30th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) will be absent from Australia from later today until 28 June, during which time he will attend the meeting of Commonwealth Heads of Government in London and have discussions in Europe and the United States. During his absence, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) will act as Prime Minister.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. By way of preface, I refer to the proceedings of an Estimates Committee late last year in which dialogue took place between the Minister, his officers and myself to the effect that when the Fox report No. 2 was released the discussion on the Kakadu National Park boundaries would be vested in the hands of the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development and the Minister for the Northern Territory. I now ask the Minister: Can we confidently expect a very early meeting of the 2 Ministers to proclaim the boundaries of the Kakadu National Park.
-I well recall the circumstances of the Estimates Committee hearing and I well recall the discussion about defining the boundaries of the Kakadu National Park. Indeed, according to my memory, Senator Mulvihill describes that circumstance accurately. I share the honourable senator’s view- I imagine it is the view of all honourable senators- as to the importance of that area as a national park and the importance of its definition. I think the best plan, therefore, is for me to refer the question now to both of those Ministers because my understanding is that it is now their responsibility to go ahead. I shall so do.
-I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources to a recent report that some overseas countries are making heavy investments in the United States fishing industry to circumvent the newly introduced 200-mile fisheries conservation zone. These countries will share the priority fishing rights with United States-owned concerns by operating vessels built in the United States of America and flying the American flag. This influx of foreign investment has stirred Congress to move next July to investigate the regulation of ownership of the United States fishing industry. I ask: Can the Minister assure me that this Government will also legislate to protect our fishing industry from back door moves similar to those I have described.
– I am answering this question because Senator Bonner and I have discussed the matter. It is an important issue for the Senate as a whole, representing as it does the broad interests of the Australian people. I have some information from the Minister for Primary Industry to which I will add some comments of my own. On 4 November last the Minister for Primary Industry announced the establishment of a committee comprising State, industry and Commonwealth Government representatives to examine issues involved in managing fish resources within a 200-mile zone around Australia. Among the matters being examined are the conditions under which other countries may share in the fish resources of the zone not fully exploited by Australian fishermen. However, unlike the United States of America Australia has not declared a 200-mile fishing zone. The committee which I have described has not yet completed its work. I can assure the honourable senator that the Commonwealth Government will carefully consider what action it should take in respect of foreign fishing vessels operating within a 200-mile zone after considering the report of the committee and particularly the question of foreign investment in and ownership of fishing vessels. This information has come to me from the Minister for Primary Industry because fundamentally it is within his area of responsibility at the moment, but I will just add a couple of points.
I am indebted to Senator Bonner for raising this matter with me yesterday and for raising it here today. Australia is going to be in a most interesting position in regard to its own totally new resource in its expanded shelf when these matters are tidied up. Few Australians appreciate the magnitude of what that will involve this country in both as to its responsibilities and its management. It is going to be an immense new world for Australia. My early recollections are that the accumulating resource in land mass terms will be something like a quarter or more of the current Australian land mass. There is another factor of great importance in which I have been involved over the last four or five years, and that is the effect on many of our neighbours and close friends throughout the Pacific region. Some of the things with which they really have to come to account include their abilities to accrue to themselves these sorts of resources that surround their island territories-some of them quite small islands and some of them medium sized. Potentially it is a matter of immense importance to ourselves and equally to our neighbours. The management of this aspect and its consideration in our own interest and in the interest of those with whom we are normally associated both in our trade and foreign affairs positions does need careful study. It is a matter to which the Senate as a whole could give a lot more thought through time. It will be a long term interest and a very great problem to us.
– My question is addressed to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. I ask: Has the Government abandoned the introduction of stage 2 of its new federalism policy? Is the Minister aware that a recent poll showed that two-thirds of Australians were opposed to the introduction of State income taxes? In view of impending legislation to change the relativities between the States does the Minister seriously believe that the new federalism is still on if stage 2 cannot be introduced?
– The answer to question No. 1 is no, the Government has not abandoned its proposal to move towards the introduction of stage 2 of tax sharing or federalism. As to question No. 2, I have not seen such a poll but of course I am aware of a unanimous view of 6 State Premiers who in documentation in 1970 and subsequently had indicated that what the Commonwealth is now doing is what their States and their governments wanted to be done. I direct the honourable senator’s reading to the transcript of the last Premiers Conference where he will see that the Commonwealth intends to go ahead. There will be legislation before this Senate in the immediate future regarding the mechanisms for relativities. The determination of relativities is a principle which each of the States recognises as being vital. It is fundamental in terms of the evolution of the thinking of the
Grants Commission since it was established by a Liberal form of government in 1933.
The simple fact of the matter is that federalism is working so strongly in Australia that the predictions of the flexibility of income which I and others have made in this and in another place in recent times were understated. Honourable senators will be aware that all the State governments are showing massive surpluses and that unlike the time of the Whitlam Government they are able to budget and achieve surpluses and cut taxes. The constant insistence of Senator Wriedt that federalism implies higher taxes is destroyed by the fact that the only high tax government was the Whitlam Labor Government. The Government that is reducing taxes, both State and federally, is the present Fraser Liberal and National Country Party Government.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question.
– I call Senator Wriedt.
-I take it from Senator Carrick ‘s answer that he believes that the States still agree with the new federalism. I recognise that the States were sufficiently misled in 1 976 at the Premiers Conference to which he referred to make statements of support for the concept. Without going back to 1933, 1 bring the Minister up to 1977, which is the year we are talking about. Is it not a fact that the Commonwealth endeavoured to impose stage 2 on the States at a recent Premiers Conference and that at least 5 out of the 6 Premiers refused to be involved in stage 2 and to implement State income taxes? In view of that fact, I ask the Minister: What is his explanation as to why stage 2 has come to a halt, if it is not through the opposition of the States to the proposal?
– As almost always, the difficulty is that the honourable senator’s questions are not based on facts. It is not a fact that the Commonwealth endeavoured to impose stage 2 on the States at the last Premiers Conference. I direct Senator Wriedt ‘s attention to the transcript of the Premiers Conference. Throughout the transcript the Commonwealth is reported as saying simply: ‘It is not our intention to impose upon the States any compulsion whatsoever to use stage 2. The States may, if they wish, use the additional taxing powers or they may decide not so to do’. That view is shown throughout the whole transcript and, therefore, it is not a fact that there was any attempt at a unilateral imposition of stage 2. It is a fact that all State Premiers, including Labor Premiers, have pleaded with Federal Governments, including the Whitlam
Labor Government, over the years that they should have access to additional sources of tax and taxing revenue. They have said repeatedly that they did not have a sufficient armory of taxes. It was because the States said this that payroll tax was passed back to the States. I was not aware that the Labor Party then saw double taxation or any kind of heinous offences in this action. It is not a fact. It is a fact that the States may, if they desire, use this weapon. I repeat that the States are massive taxers. The Labor Party refuses to understand that, of all public finance spent in Australia today, State governments and local government spend 52 per cent and the Commonwealth Government spends 48 per cent. The Commonwealth Government today is the minority operator in the field of public finance. The day when we can persuade the public of the truth that the States are not petty cash Oliver Twist collection bowl people but are the major tax raisers and the majority tax spenders will be a good day for good government and efficiency in Australia.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer to the report in the Age of 23 May 1977, which describes the success of the Community Youth Support Scheme but which details a hold up in approval and funding by the Department of 20 more proposals. Can the Minister indicate when these proposals are likely to be approved and funded?
– It is very pleasing to note that the problem raised by Senator Missen is one which is presented by the success of the Government’s Community Youth Support Scheme. The question of approvals for further projects under that scheme is being considered by the Government. The question of what funds will be available for additional support is, of course, a matter for Budget discussions.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Construction. I believe it may also concern the Leader of the Government in his capacity as Minister for Administrative Services. The Minister may recall that several years ago a project reached the then Minister for Works- and was continued during the term of the Labor Governmentproposing a Commonwealth central building to house some of the twenty or more Commonwealth departments which are scattered around the city and the suburbs of Adelaide could be built in Adelaide. I understand that at present land is still being held possibly for that purpose. Is the Minister able to advise whether the project is still under consideration? If started the project would be a great aid to the economy of South Australia and certainly to the departments themselves. Some of the land being held for this purpose is used now for parking. Is that land being retained for a Commonwealth Centre in Adelaide?
-I am aware that some land in Adelaide- I have forgotten which street it is in- has been acquired for this purpose. To the best of my knowledge, information and belief it is being retained for the purpose of having a Commonwealth Centre erected thereon. As the honourable senator would know from his own ministerial experience, these are matters which the Government looks at in each Budget consideration as part of its construction program. The honourable senator, like most or us, will have to contain his curiosity until the Treasurer puts down his Budget.
– I should like to follow up the fishing question with the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the losses incurred in the detection and apprehension of foreign fishing vessels in Australian waters, has the Minister considered, or will the Minister consider, making changes to the penalties for the offence from confiscation to one of fines? Evidence at an Estimates Committee indicated a loss of approximately $10,000 per vessel apprehended and minimal recoveries only on the vessels concerned. This indicated that fines and costs may be more appropriate and that the countries whose vessels fish these waters may well be prepared to agree to such a change. Will the Minister put this proposal forward?
-It is a very useful question. I remember the discussion in the Estimates Committee with which I was involved. People from the Department of Primary Industry were there and they listened to the evidence. As I always do I said to them: ‘You must take account of what is said here and go back and check it out in your Department and see what you can do about some of these constructive suggestions.’ I know that they would have done that but I have not followed the matter through to the point of finding out the result. I thought at the time that the proposition was sensible. I still think it is sensible to take this thing a bit further along the track and I shall certainly do that.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Health aware that a report in the Toowoomba Chronicle suggests that Senator Sheil, speaking to the Millmerran branch of the National Party on 17 May, made strongly disparaging remarks about Medibank and in effect recommended that Medibank be dismantled and that there be a return to private health insurance? Is the Minister able to confirm that the Government will disregard Senator Sheil ‘s prescription and that there are no plans for a return to the system of private health insurance that Australia had in pre-Medibank days?
– I did not see the report attributing remarks to Senator Sheil. I am able to say that at present there are 2 systems of health insurance in this country. One is through the Medibank health insurance scheme and the other is through the variety of private health funds that exist. The Government has no plans to discontinue the Medibank arrangements. It is of note that a large number of Australian people have insured for their health cover through private health insurance funds.
-I ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate for the purpose of record. During the recent referendum campaign relating to simultaneous elections it was frequently stated as an argument that this Senate should not have the right to send the other House of Parliament to an election without itself going to the people.
– Hear, hear!
-That is the voice of an impending Minister; one of Malcolm’s promises. I would like to know, for the record, whether this Senate has sent the House of Representatives to an election on its own or whether on each occasion that the Senate has caused an election there has been a double dissolution. In view of the arguments during the campaign, I would like to know whether this chamber has ever sent the House of Representatives to an election on its own.
-I have experience of only 2 occasions, one in 1974 and one in 1975.
– You engineered both.
– It is there in black and white for all to see.
-I am flattered that so many people read my words. It is correct that in both instances there were double dissolutions. I think it was argued during the referendum campaign that the fact that there were double dissolutions on each occasion was most likely fortuitous. On the latest figures which I have, which may be of interest to honourable senators, I am informed that on no occasion previously has a proposal which had such a high national vote in its favour been lost.
– What was the national vote?
-At the moment the national vote is 62.2 per cent.
– I take a point of order. This is not an answer to the question which I asked the Minister. I asked him whether there was any record of this Senate having sent the House of Representatives to an election on its own.
-I thought I answered that to the best of my knowledge a double dissolution had happened because of fortuitous circumstances. I thought honourable senators might like some information. As I was saying, on no occasion previously has a proposal which had such a high national vote in its favour been lost. The 3 previous referendum proposals which had previously achieved a majority of voters but not a majority of States were in relation to aviation in 1937, which had 53.56 per cent; organised marketing of primary products in 1946, which had 50.57 per cent; and industrial unemployment in 1 946, which had 50.3 per cent. I think it is fair to say that it is significant also that last weekend 3 referendums were passed, compared with five out of 32 during the previous 76 years of federation. I further inform the Senate that on no occasion previously has more than one referendum question been passed on the one day. I thought my colleagues who worked for the No case during the campaign worked as hard for the No case on the No. 2 question as they did on the No. 1 question.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. In view of the answer of the Minister for Administrative Services, I ask him whether he is opposed to the provision in the Constitution that all States have equal rights.
-I have never said that I was. Quite frankly, I do not see it as a supplementary question. I do not even see it as a question.
-Is the Minister for Social Security satisfied that where Aboriginal applicants are considered to be ineligible for unemployment benefit because of the application of the work test they are advised of their right to apply for special benefit if they have no other form of income or pension?
– I know that there are difficulties with regard to Aborigines understanding many of the benefits and programs in the Department of Social Security that may be of assistance to them. Wherever possible we take steps, through the Department’s information service and other outlets of information, to advise Aborigines and all Australians of their entitlements under the Social Services Act. As I have said before, on occasions we have sent officers of the Department directly into Aboriginal communities to facilitate applications by Aborigines for entitlements under the Act. Through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, my own Department and the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service every effort is being made to inform Aborigines of their entitlements and the way in which we are able to help them. There are difficulties with regard to unemployment benefit in some Aboriginal communities. I know that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has been directing his attention to this matter and I believe has either made statements on it or intends to make statements on it. I assure the honourable senator that every effort is made to inform all Australians of their entitlements under the Social Services Act.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to correspondence with the Minister concerning handicapped children’s allowance and particularly to a letter which I received from the Minister on 5 October 1 976, which stated:
I am aware that some low income families are seriously disadvantaged by the additional expenses which they incur because they have a child who has a disability but who is not handicapped to the extent necessary to qualify for handicapped child’s allowance . . . I am concerned at this situation and will certainly keep in mind your representations when this matter is discussed by the Government in the future.
Can the Minister say whether this matter has been considered further and what action is proposed or might be taken to overcome the inequity which the Minister has rightly discerned? Given the time of year, will the Minister give an assurance that action will be considered in the Budget context?
– As I recall it, the correspondence referred to by the honourable senator referred not so much to an inequity as to a difficulty of some parents of handicapped children. It would be understood that the handicapped child ‘s allowance is not a benefit that is paid on an income test but is one that is paid on medical criteria. When they are established an allowance is paid to families which are caring for handicapped people in the categories laid down. I hold the view that there are people who may not qualify on the strict medical criteria but who belong to families in the lower income group with continuing expenses related to their handicap. Obviously in correspondence I have stated that I believe there is a difficulty for these families which we should attempt to overcome. In terms of Government policy, particularly at a time of consideration of a Budget, I do not have the luxury of being able to speculate on Budget decisions or discussions, but I state again that I hold the view that there is a difficulty for low income families which sustain considerable expense in caring for handicapped children who may not meet the strict medical criteria. This is a matter that will be considered by the Government. I hope that in some way we are able to deal with the problem, which is a continuing one for families in these circumstances.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security: Why does she appear on programs like AM hiding behind the legal technicality in relation to the Karen Green case stating that it is the responsibility of the DirectorGeneral of Social Security to deal with this matter? When will the Minister on behalf of this Government make an announcement in relation to that matter and when will she consult with the Director-General, statutory obligation though he may have, and inform the Parliament of the Government’s attitude?
– I have been asked why I appear on a program such as AM. I often ask myself the same question, particularly when I am asked to appear on a program and to comment on a statement which was made by some other person who appears on the program and of which I have no knowledge. So I share with Senator Button the question why I appear on that program. However, believing that there is an obligation on a Minister to provide information where it is available, I will probably continue to appear on programs such as AM. I will probably continue to ask, as Senator Button asks, why I appear. Having said that, I return to the matter that was raised on the radio program this morning. As I understand it, Professor Howard made some statements.
– Is he the Professor who worked with former Senator Murphy for some years and who was paid about $30,000 a year? Is he the same fellow who worked for the Labor Party?
Opposition senators interjecting-
– Professor Howard is obviously well known to honourable senators on both sides of the chamber. He is probably well known to listeners of the AM program because of the comments he made in late 1975 and since then regarding constitutional matters.
– He is an authority, is he?
– He claims to be an authority on constitutional matters. I would not argue against any claims he might make as a constitutional authority. However, I say quite fleetingly that it may be a pity that at times his politics are so obvious. However, with regard to the matter that has been raised, I have said repeatedly that the Director-General is considering the matter of the payment of the unemployment benefit to Karen Green following the High Court case. The Director-General will make an announcement in that regard. The announcement will not be made by me because the determination is to be made by the Director-General. I conclude my answer by saying that, if the judgment from the High Court is read accurately, it will be seen that it was acknowledged by Mr Justice Stephen that a decision needed to be made by the Director-General and a determination needed to be made by him. When the DirectorGeneral has made his determination, he will advise the legal advisers of the persons who brought the action in the High Court against the Director-General and the State Director of Social Services, and these other matters will follow. The Director-General has the matter under consideration. I believe that, when he is satisfied with regard to the determination which he makes, a decision will be forthcoming.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. If what the Minister has outlined is the case, will the Minister consider giving authority at an appropriate time to the Director-General to appear on the AM program to answer questions and to defend himself on those matters in relation to which the Minister is not prepared to defend him?
– I regard that question as being separate from the one that was asked earlier. The Director-General does not require my authority to appear on the AM program. Perhaps he also asks himself why he appears on programs of that type as he repeatedly does. However, I do not believe that an answer is required for me in relation to the DirectorGeneral requiring authority to appear on such programs or in relation to any of the other things that were alleged in the question. The honourable senator has made an assertion and not asked a question that I need answer.
-Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that cricket in South Africa is at this stage the most integrated of all sports in that country? Is he aware also that currently moves are under way to establish a multi-racial cricket board by September of this year and that in South Africa whites play in black cricket clubs and vice versa? In view of that and in the light of the fact that South Africans who may be in the Packer team would not be representing South Africa but would be paid as individual professionals who would owe their position in the team to Mr Packer, would it not appear that the question asked by Senator Georges yesterday was directed against Mr Packer under the guise of an attack on South African cricketers? Is it not strange that Senator Georges did not object to the Centenary Test against England with Tony Greig as captain?
-Evidently I do not have the knowledge that Senator Jessop has about what has happened to cricket in South Africa. If things are happening in that way I think that everybody would be delighted, whether they are interested in cricket or in better racial relations. I think that everybody would applaud when people involved in sport are selected on the basis of merit in a sport and on no other ground.
– Not on the colour of their skin.
-That is right. They are selected on the basis of their capacity and merit in a sport and for no other reason. I think that would be the view of the Government and the view of most people. I would not attempt to discover what passes in Senator Georges’ mind and what may motivate any of his questions. He asked me a question yesterday -
– Conscience. That is what Senator Jessop does not have.
-Nobody in this place has a monopoly on conscience. Senator Georges asked me yesterday whether the Government had been involved in this matter. I can now inform Senator Georges that the Government has not been consulted about any of these proposed arrangements. As I said yesterday, the Government’s attitude towards sporting contacts with South Africa is well known and I do not think I need to add to that. I think that Senator Jessop has said today what I thought was the position yesterday; that Mr Packer evidently has contracted with a number of individual cricketers throughout the world and has asked them to play in their professional capacity. That is as I understand it. I could be wrong and I am open to correction.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security: Is it a fact that only half the amount of income from a war disability pension applies in assessing income for a Service pension entitlement? Does the same formula apply to a social security age pension? If the answer is no, will the Minister correct this anomaly by applying the same income test to social security age pensions as is applied to repatriation service pensions?
– I ask that the question be placed on notice so that I can give consideration to it. I was unsure at first whether it referred to me or to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. However, if it is placed on notice I will give a considered answer to it.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. Is the Minister aware of a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of 30 April 1977 which states:
Darwin homes unsafe- ‘1200 houses are not cycloneresistant’.
It goes on to refer to a study by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and states:
The study said that the Darwin Reconstruction Commission had compromised some of the ‘high standards discussed shortly after Cyclone Tracy’ although the Building Board and private sector were in favour of them.
Is this report an accurate assessment of these houses? If so, what action is being taken to ensure that proper safety standards are being enforced?
– I had noted in one of the daily newspapers a report which I understood was taken from an article which appeared in the newsletter of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation Division of Building Research. That article apparently was written following a visit by 2 CSIRO scientists plus an architect from Townsville and a professor from the James Cook University. They inspected the result of various forms of building protection in Darwin. The CSIRO has been involved for a number of years in researching and studying wind damage to buildings in cyclonic and non-cyclonic areas. I think that this visit took place a year or so after cyclone Tracy in order to see the progress of reconstruction, particularly the effects being made to build cyclone resistance into the houses. My understanding is that the scientists did not in any way criticise the Darwin Reconstruction Commission but were reporting factually on the present degree of incorporation of some of the cyclone resistant methods of building construction. The scientists more or less pointed out that the 1200 houses reportedly still in their pre-cyclone condition were deficient in many ways as to the desired protection. It is an engineering judgment, properly within the purview of the Commission, as to whether cyclone resistance should be built into these undamaged or slightly damaged homes, taking into account the cost involved and the difficulty involved in forcing through basically retroactive legislation relating to those cases. I think the CSIRO article was factual and should receive attention.
-I ask the Minister for Science a question concerning Omega. Has the Government made a firm commitment to construct an Omega beacon or to permit an Omega beacon to be constructed in Victoria? Also, has the Minister seen the article in the summer edition of Aurora, which is Australia’s Antarctic magazine, written by Dr John Hutton of the Department of Physics at Monash University and which sets out what appears to be a rather convincing case for the installation of the beacon on Macquarie Island? Have his Department and his advisers studied it? Can he advise the Senate as to why, presumably, Macquarie Island has been rejected as the site of an Omega beacon?
-The responsibility for answering this question basically should lie with the Minister for Transport as he is responsible for the conduct of this particular scientific matter. I am unable to say whether a positive decision has been made that an Omega beacon will be installed in Victoria. I am aware of the article to which the honourable senator referred. Being somewhat involved in Macquarie Island, I have noted comments which suggest, and which I believe to be correct, that if there were a site that was better than all other sites that could be suggested Macquarie Island would be that site. However, the honourable senator would acknowledge that there would be difficulties in relation to a site such as Macquarie Island, not only in respect of access but also in respect of the staffing of the site. The drastic conditions which prevail during many months of the year would make it impossible for a station such as that to be properly managed on that island. I am unable to say whether a decision has been made or where an Omega beacon will be sited.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Education, following numerous comments about surpluses of unused equipment in some schools throughout Australia which it is claimed are a result of the making of capital grants over the past few years. Has the Minister made any inquiries in relation to this matter? If so, what were his findings?
-I point out that Commonwealth moneys made available to the States are not earmarked for the purchase of specific equipment. Basically, they are earmarked for general recurrent grants and it is up to the States to decide how to spend that money. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth is interested in good housekeeping and of course is interested in this problem in its 2 Territories. It is true that with the proliferation of demand for audio-visual equipment in particular and for teaching aid equipment there has been a tendency to some underutilisation and over-supply of equipment. The Schools Commission and my Department have some very strong working rules, as do the States now. There is a general inspection of stocks at routine times to see where they are located. There is a check on utilisation. When a school closes down or the number of students fades, there is an arrangement for a transfer of equipment. In non-government schools, both nonsystemic and systemic, the same kind of arrangement occurs; there are regular checks on equipment. If a school should decline in size or close down there is a recalling of the equipment and it is transferred to new schools.
One of the aspects that I think is more important than the mechanical side raised in the question that Senator Young asked- it is an important question- is that our teachers in schools are not very well trained in the use of this equipment. A considerable amount of equipment lies underutilised because many teachers are under-trained in that regard. Programs are in hand for better usage of the equipment. There will emerge in the next decade, due to the rapid progress of communication, a development of regional resource centres in which, I envisage, there will be central pools of equipment drawn on when needed for use and much greater rationalisation. The use of central resource centres, whether by way of a sophisticated library or by way of supporting equipment, must come under close study in the immediate years ahead because of the problems foreshadowed by the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. On Tuesday I asked him whether an alteration to the Constitution could have retrospective effect and how it might affect the position in the Senate. The Minister agreed to give consideration to a reply. I now ask whether he has given consideration to it. I suggest that if he finds some difficulty he could discuss it with Professor Howard.
-I think that probably enough has been said about Professor Howardperhaps more than he deserves. Senator Cavanagh asked me a question the other day about what he called the retrospective effect of changes made to the Constitution and, in particular, the effect of the proposed law relating to casual vacancies which, of course, was overwhelmingly supported by the Australian people last Saturday. I have had an opportunity to look at the Constitution alteration proposal in relation to casual vacancies with regard to the question Senator Cavanagh has raised. I know that I must not give a legal opinion. Therefore, what I shall do is to read the relevant provision because I think it speaks for itself and I do not need to express an opinion on it. One of the provisions in the proposed law relating to casual vacancies is: a senator holding office at the commencement of the Constitution Alteration (Senate Casual Vacancies) 1977 who was chosen by the House or Houses of Parliament of a State in consequence of a vacancy that had at any time occurred in the place of a senator chosen by the people of the State shall be deemed to have been chosen to hold office until the expiration of the term of service of the senator elected by the people of the State.
– This was not the question put at the referendum.
-This is part of the Bill which was approved by the people. The actual question put contained the short title. The whole
Bill in fact was approved by the people and this is part of that proposed law. As I said, it is a matter of interpretation and I would have thought that it spoke clearly for itself. I do not propose to add to that.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development: In the light of considerable concern in South Australia about the state of the housing industry in that State and the numerous calls for interest rate reductions, does the Minister agree that such an action would be inflationary and would lead to further cost increases which would, in turn, make a recovery in the industry more difficult to achieve? Furthermore, does he agree that Federal Government moneys channelled by the Dunstan Government under the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement, as well as other State-sourced funds, into increased construction of homes which people are unable to buy due to high prices would be better directed to increasing the maximum loan available to home seekers from the present $ 1 8,000 to, say, $25,000 in order to reduce the present stock of unsold homes?
– It is of course a basic truth that the home construction industry, as with the general public and private construction industry, was destroyed by the bad economic policies of the former Whitlam regime and that the housing industry will recover at the same rate as the general economy of the nation. The interest burden on money for housing bears a direct relationship to 2 things- our ability to get inflation down as a whole and our ability to get interest rates down. The real consolation to the States which give us lectures on how to handle these things is to point to the fact that there is a clear and steady fall in inflation in Australia, which was running at something like 1 8 per cent at the time the Liberal Party and Country Party took office. It is down to something in the 10 per cent bracket at the moment and it is prospectively falling.
– Why is unemployment still going up?
-I will come to that interjection in a moment. There are signs that interest rates could fall. One of the most heartening signs of course has been the over-subscription of the recent public loan. So the general thesis is that the thrust in housing will move with the general rise in the economy. It is a proud claim of ours that over a period of 20 years we were able to say in government that any wage earner, any spouse on an average weekly wage, could buy a home of his own with one-quarter of his weekly wage. What we constructed in 20 years- that is, the highest home ownership rate in the world- the Whitlam Government destroyed in 3 years. These are simple facts. The first thrust should be to apply ourselves to a general recovery of the community. I cannot comment upon basic figures because my colleague in another place would regard that as a policy matter but I do say that it has always been the main aim of governments of Liberal faith that the average Australian should be able to own his or her home.
– Bring down interest rates.
-Is it not delightful that there are those who do not understand the saying physician, cure thyself or that the Labor Party which Senator Georges supports was responsible for forcing up interest rates? He now in the cold light of the vision gained on the Opposition benches says: ‘Bring down interest rates’. Well, I have good news for Senator Georges and all his latter day repentants. Interest rates appear to be coming down. I have good news in this regard, that for 20 years governments of Liberal faith did not talk; they acted. They produced the highest level of full employment of any country in the world; the lowest sustained inflation of any country in the world; the highest home ownership of any country in the world; and the greatest distribution of wealth between rich and poor of any country in the world. So we as Liberals act towards equality of opportunity but Labor supporters mouth hypocrisies about acts that they did not demonstrate when they were in office. They talk egalitarianism and they practise the elitism of the socialist doctrine. So when they interject let them look to their record which is a record of destruction of the ordinary Australian family.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Administrative Services which is of deep concern to me and I am sure it concerns the vast majority of honourable senators and the Australian people. The question relates to reports that staff of the Australian War Memorial, particularly conservators and restorers, have been so poorly paid that some of them have left to go to State museums and that there is great difficulty in recruiting people to look after the art works in the War Memorial. There is also a report that there is a deterioration in the condition of irreplaceable art works and historical paintings and other items in the War Memorial collection. In view of the position very dear to the heart of our unique national heritage held by the Australian War Memorial, will the Minister give the Senate an unequivocal assurance that, despite so-called economy cuts, there will be a searching inquiry into all aspects of conservation and preservation at the War Memorial with a view to staffing adequately the section involved in the preservation and conservation of art works in the War Memorial?
-It is correct that the previous art conservator at the Australian War Memorial left that position to take up a position with an an gallery in South Australia. I do not blame him for doing so because the salary he will receive in his new position is vastly superior to that which he was being paid at the War Memorial. I add that everyone was very sorry to see him leave his position. Generally, with regard to the position of conservators, both Senator Carrick and I have answered questions in this place from Senator Douglas McClelland and Senator Knight a number of times. Questions were asked on this matter in Estimates Committee A and I invite the honourable senator to look at the Hansard report of the proceedings of Senate Estimates Committee A. In spite of staff ceilings, the Prime Minister has approved the recruitment of extra staff for the Australian War Memorial. I understand that this recruitment is in the process of being fulfilled. The honourable senator would know that the Australian War Memorial is administered by an independent statutory board of trustees and that the classification of conservators is at present being considered by the Public Service Board. We have great hopes that the Public Service Board will take a more realistic attitude to the classification of these highly skilled people.
– I desire to ask a supplementary question.
– I call Senator 0 ‘Byrne.
-Will the Minister give an assurance that the matter of the deterioration of art works that has been reported will also be made the subject of concern of the Minister in order to make certain that the provision of extra staff, not only to continue the work but also to catch up with the backlog that has been accumulating over a period, will be attended to in the present review?
-I was attempting to say that. I am sorry if I did not make myself clear. What is necessary to carry out what the honourable senator desires and what we all desire is more conservators in Australia. No matter how much money we have or if there were no staff ceilings, we will be faced with a difficulty in finding people with the skills necessary to carry out this work. For this reason, I have been having discussions with my colleague the Minister for Education concerning the possibility of the Canberra College of Advanced Education commencing a course to train such people in Australia. This is a very necessary skill but we do not have these people in large numbers in Australia. This situation applies not only to the Australian War Memorial but also to museums and other such establishments throughout Australia. One of the few establishments where there seems to be a reasonable number but not a sufficient number is the Maritime Museum in Fremantle in my own State of Western Australia where quite magnificent work in the preserving of materials which have been brought up from the deep after hundreds of years has been done. Australia lacks these people because to date there has been nowhere in Australia where they can acquire these skills. Senator Carrick and I have great hopes that a course may be commenced so that these skills can be acquired. There certainly will be employment opportunities for those completing the course. I share with the honourable senator his concern about preservation at the War Memorial.
– I address my question to the Minister for Social Security. I am not sure whether it relates to her portfolio or to her capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Health. It has been reported that in some instances pensioners in the larger States have to wait up to 12 months for appointments to have their hearing tested before their applications for hearing aids can be considered. Can the Minister check to see whether this claim is correct? If it is, will the Minister investigate the possibility of allowing private practitioners to assist where backlogs exist?
– I respond to this question as Minister representing the Minister for Health. I understand that there is considerable delay in pensioners’ applications for hearing aids. It is a matter on which I had some brief discussion with the Minister for Health recently. As I understand it, the Minister for Health is concerned at the delays but I am unaware of any steps that he has decided to take to overcome them. I will refer the question to him and obtain any information that I can for the honourable senator.
– Has the Minister for Industry and Commerce seen reports by the New Zealand Manufacturers Federation that New Zealand faces a severe recession unless there is a significant change in the country’s balance of payments and that therefore access to the Australian market is imperative to the survival of the New Zealand economy? Is it a fact that in recent times the New Zealand Government has made fresh approaches to the Australian Government to extend the New Zealand-Australia Free Trade Agreement? Can the Minister indicate the consideration the Government is giving to these propositions and how they fit into the White Paper on manufacturing which was presented to the Parliament this week?
-I was in New Zealand not long ago discussing this question with New Zealand Ministers. The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Talboys, Mr Adam-Schneider, Mr Anthony and myself dealt with the whole of this area. Mr Anthony and I went to a dinner with the New Zealand Manufacturers Federation and we answered questions that night. Subsequently the Ministers, on behalf of both their countries, examined the agreement carefully. They went through the general processes of what is happening. It was agreed that we both have access to each other’s markets. It was agreed that our access was worse than theirs, that they had had a better operation than we had and that this matter ought to be put into balance, and it was. It was equally agreed that the matter of access to each other’s markets and the ability to trade with each other would continually be examined and looked at. I have had no representations since then on any official level whatsoever from anybody for any potential changes to be canvassed. Notwithstanding that, I am familiar with the operations of associations and individuals through various areas of the Press. Senator Gietzelt would understand very well that the official communication is the one that one waits to see. Nothing has turned up. When it does it will be considered. He and I cannot live in a world in which the Press is running our affairs for us three times a day.
– Is the Minister for Science aware that 3 State governments, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria, have recently decided to explore alternative energy resources meaningfully and that each of the 3
States has already promised to commit substantial sums of money for the research and development of solar energy? In view of the decision of the States that I have mentioned, will the Minister endeavour to persuade his Government that there is an impending energy crisis and at the same time persuade the Government to provide for a very substantial increase in federal funds for solar energy research?
-Senator Keeffe asked several things. He asks whether I am aware that 3 State governments have committed substantial funds for research and development of solar energy. I have seen reports that that is so. My understanding is that the New South Wales Government as an initial move is willing to give $1.8m to the Sydney University for solar energy research. I am unaware whether that proposition has been followed through. I was particularly interested in the original proposals because the Federal Government, as the honourable senator is aware, was the obvious originator of the major level of funding, through the Universities Commission, so that Sydney University could conduct research into solar energy. Obviously when the Premier of New South Wales and others join in saying that the Federal Government is cutting funds for research in solar energy it is appropriatethe honourable senator would recognise that it is so, and I am pleased to be able to make it public on his comment-to inform everyone that the Federal Government under no circumstances cut funds for solar energy research. As we know, the universities are independent in the decisions that they make in relation to their allocation of funds. Perhaps the decision made in this matter regarding the allocation of funds for particular areas of research was made within Sydney University. It is quite appropriate that this should be so. However, funds for the particular area of research in solar energy at Sydney University were provided not only by the University but also by the Commonwealth under the Australian research grants scheme. Several of the scientists involved in solar research at Sydney University were funded directly by the Australian Government in the work of excellence that they were conducting on solar energy. Those funds have been by no means restricted’.
The interesting point is that some of the discoveries that may have been made, and those discoveries which the Premier of New South Wales apparently said his Government would now be sharing as a result of patents, obviously flowed from those areas of financial interest which the Commonwealth Government supplied. I would be very pleased to know the details relating to the patent which the New South Wales Government intends to share for the investment of its $1.8m. If it happens to be that which was given publicity when the Premier partook of an egg breakfast at Sydney University, my understanding is that that patent was taken out many years ago in the United States. As I have stated once in this place previously, Melbourne University told me that it had given away that principle some 5 years ago. Other governments that have taken an interest, as I understand it, certainly include the Victorian Government. The Premier, Mr Hamer, through the Minister for Fuel and Energy, Mr Balfour, approached me to see whether certain scientists of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation might be able to advise and join the Victorian Government in setting up a commission to study further the uses and prospects of use of solar energy in Victoria. I have heard it said that the Western Australian Government is doing something similar but I am unable to say whether or not that is fact.
Senator Keeffe spoke of the pending energy crisis. That matter has been discussed in this place on a number of occasions, as well as in that excellent report of a committee of the Senate chaired by Senator Thomas. I refer to the solar energy report put down recently. I think a reading of that report would set right the thinking of many people in relation to research into this area and other areas of energy requirements for Australia.
– I have a brief supplementary question. The Minister for Science recited what I suppose was wrongly set out in my question as information. He failed to answer the last part. I asked him whether he would persuade his Government to provide for a very substantial increase in Federal funds for solar energy research. Will the Government do that?
-The honourable senator, I realise, has some difficulty in gathering the ambit of quite a substantial answer to a substantial question which he asked. If he reads the report on solar energy presented within the last couple of weeks by a committee chaired by Senator Thomas, he will see -
– I have read it.
– If anyone who reads that will discover that the advice the Senate has given to the Government is that it should take care to see that its priorities in relation to energy uses are substantially assessed prior to any allocation of funds for solar energy. It is my wish that in the coming year funds for Australia’s major research establishment, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which has been allocating $ 1 ,24m to solar energy research last year, will be increased so that it can further its solar energy research. The Government will consider carefully expenditure of the public’s money in all areas of energy research.
-On 16 March 1977 Senator Davidson asked me a question without notice concerning Press reports on the University of Adelaide Medical School. I indicated to Senator Davidson that I would refer the matter to the Chairman of the Universities Commission, Professor Karmel, for his consideration. I am advised in relation to the matter raised by the honourable senator as follows: Press reports appearing in March concerning the Adelaide University Medical School were based on excerpts from an internal report to the chairmen and heads of medical departments by the then Dean of the Faculty, Professor Rhodes. The report was requested by the chairmen and heads and it was intended as a critical appraisal of the Faculty functions and working procedures. In a subsequent reply to selective quotations in the Press, Professor Rhodes wrote to the Advertiser, published on 1 1 March 1977:
The standard of work in this medical school (Adelaide) and the standard of doctors graduating from it, are as high as anywhere else in the world. The same is true of the standards of medical practice in South Australia. There is no cause for anxiety about them. Research too is valuably increasing. But the Faculty, as is the rest of the University, is always looking for methods of improving itself. My document was intended to help in this laudable aim. Its existence shows there is a valuable spirit of free inquiry in the Faculty and while ever that exists there need be no public concern.
In the last decade the Adelaide Medical School has recast its curriculum and has introduced first year medical students to clinical settings. Innovations have been achieved through its Department of Community Medicine with the operation of 3 community health centres and through the establishment of the Foundation for MultiDisciplinary Education where students in medicine, social work, occupational therapy and physiotherapy learn together. Between 1966 and 1 976, the Faculty of Medicine staff has published over 900 professional papers; staff members have held senior office in every medical professional association, in government research funding committees and in community organisations dedicated to the fostering of health care. The Medical School has suffered some difficulties in its pre-clinical accommodation but these are now being alleviated by the granting, through the Universities Commission, of Commonwealth funds for a new medical sciences building, which will be completed at the end of 1 978.
-On behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts I present the one hundred and sixtyfourth report. I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The one hundred and sixty-fourth report comprises 2 Treasury minutes relating to previous reports of the Committee. These reports were the one hundred and fiftieth report, which dealt with items from the AuditorGeneral’s report for 1972-73, and the one hundred and fifty-first report, which related to the delays in the payment of accounts. The practice of presenting Treasury minutes is the result of an arrangement made between the Committee and the Treasurer before the presentation of the Committee’s first report on 10 March 1953. The arrangement is that the Committee forwards a copy of each report to the Treasurer for consideration immediately that report is tabled. His reply, in the form of a Treasury minute, is then examined by the Committee and included in a later report to the Parliament. The one hundred and sixty-fourth report is one of these later reports. The Treasury, before preparing its minute, consults the departments concerned and obtains their views on the recommendations and conclusions of the Committee. Essentially the Treasury minute system ensures that Committee recommendations are acted upon and informs members of the steps taken to meet their proposals. Due to the reorganisation of the Department of the Treasury this function is now carried out by the Department of Finance and these minutes will, in future, be known as Finance minutes.
In its one hundred and fiftieth report, in relation to the purchase of 34 demountable home units for Aboriginals in the Northern Territory, the Committee had criticised the Department concerned because clear arrangements for inspection on delivery had not been made. The Committee also recommended that the problems of inspection at remote localities should be fully considered before delivery to site clauses are written into similar contracts in the future. The Committee has been advised in the Treasury minute that the Department now ensures that delivery and inspection clauses are written into contract documents to provide for delivery into the departmental store. Delivery to site by departmental transport is then arranged after consultation with the client branch of the Department or other departments.
The Committee had criticised the Darwin Regional Office of the then Department of Works regarding its unsatisfactory financial procedures and had also concluded that the rate of expenditure on capital works by that office had been deliberately accelerated towards the end of the financial year in an attempt to expend the appropriation. In addition, the Committee had reached the conclusion that sections of the Audit Act had been breached by the Regional Office and that certain Treasury directions had not been followed. The Treasury minute states that the Department has advised that as a consequence of the Committee’s inquiry a number of corrective measures were introduced to ensure compliance with the Audit Act, Treasury regulations and directions and departmental procedures. The Treasury minute also gives details of the action taken in the Northern Territory region to obviate the possibility of any recurrence of accelerated expenditure payments.
The Committee has made some observations in chapter 4 of the one hundred and sixty-fourth report concerning the Treasury minute on the Committee’s one hundred and fiftieth report. When examining the Treasury minute the Committee was not satisfied with the comments provided by the Department of Defence in response to the Committee’s conclusions in paragraphs 84 and 85 of the report relating to the purchase of trailer-mounted refrigerators and paragraph 123 which dealt with a cleaning contract. Regarding paragraph 84, the comment originally provided did not satisfactorily answer the Committee ‘s observation that too much emphasis had been placed by the Department in its submission and in evidence on the urgent operational requirement for Vietnam.
In relation to paragraph 85, the Committee had commented that it found it difficult to understand why, if there was an urgent operational requirement, it took the Department from May 1 965 until May 1 968 to obtain the equipment for Vietnam. The Committee believed that the original response from the Department was unsatisfactory in that it suggested reasons for the delay which were not mentioned during the inquiry. The later comment stated that the Department had over-estimated the ability of industry to provide a suitable product without a very detailed specification. This led, in turn, to the need to call tenders a second time. Thus, a period of about 1 8 months elapsed during which time the first tenders were called and evaluated and preparations made for calling tenders a second time. The remaining time until May 1968 was taken up with processing the second round of tenders and in the manufacture of the refrigerated trailers.
