30th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Sim.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between announcements of each quarterly movement in the Consumer Price Index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress to pensioners.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in age and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Sheil.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That those who have retired and those who are about to retire, are being severely and adversely affected by inflation and Australian economic circumstances.
The continuance of the means test on pensions causes undue hardship to them.
We call on the Government to immediately abolish the means test on all aged pensions.
To ensure a pension for all on retirement, and a guarantee that all Australian citizens will retire with dignity.
Acknowledge that a pension is a right and not a charity.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Mcintosh.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate, in the Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Charter of the United Nations clearly precludes it from interference in the domestic affairs of a country or from obstructing the free transmission of news and information between individuals and between nations.
That the United Nations, in apparent illegality, has imposed many restrictions and sanctions upon Rhodesia which has been remarkably free from the bloodshed and turmoil of Northern and Central African lands, even to the extent now of actively encouraging armed conflict against the legally elected Government of Rhodesia.
Lord Graham as Minister of External Affairs and Defence has said: ‘International Communism is our enemy, all this talk of political advancement and majority rule is no more than a smokescreen in the early skirmishes of an assault upon the whole of Africa . . . It is even difficult to see this enemy because it is not merely attacking us, but on a broad front is attacking the whole world order, its standards, its law and order, its moralities, its churches, its patriotisms, its philosophies and even much of its learning . . . ‘
That Communist Chinese infiltration in much of Africa over many years, and Cuban Communist troops reported to number 25 000 are dominating nearby Angola and possess modern missiles, etc.
It is urgent that Mozambique, now under Communist domination and which has a common border with Rhodesia, does not receive any further aid from the Commonwealth Government of Australia, which has benefited mainly, the terrorist guerilla movements that are responsible for the deaths of many Rhodesian people.
It is urgent for the Australian people to determine for themselves, the actual facts of the Rhodesian struggles.
It is urgent that the Senate and the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled, will observe common justice and proper humanity by inviting only authorised representatives of the present Government of Rhodesia to Australia, to do what they have been deprived to do previously, present their case fully and publicly so that this can be examined and tested, without interference and so that the eventual impact on Australia’s own security and defence alliances can be gauged with better accuracy.
Your petitioners request urgent action to be taken immediately.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Wood and Senator Jessop.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Australian Government employees strenuously oppose the provisions of the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill first introduced in the House of Representatives on 8 December 1976. The basis for opposition includes the following reasons:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should reject passage of any legislation to extend powers of compulsory retirement of Australian Government employees unless and until any variation has been agreed with staff representatives.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Jessop.
– My question is directed to
Senator Carrick in his capacity as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. Is it not a fact that on 2 occasions in this chamber, and again on AM this morning, the Minister has claimed that the only point at issue between the States and the Commonwealth over the proposed review of relativities concerns the use of the Grants Commission and that otherwise there is agreement? Is it not a fact that Premier Court of Western Australia said in his Press statement earlier this week:
I have also raised queries with the Prime Minister about the wording of the terms of reference in the Bill. 1 believe they depart significantly from those agreed at the Premiers Conference.
Is it not also a fact that Premier Dunstan of South Australia, in his telex to Mr Anthony earlier this week, said:
The formula proposed in the Bill is restrictive and does not express accurately as to terms of reference for the review achieved at the Premiers Conference.
I ask: Why does the Minister not give accurate answers to these questions? Is he in fact ignorant of the true position?
– What I have said in recent weeks has been an accurate report of what happened at the Premiers Conference. There was not at the Premiers Conference any suggestion that there should not be a regular review of relativities. There has not been any dissension from the suggestion that there must be a body to undertake that review. There has been a division between some Premiers and the Commonwealth as to the nature of that review body. The Premiers are divided on it. Some Premiers are supporting the Commonwealth in the view that the Commonwealth Grants Commission should be the body. Others are indicating that they want a totally independent new body.
All Premiers and the Commonwealth directed themselves to the second major factor, and that is what should be the terms of reference whatever the major body may be. The Commonwealth indicated that if there were to be an independent body the terms of reference would have to be very detailed because the body would be new and inexpert. There are a number of terms of reference. I think they have been devised basically by the working party of officials representing the Premiers and the Commonwealth. The Premiers and the Commonwealth agreed unanimously to the terms of reference. It is true to say that the Premiers and the Commonwealth are not arguing at all about the terms of reference; they are arguing about the nature of the body and they are divided amongst themselves in that regard. This is not a conflict between the Premiers and the Commonwealth at all; it is a conflict among the Premiers.
