning in the Senate by honourable senators from both sides over that period. I think I can claim that I was the first person- I was then on the Opposition benches- to criticise rather severely the then Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Labor Government. I think that was back in August or September of 1975. I criticised him for failing to disclose facts which I believed should have been within the knowledge of the Australian Government. I have consistently asked questions and consistently sought that we should be better informed about the matters that concern East Timor. I believe that consistent with that attitude I can do no other than to say that an inquiry is now called for. I believe that we have some record of having a considerable interest in the problem. I think we should recognise that as far as the United States is concerned, it is perhaps catching up from a position somewhat behind ours. I do not think there has been the same sort of concentrated interested in this little speck north of us- an important part of an island as far as we are concerned- by the United States as it is probably of less importance to the United States. But I think the United States is now catching up and taking interest.
I agree with those speakers who have said that as far as we are concerned East Timor is of prime importance to us. It is our nearest neighbour. Moreover, we owe an obligation of a wartime nature to the people. We know that on that island our people were sheltered and helped during the war by the indigenous population. We owe an obligation, apart from any self interest and apart from any mere neighbourhood interests because of the things which were done during the war. For their wishes we must only have some concern.
Senator Withers said in the statement which he made tonight that we should not interfere in the affairs of other nations. I point out that we, of course, do not recognise the taking over of East Timor into the Indonesian state. We have not recognised that act. Our policy, as I shall show, remains clear. As one who accepts the responsibility as a member of Amnesty International and as one who has a belief in human rights, I do not accept the proposition that we can ignore breaches of human rights and acts of genocide which are alleged to have taken place in Timor. Of course, this is the responsibility of every world citizen. I shall read the words which President Carter used recently and which are reported in the Age of 19 March. He made these propositions:
No member of the United Nations can claim that mistreatment of its citizens is solely its own business, because ail signatories to the United Nations Chaner have pledged themselves to observe and respect basic human rights. Equally, no member can avoid its responsibilities to review and to speak when torture or unwarranted deprivation occurs in any part of the world.
The article continues:
He said America’s ‘historical birthright’ justified its defence of human rights. ‘Yours is a commitment, not just a political posture ‘.
I suggest that those words are very sound and true, and ones to which I certainly subscribe. As I have said, we have the situation where this Government adopted a policy which I think was clear in relation to this matter. On page 568 of the Hansard of 4 March 1976 the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, stated:
The Government came to office some time after events had come to a head in Timor. Despite this, and despite the previous Government’s inaction, we have taken a number of initiatives and put ourselves very firmly on record in terms of what we believe should happen in Timor. We have made it clear that we cannot condone the Indonesian resort to force and we have carefully avoided favouring any of the parties in Timor or endorsing their claims.
In short, the Government believes that there should be a cessation of hostilities, thus putting an end to the bloodshed; a resumption of international humanitarian aid, preferably through the return to East Timor of the International Committee of the Red Cross Society; a withdrawal of Indonesian forces; and a genuine act of self determination.
I mention those facts because that remains the policy today. I think it is only fair to point out what Senator Withers said yesterday in answer to a question. He stated:
In essence, the Government has not recognised Indonesia’s incorporation of East Timor but for quite practical reasons, such as the provision of humanitarian aid and the reuniting of families, the Government has to accept certain realities.
The Minister went on to point out: the Carter Administration had accepted the decision of the Ford Administration ‘to go along with’ the incorporation of East Timor into Indonesia.
I regret that, but it is a fact. It is the difference between the 2 countries. I think it is important for us to realise that having a policy which is forthright and clear and which has not been revoked, we have a duty to know the facts, as far as we can, in relation to East Timor.
There is another factor which I think compels me, and I hope others, to think that we have an obligation to take a stand in respect of this matter. I refer to the petition which has already been mentioned tonight which was signed by 95 members of this Parliament from both Houses and sent to President Carter only 3 weeks ago. In that petition we applauded him for the statements he had made. We drew attention to the mounting and disturbing evidence that innocent civilians in Timor have been detained without due process and killed as a result of the activities in Indonesia. The petition continued:
Being particularly interested in the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Australians and the well being of the people involved in our region; and noting the resolutions of the United Nations and having observed reports that this situation has not changed; urge you to again use your good offices as a matter of urgency to seek assurances from the government of Indonesia:
that it shall comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and
allow the International Red Cross to resume humanitarian activities in East Timor.
That is not the exact matter that is before the Senate tonight but Amnesty International which sponsored the petition took the humanitarian aspects of this matter as being matters that it could deal with and 95 members of Parliament felt that they should write to President Carter and urge him to intervene in the way suggested in the petition. Therefore it is not surprising if we do not take some action and some real interest in the facts that we will have the sort of criticism that was referred to by Senator Button, criticism by Americans wondering why they should take action when we do not. It is not the same action that we have asked for but it is very similar. Not only do I feel that in regard to the human rights aspect we in Australia need to show some leadership but also I feel that ours is a country which in the past has been noted for the fact that we have been concerned for the rights of others. It is not for us to stand back and to be isolationist in our attitude.