The comments originally provided in response to paragraph 123 were considered to be inadequate because no reference was made to the delays in finalising the question of the provision of safety gear for window cleaning in the Russell complex. The reasons for the Committee’s dissatisfaction were discussed with officers of the Department of the Treasury in accordance with the agreed Treasury minute arrangements. The Treasury subsequently sought additional information from the Department of Defence and redrafted comments were substituted for those previously provided for paragraphs 84, 85 and 123. The original and substituted comments are shown opposite the related Committee conclusions in this report.
The additional information provided in relation to paragraph 123 indicates that subsequent to June 1972, when the question of safety in window cleaning operations was first raised with the contractor, the Department was in frequent communication with the appropriate authorities in an attempt to have the matter resolved. The Committee believes that the Department should have made this clear at the public hearing. The Committee has also noted that a contract was let in October 1976 for the cleaning of windows above the first floor. In the Committee’s view it had taken an inordinately long time to resolve this matter.
In the one hundred and fifty-first report the Committee had criticised departments for unreasonable delays in the payment of accounts and had made recommendations designed to reduce those delays. The Treasury minute informs the Committee that Treasury circular 1976/15 was issued on 8 June 1976 which drew the attention of all departments to the Committee’s criticism. Particular paragraphs of the Committee ‘s report relating to the regular review of unpaid accounts, the implications for suppliers of delays in payment, the proper circulation of Treasury circulars, delay in payment due to shortage of funds, recoveries between departments, increases in working capital for trust accounts and the review of procedures and the need for increased supervision were all specially featured in the circular and brought to the attention of all officers concerned with the processing and payment of accounts. In addition, the circular directed attention to the Treasurer’s letter to
Ministers dated 2 June 1976 on the same subject. The Committee had also suggested that the Treasury should examine the desirability of having the provision in Treasury direction 6/22A, which allows amounts under query to be deducted from transport accounts before payment, extended to cover all types of accounts. The Treasury had advised that an appropriate amendment has been made to the direction.
The Committee has indicated in the one hundred and sixty-fourth report that consideration is being given to the question of whether it should re-examine witnesses in those cases where it is obvious from the comment provided in Treasury minutes that incorrect or insufficient information was given to the Committee at an inquiry. The Committee has also expressed its concern at what appears to be inordinate delays in the supply of information by way of Treasury minutes and trusts that these delays will not occur again in the future. I commend the report to honourable senators.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to repatriation and related matters.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
As honourable senators are aware, on 3 April I announced some important proposals to change the repatriation system involving Repatriation Boards and the Entitlement and Assessment Appeal Tribunals. These proposals were developed out of the Government’s consideration of the conclusions and recommendations of the independent inquiry into repatriation conducted by Mr Justice Toose of the New South Wales Supreme Court. The Government has also had available to it comments on those conclusions and recommendations which it received from a large number of veterans ‘ organisations.
The Bill now before the Senate makes amendments to the Repatriation Act 1920 and the Seamen ‘s War Pensions and Allowances Act 1 940 to incorporate some of these changes. The Bill provides for changes in the method of appointment of Repatriation Boards and Seamen’s Pension Committees and requires them to consult and cooperate with the Repatriation Commission.
There will be no territorial limitation placed on them and, therefore, their activities will not be confined to specific States of the Commonwealth. The Bill also provides for the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs to give directions to those bodies for the purpose of facilitating, ensuring or requiring consultation and co-operation with the Commission. In addition, the Bill introduces a new section 47 into the Repatriation Act. Section 47 is the section in the Repatriation Act which sets out the principles to be applied in determining claims under the Act. I shall now deal with each of these matters in more detail.
In his report, Mr Justice Toose recommended that repatriation boards should be abolished and replaced by a system whereby the initial determination of claims should be the responsibility of the Commission exercising its powers through suitably qualified persons acting individually as delegates. On the other hand, Mr Justice Toose recommended that, if repatriation boards were retained, the members when appointed should be subjected to an intensive training program before making determinations, rotation of board chairmen and members should be actively pursued, and the boards should be made clearly and directly subject to active oversight by the Commission. The Government received strong representations from the veterans’ organisations about these matters. The basic argument was that repatriation boards provided the initial tier in a three-tier system and that this system had been appreciated and accepted by veterans themselves. The existence of repatriation boards has provided an opportunity for veterans’ organisations to nominate persons for selection to the bodies involved in the first decision on a veteran’s claim. The Government recognises that these claims do have considerable ment and has, therefore, decided to retain the repatriation boards in order to maintain direct ex-service participation in appointments and determinations at this important first level.
The Government believes that within this system changes can still be made which it expects will lead to more efficient and effective administration and will improve the overall performance of the repatriation boards. To this end, the Government has decided to discontinue the present system of having boards appointed on a State basis, with their jurisdiction limited by the boundaries of their States, and to replace this with a system whereby the boards are appointed at large, with no territorial limitations on their jurisdiction. This will enable individual members to move between States or for claims to be referred to boards resident in other States if there are heavy workloads in a State. Additionally, the Government had adopted the recommendation by Mr Justice Toose that there should be arrangements for rotation of chairmen and members. The Bill provides authority for chairmen and members to be moved from one Board to another for specified periods.
The Government also considered the view expressed by Mr Justice Toose that boards should be made clearly and directly subject to active oversight by the Commission. However, in view of the Commission’s position as the first appellate body above boards, such oversight could be seen to weaken the independence of the boards as initial determining bodies. A modified proposal has, therefore, been developed and has been incorporated in the Bill. The proposed new section IS, set out in clause 7 of the Bill, will require boards to consult and co-operate with the Repatriation Commission. It empowers the Commission to make available to boards statements of principles which the Commission applies in deciding appeals, statements of principles deduced from the decisions of tribunals and any other material which the Commission considers may be of assistance to boards in the performance of their functions.
The section further provides that the Minister may issue directions to boards for the purpose of facilitating, ensuring and requiring that a board, or boards generally, consult and co-operate with the Commission with respect to matters specified in the direction. In this context, however, the section stipulates that neither the Minister nor the Commission is authorised to direct a board with respect to its consideration or determination of a particular claim or application. The Minister will furnish a copy of any such direction to the Commission, which shall publish it in its annual report tabled in the Parliament. The object of these provisions is to obtain better co-ordination among boards, to ensure the attainment of a high standard by boards in the discharge of their duties, as suggested by Mr Justice Toose, but without reducing the independence of each board in the exercise of its determining power under the Act in respect of individual cases.
The Bill inserts new sections 24AA and 24AB into the Repatriation Act and new sections 26 and 26A into the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act. All these new sections relate to the lodging of claims under the Acts. Mr Justice Toose had the following to say in this regard: 1 am satisfied on the evidence that for many cases in the past claims have been presented in an inadequate fashion. I am also satisfied that this has to some extent been caused by a misunderstanding of the opening words of section 47 ( 2 ) of the Act . . . A claim for entitlement may be seen as having two broad elements, first, identification of the disablement or death in respect of which the claim is made; and, second the service-connection of the disablement or death.
In respect of the nature of the disablement which is the subject of a claim it is necessary that the claimant should identify the condition sufficiently to enable the investigation of the case to proceed meaningfully. Clearly, in some cases it may be beyond the capacity of claimants to present positive identification of disablement, but in all cases some form of identification will be possible. It has always been the practice to require some identification from claimants.
As to the relationship of disablement or death to service, a claimant should give some account of the service to which the disablement or death is claimed to be related and support his claim with evidence sufficing or helping to establish the fact. . . . ‘
Mr Justice Toose came to the conclusion that:
In the past many claims have not been properly or adequately presented by the claimant. In my view, a claimant should particularise his claim to the fullest extent possible.
The Government has accepted Mr Justice Toose ‘s conclusion. It does not propose, however, to set out specific requirements in the legislation. Apart from the complex nature of such provisions, there could be an undesirable sideeffect of making unreasonable demands on some claimants. I refer particularly to those incapacitated by age, disabilities, or for other reasons, who may have difficulty in obtaining and providing all of the basic information, and to widows and dependants of deceased ex-servicemen who may not have such information readily available to them. A more flexible system is preferred.
The proposed section 24aa will require that a claim be submitted on the approved form and be accompanied by any evidence in the possession of the claimant which the claimant considers would support that claim. The claim form will be drawn so that those claimants who have the particular information readily available to them will be encouraged to provide it. The Bill specifically provides that such a procedure is not to be taken as imposing any onus of proof on a claimant. Under the proposed section 24ab, the Secretary to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs will be required to investigate all claims lodged and, on completion of those investigations, forward the claim, together with the results of his investigations and any evidence furnished by the claimant under section 24aa, to the Repatriation Board which will consider and determine the claim.
The Bill also sets out to deal with one of the most important, yet one of the most controversial, provisions in the Repatriation Act, namely, section 47. That sections sets out the principles to be applied by determining authorities under the Act in the hearing and determining of claims, applications or appeals under the Act. Mr Justice Toose reported that there was before his inquiry a considerable amount of evidence that the present section 47 had caused much dissatisfaction and frustration and he concluded that the present provisions of section 47 have proved most unsatisfactory and should be amended. He went on to analyse various provisions in other countries and recommended some major amendments to section 47.
The Government has examined this question in great depth and is concerned that the provision should be cast in its simplest possible form, while still preserving to a veteran the maximum advantage that should be allowed. The Bill provides for the repeal of the present section 47 and for the insertion in its place of a much simpler section which will provide that determining authorities: Are not bound by technicalities, legal forms or rules of evidence; and shall act according to substantial justice, taking into account any difficulty that for any reason may lie in the way of ascertaining the existence of any fact, cause or circumstance, including such reasons as the effects of the passage of time and the absence of or deficiency in any official records. The determining authorities will be required to grant a claim or application or allow an appeal unless they are satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that there are insufficient grounds for granting that claim or application or allowing that appeal.
For the information of honourable senators, I can advise that a further Bill to provide for the proposed transfer of the functions of the Repatriation Appeal Tribunals to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal will be introduced in the Spring Sittings. In addition, the Government is still considering many matters arising from the Toose report and the views on it obtained from veterans’ organisations. We shall be progressively announcing further decisions on matters arising from them. Honourable senators may be assured, and all veterans may be assured, that the Government will not be arriving at those decisions lightly, but will keep in mind always the debt which this country owes to all those who have suffered or have been bereaved because of the services of its people in time of war and conflict. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Keeffe) adjourned.
Proposed Select Committee on East Timor
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That General Business Order of the Day No. 1 3 relating to the proposed Select Committee on East Timor take precedence of intervening business at 8 p.m. this day.
That the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce for inquiry and report: The investigation of food prices, including-
I now give my reasons for moving this motion. In April 1976 I spoke to a similarly worded motion requesting that the Government undertake an immediate investigation of food prices, and including three of the four parts of the motion I have just moved. When I spoke to the original motion I mentioned that I was more than a little disturbed that there was little information available and that the information which was available was extremely out of date. I am very sorry to have to report that the situation has not improved in any way. There is no more information available now than when I set out the details in my previous motion. That is, perhaps, one reason why I believe we need a Senate committee to make a thorough and ongoing analysis of this aspect and perhaps force the pace in getting some research done in what I consider to be a most important area.
I had originally thought that a special committee of the Parliament would be the most appropriate body to investigate this matterperhaps a committee similar to the Joint Committee on Prices which was established in April 1973. On further reflection, because this Government decided as soon as it was elected not to reconstitute that committee and because I believe the topic is far too important to be given the slightest possibility of being sidestepped, I have amended my original motion to provide that the inquiry be carried out by the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce. It is my firm belief that this is the appropriate Committee to undertake the task. It is an ongoing Committee and it is more likely to be in a position to take on this study and see it through to completion. This could be done in a number of ways. The matters could be assessed in the order of priority which I have stated them or several aspects of the inquiry could be investigated at the same time.
In the minds of many people there is a belief that wholesalers provide a small service to the public and that they are mainly unproductive. It also seems that in some areas they make large profits in relation to the amount of service and effort they provide. We often hear people say that the farmer is getting a rock bottom price for his product but that the consumer is paying exorbitant prices for that product. Farmers themselves make similar statements yet when we try to research this area we run into a stumbling block because of the lack of research information. It is an indictment of the research bodies in Australia that this field of research has been so neglected. I believe it is also an indictment of governments- both State and Federal- that this lack of research information is caused by one of 3 factors or a combination of all 3 factors.
We can list those 3 factors fairly readily: First, the lack of government direction; secondly, the lack of funds; and, thirdly, the cut backs in government spending in the public sector. New South Wales is perhaps the only State- it is certainly the only State from which I have been able to get any comprehensive information- where the Department of Agriculture, through its Division of Marketing and Economics, puts out a comprehensive statement detailing the information which it sees as necessary for other departments, for other governments and for people. I intend shortly to seek leave to have some documents produced by that Department incorporated in Hansard. I should first like to read into the record some of the statistics.
I refer to the first table which is entitled Department of Agriculture, Division of Marketing and Economics, Auction, Wholesale and Retail Prices for Lamb, Wholesale and Retail Margins, and Shares of the Consumer Dollar. Monthly, January 1971 -January 1976’. Unfortunately, I have only the table which relates to the period from January 1974 to December 1976. But we can see at a glance, for instance, in the case of lamb meat that in January 1974 the farmer- the person who takes a high capital risk, who puts the work into getting his sheep into market condition, in other words the person who should perhaps get most of the consumer’s dollar- received 60.3 per cent of the consumer’s dollar. The wholesaler received 7.4 per cent and the retailer received 32.3 per cent. If we examine the document further, we find that in December 1976, only 6 months ago, the figures had moved substantially. In that year the farmer, the same person who takes the high capital risk and who puts time and effort into getting the same sheep into market condition, now receives only 30.8 per cent of the consumer’s dollar, whereas in January 1974 he received 60.3 per cent. The wholesaler now receives 22.4 per cent compared with 7.4 per cent originally and the retailer now receives 46.8 per cent compared with 32.3 per cent in January 1974.I repeat that these figures are only in relation to lamb meat in the State of New South Wales.
In relation to beef meat the only figures that I have which are available are those for a different period and of course the variation is not so great. The period relates to January 1971 to December 1973. The variations available in that period for beef meat are not as detailed as those available for lamb meat, but in all fairness I feel I should cite those figures for both the beginning and at the end of that particular survey period. In January 1971 the farmer received 60.7 per cent of the consumers dollar and December 1973 he received 50.8 per cent. In January 1971 the wholesaler received 7.1 per cent and in December 1973 he received 12.1 per cent. In January 1 97 1 the retailer received 32.2 per cent and 29 per cent at the end of December 1973. This is not to say that the same variations in lamb meat prices would not have occurred in beef meat. The figures were not readily available to me. I find it extremely disturbing that I have to hunt around through State Government departments instead of being able to obtain these figures fairly readily. So that honourable senators can make their own comparisons I seek leave to incorporate those tables in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The tables read as follows-
– I produce those 2 tables for the record to show how important it is that these figures should be readily available not just for all of the States but on a national basis. Perhaps it may be considered that this could be done by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics. I am given to understand by the Bureau that it is about to publish an article on the retail meat industry based on the New South Wales data but I understand that this will not be available until some time in August. I am also given to understand by the Bureau that the nationwide data just have not been available to warrant an in-depth analysis. This is not to say that the information does not warrant an in-depth analysis. The data are just not available for an analysis.
Some of the claims we hear only too frequently relate to the producers’ share of the consumer dollar being too low, the services sector profits being exorbitant, and the marketing situation being perhaps what could be called inefficient. They are serious claims. They need to be examined thoroughly. I believe that the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce is perhaps the most appropriate body to make this examination. It is not, for instance, a laughing matter for primary producers who consider that their efforts are not being properly rewarded.
In endeavouring to present statistics to the Senate on this most important matter I found that there were really only 2 papers available. One was a theoretical study carried out for the New South Wales Department of Agriculture by a Mr G. R. Griffiths and called Sydney Meat Marketing Margins. It is an econometric analysis which uses figures for that State up to June 1 974 and the other is a paper by a Mr M. Hodan. It is a research paper entitled Margins and Costs of Marketing Meat in Australia. It was prepared under the auspices of the John Thompson Agriculture Economic Centre of the University of Western Australia. It seems to me unfortunate that once again Mr Hodan has had to use some presumption figures. He has not had up-to-date or nationwide figures available to him to conduct his research. I am sure that he came up against the same problems that I did; that is, a lack of readily available statistical information. In discussing prices Mr Hodan had the following comments to make, and I quote from his article which will be incorporated at a later stage. He wrote:
When there are several sellers, rising costs are likely to result in openly or tacitly collusive increases in prices to preserve the sellers’ profit mark-up. This situation may prevail in wholesale meat marketing.
When there are many sellers of a differentiated product the seller facing the most unresponsive buyers’ demand is likely to pass most of the increases in his costs in higher prices and reduce least his profit mark-up. This is mostly the case of the retail butcher.
When there are many sellers of a fairly homogenous product the individual seller has no power at all over the price and any increase in his costs inevitably reduces his profits. This is about the position of the farmer.
From these remarks it is clear that the farmer is in an unenviable position. He has no control over the price of his products, whilst those who may be said to be somewhat dependent on him have a fairly high degree of control over the price of their products. I would argue that the farmer does not need protection but in order to ascertain the type of protection or the appropriate form of protection it is necessary to have a detailed study of the marketing and pricing structure of farm producers, wholesalers and retailers. I have already cited some to the figures for New South Wales which must be disturbing not only at the farmer level but also down to the consumer level because of the high percentage increase in profit being made over the past few years at the wholesale level. Perhaps we should be looking too at the export market level.
What do farmers themselves think about the lack of statistical information and the lack of knowledge of the majority of people? I have here a letter which is a little difficult to read, but I will read it into the Hansard. It is from a person who would probably be considered an average farmer; I do not know. To the best of my knowledge I have never met him. He wrote in response to some newspaper publicity that I have received in Western Australia relating to prices in general. Mr G. Ryan of Kojonup wrote under the dateline 22 March 1977:
I noticed in a newspaper that you were thinking of making an inquiry into the cost of living. You may like to start on the undermentioned.
We sold in Midland-
This is the saleyards for primary produce in Western Australia- last month 12 one-year old baby beef off their mothers for $226.79. Had we sent them by a contract semi it would have cost $48.
A further $48- [ would say that these beasts would average ISO kilograms. I am game to bet the first thing you will be told
Because of the low price presumably- is that they were of mixed breed which means the hair varies in colour. Now I ask you: Out of all the people that buy meat what percentage would know what coloured skin, heifer or steer, the beast was?
Re lamb meat and prices, you may know there are twelve or fourteen grades of lamb to us- white 0, white L, red L, etc., but after checking in Perth butcher shops ( could not get the grade I asked for and they just laughed. Also when cattle were of no value and were being shot on the farm an Italian was had up for putting too much meat in his sausage at Fremantle.
Yours, etc. G. RYAN
That is an indication of the ridiculous situation, of the inequities that exist in our marketing system. I do not believe that a comprehensive marketing system has been developed here in Australia. I repeat that there is really no reason why the Senate as a whole should not support the motion that I have put before it. The Australian public will know that we are concerned about their welfare and we are prepared to do something pracitcal about prices. I cannot comment to any great extent on the pseudo price pause which has just ended. I predicted in my speech on the Appropriation Bills in this place just 2 days ago what would happen at the end of that supposed pause and I am now quite content to sit back and wait for it to happen.
Returning to the only figures which are available for me to use, those in Mr Hodan’s paper which I have already acknowledged, I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard7tables, tables 1 and 2 relating to beef prices; tables 3 and 4 relating to mutton prices; tables 5 and 6 relating to lamb prices; and table 7 relating to prices for all meat in the 5 mainland capitals.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-In relation to table 2, 1 mention that the changes in prices for wholesalers and producers for all capital cities in the 5 States are relatively equal, hence whatever margin existed in 1967 the same relative margin would have existed in 1971. But in the retail area the rise in prices was much greater in all cities except Perth for the retailers than it was for the wholesalers. Thus, I believe that retailers could have increased their margins provided costs had remained stable in relation to producers’ and wholesalers’ prices. But, of course, these figures are different from the figures that I presented earlier in relation to the later period when we saw in New South Wales the dramatic increase in the percentage to the wholesaler and retailer and an equally dramatic, or perhaps even more dramatic, decrease in the return to the producer. It is interesting to note from Mr Hodan’s paper that, for the 6 capital cities, the consumer price index figures for meat for June of each year from 1967 to 1971 were as follows. In 1967, it was 102.8; in 1968, it was 105.7; in 1969, it was 104.5; in 1970, it was 109.1; and, in 1971, it was 111.3. In other words, the price index figures increased by 8.2 per cent between June 1967 and June 1971. It is somewhat easy to see that the farmer was perhaps worse off than other sectors of the community over that period.
I cannot help but emphasise that all these figures relate to the period between 1967 and 1971. We must look to governments for direction and for funding. There really is no reason why the Australian Bureau of Statistics should not be preparing these papers on a regular basis. There are occasional papers, like paper No. 20, which is entitled A Report on Price Differentials in the Meat Market, This was put out by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, Canberra. I found it most helpful. I feel it should be kept up to date. We have only to look at what happened in 1 976 here in Australia to realise that cut backs in the public sector mean that the only information, for instance, which will be derived from the censusit is now 12 months since it was taken- is the number of people who live in this country. Unless the Government is prepared to fund the public census further, it is a most expensive exercise to find out just how many people live in this country and where they live.
I believe another area of prices which should bear particular consideration is sales tax. Whilst this is not included specifically in the motion I have moved, it nevertheless has a great bearing on the matters which are included. The schedule for sales tax application lists luxury goods to be taxed at 27Vi per cent. I have no argument with that but I do argue with what should or should not be defined as a luxury item. I argue, for instance, that toilet soap is not, nor can it be, defined as a luxury item. But it is. Toilet soap, which I imagine is used in every household in Australia and just about every household throughout the world, could not be considered a luxury but in Australia sales tax is applied to it at the rate of 2Vh per cent. Dog soap, on the other hand, is not considered a luxury and only rates sales tax of 2lA per cent. What a ridiculous situation! By all means let us apply sales tax to genuine luxury items, properly defined luxury items, but we should not categorise necessities like toilet soap in the luxury class.
– You could use dog soap instead of toilet soap.
– It would be cheaper to use dog soap rather than toilet soap but I do not know whether it would be as comfortable. Let us look further at the ridiculous situation with regard to sales tax. Would any honourable senator in his or her right mind classify ballpoint pens as luxury items? If we look around this chamber we find that there would hardly be a senator who does not have one and possibly two, either in his pocket or her handbag or even on the desk. I would query hair oils and hair treatment items being regarded as luxury items. I do not consider safety razors and electric razors to be luxuries. Perhaps one could argue that, as our society is changing and more people are growing beards than a few years ago, those people might consider razors to be luxuries. Senator Devitt, my colleague from Tasmania, who is the only bearded gentleman in this place-none of the women is bearded- may consider that they are luxury items. I do not. I believe that we need a reappraisal of what are and what are not luxury items and should reduce or remove accordingly the burden of sales tax.
I suppose that it could be argued that an inquiry of this nature should not become the responsibility of this Committee. I suppose it could be argued also that this Committee has sufficient references already. But I think we must look at those references and at the time which has elapsed since those matters were referred to the Committee. The original inquiry, a very general one, was the purpose, I imagine, behind the establishment of the Committee. That was the promotion of trade and commerce with other countries, the operation of Australia’s international trade agreements and the development of trading relations. There have been 2 reports. One was an interim report on Australia-New Zealand trade presented on 18 October 1972, the report which was presented on 7 June 1973. The second was a report on the prospects for trade between Indonesia and Australia, which 1, as Chairman of the Committee, presented in this chamber on 25 February 1976. The economic consequences of the introduction of a 35-hour working week was referred on 18 September 1 973. A background paper was prepared by the secretariat but the Committee has twice decided not to go ahead with this inquiry. The effect of the container method of handling cargo in the stevedoring industry and shipping was referred on 28 August 1975. Once again the secretariat prepared a background paper but, in view of 2 other inquiries that were already under way, it was decided not to pursue that matter until those reports were both brought down.
The effect on the wine making and grape growing industries and variations in the tax structure was referred on 3 June 1976. Both public and private hearings have been conducted over those intervening months and the inquiry is now in the final stages. The latest reference to the Committee concerned:
The effects of (a) currency alterations and (b) changes to manufacturing industry protection upon employment, and inflation (including prices of manufactured goods ).
It was referred on 10 December 1976. This is a reference which requires a report every 3 months. The first of these reports was presented on Tuesday of this week, that is, 24 May. In that report it was established that the Committee had experienced some difficulty in obtaining information from the sources which should have been most affected. There is, therefore, I believe no reason why this Committee should not undertake such an inquiry. I believe that there are other considerations which should be taken into account when speaking to a motion of this nature and I will devote a little time to those.
The public is quite concerned and naturally is involved in the metric conversion program which has taken place in Australia over the last few years. I am not saying that I am not in favour of metric conversion. But its concern and my concern stems from what appears to be a lack of cooperation in the industry as much as anything else. When metric conversion was first introduced, it was recommended that containers for food items would be standardised. In fact, one of the most solid arguments put forward by the Chairman of the Metric Conversion Board, Mr Norgard, to a consumer’s meeting was that metric conversion would assist in the standardisation of sizes for containers and that it would reduce the number of sizes that were on the supermarket shelves. The sensible sizes for solid foods and semi-solid foods that were being recommended were 125 grams, 250 grams, 375 grams and 500 grams packages. That would make it relatively simple for the housewife consumer to compare prices for different brands of similar items. It also would enable the consumer to see more readily whether there was indeed a saving by purchasing larger sizes. But what do we find when we go to our supermarkets? If anything, we find even more odd sizes than we had in the past.
I will give a few examples. For instance, Nestle ‘s condensed milk is 410 grams, which is less than the old lib and more than the old 3A lb and does not conform to any of the sizes that were recommended. KY canned peaches, at 822 grams, is less than 2 lb and is more than Vh lb. In fact, it is slightly more than 1 lb. That does not conform to the Metric Conversion Board’s recommendations either. IXL apricot jam is 670 grams. Heinz spaghetti is 440 grams. Hutton ‘s camp pie is 340 grams. King Sound salmon is 454 grams. At least that is the equivalent of the old i lb. None of the others conforms either to the old sizes or to the new sizes. These products are all made by major marketing companies and yet they apparently have made little effort to standardise sizes, as recommended by the Metric Conversion Board. In a change-over program costing Australia and Australians millions of dollars, it is still virtually impossible for a consumer to pick up 2 cans of a similar product marketed by different companies and make an immediate comparison on price. Because the Senate sat at 10 a.m. this morning I understand that in accordance with standing order 1271 should complete my remarks by 12 noon. I therefore seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 25 May, on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Mulvihill had moved by way of an amendment:
At end of motion add but the Senate is of the opinion that-
1 ) the slashing of government spending is part of an inept economic strategy which has led to a decline in the standard of living of all Australians: and
) There is an urgent need for alternative policies of promoting a consumer led recovery by cuts in indirect taxes and appropriate stimulatory expenditure on job creation and manpower training programs, all done in a context or not increasing inflation by:
phasing out the more extravagant business tax concessions.
increasing the money supply but not beyond the rate of inflation plus growth, and
instituting a more vigorous bond-selling program ‘.
-I will not keep the Senate long but 1 wish to refer to the matter which I was dealing with last night- the raising of the Central Intelligence Agency bogy within Australia. It is perfectly obvious that the raising of this bogy is designed to undermine the anti-communist fight within the Labor movement and the relationship with our major ally, the United States of America. If we analyse the allegations and see the people upon whom the proponents of this CIA bogy rely, we see that they fall to the ground. On whom do they rely? They rely on Mr Agee and Mr Marchetti, 2 people who for their own reasons seek publicity. In the first case Mr Agee, who is under threat of deportation or expulsion from the United Kingdom by the British Labour Government- I am quoting from the authority of Miles Copeland-was a defector to the Cubans. Certainly he was a CIA officer as distinct from an agent. He defected to the Cubans. He wrote a book and of course he wants the book well sold. The second point about him is that he fingered a number of CIA officers. More than one of those officers met an untimely death as a result. Victor Marchetti is also in the book selling business and wants a quick quid.
We see allegation mounting on allegation that somehow or another the CIA is involved in the affairs of trade unions and the Australian Labor Party. I believe this matter ought to be put to rest. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has said that if anyone has any information at all so far as the trade union movement is concerned it ought to provide the ACTU with that information. That is how it ought to be. There should not be unsubstantiated allegations such as have been made from time to time. I well recall that in 1975 these types of allegations emerged and were supported by people within the ALP when the axes were being sharpened for my head. They were being stated by none other than Mr Paul Whalan here in this city of Canberra.
– He is a very highly regarded trade union official.
– That may be the honourable senator’s opinion but it is not the opinion of a large number of other people. This is the very man who accused a high executive of the New South Wales ALP as being under the influence of the CIA. If the honourable senator says that Paul Whalan is highly respected for that he ought to have a word with members of the high executive of the ALP in New South Wales. Of course, the Communist Party Tribune latched on to Mr Whalan ‘s claims and made great play of them. For what purpose? For the purpose of trying to make people get cold feet. Allegations have been made within the last month. I heard about one of them. Freddie Nichol in Queensland alleged that he had information or suspicion that the CIA was involved in the internal affairs of the Federated Storemen and Packers Union of Australia in Tasmania in 1970 and 1971 and that money and advice were given to that organisation or to the anticommunists in that organisation in Tasmania. He was referring to the time when the federal body of the Storemen and Packers Union attempted to take control of the Tasmanian branch of the union and to turn it from a moderate influence within the trade union movement to a left influence in the movement. Of course, the officers and members of the Storemen and Packers Union took action both on the job and in the Australian Industrial Court to prevent that takeover. I refer to the celebrated case of Higgins v. Nichol and others. Higgins, the President of the Union, won the case and so the integrity of the branch was preserved and the federal officials had to get out of the place.
The question arises: From where did the money come to fight the intrusion of the people from the federal office into Tasmania? These other people raise the question of where the money came from. Of course, it is very simple. An application was made under regulation 138 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Regulations for legal aid and it was granted. These allegations are made without foundation. When they are looked into they fall to the ground. They are an attempt to influence people and to frighten them so that they get cold feet. Fred Nichol to his credit, admitted after all this was pointed out that he must have been misled. That is to his very great credit. He said that the branch of the organisation in Tasmania is functioning correctly, efficiently and in a co-ordinated manner with its national body. That is how it should be.
As I said last evening, to the extent that there is any United States influence within the trade union movement, it tends to be counterproductive. That influence extends through the American companies in this country. It is also extended through State Department officials who come here from time to time, labour attaches and the like. They are all for amalgamation of unions and collective bargaining, as they know it, as against the conciliation and arbitration process as we know it. The growth of unionism in the United States of America has followed paths quite different from the paths followed by the trade union movement in Australia and the trade union movement in Great Britain. Naturally, in some of the organisations in America, there are industry-based unions. Such a situation could not emerge in Australia. Let us take, for example, an amalgamation of unions on an industry basis. Let us take the railways, as Senator Mulvihill is present. If there were an amalgamation of unions in the railway industry I could not see the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Sheetmetal Workers Union, for example, handing over its members in railway workshops to the one union which presumably would be the Australian Railways Union. That would apply to industry after industry.
– Does that mean that it should not happen?
-I am pointing out that it is totally impracticable. When people talk about overcoming demarcation or other problems by the amalgamation of unions, they are talking through their hats.
-The AMWU provides a blending of blacksmiths, fitters and boilermakers in the top echelon.
– Yes. I ask whether, if the unions in the railways were amalgamated into the Australian Railways Union, would the AMWSU hand over its members to the organisation? I believe that the Federal Government tends to look uncritically at the statements that emanate from United States labour attaches and State Department areas so far as that question is concerned. We know that American companies here are all for collective bargaining. We know that the system of collective bargaining in the United States is a highly developed system which imposes grave responsibilities on the parties. It is totally different from the system of conciliation and arbitration with which we have grown up and which is acceptable to the Australian community. That is a matter to which the Government should have regard. To the extent that there has been official American influence in the trade union area- I mean official and proper, through labour attaches and the like- it has been mostly counter-productive so far as the anticommunist fight in the trade union sphere is concerned.
The other aspect is this: One should look at why and how the allegations came out and to whom they are directed. They are directed both by Agee and Marchetti. They name the trade union movement and the ALP. They are trying to embarrass the President of the ACTU who is also President of the ALP. Rather than giving any credence to that sort of attempt, members of the Opposition in this House should be rejecting the Agees, the Marchettis and the like. It is fair to say that Mr Hawke, in his role as President of the ACTU and the ALP, and other members of the trade union movement speak to people in official capacities such as labour attaches. Labour attaches, as anybody knows, at both the United States Embassy and other embassies are officials of the State Department. They are not CIA officers. Naturally, any country should have intelligence officers operating in another country. When I use the term ‘intelligence officers’ I mean those officers who are able to gather information about the general affairs of other countries. It is done mainly through the gathering of information from the news media and the like. This is how it should be, so one country knows how another country and its people feel about international areas. Let us not continue to give credence to the type of material that is coming out and being supported by various news media.
I put before the Government the fact that the program Broadband, which I have mentioned in this chamber before today as being not the Marxist half-hour but the Marxist three-quarters of an hour or the Marxist hour, however long it goes, broadcast an interview from one of its officers here, Mark Aarons, with Philip Agee in London. It went on for about half an hour or three quarters of an hour, at taxpayers’ expense. I ask the Senate and the Government: What will be done about this misuse of taxpayers ‘ money?
– Did you hear the builders labourers’ history of Australia? Did you hear that program? It was a travesty of the truth.
-I also heard another program from Mark Aarons, I think it was the week before, which dealt with his view of the Cambodian situation, only giving one point of view, and not the point of” view of the refugees who have come out of Cambodia. Let us look at what Alan Ashbolt, who is the director of projects, said in an article. I am sorry I do not have that article with me but I will get it for the Senate at a later stage. He said that he would not have anybody from the Right, as he called it, on his program. That is not what he ought to have on his program. This is what disturbs me. There is absolutely no balance in that program. That is the worst form of censorship. What about the blind people of Australia? There are a lot of people who cannot read and who cannot sit before their television sets of an evening. Their only recreation is to tune into the ABC. They may not wish to listen to the pop music on the commercial stations and they may not be symphony orchestra buffs. So they have only the ABC station which has Broadband on it. The Broadband director of projects has said that he will not have a balance on his program.
– Did he say that?
– He did not say that.
– He did. I am sorry I do not have his article here.
– We are sorry too. Where is it?
– If the honourable senator is so interested in it I will be happy to read it during the adjournment debate tonight. If it is conceded all round that there should be a balance in the programs, if I am able this evening to obtain the appropriate quote and if it proves that Mr Alan Ashbolt said that he would not have certain opinions on his programs then I would expect the Opposition to support me in a motion which I will then move before the Senate. That motion will seek to have something done about the imbalance of opinion presented and the censorship that these people are imposing on the airwaves over which they have a monopoly. I again refer to those unsighted people who cannot sit before their television sets and who have to sit down or lie in their beds and listen to that sort of biased material. Again I ask the Government: How can this sort of expenditure be authorised when on that program, for example, the interviewer, Mark Aarons, spent half to threequarters of an hour on the telephone to London obtaining the information or the misinformation from Mr Agee? Do not forget that Mr Agee fingered a number of his other fellow officers who subsequently met tragic deaths.
– First I mention the amendment to Appropriation Bill (No. 3) so ably moved by my colleague Senator Mulvihill. For the record I want to quote it because we seem to have got away from it. Later I will come to the subject to which Senator Harradine confined himself- the Central Intelligence Agency. The amendment moved by Senator Mulvihill reads:
At end of motion add ‘ , but the Senate is of the opinion that-
1 ) the slashing of government spending is part of an inept economic strategy which has led to a decline in the standard of living of all Australians:
No truer words have ever been printed than the words contained in that first portion of the amendment. It goes on: and
) There is an urgent need for alternative policies of promoting a consumer led recovery by cuts in indirect taxes and appropriate stimulatory expenditure on job creation and manpower training programs, all done in a context of not increasing inflation by:
That amendment contains many solutions to the problems which the country is facing under the present Government. It refers to the slashing of government expenditure as part of an inept economic strategy. We have a rapidly increasing rate of unemployment. As a matter of fact, the percentage of unemployment is the greatest since the last depression. When the Australian Labor Party was in Government it was criticised for the unemployment figures. Later I shall quote from the policy speeches of Mr Fraser when he was caretaker Prime Minister and his Deputy Prime Minister at the time, Mr Anthony. They contain accusations against the Labor Government and promises about curing problems created by the Labor Government. The reverse of what was promised is happening. All the things that the Labor Government was accused of doing to damage the economy of this nation have become worse under this Government. The then caretaker government claimed that it knew how to put the economy back on the rails.
Of course, public spending is of the most vital concern to people. We all know that although the Government claims that private enterprise can put the economy back on the rails it is the private enterprise section of the community that the Government is hurting in the initial stages of implementation of its policies. We all know that governments do not manufacture anything. Immediately there is a cutback in public spending on capital works the first people to suffer are the people who manufacture commodities which governments use in capital works. The capital works which should be going ahead apace now are being retarded and cancelled. The main area is railways. We should be building railways to soak up the unemployment and to give work to manufacturing industry, which manufactures all the components that go into not only laying the track but also building carriages, rolling stock and everything we need. In my view, one major consideration is putting down a dual railway track between Perth and Brisbane. That would not only take care of unemployment in the unskilled labour market but also would create employment in the private sector.
What do we find the Government doing? It was no sooner in Government than it put out of commission the north-south railway line between Larrimah and Darwin. Last week people living in the Northern Territory were being held to ransom by the private transport owners, who were blocking the highway because they wanted higher freights. The alternative was to have this railway in operation so that it could compete, but the Government in pursuance of its policy closed down the railway and left the field wide open for private enterprise to service the people of the Northern Territory and to maintain the lifeline. What did the private operators do? They went on strike. Do we hear complaints in this Parliament from honourable senators opposite about these people going on strike? Of course we do not. The only time we hear any complaints from the Liberal and National Country parties is when members of the work force of this country go on strike to get a little more to better their standard of living. When speaking of strikes, I am reminded of the mass of them. The greatest strike that we in this country ever experienced occurred in 1975 when honourable senators opposite went on strike and refused to vote on the Budget. We never hear any complaints in that regard. Honourable members opposite want to forget about that action. It was the greatest strike experienced in this country because it held the country to ransom and the Government of the day was forced to go to the people. So, honourable members opposite know the value of the strike weapon.
– It caused great economic problems.
– Of course it caused great economic problems. That has been proved ever since that event. The problems with the economy are becoming worse and worse as each day goes by. We find that more and more people are receiving the unemployment benefit. Of course, we know that many people who are entitled to receive the unemployment benefit cannot get it. I refer to the school leavers. This Government, by decree, issued a directive that school leavers could not apply for the unemployment benefit until the school year commenced in February of this year. Whilst the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) was prepared to issue a directive to the Director-General of the Department of Social Security that he was not to allow these people to register, because it was government policy, we now find that the Minister is saying day after day under challenge in this chamber that it is left to the DirectorGeneral to make the decision, in view of the
High Court ruling, whether these people are able to register- there were many thousands of them who were not able to do so-and whether they will be able to call upon the government to pay them the unemployment benefit retrospectively.
So, we find on the one hand the Government issuing instructions to the Director-General of Social Security not to allow these people to register. On the other hand, we have a High Court decision stating that that instruction was flouting the Social Services Act. We find the Minister hiding behind the Director-General and making him the scapegoat. He has to make the decision. Why does not the Minister for Social Security have the courage to use the authority given to her by the office she holds and tell the DirectorGeneral that he now has to make good the payments to which these people are so justly entitled and of which they have been deprived? That is the type of attitude that we find right through the Government.
– They are blaming a public servant.
– The Government is blaming a public servant. It is putting the public servant up on the block to have his head chopped off. Why does not the Government, through the Minister, do the right thing? The Minister for Social Security is responsible. We know that the Minister is very tough. On one occasion I referred to her in a speech as the ‘Iron Butterfly’ of the ministry. I recall the stand she took on the Government’s policy in relation to the payment of a $40 funeral benefit for old age pensioners. We well recall the most vigorous stance which she took in the Parliament. She had no intention of relenting. The only reason she eventually relented was that some honourable senators who sat behind her got cold feet because of the reaction in the electorate. They crossed the floor and voted with the Opposition. So, that part of the measure was defeated. That is the only reason why the pensioners were not deprived of the $40 funeral benefit. It was not because of the feelings of the Minister for Social Security for people in need; it was because she was forced to do so by some rebels in her own party. It just shows how hard she can be when it comes to social welfare matters. It just shows what a hard-hearted woman she is. I think I aptly described her in this place some 12 months ago as having a heart of iron.
I refer now to the matter of the Central Intelligence Agency. I asked a question on the activities of the CIA in Australia of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) on 28 April. My question reads in part:
In view of the in depth interview with a top journalist on the AM current affairs program this morning, will the Minister undertake to release alldocuments pertaining to these allegations of CIA interference in Australian domestic politics?
The Minister said that he would make some inquiries. He went on to say: 1 really do think that honourable senators opposite should stop looking under their beds at night.
Of course, that is an old phrase which was used for many years by the Liberal Party when it was previously in power. Its members used to look under their beds, particularly Mr McLeay who is now a Minister. He used to look under his bed every night to see whether a commo was under it. That was when the Government was running the old commo -
– Mr Wentworth did the same.
-Senator Douglas McClelland has reminded me of Mr Wentworth. I recall an incident which occurred some years ago when one night I was attending a committee meeting in the House of Representatives Committee Room No. 2. Mr Wentworth in his usual vigorous style burst in on a Labor Party meeting. He was going so fast that he got right into the room before he realised that he was with the wrong group of people. I said to him: ‘Come in, Bill. There are no commos in here’. As quick as a flash, Mr Wentworth said: ‘Can I have that in writing?’ That shows how worried Government supporters are about commos. Those are the very words that he used. I thank Senator Douglas McClelland for reminding me of the activities of Mr Wentworth.