The fact is that at the time I made the previous comments I had not apprehended, largely because in fact neither gentleman concerned had sent correspondence to me, that there had been any query at all regarding the true interpretation of the terms of reference in the Bill. The Parliamentary Counsel was given the terms of reference from the Premiers Conference and asked to translate them into the legal interpretation. As I understand it, it is the view of Parliamentary Counsel and the law officers that that has been done faithfully. If there is need for specific alterations in technicalities, I have no doubt that the Commonwealth would introduce, as it was willing to do and did in the Local Government (Personal Income Tax Sharing) Bill in the past, technical amendments into the Bill. To apply myself specifically to the question, there is no difference at all between the Commonwealth and the Premiers as to the nature of the terms of reference. If there is a difference as to the specific translation by Parliamentary
Counsel, draftsmen and law officers, that is a matter that can be easily resolved by a telephone call.
-I ask a supplementary question. May I assume from the Minister’s answer that he does not accept the statement of Premiers Court and Dunstan?
-I did not say that I accept or reject that situation. I said that at the time I had not had the statements directed to me. If indeed technicalities arise they will be examined and treated sympathetically. How Senator Wriedt can try these rhetorical questions based on total inaccuracies must defy the Senate day by day.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, by saying that it is becoming a matter of increasing complaint since the introduction of flexitime that people dealing with departmental officers are having difficulty conducting their business because of the staggered hours worked. This is causing irritating delays. Will the Minister be good enough to look into the situation and see whether these kinds of delays can be eliminated?
– I have heard occasionally the same sort of complaint. During hearings of Estimates Committee A- that is the only committee before which I appeared- a number of questions were asked of departmental officers about the effects of flexitime. I do not recall whether it was at the hearings of the last Estimates Committees or those held during the Budget session last year. The senior officers appearing before the Committee said that they felt that flexitime was not affecting efficiency in the working of departments. I will pass on the honourable senator’s question to the Prime Minister for a further and more detailed answer. I suggest that if the honourable senator has any specific examples of departments or places he should let me have them so that the Prime Minister can have a proper investigation.
– Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate confirm reports that Mr Robinson, the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, has said that Mr BjelkePetersen is lending a willing hand to the State electoral distribution commissioners by having working lunches with them? If this report is correct will the Minister inform the Senate who initiated the moves? Was Mr Bjelke-Petersen’s presence by invitation from the commissioners or did he offer his services? Finally, will the same arrangements be available to the leaders of the Labor and Liberal parties respectively?
-I know the Senate is supposed to be a States’ House but I am not responsible for State administrations. What Mr Bjelke-Petersen or any other Premier does within his State is his business. I do not intend to comment on it or to interfere. I have no ministerial responsibility for it.
– You would not do it with a Commonwealth redistribution, would you?
-Not only would I not attempt to do it but I am quite certain that the commissioners whom I have appointed would not permit me to do it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to allegations made in the May issue of the Pacific Defence Reporter that the Department of Transport recently spent $10,000 to have a second examiner of airmen endorsed on the Learjets I ask the Minister: How many Learjets are on the Australian aircraft register and how many pilots are endorsed on this aircraft? Does the number of Learjets and pilots require 2 examiners of airmen to be endorsed on this aircraft, at a cost in the present atmosphere of restraint of $10,000? Would this apparent unnecessary expense be included in the cost to be recovered from the industry in the cost recovery policy? How many hours a year would be required for the examiners of airmen to check pilots on Learjets?