I would like now to refer to some remarks which were made in respect of this matter in an article by Mr Michael Hodgman, a member of the House of Representatives, in the Australian of 21 February 1977 under the heading ‘Timor Appeasement Must End’. In that article Mr Hodgman drew attention to the type of evidence and criticisms that had been brought forward about the behaviour of Indonesia in East Timor. He referred to the statement by the CatholicCommission for Justice and Peace headed by
Bishop Mulkearns of Ballarat and its concern for the situation of 500 000 East Timorese in their own country. He went on to refer to later reports of which we know, one now being the subject of inquiry in the United States, and concluded:
These reports cannot forever be swept under the carpet, and our penchant for non-involvement should not extend to abstaining from probing for the truth behind the allegations of massacres and the still unresolved mystery of the deaths of 5 Australian journalists in 197 5 . . .
I commit myself to the course of action of seeking, and revealing the truth concerning East Timor.
Finally he said:
The dilemma of East Timor will not go away- it will not conveniently disappear. The ghosts of the dead will haunt each and every one of us who seek solace in silent acquiescence.
I affirm those statements. I believe that they are true statements and that it is our duty to have that concern and to take that action.
– Whom are you quoting?
– I am quoting Mr Michael Hodgman, a member from your State. I believe that his views are worthy of consideration here. It has been said tonight that if an inquiry were held there may not be sufficient evidence and that the evidence may not be available on our own shores. Of course, there may not be all the evidence we would like but there is one lot of evidence, the evidence of Mr Jim Dunn that has been referred to so much. I believe that he is a man of great integrity, a man who is making his own judgment and acting as an individual. He made the sort of inquiries which deserve the investigation of Australian authorities as well as American authorities. I want to refer to his report which is a horrifying account of the activities which have occurred. In it he does not say that the account of the activities is true, word for word, because he is reporting to the people of Australia the various things that were told to him by people in Portugal. Those people were not friendly to the Fretilin administration in Timor but were mostly the defeated people of the UDT. One would expect them to be not over-solicitous of the Fretilin government. On page 3 of his report, when dealing with the people to whom he spoke in Portugal, he said:
I made it clear to those with whom I spoke that I had gone to Portugal privately and did not represent the Australian Government. I also sought to make it clear to those who gave information that I was not searching for evidence to build up a case against Indonesia. I repeatedly told the Timorese that Australia enjoyed good relations with Indonesia and that, although many of us were disturbed at what had happened in East Timor, we were equally concerned that Indonesian actions should not be misrepresented. In the case of those Timorese who produced information of a sensational or sensitive kind, 1 repeatedly asked that they should not exaggerate their accounts, reminding them that the prospect of their being permitted to go to Australia would not be enhanced in any way by the information they gave me.
I suggest that the careful remarks of a man like that and the precautions which he took are evidence that the conclusions to which he came on the facts that he examined are conclusions that we should treat with considerable respect. There are many things that an investigation could do. I believe that there is sufficient power in Senate committees to make inquiries and evidence has been given today of the wide way in which Senate committees do examine facts. If there are people here who can give evidence then we will know the extent to which matters can be evaluated and proved. I give just one example. I heard tonight reference to the money that has been given to the Indonesian Red Cross. I have had on the notice paper for weeks a question in regard to this matter asking what has happened to the money, what do we know about where it was spent, has it got into the hands of the poeple or has it not.
In Mr Dunn’s report on page 4 there are suggestions that the refugees seem to have seen no aid being directed through the Indonesian Red Cross nor any evidence of aid ever reaching the refugees. It may be that some aid has come later or has gone to another place but we are concerned to know that the money which the Government and the people of Australia are giving is reaching the hands that it is desired to help, the indigenous people of East Timor. I believe therefore that there is value in an inquiry. It should be an inquiry concerned with Australia’s interest and responsibility and not one ranging over the whole world; not one which is perhaps so concerned with the origins of the trouble in East Timor, as has been mentioned by other speakers.
I do not think we are so concerned with how things came about as much as we are about the position of the people there and what we can do in relation to them and what we can do contructively to help the people of East Timor. I believe that the information which we have here should be given to an inquiry and constructively channelled through that inquiry so that there will not be the sort of sporadic campaign we have had in the newspapers of remarks which sometimes offend the Indonesian Government. It would be under the control of the Senate and the inquiry would be under the control of a member of the Senate and therefore would be of a constructive nature. On this point it is asked what can be done and I want to refer to a letter dated 17 March 1977 from the Australian Council for Overseas Aid and signed by Mr Michael P. Sullivan. In this letter, which he addressed to me, he urged that I support the appointment of a Senate select committee to inquire into this matter. He was concerned about the form of Australian aid to the residents of East Timor and the plight of refugees from East Timor. He gives in this letter examples of the attempts that have been made in the past to get aid to East Timor.
– Who is the correspondent?
-This letter is from the Australian Council for Overseas Aid and was signed by Mr Michael P. Sullivan, the Executive Director.
Senior Wright-Where is he?
-He is probably in Canberra because his address is in Canberra. I seek permission to incorporate this letter in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The letter read as follows-
Dear Senator Missen,
I have just read in the Senate Hansard of March 10 the Notice of Motion regarding East Timor.
The Australian Council for Overseas Aid is very concerned about items 1 (a) and (b) i.e.:
the form of Australian aid to the residents of East Timor.
b ) the plight of refugees from East Timor.