I received a letter from Senator Withers in response to my query. I had that letter incorporated in Hansard last night. I shall read it again for the purpose of this debate. The Minister wrote to me on 25 May. His letter reads:
Dear Senator McLaren,
I refer to your question without notice of 28 April 1977 referred to me as Minister representing the Prime Minister concerning the release of documents pertaining to allegations concerning Central Intelligence Agency activities in Australia.
The Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser. C.H.. M.P.. has advised that the Government has taken steps to obtain copies of the transcripts of the trial referred to in your question, and has them under consideration.
Yours sincerely. R.G. WITHERS
I accepted that response. Senator Cotton, who was the Minister in charge of the Senate last night- he is the Minister now in charge of the Senate-in his reply to me said:
I am of the view that the Central Intelligence Agency material that he talked about has already been made clear and published by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser).
I made some further inquiries and I did a little reading this morning following that response. I also referred to the House of Representatives Hansard of Tuesday, 24 May, when the Prime Minister made a statement in the House. In part of his statement he had this to say:
The Government has examined relevant parts of the transcript of the Boyce trial which in fact add little or nothing to the allegations which have already appeared in the media.
What did I find when I went to the Parliamentary Library earlier this morning to look at that document? I found absolutely nothing. I have here a photostat copy of the front page of the document. I have shown to the Acting Deputy President that page from the document which has been put in the Parliamentary Library for the use of members. The front page of the document states:
Reporter’s transcripts of proceedings (Partial)
Los Angeles, California
Tuesday, April 26, 1977
Wednesday, April 27, 1977
In his reply to me Senator Cotton said that in his view the material already had been made available. However, what he completely overlooked was my question of 28 April when I asked Senator Withers:
In view of the in depth interview with a top journalist on the AM current affairs program this morning, will the Minister undertake to release all documents pertaining to these allegations of CI A interference in Australian domestic politics?
Having looked at the document, I find that the material placed in the Parliamentary Library is a partial transcript of the proceedings in the Boyce trial. It contains only the examination and crossexamination of the defendant Boyce. While it includes some interesting information, it does not include essential material such as Boyce ‘s confession or the letter he wrote to his co-defendent, Daulton Lee. It is in these 2 documents that Boyce spells out the details of the alleged CIA interference in Australian affairs. The court transcript contains only statements that have already been reported in the Press. That is what the Prime Minister said. He was right in that regard. The transcript says that the CIA was engaged in daily deception of the Australian Governmentthat is what we on this side of the chamber and many Australian people want to find out- that its activities here were worse than in Chile, and that the Russians probably now know all about the activities of Pine Gap because of the appalling lack of security at the communications centre, TRW Systems Inc., where Boyce worked. These grave allegations cannot be properly assessed without making an examination of Boyce ‘s confession and the letter. In fact, we will never get to the bottom of this scandal until Boyce himself and other key figures like Richard Lee Stallings- he is well known to honourable senators opposite and is a personal friend of the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony) I might add- are subpoenaed to tell what they know to an official inquiry. The transcript is also unsatisfactory because every time Boyce started to mention the CIA’s activities the judge ruled that he was not permitted to continue on that subject. Of course, those rulings give credence to Boyce ‘s claims, otherwise why would the judge, on the instructions of the CIA, not allow him to make that evidence public?
– Who said that?
-It is in the transcript. Why do you not read it? You will find if you look at that partial transcript which is in the Library that every time Boyce wanted to refer to the CIA’s activities in Australia the judge ruled him out of order and said that he could not mention it. Senator Cormack would well know why the judge did that. He did it because the CIA does not want its activities in Australia divulged. I am quite sure that the honourable senator does not want them divulged either because it might incriminate some of his colleagues in the activities that took place on the shores of the lake on 1 1 November 1975, which activities built up to a climax on that day. Senator Cormack is well aware of that because he played a great pan in it. I have referred to this before in the Senate and now that he has prompted me I will mention again the activities that took place some years ago in a certain penthouse in Toorak when he was very active in paving the way for the present Prime Minister to usurp Mr Snedden ‘s position. Now he is on the other side of the fence; he is criticising the present Prime Minister for his activities and saying that the Prime Minister misled the Parliament over the referendum. The chickens have now come home to roost. As a former poultry farmer I well know how they come to roost. I know that when they come home to roost they get a very good grip on the perch. Senator Cormack is in that category himself at the present time. I will mention some of these matters later in my speech today. The worm turns sometimes. Whereas one may be friends with a person today, one may be his bitter enemy tomorrow.
The Prime Minister claims that he has put the transcript of the evidence into thelibrary. When I raised the matter last night during the adjournment debate Senator Cotton said .at my question has been resolved. It has not been resolved. I pointed out that the very thing I asked in my question to Senator Withers on 28 April has not been answered. I do not blame Sector Cotton because he was not involved in it but I blame the Prime Minister. My question has n. been answered. The Government has tried to over up by writing a letter to me in answer to u question. Senator Cotton followed it up and s’d that the transcript had been tabled and was now available in the Library. On examination bund that there is nothing there to answer ti. question which I put to the Parliament. We nut get that information. I am one person in this Senate who will pursue the matter as long and as often as I can until I receive some answer. Th,Govern.ment cannot hide behind the partial evidence it has placed in the Library. There is more involved than that. A lot of people are well awa: of how much more is involved.
I want to refer now to some of the things that were said the other day by Senator Bame. In this debate he referred to a publications out by the Australia and New Zealand banking Group Ltd in order to bolster the Government’s activities and saying that the Government is getting the economy back to a good sound bis and a lot of other things. Senator Baume, wl often comes in here and quotes from such capitalist documents, omitted to tell us what appeared in big black type on the front page of that document. I will quote it myself. I am referring to issue No. 106 of the journal dated Ma1977 The heading is: ‘Inflation policy- a critical phase’. It said:
Although the economy has shown improvement An the 1974-75 recession, the general outlook remains dinctly brittle. Currently there is very little acceleration evint in the tempo of economic recovery and no sign of improment in the underlying unemployment position.
That is what the Opposition has been sang. Every time we say it, either in a debate or by ay of questions, the Ministers or the backbeners opposite say the very reverse, that unempyment is improving. Yet the figures from the Bureau of Statistics show that it is getting worse Now we have groups like the ANZ Bank stang that it is not improving.
– The other day Mr McLeay said that the recession was over.
– The other day r McLeay said that the housing recession was ov. We find that the people engaged in the building industry in South Australia are of a different opinion. Senor Messner this morning raised the question of unsold houses- an over-supply of houses- in South Australia. Of course, people cannot buy houses due to this Government’s economic pcies. They would be fools to try to buy houses today The article to which I was referring go on to say:
Emerging ideations are that this situation is likely to persist over the immediate future.
But every day the Government tells us that the economy improving. Now we find the ANZ Bank coming out and saying that it is not improving. Which iis right and which is wrong?
– The Bank is right.
– I venture to say that the bank is right on this occasion. The article goes on to say:
The risk in such a situation are that the recovery could be aborted by any adverse factor developing unexpectedly, or that the authorities might bc forced into inappropriate policies by pule impatience with the pace of recovery.
Of course there is public impatience with the pace of recovery. I want to refer now to an interview th I witnessed the other night after the referendum I do not know on which channel it was. Mr. Fraser was asked for his reaction to the call by Mr Whitlam for a general election- for the Hose of Representatives and half the Senate -in ky. Mr Fraser said: ‘I believe that a governent should be allowed to run its full term, i a matter of fact, I believe that 3 years is not 10: enough. It should be given 5 years.’ Mr Fraser also said that before the last double dissolution, but he changes his mind. Mr Fraser and the people who sit behind him were not prepared to give the Whitlam Labor Government 3 years in office. They were not even prepared to give it 18 months in office. On the first occasion we were forced to the people after 1 7 months in office and on the next occasion after about the same period. So c the one hand, now that he is the Prime Min:er of this country, Mr Fraser is saying that he believes the Government should have 3 years in once to be able to run the country but when a Lab” Government is in office he says it should have only the shortest possible time. The shortest possible time that was given to us was about 1 7 months and it was about the same period on the second occasion. !> take that a bit further, if one looks at H,sard one sees that Senator Withers is on record as saying- I think it was some time in Ail 1974- that immediately after the election 0the Labor Government in 1972 the then Liberal-Country Party coalition set about getting t’ Labor Government out of office. They did not mind what tactics they used. They used any tactics at all to force us to the people. On the first occasion they were not successful but on the second occasion they were. Many people in the Australian community today are now admitting that they were wrong when they cast their votes in December 1975 and they would like another opportunity. So if the present Government is sincere in what it said about testing the feeling of the people when there is some clamour outside and some disappointment with policies, it ought to be prepared to do now what it forced upon us when we were in government and that is test the feeling of the electorate.
– And have a simultaneous election.
– That is right, and have a simultaneous election. But of course the Government will not do that. It will hang on to office by any devious means possible. When honourable senators opposite are in Opposition they will do anything to force an election because they have nothing to lose and they have a chance of government, but when they are in government they do not want an election because they have a lot to lose and because they know that there will be a change of government.
– You are whistling in the dark.
– We are not whistling in the dark. The fact that we have now just gone through the referendum campaign has brought to light some very interesting information. We find that there is a deep division of opinion within the ranks of the present Government.
– There is a split.
– There is a massive split. We have only to turn to some of the statements that were made by Senator Martin, Senator Wood, Senator Cormack and Senator Sim. I will quote them for the record. They accused members of the Government of hypocrisy, fraud, duplicity and deceit. These accusations came from Government members.
– And accusing their leader.
– And accusing their Leader in this House. Senator Wood gets up day after day and tells us that the present Government has perpetrated a fraud on the people of Australia by the way in which it put up the referendum questions. Of course, the people of Australia are well aware- this is great backing to their opinion- that a fraud was perpetrated on the people on 1 1 November 1975 by the people who sit opposite. There was no objection then from people like Senator Cormack. Senator Martin, Senator Wood, Senator Sim and others who went with them. There was no criticism then about frauds and deceiving people. They were fully in agreement with what was happening. But of course when what is happening does not suit them and when their own Government does something with which they are not satisfied they show their true colours and tell the people of Australia that the Government of which they are members cannot be trusted.
I am sure the people will not forget this incident at the next election, whenever that may be held. My colleagues and I will not allow the people to forget. We will continually remind them of the statements made by honourable senators opposite when they claimed- quite rightly, in my view- that the Government cannot be trusted; that it will deceive them to suit its own needs. Those honourable senators are on record as having said this. We do not have to fabricate these statements; they are on record in the daily Press, in records of television interviews and radio interviews and even in the Senate Hansard. It is all there. It will all be drawn to the attention of the people to help them to make a common sense judgment on what supporters of this Government are saying about other members of the Government. They are saying that their Government has perpetrated a fraud on the Australian people.
Let us look at some of the things Senator Wood has been saying over the past day or two. He has been most emphatic in stating that a Yes vote on the referendum for simultaneous elections was not needed because simultaneous elections could be held without that vote. Of course they can. But what Senator Wood does not go on to tell the people and what none of his colleagues in the No campaign told the people is that, whilst they are not prepared to sacrifice any of their term of office for which they were elected under the present Constitution, they are quite happy to have members in another place sacrifice some part of their term of office of 3 years to bring about a simultaneous election. They want to sit in here and have the power to force the government of the day to the people while they sit pat and do not have to face the people. In a question directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Withers, today Senator Wood claimed that this sort of thing had never happened. The fact that it has never happened does not mean that it will not happen. Until 1 1 November 1975 it had never happened that a Governor-General in connivance with a Leader of the Opposition sacked a legitimate government. With the powers this Senate has at present under the Constitution there is nothing to stop it from again forcing a government to the people.
This brings me back to saying to Senator Wood and those of his colleagues who advocated a No vote that they have the power in their own hands. They said we can have simultaneous elections. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) has called for an election in May next year. The Prime Minister will not give any indication of when he will hold it. But those eleven or twelve rebels opposite have it in their hands to cause a simultaneous election to be held in May next year. If they are fair dinkum in what they told the people during the referendum campaign, all they have to do when the Appropriation Bills come before the chamber is to cross the floor and join the Opposition in opposing those Appropriation Bills. They will then find that half the representatives of the Senate and all of the members of the House of Representatives will go to the people. So we will have a simultaneous election. We know that will not happen because if they were to do that people like Senator Cormack, Senator Wright and Senator Wood would have to cut short their term of office. If the election were held in April next year, after the Appropriation Bills had been opposed, instead of retiring on 30 June those senators would have to go out about 2 months before they want to go.
This is the crux of the issue. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. They do not have the intestinal fortitude to come into this chamber and do what they say can be done. Let us see them put their claims into operation. I challenge them to do so. Of course, they will not do it because they want to sit pat here. Senator Wood and his colleagues who supported him in the No campaign want to reserve to themselves the right to force a Labor government to the people whenever they want to. They could do that every 6 months; that has been proved.
– You should go back to the Library and look up the meaning of a ‘homily’.
-I do not have to go back anywhere. I am talking facts and not a lot of nonsense like honourable senators opposite spoke in support of the No vote when they hoodwinked the people. Of course, they did not hoodwink the people as a whole because 62 percent of the electors in this magnificent country voted for simultaneous elections. Those honourable senators opposite concentrated their efforts in a place like Queensland. I shall refer later to some of the criticisms of the Premier of Queensland. As the Prime Minister claimed, he illegally spent the taxpayers’ money in promoting the No case. The No case was concentrated up there in Queensland and in Tasmania, where it was a parochial issue. These people were fooled into thinking that they had to maintain the power of the Senate. I venture to say that if the proposal for simultaneous elections had been carried the Senate would have been given more power and responsibility. Honourable senators who want to force members of the House of Representatives to an election have to weigh up whether half of themselves are prepared to face an election also. They duck the issue and hide behind the Constitution. They fooled the people into voting No in 3 States; yet they come in here and say they believe in democracy. They cannot tell me it is democratic when a proposal for simultaneous elections cannot be carried when 62 per cent of Australians are in favour of it. In my view the Constitution needs altering.
– Oh, it will get up on the next occasion it is put.
– It will not get up in your lifetime, Senator.
– That remains to be seen. I might live a long time yet. I have a long way to go.
– I was not talking to you. I was talking to a colleague on my right.
– I want to refer to something Senator Wood said in his speech yesterday. It is very important.
– They are fighting amongst themselves.
– Of course they are fighting amongst themselves; they have always been fighting amongst themselves. In years gone by, because they had the Press under their thumb, their internal fights were covered up. I was castigated when I came in here on 30 October 1975 and exposed their internal fights. Everything I said on that occasion has now proved to be true. Mr Fraser was able to carry out everything he intended to carry out. The final part of his plans is now coming to fruition, that is, taking on the trade union movement and teaching it a lesson. That is what Mr Fraser and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, spoke about in the parliamentary dining room when I was fortunate or unfortunate enough to hear the conversation which I subsequently related to the Senate.
I related to the Senate what they were proposing to do. It subsequently happened. If it had not happened I probably could have been accusedand rightly accused- of making up the story. I did not make it up, as Senator Cormack accused me of doing. When I was relating this conversation to the Senate Senator Cormack flounced out of the chamber. But I have been proved correct and everything has fallen into place. It has all actually happened. It is on the record; I told the public at large what was being cooked up and now everything has fallen into place. They have carried it all out except for the final crunch, that is, confrontation with the trade union movement. That is the one thing that Malcolm Fraser wants to achieve while he is Prime Minister.
– He has backed off from that.
– No, I do not believe he has backed off. I am very suspicious of any agreement entered into with Mr Fraser because he has backed off on so many policy matters. I shall refer to them after lunch because all the promises he made are documented. Even as late as today on the front page of the Melbourne Age we find a report indicating that another promise has been broken. What did we hear Senator Wood saying yesterday? He said:
It should be the aim of everyone who comes here to work in order to leave this Parliament a better place than he found it. That should be the ideal of all parliamentarians.
Fancy Senator Wood saying that after he joined with those 1 1 rebels opposite and went out and hoodwinked the people into believing that if they voted Yes in the referendum for simultaneous elections they would be taking power away from the Senate. Where is it most important that the power be held- in the Senate or the Australian electorate? In my view, power should be in the hands of the people and not in the hands of about 60 people who sit in this place. We are the representatives of the people, yet honourable senators who sit opposite decided that a democratically elected Labor government should not be allowed to maintain office because they did not like that Government’s policies. They decided that the government should face the electors every 6 months while they, under the present Constitution, were able to sit in this chamber with no disadvantage accruing to themselves. Yet we find Senator Wood coming in here and saying that we ought to leave this place a better place than it was when we came here. He is the very one who has done something to make it much worse. He has taken away from the people the opportunity for them to be given more power.
Ever since I became a member of the Senate I have heard Senator Cormack, Senator Wright and Senator Wood, who sit opposite, preaching about the great powers of this Senate as though it were some place away up on high- something from which nothing can be taken away. I point out to Senator Cormack that each and every one of us who sits in this place are here only as servants of the electors. There is nothing special about those honourable senators opposite and there is nothing special about me. We are here as the servants of the people. We are not here to make this place an establishment that can be used for any senator’s personal ends, as has been done in the past.
- Senator Jessop cannot take it.
– No, of course he cannot take it.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting for lunch I pointed out to the Senate the problems that exist in the Government parties and the split that has been evident. It is quite evident now because of the referendum questions. It often takes things like this really to flush out people in political parties. This referendum question has really flushed out the antagonists that the Government has in its parties. It has publicised the great split within the Government, particularly in relation to the referendums. It is a coalition government and we saw many of the Liberal Party members of the coalition criticising their own Government. We also saw the Deputy President, a one time leader of the National Country Party in the Senate, change his mind at the last minute for reasons unknown. He came out in defiance of his own parliamentary leader, the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), and advocated a No vote.
There is a massive split in the coalition Government. This will be evident in the months ahead. It will not simply cease to exist. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) has tried to put the lid on it. A question was directed to him by Senator Button yesterday about some of the statements that were made by members of his Government during the campaign. Senator Withers came back with the argument: ‘That was yesterday’. Senator Withers obviously wants to forget about it. Of course, the general public will not forget about it because it has been made aware of the divisions that exist in the Government and they will take cognisance of the fact that some of the senior members of the Liberal Party in this place have pointed out that the Government cannot be trusted. I shall refer to some of those statements that have been made. I am sure that the electors at large will not forget that members of this Government have pointed out to them that their own Government cannot be trusted. If the Government cannot be trusted in a matter of a referendum there are many other fields in which they cannot be trusted also.
I should like to refer to speeches made in connection with the Government’s platform by the now Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) which he delivered on 30 November 1975 at Croydon Park in Melbourne. One of the issues that he used as a lever in his policy to try to persuade the people to vote against the Whitlam Government was indicated when he was speaking about Mr Whitlam. He said:
He wants to get rid of the Senate because the Senate protects Australia against some of the most dangerous legislation ever introduced.
In the Melbourne Age of 1 1 May this year, a headline stated:
PM slams Premiers’ Outburst over ‘no’ stand in W.A.. Queensland.
Mr Fraser is reported as saying that Mr Bjelke-Petersen was sometimes a strange person. He said: ‘it was nonsense to say that the simultaneous election proposal could lead to abolition of the Senate’.
It overlooks the fact that the Federal Parliament is the Senate and the House of Representatives’.
You can’t pass any valid law without the Senate’.
– That is very sound.
– That is quite correct. Mr Fraser knew that this was correct when he made that speech at Croydon Park on 30 November. He knew very well that the Senate cannot be abolished, no matter how much anyone here might want to abolish it, unless a referendum to that effect is passed by the people of Australia. Mr Fraser misled the people on that occasion by implying that Mr Whitlam had been advocating abolition of the Senate. In his own words he admits now, some 2 years later -
– That is only the platformSenator McLAREN- It does not matter whether it is in the platform. That has nothing to do with it because all people who know anything about the Constitution are aware that we cannot abolish the Senate unless we convince a majority of people in a majority of States that it ought to be abolished.
– No, in all States.
– In all States. That makes it even harder still. It is conclusive proof that what Mr Fraser said on 30 November 1975 was a completely misleading statement. I have no doubt that Mr Fraser would wish that he could abolish the Senate after witnessing what has taken place in this chamber in the last few weeks during the debates on the referendum Bills and considering the action of Liberal senators and the Deputy President of the Senate- a one time leader of the Country Party in the Senate- during the No campaign. I am sure that Mr Fraser wishes that he could abolish the Senate. It is a millstone around his neck. That is one instance of the Prime Minister saying that he was wrong at that particular time.
The conclusive proof is that the Prime Minister has now admitted that he was wrong by reason of the fact that he brought in this legislation to hold a referendum for . simultaneous elections. He has admitted that when he and his Party opposed the Whitlam Government’s referendum for simultaneous elections in 1974 and when he and his colleagues campaigned against that referendum they were wrong. Those 11 or 12 rebels now in the Government are being upbraided. At that stage, Mr Fraser had been saying that the Labor Government was wrong but by the very fact that he advocated a Yes vote in the recent referendums he has admitted that on that occasion the Whitlam Government was right and the Liberal Party was wrong. He has admitted that by putting this question to the people again.
– He has not.
– Of course he has. I agree with Senator Wood that both the Prime Minister and Senator Withers cannot get away with it by saying that the referendums were introduced because of a resolution passed at the Constitutional Convention in Hobart. The Prime Minister cannot put a smokescreen over it by using that as a subterfuge because it will not wear. He is on record as saying that at the Constitutional Convention both Mr Bjelke-Petersen and Sir Charles Court had agreed with the proposition but that when they went back to their own States pressure was brought to bear, no doubt by the same people as brought pressure to bear on those honourable senators opposite who advocated a No vote, they changed their stance. So, those two Premiers will not even abide by a democratic decision of a democratically constituted Constitutional Convention. Mr Fraser said in 1974 that the referendum for simultaneous elections was an attempt by the Whitlam
Government to mislead the people and to do certain other things. He said it was wrong. Yet, on 2 1 May this year he advocated that we should reverse the decision of 1974 and that it is now right. He has admitted, of course, that he was wrong in 1974 and the Whitlam Government was right, as it was in so many other things. I should like to look a little closer at that speech made by Mr Fraser. What did he say? He talked about record inflation and the worst price rises in our history. We know that the situation has worsened since the Liberal Party has been in government. He brought in that subterfuge of a prices pause which did not work and we all know that it did not work.
– You know who wrecked it, do you not?
– The Prime Minister castigated Mr Dunstan for wrecking it but less than a week later he came out and agreed with all that Mr Dunstan had said. Mr Dunstan ‘s actions did not have any effect in the 3 days which lapsed between his announcement and Mr Fraser ‘s announcement. The only thing, of course, that upsets the Prime Minister is that Mr Dunstan was able to pre-empt him on the announcement that he was going to make anyway. Later in that magnificent speech that he made, the Prime Minister said:
Australia needs a government of integrity and responsibility.
Of course it does. Australia still needs a government of integrity and responsibility but it certainly does not have it today. At page 8 of that speech, the Prime Minister went on to say:
Australia needs a government that really cares about people.
How much does this Government care about the people? As I said earlier in my speech, the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) came into this Parliament and tried to take away funeral benefits from the people who could ill afford to have them taken away- the pensioner citizens of this community. The Minister was emphatic that these benefits be taken away and I think she had the backing of Senator Walters. I believe she had the strong support of Senator Walters. It would do people good to read some of the strong remarks made by the Minister in relation to those benefits. She adopted a threatening attitude as to what would happen. Of course, as I said earlier, some of her colleagues got cold feet and crossed the floor to defeat that measure. What else did Mr Fraser have to say in his speech? He said:
We can attack rising prices, we can start expanding job opportunities again- if we start now.
Of course, this Government was elected on 13 December. The Prime Minister was given the opportunity to starr then to carry out his promises but the figures prove that the unemployment rate has increased month by month, quarter by quarter and year by year since this Government has been in office. So there again he misled the people because he had no formula for creating further jobs. As a matter of fact, he had no formula for anything. There again he is proven to be wrong on that issue. He said: ‘Our tax reforms will ease the pressure for excessive wage and salary increases ‘. Where are the tax reforms? If we have a look at the front page of the Melbourne Age today we will see that peoples’ savings through tax indexation have dropped by up to a $ 1 a week. That is another promise on which he has reneged. It is another promise this Government put to the people that it was going to help them but when it got into office it reneged on it. Again it is conclusive proof that this Government had no concrete policy. It had not thought the matter out. Although it criticised the Whitlam Government it had no alternative. This Government is reneging on all of these things. In response to the announcement by the Government yesterday the Opposition shadow Treasurer accused the Government of breaking another promise, and how right he was. We will continue to point out to the electors of this nation how many other promises have been broken by this Government.
I turn to one of the most damning speeches ever made, and it is all coming back at this Government now. The speech was made by the Deputy Prime Minister who I understand is now the Acting Prime Minister because Mr Fraser has flown the country on one of his overseas jaunts. If he has not left by this time he will have left by the time the Senate rises tonight. He used to criticise the Whitlam Government for touring around the world but he has now left the Parliament at a time when the country is in chaos as far as unemployment is concerned, and the Parliament is still sitting. That is one thing that Whitlam did not do. He did not turn his back on the Parliament. But the present Prime Minister is leaving the country at a time when there is a whole host of business to deal with. He has gone off on a jaunt. Where has he gone? First he is going to pay his respects to the new President of the United States of America. He will then go over to the United Kingdom to join his bosom pal the GovernorGeneral for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations, and what a wonderful time he will have.
– What is wrong with that?
– There is nothing wrong with it, of course, but why should he have criticised the previous Prime Minister’ It was ali wrong when Mr Whitlam did those things in the interests of the nation, but it is all right when Mr Fraser does it! There is a complete turnaround. What the Labor Government did was all wrong, according to Mr Fraser, yet when this Government does the very same thing he says it is all right. They are the things that this Government has to explain to the people at the next election. I am hoping, as I said before, that Senator Wood and his colleagues will have the courage of their convictions and will put the Government to an election next April because they have the power to do it. That has been proven. I am sure that if they want to do that they will get the cooperation of the State Labor Premiers who are at present Mr Dunstan in South Australia, Mr Wran in New South Wales and Mr Neilson in Tasmania. Of course, with a Queensland election coming up before that time and in view of the way the present Queensland Premier behaves in misleading the people and misappropriating public funds, to use the words which came out of the mouth of the present Prime Minister, there is every possibility that there will be a Labor Premier in Queensland despite the gerrymander. We were able to do it in South Australia. Despite the Playmander we were able to turn the tables. We got 56 per cent of the vote and Labor was able to win office because the people had had enough. It is quite possible that in view of what Petersen is doing in Queensland there will be a Labor Premier in that State. So there will be 4 States that will be agreeable to the issue of writs for an election for half the Senate in April next year if Senator Wood and his colleagues- and Senator Bonner is one of them- have the intestinal fortitude to carry out what they say should be done; that is, that there was no need to have a referendum for the holding of simultaneous elections because the Senate can bring on an election. So I am putting the question to you people opposite: Have you got the intestinal fortitude to put the Senate and the House of Representatives out in May next year to let the people decide? That is when the test will come. That is the crucial time. You people opposite have plenty of time to think about it. You will be able to have a look at the Budget and see what a horror Budget it will be. You will have the opportunity in May or April when the Appropriation Bills come in to bring on an election. That is going to be the test of your sincerity and of all the arguments that you put to the people advocating a No vote during the referendum campaign.
What did Mr Anthony, the present Acting Prime Minister, have to say on 26 November 1 975 when he delivered the policy speech of the National Country Party? He said:
The great goal of this election is to put Australia back on its feet. To restore good management.
We know that has not been restored. He also said:
To repair a damaged nation.
This Government has not repaired it yet. He also said:
To put men and women back to work.
This is the crucial point, because it is a very emotional issue with people who are out of work. You can promise you will give them a job and they will vote for you. This Government promised it would find work for everyone, but of course the people have now realised it was an empty promise. So that is another one. Mr Anthony said:
To fight inflation.
To remove stagnation.
To rebuild confidence.
To revive national growth.
What has happened to the last three promises? What has the Government done about removing stagnation? Every day we read in the Press of small businesses in trouble and we even find big business concerns are standing down workers. There was an urgency debate in this place not so long ago because General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd wanted to shut up shop for a week because it could not sell its commodity. This Government cannot blame the Labor Government for that, although in the urgency motion yesterday we heard Senator Baume, Senator Tehan and others speaking from the Government side still trying to lay the blame for the present ills of this community onto the previous Labor Government. This Government has had a longer time to rectify those problems than it ever gave the Whitlam Government when it was in office. This is a very important statement that Mr Anthony had to make, and again something on which the present coalition leaders fooled the people in 1975. He said:
The people of this nation have seen their dollar devalued, their money watered down, till it is almost counterfeit.
What did this Government do? It devalued the currency by 1 7½ per cent and within about 10 days it had revalued about seven or eight times. It did not know where it was going. It did not have a clue about the economy of this country. These Government supporters opposite who claimed that they knew how to handle money and how to right the economic ills of this country fooled the people into thinking they could do so.
But these people they fooled then I am sure will not be fooled again. Mr Anthony went on further in his speech to say:
This inflation, this watering down of your money, this devaluing of your income, this destruction of your savings lies at the heart of Labor’s betrayal.
If they lay at the heart of Labor’s betrayal- those words are more true today- they lie at the heart of the Fraser-Anthony Government betrayal. These are the things that this Government has to answer for. He went on to say at page 4 of his policy speech:
We cannot afford to destroy the hopes of our youth by educating them, then denying them expression.
What a fallacy that statement was because we witnessed during the last Christmas school vacation how this Government destroyed the hopes of the young school leavers. It has not a job for them. It will not even provide them with the unemployment benefit so that they can have some existence in this country; so that they do not have to be poling on their parents; and so that they do not have to shut themselves up at home because they cannot afford to buy decent clothes to enable them to go out. They cannot afford any entertainment because this Government would not give them their right under the Act- did not give them their right under the Act- to be paid the unemployment benefit. Now even though there is a High Court judgment of which I spoke earlier this Government still will not give them retrospective payment. In most instances that amounts to about $288 to each student who was not allowed to register for the unemployment benefit when he left school, to be paid until the school curricula started again in February. So there is that space of time which in money terms means to those young people who could not find a job $288 each.
This Government is being miserable. It will not even accept the responsibility of giving a direction to the Director-General of the Department of Social Security to rectify the problem. Day after day we hear Senator Guilfoyle in this place passing the buck to a public servant. Why should any government ever do that? Are we not responsible to the people who put us here? Why should we do that when we get into trouble? Why has not the Minister got the courage to accept the responsibility of her portfolio and give a direction to the Director-General, whether it be that the Government disagrees with the High Court judgment or agrees that these young people should be paid the money? This Government is going to be continually harassed on that very issue. It is a bread and butter issue and this
Government will not be able to forget it. Mr Anthony went on to say:
By failing to give them the chance of worthwhile satisfying work; of useful, fulfilling lives.
This is a speech by the present Acting Prime Minister in which he hoodwinked the people into voting for the Liberal and National Country parties on 13 December 1975. What has this Government done? It has not carried out any of those promises it made. It has repudiated every one of them. The figures in an answer given only this week to Mr Clyde Cameron in the other place to a question on notice addressed to Mr Street show- and this is conclusive proof- that the unemployment figures are growing month by month. Mr Anthony went on to say:
A once fully employed community suffers unemployment on a scale not seen for 40 years with worse to come.
The only true words he spoke in that paragraph were ‘with worse to come’- under his Government. If the figures were the highest seen in this country for 40 years they are now the worst that have been seen in this country for 42 years. Since this Government came to office the figures have increased enormously and the numbers employed in the work force have decreased. He said that there was worse to come. They were about the truest words in the speech. He went on to say:
We want to put more money back into your hands.
He should talk to some of the people who cannot get a full-time job, the people who cannot obtain unemployment benefits. Do they have money in their hands today? Of course they have not. He said:
We want industry to move again, to produce again, to employ again.
As I pointed out earlier, how will the Government do that when it is cutting down on money available for capital expenditure. The present Government can do many things in this country to create employment. It will be well rewarded for such action. It could commence immediately constructing railways, roads, water storages and all those types of things which would create employment and would be of lasting benefit to not only this generation but also generations to come. But the Government is not prepared to do this.
I think that it is still following the old philosophy of the former Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, who said that the best foreman one could get on a job results from 50 men waiting at the gate for one man’s job. That is what the Government wants and what it is endeavouring to achieve. It is attempting to divide the work force of this country so that each worker is sniping at the other in order to keep his job. The Government wants to break down working conditions and rates of pay. That is the whole basis of what the Government is trying to do. That is the crux of what the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said he would do when he had discussions with the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) some time ago and which I reported to this Parliament.
Mr Anthony went on to say:
Student aid will be maintained.
The Opposition is very interested in seeing what is contained in the coming Budget and whether student aid will be maintained. The people in charge of education in this community are very concerned that student aid will not be maintained. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) says that it will. It will be very interesting to see, in view of the fact that Mr Anthony has said that it will and Senator Carrick claims that it will, whether it really will be maintained. It is no good for the Minister to come here and say, as he usually does, with regard to community expenditure on education, that the Whitlam Government cut expenditure on education by $ 170m in one year. He does not go on to tell the people that, when the Labor Government came to office, the previous McMahon Budget provided for expenditure of $460m on education. In its last Budget the Labor Government provided for $ 1,960m for education. The Minister does not tell us that. Taking into account the amount of $ 1,960m provided in last year’s Budget and the present inflation rate, the expenditure on education in this Budget will have to be an enormous amount. This is when the proof of the pudding will be in the eating. We will see then whether Mr Anthony and Senator Carrick, the present Minister for Education, are correct in what they have said. He went on to say:
Better economic management will enhance the value of both.
Of course, there has been no better economic management.
In the few moments left to me I want to touch on what the Government is doing to primary producers. When the Labor Party was in government, it allocated a certain amount of money to set up an exotic diseases laboratory at Geelong. Mr Anthony mentioned this in his policy speech. He said:
We will pursue the establishment of a Maximum Security Laboratory and Quarantine Station to guard thc nation’s livestock.
What has happened? This was in progress when the Labor Party was in government. The land had been acquired and the money had been made available. The promise was made. What happened with regard to this quarantine station. The Government has not yet started it. I put a question to Senator Webster some weeks ago on this matter. The answer came back that nothing had been done. Why has it not been done? It is most essential that work on that laboratory gets under way immediately. The Labor Government saw the need for that laboratory because of the pressure from the danger of exotic diseases coming into this country. This Government does not even take the proper safeguards. We are well aware that the Prime Minister was in Indonesia recently. Some of the journalists who travelled with him have claimed that they were allowed back into this country without being asked to surrender their boots for fumigation. There is a dire need for this station in this country.
In the moment or two left to me, I want to lodge a complaint about the way legislation, particularly that dealing with primary industry, is being introduced in the dying hours of this Parliament. In a Press statement put out yesterday by the Opposition spokesman on primary industry, Senator Gietzelt, we read:
In his usual form, the Minister -
He is referring to Mr Sinclair-
There are 20 Bills dealing with agriculture which must be dealt with in 6 sitting days. Primary producers should see that the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) does not regard their industry as being of much importance. Much of this legislation could have been introduced earlier in the year. From week to week we have seen this Senate adjourning early and honourable senators going home. But now we find this legislation, which is of prime importance to primary industry, coming in at the death knock of the session. We must consider it and try to have proper deliberation on it. We must consider those 20 Bills dealing with primary industryapart from the other Bills that are coming in- in 6 days. It will be legislation by exhaustion. We know that Government supporters do not want to sit here and have Opposition supporters expose all the loopholes in this legislation. It does not want the Opposition to show that this legislation is not for the benefit of primary producers. No doubt Senator Walters will talk for hours about the superphosphate bounty that is being introduced. Senator Walters, amongst other people, thinks that that is the whole crux of prosperity for farmers: Give them the superphosphate bounty and they will be happy.
– It will come as no surprise to those whom the last speaker has not driven out of the chamber that the Government does not accept the amendment. I think that the last speaker, Senator McLaren, has a number of characteristics to which one might refer but a vivid imagination and the ability to waste time probably are the 2 principal ones. He says that there is too much legislation being introduced to be dealt with and that there is not enough time to deal with it. But we get an hour of unrelated stuff- that is the best way to describe it- from him on the Appropriation legislation which, I think, really has been fairly exhaustively dealt with. Perhaps it might be useful if I were to refer to some of the elements of the amendment and to try to do what I can to refer to some of the particular points raised in Estimates committees and, where possible, to some of the observations made by honourable senators. It is wise to remember that we dealt with these general queries, in supplementary appropriations in the wellconstructed Senate Estimates committees, many of which are extremely thoughtful and very helpful.
Some of the speeches- I think I have listened to practically all of them- were very interesting and extremely good. Some were equally bad and, of course, I have referred to that. It is very clear, when one comes into the Senate and listens to speakers from both sides, that some people are motivated by a genuine concern for their country and its welfare. This is not a monopoly of one side or the other. Some people are capable of saying what they want to say in a very short space of time. Some people take an immense amount of time to say nothing. But those, of course, are qualities which we must expect in the Parliament. It is a place where everybody is entitled to have his view and does have his view.
I turn now to some of the elements of the amendment. I refer to one or two comments the amendment makes about Government spending and standards of living. If we look, first of all, at the fiscal policy of the Government- and the Appropriation Bills deal with this area of examination of Government activity via the Senate- the present Government has been singularly effective in putting its own house in order and in trying to sort out the mess inherited from the previous Government.
– Oh, yes!
– The record speaks for itself. It is no problem to look it up. In 1974-75, Commonwealth outlays increased by 46 per cent. In 1975-76, the amount increased by 23 per cent. This year the increase, as laid down in the first Budget, will be around 1 1 per cent. It does not seem to have dawned on many members of the Opposition that people must pay for what governments spend. In their minds those 2 facts are totally unrelated. They have no capacity to put them together, lt is no wonder that they got the country into the problems in which it found itself.
This Government must do those things sensibly and it is applying rigorous management to Commonwealth expenditures. The Opposition has seen us do it. The Government has said it would try to do it and it is doing it. It has put an end to a great deal of the very obvious waste and inefficiency that took place during the term of office of the former Labor Government. For example, by the end of this year we will have reduced the number of government employees by about 1 5 000. There has been a significant reduction in the post-war period. Without a very tight rein on expenditure- this has to be done by all governments which are capable fiscal managers; indeed it has been true of Labor governments in the past but not the recent Labor governments that we have seen- there is no room for reform of the taxation system, and it does need reform. Unless a government holds in expenditure it cannot give back to the people what it has not got to give them. In the present context of what we are now dealing with, we have seen in the past very excessive dependence on the monetary arm in order to try to keep the country running along smoothly. That of course gets people into an immense amount of trouble, as we all know.
Quite apart from those considerations, the Government has recognised that there must be a balance between the private and the public sectors. The Whitlam Labor Government late in its day recognised that it had put too much of a demand on total Government resources and it consciously was trying to move back to a better state of balance. Indeed it said so. It is a pity that it did not start off like that on its first day. It is difficult to redress the balance by pruning the public sector. It would have been a much more painful and protracted process to wait for the economy to find a new level equilibrium based upon a changed public-private sector balance with inflation running high and strong as it was.
This does not mean that our political opponents’ comments that we are trying to mount an attack on living standards in Australia are correct. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is a genuine fact- some people are capable of understanding it; some are not- that Australian families were better off at the end of 1976, both in terms of real incomes and the levels of their real spendings, than they were at the beginning of the year. They have made genuine, measurable and quantifiable advances in the 12 months. It is quite ludicrous to look only at wage levels in assessing living standards, thereby neglecting, for example, the fundamental influences acting to increase family incomes such as the new system of family allowances and tax indexation.
– Why have you so many unemployed?
- Senator Georges, who is trying to interject, might like to have some figures. Perhaps he will let me make my speech. He precluded himself from making one. I would appreciate it if Senator Georges would let me continue because his comments are totally without value. Budget outlays in 1972-73 had a certain characteristic. They had a different characteristic in 1975-76. This shows what the Labor government was doing in its time. If we look at total budget expenditure for 1 972-73, we see that the amount of money being spent on health, education and welfare took 33 per cent of the Budget. In the last year expenditure on health, education and welfare took 46 per cent of the Budget. The money had to come from somewhere. The programs had to be paid for by somebody. The task of trying to get balance between the revenue and the deficit side has been something that I commend to Senator Georges for examination in the parliamentary recess.
There are still people who believe that there is a need for tax cuts to speed up economic recovery. This is the dichotomy of the mind that we see in economic policy expressed in the Labor Party. Members of the Labor Party want to spend, spend, spend all the time and cut taxes all the time. People who say this should look at themselves clearly. Perhaps then they will realise that they should see someone in the head shrinking field if they carry on in that way. Governments cannot do both. Let me deal therefore quite specifically with the four possible ways of financing the revenue reductions that would be involved. First of all other forms of taxation can be increased. Interest rates can be sharply increased as the Labor Party did to step up government borrowings. A government can cut back much harder on government expenditure or a government can go out and run its own private printing press and litter the streets with phoney money. Naturally we tossed out the first 2 alternatives. We have said before that we will not finance tax reform by printing phoney money. So in current circumstances tax cuts can be implemented only if they are accompanied by corresponding cut backs in the growth of expenditure so that the resultant impact is much less on a deficit and so that the inflationary strategy adopted, which is being proved to be successful, is in no way jeopardised. Tax cuts cannot be the easy option that simplistic economic minds adopt without proper thought.
As a final point on the subject I will relate some of the reforms that have already been made in the tax system. They should be noted because taxation reform and taxation concessions have been taking place in the 1 8 months that this Government has been in office. We have indexed personal income tax. We have given taxation concessions to private companies. The small business world particularly has been helped. We made arrangements to introduce the first stage of company tax indexation from 1 July this year. We have brought in a 40 per cent investment allowance which has been much criticised by the Labor Party. We have eased the provisions applying to estate duties. The tax reforms to date will cost in the next financial year $2 billion. There has been therefore that tax reduction already within the economic management. Up to the position we are talking about, in total there will be in our first 2 years of office taxation reductions and concessions amounting to $3.3 billion. So honourable members opposite can see what can be obtained when governments try to hold back wasteful and extravagant government expenditures.