Eight Australian voluntary aid agencies organised an appeal for East Timor in 1975 and sent one shipment of food, seed for planting, cloth for clothing, etc. The second shipment was almost ready to leave and an aid co-ordinator was ready to be appointed when the events of Sunday, December 7, 1975 occurred. Much of the aid rotted on the Darwin wharves and our organisations are very keen to continue their assistance to the people in all parts of Timor.
The situation of refugees from East Timor- both in Australia and Portugal is getting quite desperate. The Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence mentioned some of their needs in its report of last December. Families are divided, children are separated from their parents and husbands from wives. Our organisations are prepared to give every assistance possible to help these people but we are hindered by what appears to us to be bureaucratic bungling and the lack of willingness, on the part of the Government or the Department, to act.
The ACFOA Sub-Committee under the Chairmanship of Mr Bill Byrne, National Executive Director of Australian Catholic Relief, has been formed but finds its work hampered by many problems.
For this reason I strongly urge you to support the appointment of a Senate Select Committee to inquire into these two matters.
MICHAEL P. SULLIVAN
– The letter sets out in both these areas the form of aid, the plight of refugees and the practical ways in which the Council believes the inquiry would help. Honourable senators will realise that that is additional evidence of the need for an inquiry. The matter before us is one upon which the Senate must make a decision. It is one which we as senators must determine. I realise that some honourable senators do not hold the same view as I do on this subject. We must judge in our consciences and beliefs what value can be achieved and whether we have a duty to make an inquiry about things which have happened on our doorstep. There is a motion before the Senate. I propose to move an amendment to that motion which will be seconded by Senator Bonner. I formally move:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘there be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence the following matter:
The situation in the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, as it relates directly to Australia’s interests and responsibilities, and in particular-
a ) Australian assistance to the East Timorese people:
Australian policy concerning refugees and the reuniting of families from East Timor; and
the disappearance of Australian journalists in East Timor’.
-Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
– In the motion stress is placed upon Australia’s interests and responsibility, not upon a wide ranging inquiry. Stress is placed upon sending the matter to the existing Committee of the Senate, the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, which has made many reports previously. Insofar as it might be said that the Indonesians may fear this will not be a properly conducted inquiry or that it will be a biased inquiry, I remind the Senate that the Committee is chaired by Senator Sim for whom I have a great deal of respect. He has indicated that he would not consider himself prejudiced if the Committee had to examine the East Timor question. He is reported to have made that statement. I believe that is so. I believe that there is every reason for the holding of an inquiry under Senator Sim who, of course, has experience in that area. Perhaps he is sympathetic with the Indonesian point of view. I think he would say that he understands it. I would say that perhaps he is sympathetic to it. But I say that without any disrespect to him. I believe it is useful that a Senate committee should be chaired by someone who has experience in the area being investigated. If this inquiry were to be held, I believe that Senator Sim would ensure it looked at all the evidence that is available. The 2 specifics in this amendment are the provision of assistance to East Timor and the policy concerning refugees and the reuniting of families. They are practical and desirable things on which surely we should be concentrating although, of course, we would have to look at the background when this was being done.
– Are you not concerned about alleged atrocities?
– Yes, I am concerned about that. Within the scope of this amendment, inquiry in that area is not denied. The situation in the colony, as it relates directly to our interests, is the primary, overriding part of the amendment. But we spotlight 3 aspects of it. I think that certainly the matter of the atrocities naturally would be within the compass of that Committee’s consideration.
The third matter, which perhaps has been criticised tonight, concerns the Australian journalists. We have been asked whether it would cause anguish to their relatives if, in fact, this matter were brought up again. I say this: It would be within the compass of the Senate Committee to determine whether there was sufficient evidence and justification for embarking on that inquiry. Perhaps the Committee might say that it should not raise the matter again because of the anguish it might cause. But whatever decision the Committee made, it would be one reported back to the Senate. It is obviously a matter which is within Australia’s interests and responsibilities. Therefore, it would not be possible to leave it out of the scope of the inquiry. Therefore, I believe that the Senate has an obligation to conduct some inquiry. I hope that our amendment will appeal to honourable senators. If our amendment does not appeal to honourable senators and it is lost, Senator Bonner and I will support the motion for an inquiry, even if it is to be the second best type of inquiry which is recommended in the motion. However, I do not believe that we can avoid or sidestep the issue.
Whatever we do, questions concerning Indonesia, Australia and Timor will continue to be asked. There is obviously a rising tide of opinion in Australia about the matter. Whether or not we are appeasing the Indonesians- some of the Indonesian reactions we have seen recently appear to be rather curious- unfortunately it will be seen in the eyes of Australians as an appeasement if we do not proceed with some inquiry. I believe the Australian people have a tendency not to like to be stood over by any other people or by any other government, even if that government is the government of a country with a large population. It appears from the type of foolish policy adopted by the Indonesian Government that there is a form of standing over which is contrary to the Australian spirit. I remind honourable senators of the words of Milton when he said:
I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat.
Certainly there would be some heat and dust in this inquiry. I do not know that there is an immortal garland to be won. Certainly, it will not be won by those of us who propose the setting up of this Committee. I believe that we should not slink from this task. We need to make a decision. I hope that honourable senators will be big enough to make a decision supporting our amendment so that this inquiry can start.
Senator MclNTOSH (Western Australia) (10.16)- Senator Scott said that an inquiry into the events in East Timor will not repair the damage. But it could lead to greater understanding. It appears to me that there has been a lack of understanding from the beginning of the Timorese episode to date. There is still a lack of understanding, as was displayed by Senator Withers and Senator Scott in their contributions. The extent of our knowledge seems to be that the Portuguese ruled the country for 400 years and stripped it of sandalwood. They then said: ‘The country is no longer viable, so we are no longer interested in it’. That seems to be the understanding. Of course, during the Second World War the Japanese advance into Timor once again brought the country out of the land of Rip Van Winkle. After the War, it seemed to return to the land of Rip Van Winkle. During the Second World War the Timorese people suffered great loss in protecting the lives of Australians. They suffered reprisals at the hands of the Japanese and they also suffered at the hands of the allies when they were bombing Timor in order to remove the Japanese.
In April 1974 a coup took place in Portugal. When that coup took place, the Portuguese set about the problem of decolonisation in Timor. Three political parties were set up. They were UDT, Fretilin and Apodeti. In January 1975, the Fretilin Party and UDT formed a coalition. Many stories were circulating about an imminent invasion of East Timor. It was claimed that Indonesians were invading across the border. In fact, the letter I am about to read was sent to members of Parliament at the time. It states:
To Our Australian Friends,
We, the people of East Timor who have taken the first steps to freedom, call on you for help.
We remember with gratitude the Australian soldiers who fought against the Japanese in 1942, and gave us their friendship and their lives.
We have known oppression and massacre under the Portuguese and the Japanese; now the new Portuguese Government has opened the door to us for the right to organise.
In May, 1974, we formed FRETILIN, a political party with 300 000 members out of 600 000 people.
We stand for the Independence of East Timor, for the betterment of the people of East Timor, peace and friendly relations with all nations.
Portugal is far away, has many problems, and cannot continue to support us. We look to Australia and the Australian people to support us in the main points of our struggle.
Our people have been denied the opportunity to learn to read and write.
Only one in twenty have been to school. We urgently need teachers, school material and money to educate the people, and technical scholarships for Timorese in Australian schools.
Our people suffer from tropical diseases and lack of food. Only a small number of babies born survive. We have very little medicine, few hospitals, very few doctors, all in the Portuguese army.
We urgently need medicine, hospital equipment and medical staff.
Over half the island is suitable for agriculture, but very little is cultivated. We urgently need simple tools; hoes, axes, rakes, ploughs to be worked with water buffaloes, so that we can grow enough food.
We ask the Australian Government to re-open a Consulate in Dili to strengthen the contacts between the Australian and East Timor peoples and Governments.
We appeal to the Australian Government to guarantee our full Independence so that we can work in peace to make our people educated, healthy and prosperous.
That letter was signed by Xavier Amaral, the President. Like most Australians and most people in the Parliament I was amazed to see that Fretilin had 300 000 members out of 600 000 people. It just seems incredible. I am not saying that we should accept what this letter says. At least 6 people from this Parliament thought that they would go over there and inquire and see what was happening. In March 1 975, 6 of us visited East Timor.
On arrival we found that a delegation from the trade union movement was also there. That delegation was also wanting to make inquiries so that its members could have a better understanding. The delegation had decided to go to Oecusse, a small enclave in the Indonesian part of Timor. I found out that Xavier was going with that delegation. He had never been in Oe-cusse. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to find out whether what had been said was an exaggeration and whether this man was known there and whether anything was known about this party. He had never visited Oe-cusse. I spoke to the rest of the members of the delegation and they agreed that I should join the group that was going to Oe-cusse. After landing we found that Oe-cusse was a small village of about 200 or 300 people. Thousands came down to meet the plane. I have photographs. If anyone cares to count the people they may do so. The photographs are in my room. This shows how well Xavier Amaral was known. He had never been to Oe-cusse yet thousands of people in an area surrounded by Indonesia came down to meet him.
I had an interpreter with me who could speak Tetem and Portuguese. I was told to make inquiries for myself. I was told that I could go where I wished and could speak to whomever I wanted. I went around and tried to find some Apodeti people. I did not find any. I found a few UDT members. In the main the people seemed to be Fretilin supporters. This is a picture image which I gained in my search for truth. I returned to Dili and with the other delegates we met members of the Apodeti party. I would say that about 50 people came to meet us in Dili representing the Apodeti Party. I was not too impressed with the Apodeti Party. Nevertheless we asked a series of questions. All the questions are written down as are the answers. They are available to any honourable senators who wish to see them.
About 150 people came to meet us from the UDT party in Dili. In the main they seemed to be businessmen from the area of Dili. They seemed to be keen and looking forward to the decolonisation process which was taking place there. We met the Fretilin Party. Again many thousands of people came to meet us. It was estimated that between 4000 and 5000 people came to meet us. If ever I have witnessed open government I certainly did so on that occasion. We marched from the square in the centre of Dili to Xavier Amaral’s house. The crowd parted while we walked to his house. When we were asking questions that really should have been answered by the people themselves Xavier said we should ask the questions of the people. The questions were asked of the people and the answers came from them. Naturally we began to form an opinion of the strength of the Fretilin party.