Somewhere in this amendment are some observations about the investment allowance. Let us talk a little about it. The Government’s aim ever since it took office has been to achieve a balanced and sustained expansion in economic activity. The severe slump in non-dwelling investment during the first half of the 1970s has impaired the capacity of the economy to act more productively. Recovery is more than usually subject therefore to the danger of quickly meeting supply constraints which once again bring about inflation. That would tend to kill off the recovery that we now see clearly emerging. Against that background the Government has chosen a strategy- we have said it before and we say it again- which rests to quite an extent on the proposition that private investment expenditure should play a conspicuous role early in the recovery process. There is a very normal tendency in a recovery process for non-dwelling investment to lag behind the recovery in other areas. The investment allowance is designed to shorten that lag by encouraging businesses to bring forward new investment. In this way capacity will expand and activity will expand instead of having to wait till bottlenecks are encountered when of course it is too late and governments are forced into false short term pump priming solutions which of themselves produce further disasters.
Indications are that investment in plant and equipment has in fact been moving in step with overall recovery. In the December quarter of 1976 private growth fixed capital expenditure on plant and equipment seasonally adjusted and at constant price terms was 18.6 per cent higher than in the December quarter of 1975. 1 say that in answer to the interruptions Senator Georges has been making from time to time. Another way being talked about is to increase money supply but not beyond the rate of inflation growth. The Opposition would have by its own definition a monetary policy which accommodates itself to inflation. That is contrary to our own policy which has already recorded considerable progress in restoring order to the chaotic financial conditions inherited. It is contrary to the great bulk of overseas opinion, experience and practice which does acknowledge freely that monetary restraint is necessary if a government wants to bring down inflation.
We want to bring down inflation. The Labor Party does not seem to know what it wants. All its policies led to higher inflation and a continuation of what the Labor Party now talks about would lead to further inflation. We are now talking about a bond selling program.
– There is something wrong with the structure of the economy. You cannot seem to understand that.
– There is something wrong, Senator. It is your own lack of understanding. We are talking about a bond selling program. Subscriptions to the current Commonwealth loan, now closed, total $452m, a record result for a cash loan held in the April-May period. From the point of view of economic management a very pleasing feature of the loan was the strong support received from the non-bank sector. This amounted to 85 per cent of the total support. The previous highest level of subscriptions received to a cash loan at this time of the year was $296m in April 1976. The normal 5 cash loans in the April-May period of the 5 preceding years has averaged $134m. These subscriptions are a fair mark of public confidence in this Government’s capacity. The result is a clear expression of confidence by investors in the Government’s economic policies which are directed towards curbing inflation as a prerequisite, among other things, to a sustainable reduction in interest rates. This was much more so because the loan had been held during the seasonal decline in private sector liquidity due to company tax and provisional tax payments.
I think it ought to be observed as well that this puts the Commonwealth well down the track towards having this year’s deficit funded by the end of the year. This is quite unlike the situation we inherited- a massive deficit, very little of which was funded. We will be very close to being adequately funded by the end of the current financial year, which is an extremely good result. We have talked about interest rates on a number of occasions. We have a clear objective to bring down the rate of inflation. It is clearly coming down. We believe that in the overall Australian economic context that will lead to a sensible reduction in interest rates, once it becomes clear that the rate of inflation is clearly on its way down. Interest rates will not come down if inflation is bouncing around, tending to go up but not clearly coming down. The result of the loan, I think, is clearly indicated. Those who wish to understand can see the result. Those who have an interest in the matter can read the result.
I turn now to what I think we ought to turn to, and that is some of the comments of the Estimates Committees. That is what this is really all about. Estimates Committee B commented on the desirability of reconciling savings with appropriations required, particularly in cases where functions or responsibilities have been transferred from one department to another. This will be brought to the notice of the departments for their future guidance, as I think I said to the Committee. I say it again here. Estimates Committee E drew the attention of the Senate to various items of expenditure by the Department of the Northern Territory and the Department of the Capital Territory. Those comments have been brought to the notice of the Ministers concerned. Estimates Committee F drew the attention of the Senate to the engagement of the former First Parliamentary Counsel as consultant after he retired before reaching the age of 65 years. The Committee considered that a public servant who retired of his own volition before he reached the age of 65 years and who thereby became entitled to superannuation should not be engaged as a consultant at a fee which, taken together with superannuation entitlement, provided a higher net income for work similar to that which would have been carried out if he had remained in the Public Service until he reached 65 years of age. That has been adverted to by senators on this side.
The Committee drew attention to payments to a former Justice of the High Court of Australia for unremunerated periods of service as Acting Chief Justice and to the payment to a chief judge of the Industrial Court. The Committee expressed itself to the Senate as being disturbed to learn that no statutory authority existed to make these payments, except for their inclusion subsequently in these Bills. The Committee was entitled to make those comments, and we are entitled to consider them. The Committee considered that the arrangements not being funded by statutory authority should be terminated in due course and that the Government should introduce into the Parliament appropriate legislation to remedy the situation.
We all know the position. I am not all the Ministers in the Senate put together. I cannot attend all the Senate Estimates Committees. I am only one Minister in this place. I am trying to cover the situation for all those involved. In this area, which is not mine, I can indicate, because I sought out the position, that the views of the Committee have come to the notice of the authorities concerned. The comments were brought particularly to the attention of the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott). I am told that he has indicated that in principle he agrees with the Committee, and he will be giving the matter early consideration with a view to recommending amendments to the legislation. I cannot be fairer than that in the situation with which I am dealing, in trying to help the Senate.
Senator Mulvihill mentioned various items of particular interest to himself. I cover them now. There may be more than I am about to mention but I am not able to recall everything because there was quite a long succession of speeches. He mentioned the observance of award wages at the Kingsford-Smith international airport. He talked of apprenticeship training. He talked about the working of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations with the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. He talked of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation and the Migrant Information Service. He introduced a 3-point question about which I will provide information a little later. The points made by Senator Mulvihill have been noted, and the 3-point question has been referred to the Department of the Treasury. Senator Sibraa commented on the Standing Orders which prevent Senate committees from sitting when the Senate is in session. He hoped that at some time in the future the Senate would give consideration to overcoming those problems. That is properly a matter for the Senate Standing Orders Committee in due consideration of its affairs. He talked about electoral reform. He said that the Senate should be looking at improved methods of voting so that results are more quickly known. I think all of us would agree that that suggestion has alot of wisdom.
Senator Jessop talked about the provision of funds in the 1977-78 Budget for the sealing of the Stuart Highway and about the need for uniform firearms legislation. Both those matters will be examined in the Budget context. Senator Wright spoke on the referenda results, as did several other senators either at length or in passing. He talked about the Bills for ordinary annual services. He talked about consultancy fees, flowing out of the work done by Estimates Committee F. Senator Knight showed his concern for small businesses in the Australian Capital Territory and surrounding districts. He talked about the finance available for them and about the need to consider measures to sustain and boost existing small businesses in the Australian Capital Territory and to encourage establishment of other small businesses and new industries in the Australian Capital Territory. They are points that I have noted in the work that I do in the Department of Industry and Commerce. Senator Keeffe was concerned about unemployment among Aborigines and about budget cuts.
Senator Coleman spoke about broken election promises, as did quite a number of Opposition senators. She said that the deficit was running at a massive $5, 532m at the end of February. One ought to point out that by the end of April it was $3,624m. My expectation is that it will come out remarkably close to its shape by the end of June, because what really happens is this: Taxation collections coming in during the final 3 months bring the deficit back into balance as against earlier expenditures. That, I think, is normally known by most senators who look at monthly statements of government finance which are put out by every government at the end of each month. They come out about the middle of the next month. They show clearly how the revenue is running, how the expenditure is running and how the deficit is moving. Traditionally, the deficit expands about the end of February and starts to decline as taxes come in from companies in March, April, May and June. My expectation is that the deficit will be very close to the budgeted figure by the end of June. I sincerely hope it will because I shall take some pleasure in contrasting the deficit management of this Government with the deficit management of the previous Government.
In regard to the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, I was informed this morning that Senator Mulvihill’s comments can be covered as follows: He raised a 3-point question. It was sent by the Treasury advisers to the Treasurer (Mr Lynch). He referred the matter to the Managing Director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation for advice on the points raised. It will be necessary, I think, for me to send that to Senator Mulvihill by letter when the answer comes to me from the Treasurer. That is really as much as I feel I need to say at this moment, except that there have been areas of the debate which have interested me. There were some genuine expressions by people which I found of value. It has not been confined only to one side. It has been on both sides. At one stage one senator seemed to me to have some aspirations for his country. He tried to get himself away from throwing rocks and rubbish around. Each morning the masthead of the Canberra Times carries a different verse for that day. I wish to quote one which I read recently. It is from the poem What I Live For by George Linnaeus Banks. It states:
For the cause that lacks assistance, The wrong that needs resistance, For the future in the distance, And the good that I can do.
That is this Government ‘s view.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Mulvihill’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I take it that at this stage the Committee of the Whole will be debating the various reports of the Senate Estimates Committees. For that reason, having been a member of Senate Estimates Committee A, I take the opportunity to make a few observations on the deliberations of that Committee, the report that was presented by the Committee and matters flowing from the examination of the witnesses who came before it. Senate Estimates Committee A dealt with the estimates for the Parliament, the Department of Administrative Services, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Department of National Resources, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Defence. Being the Opposition spokesman on administrative services, I wish to direct my remarks in the first instance to that section of the report relating to the Department of Administrative Services. Subsequently I hope to have the opportunity to say something on the estimates for the Parliament, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet particularly as they relate to the Public Service Board, and also on the estimates for the Department of Foreign Affairs. I have outlined for the benefit of members of the Committee those departments that are the subject of the report of Senate Estimates Committee A in case some of my colleagues wish to make some remarks on the matters that are set out in that report.
Having made those preliminary observations, I now refer to the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services. Division 130 concerns administrative expenses. When Estimates Committee A considered this division on 26 April last Mr Palmer, the Deputy Secretary of the Department, was asked what effect the imposition of staff ceilings had on the services provided by the Department to the Australian public. I think it is fair to say that he replied that he was not aware of any direct effect that the imposition of staff ceilings had on the services provided. Nonetheless I am continually amazed at the fact that the Australian Public Service can be cut back as drastically as it appears to have been cut back and yet apparently the services to the Australian public have not been or will not be affected. Is the public being brushed off or are the staff reductions that in some instances appear to be quite dramatic or drastic- I will cite some of them in the future- being supplemented by officers working increased overtime, or is there an increased use of consultants from outside the Service? Whilst I do not have the figures available, I noticed in an appendix presented by the Commonwealth Public Service Board that a substantial amount of money had been paid for an increased use of consultants. I think the figure increased from $148,000 in the last year of office of the Whitlam Labor Government to about $360,000, which is the latest figure provided by the Government.
In the course of the deliberations of Senate Estimates Committee A, I asked for information on the number of officers who have retired from the Department of Administrative Services and who have not been replaced. In that one Department only, 75 officers retired, 12 of whom were not replaced. Of those 12 officers, 2 were First Division officers. As we all know, First Division officers are permanent heads. As they were not replaced, it would appear that important sections of the Public Service have been amalgamated or have been completely phased out. It may well be that those 2 First Division officer positions were being held on the unattached strength of the Department of Administrative Services; I do not know. Certainly 2 First Division officers were not replaced. I do not believe that these cutbacks could not have affected the services provided by the Department to the Australian public.
I asked the Chairman of the Committee for a comparison of the general establishment of each section of the Department of Administrative Services with the actual staffing arrangements. I asked for the establishment strength to which the Department was entitled, on the one hand, to be compared with the actual number of people engaged in the Department, on the other hand. It appears to me that very important sections of the Department were considerably down on strength. For instance, the Property Branch, which is charged with the leasing and the renting of property to the value of hundreds of millions of dollars for and on behalf of the Commonwealth Public Service, was down 34 officers when compared with the number of officers allowed under its establishment. The Survey Branch of the Department was down 47 officers. The Purchasing Division of the Department, which is a very important section of the Department and which has responsibility for the calling of tenders and the purchasing of materials, equipment and stock for the Public Service at large, was down in strength by 179 officers. Surely these enormous shortfalls must have a great effect on the efficiency of the services provided by the Department.
I think it fair to say that most of the Committee’s deliberations were taken up by Senator Wright who attended the Committee as a senator, as he was entitled to do, although he was not actually a member of Estimates Committee A. Most of the deliberations were taken up with Senator Wright’s questioning of the Minister, Senator Withers, and the Minister’s officers, particularly those from the Commonwealth Electoral Office. He questioned them about the cost of the constitutional referendums that were put to the people last Saturday. The information sought has been provided in the report of the Senate Estimates Committee. One sees from the report that the information provided forms the greatest bulk of the report.
During the course of the deliberations of the Senate Estimates Committee I also raised the point that there was a 25 per cent increase in the fares of chaner flights offered by Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and the Christmas Island run. It was pointed out that that 25 per cent increase was due to open tendering for charter flights to Cocos. Whilst there is commonality in the amount being charged by the Commonwealth to each airline- to the Australian Airlines Commission, TAA, and to Ansett Airlines of Australia; some $300,000 to each- I suggested that perhaps collusive tendering by the companies should be looked at.
Senator Wood, who like Senator Wright was not a member of the Committee, requested information as to what expenditure the third International Conference on Behavioural Travel Modelling involved. I think it related to an amount of some $5,000 made available by way of a grant-in-aid by the Government. That was the amount that the Government had contributed to the cost of that International Conference on Behavioural Travel Modelling. Mr Hinchcliffe from the Department summarised a more technical explanation by really describing the conference as in fact studying the modes of transport that people choose. Senator Wood concluded his contribution by saying that he thought it was a waste of money, especially as the Government is cutting down its expenditure on many other matters which are possibly more worthy than it.
The Minister, Senator Withers, in answer to questions that I posed to him, requested information on how statutory authorities bid for office accommodation. He said that his Department, the Department of Administrative Services, was gradually moving towards putting all the relevant information on a computer system so that the information could be co-ordinated. But the Minister in charge of the Estimates admitted that the present accounting procedures make it very difficult even to come up with a reasonable guess- the words ‘even to come up with a reasonable guess’ are the Minister’s own words- and he described the present system as being most unsatisfactory. I assure the Minister and the Department that we in the Opposition will in the future be keeping our eyes on this matter because an enormous amount of Commonwealth and taxpayers money is involved in office accommodation arrangements. Because of that we will in the future be keeping our finger on the pulse and keeping the existing arrangements under close scrutiny.
I now turn to division 134 under the Estimates for the Department of Administrative Services. That division deals with the Australian War Memorial. My colleague Senator O ‘Byrne asked 2 questions on this subject this morning. Because I know that he has a great interest in the Australian War Memorial, I raised at the hearings of the Estimates Committee for Senator O ‘Byrne’s edification the question of specialist staff at the War Memorial. That is a problem which has existed for some time and it is a problem which I have raised since we went into Opposition. I asked what was being done to replace the art conservation staff that left the War Memorial. This morning the Minister mentioned that the
War Memorial is now virtually left without conservation staff. I wanted to know what had been done to rectify the salaries and conditions of the positions in order to replace the officers with suitable specially qualified art conservation staff.
I now understand from the Minister’s reply given this morning at question time that the War Memorial has apparently at long last obtained the approval of the Commonwealth Public Service Board to advertise the 7 positions, including 2 positions of art curator at salaries which represent an increase of approximately $4,000. Certainly that is commendable but regrettably it is much too late. We in the Opposition have been lobbying for these changes for some time now. I know that Senator Knight also expressed his concern during the course of the Committee’s deliberations about the inadequacy of existing staff at the War Memorial. I do not suppose that this is the direct responsibility of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers); it has more to do with the inadequacy of salaries paid to those people by the Commonwealth Public Service Board in comparison with the rates paid to comparable staff within the State Public Services. This applies in regard to officers of the Commonwealth Police about whom I will be saying something shortly. A number of other matters are related to the estimates of the Department. I dare say that my colleagues who were members of the Committee will also be wanting to add material to that which I have mentioned. I did mention earlier -
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– So that we may be able to discuss the Bill more easily and because we are considering the Schedule at the moment I move:
This means, if the Committee agrees, that we will now move to those departments considered by Estimates Committee A, then to those considered by Estimates Committee B, etc. I think that that would be more convenient for honourable senators, otherwise honourable senators who sat on the various committees will not know at what time an item which might affect them may be called on. At least they will be able to plan their day in a more orderly fashion whilst we are in the Committee stage. I certainly commend the proposal to the Senate.
– I think that the proposal is the normal procedure. Do we deal with the whole group? We are now dealing with the Parliament. Will we then move on to the next item of expenditure page by page?
– We are dealing with the Schedule at the moment.
– Yes. Will we then go on to the other page? I do not think it is intended to deal with all the departments covered by the one Estimates Committee.
CHAIRMAN-I take it that you are proposing to take each group as a whole.
– As I understand it, we are taking each group as a whole. Honourable senators can range over the Departments of Administrative Services, Parliament, Prime Minister and Cabinet and National Resources. If the Committee thought it more convenient I would be prepared to suggest that not only do we deal with the groups A, B and C separately but that we deal with the groups department by department. I am quite flexible. I am here to help the Committee to proceed. I see that a few honourable senators are nodding. I seek leave to alter the motion.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– There are 6 clauses. I take it that you mean to deal with the Schedule first and then the 6 clauses.
– Yes, clauses 1 to 6.
– Does the Committee understand the motion? Very well.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Department of Administrative Services
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 7,246,000
– I appreciate the intervention of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) to put the arrangements in order so that there can be some normality about the form that the debate will take. During my first 15 minutes period I raised some matters that related to administrative services. By way of interpolation I mentioned the amount that was being spent by the Public Service Board in 1 977 on the use of consultants and guest lecturers. I mention these figures by way of illustration. In 1 974- 75 the amount incurred by the Public Service Board on consultants was $166,639. In 1975- 76 it was $184,620. In 1976-77, this financial year- the financial year in which there have been very drastic staff cutbacks in the Commonwealth Public Service- the figure has reached the staggering total of $350,000, or over twice as much as the amount incurred in consultancy fees as recently as 2 years ago. As far as guest lecturers are concerned, in 1974-75 -
– What is the number of the item?
– It is under the Public Service Board. I have not come to it. I am just interpolating to relate these remarks to the problems of staff ceilings and to indicate that one way of overcoming the staff ceiling problems is to employ consultants. The Minister might explain why there is this heavy use of consultants in the Commonwealth Public Service. I have already mentioned the figures for consultants generally. In relation to guest lecturers an amount of $8,825 was expended in 1974-75. It slipped back to $3,040 in 1975-76 but this financial year it is up to $9,750.I mention that merely to indicate that whilst there are problems with staff ceilings there has been a very substantial increase in the amount of money paid out in consultancy fees. I suggest that that is something to which the Committee could well give its attention.
Towards the end of my first 1 5 minutes period I was about to say something about the Commonwealth police under the Department of Administrative Services. It is Division 137. During the course of the deliberations of Senate Estimates Committee A I requested information as to the comparative scales of salaries paid to officers of the Commonwealth Police and to police officers in the various States. Frankly I am amazed at the low salaries paid to officers of the Commonwealth Police compared to those payable to police officers in the various States. In the round I think that the Commonwealth Police are paid about 20 per cent or 25 per cent less than the police are paid in the various States. A table has been supplied by the Department. It appears on page 127 of the report of Senate Estimates Committee A. Because the matter is of such importance to the Australian public I seek leave tohave that table incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-The starting annual salary for a constable in the Commonwealth Police Force is $7,803. In South Australia a constable’s salary is $8,545. in Victoria $9,555, in New South Wales $8,859 and in Western Australia $9,917. In the Australian Capital Territory Police Force the starting annual salary is $9,526. When we compare the starting annual salary of $7,803 for a constable in the Commonwealth Police Force with the salary of $9,526 for his counterpart in the Austalian Capital Territory, it is obvious that the Commonwealth Police Force is sadly disadvantaged in the monetary rates paid to its members. Also, as an answer to a question I asked in the Senate indicates, the Commonwealth Police Force is considerably understaffed. Mr Chairman, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the answer I received on 20 April 1977 from the Minister for Administrative Services to Question No. 122 which I placed on the notice paper on 9 March.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows- (Question No. 122)
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
-In short, that answer shows that whilst the establishment strength of the Commonwealth Police Force throughout Australia is a total of 1648 officers, the actual strength of that Force is 15 10 officers. During the course of the Committee’s deliberations Assistant Commissioner Harper told the Committee that he thought that the Commonwealth Police Force was understaffed due to an inability to raise staff levels and the staff ceilings that were imposed upon the Force.I suggest it is also because of the comparatively low remuneration that has been awarded officers of the Force, I assume as a result of some determination made by the Commonwealth Public Service Board. I mentioned at that time and 1 shall say again that while the Public Service Board adopts the attitude of depressing Commonwealth Police Force salaries in comparison with State police force salaries it is hardly likely that sufficient recruits to enable the Commonwealth Police Force to be brought up to its establishment level will be attracted.
Incidentally, the remarks I have just made relate not only to Commonwealth Police Force salaries but also to Commonwealth Public Service salaries generally. Just recently the Commonwealth Government Printer, a very experienced and skilled senior officer of the Minister’s own Department, left his position as head of the Commonwealth Printing Office to go to an office in Victoria and be paid about $9,000 a year more for doing for the Victorian Government a job similar to that which he had been doing for the Australian Government. Salaries in all the printing offices in the various States are much higher than the salaries paid at the Commonwealth Printing Office.
– That is why the States should become responsible for their taxation.
-The honourable senator talks about the States becoming responsible for their taxation. The Commonwealth also has a responsibility to see that it pays salaries at a rate that is sufficient to attract people who have the skill and capacity to do the job. I think honourable senators will find that the stage is being reached in the Commonwealth Public Service today where a great number of skilled officers, because of the staff ceiling that is being imposed and the lack of opportunity that is being developed, are searching for ways and means by which to get to the State public services. While we are in a period of the highest unemployment in Australia since the Depression years of the early 1930s the Commonwealth Police Force, which provides an essential service to the public, should not be restricted in its staffing by way of ceilings and insufficiency of salaries.
I have referred previously to the fact- the Minister might comment on this-that the annual report for the Commonwealth Police Force for the year ended 30 June 1976 had not been tendered to the Parliament at the time when Senate Estimates Committee A was sitting. That was in April. As far as I am aware, that report has not yet been tendered to the Parliament. Because of the importance of the activities of the Commonwealth Police and the necessity for that Force and police forces generally to be accountable to Parliament, we should insist that reports of such bodies and various statutory bodies are tendered at a reasonable time after the end of a financial year so that they can be looked at, studied and, if necessary, debated. All these bodies provide vital services to the people. They are being adversely affected by the attitude of the Government to those who work in the public sector generally during these depressed economic times.
I turn now to division 158 of the estimates for this Department, which relates to the CocosKeeling Islands. Not only have I questioned the Minister from time to time during the year on this aspect of government administration, but also during the hearing of the Estimates Committee I questioned him on the continued use by the Clunies Ross Estates of the use of plastic tokens in payment of the workers on Home Island. When the Labor Government went out of office we were trying to eradicate this practice. Unfortunately, it has been allowed to continue and is continuing at the present stage. A great number of those people on Home Island, though of Cocos-Malay origin, are Australian citizens. Frankly, I think it is a national scandal that Australian citizens are being paid in plastic tokens for a day’s honest work. That is just one of the dehumanising and degrading activities that are going on in this Australian Territory. I know the Government has problems in certain areas there. I know that because we as a Government had problems in certain areas there. The fact that there are problems does not mean that the task can be pigeon-holed, put aside or not faced.
It appears to me that the Government has done absolutely nothing about improving the lot of these Cocos Malay people on Home Island. This means that the effort that we as a Government put into inquiring into the inequities on Cocos and into trying to rectify the situation appears to have been wasted. Now it is being totally ignored. We are now back to the medieval feudal ages of the John Clunies Ross absolute monarchy on the Island. There has been no improvement in sanitation for these people. There has been no extension of the educational system that we as a Government insisted upon. Indeed, the status quo appears to be the order of the day there. They are briefly some of the matters to which I wish to allude as a result of the deliberations of Estimates Committee A. I must pay a tribute to the officers of the Department of Administrative Services who contributed fully to the deliberations of the Committee. I thought they gave very adequate answers. I make the points I have made because I believe they are of importance to the Senate as a whole.
– I should like again to refer to a question which I have raised on numerous occasions in the Estimates Committee hearings and in the Parliament. I have asked for a breakdown of the expenditure on the official establishments- that is, the Governor-General’s residence, the Lodge, Kirribilli House and, I think, one other residence. I raise this question again under the vote for the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
– We are not dealing with that Department yet.
– I am sorry. Are we dealing with the Department of Administrative Services?
– Yes. We are still dealing with the Department of Administrative Services.
– The question is that this vote be now passed without request. Those of that opinion say ‘ aye ‘, to the contrary, ‘ no ‘.
– This is the Department of Administrative Services?
– Is not the Minister going to reply?
– I was going to reply to all questions asked by honourable senator later. Do honourable senators want me to reply department by department?
– I think it would be better if you did.
– I do not mind. It thought I could deal with the remarks of three or four senators at the same time, rather than keep intervening in the debate.
- Senator McLaren has indicated that he wanted to raise some other matter.
- Senator McLaren will have a chance to do that as we progress through the votes.
– I seek some clarification now.
– I intervene to suggest that unless the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) replies department by department he will be contravening the order. I submit that if we are going to have comments department by department it would be better to have a reply immediately to those comments and then proceed to the next department.
– That is the point I want to mention. I seek clarification on that point. If the Minister does not reply department by department it means that we have passed that vote and then no honourable senator will be able to again question the Minister if his answer is not satisfactory.
– I should like to raise one point. I take it from the Minister’s interjection that he was not going to reply department by department. I think the general opinion is that he should do so. He said that he thought there may be other speakers wishing to direct questions to him. I do not think it is necessary for the Minister to reply to each speaker when we are dealing with one department. When the question is put it means that there will be no further speakers in relation to the department that is being discussed. I think at that stage the Minister should reply because an honourable senator may wish to make a further contribution to the debate arising from the Minister’s reply.
– There is a growing practice amongst honourable senators not to rise until the Chair calls them. The Chair will not wait for anyone. If no honourable senator stands in his place then the question is put.
– 1 do not want to keep intervening in the debate and breaking up honourable senators questions but I shall adopt the procedures suggested. Senator Douglas McClelland adverted to a number of matters within my Department. I shall deal with those matters he raised but I ask him to let me know if I have missed out any of those that he mentioned. He mentioned in particular the Australian War Memorial, the Commonwealth Police Force and consultants to the Public Service Board which matter really should be dealt with when we are discussing the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. He paid particular attention to differences in pay rates of Commonwealth and State officials at various levels. Finally, he referred to the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. I think they are all the matters he dealt with.
-I raised the staff ceilings also.
– He also dealt with the staff ceilings in general. As the Senate will recall, Senator Douglas McClelland asked the Deputy Secretary of my Department a direct question about staff ceilings. It was one of the first questions he asked. I do not have the Hansard record in front of me- I am speaking from memory- but the honourable senator will recall that the Deputy Secretary of my Department said that in his opinion the staff ceilings had been a challenge to the Department to do better and he believed that the Department had risen to that challenge and had met it. Senator Douglas McClelland was kind enough at the conclusion of his remarks to thank officers of the Department which I presently administer for the full, frank and helpful way they had answered questions at the Estimates Committee hearing. I should like to say that the answers given by Mr Palmer, the Deputy Secretary of my Department, typified the attitude of the officers of my Department. They see these staff ceilings as a challenge to find better and quicker ways of carrying out their tasks. They are continually seeking to improve their performance. I think it is fair to say that the senior officers of my Department will never be satisfied with their performance because they seek perfection and they really work at it. For that, I thank them. Therefore, whilst staff ceilings as honourable senators are aware occasionally cause trouble- within my own department at times- I think it is true to say that in a broad sense in the last 18 months the efficiency of this
Department has not been affected by staff ceilings but in many ways has improved in certain areas.
Senator Douglas McClelland then spoke of the 2 problems facing the Australian War Memorial. One complaint concerned the shortage of staff generally. As the honourable senator is aware, the staff has been expanded -admittedly, only slightly- but it is one of the few areas of government activity in which there has been a staff increase. As I said at Question Time this morning, I do not set the pay rates for conservators. I think it is a great tragedy that we lost the conservator we had. From my limited knowledge of him and from my experience and contact with him I thought he was a person we could ill afford to lose. I hope that eventually we will start to train conservators properly in Australia not only in the art field but also in a range of fields so that our collections can be preserved in museums around Australia.
There are problems associated with the Commonwealth Police Force. Occasionally, problems arise not so much in attracting recruits but because wastage seems to be high. Recruits come in to the Force and recruits go out of the Force. I think that is to be expected when the Commissioner sets a fairly high standard. There is always the problem of officers in the Police Force leaving through invalidity which is not caused through any fault of the Force. Senator Douglas McClelland also adverted to the pay rates of officers of the Commonwealth Police and officers of the State police forces. The same sort of problem arises whether we are speaking about the Commonwealth Police Force, Commonwealth printers or conservators. One never quite knows who is in the wrong- whether the Commonwealth public servants are being grossly underpaid or whether the State public servants are being grossly overpaid. I think that this is a matter on which there will be individual opinion and individual judgment. It is often difficult to compare exact like with exact like. The work of Government printers in the States and in the Commonwealth is not necessarily the same. They do have the same title but they do not necessarily carry out the same work.
The remarks made by Senator Douglas McClelland pointed up one of the difficulties which exist when we have different arbitral bodies setting pay rates for what might appear to be job equivalents. If the Public Service Board and the Public Service Arbitrator are heading in one direction concerning the pay rates of the Commonwealth Police, government printers or conservators in our museums and the State arbitral authorities are putting different judgments on that, it just points up the difficulty in the Federal system of differing wage fixing tribunals fixing different work values on what appear to be job equivalents.
The final matter referred to by the honourable senator was the Cocos (Keeling) Islands. I had hoped to put down before the Parliament rose for the winter recess a statement of government policy on this matter. I still have a faint hope that perhaps I may be able to do so. As the honourable senator will know, on 30 June it will be necessary for the Government to report to the United Nations on our stewardship of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands for the ensuing 12 months. I had hoped that I might be able to inform the Parliament about the Government’s policy in the broad before that date arrived. The problem of plastic tokens has been with us for some time. When Senator Douglas McClelland was a Minister, he appreciated this problem. The Labor Minister administering the Territory knew his limitations. If it is decided that the plastic tokens should not be used that matter then comes within the terms of the Currency Act which is administered by the Treasurer and not within the terms of any Act which I administer. I think the honourable senator will recall from his own knowledge and experience the problems that a Treasurer in the days of the Labor Government had in his attempts to enforce the provisions of the Currency Act. There are still some problems in this area to be resolved. I give the Senate a general assurance that the matter has not been just put to one side. It is still under active consideration with a view to getting a proper solution to the particular problem. As this covers a wide range of issues including sanitation, the quality and type of education and all the other problems which do affect the people of the Cocos (Keeling) Islands they are matters on which the Government must report to the United Nations. The Government will continue to use its best endeavours to raise the standard of living on the islands so that the people who are natural born Australian citizens- and there is a greater number each year- are considered. We have a responsibility to them as much as we have to any other Australian citizen.
– I want to raise a matter which was not evident to the Estimates Committee when we were examining the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services. It has only surfaced since the report of the Public Accounts Committee. I refer to the purchase of a sword and dirk. Had I known that this money had been illegally appropriated, as the Public Accounts Committee has said, I would have pursued this matter at some length during the Estimates hearings. Having been denied that opportunity because we were not aware of it at that time I hope that the Minister for Administrative Services can give us some explanation and some guarantee that this will not happen again in his Department. I am disturbed that a practice has been developing over recent years of purchasing weapons of war. Some time ago when Senator Magnus Cormack was the President he authorised the arming of Black Rod with a sword. Now we find the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) giving permission for the purchase of a sword and a dirk. It disturbs me because it may be that because Senator Cormack and Mr Fraser had a difference of opinion over the referendum we will see a duel with these weapons somewhere down by Lake Burley Griffin.
It is disturbing to find that this was not brought out at the Estimates hearings. We have had to wait until after the Estimates Committees had done their work and the Public Accounts Committee tabled a report in the Parliament to find by reading that report that that Committee is most disturbed at the disclosures that the Department acted illegally when it charged expenditure relating to the purchase of Governor Macquarie ‘s sword and dirk to the wrong appropriation. I am disturbed about that also because if it can happen in one department, how can we be sure that this sort of thing has not happened in any other departments? There does seem to be some laxity in accounting somewhere. In view of the fact that this Government has made great play of the fact that it is very good at public accounting I am disturbed that this has been exposed. It should not happen, particularly as this Government has guaranteed to the people that it is expert in these areas. Perhaps Senator Withers can tell the Committee why this happened and why there is a need to purchase these relics and these weapons of war.
- Mr Chairman, I seek your advice. I was out of the chamber unavoidably. Is it appropriate for me at this stage to refer to the issue raised by Senator Douglas McClelland concerning the conservation of cultural materials, or have we gone beyond that?
– We are dealing with divisions 130 to 160 in the estimates of the Department of Administrative Services.
-Thank you. I know, because I heard part of what Senator Douglas McClelland said, that he had dealt with some aspects of this matter and I do not want to deal with it at length. I would simply like to take the opportunity again to emphasise the need for the conservation of cultural materials. It is a matter of some significance here in the Capital Territory because of the location here of the Australian War Memorial, the National Library and the Australian Archives and because eventually we will have the National Museum.
The Canberra College of Advanced Education has taken up this matter and I have had a letter from the principal of the College stating the importance of a course for conservators of cultural materials in Australia to assist in overcoming the lack of such trained people. I seek leave to incorporate the text of the letter in Hansard so that it is on the record because it does have some valuable information in it.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
Dear Senator Knight,
It has been brought to my notice that you have raised in the Senate the question of the training of conservators in Australia. I have not yet been able to get to Hansard to see what, if any, reply you have received from the Government to your inquiry but it has been suggested to me that I should send to you a copy of a report which I prepared recently for the Canberra College of Advanced Education Council after a survey of facilities overseas. This survey indicated that it appeared viable to promote some training on a limited scale in Australia at relatively short notice and at low cost.
The College Council became involved in this matter when the report of the Museums Inquiry recommended that training should be introduced and that the most appropriate centre, in view of the presence of suitable national collections here, would be the Canberra College of Advanced Education. As you will see from the report, training overseas is strictly limited because, although there is important work to be done in many fields of conservation, there are not jobs for many people in it and a very special kind of student has to be attracted into these courses. The United States, for instance, is graduating only thirty people a year and the average for a country such as Australia would be about ten a year.
The present situation with these proposals is that the College has applied to the Minister for Education and the Commission on Advanced Education for leave to introduce the course and is seeking supplementary funding to enable the College to proceed without eroding our capacity to carry on with our existing regular programmes of work in other fields. Any support which you can give us in obtaining the necessary funds to introduce these important courses will be very welcome.
We are convinced that there is a very urgent need to do something in Australia in this field. At the War Museum, for instance, large quantities of important paintings, artifacts and papers are in a sad state of deterioration; at the National Library I am told over 60 000 books are now unusable because of a lack of an adequate facility to restore them and in the National Archives all paper produced in this country after 1 850 is open to damage due to biological actions and acidity. There are other collections housed in Canberra and, of course, many others in the States equally at risk. Virtually nothing is being done to conserve these valuable collections due to a lack of trained staff.
-I would simply like to point out to the Committee that Dr Richardson, the principal of the Canberra College of Advanced Education, made a trip overseas to examine this question. On his return he produced a report for the Council of the College on training for conservators overseas and on the feasibility of introducing courses for conservators at the College. I point out that in his letter he said that the National Library, as far as he is aware, has over 60 000 books which are now unusable because a lack of an adequate facility to restore them; and in the Australian Archives all paper produced in this country after 1850 is open to damage due to biological action and acidity. I think they are issues of real concern in terms of preserving our national heritage. While the need for conservators obviously is very real and an immediate one I think it is a limited need and the whole question does need to be looked at very carefully. I would think that there is probably a need for not more than one such course in the country, though that of course in itself needs examination. I understand that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has been approached about the possibility of establishing such a course in Australia. I would simply like to say that I hope all Ministers including the Minister for Administrative Services- and I know he has already done so- will give this matter very serious consideration.
-I too would like to elaborate a little on this matter which I raised today at question time. Although I realise there is an awareness of the lack of available skilled conservators who are needed to catch up with the backlog and virtual neglect of many of those priceless cultural objects in the Australian War Memorial I do feel that even greater emphasis should be placed on the urgency to do something more drastic than we have so far been given to understand is being done. The reports in the Press say that we are seeking these skilled people overseas but I know there are 2 people in Tasmania who have had considerable experience in conservation work. They are both qualified conservators and restorers. Their training includes experience in Australia and in the United Kingdom. I know too that they have applied for positions. They are in private work in Hobart. Their work is considered to be of tremendously high calibre but their services have not been used.
It is a very interesting situation when the services of people with most impressive qualifications, people with training in England and Australia, are not used in this country at a time when, as the Minister for Administrative Services has said, there is a scarcity of these people. I would like- perhaps I should do it at an official level- to make representations to the Minister to ensure that the qualifications of these people are examined. I suppose they would be processed by the Minister’s Department. If we can get people of this calibre into the War Memorial to get on with the job I think we can arrest the reported deterioration. I hope that it will be made a special cause despite the fact that the Government is hoping to practise economies and ceilings in many directions.
This matter of conservation is one that just will not wait for attention. The deterioration is a continuing process. Unless it is arrested and unless these works are restored and kept under constant supervision, we will be losing items of importance and we will be recreant to a very great trust that is imposed on us to see that they are maintained for posterity. This is perhaps one of those cases where we are inclined to under-estimate the intrinsic value of some memorial of the feats of valour that have been captured by some great artists. The people depicted will never live again. The events will probably never happen again. To some people who are not as sensitive as others, they might be just paintings. But to other people they represent very precious segments of the history of our country that is completely irreplaceable and that should be given a very high priority.
I accentuate and stress this matter now in the hope that every possible avenue will be explored to see whether we cannot come to grips with this problem, despite whatever the Pitt Street and Collins Street stock exchange people think or whatever the indicators on the charts show. This heritage is something that money cannot buy. Time, according to some of the reports that I have read, appears to be of the essence in the situation. This matter is more than just another irritant in the administration of the country. It is bigger than that. I hope that the fact that it has been debated to this extent at this time will make people even more aware of the importance of Australia coming to grips with this matter, catching up with the obvious backlog that exists and supervising the maintenance of these great historical objects in as good a condition as possible. I support what has been said already by Senator Douglas McClelland and Senator Knight and hope that the Government will give this matter the very highest priority to try to get the problem under control.
– It is as important as buying Governor Macquarie’s dirk and sword.
– I thank both Senator Knight and Senator 0 ‘Byrne for their enthusiastic support of the need to obtain conservators in Australia. I invite Senator O ‘Byrne to let me have the details of the 2 people in Hobart whom he mentioned and I will certainly pursue that matter. If any other honourable senator can ever let me know where the Australian War Memorial can get in touch with people with the necessary skills, they could either let me know or let the trustees know. I assure honourable senators that the Government will explore every avenue possible. I thank the 2 honourable senators for their enthusiastic support of this matter. As Senator Baume interjected when I rose to speak, both Senator Knight and SenatorO ‘Byrne really have given the answer to the queries raised by Senator McLaren.
The great discovery made by the Public Accounts Committee is almost a year old. It happened a couple of appropriations back. It was an error which ought not to have occurred. It has nothing to do with the intrinsic merit of the purchase of the items. A Departmental procedure was not carried out. Senator McLaren asked for a guarantee that it will not happen again. I would like to give that but I cannot guarantee that one of the 14 000 officers in my Department will not make an error one day. I can assure Senator McLaren that the permanent head of my Department and the senior officers under him have instituted procedures and tightened up practices as much as is humanly possible so that it ought not to occur again. But I cannot guarantee that it will not occur again.
With regard to the arming of people, I recall with respect to poor Black Rod that his sword was a gift and that he was girded, Senator McLaren, by your friend and colleague, Senator 0 ‘Byrne, when he was President of the Senate. I do not think that Senator 0 ‘Byrne had any terrible motives in presenting Black Rod with a proper ceremonial sword to be used on State occasions. With regard to Governor Macquarie ‘s sword, as the 2 honourable senators have said, there is an obligation on Government to preserve those great pieces of Australian heritage. It is funny that poor old Governor Macquarie’s sword has come in for so much criticism. The Government has purchased Governor Bligh’s diary- I understand, it is in Tasmania this weekand I think it is quite important that it should be there. I first learnt of the great contact between Governor Bligh and Tasmania last week when I was informed that he planted the first apple tree in Tasmania. Is that correct? Senator Wright nods his head so I accept what 1 was told to be true. I do not know whether he should be thanked or cursed for that but he was a great figure in Australian history. I am quite certain that, whilst it might seem a large amount of money to pay for a diary, the people of Tasmania certainly will flock to see it. Governor Macquarie’s sword has been in a number of the Macquarie towns in the electorate of Mitchell. An enormous number of people have seen it. I think it is presently on display in the electorate of Parramatta at old Government House and that, again, it is attracting enormous attention. It was a very worthwhile purchase for the $6,000 that we paid for it. I will bet that Harry M. Miller would have loved to have purchased it for that sort of sum and got that sort of audience to come and see it. Whether the Public Accounts Committee believes something to be illegal is its own opinion. There were certainly improper Departmental procedures involved in the writing of the cheque. I do not think that the Committee could say that there were improper procedures in the purchase of the article. It was, in fact, the drawing of the cheque to pay for what was purchased at auction which was under consideration. I hope that Senator McLaren will accept my assurance that the Department will do everything possible to see that such a mistake does not occur again.
– I have one further question of the Minister. Since the Estimates Committee carried out its work, we have been notified that quite a few Ministers of this Government have changed their offices. I ask the Minister whether he could provide the Senate with an up to date list of the location of all senators and members of Parliament, the office space they inhabit and the cost of each separate office. I think I was provided with a list about 1 8 months or 2 years ago. I ask whether I could have a similar, updated list.