The Portuguese were helpful and kind. They allowed us the use of helicopters so that we could go wherever we wished on the island and see what had taken place. We split into 2 parties. The party I was with visited Lospalos. We received a note when we landed. I understand Senator Gietzelt still has the note.
– I have.
– That note came from Rex Sydell. He said:
I have a bad heart. I cannot walk SO paces. Will you kindly come down to meet me as I have much evidence to give to you and many stories to tell you.
We went to see Sydell and he told us stories about the Indonesian atrocities and the military movements that were taking place along the borders of Timor. Since I was in search of the truth I was not much concerned about this man’s opinion. After all, he had a bad heart, could not walk 50 paces and was some 1 50 miles from the border of Indonesia and Timor. I had better not express the opinion I gave when I was asked what I thought of the man by the other two members of the party who were with me. It is not fit for Hansard. What I thought about the man would probably suit my argument now.
– I thought that all you were saying was not fit for Hansard.
– Normally I would say to a remark like that that you would keep, but quite frankly after having a good look at you I doubt whether you will keep very long. This man Sydell did not have 2 pennies to rub together. The same person went to the United Nations and gave evidence entirely opposite to the stories he told to the 3 members of Parliament who visited him in Lospalos. He has plenty of money now. This is the picture image. Honourable senators can draw their own conclusions. I have drawn mine.
While we were in Dili we also listened to broadcasts from Radio Kupang. The broadcasts started with bursts of machine gun fire and then followed all sorts of spurious propaganda in support of the Apodeti Party. I managed to form my opinion by making inquiries. I think it behoves the Senate to make more inquiries about the atrocities that have been committed there. On 2 May 1 975 the UDT-Fretilin coalition collapsed. On 10 August the UDT launched its coup. The Fretilin party did not react immediately. Hopes were high that the Portuguese would take control. The people had high hopes that the Portuguese would come back. They waited patiently. Honourable senators should not forget that it was the UDT which carried out the coup. It was not until 20 August when the bitter fighting started in the hills around Dili that it looked as though the UDT was completely finished. By mid September 1975 the UDT took control.
On 26 September 1975 a further delegation visited East Timor. I believe Senator Bonner was a member of that delegation. He can speak for himself on his observations and inquiries there. In September Fretilin wanted the Portuguese to return to institute the decolonisation process which it had started. But the Portuguese were too busy evacuating themselves from the troubles and avoiding their responsibilities. On 7 October there was a major Indonesian attack along the borders, and on 16 October the Indonesian troops entered Balibo, where the 6 Australian journalists were killed. If those journalists had been killed in the course of their duties, that would have been fair enough. They take that risk upon themselves when they decide to go into a war zone and report the news. But there are grave doubts -
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I rise tonight to make some brief remarks on a matter that has become controversial in the Australian Capital Territory in the last few days, that is, the proposal by an organisation known as Population Services International to establish a clinic in the Australian Capital Territory which would offer abortion, as well as other services. The purpose of my rising to speak tonight is simply to correct some statements that have been made recently in the Federal Parliament, in public and in the Press by people who should know better about the attitudes of the people of the Australian Capital Territory to the question of abortion law reform. Firstly, I should like to make some comments on the claim made by Senator Harradine that a referendum was conducted in the Australian Capital Territory on the subject of abortion. That claim is not true. No referendum on the subject of abortion has been conducted in the Australian Capital Territory. In fact, no referendum at all has been held in the Australian Capital Territory since it was formally separated from New South Wales in 1911. The citizens of the Australian Capital Territory were then deprived of the right to vote in any referendum. It is true, however, that a survey was conducted to ascertain the attitudes of the people of Canberra to the abortion question. The survey was carried out in 1 969 by D. G. Beswick from the Australian National University and published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Sociology in 1970. It revealed that public opinion did not support the present statute law, which prohibits abortion except in rare circumstances. Part of the results were as follows: In response to the proposition that it should be legal for a woman to have an abortion if she wants one, 68 per cent of respondents said that they agreed with that statement; 62 per cent of respondents said that they agreed with the proposition that abortion should be allowed to prevent unwanted children from being born. While the size of the sample was relatively small, the survey gave a clear indication of the relatively liberal attitudes of the community in the Australian Capital Territory to a woman’s freedom of choice as to whether or not she will have an abortion.
Two years later the elected body representing the people of Canberra passed a resolution calling for the liberalisation of abortion laws. In June 1971 the Advisory Council, the forerunner of the present Legislative Assembly, passed a motion which proposed that sections 82, 83 and 84 of the Crimes Act be repealed and replaced by new legislation making abortion legal if the life of the mother was in danger or her physical or mental health was threatened or if the foetus could be abnormal. In making such a judgment, the environment of the woman was to be taken into account. That resolution was forwarded to the Minister for the Interior, Mr R. Hunt, where it languished.
A second unsupported claim which has been made in recent days is the claim that the people of the Territory have indicated their opposition to abortion in respect of the electoral performance of Kep Enderby, the former member for Canberra. It has been claimed that the defeat of Mr Enderby in 1975 was caused by his proabortion stance. Again, there is no evidence to support that claim. Any evidence which does exist in fact points to an entirely different interpretation of Mr Enderby’s electoral defeat. I take this opportunity to remind those people that Mr Enderby made his views on abortion quite clear to the community as early as 1 970 at a public rally. He was then a member of the House of Representatives. In 1972 he campaigned for the seat of Canberra partly on the issue of liberalising the abortion laws in the Australian Capital Territory. He faced a massive counter-campaign by the Right-to-Life Association and others who would deny the rights of women in these matters. He even faced an anti-abortion candidate from the Labor Party who ran as an independent candidate. The result of the election in 1972, as some honourable senators may remember, was that
Mr Enderby was elected with an absolute majority.
Another point I should like to raise relates to the claims being made that the defeat of the McKenzie-Lamb Bill in the House of Representatives in 1973 was again a demonstration that the people of the Australian Capital Territory had rejected the notion of liberalising abortion laws. I point out to the Senate that the people of the Australian Capital Territory had only one representative in the House of Representatives in 1973 when the vote was taken on the Medical Practice Clarification Bill, that is, the McKenzieLamb abortion Bill. That one representative was Mr Enderby and he voted in support of the Bill. He was then re-elected in 1974, despite the further efforts of the Right-to-Life campaign. So that to claim, as has been done publicly in recent days, that the defeat of Mr Enderby in 1975 was an indication that the people of the Australian Capital Territory do not want abortion reform is ludicrous.
I have not raised this issue tonight in order to take the opportunity to represent my own views on abortion, which I have done publicly on many occasions and which are well known. I do not think it is proper to enter into such a discussion at this stage. I think that the progress which has been made on this question has been quite satisfactory. The people of the Australian Capital Territory have not yet expressed their views in a referendum on this or any other issue, but the Legislative Assembly, representing the Australian Capital Territory, has this week taken 2 steps which I believe will give the people of the Australian Capital Territory such an opportunity. I do not wish to anticipate the outcome of these steps, but I do wish to describe them because the question raised by Senator Walters in this chamber this morning placed an entirely incorrect interpretation on the decisions taken by the Legislative Assembly. At its meeting this week the Legislative Assembly decided to outlaw the establishment of the Population Services International clinic for a period of 90 days, during which time a proper investigation into the medical procedures of this organisation could be carried out. That was not a rejection of the question of abortion reform but a delay to enable proper, sound and responsible investigations into the operations of this clinic to be carried out.
The Legislative Assembly further decided to accept a message from the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Staley) asking it to refer the whole matter of abortion, abortion clinics and the role that public hospitals should play in providing such services to a special committee of the
Legislative Assembly, that is, to its Health and Welfare Committee. That Committee will examine in the broadest possible terms the whole question of abortion, the current situation with regard to the termination committee at the Canberra Hospital, the possibility of liberalising the situation at the hospitals, and the possibility of establishing special clinics. It will conduct that examination in consultation with the Capital Territory Health Commission, which is not at present seeking advice on this question from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. Of course, the special committee of the Legislative Assembly will advise the Assembly of its findings before any decision is made.
I certainly do not wish to anticipate the findings of the Legislative Assembly and therefore I will not put forward my own views at this time. However, I do think that it is extremely important on such an emotional and delicate issue as the one before us to avoid confusing the issue even further by distorting what has happened to date in the Territory. I hope that in the ensuing few weeks a responsible decision, properly and democratically arrived at, will be reached and that any action to be taken by the Minister for the Capital Territory, the Legislative Assembly, the Capital Territory Health Commission and the Australian Capital Territory hospitals will be based on such a democratically and responsibly reached decision.
– I wish to take a few moments of the Senate’s time to refer to a letter I received today from you, Mr President, in reply to queries I have raised in the Senate on several occasions on the matter of sessional attendants’ uniforms. I thank you for the letter that I received from you under today’s date. I wish to make a few comments about the paragraph in which you advise me that an order has been placed for 6 made-to-measure uniforms for the sessional attendants and that the remaining 5 attendants have been outfitted with uniforms from stock. You go on to say that those uniforms have been dry cleaned. I want to make the comment that if this action in relation to tailor-made uniforms for sessional attendants had been taken 2 years ago some of the sessional attendants may not have had to go through the embarrassing period that they did. Those attendants are not here now, but if that action had been taken 2 years ago there would not have been any heartache amongst some of the people who are not now employed by the Parliament. For the information of people who have a deep interest in this matter which I have raised in the Senate, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard the letter which I received today from you, Mr President.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
The letter read as follows- 24 March 1977
Dear Senator McLaren,
I refer to the matters raised by you on the adjournment debate on Wednesday, 9 March in relation to the employment of Senate Sessional Attendants.
You can be assured that the point you make regarding the prior service of the previous occupants of the positions was taken into consideration when the appointments were made. However, when weighing this factor against the employment of suitable persons under the age of 65 years in accordance with the provisions of Public Service Board General Orders, previously mentioned in my letter of 24 February as well as the current employment situation in Canberra, I feel the action taken was justified.