– There will be no problem in providing that list but the honourable senator will understand that it cannot be produced immediately. I hope to be able to provide it before the Senate rises.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Proposed expenditure- Rent (Defence), $800,000-passed.
Proposed expenditure, $779,000.
– It is not my intention to speak at length on this item. As has been stated, it refers to divisions 101 to 109 covering an additional appropriation of $779,000 for Parliament. It has been the custom and practice for the Senate Estimates Committees when inquiring into expenditure on the part of the Parliament to inquire only into the expenditure that is engaged in by the Senate and not the expenditure engaged in by the House of Representatives. I merely take advantage of these estimates to mention a matter that has been mentioned from time to time but which I think is worthy of reiteration. I refer to the importance of Parliament to Australia and to the Australian democratic way of life. It will be recalled that during the course of Senate Estimates Committee A sittings I asked the President whether Parliament was master of its own destiny as regards staff requirements. The President replied that Parliament was master of its own destiny but that credence must be given to policies enunciated by government and an endeavour made to meet those policies. Senator Knight then went on to ask a question of the President. I shall quote from page 3 1 of the Senate Estimates Committee A Hansard of 26 April 1 977. Senator Knight asked:
Mr President, when you say ‘give credence’, does that mean that the Parliament co-operates with the executive in meeting its financial and economic objectives?
Mr President replied:
So far as we can, whilst ensuring that those services that honourable senators seek and are entitled to are met. With that background I am prepared to go along. If I found that honourable senators required more staff then I would take steps to seek it.
Of course I would have thought that the steps which would have to be taken would be that the President or the officers of the Senate would have to consult with the Public Service Board and discussions would have to take place with the Treasury to see whether funds were available. If not, funds would have to be obtained from the Treasurer’s Advance. I suppose that that is the normal way in which Parliament has functioned and the facilities for securing staff for the Parliament have functioned.
Since the events of October and November 1 975 it is fair to say that quite substantial strains have been imposed on the efficient functioning of Parliament. It is also fair to say that a lot of people within the Australian community are now querying the importance of Parliament so far as its place within the democratic institution is concerned. I have always been one of those who has been a great believer in the institution of Parliament and in democratic processes, but the simple fact is that a large section of the public has become quite cynical about the situation. A lot of them-particularly a great section of the younger generation- no longer believe that Parliament is the force that it should be. Members of the Executive and members of the Parliament all have a responsibility to see that everything possible is done to improve the status and efficiency of Parliament. Parliament is an institution that has not changed its mode of operation very much at all.
I received notification yesterday that between now and the end of the session, which we hope will be next week, some 40 additional Bills will be brought in by the Government. I suppose the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) will say that when we were in government we did that sort of thing too. When I compare the number of Bills that are to be brought in to Parliament in the last week of the session with the number of Bills that we have dealt with in the sitting of the Parliament from the middle of February until the end of May, I suggest that the great bulk of the legislation to be dealt with by Parliament will be dealt with in the last week of the session instead of in the first months of the session. I believe that that sort of system has to be altered and looked at early in the piece if Parliament is to get back the confidence of the public as a forceful and democratic institution.
Perhaps the Executive could have another look at the way in which these Bills are put to the Parliament from time to time. Perhaps the Executive could ensure that before a session commences the Bills that are to be presented to Parliament in the normal course of events are drawn, drafted and presented to Parliament in the first week of the session so that members of the House of Representatives and senators can have ample time to study the clauses of the Bills and the effect that they will have on the community well in advance of the debates getting under way. I know that this will not be possible all the time. We all know Bills of some urgency have to be introduced expeditiously because of some High Court judgment or whatever it might be. In the main the great bulk of the legislation that is dealt with by Parliament can be drafted and prepared well in advance of a parliamentary session. It should be available to members of the Parliament at the commencement of the session so that they can give closer study to the legislative processes. I think that it is bordering on the scandalous that we have dealt with roughly 12 to 15 Bills- I only hazard a guess- between February and now and that in the last week, commencing from today or tomorrow, we will have to consider about 40 other Bills.
I want to mention one other thing. I have already compared the salaries of Commonwealth public servants with the salaries of State public servants in certain areas. I have referred to Commonwealth Police and other areas of Public Service activity. Let me compare the salary paid to members of the Australian Parliament with the salary level of second division officers of the Commonwealth Public Service. Members of the Australian Parliament are paid about $21,000 which is the lowest salary level on the second division rung of Public Service officers. The second division includes a number of classifications and covers a salary range of $21,000 to $37,000. That makes one rather cynical and makes one feel that after all it is the bureaucracy and not the Parliament of the Commonwealth that wields the big stick over the Executive.
I mention these matters only to say that I believe there is a great responsibility on members of Parliament and on members of the Executive to see that everything is done to provide members of Parliament with proper and adequate facilities with which to carry out their tasks. There is a responsibility on the part of the Executive to see that annual reports of statutory bodies are presented to Parliament early so that they can be studied by parliamentarians. There is a responsibility on the part of the Executive to introduce legislation into Parliament earlier than the last week of the session. All in all I believe that much more than has been done to date can be done to improve the status and position of Parliament in a democratic society.
-I briefly want to support what Senator Douglas McClelland has said concerning the congestion of Bills which is occurring at present. This has become endemic in the past few years. I suspect that it was also the case before my time. It seems to me that one could be excused if one made the charge that public servants, heads of departments and those concerned with the presentation of Bills to this place deliberately held off the introduction of Bills so that they came into the Parliament late and could not be properly considered by all parties and by the Parliament in debate. I support Senator Douglas McClelland ‘s statement. From the Whips’ point of view, the
Parliament cannot be conducted efficiently if there is a congestion of Bills.
In my experience, what happens in the last week is that the Bills are not properly debated in the Party rooms. They often come into the Parliament and reach the second reading stage before the parties have a chance to discuss the contents of the Bills and to have them investigated by the various Party committees. I believe that to be very serious, because much of the work in this place is carried out in the committees of the parties. They should have an opportunity to look at legislation and to suggest amendments to the parties. That is especially important on the Government side. It is also important on the Opposition side.
I think Senator Douglas McClelland ‘s point is valid. He said that there should be some provision that would force departments to bring down their legislation early in the session, that there should be a cut-off point and that after that cut-off point, unless it is emergency legislation, they should not be able to introduce legislation. I have heard all sorts of arguments about drafting and the difficulty in getting Bills properly drafted. My view is that the departments have not geared themselves to bring down legislation. I come back to the point which I made earlier. I believe that in some cases it is deliberate. If I did not have my experience in the Senate Chamber, I would go back to my experience as a member of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances. There is evidence that time and time again the departments delay in preparing regulations. It forces the Committee to accept substantial retrospectivity in regard to payments. When one looks at the reason, one finds that a department has not attached sufficient importance to getting the regulation down in time or, in the case about which I am talking at present, the Bills down in time for the Parliament to consider them properly. If the Public Service believes that it can stampede the Parliament into hasty legislation, it should be disillusioned as quickly as possible by the Minister responsible.
– I support the remarks made by Senator Douglas McClelland and Senator Georges. I do so for this reason: I am the secretary of the Resources Committee of the Opposition. It deals with primary industry matters. We are faced with a situation in which we will have to deal with 20 Bills which appear on the House of Representatives notice paper today. I think more Bills have yet to come in. As everyone knows, the
Government and the Opposition have committees which deal with various aspects of legislation. The Resources Committee of the Opposition meets one day a week to consider legislation. That Committee meets every Tuesday night over dinner to try to get through its business. Our meeting was on Tuesday night of this week. The next meeting is not scheduled until next Monday. This legislation is coming in. How will we examine all of those 20 Bills? We are faced with a problem, if we must have an urgent meeting, of finding committee room accommodation. There are 191 members of this Parliament. I do not know how many committees there are. Our Party has 8 committees.
– There are 70 committees.
– There are 70 committees, I am informed. We have to find accommodation to have our meetings to deal with these matters. Another thing is that when one is in Opposition one does not have the staff to assist one. The Ministers, who are responsible for the Bills that come into the Parliament, do. We have to do that work ourselves, as well as attend to our duties on behalf of our constituents and be present in the Parliament. It is creating a real problem.
Another important aspect is this: How can we contact people in the country areas who have an interest in these 20 Bills, that we know of at present, dealing with primary industry which are coming before the Parliament and which are expected to be passed into law by the end of next week? It is practically impossible to do so. So the Parliament will deliberate on matters which vitally affect the living of farmers and their incomes, and they will be given no opportunity to express any opinion, whether it is to members of the Government or to members of the Opposition who would put the opposite view in both Houses of the Parliament. This is the problem with which we are faced. How is the problem brought about? It is brought about, I think, because, as both previous speakers, Senator Douglas McClelland and Senator Georges, pointed out, the departments cannot get the legislation to the Parliament quickly. That is the responsibility of the Minister, in the main. I do not blame the departments or the people who work in the departments. They have not sufficient staff.
We know that ramifications and problems are being experienced in all departments because of staff ceilings and the pressure on the few people who work there. They cannot get extra staff to cope with the job. In the main, they are copping the blame for something for which they are not responsible. It is the Ministers’ responsibility. At election time Ministers make policy guarantees to people about matters for which the Government will legislate. Surely Ministers know at the beginning of the parliamentary session how that legislation ought to be drawn up and brought into the Parliament. As Senator Douglas McClelland said, it ought to come in early in the piece and not at the closing hours of the Parliament when one cannot give proper consideration to it. I am sure that Government members are experiencing the same problems when the legislation is put before them in their Party room. The legislation cannot be examined properly under a democratic procedure, which is how the Australian Labor Party operates in this Parliament. Firstly, the legislation has to go before the relevant Caucus committee to be considered. Then the committee makes a recommendation to the Executive. The Executive examines it and then brings it back to the overall Party meeting, which is the Caucus, for consideration. We go through the proper democratic procedures. How can we do that with this legislation that is coming in?
I think Senator Douglas McClelland said that there were overall 40 Bills or thereabouts that have to be considered. How can we deal with even the 20 Bills that affect primary industry? There may be more than that. There are 20 I know of on the House of Representatives notice paper that we have not yet seen. How can we deal with them by the proper democratic procedures which operate in the Parliamentary Labor Party, in the time that is given to us to do so? Today is Thursday. The Senate probably will not get those Bills until tomorrow. Because of the extra sittings of the Parliament the Caucus meeting has been brought forward a day to next Tuesday. Those Bills have to be examined. There is only one sitting day left when members can examine them. We cannot have a meeting tomorrow night because the Senate is to rise at 5 p.m. or thereabouts. There are many senators on the Resources Committee of the Opposition. How can we examine that legislation, bring back a report to the Executive for it to examine on Monday and get back into the Party meeting on Tuesday so that we can have proper supervision? It is impossible to do so. I join with Senator Douglas McClelland and Senator Georges in making a plea to the Government. It should also be made, I think, in the long term to the incoming Labor Government. I make a plea that the tactics be changed, that legislation be brought in early in the piece so that members of Parliament have an opportunity to give proper supervision to all legislation coming before the Parliament.
– Normally I would not intervene in this matter because I would not want to be seen to be interfering with the estimates of Mr President and Mr Speaker. Since my election to this place I have snared, and still share, many of the views put forward by the 3 previous speakers. We all know the problem. None of us has yet discovered the solution. The solution is not easy to discover. I actively support and promote reformation within this chamber so that our procedures may be improved. In fairness, from the time that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack became President right up to now the Senate has done a great deal to reform its Standing Orders and procedures to make business in this chamber far more simplified and expeditious. There has been quite an improvement. The problem comes from what is known as the end of session rush. It is said that 40 Bills will have to be passed. The Government is actively striving to reduce the number of Bills. We are advised by the Parliamentary Counsel and the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) that for certain constitutional reasons instead of having one Bill to amend livestock slaughter legislation there are four, five, six or seven Bills- I forget the number. There is also a series of Bills concerning the dairy industry.
– And wool as well.
– There are four, five or six Bills for the dairy industry, and Senator Gietzelt reminds me of the wool Bills. So whilst 40 Bills looks an horrendous program, really we are talking of only six or seven debates. There are closely related Bills in a large number of areas. I seem to recall each year amendments to repatriation legislation, seamen’s compensation legislation and some other legislation all basically about the same benefit. I assure honourable senators that we are still seeking some reason why in the national Parliament we seem to need about 200 Bills in a period of sitting when the United Kingdom Parliament has only forty or fifty.
– The States can handle only about ten.
-The State parliaments do not meet so often. In my own State the Parliament has not met, I think, since November last year. The State parliaments most probably do not have the same administrative problem as the Federal Parliament. There are other problems which face all governments. Partly because of the nature of the federal system, negotiations on many primary industry matters seem to drag on and on when one is dealing with 6 other governments. It is just one of those things that happen. I think it is well known that there is a group on the Government side which is actively seeking parliamentary reformation. I think it is in the public record that the Government Whip in this place, Senator Chaney, chairs what is known as the parliamentary reform group. It comprises back benchers. Quite deliberately, the Government has decided that if there is to be parliamentary reform most probably it will come from the back benchers and not the Executive. It is from the back benchers that the greatest push will come.
– There is the report of the Joint Committee on the Parliamentary Committee System.
-That Committee has presented a report. A great deal of work has been done. Whilst committees come up with what they believe to be solutions, once their colleagues see the report they start to put up other solutions. I repeat that I share the concern expressed by a lot of honourable senators. The problem is brought about partly because I think it suits everybody’s convenience that we have 2 periods of sitting every year- an autumn sitting and a Budget sitting. I suppose if we decided not to have a winter recess a lot of the problems would evaporate. If we decided not to have a Christmas recess we would have no problem, because we would just roll on 3 weeks on and 1 week off for 12 months a year.
– We would probably have a lot of divorces.
-We would have not only a lot of divorces but also a lot of condolence motions if we tried that operation. It is a matter of achieving a balance. I am well aware of the speech made by my colleague, Senator Baume, in the Address-in-Reply debate before Easter. He gave us a very good medical opinion free of charge. He told us that we were all a crowd of lunatics the way we act with our work load, the hours we work and the distances we travel. But for some reason that still escapes me we seem to be totally incapable of reforming the system to give ourselves a better and longer life. Senator Gietzelt mentioned divorce. It surprises me that our marriages last as long as they do. Perhaps it is because we are not home so much. I am well aware of the problem. The Government is actively pursuing a solution. When the Government is able to present some proposals in this matter which affect not just its own internal method of getting legislation before the Parliament but which requires also the co-operation of all on both sides of both chambers, I am quite certain we will get their active co-operation.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 ,384,000.
– I raise a matter that I have raised before concerning the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. It is the dissection of the costs of running the 4 establishments- Kirribilli House, Government House, the Lodge and Admiralty House. It was the practice for many years that the costs of running these establishments were not separated. But that precedent was broken by the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) shortly after he took office when he sought to gain some cheap political advantage in answering a Dorothy Dix question from Mr Porter, the honourable member for Baker. I raised the question during the deliberations of Senate Estimates Committee A. Mr Hinton, the Assistant Secretary of the Services Branch of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, stated in a letter to the Secretary of the Committee:
asked why the costs of the 4 official establishments cannot be separated. In relation to this request I refer the Committee to the statement made by Senator Withers on 4 November 1976 when asked for similar information at the time of the Budget Estimates deliberations by the Committee of the Whole. A copy of the relevant Hansard is attached.
Of course I received the same answer as I was given earlier. When 1 asked that question on 4 November 1976- my speech is recorded at page 1639 of Senate Hansard of that date and is attached to the report of Senate Estimates Committee A- I quoted Senator Withers as saying:
Let me refer the honourable senator to an answer which the previous Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, gave on 4 November 1975. On page 2776 of House of Representatives Hansard he said that he intended to continue the previous practice of all governments of not breaking up the costs between the 4 official establishments. It was a policy which he said he would follow, as did his predecessors. His successors intend to follow the same policy. 1 might add that all Prime Ministers had good reasons for doing so.
I accepted that answer at the time. I then referred to a question that was asked by Mr Porter in the House of Representatives. It appears in House of Representatives Hansard on 24 March 1976, a year after Mr Whitlam had stated that he would comply with the action taken by previous Prime Ministers. I said:
At page 936 we find a question put by Mr Porter, a South Australian member. Of course the question was a Dorothy Dixer designed to embarrass Mr Whitlam. It was headed Official Residences of the Prime Minister’ and read as follows:
Mr PORTER; My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Can he inform the House of the cost last year of running the Lodge and Kirribilli House?
The answer was as follows:
Mr MALCOLM FRASER; I do not have the figures for the whole of last year but I have them for the last part of the year for both places. In the last 6 months of last year the Lodge cost the Australian taxpayer $64,941, running at an annual rate of $ 129,882. Kirribilli House, where perhaps the then incumbent spent a somewhat greater part of his time, cost $75,379 for that same 6 months, running at an annual rate of significantly over $150,000. The total annual rate paid by the taxpayer for both the honourable gentleman’s houses was $280,000 or a little more. The fact that both residences were being paid for by the taxpayer for the benefit of one particular person -
When I sought information as to what it is costing the taxpayer for the present incumbent to reside in the Lodge, I was again referred to the answer given by Mr Whitlam to a question asked of him. No cognisance was taken of the fact that the present Prime Minister broke that precedent and, for political purposes, was prepared to divulge the cost of running the Lodge for 6 months. The Prime Minister must have had some research done to be able to answer that question off the cuff. I am sure that, if I were to ask off the cuff from the Opposition benches a similar question of Senator Withers, he would tell me to put the question on notice because he would have to ask the Department to ferret out the facts. But the present Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, had those facts at his fingertips.
As I pointed out when I asked my question in November last year, the question answered by Mr Fraser was a Dorothy Dixer designed to embarrass Mr Whitlam. That is all right. He scored his point. But why cannot the Government give the Parliament the breakdown of the cost of running those establishments? Surely we are entitled to know. Why cannot an Estimates Committee which is charged with the responsibility of inquiring into the expenditure of the Parliament and of government instrumentalities be given those costs? We know from an article that appeared in a newspaper that one of the costs incurred was an amount of $6,000 spent on a dinner set for the Lodge. The previous incumbent of the Lodge was quite happy to use the dinner set that was used by former Prime Ministers, but the present Prime Minister was not prepared to use that dinner set. He had to go to the extent of spending $6,000 for a new one because he lives in the upper echelon of the community and because he and his wife want to put on a great show. That is the reason why this Parliament should be given a breakdown of the cost of running those establishments.
It is noted that the present Prime Minister set up a committee on official establishments. The report of that committee was tabled in the Parliament the other day. If we are not able to get the answers now through the Estimates Committees, surely we will be able to get those answers through the inquiries being made by this committee on official establishments which has been set up. I am very grateful and pleased to see that appointed to that committee is an ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Honourable James Cope. I hope that his mind will be inquiring enough to find out what the costs are so that they can be made part of the public record and so that a comparison can be made one with the other.
We well recall that when the present Prime Minister took over the Lodge he made a great boast that he found the garage at the Lodge overstocked with refreshments. He implied that the former Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, had those stocks for his own use. Of course, Mr Fraser completely misrepresented the whole situation. All of the people who work in and around Parliament House will verify that while Mr Whitlam was the occupant of the Lodge he held a Christmas Party each year for the working people. All the people who worked around Parliament as well as the public servants were invited to the Lodge. That was the reason why the garage was stocked with Christmas refreshments. They were not for the use of Mr Whitlam. Of course, the garage is not stocked now because the present Prime Minister does not see fit to invite to the Lodge the lower paid workers of Canberra who work around Parliament House. He would not put on a Christmas Party for them. Of course he would not; no chance.
– Order! Senator McLaren, I do not want to limit your discussion, but I take the liberty of mentioning that the divisions before the Committee, and particularly the one to which you are addressing yourself, deal only with the Governor-General ‘s establishments.
– We are considering the Estimates of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, I understand.
– All right. Yes, I am sorry; proceed.
-I know that the point upon which I am touching is a very sore one for many honourable senators opposite. They score their political points, but when an honourable senator on the Opposition side wants to point out in reply the facts of the matter, of course, it is not acceptable. I am one of those people who believe in fairness. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. We should be able to be told the costs in both cases. I have endeavoured to obtain a breakdown of the costs of running the Lodge now that Mr Fraser is the occupant, and I cannot get one. As I have said, Mr Fraser was very quick to point out the cost of running the Lodge for 6 months of the period that Mr Whitlam was the occupier. He did that when answering a Dorothy Dix question. I did not ask a Dorothy Dixer. I asked my question back in November 1976. I posed it again during the hearings of Estimates Committee A in April. The reply to that question appears in the Committee ‘s report. I am referred, by extract in the Committee’s report, to Hansard. But it sets out matters of which I am well aware. That is not an answer, I am sure. The reply refers me back to an answer that Mr Whitlam gave to a query posed in 1975.I have now referred to the answer given by Mr Fraser who broke the precedent, namely, that a breakdown was not provided. We were all happy with that situation. But when a Prime Minister is prepared for political purposes to give a breakdown, surely that new precedent should be followed up so that we can now have a breakdown of what it is costing the taxpayers of Australia for the present Prime Minister to occupy the Lodge and Kirribilli House. Why cannot we be told those costs? I again pose the question. I am interested to know those figures, and I am sure that many people in the Australian electorate are interested also.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Proposed expenditure- Department of National Resources, $686,000- passed.
Department of Foreign Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $8,122,100.
– I rise to speak briefly on the estimates for the Department of Foreign Affairs which appear under division 305 to 308. The proposed expenditure is $8,122,100. I wish to raise some matters in relation to the administration of that Department. I think it fair to say that of all the departments within the Commonwealth Public Service it is one that has been severely pruned in terms of staff. That has occurred to such an extent that one of the senior officers of the Department said, when presenting the estimates of the Department to the Senate Estimates Committee, that he felt that the point had now been reached where, if there were any further reductions, a very serious loss of efficiency and a reduction in the service provided to the Australian public would result.
One must express concern at the fact that that cutback has occurred at a time when this Department is charged on behalf of Australia with very great responsibilities in relation to its operations in various parts of the world. We know that already a number of missions have been abolished and that a number of posts abroad have been abolished. I understand that the post at Damascus- this came out during the course of the deliberations of the Senate Estimates Committeeis now to be re-opened. That, of course, will be of great assistance to those people who are wanting to migrate to Australia from the war torn areas of the Middle East. All in all I hope that the work performed on behalf of Australia by these very valuable offices is not downgraded unnecessarily by the Australian Government. I hope that the Government will see the need for effective representation in a great number of countries abroad and that at the earliest opportunity it will restore the other posts that were previously abolished.
At this stage I take the opportunity to mention briefly the salaries of public servants generally. I mentioned earlier that the salary of a member of Parliament was equivalent to that of a person on the lowest rung of the Second Division of the Commonwealth Public Service. I find that that is not so. I find that the salary of an Australian parliamentarian is now approximately $2,500 below that of a person on the bottom rung of the Second Division of the Commonwealth Public Service. These figures applied as at November 1976 when the salary of a parliamentarian was $21,500. It is still $21,500. As at 22 November 1 976 the salary of an officer on the lowest level of the Second Division of the Commonwealth Public Service was $23,757. It rose to $26,042 for level 2; $28,326 for level 3; $30,610 for level 4; $32,892 for level 5; and $35,177 for level 6. Of course, those salaries are subject to movements in the cost of living indices as determined from time to time by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. There are many Second Division officers in the Department of Foreign Affairs. I merely take advantage of the opportunity to put those salary rates on the record now and to compare them with the existing salary rate for parliamentarians of $2 1 ,500.
– I would like to draw a matter to the attention of the Committee. On the days on which Senate Estimates Committee A was meeting-that is, on 26 April and 3 May- matters relating to intelligence activities in this country were not receiving as much prominence as they have received subsequently. Looking through the original estimates, the estimates which we are asked to consider now, I find it hard to understand why there is no allocation shown for the service known as the Australian Security Intelligence Service, which is one of the adjuncts of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
– It is under the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. It is not under the Department of Foreign Affairs.
– I beg your pardon?
– ASIO is not under the Department of Foreign Affairs.
– I did not say ‘ASIO’. I said the ‘Australian Security Intelligence Service’, as distinct from the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I remind honourable senators that on previous occasions during Senate Estimates Committee hearings questions have been asked about funding for ASIO, which for a number of years appeared at the same level of $4m, and then, as a result of some questions or perhaps just because of inflation, that allocation was increased to $5m. If it is proper for that organisation to be subjected at least to questions in the Senate with respect to the allocation of funding, I find it difficult to understand why ASIS is not dealt with in the same way. Of course, I am not concerned about its activities; I am concerned only about its accountability to the Parliament.
I think we have to recognise that in recent years the United States Congress and the United States Senate have involved themselves more and more in the control, the auditing of the funding and the day to day activities of intelligence organisations, without involving themselves in what the intelligence organisations are doing. Obviously they have a task to do in their country or in other countries, depending upon the point of view of the person speaking on the matter. It seems to me to be rather recreant of the Department of Foreign Affairs that such itemisation of this particular organisation has not taken place. One could come to the conclusion that this represents concealment of information from the Parliament. If that takes place, honourable senators who wanted to question the activities of the service or to monitor it would be prevented from doing so because no expenditure is allocated for the officers concerned. It is clear that there is such an organisation operating, as there is in the Department of Defence.
My plea is that these allocations of funds for the organisation be listed. It is up to the Senate or the Parliament, as it has in the United States, if it wants to go further and examine the activities of the organisation in much more detail. I do not believe that it is the prerogative of the Department not to make some reference either in the original estimates or in the estimates for review when they come before this chamber. In the half a dozen years that I have been a member of the Senate I have been interested to note that honourable senators of all shades of opinion have stressed the importance of the role of the Senate in exercising some jurisdiction and some surveillance over the role of the Executive, the role of the Parliament itself, and reviewing activities of the Parliament generally. It seems to me therefore that we have some responsibility to have an examination and an explanation from the Department about the funding of this organisation.
It so happened that when Mr Fry, Senator Bonner and I went on a trip to Timor in September 1975 we were subsequently hosted by a person who has finally been revealed as being a member of the Australian Security Intelligence Service. I refer to Mr Frank Favaro. I do not think that Senator Bonner had the opportunity of meeting that agent but he was placed at our disposal, interestingly enough, by the Administration at that time. In fact he flew the light aircraft in which Mr Fry and I travelled around during our visit to East Timor on the second occasion. He happened to be an Australian who had commercial interests in Dili. Because he knew that we were supporters of the Government he actually put to Mr Fry and to me that he ought to be appointed consul to represent Australia in East Timor. On our return, Senator Poyser, who was then the Government Whip, asked Senator Willesee a question about Mr Favaro because it had been suggested in a Melbourne newspaper that he was working for an intelligence organisation in Australia. Senator Willesee, who was the Minister for Foreign Affairs, replied to that question and denied that Mr Favaro was employed by the agency.
It was subsequently revealed to both Senator Willesee and the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, that Mr Favaro was an agent for that organisation, but that information had not been conveyed to the Government or to the Minister. That seems to me to represent something of a departure from the way in which these organisations should be operating. They should be operating at the direction of the Government or the Minister, depending on which organisation they belong to, and should not be acting outside the control of the Executive or of the Prime Minister of the day. This brings into relief these sorts of activities about which there has been some public discussion. I refer to the intelligence agency in the United States commonly known as the CIA, the Central Intelligence Agency. Because the gentleman concerned, Mr Favaro, had been recruited to that organisation and because that information was withheld from the Minister, the officer concerned in recruiting Mr Favaro to that job was removed from the Service. The Minister took the view that the officer concerned exercised an authority that did not reside in him but resided in the Department.
Similarly, I think we are entitled to have some explanation about the funds that have been allocated. Are they pan of salaries and allowances or is there some padding in the Estimates? Do they appear in the section dealing with overseas service, or the section dealing with the International Labour Organisation, or the section dealing with the United Nations, or the section dealing with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development? I do not imagine they would be covered in those sections and I am not suggesting they are. But I do think we are entitled to some explanation as to where in the Estimates this Organisation has funding allocated that is approved by the Parliament. Obviously in this debate I do not want to enter into a discussion on the public statements that have been made by Mr Osborn, Mr Marchetti or Philip Agee, but having read some of the books that have been written by these gentlemen, it does seem to me that there is a case to be made out for the Parliament to exercise some supervision of the activities of these organisations. If the Parliament in its wisdom decides not to do that I do not think it should abdicate its responsibility in respect of the allocation of funds for the effective functioning of the Organisation.
– I want to raise just one issue- I can assure the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) that it will not take very long- relating to Division 306, Overseas Service. During the hearings of the Estimate Committee I asked a question about an amount of $980,600 which was saved by the closure of 7 missions overseas. I asked whether I could have a breakdown of the figures for these 7 missions to see what was attributable to salary and allowances and what was attributable to administrative expenses. I also asked how much it cost us to close those 7 missions. I did receive a reply. I found out that we had closed missions in Berlin, Bombay, Calcutta, Los Angeles, Milan, Osaka and Hamburg. I question the wiseness of the decision to close those missions. We have closed our missions in Bombay and Calcutta, but let us consider the changing political scene in India at the moment. Our High Commissioner to India has just returned home and has recommended that we should be paying more attention to the Indian sub-continent because of the changing political scene there. I do not think we would be saving anything politically by closing down those 2 particular missions.
Again, I find it hard to understand why we are closing down missions in Berlin and Hamburg, when we have such a tremendous amount of trade with the Federal Republic of West Germany. I raise the issue of how much we actually are saving because surely in Berlin problems must arise from time to time that require our presence there. As any honourable senator would know, it is not particularly easy to get into Berlin. I am sure it would be costing us a great deal of money not only to close down the mission but also to be still servicing it. Los Angeles was another of the places mentioned. That was a mission about which I know something. Closing down that mission did cost us a lot of money. The mission is now located in San Francisco and I believe that every week people from the mission have to go down to Los Angeles to handle the problems that previously were being handled by our mission there.
Looking at division 306 one would assume that we have saved $980,000 by closing these 7 missions. But, as Senator Douglas McClelland pointed out, we are reopening our mission in Beirut. I believe that in the period covered by these Estimates we have opened missions in Damascus and Iraq. Surely in the next 12 months there will be an increase in the number of missions we have in the Middle East, when one considers the oil crisis with which Australia is going to be faced. I raise this matter because I do not think it is as simple as it looks in the Estimates, which indicate that we have saved $980,000. I hope I shall be able to obtain the information that will tell me how much it cost to close these missions. Perhaps we will find that, because of the reopening of missions, we did not save a great deal of money. The final point I wish to make is that I do not think that in the present political climate throughout the world we are gaining anything politically by closing any of these 7 missions. In fact, I make a strong plea for us to continue to open missions in different parts of the world where we need them and to reopen some of the missions that are listed as having been closed.
– I want to follow up a matter I raised during the hearings of the Estimates Committees. It concerns the cost of officers of various departments, including the Department of Foreign Affairs, accompanying the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) overseas. I wanted to know who paid the Bill and to whom the costs were charged. We find this mentioned in the report to the Senate by Estimates Committee A. During the consideration by Estimates Committee A of the estimates for the Department of Foreign Affairs, under division 305, subdivision 1, relating to salaries and payments in the nature of salary, for which an amount of $277,100 was shown, I asked the following question, which appears on page 213 of the Hansard record of the hearings of that Committee:
Could we be provided with a breakdown of the overtime hours worked in 1975-76 and the overtime hours worked in 1976-77 so that we can make a comparison?
I wanted to make a comparison between figures for those years and figures for previous years. I was informed that such a breakdown would be provided. The report of Estimates Committee A contains the following response by the Department of Foreign Affairs to my request:
This information is still being obtained and will be forwarded to the Secretary of the Committee as soon as possible.
I am aware that it takes some time to obtain this type of information and I am not complaining that we have not received it yet. I asked a further question, which appears on pages 2 1 3 and 2 1 4 of the Hansard record, and was as follows:
Would it be possible to provide the Committee with an answer as to what it has cost, say in the last 4 years, the Foreign Affairs Department for officers accompanying Prime Ministers on overseas visits?
The following reply from the Department appears in the Committee’s report:
As indicated at the hearing, this information requires some considerable research, and is still being obtained, lt will bc forwarded to the Secretary of the Committee as soon as practicable.
I would have been quite happy to accept that reply had I not noticed in the Press either yesterday or today a report to the effect that the Prime Minister, in answer to a question, stated that it cost the previous Prime Minister X dollars every time he went overseas by jumbo jet, a chartered Qantas plane. I think the figure mentioned was half a million dollars. I am pursuing this issue because of the answer one of the departmental officers gave to the question I asked during the hearings of the Estimates Committee. To put this in its right perspective, I shall quote from page 213 of the Hansard record of the hearings of Estimates Committee A on 3 May. I asked the departmental officer, through the Minister:
Is it the policy now that the expenses of people from the Department of Foreign Affairs accompanying the Prime Minister are charged against your Department?
The officer replied:
Yes, I think it is.
I followed up by asking:
Has that always been the practice with previous Prime Ministers or were they all charged to the Prime Minister’s Department?
The officer replied:
I cannot really answer as to the past. I think in some cases departments have paid their own way and in other cases the Prime Minister’s Department has paid for them.
I then asked:
Would it be possible to provide the Committee with an answer as to what it has cost, say, in the last 4 years, the Foreign Affairs Department for officers accompanying Prime Ministers on overseas visits?
The officer replied:
And the costs charged to the Prime Minister’s Department.
The officer replied:
We can tell you the number that have been charged against our Department. We may not be able to tell you the number charged against the Prime Minister’s Department.
That is what I want to find out for my own satisfaction and for the satisfaction of many other people because the present Prime Minister is claiming that he is able to make overseas visits at much less cost than Mr Whitlam did. The problem is that when Mr Whitlam went overseas everybody travelled with him in the one aircraft and it was all charged as a cost against the Prime Minister. The present Prime Minister now comes up with the statement that it cost Mr Whitlam approximately $500,000 for one trip overseas. The present Prime Minister makes great play of the fact that he travels mainly by commercial aircraft; but there is no figure to show what it is costing the people who travel with him because, as the departmental officer at the Estimates Committee hearing admitted, in many cases the costs are charged against various departments. Regardless of whether those costs are charged against the Department of Foreign Affairs or any other department, they are not levied against the Prime Minister. So he can claim that it is not costing as much when he goes overseas as it cost when Mr Whitlam went overseas. We have to get a consensus of figures. We have to be able to make a comparison because we do not want the people of Australia to be misled into believing that this Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) is costing them less every time he goes overseas than Mr Whitlam cost the Australian taxpayers when he went overseas. That is why I want to get those figures- so that a comparison can be made. I shall be quite happy if I can be provided with those figures so that I can speak about them during the Budget session of Parliament and make further inquiries during the Estimates Committees’ inquiries into the Budget.
– I do not know where the appropriation is in respect of the matter raised by Senator Gietzelt. I shall pass on his request to my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock). Senator Sibraa raised a number of matters. It is a matter of judgment for the Government to decide where missions ought to be opened or closed. I think we can all draw our own conclusions as to whether there have been pluses or minuses in savings. I thank Senator McLaren for his patience. I trust that the Department of Foreign Affairs will obtain the figures he requires before the Budget session and he can again return to the subject.
– I merely wish to raise a matter that was the subject of discussion at the Estimates Committee hearing, so that the members of the Committee of the Whole will be informed of it. At the outset, I mention that when Senator Rae presented the report of Senate Estimates Committee F on Tuesday, he drew attention to an amount of $50,000 that had been paid in lieu of long service leave and unremunerated periods of service as Acting Chief Justice paid to a former Justice of the High Court and to a further amount of $40,000 which was paid to the former Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court. I understand that those matters will be the subject of discussion before the Committee of the Whole when the appropriations for Departments considered by Senate Estimates Committee F come before us. I should like to deal with subdivision 3 which relates to bilateral aid for Papua New Guinea. An amount of $2m was appropriated. I wish to draw to the attention of the Committee the circumstances of this appropriation because I think it is of importance and members of the Committee of the Whole should have it drawn to their attention.
– You are not objecting to it?
– I am not necessarily objecting to it. I query it, though, just the same, because in short it amounts to the fact that until June 1976 the Australian Government provided Australians to work in the Papua New Guinea Public Service. They were known as the Australian Staffing Assistance Group and were employed under an Australian Act- an act of this Parliament. It was agreed by the Australian and Papua New Guinea Governments last year that that arrangement would cease. The item that is involved in this amount of $2m provides for paying off all the Australians who left that group. But the $2m is the balance to be paid between now and the end of this financial year. The total amount involved in the payment is $33,840,000 for this financial year. I asked what would be the value of a payment to an individual. This appears in the Estimates Committee A Hansard of 3 May 1 977, at page 2 1 9. In answer to my question, Mr Hunt, an officer of the Department, stated:
I could not say overall, but I could perhaps give some idea of the average payments that are made. Instalment of compensation at present averages round about $10,000. This is the compensation payment for a loss of salary as a result of the cessation of their career. The payment for leave is approximately $22,000- that is accrued leave, long leave and furlough. For superannuation retrenchment benefit, which is in lieu of their pensions as they can take a lump sum, $46,000.
In short, the average payment under this fund to each individual officer was more than $78,000. This makes the amount paid to the former Justice of the High Court or the amount paid to the former Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Industrial Court look like chicken feed. A great number of these people resigned from the Australian Public Service one day and continued to work in the same position in the New Guinea Public Service the next day for, in most instances, the same salary. In answer to a question, an officer of the Department, Mr Aspinall said:
The question of the salary level on which they were engaged was a matter between them -
That is, the officers- and the Papua New Guinea Government. In the general run, they were engaged on similar salary levels to the ones on which they finished.
The situation arose where officers working in Papua New Guinea under an Australian Act of Parliament but for the Papua New Guinea Publice Service cut off their employment under the Australian Act and transferred to employment under the Papua New Guinea Act. They were still receiving the same amount of salary as they were receiving as Australian officers but they also received a golden handshake of $78,000 each. From recollection, I think some 1 100 people secured payments of this nature. Another 800 people are also involved. They would have already received payment. It is a very substantial amount and it is an arrangement that I think has to be examined. I am all for people getting adequate remuneration and a fair go but the golden handshake, in this instance, seems to be more than a very fair golden handshake.
– I think it was your Government which introduced the scheme.
– I do not know which Government introduced it. I was wondering about that. I do not think it was the Labor Government because during the Estimates Committee hearing, it was stated:
Until June 1976 the Australian Government provided Australians to work in the Papua New Guinea Public Service. They were what was known as the Australian Staffing Assistance Group. They were employed under an Australian Act. It was agreed by the Australian and Papua New Guinea governments last year -
I take ‘ last year ‘ to mean 1 976-
– Well, this is May 1 977. It continues: that this arrangement would cease.
It seems to me that the Australian Government is being very generous to these former officers at the expense of the Australian taxpayer.
– I thank the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) for offering to ask the Department of Foreign Affairs to obtain the figures for which I asked. Although this does not come within the present appropriation, I make a plea to him as Leader of the Government in the Senate to pass that message on to all departments. It would save my putting a question on notice.
– I shall do that for Senator McLaren so that he will be able to get the in globo figures of all departments. I shall have the matters raised by Senator Douglas McClelland examined and ask my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) to give a written detailed reply about the matter raised. I have an idea that it was an arrangement entered into with the staff associations. I am speaking from memory, but I think it was negotiated by the Public Service Board prior to the granting of independence to Papua New Guinea. I think that we gave effect to an agreement that had been entered into in 1975. 1 think that broadly the terms and conditions were worked out between the Public Service unions and the Public Service Board. The amounts may appear to be generous but, after investigation, they may not appear to be so generous.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Proposed expenditure- Department of Defence, $67,503,000-passed
Proposed expenditure- Department of Industry and Commerce, $3,999,000-passed
Proposed expenditure- Department of Overseas Trade, 5820,000-passed.
Proposed expenditure - Department of Treasury, $2,307,000-passed
Proposed expenditure- Department of Finance, $8,8 14,000-passed.
Department of Primary Industry
Proposed expenditure, S 1,807,000.
During the hearing by Estimates Committee B the question of rural adjustment schemes was raised. I think a question was asked by my colleague Senator Gietzelt, from memory, in relation to the household support scheme. This Government made a good deal of noise about what it would do for the farming community which was faced with difficulties. One of the proposals was the household support scheme. It does seem to me to be rather tardy in getting under way properly or it may be a scheme that is not going to work. We have been informed by the Department of Primary Industry that on the most up-to-date figures, which are for the period up to the end of March this year, the grand total right across the nation for household support for the rural community so far has been $18,941. I think, again from memory, that we did have some breakdown on how many farmers that encompasses but one can appreciate in these times of inflation that $18,941 spread across the Commonwealth will not keep many people in the farming community and their families alive for very long.
It is interesting to see that in New South Wales the grand total of money provided under this scheme up until 31 March was $2,975. One would presume that two or three farmers are getting a handout. In Victoria, which is the State which has received most of the money paid out so far, the expenditure has been $1 1,358. In Queensland an amount of $4,608 has been paid. No money has been paid out in South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. As I said earlier, this can perhaps indicate one of two things- that the scheme is only just starting and has not got under way properly, or alternatively, the criteria which are being applied by the
Government are so restrictive that very few people in the farming community who are faced with problems are eligible for this type of support. That leads me on to something a little broader. I was somewhat critical even when the Labor Party was in office of the criteria which are applied to all rural adjustment schemes. It does seem to me from the discussions that I have had in my electoral office and the discussions that I have had with the farming community in my own State and elsewhere that there is a tendency for this type of rural adjustment grant to go only to the better-off farmer. One young man with a smallish farm said to me: ‘My neighbour who just built a new 3-bedroom brick veneer home was able to get money. I can’t. Why?’ I even received two or three weeks ago adverse criticism of rural adjustment schemes in Western Queensland. It is said that in some areas one has to be a member of the Liberal Party to get support. That is a little bit hard perhaps to accept but to put it in the vernacular, the dogs are barking and allegations are being made in rural areas that prominent members of the Liberal Party are able to get quite substantial amounts of funds from these types of schemes, while other people who do not belong to any party or who are just the rank and files are unable to get anything.
– That is incredible.