In response to your further points with regard to uniforms for the eleven Attendants, I advise that an order has been placed for six tailor-made to measure uniforms while the remaining five of the Sessional Attendants have been outfitted with uniforms from stock, considered to be in reasonable condition and of suitable fittings. They were, of course, dry cleaned prior to issue.
I thank you for your interest and concern in this matter and I trust that this additional information will be of assistance.
CONDOR L. LAUCKE
President of the Senate
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister represent ing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
In the week following the 1 7.5 per cent devaluation, was the Australian dollar in fact devalued a further 0.5 per cent. If so (a) how did the further devaluation of the currency occur, (b) what effect did the further devaluation have on the subsequent decision to revalue by 2 per cent, and (c) why did the Government, when looking to reduce the sizeable capital inflow evident following the devaluation by 17.5 per cent, choose to revalue by 2 per cent rather than reactivate the variable deposit ratio.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Has the Queensland Government refused to approve the transfer of a pastoral lease to the Aboriginal people of Aurukun, which had been arranged by the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission. If so (a) what reasons has the Queensland Government given for its veto and (b) what action is the Minister taking to persuade the Queensland Government to reverse its decision.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
The Queensland Minister for Lands, Forestry, National Parks and Wildlife Service declined, under section 286 of the Land Act, to approve the transfer of the lease known as Archer River to the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission which had negotiated the purchase on behalf of Aurukun Aboriginals and with the intention that ownership of the lease would be transferred to them.
In response to an inquiry I made the Minister informed me that the Queensland Government: does not view favourably the acquisition of lands for development by Aborigines or by Aboriginal groups in isolation ‘.
The basis for refusal was elaborated in a statement by the Minister in the Queensland Parliament on 8 December 1 976. At this stage I am continuing my correspondence with the Queensland Minister to endeavour to have the transfer approved.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
Has the Queensland Government ever insisted that any request for discussions between Federal and State public servants on Aboriginal affairs matters be channelled through the Queensland Premier. If so, (a) what are the details, (b) does this restriction exist at present, and (c) has any other State Government applied a similar restriction.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
I am not aware of such insistence having been made in the time of the present Government. Federal and Queensland public servants are frequently in contact on matters of mutual interest.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
Has the Minister declined to allow a meeting of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee to take place. If so (a) why, and (b) does the Minister’s refusal conflict with any undertaking given by the Minister or his officers last year that a meeting of the NACC would be convened when the review of the operation of the NACC had been completed.
I held a full-day meeting with the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee Executive on 1 9 November 1 976 to discuss the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry into the NACC. I have given no undertaking that a meeting of the NACC will be convened at any particular time, but will consider the need to call the Committee together in connection with the Government’s consideration of the report of the Committee of Inquiry into the NACC in the near future.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Has the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Union sought funding or other assistance from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. If so, what are the details.
On IS October 1976 the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Student Union (NAATSI) lodged an application with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs seeking $13,000 to enable the organisation to continue operations until such time as expected grant moneys were received from the Australian Union of Students early in 1 977. A grant of up to $1,800 has been approved to meet expenses incurred in good faith to 26 November 1976 to conduct a conference held in Perth on 27 to 28 November 1976. 1 have informed the Union that further Government support of his organisation is not warranted at this time.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Has Mr Reg Worthy been transferred from the post of Regional Director of the Department in Queensland. If so, (a) why, (b) to what post has Mr Worthy been transferred and has the transfer been accompanied by any reduction in salary or entitlements, and (c) who has been appointed Regional Director in Queensland in Mr Worthy’s stead.
Aboriginal Programs in Northern Territory (Question No. 63)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
There has been no cut in funds available for Aboriginal programs in the Northern Territory.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources, upon notice, on 25 February 1 977:
– The Minister for National Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 8 March 1977:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Aboriginal Deaths at Kowanyama: Shortage of Vaccine (Question No. 176)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Can the death of three Aboriginals at Kowanyama in Queensland last year be in any way attributed to shortages of the vaccine from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories, as was indicated by the Director of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal Islander Advancement, Mr P. J. Killoran, quoted in the Brisbane Courier Mail dated 22 February 1977.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
At the time of the deaths of the three Aboriginals at Kowanyama there was a peak incidence of upper respiratory tract infection in that area. Infection of that nature can, in susceptible individuals, precipitate pneumonia and death from cardiac failure.
There is no evidence that the infection in those cases was due to influenza virus and hence none that the outcome of these cases could have been altered by use of vaccine.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 15 March 1977:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
After the British clean-up operation of that year the AWTSC reported to the Australian Prime Minister of the time that they ‘were satisfied Maralinga was radiologically safe. Permanent and unrestricted access could be made to all but a few small areas and even they could be occupied on a short term basis without risk ‘.
In 1972 a further survey confirmed the 1967 level of confidence.
The essential requirement in the clean-up process referred to in ( 1 ) above was to monitor radiation levels and record these in detail- not, in every case, the weight, volume or chemical composition of the debris and accompanying rock, soil, etc., that was being disposed of.
The relevant report was submitted to the Australian Government of the day, forwarded to the South Australian Government, has been available to all subsequent governmentsboth Australian and South Australian- and was made available to the Australian Ionizing Radiation Authority Council when that body, set up by the previous Australian Government, considered the Maralinga debris.
From the standpoint of long-term environmental management the most important of the extensive facts recorded in the report relate to the burial of some 20 kilograms of plutonium.
The Australian Ionizing Radiation Advisory Council recommended in December 1976 that a further survey be made and the Government is taking steps to arrange this.
Should a need for any new measures become apparent as a result of this survey, or other periodic review, this Government, and I have no doubt its successors, will take the necessary action.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 9 March 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
New South Wales 32 offices wholly above ground floor. 9 offices which have space both on ground and other floors.
Victoria 10 offices wholly above ground floor. 9 offices which have space both on ground and other floors.
Queensland 6 offices wholly above ground floor. 9 offices which have space both on ground and other floors.
South Australia 3 offices wholly above ground floor. 4 offices which have space both on ground and other floors.
Western Australia 1 office wholly above ground floor. 2 offices which have space both on ground and other floors.
Tasmania 2 offices wholly above ground floor. 3 offices which have space both on ground and other floors.
Australian Capital Territory 1 office wholly above ground floor.
Northern Territory 1 office which has space both on ground and other floors. 2. (a) and (b)
New South Wales
Lift only- Redfern.
Lift only- nil.
Lift only- nil.
Australian Capital Territory
Lift and Stairs- 59 Smith Street, Darwin.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
Has the Malaysian student leader Hishamuddin Rais applied for political asylum in Australia. If so, (a) what are the details (b) what decision has the Australian Government reached, and (c) what were the Australian Government’s reasons for reaching the decision it did.
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
An application for political asylum has been received from Hishamuddin Rais.
Hishamuddin Rais came to Australia on 18 January 1976 at the invitation of the Australian Union of Students and was granted a seven-day temporary residence permit, later extended to 25 March 1976. He applied for a further extension of his permit on 1 2 March, but failed to comply with a request to call and discuss his application. He has therefore, since 25 March 1976, been a prohibited immigrant. On 16 January 1977 he was detained as a prohibited immigrant but subsequently released from custody. On 18 January, Hishamuddin made a request for political asylum.
The Government decided that Hishamuddin ‘s request for political asylum should not be granted. but that he should be permitted to remain temporarily in Australia Tor a further 6 months to enable him to make other arrangements.
On the information available to the Government from Hishamuddin himself and from other sources, Hishamuddin was not eligible for asylum according to the principles which have been widely accepted in the international community and which are reflected in the Draft Convention on Territorial Asylum.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 8 March 1977:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 8 March 1977:
What funding has the Commonwealth Government provided for sewerage works in each Queensland city since 1970.
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The following table shows Commonwealth Government funds allocated to Queensland cities in the financial years 1973-74 to 1976-77:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The twin problems of the elimination of discrimination and protection of the human rights of national, ethnic and other minorities are of world-wide scope and significance ‘.
1955 STATE TREATY FOR THE RE-ESTABLISHMENT OF AN INDEPENDENT AND DEMOCRATIC AUSTRIA
Right of the Slovene and Croat Minorities
1955 STATE TREATY FOR THE RE-ESTABLISHMENT OF AN INDEPENDENT AND DEMOCRATIC AUSTRIA
Dissolution of Nazi Organisations
1955 STATE TREATY FOR THE RE-ESTABLISHMENT OF AN INDEPENDENT AND DEMOCRATIC AUSTRIA
Interpretation of the Treaty
asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 8 March 1977:
– The Minister for Housing, Environment and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Provincial Cities: Inclusion in Consumer Price Index (Question No. 181)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Does the Government plan to initiate action to have provincial cities included in the last of cities which determine the consumer price index. If so, what are the details.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 8 March 1977:
With respect to the Minister’s reply to part 3 of Question No. 1552 (Senate Hansard, 22 February 1977, page 274) concerning the Fitzroy Region Service Needs Assessment Study, what other studies, similar to that conducted in the Fitzroy region, have been undertaken.
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable member’s question:
Investigations similar to the Fitzroy Region Service Needs Assessment Study have been conducted in all or part of a number of regions in which the Area Improvement Program operated. The studies most closely related to the study in question were:
Redcliffe City Community Needs Study (Moreton Region):
South East Region, New South Wales, information and facilities studies;
Westproiect. A study of major social and economicissues facing the Western Sydney Region;
Shellharbour Community Facilities Study (Illawarra Region, New South Wales);
Community needs Study (Northern Melbourne Region);
Investigation of Community Facilities at Broadmeadows Town Centre (North-West Melbourne Region) ;
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 15 March 1977:
Are women, who are in receipt of family assistance allowance from the Queensland Department of Children’s Services, eligible for any benefit from the Department of Social Security. If so, what are the details.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
There is a 6 months waiting period for payment of the Commonwealth Government’s Class A widow’s pension for deserted wives and wives of prisoners and for the payment of supporting mother’s benefit to unmarried mothers and separated wives. Family assistance allowance provided through the Queensland Department of Children’s Services is ordinarily paid during this six months waiting period.
Recipients of family assistance allowance may receive at the same time, family allowances, double orphan’s pension, or handicapped child’s allowance from the Department of Social Security.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 24 March 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770324_senate_30_s72/>.