– I am not saying whether it is true or not. This is the way the birds are whistling. It may well be that where there is smoke there is fire. We do know that in Victoria under another scheme prominent members of the Liberal Party have received benefits from it. I am not in a position to say that that is the position with this scheme. However, people are saying that this is so. It may be as well for some checks to be made throughout the community to see whether these stories are true. Reverting to the household support scheme, it does seem to me that at this stage a rather minimal amount has been expended so far and unless something is done by the Government and the Department to take off some of the restrictions which currently apply the household support scheme is hardly worth the paper it is written on.
– Again I am calling on my knowledge. I will seek the facts and have them conveyed to the honourable senator but I understand that this scheme came into being only this year. The figures cited, by the honourable senator refer to the period tip to 3 1 March so I believe that would be the explanation for the low amounts that have been spent so far. My colleague Senator Webster has gone off to see the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) to seek further information. If he can obtain it we will let the honourable senator have it as soon as he comes back.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Department of Education
Proposed expenditure, $40,842,000.
– I wish to refer to an answer which was given to a question I asked during the course of the Estimates Committees hearings. I hope to be able to be given some further information because I do not think the answer went far enough. I refer to the answer from the Department shown on page 14. During the course of the Estimates hearing I discovered that certain Aboriginals who were originally considered to come under the Aboriginals Study Grants Scheme were temporarily taken off that scheme and placed under the Tertiary Education Allowance Scheme. The consequence was, as far as I can determine, that the students who were taken off the ASGS and placed temporarily on TEAS received a lesser allowance than they normally would have received. It seems to me that they were taken off the ASGS scheme because there was not sufficient money available under that scheme but there was money available under the TEAS scheme.
Apparently 42 students were eligible for benefits under ASGS but they were temporarily placed on TEAS. It was stated in the explanation given to me that of those 42 students the majority will have been transferred to ASGS by 3 May and the remainder by 1 7 May. A consequence of their being placed under TEAS was that they would receive a lesser allowance. The explanation given to me was that retrospective payments in respect of entitlements under ASGS should also be completed by 17 May. It seems strange that sufficient funds were not made available so that students who were entitled to a benefit under a scheme could receive the benefit.
I imagine that each of the students found himself or herself in a financial situation which was not anticipated. I asked whether I could obtain figures showing how the estimates were arrived at. I asked this because it seemed to me that the estimates were wrongly drawn up. If they were, it should not happen again. The explanation showed that, in 1974, a total of 1467 students were receiving grants under the Aboriginal Study Grant Scheme. In 1975 this number rose to 1875. an increase of just over 400. The point I question in relation to the table on page 14 is the estimate that to 30 June 1977 there was a total of 1710 grants. One of my queries is whether that is the estimate which was used to determine the total funds for that Scheme. If this estimate was used, why was it, in fact, lower than the 1875 who were receiving grants in 1975. The total in 1 976 is, I imagine, for the total calendar year of 1976. This is why I refer to the 1975 figure rather than to the 1 976 figure which is, in fact, higher again than the 1975 figure. One question initially is whether this figure of 1710 is the estimate which was used to determine the funds available under the Aboriginal Study Grant scheme for 1 976-77. If so, why was it lower than that total amount for 1975? The following line shows that the estimate to 31 December 1977 is $2,700. I ask whether this is the revised estimate following what has been found this year to be the case with the number of students under this Scheme. I have a further question with regard to the average length of time for which these awards were held but I wish to leave that question until we perhaps have some discussion on this matter.
– I regret that these estimates came on for discussion suddenly and that I was not in the chamber at the commencement of the debate. Whilst I can give some general information, I did not hear the first part of the honourable senator’s requests. I wonder whether I can take his question on notice and give the information to him subsequently? I heard only half of his speech; therefore, my reply would be inaccurate.
– I suggest that the Temporary Chairman should postpone consideration of that line.
-I would appreciate it if we could do that for the moment.
– Is postponement of the line acceptable to the Committee?
– Would that be postponed to a later date?
– No, to a later hour. That would be to enable the Minister to obtain the information.
– Let the honourable senator ask his question again.
– I could certainly ask the question again.
– Is that convenient?
– By all means, Mr Temporary Chairman, let the honourable senator ask his question again. I regret the fact that I was absent for part of his speech.
– I think that the situation can be quite easily resolved.
– I suggest that consideration of the line be postponed until after the suspension of the sitting for dinner. Immediately thereafter, I will invite the honourable senator to indicate to me specifically what information he requires and I will provide that information.
– The Senate will proceed to debate the proposed select committee on Timor after 8 p.m.
– Or whenever we get the opportunity to do this.
– That might place the honourable senator in an awkward position. He may wish to continue questioning on that point. I suggest that Senator Colston should repeat his speech to the point at which Senator Carrick is satisfied that he has all he information. In that way, we can dispose of this matter now.
– I frankly would prefer the delay as I was not expecting these estimates to come on as quickly as they did.
– Is it the wish of the Committee to postpone discussion on the Department of Education or to ask other questions or make other comments on the Department? The relevant questions which Senator Colston has raised will be dealt with later. I suggest that we continue consideration of the Department of Education on the understanding that the Minister will obtain the information for Senator Colston as soon as he is able. Are there any further questions relating to the Department of Education? There being no further questions, is it the wish of the Committee to postpone the passage of this proposed expenditure? There being no objection, it is so ordered.
Proposed expenditure- Department of Transport, $7,5 14,000-passed.
Proposed expenditure- Department of Post and Telecommunications, $ 10,884,000- passed.
Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development
Proposed expenditure,$3 1 5,000.
– I take this opportunity to ask the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) a question concerning the Great Barrier Reef Authority and the Consultative Committee. I ask him whether he will supply at the earliest opportunity a list of the members of the Consultative Committee, the area of their responsibility and the limit of their authority. I have been led to believe that the Great Barrier Reef Authority, which consists of 3 members, is the authority that makes the decision and then merely receives advice from the Consultative Committee. However, some statements made by the Queensland Minister for Mines and Energy seem to indicate that the Consultative Committee has a role beyond that and that it may make a decision on such matters as future drilling on the Great Barrier Reef. I think that it would be wise for us to be clear on the nature of the Consultative Committee, those who have been appointed to it and their role in relation to the Authority itself.
– I will respond with the information as soon as it is possible to do so.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Department of Social Security
Proposed expenditure, $3,563,000.
– Certain questions have been asked of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) concerning the payment of unemployment benefits to school leavers. Answers to these questions have been given since the estimates were debated. The real question now arises as to the stance members of the Opposition should take to the passing of this large sum of money for the Department of Social Security if the Department is to continue to refuse to give justice to those people concerned. It is clear now that people should have been paid unemployment benefits but have not been.
– That is only an opinion.
– Yes. The opinion that we have expressed over a period is that the Department acted illegally. We also now have a High Court judgment which seems to indicate that our position some months ago was the correct one. We said that it was illegal for the Department not to pay those amounts of money.
– Could you assist us? Where is it in the answers? The point I am making is that the only thing in the answers relates to Dr Myers inquiry on unemployment benefits.
– What has that to do with it?
– You are talking about unemployment beneficiaries.
– If the honourable senator insists on taking up my time -
– I am trying to follow the argument from the answers.
-Perhaps it is difficult for the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), who is in charge of these Estimates, to take up the responsibility of the Minister for Social Security. Let me make the point that we seem to be dealing with these important estimates in the Committee of the Whole in a rather cavalier fashion. Honourable senators know that the Minister responsible for the various areas is not in his or her place at the time the relevant estimates are being debated. It is not in the best interests of the Senate for this to be so. Also it is difficult for the Public Service advisers to be present while the estimates are being debated. I just make that mild criticism at this stage. We will take the matter up more firmly if it occurs the next time the estimates are being examined in the Committee of the Whole. That is the query I want to put to the Minister following on questions that we have asked consistently. I ask the Minister whether the attitude of the Department will be that once the Karen Green case has been decided all subsequent cases will be treated individually and every school leaver will have to go through the individual procedure of challenging the Department, or is the Department intending to make a determination on this matter and subsequently treat all other applicants accordingly?
– I would like to add something to the debate. I have been very interested in the last few days in both the urgency motion moved yesterday in relation to unemployment benefits being paid to school leavers and the questions asked and the replies of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) on the matter today. I appreciate the interpretation of the Minister about the judgment of Mr Justice Stephen. In these estimates which cover additional amounts for the year ending 30 June 1977 no provision is made for an expenditure for unemployment benefits for anyone who may succeed in an application following Mr Justice Stephen’s decision. I think that the effect of what the Justice said was that the Director-General of the Department of Social Security had no power to issue a blanket order, that he had to deal with every case individually and had to make a decision on every application that came before him as to whether it met the criteria.
It would be hard to realise that of the many thousands who left school last November and never resumed college this year there would not be some who, under the Director-General ‘s scrutiny, would not meet the criteria necessary to get some benefits. I accept that the Director-General makes a decision. Despite what the Government says, the Director-General cannot defy a judgment of the court that he must look at each case individually. It would be unreal to make provisions in the belief that some of the thousands who make application would not qualify for benefit. I think that, when the judgment was given the estimated cost involved was said to be another $ 10m. The money must be provided for in the Budget or in the supplementary estimates for additional expenditure up to 30 June. The fact that no provision is made indicates there will be no payment to those children at least until after 30 June.
The Government provides for anticipated expenditure on other things. I would say that sub-division 3 item 10 which concerns compensation payable in respect of personal injury or death caused by the Darwin cyclone would include a lot of anticipation about claims which will have to be settled. The final amount would not be known. The question of overtime also arises in the estimates. It is anticipated that in certain periods a certain amount of overtime will be worked. The estimate is not always accurate. We accept- I think it is reasonable to do so- that some of the claims will be successful. I ask the Minister: Where is the provision in these estimates for the payment of benefits to these children? If no provision is made we must consider recommending that provision should be made in these estimates for the payment of benefits to these children who I think can meet the criteria and will have to be paid in accordance with Justice Stephen ‘s decision. I think the interest in this matter is such today that other claims will be made if the claim of Karen Green is knocked back. She can approach the court again for a definite order stating that the Director-General was wrong in his rejection of her claim. Whether or not it is knocked back, everyone else who applied, including my daughter, has a claim for unemployment benefit. I venture to say that the suggestion that everyone has to make an individual application through a court to get an order is simply ridiculous. Is there a firm determination in the Minister’s mind that by not providing an appropriation the children will not be paid or at least will not be paid before the end of June?
– I will deal with the queries about this matter which were raised by Senator Georges and Senator Cavanagh. Senator Georges first raised the matter of the decision of the Director-General with regard to school leavers. I am informed by the Director-General that he will be making a statement on this matter tomorrow. He has concluded his consultations and has received advice from the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. His statement will be made tomorrow. He will set out his determination with regard to the matter that has been discussed quite freely in the Senate during this week and on previous occasions.
As far as the matter raised by Senator Cavanagh is concerned, I point out that all pensions and benefits paid by the Commonwealth Government are paid from the National Welfare Fund. That has a special appropriation. Moneys expended on pensions and benefits under the Social Services Act come from this Fund. We do not seek specific amounts in the appropriation with which we are dealing at the moment, the Supplementary Estimates, but an estimated expenditure for the year is made at the beginning of the financial year when the Treasurer brings in his Budget. There is an automatic payment from the National Welfare Fund of the amount required for all pensions and benefits. When Estimates Committee D was meeting it was interested in the expenditure from this Fund. At that time I was able to give members a table which showed the estimated expenditure which had been outlined at budget time last year and which showed that payments were estimated to be $5,288.5m. We were able to show actual expenditure to 3 1 March totalled $4,007m.
I state, for the information of Senator Cavanagh, that any pension or benefit paid under the Social Services Act finds an automatic payment through the National Welfare Fund. We do not seek additional appropriations for any matters that are raised at this stage. I hope that clarifies the matter for Senator Cavanagh. It is a matter not of omitting to provide for additional expenditure in the appropriation with which we are now dealing but rather of a special arrangement financially under the National Welfare Fund. Special appropriation is made for that. An adjustment is made at the end of a financial year, taking into account all those commitments that have been met under National Welfare Fund expenditure.
– I wish to ask a couple of questions of the Minister as a result of some things she has said now and some things that have arisen since Estimates Committee D met. I was pleased and interested to hear that the Director-General of Social Services will be making public his decision on his deliberations on Mr Justice Stephen ‘s ruling in the High Court. We would like to know whether the Director-General ‘s decision will be the result of a direction of the Minister, which the Minister is entitled to give under section 7 of the Social Services Act. If it is not a direction of the Minister and is just a decision of the Director-General, will we get from the Minister the Government’s policy? Irrespective of the Director-General’s decision, will we get the Government’s policy on what it thinks should be done, in view of Judge Stephen’s finding and the Director-General’s interpretation of Judge Stephen’s finding.
I turn now to another matter which interested the Estimates Committee. Some questions were asked about the levels of staffing in the Department, the effect of staff ceilings on the efficiency and morale of the Department, the effect of the staff ceilings on overtime which was being worked in the Department and how often officers were obliged to work overtime. There were also questions on the effect of the Government’s ruling that people on maternity leave, sick leave or study leave would not be replaced. The Committee was given the impression that there was really no great difficulty in the Department with morale and staffing problems. Since then certain things have come to light. For instance, there have been stop work meetings in Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia. I understand that staff members of the Department in two of those 3 States at least have put bans on overtime of various types, are refusing to collect statistics and have put bans on inquiries from members of Parliament about their constituents’ problems. So there is a difficulty. I understand that it is particularly great in South Australia, with the staff members putting on work restrictions because they feel that in view of the staff ceilings and the vastly increased load in the Department due to the increase in the unemployment level, among other things, they are unable to serve the people properly unless they restrict the amount of work they have to do. All this happened since the Committee was assured that there were really no great problems and that the; Minister was having a meeting with the staff in Victoria to sort it out.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business after 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 2 1 April, 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;
d ) 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 dispatch of business notwithstanding that all members have not been appointed and notwithstanding any vacancy.
4 ) 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 sub-committees consisting of three or more of its members, and to refer to any such sub-committee any of thc 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 an 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 ofthe 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.
Upon which Senator Missen had moved by way of amendment:
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 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’.
– The Senate is concluding the debate on the motion I moved some months ago to establish a select committee to inquire into a number of circumstances involving the invasion of East Timor by Indonesia and a number of associated factors including the deaths of 5 Australian journalists and the problems with humanitarian aid. I have spoken on the issue on many occasions. The position of the Australian Labor Party with regard to Australia’s obligations to East Timor following the tragic events that unfolded in December 1975 is reasonably clear. In concluding my contribution there are just a few matters that I would like to put to the Senate for its final consideration. Ever since the issue of Timor became relevant to Australia, that is, since the colonial administration began to break down following the revolution that took place in Portugal, there has been a growing interest in this issue and in the right of the Timorese people to self-determination. Even though it would appear that in the subsequent 3 years not a great deal was done at the official level by Australian governments- I speak here in the plural sense- to recognise any obligations in what was happening in Timor, a number of incidents from time to time have shown that the lid cannot be kept on what occurred there.
So often those people who had an interest in the issue felt that public interest was waning; that there was not much more that they could do; that they had exhausted all the avenues available to them. But from time to time something happens that revives public interest, giving us hope that somewhere in the cold heart of officialdom the issue of Timor might be put under public scrutiny. Jim Dunn’s visit to Portugal produced some evidence as did the subsequent inquiry by the United States Congress. This week a Liberal member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly, Mr Dowd, appears to have confirmed all that has been said in this place by members of the Government parties and the Opposition.
I do not think that we can look at this issue now in the way that we looked at it on the last occasion it was debated. I would like particularly to refer the issue back to Senator Knight, Senator Baume, Senator Scott, Senator Kilgariff and other honourable senators who have spoken in the debate and who in their own way have expressed concern about the events but have found in their own consciences and their own approaches different ways of looking at the issue. I want them to consider what Mr Dowd has said. I want to point out to them who he is and who he represents and to say that surely he is an authority who can be regarded as unimpeachable, one who hitherto has not concerned himself with the issue and one who now has made a fresh plea for public scrutiny of the tragic events of Timor.
Mr Dowd has said that acting in his capacity as President of the Australian section of the International Commission of Jurists, an organisation that is concerned with the rule of law and human rights, he had occasion on an overseas visit to go to Portugal. In his investigations in pursuance of the truth as he saw it he met a whole variety of people. They confirmed the very impressions and conclusions that he had reached on a previous occasion. He has called for an independent international public inquiry into the alleged atrocities and the circumstances surrounding the Indonesian invasion of East Timor in 1975. He said:
The world has a right to know what happened in East Timor. If what I have been told is true, and I believe it is then there has been a terrible crime against humanity committed on that island.
Australia should be especially concerned because Timor is our neighbour, and I am sure the Indonesian Government would want to know if these crimes have been committed so they could bring the perpetrators to justice.
Mr Dowd said that his information had come from people who had been direct witnesses or who knew people who had been witnesses. In some quarters doubt has been cast upon the veracity and integrity of Mr Dunn. Those of us who know him and have worked with him know that that can be denied. Mr Dowd said of the witnesses in his Press statement:
I cross-examined them, 1 double checked their claims and I am satisfied that what they told me is accurate and there is a prima facie case to be answered in an international inquiry.
Of course as members of the Parliament we have done all within our power to urge the setting up of an international inquiry. We have placed a case before President Carter. Some of us have even written to the United States congressional inquiry. We have appealed to the United Nations in the form of telegrams and joint submissions from all political parties. We have done all that is within our power to bring about such an independent inquiry. We all know that for a variety of reasons which I do not think I should traverse but of which I am sure all honourable senators would be aware, the United Nations cannot and did not take up this issue in the course of its responsibilities. But honourable senators must recognise that there is a responsibility on us as members of the Parliament. We should not be shedding our responsibilities by suggesting that there should be an international inquiry, which we have tried to get. We should not expect the United States Congress or the United States Senate to investigate this matter because, as has been said by so many people on so many occasions, the responsibilities rest within our own region. Mr John Dowd has pointed out that Australia has an obligation because Timor is in our region. Every day we read about the need for Australia to have regard to the developments within our region- the developing economic trends in Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines and so on.
We cannot escape our obligations by suggesting that somebody else should do the job when an opportunity is afforded us within our own Parliament, within our own chamber, and to each of us, to conduct a select inquiry which will clearly be dominated, in terms of numbers, by the Government. The form which the inquiry takes will be under the control of the majority section of the Senate. If the Senate is able to exercise its independence, as we have heard on so many occasions that it is- we have seen a great deal of evidence of that in respect of funeral benefits, pension rights, apple and pear stabilisation schemes, and even in respect of the recent referendums- in respect of mundane and parochial questions, if I may call them that, with which some of us feel we may want to be associated in the performance of our public duties, surely in the interests of humanity and in the interests of understanding our responsibilities as citizens to the people of Timor we can exercise that same independence.
I have alluded on a previous occasion to the contribution made by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. In my view, he elevated to the position of a major principle the proposition that we should be more concerned with our future relations with Indonesia than with the tragic events of East Timor. I suggested to him then, and I suggest to the Senate now, that that view was immoral and illogical in the light of the political experiences that have occurred in this century with respect to international crisis and so on.
Of course, honourable senators know that from time to time I have pushed a fairly determined line on the Timor question. But I make no charges with respect to the establishment of this Committee. I indict no-one. I believe that everyone has acted in some way or other with the best of intentions with regard to this issue but perhaps they have acted wrongly. I suggest that that is what has happened. Even Mr Malik has accepted the figure of something in excess of 60 000 people having been killed in the 18 months since the Indonesian forces marched into Dili. That being so, surely we can look to the responsibility that we have towards these people.
I have from time to time criticised the Department of Foreign Affairs. I think I am entitled to criticise it, because, when Mr Hawke went to Jakarta on the issue of the journalists who were killed, he was able to bring back to this country the personal papers and documents which previously were allegedly not available. That seems to me to indicate some dereliction of duty on the part of the Department of Foreign Affairs. The interesting fact I bring to the notice of the Senate is that included in the personal effects which he was able to bring back was a documentary film made by Greg Shackleton, one of the journalists, the night before he died. I find it almost unbelievable that such documentation could have been returned to Australia with the effects of those people who were killed at Balibo at the time of” the invasion.
In conclusion I read from the transcript of the commentary made on that documentary film which I have seen. The film was available for viewing by members of the Parliament but, unfortunately, not many members availed themselves of the opportunity to do so. Any member of Parliament who wants to see the film can do so and hear the words of Greg Shackleton. The transcript of the commentary has been headed by those who composed the introduction and the conclusion: ‘Last Message from Australian journalist in Portuguese Timor, Greg Shackleton’. This is what Greg Shackleton said on the night before he died:
In pulling back to Maliana they have been told that Indonesian soldiers are heading this way up the road from Batugade- at any rate we look like being the last people left in the town and will make a decision very shortly on whether we should pull back. In the meantime we have daubed our house with the words ‘Australia’ in red and the Australian flag on the house where we spent the night. We are hoping it will afford us some protection.
Something happened last night that moved us very’ deeply. It was so far outside our experience as Australians and so intricably woven with this place that we still find it very difficult to convey to you in Australia in your living rooms but we will try.
We were brought to this tiny native village from Maliana because we were told that Maliana was not safe at night. When we arrived the second in charge who speaks very little English came to us in a halting but urgent way, said the commander wanted to speak to us and then for the next hour sitting on woven mats under a thatched roof in a hut with no walls and were the target of a barrage of questions from men who know they may die tomorrow: And cannot understand why the rest of the world does not care. Why they ask, are the Indonesians invading us. Why they ask if the Indonesians believe that Fretilin is communist do they not send a delegation to Dili to find out. Why they ask are the Australians not helping us. When the Japanese invaded they did help us. Why they ask are the Portuguese not helping us. We are still a Portuguese colony. Who they ask will pay for the terrible damage to our homes. My main answer was that Australia would not send forces here. That is impossible. However I said we could ask for Australia to raise this matter at the United Nations. That was possible.
At that the second in charge rose to his feet exclaimed camarada journalist shook my hand, the rest shook my hand and we were applauded because we are Australians. That is all they want- for the United Nations to care about what is happening here. The emotion here last night was so strong that we all three of us felt we should be able to reach out to the warm night air and touch it.
That concludes the transcript of the commentary that Greg Shackleton made the night before he died. Surely in terms of that moving appeal there is an obligation and a responsibility for us at least to try to remedy and to make up for something of the tragedy that has taken place in Timor. Honourable senators can do just that by seeking to establish a committee- a select committee, if we like- in the form in which I have moved or in the form suggested by the amendment moved by Senator Missen, supported by Senator Bonner. Let us not let the people of Timor down. Let us respond to all of the information, to all of the evidence and to all of the appeals which suggest that we do have an obligation to those people.
That thc words proposed to be left out (Senator Missen’* amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question put:
That the motion (Senator Gietzelt’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
~Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was asking the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) about the Government’s intentions when the Director-General of her Department gives his decision on the High Court judgment. I was asking the Minister also what was the state of play with staff morale and the staff problems the Department was having. To reiterate quickly, we have heard rumours and stories of difficulties within the Department of Social Security caused, it is alleged, by staff ceilings. It has been alleged that people are having to work a lot of overtime. There have been stop work meetings and overtime bans and there have been and are now bans on assisting members of Parliament in their representations to the Department. We understand there are bans also on the collection of statistics in the Department. This hardly seems to me to compare very favourably with the answers given by the Minister and her staff during the hearings of the Estimates Committee to the effect that everything seemed to be going fairly well with the Department and that it was just a matter of some minor adjustments in staff being made. We would be grateful to have the Minister’s opinions on these matters.
– I thank the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) for her reply to my previous query about those people who left school last year and about the announcement to be made tomorrow by the Director-General of Social Security. This leaves us still guessing. I thank her also for her statement concerning the provision of funds should any payment be made as a result of the Director-General’s announcement. As I said- I cannot see that there is any alternativehe has to give individual attention to every application for unemployment benefit lodged by school leavers. It would be most unlikely and unthinkable that of all the thousands of people who left school and were denied the benefit there were not at least some who qualified for the benefit. My concern, while we are dealing with the appropriations, is whether provision has been made to finance that.
The Minister assures me that unemployment benefit is paid out of the National Welfare Fund and is not covered by this particular appropriation. When preparing these estimates the Minister advised the Treasury of what she thought would be necessary to meet the additional requirements of social welfare for the period up to the end of June. I believe the amount was in the vicinity of $5,000. The Minister stated that she had some $4,700 in kitty to carry her on. If her estimate was accurate or somewhere near accurate, it was made at a time when the Department had no intention of paying unemployment benefit to school leavers over the past Christmas period. So I still question whether the National Welfare Fund has the money to pay the benefit. I am concerned about this and wonder whether it indicates that the Government has made up its mind that there shall be no payment to school leavers for this period, despite the interpretation that might be placed upon the judgment of Mr Justice Stephens.
The second question I asked related to the matter Senator Grimes has raised. If it is decided that the judgment necessitates a review of all applications for benefit from last November, of which there are many thousands, is staff available to process these applications? In Adelaide Labor senators received a delegation representing the clerical officers in the Department of Social Security who came to apologise and to point out that it was necessary for them to place some restrictions upon the service they were providing to the public. They are subjected to all types of abuse from members of the public who, with justification, complain that they are not getting sympathetic consideration or a hearing of their claims. The delegation claimed that with the staff ceilings imposed upon the Department it does not have the manpower to do this work.
Among their complaints was one that, particularly in the Alice Springs area which is administered by the Adelaide Office, they were so far behind with their work that there was a delay of some 6 weeks between an application for a pension and the processing of that application. They claimed the processing was being done so hurriedly that the rate of wrong payments in that office had increased twofold. This would represent an additional cost to be borne by the Department. The reason why they approached us was to apologise for the fact that they would have to stop supplying information to members of Parliament who rang their Department concerned for constituents who wanted their claims processed or who were dissatisfied with the Department’s decision. They pointed out that while they are giving preferential service to someone about whom a politician has made representations they are depriving the public in the queue of the service which the officers felt they had an obligation to give them, and so make those members of the public more irate at the time the officer interviews them.
In one particular case a lass had claimed to have been deprived of unemployment benefit. I phoned the Department in Adelaide and got on to the wrong officer. When I told him I wanted to speak to a particular officer this gentleman said: Senator, I tell you, you are wasting your time contacting him because we have been ordered by the Association not to supply information to politicians. We simply haven’t got the time’. Subsequently I rang the Minister’s Secretary and asked him whether he could get me some information. He said very courteously that he would do his best but that he could give no guarantee that he would be told any more than I was told, because it would take up time. I phoned him in the morning and, after three-quarters of the day had passed, he came back in the afternoon with the reply that the applicant would receive the benefit. I do not know how much inconvenience was caused by my phone call to the office in Canberra and the time it took the Secretary, who obviously because of his position persuaded someone in the main office to give him the information, when all the time I was in the same building as the Department in Adelaide. This is the stage which has been reached.
If this is to continue and if as a result of the Director-General’s announcement tomorrow there has to be a review of many thousands of applications for unemployment benefit by children who left school last year, is the staff available to process those applications? For how long will those children who have been deprived of the benefit- Senator McLaren has said it would amount to $288- from November last year to the present time have to wait? Can the Minister give some assurance that if there has to be a review of those applications the review will be dealt with speedily and justice will be done to those school children?
– Perhaps the matters concerning staff ceilings raised by Senator Grimes and Senator Cavanagh could be dealt with together as they both relate to the same difficulties that have been experienced in the Department. The information I have at the moment is that the current situation in industrial disputes is that in Victoria, following Federal Executive endorsement, work bans which I think were outlined in the Senate some time ago have been imposed with effect from Monday, 23 May. In South Australia work bans imposed on 3 May are still in force. A recent meeting of staff which was attended by 2 officers of my Department gave no suggestions that the bans would be lifted in the near future. In Western Australia the bans initially imposed on 20 April were suspended by a meeting of staff on 5 May. This suspension is to be reviewed on 27 May and was conditional upon the satisfactory completion of a review of the provision of relief staff in the Department in Western Australia.
As I advised earlier, and I repeat, officers of my Department have been negotiating with senior officers of the Public Service Board all this week regarding an adjustment to the staff ceilings of the Department. It has been hoped that a decision on the revision of the Department’s staff ceilings would have been available by tomorrow morning. I have been advised this evening that although negotiations are well advanced it will not be possible for a final decision to be given before early next week. Senior departmental officers will be informing meetings of the staff in the various States which are scheduled for tomorrow of the decision that has been reached. It is my hope that the staff will adopt a responsible attitude to their duties in the knowledge that the difficulties which appear to concern some of them are being actively explored at very senior levels in my own Department and with the Public Service Board.
In relation to the matters that have been raised regarding the work bans and the difficulties that are being caused, I share the concern of both honourable senators about the effects that these have had on the service that is given to the Australian people. I particularly regret that representations from members of Parliament are not dealt with in the offices in the normal way, because I believe that most people use their parliamentary representatives as a last resort- in many cases- asking them to make particular representations on their behalf. To deny this right to people who are clients of my Department or who have difficulties is, I believe, withdrawing a very important service that they have come to accept as a means of representation of their entitlements or their claims. I have not heard previously of the departmental delegation which met senators in South Australia. I believe it may have been at the Senate Estimates Committee hearing or in answer to a question that a statement was made with regard to difficulties in Alice Springs. I cannot accept that the delegation which spoke to senators could claim that preferential service to members of Parliament is something that they could lightly discard. I do not accept that service to members of Parliament on behalf of constituents is a service that we would want to withdraw in any circumstances. I agree that the withdrawal of this service is to be regretted.
I am pleased to hear that my staff was able to assist Senator Cavanagh on behalf of one of his constituents. I will deal with the matter no further other than to say that I hope that the negotiations which are taking place between the Federal Executive of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association, the officers of my Department and the Public Service Board are at this stage proceeding towards finality. It is not easy in a department of more than 9000 people always to suggest that increases in staff are the way in which some of the workload difficulties can be overcome. In my Department in the past year there have been changes in benefits and in the means of testing eligibility for benefits which have placed strains on staff. There has been a continued workload with regard to unemployment benefits. The other increases in pensions and benefits undoubtedly provide a heavy workload. I believe that the discussions that have been held and the negotiations which we believe have been successful with the Public Service Board will resolve as quickly as possible the difficulties that have occurred and that we will be able to return to a full service in all departments and all offices throughout Australia.
I turn now to the question of school leavers. These are unemployment beneficiaries and would be dealt with by those sections of the Department in regional offices, State offices or wherever this work is undertaken. I am unable to anticipate any increases in staff that may be required. As far as dealing with applications is concerned, I hope that the return to work of all officers in the Department and a return to full service will enable any applications for pensions or benefits to be dealt with expeditiously.
I think I ought to make some reference to the National Welfare Fund which was again referred to by Senator Cavanagh. Perhaps I did not make it clear to Senator Cavanagh that the National Welfare Fund is a fund through which the amounts are provided automatically in accordance with the Act. They do not require a separate appropriation Bill such as we have for this appropriation. I thought it was a matter of knowledge that when we talk of not passing appropriation Bills such things as payments from the National Welfare Fund do continue. It is not a matter of passing a separate appropriation Bill in the way in which we do for the Budget or for other estimates. Payments from the National Welfare Fund continue and the adjustment is made to that Fund at the end of the year when the actual figures are able to be placed against the projected or budgeted figures. It is not a matter of having to provide a separate Bill for moneys from the National Welfare Fund. It is, in that sense, a revolving fund that provides payments for pensions and benefits. It would be understood that they are estimated figures in all categories- age pensions, invalid pensions or other benefits. The National Welfare Fund is the mechanism by which we are continuously able to provide the payment of benefits while those benefits remain in the Act and the money is required for them. With those explanations, I believe I have covered the questions that have been raised by honourable senators.
– I should like to make a few brief comments. Again, I thank the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) for her explanation about the National Welfare Fund. It has left me assured that if any claims are successful by school leavers who were denied unemployment benefits the money is available to pay them. I found the Minister’s expressions offensive in relation to members of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association who have enforced certain work bans. These people belong to a hard working, dedicated section of” the Public Service. Working in the same building with them, one knows that they do work hard and that they are dedicated. Every individual is entitled to protection against abuse. These people have been subjected to the irritation of the public they are dealing with. They have not been able to give the public the service they desire. To call that an industrial dispute is, to my mind, offensive.
It is not an industrial dispute. The workers are not seeking to gain one extra penny; they are not seeking to gain better positions. They are trying to decrease their workload which is causing resignations, mental breakdowns and other medical problems. The Public Service should protect its members. If anyone is to be blamed, it must be this Government which will not give this dedicated section of the Public Service the staff necessary to handle the workload which the policy of this Government has imposed upon them. I think it is unfair. The Minister has &id that she hopes they will take a responsible attitude. Good God, I think they are taking a most responsible attitude. They are not going to supply information on the telephone to someone in a higher position, to the detriment of someone who is in the queue. That is the whole question. We cannot blame the public servants. We must blame the whole system and the denial of the necessary work force to carry out these jobs.
I still do not have an answer to the question I asked earlier. I ask the Minister again: How long will it take to process any applications which the Director-General announces should be processed individually in relation to school leavers who may be granted unemployment entitlements. The Minister has said that the Public Service had been conducting negotiations. She also said that she had hoped an announcement would be made tomorrow but now it will not be made until next week. Does that mean that after the Director-General’s announcement, there will be at least a week’s delay because of the present staff position?
-Perhaps they will go on strike.
– I think that some strikes are justified. There could well be justification for these hard working, dedicated public servants going on strike for the purpose of making this Government realise the value of this section of the work force and of the community. If the Public Service Board rejects the application for a lifting of the staff ceiling- and the fact that approaches have been made to the Board shows the necessity to lift the staff ceiling- will this mean that the applications of those school leavers cannot be reviewed because of the present staff position? If the Board does lift the staff ceiling thereby promoting increased employment in the number of staff within the Department of Social Security, how long will it be before applications, not only by school leavers but also by those making an application today, will be processed? After a person has been interviewed, has filled out an application and possibly has produced medical reports as to his health it is not nice without any income to have to wait up to 6 weeks to get some money with which to buy a loaf of bread. It is no wonder that the public are irate with those they think are to blame- the people behind the counter. It is no wonder that the person behind the counter says: ‘We have to do something for this deserving section of the community’. I think the Minister should regret the statement she made and she should fight hard to overcome the position in the Department that has been brought about by the Government’s actions.
– I would like to add a few words in support of Senator Cavanagh particularly about the difficulties of staffing that the Minister and her Department are having. I point out that as Senator Cavanagh said, this is not a recent development at all. The Minister may well remember that in the hearings by Senate Estimates Committee D on 21 September last year I asked a series of questions on these very problems. I asked about the difficulties that were being created by staff ceilings. I asked about the difficulties that were being created because of the protracted negotiations with the Public Service Board. We finished with a series of answers by the Minister pointing out to us that she and the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) had arranged some flexibility in regard to the staff ceilings; that she had arranged some flexibility with the Government in regard to how many staff were needed to handle what may be an increased number of unemployment beneficiaries that were to be paid at the time. In fact rather cynically I wished the Minister and her Department well in her negotiations with the Board in view of the evidence that she and I had heard in previous days on the Public Accounts Committee about the difficulties some departments had in fact had with the Board in trying to increase staff.
I realise, as the Minister says, that if you have a government that is determined to put ceilings on and is determined to decrease staff, it is difficult for a department 9000 strong to ask for more staff; but it should not be that difficult when the department is handling almost 25 per cent of Budget expenditure in this community and that 25 per cent of expenditure is going to help the underprivileged people in this community and to help people through income support programs and relief programs in keeping their standards of living up to a reasonable level. Surely anyone in this country can expect that. I am sure that all of us on both sides of this chamber have had repeated complaints from members of the staff- I have letters here- of the Department of Social Security talking about the divisive episodes that are happening at the counters of offices of the Department in every capital; letters talking about delays in the processing of claims and in the payment of claims from the Department; letters talking about the number of days it takes to get on to the Department by telephone.
As Senator Cavanagh has said, members of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association and members of the Department are conscientious, hard working, earnest people who do not take industrial action, people who do not go on strike. In fact, the sorts of things that are going on in the Department now are almost unheard of. There are overtime bans. There are bans on helping members of Parliament. If I am asked whether there should be a ban on that or a ban on helping someone who comes to the counter in the Department’s offices in a desperate state, I will say put on a ban on handling inquiries from members of Parliament. The staff have to make that choice. But there are bans on the collection of statistics, and this is unusual. This is almost unheard of in the Department and it does indicate a malaise and a lack of morale which I believe can be overcome by realising that there are enormous increases in the number of unemployment beneficiaries; there are great increases in the number of invalid and other pensions which are paid. These will further increase and to handle these things properly the Department needs greater efficiency, I know, but it also needs more staff and staff working in decent conditions with a high morale.
I think that the point Senator Cavanagh has raised and the point we have been talking about is terribly important, particularly in those 3 States where there seems to be a very acute problem. The Department is set up to help people. The people who work in the Departmentalmost all of them; almost every one of themwork there because they like the work and they want to help people. If their conditions are such that they cannot do that efficiently no one can blame them at all for taking action of the type which they have taken. It has not given them more money and in fact sometimes may give them less money. It has not affected the service to the public except in one minor way, and that is that the staff are not helping members of Parliament. I think the Minister and the Government should seriously look at this very real problem.
– I support my colleagues Senator Grimes and Senator Cavanagh because in South Australia practically every day we are confronted by pensioners and people who have applied for the unemployment benefit, the sickness benefit and sometimes the invalid pension. They have not had a reply to their applications which in some cases were lodged four or five weeks before, and sometimes they have not even had an acknowledgement. In desperation they usually contact their State member who refers them to a senator, particularly where there is not a Labor representative in their electorate. I am very disappointed in the reply given tonight by the Minister for Social Security because it is practically a repetition of a reply she gave to a question in this place on 3 May following a question from Senator Coleman regarding the Department of Social Security staff shortages. The Minister’s answer is recorded in the Senate Hansard for Tuesday 3 May at page 1066. The Minister said:
There are difficulties in South Australia and Western Australia. A meeting was called in South Australia this morning. As I understand it, the meeting was still continuing a short time ago. There have been public statements by members of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association and, indeed, public advertisements from the South Australian branch mentioning actions to be proposed as motions to be put before the meeting in South Australia today. 1 am unable to advise any conclusion to the difficulties in both these States.
This is the point the Minister made on that occasion and she reiterated it again tonight:
Discussions are proceeding with the Public Service Board and with the Federal Secretariat of the ACOA. As soon as 1 am able to advise some conclusion to these discussions I shall do so. It is extremely difficult for a Department such as mine to function when officers of the Department have decided that certain duties are not to be carried out by them. To decide selectively that some duties would not cause hardship overlooks the integration of the work of the Department. I am hopeful that as a result of the discussions and the sense of responsibility accepted by staff members, these matters can soon be resolved.
It is 24 days since that answer was given. It was said that it was expected that the matters would be resolved and that the negotiations between the Public Service Board and the Federal Secretariat of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association would reach some satisfactory conclusion regarding the workload that was expected of staff of the Department of Social Security. I think this matter should have been resolved a long time ago. When constituents come to a federal member, he or she is usually their last hope. It is very embarrassing to me to have to advise them ‘I am sorry. I cannot make any representations on your behalf because the Director or Assistant Director of Social Security is not able to hear any representations that might be made’. I do not blame officers in the Department because they have been extremely helpful, particularly in cases where there seems to be an undue delay in processing an application for any social security benefit. I would have expected, because this ban has been in progress in these States for nearly 4 weeks, that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) would have instructed officers in her Department to reach some conclusion or settlement with officers of the Australian Clerical Officers Association to agree to some increase in the staff so that they can handle the increased applications for benefits under the Social Services Act.
I hope that, when we hear the final result tomorrow, it will be favourable. If the ban is to continue as it has in the past all that will happen is that an underprivileged section of the community will be denied its entitlements. Those entitlements are being delayed. I remind the Minister of an unfortunate couple in Adelaide referred to yesterday in the Adelaide Advertiser. They are living in the back of a utility. They have $5 in their possesion and they are waiting for their unemployment benefit cheques. To me this is a disaster. This is a special case. It should not have been allowed to develop to that point. The officers of the Department in Adelaide should not have allowed a situation to develop where this married couple are living in the back of a utility with only $5 in their possession. They have been living, not on fish and chips- they cannot afford that- but on pies and pasties. Fortunately their plight has been responded to by the public in South Australia and at the present time they are out of their immediate predicament. But this is of no credit to the Department of Social Security which has an obligation. In a case of extreme emergency such as this, the application should have been processed quickly. These people should not have to seek charity by having their case brought to the attention of the public and then having to rely on handouts from the public to get them out of their plight.
I hope that the Minister has had some influence on the officers of her Department and the Public Service Board to show that there is a genuine case in South Australia and probably in Western Australia and the other States to support the claim that the workload of the staff in these States is not sufficient to process the applications that they are now expected to process. I remind the Minister that, when a staff member takes annual leave, long service leave, maternity leave or special leave, the position is not filled by anyone else to make up for that increased workload. These matters should be rectified and I hope that they will be when the announcement is made tomorrow.
– I was disturbed to hear the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) say, in reply to Senator Cavanagh, that she hoped that the return to work by staff of her Department would enable claims to be processed more quickly. I am not aware that any of the staff in her Department is on strike. I am aware only that the staff has imposed an overtime ban because of the workload that it has to carry. It is common knowledge that the workload is getting greater day by day because of the increased unemployment claims and the increased number of unemployed who must make applications for subsistence allowances. The workload is increasing. Although these people must be processed by the Commonwealth Employment Service in the first instance, the payments must be made by the Minister’s Department. Whilst on the one hand that work load is increasing there is on the other hand a staff ceiling. As Senator Donald Cameron has just pointed out, there are no replacements for officers of the Department who take sick leave, annual leave, maternity leave or who leave the service. They are not being replaced. The Minister expects those people who work in this Department to carry the same workload- in fact, an increased workload.
They just cannot do it. They are not able to do it. I, like Senator Cavanagh and Senator Donald Cameron, have every sympathy for the people who work in this Department. Ever since I have been a member of the Senate I have had a very close association with them. This is one area in which all members of Parliament are concerned. I would say that there is more work attached to this area than probably to any other, except when members are in the Parliament dealing with legislation. One sees constituents who have personal problems of a social nature. I, in common with Senator Cavanagh and Senator Donald Cameron, feel very distressed when we must tell these people of the problem flowing from the staff ceiling imposed by this Government. The Government is to blame for the problem. It cannot blame the Public Service Board because it brought in the determination that the staff ceiling should be at a certain level. The Government and the Minister, who is the person responsible, must take the blame for it. It cannot pass the buck to anybody.
I am concerned that the Minister should infer that the staff of her Department are on strike when, in fact, they are not on strike. All they have done is to impose an overtime ban. They are justified in doing so because of the workload. I am concerned also about a matter which was raised by Senator Cavanagh. I will follow this matter up. The Minister has said, in answer to Senator Cavanagh, that the Director-General of her Department will make a statement tomorrow on the decision handed down by the High Court in relation to school leavers. Senator Cavanagh posed the question as to how the claims of persons who actually registered for unemployment benefits will be processed. I am concerned about those persons who did not register for unemployment benefits because of the Government ‘s policy. I refer to a question asked in the Senate on Tuesday, 24 May by Senator Wriedt and the Minister’s reply to him. Senator Wriedt asked a question in respect of unemployment benefits for school leavers. The question stated, in part:
Is it not true that it was a decision of the Government to deny unemployment benefits to school leavers?
In her reply, the Minister had this to say:
In regard to the first question, it was the announced policy of the Government early last year that there would not be automatic unemployment benefit for school leavers immediately on the cessation of a school year.
That statement by the Government would have influenced a lot of school leavers not even to try to register for unemployment benefit because of the Government’s announced policy. The Labor Party advised those people with whom it had contact to insist that they be registered but I am sure that there were many thousands who, because of that policy announcement by the Government, did not register. I do not think that those people should be deprived of that $288, which is the round figure to which they would be entitled had they been able legitimately to register. The High Court has proved that they could legitimately have registered. The Minister was in breach of the Act when she said that they were not able to register. I am concerned about what the Government will do regarding these people. If the Director-General says tomorrow that he will adhere to the Act and allow those people to be paid that retrospective payment to which they are justly entitled, I am concerned about what the Government will do for those people who can prove that the very reason they did not register was the announced policy of the Government, which has been proved by the High Court to be in breach of the Act. These are the matters about which I am very concerned. As Senator Donald Cameron has pointed out, there are people who are suffering because of a Government policy which has determined that there shall be a staff ceiling of so many people to carry out the functioning of a Department which Senator Grimes has said is responsible for 25 per cent of the Budget expenditure. That money is expended on the underprivileged people in need in this country. They are the people about whom the Minister for Social Security should be vitally concerned. The Minister ought to be taking some action to see that the staff ceiling is such that the Department has enough staff members to process the legitimate claims of people in need.
– I briefly want to respond to honourable senators who have raised again the matter of staff ceilings and the difficulties that are being felt in the Department of Social Security at present. I believe Senator Cavanagh took some exception to the fact that I referred to these matters as industrial disputes. I assure Senator Cavanagh that in all correspondence either from my Department or from any other source this matter has been referred to as an industrial dispute. I would have thought that he would regard a work ban or some other matter that has been dealt with in the way in which this matter has been as an industrial dispute. I intended no offence in any way in referring to the matter in that way. There have been meetings of the staff. Motions have been carried and decisions taken which have affected the work within the Department. By referring to the matter as an industrial dispute I refer to it in the way we would regard any dispute that needs negotiation, conciliation and action before it is settled.
– But you linked that up with the hope that the staff members would take a responsible attitude. They are doing so.
– I had hoped that the staff would be able to undertake the duties that are required by the Australian people. I think Senator Donald Cameron or Senator McLaren said that I implied that the staff were on strike and that I hoped that we would be able again to process the claims quickly. If representations which are being made to Federal members of Parliament are not reaching the officers of the Department I hope that, as a settlement of the dispute is now in hand, these matters will be dealt with expeditiously. That is not an inference that there is a strike in the Department. It is simply a statement that some representations at present are not being dealt with expeditiously. I hope that with the settlement of the dispute this problem will be overcome.
As was stressed, I have had this matter under my attention for approximately 3 or 4 weeks in some States and for a lesser time in others. I believe that the officers of my Department working with the Public Service Board and negotiating with the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association have been taking every step that they can to conciliate and to reach a solution to the difficulties that have arisen. I accept all of the responsibilities that have been mentioned with regard to expediting the claims and benefit payments to those people who require the support of my Department. I can only say again that I hope that when the final matters have been dealt with by the Public Service Board there will be an early resolution to the difficulties that we have experienced.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Department of Health
Proposed expenditure, $3, 1 66,000.
-As promised during the sittings of Estimates Committee D I wish to speak to this appropriation in the Committee of the Whole. On 26 August 1976 Senator Withers made a statement in the Senate concerning new arrangements for the conduct of Estimates Committee proceedings. These arrangements stemmed from the report of Estimates Committee A in May 1 976 and included the early provision by departments of detailed estimates and explanatory notes. Senator Withers also said:
Senators who are not members of a particular committee, but who would like to exercise the right to attend and ask questions at the public hearings, should indicate, in writing, to the secretary of that committee before 10 September those particular areas which they may desire to examine.
Senator Withers added:
It is the Government’s hope that by adopting this new recommended procedure senators may be able to obtain more detailed information and that the conduct of committee hearings may become more efficient and more effective.
I am not a member of any committees because I have a wide ranging field of interest. There are no other members of my independent party to fill in on other committees. I wished to attend certain sessions of the Committees and ask questions and obtain information on certain matters. Accordingly, I wrote to four of the Estimates Committees on 8 September 1976 informing them of the item numbers of 20 matters on which I was seeking additional explanation. My letter to Estimates Committee D specified: ‘Department of Health (Capital Territory Health Commission) Division 332.1- Grants in aid to other organisations (Family Planning Association, Community agencies engaged in health activities, Canberra Women’s Refuge).’ I ask honourable senators to note that my advance letter, which followed directly from Senator Withers’ request, included the particular area ‘Community agencies engaged in health activities’. Over a month later, on 1 2 October 1 976, officials of the Department of Health and the Capital Territory Health Commission appeared before Estimates Committee D to answer questions on the subject matters for which they had been given a month’s notice.
At page 447 onwards in the Hansard report of the proceedings of the 1976 Estimates Committee honourable senators will find an explanation of division 332 sub-division one which provides $33.8m for the Capital Territory Health Commission. I invite honourable senators to study that copy of Hansard between pages 447 and 453. They will see that I raised 3 matters all of which were included in my advance notice. Despite this advance notice, the replies I received were far from adequate. I draw the attention of the Senate to one of those three matters I raised. The debate can be found on page 45 1 of the Estimates Committees Hansard for 12 October 1976. In the second column I am reported as having said:
I refer now to the $102,000 that is going to be spent on community agencies engaged in mental health activities and other health activities.
Further on, I am reported as having said:
To short-circuit the issue, can we have a list of the names of those organisations which received the grant last year.
The Departmental official replied:
I do not have that exact information.
Nevertheless, the Minister promised to provide the information before the Estimates Committee concluded its work. The point I wish to make, at this stage, is that Senator Withers had devised a method of making Estimates Committees work more efficiently, namely advance notice of areas on which honourable senators intended to ask questions. I accepted that method and gave prior notice before the stipulated deadline of 10 September. It was not until a month later that the officials came before the Estimates Committee so they had plenty of time to research their files. Immediately I asked my first question on the subject the official stated that he did not have the exact information. As a result, I am unable to pursue the matter any further and have to wait until the exact information comes through in the form of a written reply.
The Capital Territory Health Commission did supply the additional information a week later on 19 October. By this stage Estimates Committee D had finished its public hearings and there was no hope of recalling the relevant officials. The information provided by the Commission was included in the Committee’s report which was tabled on 21 October. The information provided by the Department of Health from the Capital Terrritory Health Commission was:
Set out below is a listing of the Community Agencies that received grants-in-aid during 1975-76 and are being considered for a grant in aid for 1 976-77.
It listed various organisations, including The Womens Centre Inc., 3 Lobelia Street, O’Connor, A.C.T. 2601. That grant was explained in the following terms:
To assist with the payment of the salary of an Education/Information Officer for the Womens Information and Health Counselling Service, $2,800.
Later, in the additional information supplied by the Commission, it was stated:
Grants in aid 1976-77- Community and Mental Health Agencies.
Applications for continuation of grants are at present being considered from the following organisations- 6. The Womens Centre Incorp
That information was contained in the report of Estimates Committee D which was presented to the Senate on 2 1 October. The reports from the various committees were debated in the Senate on 4 and 9 November. Unfortunately. I was otherwise engaged and did not take part in these debates where I could have pursued this grant further. However, in later research on the subject I discovered that even the additional information supplied by the Commission was not fully up to date at the time of the debates in the Committee of the Whole.
- Senator Harradine, are you addressing your remarks to the Department of Health estimates, divisions 325 to 335? You are talking about October last year, when you were not present and when these reports were adopted by the Parliament.
– With respect I am leading up to the point of the Estimates Committee inquiries on this matter.
– I think it would be helpful to all concerned if you came quickly to the point. You are not on the Bill at all. If you are you must be standing on it.
– With respect, this is a most serious matter.
– I know it is, and it is serious that we conduct this debate correctly. We should be debating the estimates that are before us. With respect, I think you should address yourself to the estimates before us now and not rehash business that you were unable to debate on the last occasion because of your absence from the House.
– I am sorry, but that is not the point. I take objection to that statement. If you wish, I shall deal with the matter on the motion for the adjournment.
– During the examination of the Department of Health estimates I asked some questions about goal setting and objectives. I eventually received some answers. It is highly desirable, I believe, that the Department has a clear idea of what it is setting out to do every time it asks for money from the Parliament. When it comes before Estimates Committees it should be able to tell those Committees its objectives. I simply wish to indicate, through you, Mr Temporary Chairman, that the same questions will be asked by me of the officers every time the Estimates Committees query different programs for which money is being sought from the Parliament. I will expect statements of goals and objectives which will make some sense and which will be subject to cross-examination.
-A moment ago, when dealing with the estimates, I was recounting what occurred in November. As most senators will be aware, in April of this year the matters with which I wanted to deal were raised before the Estimates Committees. The item is spelt out at pages 103 and 107 of the Hansard record of Estimates Committee D. I asked certain questions on the matter at that stage. I was not satisfied with the answers I received because the answers were not according to the facts. I think it is important for the officers concerned that I relate in some detail the facts. As most senators will be aware, in March of this year a controversy arose in the Australian Capital Territory about the provision of abortion facilities. This resulted in a 90-day ban being placed on private abortion clinics. This matter related to the grant by the Government to the Women’s Centre Incorporated. This controversy, which was part of the discussions at Estimates Committee D, prompted some people in Canberra to look a little more closely at the activities of the Women’s Centre Incorporated which was located at 3 Lobelia Street, O’Connor. The organisation received a grant in 1975-76 and a further grant in 1976-77.
– How much?
– In 1976-77 it was $5,965 in toto. People discovered that this property was a government house and that the occupants were paying a reduced rent to the Government. They also discovered that the house had one telephone number, namely 478070. They found out that various organisations listed the address as their headquarters. These included the Women’s Electoral Lobby, Women’s Liberation, Rape Crisis Counselling, Feminist Bookshop, the Women’s Information Service and the Abortion Counselling Service. However, the most important thing they found out was that the main service which operated from the address was the Abortion Counselling Service and that the service could be contacted on 478070 between certain hours each day.
Furthermore, strong rumors were circulating in Canberra that the Abortion Counselling Service had collected several thousand dollars and intended to commission a public opinion poll in the Australian Capital Territory on abortion. I was not given full information about this amount. It is very interesting to note that the Abortion Counselling Service is being run by people to whom the Federal Government is providing money. It is worth spelling out this point. The Abortion Counselling Service says that the money goes to the Women’s Housing Information Service which, as far as I can determine, is a non-existent organisation. An advertisement for the Women’s Information Service at Lobelia Street states that it answers queries on abortion, amongst other things. The Abortion Counselling Service has advertised that it mans the telephone at Lobelia Street during certain hours. A survey reported in the Canberra Times is attributed in the first instance to the Abortion Counselling Service and then, 10 days later, to the Women’s Health and Counselling Service. The Capital Territory Health Commission states that it gives money to the Women’s Centre at Lobelia Street to assist with the payment of the salary of an education/information officer for the Women’s Information and Health Counselling Service’.
By this stage I was looking forward to settling some of these queries when officials of the Commission came before Estimates Committee D on 28 April 1977. Unlike the last occasion, Senator Withers had not asked senators to give advance notice of the areas on which they wished to question officials, but I thought that officials from the Commission would have studied last year’s Hansard and would come well prepared with all the files in their brief cases. How wrong I was. I invite senators to turn to page 103 of the Hansard report of the proceedings of Estimates Committee D on 28 April 1977. At pages 103 to 105 they will see some preliminary questions by me in which the Women’s Centre became confused -
-What senator in the chamber would have that Hansard with him?
– I invite them to look at it at some convenient time.
-I have all the Estimates Committee Hansards.
– Thank you. I thought the Chairman of Committee D might. At that stage there became, not on my part but presumably on the pan of officials, some confusion between the Women’s Centre and the Women’s
Refuge. The Department of Health threw the ball right back to the Capital Territory Health Commission. Finally the Chairman, Senator Baume, suggested that the Committee proceed with several items and refer back to the Capital Territory Health Commission later. Estimates Committee D returned to the Commission on page 106 and my questioning about the grant to the Women’s Centre continues until page 109. 1 asked several questions about this grant and the proceedings of the Committee were handicapped once again by the failure of officials to have information fully available. There is some further questioning on page 111.
Amongst all the questions I asked and the half answers I was given I wish to refer specifically to 2 questions. The first concerns the aims of organisations to which grants are made. It was posed first in column one on page 107, then in column one on page 108 and finally in column one on page 109 where I asked: ls it or is it not government policy that a recipient organisation should have general aims acceptable to the Commonwealth Government and should be representative of the parties concerned?
Honourable senators are invited to examine the Commission’s reply appearing in the report of Estimates Committee D to the Senate. The first reply covers 6 pages and I still cannot discover what the answer is. The second attempt is in a separate letter file No. 77/748 and I still cannot discover whether the answer is yes or no. The second specific question appears on page 1 1 1 of the Hansard report: has the Health Commission heard of the Pregnancy Support Service which is operating in the Australian Capital Territory and to which the Doctor did not refer?
That question and its answer are worth looking at because they raise a matter of very grave importance to the Senate. Some honourable senators may not have heard of the A.C.T. Pregnancy Support Service. It has been active in the A.C.T. since about 1974. It has existed to date on voluntary assistance and has not received government help. The Health Commission official replied to my question as follows:
I personally have not heard of it. It is not a field about which I am well informed.
As with the previous examination of the estimates for the Health Commission, answers to the unanswered questions were subsequently supplied to the Estimates Committee in written form. They appear in the report tabled in the Senate. I invite honourable senators to refer to the page which states:
asked . . . has the Health Commission heard of the Pregnancy Support Service which is operating in the Australian Capital Territory?
The reply was:
Yes. The Pregnancy Support Service advertises in the local Press at regular intervals. It has however, not applied for assistance from the Commission at any time but should it do so in the future it will receive equal consideration along with all other organisations. However, the availability of funds for new grants would be relevant
At least the Health Commission knew about the Pregnancy Support Service even if its representative who appeared before the Estimates Committee did not. I ask honourable senators to note the reply:
It has, however, not applied for assistance from the Commission at any time -
I believe that the Health Commission ‘s reply is less than factual. I have in my possession- I am prepared to table it if necessary-a letter from Helen Crisp, who signed herself as Deputy Chairman, Interim Committee, Capital Territory Health Commission. The letter is dated 17 April 1975 and the file reference is A75/141. It is addressed to the Treasurer of the Pregnancy Support Service and is headed ‘Grants to Community Agencies Engaged in Mental Health Activities in the A.C.T. ‘. This is precisely the item on which I had been questioning the Health Commission officials. The letter reads:
I refer to your application for financial assistance under the above scheme. I have read with interest of the excellent work being carried out by your Group. I regret, however, that in terms of the finance available, it is not possible to offer you a grant at this time. It is expected that further such grants may be offered in 9 to 1 2 months time.
– What date was that?
– That letter was dated 17 April 1975. Not only did Pregnancy Support Service apply for assistance but also it missed out. Funds were not available. Yet 5 months later grants to Australian Capital Territory organisations under the community health program were announced in the Press including one for the so-called Women’s Information and Health Counselling Service at Lobelia Street. I am not saying that the Health Commission misled the Parliament. I am just saying that it was less than factual. It is probably strictly correct in a technical sense to say that the Health Commission has not received an application. When the application was made the Commission was an interim body and was part of the A.C.T. Health Services under the Department of Health. It is a question of semantics but other material from the Commission appearing in the report from Estimates Committee D shows that the same person who wrote the letter in 1975 to the Pregnancy Support Service is also Chairman of the Committee which decided on these grants on this occasion in 1977. The fact of the unsuccessful application must have been known to some official in the Health Commission.
I think I should leave it at that apart from saying that in order to find out exactly when the Health Commission ceased to be an interim body run by an interim committee I asked the Parliamentary Library to obtain reports of the Health Commission. The Library contacted the Commission and found that its first report, for 1975-76, has yet to be printed, which perhaps is not surprising in view of what I have outlined above. I understand that the Capital Territory Health Commission or a spokesman for it has suggested that it might be an appropriate body to control any abortion arrangements in the A.C.T., that is, ensuring that the law is adhered to in policing abortion establishments. I for one would be very reluctant to place that function in its hands since on its own admission it knows very little about that area.
I should add as a postscript that after the recent Estimates Committee examination I was still curious about the situation at Lobelia Street. I will detail to the Senate at another time the results of inquiries which were made of that establishment and the Government-paid person answering the telephone and the replies that were given relating to abortions and where they may be obtained. I suggest that even if the Government and the Health Commission do not know what goes on, the Women’s Centre, the Women’s Information Services, the Abortion Counselling Services, the Women’s Housing Information Service, the Women’s Information and Health Counselling Service- call it what you will- knows what goes on and is grateful that important officials in government agencies are making it extremely difficult for members of Parliament to get to the truth.
– I rise firstly to ask that Senator Harradine table the document from which he read and, secondly, in view of the fact that he says he has other information to complete his case, to give him the opportunity to rise again to complete detailing the evidence he claims he has.
– I seek leave to table the document to which I referred.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I have been invited by Senator Grimes to provide further information to the Committee. I did not do so earlier because I did not have time and it is not related strictly to the report of Estimates Committee D. I am quite happy to proceed with detailing the situation in respect of the Women’s Centre in Lobelia Street.
– Can you relate your remarks to divisions 325 to 335 under these Estimates?
– It is drawing a long bow, but I have been invited to do so by Senator Grimes.
– But Senator Grimes is not in the chair; I am in the chair. I will hear Senator Harradine for a short time. If what he says has no connection with the divisions under consideration, he knows the rules as well as I do.
– I will accept your ruling, Mr Temporary Chairman. I should add as a postscript to the hearing by the Estimates Committee that following the recent Estimates Committee examination I was still curious as to what went on at Lobelia Street. The answer came from a Canberra woman who phoned the telephone number referred to by the Health Commission authorities as being the number of the Women’s Centre Incorporated. She telephoned that number during the hours advertised for the abortion counselling service. She asked to be put through to the Women’s Information and Health Counselling Service which is the organisation receiving government finance. After a short delay the woman who answered the phone originally said that she had the correct number. The Canberra woman then proceeded to ask for information on how to obtain an abortion. She was given full details about how the service helped women to go to Sydney for abortions. She asked whether any financial assistance was provided to help such women, and the person at the other end replied: ‘No. We get a grant from the Government, but that is only to keep the doors open’.
The Departmental officials were asked whether grants-in-aid for recipient organisations were considered in the light of the policy guidelines laid down by the Government; in other words, whether grants-in-aid were provided to organisations which provided a service consistent with the overall policy objections of the Government? In spite of the 6-page response that has been provided by the Health Commission, that question has not been answered. A further policy procedure adopted by the Government was that if other organisations in the same sphere applied for aid, equity must prevail and proper consideration must be given to such applications. The essence of the matter, of course, is that the Health Commission stated, firstly, that it had not heard of the Pregnancy Support Service and, secondly, it said in writing that it had not received an application for assistance from that organisation. Those questions still remain unanswered.
– I join in this debate only because during the hearings of the Estimates Committee I had some difficulty in working out exactly what Senator Harradine was getting at. I must say that I still have some difficulty in being clear in my mind about just what he objects to and just what he is trying to find. I understand very well that there was some difficulty during the hearings of the Estimates Committee because of an apparent lack of information from the officers of the Department who were present at the time. I believe that difficulty was cleared up fairly quickly because the Hansard record of the proceedings goes on for only one page or so before we get back to this question. I believe that the difficulty was compounded also by the fact that instead of asking direct questions such as: ‘Can the officers tell us just what is happening at 3 Lobelia Street?’ Senator Harradine asked a rather convoluted number of questions in which he did not mention 3 Lobelia Street. That caused confusion between the Women’s Centre Incorporated and the Women’s Refuge. Senator Harradine said during the hearings of the Estimates Committee that he objects to abortion counselling services and that he objects to any organisation which facilitates abortions. I respect his view in that regard and I respect his right to have those objections. However, I suggest that not everyone in the community has those objections. During the hearings of the Senate Estimates Committee I asked this question:
Is it a condition of government grants-in-aid to organisations running women’s health centres that they do not counsel about abortion, that they oppose abortion or that they favour abortion?
The answer given was: ‘No’. Now, I am suggesting that, apparently, abortion is illegal in the Australian Capital Territory.
– Except when it is legal.
– Except when it is legal in public hospitals. But the simple fact of the matter is that we are talking about abortion counselling. I do not believe that Senator Harradine or anyone else is suggesting that abortions are being carried out at 3 Lobelia Street. I suggest that there is a distinction there, and I believe it is right.
Senator Harradine then made the serious charge that he was misled by the officers of the Department, and he produced a document which, on a superficial examination, suggests that he may have some basis for such an argument. I believe that the Department certainly has a question to answer in that regard. I certainly would favour, as I am sure every honourable senator would, the granting of funds on an evenhanded basis to an organisation such as the Pregnancy Support Service. I believe that this whole problem could have been cleared up more easily if, with due respect to him, Senator Harradine could have been more direct in his questioning and not so indirect and convoluted.
It seems to me- I am open to correction- that Senator Harradine wants to know what goes on at 3 Lobelia Street. He wants to know how much money the organisation operating from that address has. He wants to know what that money is used for. He wants to know whether that money is being used legally and whether it is being used in a manner consistent with the policy of the present Government. I believe that is what he is after. He wants to know whether there is another organisation called the Pregnancy Support Service. He wants to know whether it applied for money; whether it got money if it applied for it. He wants to know whether it should get money when it applies for it. I suggest that if those questions had been asked more directly we would have received more direct answers and we would not have had the very real difficulty we experienced when this matter came up before the Estimates Committee.
I hope that the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) can clear up the question whether the Pregnancy Support Service people applied for a grant. If they did apply for it, I would be very interested to know why we were told that they had not applied for it. I would certainly be interested to know why one organisation in preference to another was favoured with a grant-in-aid. We are dealing here with a grant of some $3,600, I think it is. Its purpose is for health and education services and counselling services. I think it is sensible that in the Australian Capital Territory, which is situated in the centre of a State in which the abortion laws are perhaps more liberal than they are in the Territory, and the Women’s Health Counselling Service should provide information for and against abortions. If we shut our eyes to this problem and say that we will not give any money- even $3,000- to an organisation such as this, we are just being bloody-minded about our grantsinaid made to organisations which help people in the community. I hope that the Minister can clear up this matter. If Senator Harradine has been misled in the Estimates Committee it is a serious matter. I think we should have some balance in our questioning in relation to small items such as the one we are considering.
-I crave one minute of the Committee’s time simply to say that during the hearings of Estimates Committee D I did attempt to ascertain whether the Capital Territory Health Commission knew what was going on at the Women ‘s Centre Incorporated in Lobelia Street, which was being used as a front for other operations. My interest in this matter arose chiefly out of a leaflet which was distributed and which was allegedly prepared by the Women’s Centre Incorporated in the Australian Capital Territory. That leaflet was distributed outside the school which my daughter attends in Tasmania. It contained information for school girls in respect of abortion. I certainly took objection to it and honourable senators may recall that the Premier of my State took objection to it.
- Senator Harradine has raised a question about the Pregnancy Support Service and an application for funds. When we were dealing with the Budget appropriation for the Capital Territory Health Commission Senator Harradine asked the following question: has the Health Commission heard of the Pregnancy Support Service, which is operating in the Australian Capital Territory?
That question was answered in the additional information given following Estimates Committee D. The answer provided was:
Yes. The Pregnancy Support Service advertises in the local Press at regular intervals. It has, however, not applied for assistance from the Commission at any time but should it do so in the future it will receive equal consideration along with all other organisations. However the availability of funds for new grants would be relevant.
I believe that Senator Harradine requested further information and clarification because he considered that the Pregnancy Support Service had made an application and he believed that there may be some misleading content in the answer which was provided. It is believed that the assistance was sought under a mental health grant from the Australian Capital Territory Health Services before the Commission was set up and before the community health grants commenced. No application has been made under the community health program. This information was obtained in the last few days. It is believed that there had been an application to the Australian Capital Territory Health Services prior to the formation of the Commission. The Pregnancy Support Service apparently applied at that time for a mental health grant before the Health Commission advertised community health grants. The mental health grant was not made to the Pregnancy Support Service and it has not applied on the 2 occasions on which community health grants have been advertised.
Since 1 December 1976 mental health grants have been amalgamated with community health grants and are allocated as community health grants by a single committee. I believe that that information clarifies the question that Senator Harradine raised with regard to the information provided. I think that any confusion that has arisen has arisen from the fact that we are dealing with the Capital Territory Health Commission whereas the application from the Pregnancy Support Service was to the Australian Capital Territory Health Services, which was the body that operated prior to the formation of the Commission which is the subject of the appropriation item we are considering.
The other matter that was raised by Senator Harradine on which he required an answer was in regard to the granting of funds in line with Commonwealth Government policy. It is submitted that that question has been answered in the additional information that was provided. The answer was to the effect that a grant would not be made if it was considered to be clearly contrary to the criteria set out in the Government’s stated policies in the health field. With those additional answers to the questions raised by Senator Harradine I hope that we have now clarified the matters.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) this question: If the Pregnancy Support Service applies for a grant under the present grants-in-aid would it not receive favourable reception from the Government? I, like Senator Harradine, object to literature that is offensive to me or my children being distributed to my children. I would not like my daughter to receive a pamphlet advocating abortion for school children, just as I objected several years ago to pamphlets being put in my letter box, which my children could pick up, showing foetuses in vivid colour and claiming that anybody who was not opposed to abortion was a murderer. In the same way I objected to pamphlets being put in my letter box last weekend saying that I and my colleagues are communists. We all object to that sort of thing. I point out that this is the first time, in 2 Estimates Committees and tonight, that I have heard of that objection from Senator
Harradine. I object to that organisation doing that in Hobart or anywhere else. I would like the Minister to give some guarantee that the Pregnancy Support Service will receive a fair hearing from the Government so that we can have a balance on this matter in the Australian Capital Territory.
– Let me restate what I said in answer to the question raised by Senator Harradine when he asked whether the Health Commission had heard of the Pregnancy Support Service. The answer that came forward from the Health Commission was that it had heard of the Pregnancy Support Service and that it had not applied for assistance at any time ‘but should it do so in the future it will receive equal consideration along with all other organisations’. The final statement was:
However, the availability of funds for new grants would be relevant.
So I am able to assure Senator Grimes that if the Pregnancy Support Service were to lodge an application and if funds were available for new applicants it would receive equal consideration along with all other organisations.
– I would simply like to place on record my support for what Senator Grimes said. I too would find it unacceptable if we were funding only one side of a difficult argument. I am not pretending that I agree with Senator Harradine ‘s view or that I am opposed to it but in this matter, which is very sensitive to the community, it seems inappropriate that funds are going to one side of the argument and not the other. I accept what the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) said. I simply would like to place on record that I think that Senator Grimes has said something reasonable, something which should be looked at very seriously.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 60,000.
– I want to take this opportunity to raise a couple of matters dealing with the citizenship aspect of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Very effective citizenship ceremonies are performed monthly in the theatrette in the basement of the Australian Government Centre at Chifley Square. They reflect great credit on the senior officers who conduct the ceremonies. But I feel that one omission could be rectified. I am referring to the absence of electoral cards for people so that when they have attained citizenship they can enroll. Most of the people who take part in the citizenship ceremonies in central Sydney are people who have only loose ties with their own suburbs. Like so many people today they are almost nomadic. Their work may take them interstate and therefore they may not be able to wait for the normal trimmings associated with local council citizenship ceremonies. I know that the officer who presides mentions the obligations of citizenship. I have attended these ceremonies on a number of occasions. People have wanted to obtain citizenship quickly. Mr Wallace and his officers in Sydney have always co-operated and people have been dealt with expeditiously. I believe that my request is only a small one. There is no question of dragooning people into obtaining electoral enrolment but the cards should be there. If the people could take them with them they would probably go back to their work places and complete them.
I now come to my second matter. I have noticed a change in the hostility towards or unnecessary action taken against people of British or Irish nationality who are seeking Australian citizenship. Many people born in the United Kingdom and in possession of a British passport, or for that matter people with an Irish Republic passport, are crossing the Rubicon and seeking Australian citizenship. In the process a number of people who have had a radical past have found that there have been abnormal delays. Starting at the top, with the honourable member for Chifley, Mr Armitage, I have had informal talks with the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Mr MacKellar, concerning some cases. I am not going to canvass those cases at the moment. We know that although some persons go to their member of Parliament about an abnormal delay associated with citizenship the bulk of the people suffering such delays suffer silently.
My criticism, which I now put to the Minister, is that although I believe the people in the Sydney and possibly the Melbourne offices do all the groundwork delays occur in cases of people who might be deemed to have been associated with political influences other than the normal major political parties. As honourable senators know, for a long time I have been an advocate of an appeals tribunal such as exists in Canada. Without going that far, I am concerned about the cases which are in a state of limbo because Commonwealth or State police have submitted an adverse report. In the case of British citizens, there could be persons in their forties who in the flush of their twenties were demonstrators for the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament. I think even Senator Harradine would agree with me that that should not be an insuperable barrier to Australian citizenship. What I resent is that the cases of people who come to me could have been lying on the stocks for 12 months and those people do not know where they are. They just ask: ‘Have I been rejected or not?’ I am not directing my criticism to the Sydney or the Melbourne city offices. What staff in the central office in Canberra prepares the report for the Minister? I believe that the person who is awaiting a decision at least is entitled to know his fate.
A number of members of the Seamen’s Union of Australia who were born in the United Kingdom go away on a ship, some of them oil tankers, and come back after voyages of 90 days or longer. I have to say to them that I know their file is somewhere in Canberra, but that is all the information I can obtain. I am not one of those people who accept that every person who says he has been denied citizenship is a knight in shining armour. I know there are people who are involved in narcotics who certainly forfeit any right to Australian citizenship. My colleague, the honourable member for Hindmarsh, Mr Clyde Cameron, was very definite about that, as were the other 2 Ministers in the Labor Government with whom I worked very closely when I was the Chairman of the Immigation Advisory Council.
Some of the applications which come through my office are directed to the Regional Director in Sydney. We are advised that it will be 3 months before the applicant will be called in for an interview and probably another 3 months before the actual ceremony if there is no impediment to citizenship. Broadly, that is par for the course. Maybe the Minister can tell me, not tonight but shortly: Firstly, what staff in Sydney and Melbourne is involved in basic citizenship processing; secondly, what is the situation in central office; thirdly, are we receiving effective evaluations from the Commonwealth Police, the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and the State police? Some years ago I took up with the Commonwealth Police and the State police whether they had special details to speed up these evaluations. I emphasise that I do not claim that everyone who is rejected for citizenship or even has his application for citizenship deferred, did not merit rejection or delay. The point I make is simply that I believe we should have a better method by which people know their ultimate fate. I repeat that people move to other addresses. I know of cases in Sydney where people have waited 6 or 7 months for a report and even when they have been given a favourable report the letter advising them of this has gone to an address which they have left. Since then they have a chip on their shoulder and might never seek citizenship again.
I wind up on a matter which I have mentioned 3 times before. It concerns a member of the Federated Engineers and Firemen’s Association, Joseph Costanzo who, as I told the Senate the other night, is languishing in a Sydney hospital after a serious accident. I still do not know how long it is going to take one of our officers in Rome to go to Naples to check on this man’s birth certificate and to send a Telex back to Canberra. I think this is quite wrong. The Minister knows that our intake of immigrants this year and last year has been a lot less than in previous years. Therefore the workload of the Department should be lighter. Whether this man was born in Naples in 1937 or 1938 is only a minor matter. As I said before, if we have made a mistake by a year he may receive the age pension at 64 years of age instead of 65 years of age. The difference is so minute that I do not think it should be an impediment to his eligibility for citizenship. I suggest to the Minister for Social Security, who is now at the table, that we should send a special officer to that hospital within the next fortnight to confer citizenship on that man, who is battling for his life. I speak for the FEDFA, for myself and for other people in the central western suburbs. I hope I receive some answers on those matters.
– I am indebted to Senator Mulvihill for his comments and his constructive suggestions with regard to applications for citizenship. I shall obtain answers for him on the staffing in the Sydney and Melbourne offices and also on the central office. I shall make inquiries with regard to the information which is obtainable from Commonwealth and State police to assist in processing. I am sure the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) will be interested to hear the honourable senator’s comments on this matter; the constructive suggestions he has made are very practical ones which should have our consideration. I shall draw attention to the urgency of the application by Joseph Costanzo. I have noted the request that was made for special attention to be given to establishing the date of birth and other necessary information concerning this man. I shall draw this matter to the Minister’s attention again and see whether we are able to expedite this in the way that has been mentioned.
– Can the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) indicate at this point what funding will be available for the Community Relations Office, the establishment of which was provided for in the Racial Discrimination Act 1975. I understand the Office is now to be returned to the Attorney-General’s Department. I am particularly interested in what resources will be available for the education functions that Office was previously performing.
– I have no information with regard to the Community Relations Office. In the context of this Bill, I am not aware of any funds that are provided for it. I cannot canvass any changes in arrangements which would be the matter for a subsequent Budget, but I shall draw the attention of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) to the matters raised.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Department of Aboriginal Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $9,085,000.
– I want to raise a matter related to Division 120, subdivision 4, item 06, concerning grants-in-aid for enterprises. My question deals with the Ralkon Agricultural Company Pty Ltd at Point McLeay in South Australia. I raised this matter during the hearings of the Estimates Committee, but I am still awaiting some further clarification of some of the matters I raised. Firstly, I asked whether I could be told why the grant of $63,000 to the Ralkon Agricultural Company at Point McLeay- in South Australia was being withheld. I was informed by the departmental officer that the reason why it was being withheld was that the regional office of the department in South Australia was not satisfied with the management of the Ralkon Agricultural Company, in particular the manager himself. Of course, I was aware that the Ralkon Agricultural Company had been told that the $63,000 grant would not be paid until the company sacked the manager, to put it in plain terms.
The officer went on to say that he was aware that there was a difference of opinion between some of the people on the Point McLeay settlement and the Ralkon Agricultural Company. I told the officer that a writ had been taken out in the Supreme Court in relation to the holding of the Point McLeay Council elections. I asked whether I could be provided with a copy of the Supreme Court judgment in the case of the
Ralkon Agricultural Company. An answer contained in the report of Estimates Committee D to the Senate states:
No judgment has been made by the Supreme Court as the action did not proceed beyond a preliminary hearing as the Point McLeay Council agreed out of court to hold elections on 28 May 1977.
That election is to be held on Saturday of this week. I am referring to division 120, sub-division 4, Grants-in-Aid. The Point McLeay Council agreed out of court to hold elections on Saturday of this week. I did ask during the Estimates Committee hearings who would be responsible for the cost of that election. That answer was not given in the reply to the Senate. It has not been indicated who will pay the cost that would have been involved with the Ralkon Agricultural Company, in particular, which would have incurred costs in briefing counsel to issue the writ and to appear in the Supreme Court if necessary. As a result of the issue of that writ, the council has agreed to hold elections which it did not want to hold. The reason why it did not want to hold the election is known to the officer, known to myself and known to many other people. I also asked the officer whether, if the result of the elections on Saturday next was that there would be no further antagonism by the Point McLeay Council towards the directors of the Ralkon Agricultural Company, the Department would then pay the $63,000 grant to which this company is entitled but which has been withheld because the Department has no confidence in the manager of that company.
The directors have every confidence, as do many other people in the district and on the settlement, in the management. The regional office of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Adelaide is over-ruling the desires, the wishes, the good sense and good judgment of the Ralkon Agricultural Company. I feel that this is a case of people in authority forcing their will on a legitimate company, a legitimate Aboriginal enterprise, which has a very viable property. I have been to Adelaide and visited the property in company with the shadow Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. We looked over the property recently. We are convinced that it has been run properly. But the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Adelaide says otherwise. The other point about which I am concerned is that the manager of this company has been shown up in a very poor light as he should not have been because of this determination. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs will not give this company the $63,000 grant because it is not satisfied with his capability to manage the Ralkon Agricultural Company.
If the company itself were to take the advice of the Department and sack this man because of a decision by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, where would be stand in the community if he applied for a similar job? His livelihood would be in jeopardy because of a determination by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, although the directors of the company have every confidence in him. One of the directors or possibly two have been offered the manager’s job but they have refused it because they have confidence in the white manager. The people who have been offered the job are Aborigines. They want the white manager to stay, as do many other people living on the Point McLeay reserve who signed a petition about which I have spoken. They have every confidence in this man and they have also signed a petition of no confidence in the present members of the Point McLeay Council who come up for re-election on Saturday of this week.
I think we need some answers as to whether the Department will pay this $63,000 after Saturday if- in my view it will happen- the membership of the Point McLeay Council changes. There will then be no further arguments on the settlement and the Ralkon Agricultural Company will be able to get on with the job that it is charged with doing by the shareholders of the company. I know that the director of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Adelaide, Mr Powell, has been in Canberra this week. I raised this matter at the Senate Estimates Committee meeting on 28 April and the Minister who is present in the chamber now, Senator Guilfoyle, gave me an assurance that she would draw it to the attention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner). I feel sure that as Mr Powell has been in Canberra and has, I understand, had a conference with the Minister this week, we will surely be given an answer tonight as to what the decision will be. Will the $63,000 be paid to this enterprise or is the Department still going to insist that until the white manager is sacked it will withhold the money?
Furthermore, if that is the position will the Government accede to my request and the request of the directors of the Ralkon Agricultural Company that a full public inquiry be held to ascertain whether the Department of Aboriginal Affairs is right in its statement that the white manager is incapable. We should get to the facts and find out who is to blame, whether the white manager or the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Adelaide is at fault. This is what I want to know, what many people living in the Meningie and Narrung areas, which are very close to Point McLeay, want to know and what the people at the Point McLeay settlement want to know, because it is time we settled this matter. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs cannot run around and say that in its view the manager is incompetent and for that reason it is withholding money. That is not a good enough answer. If the Minister upholds the decision of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Adelaide that the manager is not competent then the Minister should comply with our request. I asked on 28 April- other people have asked the Minister himself many weeks ago- to conduct an inquiry into this matter so that everyone will know where the fault lies. I will not say any more at this juncture but will await an answer from the Minister.
– I want to make reference to the same subdivision. When the Estimates Committees were being conducted, reference was made to a scaling back of funding for Aboriginal organisations and Aboriginal persons generally. At that time I asked questions of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle). It might clarify the situation for people who read Hansard- I know it has a very large readership- if I cite the answer given by the Minister’s adviser. I asked how many people had lost their jobs in town management and other community projects in the last year as a result of the 1 976-77 Budget cuts. I made these statements a few days ago when we were debating the Appropriation Bill. The officer replied: 1 would hope none. Our instructions to regional directors were that there was to be no retrenchment as a result of this. They were asked to ensure that employment would be maintained at about the same level as last year.
I pointed out at that time that that was a confusing statement because last year’s estimates had been based on cut-backs for the previous year. In other words, a fairly substantial sum of money which had been allocated in the Hayden Budget was withdrawn from Aboriginal settlements. Then, pending various inquiries and so on, there were further cut-backs in the current financial year’s Budget. The end result of this, of course, was that the cut-backs were much greater than one would have thought likely in view of the preelection promises that had been made in 1975. The officer went on to say:
All I say is that this is the position. Some employment could have ceased because projects finished. That is not unemployment as a result of cuts.
He further stated:
All I can indicate is that there was no intentional unemployment as a result of the cuts in funds.
On the evening on which I contributed to the debate on the Appropriation Bill I pointed out that there was a very high unemployment rate in a number of communities, in provincial cities and in some of the smaller towns. I pointed out that in the Burke Shire Council area the unemployment rate was about 90 per cent. In Rockhampton it was very high too. We have documentary evidence to indicate that in many of the communities unemployment had been caused as a result of cut-backs in government funding. That was two or three days ago. I hope that the Minister has taken this on board because an assurance was given at the time that it would be, and the advisers have had an opportunity to look at the figures I cited. I would like to find out whether any attempt has been made to rebut the argument that I put forward on that occasion. Perhaps when the Minister replies she will enlighten me in some way or other on the points I raised in the debate on the Appropriation Bills.
I want to introduce a little bit of new matter which still comes under subdivision 4. It concerns the Point McLeay Housing Society. My colleague Senator Geof McLaren has pointed out a number of matters that he raised during the debate on the Estimates Committees reports. During the last few days it has come to my attention that there are also substantial problems with the housing society and its activities at Point McLeay in South Australia. I might say that I have made an urgent submission to the Minister. I left messages with the Minister in the hope that he would ring me and talk with me about it, but failing that I hope that the Minister handling this debate in the chamber will be able to get the information for me. I understand that the consultants who operated with the housing society or some persons in a supervisory capacity obviously did not do their job. I am not blaming the housing society at all. The Minister will know that in numerous debates in this chamber I have pointed out that some of the consultants who are engaged, sometimes at very high cost so far as Aboriginal departmental funds are concerned, do not always do their job. When anything goes wrong the people who get the blame are not the consultants or the departmental officers; it is always the Aborigines. They are the ones who get the criticism.
It appears that in some of the houses in the Point McLeay community settlement the septic systems were installed without supervision, without permits from the local council and they are ineffective. In other words, they will not operate effectively. It also appears that some of the material that has been purchased for maintenance or for the putting in of partitions is of inferior quality. In letters I directed to the Minister a few days ago I endeavoured to ascertain how much was in storage, what it had cost and why this type of material had been purchased. There is some difficulty in identifying the material. Apparently it is a type of caneite. If one wants to use soft board-I know it is allegedly called hardboard- as a partition in a wall in a home where there are young children there is nothing to stop the children putting their trikes through it because it is very much like thin fibrolite. The same sort of thing happens. I hope that the Minister will be able to get an explanation.
The Point McLeay area has come under a certain amount of investigation recently but I think the type of investigation that is being carried out by the Department is not the type that would suit the people there. I might go a little further on that. Money has been available to the Victorian Government for expenditure on housing. This comes under item 01. The original figure cited in one area is $130,000. It has been brought to my attention that in Bairnsdale and other towns in that general area the Victorian Housing Commission has gone out on a program of removing all the garages on the older homes. The explanation given to the local people is that Aboriginal people might use the garages to sleep in. If they do, obviously it will highlight a very pertinent point. In other words, not enough money is being spent on housing. The Victorian Housing Commission is removing these garages and replacing them with very expensive carports. I have gone to some trouble to find out from an official in Victoria that in fact the accusations outlined in a letter to me are true.
A number of garages have been demolished and replaced with very expensive carports. That money should never have been wasted in that way at all. The Housing Commission has gone even further than that because it has removed paling fences from around some of the older homes that have been purchased and rented to Aboriginal people because it said the Aborigines will pull all the palings off and use them for firewood; but that is not true at all because many of those homes do not even have wood stoves. They have gas stoves or electric stoves. So that the Aborigines apparently will be readily identifiable the Housing Commission has decided to paint all the houses the one colour. I suppose that is very handy for some departments and some members of the public to be able to point down the street and say: ‘I know where the Aboriginal houses are- they are that particular colour down there, and if you go to the next block you can identify the Aboriginal houses there because they are the same colour.’ Why should Aborigines who rent Housing Commission homes- and the Commonwealth funds the Victorian Government to provide this sort of housing- be discriminated against in this way?
I know what would happen if my next door white neighbour had his garage removed and an expensive steel carport was put in to prevent some of his friends who come there in the summertime from sleeping in the garage. There would be uproar. I know what would happen particularly in the colder areas where white families who have paling fences to keep the wind out to protect their shrubs and gardens were told that the fences would be pulled down and rough, sharp-topped wire fences built in their place. I believe there is an exception made. If there happens to be a next-door white neighbour who objects to paling fences being taken down, a tremendous thing is done- the authorities will allow the wooden fence to stay on that side of the allotment.
On other allotments where there is a wooden fence at the front, the fence is pulled down and it is not even replaced with a wire fence. Little kiddies who live in the home have total access to the street. That is discrimination too. If the local bylaws and ordinances allow a front fence to be built quite obviously the kiddies could play at the front of the house without their mother’s fearing that the kiddies will run out on to the street into traffic; but apparently it is all right so long as the kiddy is black as he is allowed to run out onto the street and to be run over by a passing car because the housing association believes in this policy for Aborigines. I hope that the Minister, if she has not got the answers- and I do not expect her to have answers immediately on these Victorian questions- after a couple of days notice will have the answers for the other matters that were raised by me in my contribution much earlier this week.
-Some information was sought by Senator McLaren in regard to the matters which he raised. He did raise these matters in the debate on the Estimates Committee reports and some additional information was provided for him. This evening he sought clarification regarding the payment of costs. I am able to say that the payment of costs is a responsibility of the parties concerned. The other matter that was raised is in regard to the grant to Ralkon Agricultural Company Pty Ltd of $63,000. Payment of the grant would depend upon the Minister’s opinion of the merits of the case, including the management skills that were obtainable. This is a matter which will need to be decided at a later stage. The Minister, as I understand it, did receive a delegation this week in Canberra and matters that were of concern to the Ralkon company and others were raised during the discussion. I am not aware of any other information that I can give in regard to the matters that were raised by Senator McLaren.
Senator Keeffe raised some further matters that he had shown interest in during the debate. I do have to say that I have no information on the specific matters that were raised by him this evening. He raised queries regarding the Point McLeay Housing Society. I will see that the Minister is advised of the questions and I will endeavour to obtain an answer as soon as possible. On the further matters raised in regard to the Aboriginal housing in Victoria, it should be understood that these houses are owned and maintained by the Victorian Housing Commission with the aid of grants made by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. As the honourable senator anticipated, I have not any detailed information which he requires in regard to the painting of the houses or the other matters but I will refer them to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and obtain the information for him as soon as possible.
– I want to raise one point but before I do so I would like to express concern of what Senator Keeffe says is correct about caneite partitions being used in Aboriginal houses at Point McLeay. I ask the Minister to look into this matter and to look at the fire rating of caneite. It is a product made by Colonial Sugar Refineries out of the residue of cane and comes from the same original sources from which methylated spirit is extracted. In South Australia 12 children in temporary homes were roasted in various fires before we got the Playford Government to demolish the homes and use other materials in home building. Once caneite ignites there is no hope or very little hope of escaping from a building. It simply explodes. The Melbourne Metropolitan Fire Brigade Board gave it a great fire hazard rating. In certain constructions because of the danger it was not permitted to be used. It has been practically eliminated from use in South Australia now at the cost of the lives of 12 children before we could get officials to prevent its use. It would distress me greatly if the Commission was erecting even well constructed homes using caneite, especially in homes of Aboriginals. We owe them something better than to submit them to those hazards. I would ask also that all housing specifications and lists of materials be looked at to ensure the use of safe materials in Aboriginal housing.
The question which I primarily wish to raise is of great concern to me. I see nothing in the appropriations for the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. There was a very reduced amount in the Budget Estimates for the NACC, sufficient to permit only one meeting. I expressed my doubt whether it was sufficient for one meeting. I am inclined to think that the NACC has not had a meeting within 12 months. There are 41 members. When I raised the question -
– What was the body to which you are referring?
– It is the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. The 41 members are being paid by the Government a salary of around $7,000 a year each. When I asked the question, the reply was: ‘We are waiting for Dr Hyatt’s report to see what we are going to do with this body and whether it has a future. ‘ Dr Hyatt has reported. His report has been in the Government’s hands for some months now. It was tabled more recently in this Parliament. He recommends the continuation of the body, in fact, the enlarging of it by 3 members for the purpose of better representation in some tribal settlements and also the establishment of regional sections. There was no money in the Budget for this purpose and there is no money provided in this legislation.
Senator Melzer has mentioned on several occasions the resignation as a delegate from Victoria of David Anderson. There has been no appropriation made to hold an election to fill his position. Under the conditions of appointment provision is made to hold an election of the Aboriginals living in his electoral area. I am informed that there has been another resignation since David Anderson’s resignation. The Government is letting members of this body resign, It has a report. The Government policy apparently is to keep the body going, but it is letting members resign. There are areas where Aboriginals are not represented on the Consultative Committee, which is a body for the purpose of advising the Government on Aboriginal Affairs Also, the NACC is not allowed to meet. The Government is paying men to sit in their offices or at home. They are unable to take any decisions. They are not allowed to meet. There is no appropriation for them to meet. This Federal body has been 12 months without a meeting. The Opposition hopes that, if the Government is going to eliminate the NACC or if it is going to act contrary to the Hyatt report, it will let us know. Whatever it is going to do, I think it should advise the Senate of its intentions as a result of the Hyatt report for which the Government was waiting in order to make a decision on this question.
– I wish to add to the remarks of Senator Keeffe about some areas of Victoria. He spoke about Aboriginal homes in Bairnsdale and mentioned that garages had been pulled down because Aboriginal people might sleep in them. Those garages have been replaced by car pons. I have seen the type of garage that the Department has pulled down in Bairnsdale. They are good, solid and workmanlike garages. The only excuse for their demolition is that Aboriginals might sleep there. This, of course, points up the fact that there are not enough houses for these people. But the idiocy goes even further. The Department did not just pull down garages and replace them with car ports. It went into homes that did not have garages or cars and where nobody even had a driving licence and it put up car ports outside those homes. Of course, these houses stand out like sore toes. The people of Bairnsdale ask How would you like to be living next to someone who gets a garage for nothing while you have to work for yours? He does not even have a car but he gets a carport built’.
Approximately $130,000 was made available for the maintenance of these homes in Victoria.
– In what year was this done?
– In what year were the garages pulled down?
– The car ports.
– They are being built now. It is being done this year. This money was made available for maintenance on these homes. Some homes are desperately in need of maintenance because large families have been living in them. The wear and tear has been extreme in some instances. But instead of having any maintenance done on the living area of the homes, these ridiculous car ports have been put up in the backyards. This seems to point up some aberration in the thinking of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Victoria. There are homes that stand out not only because they have these car ports now standing beside them but also because they have been painted on the outside. They are bright and shiny on the outside but the inside is absolutely intolerable. These houses have had very old wood stoves in them for years. The wood stoves have worn out and smoke intolerably so that the entire inside of the house is covered by smoke stains and grease stains. With the best will in the world, one could spend all day and all night scrubbing those houses from top to bottom and in a week they would be as bad again.
The Department refuses to do anything about the stoves. It refuses to do anything about painting the inside of the houses. There are houses there where the hot water service has been leaking for some time. There are homes where the hot water service will come through the ceiling and may land on some poor, unfortunate child. But nothing is done. There are car ports and there is some paint on the outside of the homes. This money was made available for maintenance of these homes. Yet, in Shepparton, where there are many Aboriginal homes, nothing at all has been done by way of maintenance for 7 years or more. What exactly was this money for maintenance spent on and what is the rationale for putting up car ports near homes when people do not even have a driving licence?
– In answer to my query earlier this evening concerning a grant which is not being paid to the Ralkon Agricultural Co. until the directors agree with the South Australian directors’ request that they sack the manager, the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) said that payment of the grant is a matter for decision by the Minister, which will be made at a later date. I ask the Minister: At how much later a date? This matter has been dragging on and on for months. As a matter of fact it goes back to last year and a decision has still not been made. When will we get a decision? It appears that the directors of this company are being held to ransom until they agree to a decision by the regional office in Adelaide to sack the white manager. That is not good enough. The people themselves have asked for an inquiry. I emphasise that fact. I make the plea that it not be a departmental inquiry. We know what often happens in these departmental inquiries. People in a department inquire into their own decisions. We do not want that. We want a public inquiry where everything will come out in the open. If there are any malpractices or anything going on that the Department says should not be going on the public at large will know about it.
– Did you say that the matter had gone to the court?
-No. What I said, Senator Wright, related to a council election which is a different matter from the Ralkon Agricultural Co. This is where the dispute lies. I will have a talk to the honourable senator privately. It would take too long to inform him now of the disputes which exist.
The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) who is in charge of the debate here tonight said that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) met a delegation in Canberra this week. I would like to know about the delegation. Whom did it represent? Did it represent any of the directors of the Ralkon Agricultural Co.? The Minister for Social Security said that the delegation that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs met this week centred around discussions on the Ralkon Agricultural Co. I would like to know who were the members of the delegation? Was the Ralkon Agricultural Co. represented? The Minister- I will prompt her again- did not answer my request for a public inquiry. Surely the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has had ample time from the discussions that he has had in Adelaide in months gone by, when these people asked for a public inquiry, to have made a decision. I asked for a public inquiry to be held when I mentioned the matter at the Estimates Committee hearing. I have asked again tonight. The departmental officers and the Minister are fully aware that a public inquiry is wanted. I would like an answer.
– I want to refer briefly again to a couple of the problems that we mentioned earlier. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) implied that the matter I raised was not her responsibility but was the responsibility of the Housing Commission in Victoria. I know that the administration is the responsibility of the Commission but Commonwealth funds are being used. If they are being misused in this way it is the responsibility of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) to see that this type of misuse does not take place. Carports are expensive little buildings. It costs a fairly large sum of money to wreck a well-kept existing garage and to replace it with a carport. If that is done with 4 houses in some of the country towns in Victoria the cost involved could provide another home for an Aboriginal family. Should that not come first before discriminatory practices are carried out which this Government condones? It has not stopped them. A long time ago I saw a letter forwarded by the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee Executive in that area, Mrs Nessie Skuta, to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. As far as I know Mrs Skuta has not even had a reply.
I know that the Government will close down the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Victoria. It has been scaling down for a long time. Right after it was elected to office it decided to close down some of the enterprises in country areas. Guess who the Government got rid of in most institutions? It was the Aboriginal employees. The same sort of thing is happening in Queensland which has a black population of something like 60 000 Aborigines and Islanders. There has been a tremendous scaling down in that State. If the Government is saying that it is not practising discrimination against Aboriginal people I say that that is wrong; it is.
The other point I want to make concerns what the Minister said 48 hours after we raised in this chamber details documented in telegrams and letters from settlements around Australia regarding people who have been unemployed as a direct result of cuts which the Government has instituted. Honourable senators should not say that unemployment in Townsville, a provincial city, was not brought about because of the direct cuts that the Government made. The Government closed down or virtually closed down both of the housing associations so that the Aboriginals who were employed either in an administrative capacity or in other facets of building homes in that area are all now without jobs. Even worse than that the Government took a car off one of the housing associations and sent it to another housing co-operative. The vehicle was needed to get around to collect rents and so on. Further the Government took away $140,000 and distributed it to another housing association. I do not know who the Government is trying to convince. It certainly is not convincing most of the population of Australia and none of the Aboriginal and Islander people of this country.
I say to the Minister for Social Security that if she is to handle Aboriginal Affairs in this chamberI do not intend to be insulting, nasty or anything- I think she ought to get herself better acquainted with what is happening in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. In 18 months here the Minister has been able to answer only 2 questions dealing directly with Aboriginal affairs. I know that from time to time Senator Wright, who is an expert on Aboriginal affairs, makes interjections. He has endeavoured to do so tonight and to run this part of the discussion on the appropriation -
– You are getting more rubbishy every day.
– You waffle on and on.
– The honourable senator never quite gets to the point. Mr Chairman, I feel that I must answer that interjection of Senator Wright’s because -
– You will not do so while I am here.
– The honourable senator is an expert on everything.
– Order! I want the honourable senator to come back to the appropriation we are considering.
– I cannot refer to Senator Wright under item 01 but I can refer to the interjection he has made. I make this final point: Senator Wright is an expert on everything from referendums to Aboriginal Affairs. I point out to the Minister that there are problems in this area and that they are accumulating and accelerating. I hope that when the Minister is searching for this information she takes the time to get the details, hopefully before the Committee stage of the Appropriation Bill is disposed of. If that cannot be done I hope she gets them before this Parliament rises for the winter recess.
- Senator Cavanagh raised matters of concern to him. Firstly he spoke about caneite partitions in houses. I noted his concern about this matter and I will refer it to the relevant Ministers for their attention. I point out that all housing construction financed by grants from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs is supervised by the Department of Construction. I will see that both Ministers concerned are informed of the comments that were made by Senator Cavanagh on this matter.
Senator Cavanagh also raised a question about the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. I am able to advise him that this matter is currently under consideration by the Government. The Government’s decision on the Hyatt report should be announced during this session of Parliament. That will cover the points raised by Senator Cavanagh about elections and the other matters in which he is interested as they concern the NACC. I have noted again Senator Melzer ‘s concern with regard to housing in Victoria and also the points raised by Senator Keeffe on somewhat the same matters in Victoria and other matters. While he might be disappointed that I am not always able to advise readily the detailed information which he requires I assure him that I draw the matters to the attention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and that I am aware of the answers which the Minister continually provides to him.
Senator McLaren rose again to discuss the matter of the Ralkon Agricultural Co. Pty Ltd and the Pt McLeay settlement. As Senator McLaren has stated, the matter depends to some extent upon the results of the elections of the Pt McLeay Council which holds a majority of shares in the Ralkon Agricultural Co. These elections, as was stated earlier, will be held on Saturday. Other matters will flow from any decisions that are made. As I said to the honourable senator when I answer his earlier question with regard to the grant, this depends on the Minister’s opinion of the merits of the case including the management skills obtainable. The payment of the grant will be considered in the light of the facts that are available to the Minister. I think Senator McLaren required information about the delegation which I advised him had been received by the Minister this week. I understand that the delegation represented the Point McLeay Council. I feel sure that the matters raised by him were discussed between the delegation and the Minister.
– Nothwithstanding the discouragement that I received in support of Senator Keeffe, I wish to profess some interest in the statements of Senator Melzer, Senator Keeffe and, I think, Senator Cavanagh. If $35,000, $135,000 or $5,000 of Commonwealth money, through any agencywhether it is the Housing Commission of Victoria or any other agency- has gone into building carports for people who have no car and no licence to drive a car, I wish to put the proposition quite firmly that our Auditor-General or the Victorian Auditor-General has a serious duty to consider requiring the officer responsible to make good the money. I leave it at that. I am not accepting these propositions. That is the seriousness of the matter. I ask the Minister, in getting the information in reply to these allegations, not merely to confine it to those who asked the questions but to consider me as an individual interested in knowing the facts.
– I thank the Minister for her reply which enlightend me about the personnel of the delegation. I am disturbed that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) received a delegation which represented only one side of the argument at Point McLeay. As the delegation represented the Point McLeay Council I want to know whether the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs was able to hear the other side. I doubt whether he was. I hope that in the very near future some arrangements can be made, now that the Minister has received at his office in Canberra a delegation from the Point McLeay Council for him to receive a delegation from the directors of the Ralkon Agricultural Company Pty Ltd to put their side of the question.
We have dealt with the Point McLeay situation. I raised other matters at the Estimates Committee meeting. I did not mention them earlier because I did not want to confuse the issue. I raised matters in connection with the Gerard mission at Winkie, which is in the area which I represent. I asked to be provided with details of the number of Aboriginals who are being retrenched at the mission. The answer given in the report to the Senate is this:
The precise number of Aboriginals to be retrenched at Gerard by the end of the 1976-77 financial year is not known at this stage. Officers of the Department are currently visiting Gerard for further assessment of the situation and to discuss with the Gerard Council the possibility of mounting special works projects in 1977-78 to provide alternative employment for any displaced workers. This is in accord with an undertaking by the Department that employment at Gerard will be maintained at the present level if at all possible.
If at all possible’ could cover a multitude of things. I have been informed that Aboriginal people are to be retrenched there. I asked a further question:
Is there any disquiet at the Gerard mission similar to what is happening at Point McLeay because of the attitude of officers of DAA in Adelaide?
The answer was:
The Gerard Council has refused to accept the findings of 3 feasibility studies by independent authorities stating that the standard of management of the Gerard farming enterprise is in need of upgrading and that the level of employment must be re-assessed if economic viability is to be achieved. The departmental view is that projects of this type must aim at viability in accord with the findings of feasibility studies conducted by independent authorities.
The Department of Aboriginal Affairs is saying that it is not satisfied with the standard of management at two of the largest Aboriginal settlements in South Australia. I would like to know the names of the 3 independent authorities which advised the DAA. Were they experts in the field of agriculture? I have further questions, but before I proceed I would like to know the names of the independent authorities which carried out the 3 feasibility studies and which stated that the standard of management at Gerard was not up to scratch.
-The question is that the vote be passed without requests.
-Does not the Minister intend to respond?
– The Minister did not rise, so I put the question.
– I did not respond because Senator McLaren was reading an answer which was provided as information to him as a result of questions raised at Estimates Committee D. I have no further information. I have not the names of the 3 bodies which conducted the feasibility studies, but I shall obtain that information for him. I have no information additional to what was provided in the answer to the question asked by him before the Estimates Committee.
– I make the observation that I find it strange that, although officers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs are in the chamber to advise the Minister and can state in the report to the Senate that the Gerard mission has refused to accept the findings of 3 feasibility studies by independent authorities, the officers cannot state who conducted those studies. I cannot accept that as a valid answer. I shall pursue it further in the Senate next week. I expect that if the answer cannot be given tonight it will be provided next week, before the Parliament rises, because it is most important that I have that answer.
– I shall be happy to see that the honourable senator is provided with an explanation. These feasibility studies were conducted by authorities in Adelaide. The officer who is advising me this evening does not have this information with him. I shall be happy to seek it and provide it without any delay.
Proposed expenditure passed.
Department of Education
Proposed expenditure, $40,842,000.
- Senator Colston earlier asked for some information about Aboriginal study grants. His seeking of information concerned 2 main points. One was the circumstances of 42 Aborigines who, having applied for Aboriginal study grants, were temporarily placed upon Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme grants because all the funds allowed for the study grants had been consumed. The other was a question as to the budgeting and estimating. In past years the amount of money for Aboriginal study grants has been increased each year. Each year since 1974 the number of people on Aboriginal study grants has increased. One of the problems facing Senator Colston in interpreting the figures is that they are given in 2 categories- the number of Aborigines on study grants as at 30 June of a year, and the number of Aborigines on study grants as at 3 1 December of a year. The figure of which he spoke, 710, was a June figure. I think he was comparing that with a December figure. The 30 June figures run this way:
1974 1975 1976 1977 1978
1079 1347 1623 1710 2380 (projected)
The 3 1 December figures run this way:
1974 1975 1976 1977
1467 1875 2253 2700
In other words, there has been a major progression. What happened was that the number of people applying was more than we thought would be applying. The amount allocated for July 1976 to December 1976 was $978,000; for January 1977 to June 1977, $1,344,000; for July 1977 to December 1977, $1,505,000. So there is a steady increase.
One other point relates to those who went onto TEAS temporarily. It is not necessary that those who went onto TEAS would have received less money than they would have received on study grants because TEAS would apply back to 1 January of the year, whereas the study grant applies from the time when the person studies. So some could well have received more money. When they were put back onto the study grant no attempt was made in any way to adjust retrospectively against the students. In other words, we gave them the fairest possible treatment. I believe that the Budget Estimates have been accurate in terms of a progressive figure for the years. The moneys put aside have been increased for each half year and each year. The fact that suddenly there grew a demand over what had been expected could not be calculated. I put it to the Committee that the TEAS device was a sensible and humane one which was preferable to knocking these people back, because there was a possibility always of there being more students than could be accommodated. The device of putting them back on to the study grants without any prejudice has been humane, and I suggest that the problem has been resolved.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! It being 11 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Chairman having reported accordingly.
Aircraft Accident in Queensland-Death of Mr Allan Barnes
– In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
-This is the second time this week I have spoken on the adjournment. Tonight is a very sad time for me. I want to give details of an aircraft crash in north Queensland late this evening. A charter aircraft carrying a number of notable citizens between Julia Creek and Townsville crashed in the area of the Greenvale railway. I understand that the charter flight was travelling back to Townsville. Because of adverse weather conditions it deviated a little from its course and passed through what is known as the Thornton Gap area. All 5 persons on board were killed in the crash. Among them was Alderman Ben Bloom, Chairman-elect of the North Queensland Electricity Board and senior alderman of the Townsville City Council. He was one of the best known business men in north Queensland. Also on board was Mr W. Garbutt, for many years Chairman of the Hinchinbrook Shire Council, which is responsible for an area some 70 miles north of Townsville. He was Chairman of the Townsville Regional Electricity Board, which in July this year will be taken over by the North Queensland Electricity Board.
Another passenger was Mr Ben Hammond, a young man of tremendous promise. He was Secretary of the North Queensland Electricity Board. Also killed was Dr Les Power, State Government appointee to the North Queensland Electricity Board and former alderman of the Townsville City Council. He was Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry at the James Cook University. He was a man who had many years of life in front of him and a man of tremendous academic qualification and potential. The pilot was Mr Thomas Abbott.
It is a sad thing, but I think it ought to go on record that all of those killed were prominent in public life, some of them over many years. The Mayor of the city of Townsville, to whom I spoke a short time ago, is very broken up over the matter, as I am. I classify all of those killed as personal friends. One was a longstanding colleague of mine in the Australian Labor Party. Some of the others belonged to other parties. In this vast country of ours I do not think we realise the number of times that people take their lives into their hands when they fly in small aircraft in difficult weather conditions. The people I have mentioned made a tremendous contribution to the life of North Queensland, particularly the academic man, who was a tutor of many young people. I suppose it was only by a long shot of fate that the Deputy Mayor of Townsville was not on the flight also, and that my wife was not a member of that delegation as an alderman of the Townsville City Council. I hope that with these few remarks the Senate will join me in extending sincere sympathy to the relatives of all the deceased.
– I take the opportunity tonight to speak of a man for whom I had great respect and admiration. I refer to Allan Barnes, who was Deputy Editor of the Melbourne Age, and who died on 25 May in Sydney. I knew Allan Barnes as a very distinguished journalist who had worked for the Australian Broadcasting Commission, various newspapers and radio and television stations. He spent 10 years with the Daily Telegraph in Sydney before joining the Age. I got to know him for his work particularly after I came to work at Parliament House for the first time about 4 years ago. Allan Barnes was closely associated with Parliament House. He was a prominent member of the Press Gallery and a respected reporter of political proceedings in the national Parliament. I knew him as a man of sensitivity and the greatest integrity. He was a journalist who was thorough and objective. He had a great talent as an incisive writer. This morning the Canberra Times recorded a tribute to Allan Barnes. I quote a small part of it:
During his years in Canberra he earned a reputation as one of Australia’s best informed and most impartial political commentators, travelling widely in Australian and abroad with political leaders.
Those qualities were recognised in his recent appointment as Deputy Editor of the Melbourne Age. His death is a loss to this Parliament and to Australian journalism. It is also worth recording on this occasion the remarks of Mr Ranald Macdonald, who is Managing Director of David Syme and Co. Ltd, which publishes the Age. He said:
Mr Barnes had been one of the most outstanding journalists to work for the Age in its 123-year history. Mr Barnes’ death, which came after a long and courageous struggle against illness, was a great loss to the Age and to journalism. During his distinguished career with the Age, Allan Barnes was a model of integrity and professionalism. His contribution to this newspaper was enormous.
I know I speak for a number of my colleagues in the Senate who have indicated that they share the views I have expressed about Allan Barnes and the views to which I have just referred expressed by Mr Macdonald. I extend my sympathy and the sympathy of all those here to his family, who bear the greatest burden and sorrow at his loss.
– I speak very briefly on the matter raised by Senator Knight. There is not a great deal I can add because he covered quite adequately the record of Allan Barnes. Most of us here would have known Allan Barnes, but perhaps we knew him differently from the way we know a lot of the other journalists, mainly because of his years of service in the political arena. Senator Knight put his finger on a significant point when he spoke of the impartiality of Allan Barnes. That was his great attribute, quite apart from his capacity as a journalist and his capacity to express himself on the political events of the day. There was always objectivity in what he wrote. Perhaps this was the main reason for the respect in which he was held, I am sure, throughout the profession and certainly within this Parliament. On behalf of the Opposition- I think some of my colleagues also would wish to add some words- I state that his death is a real loss to the profession and a loss to many of us in this Parliament.
– I support the remarks made by Senator Knight and my colleague, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt), concerning the untimely death of Allan Barnes, who was not only a great Australian and a great journalist but also a very close personal friend of mine. I had the privilege of knowing Allan Barnes long before he or I ever came to this Parliament. I knew him when we were very active members together of the Australian Journalists Association. From recollection, at that time he was a member of the staff of the Sydney Daily Telegraph. I can say without fear of contradiction that Allan Barnes did as much as anyone in the field of journalism to assist in the promotion of Australian talent in the theatrical and entertainment spheres. He was a man who had great capacity, but above all he had the ability, as Senator Wriedt has said, to report objectively. He was a ‘factual’ man and an ‘actual’ man. He was a man of reality and a man who was completely removed from the type of journalism which one sees so often these days, that of sensationalism.
Everyone who knew Allan Barnes had a tremendous respect for him, particularly those who knew him in connection with the Australian
Journalists Association of which he was a member for a great many years. I join with Senator Knight and my colleague Senator Wriedt in lamenting the passing of this very great Australian. I express my sympathies and the sympathies of all members of the Australian Journalists Association to his children in their sad bereavement.
– I wish to add a few words to what has been said by Senator Knight and my colleagues, Senator Wriedt and Senator Douglas McClelland, about the late Mr Allan Barnes. It came to me as a very great shock to learn that he had died. He was a friend of mine for some 10 years. In fact, I was speaking to him on the telephone only two or three weeks ago. Although I knew that he had been ill I had hoped- and I think a number of people had expected- that his health had somewhat improved. It came as a very great and sad surprise to discover that he had died.
Although Mr Barnes was no longer actively working in the Parliament but was in fact the Deputy Editor of the Age, the Parliament has suffered a very great loss through his death. He was a journalist who did not resort to gossip and chit chat but who worked hard in obtaining facts. So far as I know, he never published stories about people without seeking verification from the people to whom his stories referred. He was not a gossip columnist. He was a person who had a serious approach to the political life of this country, who tried to report it accurately- I believe that he succeeded in doing that- and who tried to comment on it objectively. I do not think that means that he was a person without opinions or without any values. If one read his articles regularly one could see that he had quite a consistent set of ideas which he put forward. But he did not allow that to lead him to indulge in personalities or inaccuracies. He was a model journalist. There are very few indeed of his calibre. I think that his death is appropriately being recorded by the Senate because the country is a very much poorer place through his death. I believe that Australian democracy and the functioning of our democratic system has suffered a loss in Mr Barnes’ death.
-I add briefly to the observations and comments made by the previous speakers in relation to the very untimely passing of Allan Barnes. I personallythis view has been expressed by other honourable senators- had great admiration for Allan Barnes. I do not refer only to his great talents in journalism. On a personal level Allan
Barnes had the very happy ability of always presenting a very pleasing side of his personality. He was a good conversationalist. He was a bon vivant. He was a happy man in so many ways that he commanded admiration and respect from very many people. I add to those sentiments that have already been expressed my very deep sympathy to the family he has left behind and who have lost such a wonderful father and citizen of this country.
– On behalf of the Government, I join, first of all, in the expression of regret at and condolence in respect of the tragedy outlined by Senator Keeffe. It is a real and personal thing. The loss of people to their families and to the community, particularly to such inter-related communities as are found in the north of Australia, is very real. Certainly, the Government and all honourable senators wish to convey their deep regrets to the relatives and friends of those killed.
It is most appropriate that honourable senators from both sides of the chamber should have risen tonight to pay tribute to Allan Barnes. I was privileged to know him for 20 years or more, which period covered virtually the whole of his journalistic career. I do not want to add in any great detail to what I believe are the quite genuine and moving tributes expressed. He was a man of great professional integrity. That was his great quality. It is emphasised by the fact that we can talk tonight of a man from the journalist profession, which is a highly controversial one, and that we can say from both sides of the chamber that we walked with him as friends, that we judged his writings as being objective and perceptive, and that we walked with a man of good humour, grace and dignity. We now record that as a relatively young man, with a first class career ahead of him, he has been stricken down by a terminal illness which he fought with great dignity and bravery but which terminated his life.
On behalf of the Government and on behalf of all honourable senators I join in expressing to his son and daughter and to all his relatives the deepest sorrow and the acknowledgement that he added to Australian public life by a quality of observation and communication which is rarely seen. We lose too many of these people. Not so long ago we lost Wally Crouch, who was a similar person. Just before that and by a similar tragedy -
– That is right; Don Whitington. Before that we lost the Editor of the Age, Graham Perkin. It is fair that we who tend from time to time to be critical of those whose duty it is to analyse critically our actions should pay tribute to people who by their professionalism have added, as honourable senators have said, to the strength of democracy and to its greater working in Australia. Therefore, on behalf of the Government, I join in a tribute to a man who has been a good Australian and who has added to the quality of life of us all. We are all the poorer by his death. In the words of Dr John Donne:
Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind -
I therefore record the tribute.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.19 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 8 March 1977:
What is the full text of the letter reputedly criticising the Federal Government’s interpretation of the findings of the Ranger Environmental Inquiry, sent to the Minister by the 3 Commissioners of the Ranger Inquiry, and referred to in the article entitled ‘Fox Commissioners Join in Attack on Government’ by Judith Hoare, which appeared in the Financial Review dated 30 November 1976.
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: 1 have had correspondence with Mr Justice Fox on a number of issues. I regard that correspondence as confidential and, consequently, do not propose to release it.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 8 March 1977:
Has the Government decided to increase the staff of the Commonwealth Employment Service by 250. If so, (a) when was the decision taken, (b) why was the increase in staffing not undertaken earlier, given the obvious understating of the Commonwealth Employment Service, (c) which offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service will receive the additional staff, and (d) when will the new appointments be effected.
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 29 March 1977:
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
None of its efforts so far has produced a satisfactory outcome mainly because the events in question happened on a foreign territory involving potential witnesses over whom the Government has no authority. This situation has not been changed by Mr Dunn’s report which does not bring forward any fresh evidence which opens up new or more promising avenues for the Government to explore.
asked the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters, upon notice, on 29 March 1977:
– The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The North Australia Railway has not been closed and services, though withdrawn, could be resumed if sufficient traffic develops to warrant operation of the railway. Offers have been made to transfer staff affected to other parts of the Australia National Railway system at existing classifications, and considerable effort has been made to find alternative employment for those who wish to remain in the Territory. Only when these attempts have failed have retrenchment notices issued. *
The Government announced earlier this year that the Public Service Board, in consultation with the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, would arrange for the redeployment of permanent public servants on the Commission’s staff. In addition, redeployment possibilities for other staff are being explored positively with, in particular, the Departments of the Northern Territory and Construction, and also the Northern Territory Public Service.
West Germany: Nuclear Power Station at Gundremmingen (Question No. 440)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 31 March 1977:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
and (2) Yes.
Further, the advice tendered to me was as follows: The shutdown followed a failure of the Augsburg-Ulm high tension transmission network due to frost damage of the insulators caused by exceptionally cold weather during the night of 13 January. When the grid system failed the generator was automatically disconnected from it but a fault in the turbine control system caused the turbine governor values to open fully. This in turn caused a fluctuation in steam pressure which resulted in an automatic shutdown of the reactor and, among other things, the closure of the containment isolation valves.
The shutdown of the reactor and the large amount of steam produced resulted in a fall in the water level in the reactor pressure vessel. Additional water was pumped in, using 2 pumps operating on emergency power, and the feedwater regulation valve was opened hydraulically. Disruption of electricity supply to the feedwater regulation mechanism caused the water level in the primary system to exceed normal levels fairly quickly. To prevent over-pressurisation of the reactor vessel, the pressure relief valves automatically opened to release some steam into the containment building surrounding the reactor; there was no release to the environment. The water in the containment building had a specific activity of 0.04 curies per cubic metre.
Cooling of the reactor was never in doubt. There were no injuries to plant personnel.
When the containment building was air-cleaned on 17 January chimney discharges exceeded approved levels by 1 per cent.
The latest information is that the reactor is not expected to bc recommissioned until the northern summer. With the exception of some replacement safety valves still being manufactured, the repairs are finished. The licensing authority has stipulated additional conditions to reduce the likelihood of repetition of such an incident, and installation of an alarm system to warn personnel in the area of a pressure buildup in the reactor vessel.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 19 April 1977:
With respect to the Minister’s reply to Senate question No. 75 concerning Hishamuddin Rais:
what reasons did Hishamuddin Rais provide for seeking political asylum, and
who were the ‘other sources’ referred to in part (c) of the Minister’s reply.
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Consumer Price Index: Provincial Cities (Question No. 465)
Senn (or Colston asked the Minister representing thc Treasurer, upon notice, on 20 April 1977:
With respect to the Treasurer’s reply to Senate question No. IKI. why does the Government not plan to have provincial cities included in the list of cities which determine the consumer price index.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The consumer price index at present covers the 6 State capital cities and Canberra. In order to extend this coverage to include provincial cities it would be necessary to have data on patterns of consumption expenditure in those centres for weighting purposes. Such information is not available at present. A very large increase in resources would also be required for the collection of price data in the field and for calculation of the price index, lt is doubtful that the resulting index would be of sufficient value to warrant the extra cost even if the resources were available. Prices in provincial cities would have to move very differently from those in the capital cities for the national average to be affected significantly. 1982 Commonwealth Games, Brisbane (Question No. 497)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 20 April 1977:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Commonwealth Assistance for Projects in each Federal Electorate (Question No. 513)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 20 April:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
If the honourable senator wishes to know details of a particular project, I shall examine his request to see if he can be provided with the necessary information.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 2 1 April 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: ( I ), (2) and (3) Specific details of offences which lead to prosecution under the Social Services Act are not recorded. Consequently the number of persons prosecuted because of incorrect statements about employment or earnings or because of lodging claims in more than one name is not known. Statistics are recorded on a quarterly basis and details of the numbers prosecuted for offences related to unemployment benefit in each quarter from 13 December 1975 to 3 1 March 1977 are below. In most cases some time is taken in arranging prosecution action; therefore some of the events which led to the prosecutions included in the figures mentioned below occurred prior to the commencement of the period shown in row 1.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 20 April 1 977:
When is it expected that subscriber trunk dialling facilities will be available to the residents of Glen Innes, New South Wales.
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Telecom Australia has advised that on present plans the extension of automatic working with STD facilities to Glen Innes is some years away. However a general review of the manual to automatic conversion programme for New South Wales is currently being carried out and the Commission will advise the honourable senator as well as the local Member for the area of the outcome of the review as soon as it has been completed.
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 21 April 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Saudi Arabian Mail: Palestine Liberation Organisation Super-frank (Question No. 588)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 2 1 April 1977:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
If the honourable senator could supply the cover of an article bearing such an impression, I will arrange for Australia Post to investigate the matter.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 26 April 1977:
– The Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 3 May 1977:
Is it the intention of the Government to retrench all or most civilian employees at the Edinburgh Air Base in Adelaide by June.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is not the intention of the Government to retrench any civilian employees at the Edinburgh Air Base by June.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Mr Peacock; The answer to the honourable senator’s questions are:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 3 May 1977:
Has the Australian Mining Industry Council made recommendations to the Prime Minister for amendments to the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act, in the light of the Government’s decision to ban sand-mining on Fraser Island. If so, (a) what amendments have been suggested, and (b) what action is the Government taking on this matter.
– The Prime Minister 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 3 May 1977:
Will the Federal Government cease funding land commissions in the near future as was suggested by the Minister for Primary Industry in a speech to the Housing Industry Association annual convention referred to in the Melbourne newspaper, the Age, dated 23 April 1 977.
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Commonwealth Government assists in the funding of land commissions by providing long term loan funds to the States on terms and conditions contained in financial agreements between the Commonwealth and States.
Under the agreements the Commonwealth has agreed to provide funds to the States for land commissions for a period up to and including 1977-78. Thereafter the matter will be one for negotiation between the Commonwealth and the respective States.
United Nations: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, without notice, on 1 5 February 1977:
Is it a fact that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1966, that it came into operation with the required ratifications in 1976, that it has been ratified by 38 nations and that it has been signed but not ratified by Australia? Is there any substantial reason why the covenant should not now be ratified by Australia and brought into effect in this country? Has the Government any early plans to ratify the covenant? Does the Minister not agree that ratification by Australia would contribute to the international struggle against the widening world threats to basic human rights and personal liberties and against the growing use of torture throughout the world?
– The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights came into force on 23 March 1976 and has been ratified or acceded to by forty-three States. It has been signed but not ratified by Australia. The Covenant provides that each State Party is to ensure, among other things, that any person whose rights or freedoms as recognised in the Covenant are violated shall have an effective remedy. The Commonwealth has proposed that a Human Rights Commission be established as a joint Commonwealth-State venture, that would examine and report on allegations of infringements of the rights or freedoms recognised in the Covenant. Upon the making of a report by the Commission, it would be a matter for the relevant Government, State or Commonwealth, to take any legislative or administrative action that might be appropriate to provide a remedy for any violation of the Covenant. The Government is endeavouring to develop these proposals in consultation with the State Governments. I agree that the ratification by Australia would contribute to international efforts to combat infringements of basic human rights. The establishment of a statutory Human Rights Commission will be a significant step forward in that direction.
Telephone Calls: Method of Charging
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications the following question, without notice, on 24 March 1977:
Would the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications 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 if its huge profits on that equipment?
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I understand the honourable senator to be referring to a possible arrangement in which a uniform rate is applied to all calls, regardless of distance, which are then charged for on the basis of the time involved.
A detailed study undertaken in 1972 showed that it would have been necessary to charge 33c for each untimed local call and three minutes of trunk conversation time in order to maintain telecommunications earnings at their existing level. As inflation has forced a number of tariff increases since 1972, the charge would now have to be well in excess of 40c. Even if local calls were timed, a uniform call fee of this order would apply because: many local calls are already less than three minutes: the duration of a significant proportion of the remainder would be restricted to three minutes or less by callers if they were charged on a timed uniform basis rather than at the existing untimed local call rate.
As about ten times as many local calls as trunk calls are made at present, Telecom Australia considers that the present system is the most equitable arrangement for callers generally. As far as can be ascertained by Telecom Australia all other leading administrations take distance into account in pricing telephone calls.
Existing equipment installed in capital city exchanges is not capable of timing local calls. Extensive modifications to the equipment would be necessary before this action could be contemplated. Initial studies show that a capital cost in excess of $50m would be involved. The Commission has no plans at this stage to move in this direction.
Australia Post: Undeliverable Mail
- Senator Walters asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications the following question, without notice, on 28 April 1 977:
Has the Minister seen a letter to the editor of the Australian newspaper in which the writer refers to the customary burning of unclaimed articles by officials of Australia Post? Can the Minister give assurance that such alleged breaches of the law will be fully investigated?
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I have seen the letter referred to by Senator Walters in which allegations were made about the burning of undeliverable mail.
Every effort is made to return undeliverable mail to the sender where a return address is identifiable. The only exception is with registered publications, which are mailed at a concessional rate, and which are returned to sender only when the cover is endorsed ‘ Return Postage Guaranteed ‘.
Unclaimed and undeliverable articles on which a return address is not identifiable are disposed of by burning, pulping or shredding, strictly in accordance with detailed procedures specified in Postal Regulations.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 May 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770526_senate_30_s73/>.