– On the general matter of private jets and Learjets I have a brief which may go at least part of” the way to answering the 4 elements of Senator Collard ‘s question. I think he asked about numbers. My advice is that there are currently 7 Gates Learjets aircraft on the Australian aircraft register and approximately 14 industry pilots. They would be pilots who are fully endorsed on Learjets of particular models. They are specified as models 24 and 25 and 3 Learjets 35. The latter requires a special pilot endorsement. They are based in 4 separate States. As to the next question, the diverse location of these aircraft makes it necessary to have examiners endorsed on this aircraft stationed in several States. As to the third question, an examiner would fly approximately 3 hours a year with each industry pilot during the course of 6- monthly instrument rating tests, annual checks on industry check pilots and routine surveillance. In addition to the industry checking tasks, approximately 6 hours continuation training a year is undergone by each endorsed examiner to permit him to retain proficiency and familiarity on the type. This experience enables examiners to assess and keep under review the operational and flight crew standards necessary for safe operation. Experience of sophisticated types of general aviation aircraft is vital for the proper discharge of that function. I think I have failed to deal with some of the specifics because they are not in my general brief. I will seek out the information and give the honourable senator an answer.
-My question is to the Minister for Social Security. By way of preface, I state that on 25 May 1977 1 asked the following question upon notice:
Will the Department of Social Security be processing all claims for unemployment benefit as they are received from persons who leave school in November and December 1977 and who lodge claims between November 1977 and February 1978? If not, why not?
On 3 1 May the Minister replied as follows:
See answer to question No. 94 1 .
As the question and answer to question No. 941 related to 1976 school leavers who sought employment in 1977, the answer given to my question about 1977 school leavers does not seem to be relevant. I therefore again ask the Minister, this time without notice: Will the Department of Social Security be processing all claims for the unemployment benefit as they are received from persons who leave school in November and December 1 977 and who lodge claims between November 1977 and February 1978? If not, why not?
– If an answer given to a question on notice indicates that the question on notice was misunderstood, I suggest that that original question be placed on the notice paper, and I will give a considered answer to it.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations noted a report in the daily Press stating, first, that the International Labour Organisation has criticised communists and Third World countries for violating some of its key conventions; and secondly, that the ILO report cited the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in particular for using the law to restrict trade union rights and that an ILO committee of experts picked out the communist States and eastern European countries as well as 30-odd African and Latin countries for violating the rights of workers, calling them to task for failing to apply Convention 87, despite the fact that they ratified it and nominated the following countries: Algeria, Bolivia, Burma, Central African Empire, Chad, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Greece, Honduras, Kuwait, Liberia, Mauritania, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Syria and Uruguay? Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the reported allegations are correct? If so, will the Minister be able to table the report published by an 18- member Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations which was prepared for ILO Convention, sixtythird session, 1977?
- Senator Lajovic has drawn my attention to the newspaper report and also to the report of the Committee of Experts which I have with me at the moment. I think the Senate ought to be indebted to Senator Lajovic for raising this matter and for referring it not only to my attention but also to the attention of the Senate.
- Mr President, I rise to order. I patiently sat through that long question which gave too much information and thought perhaps that at a later stage I could make some protest. But now the Minister admits that he has had forward information and is about to give us a statement on the matter. My point is that this exercise is more suited to the adjournment debate than to question time. If Senator Lajovic wants to take up the matter and if the Minister wants to make a statement in reply, the proper time to do so is during an adjournment debate and not during question time.
– There is no point of order involved that I could uphold.
-It is very interesting that Senator Georges, the Opposition Whip, should want to prevent the Senate and the public of Australia from being informed about an ILO convention on restrictions on trade unions.
– I take strong objection to what the Minister has said- that I am trying to prevent the people of Australia from hearing Senator Lajovic’s question and the Minister’s answer. I merely said that this is not the proper time to raise the matter. The proper time to do so is during the adjournment debate, on the motion for the first reading of a money Bill or on many of the other occasions which the forms of the Senate provide. For the Minister to say that I am endeavouring to prevent the Australian nation from hearing Senator Lajovic ‘s question and his answer is, I believe, insulting, and he ought to withdraw that remark.
– I have no intention of withdrawing anything I have said so far. In fact, Senator Georges’ only complaint is that I am persisting with my answer.
– Then I rise on another point of order. It has been the practice in the Senate, if a senator objects to words or phrases used by any other senator which involve a personal reflection, for those words to be withdrawn. It seems to me that the Minister is not going to abide by the ethics of the Senate and that he is going to persist in his comments. In fact, Mr President, as I recall it he did not even allow you to give a ruling on my point of order. So, Mr President, I ask now that those words which I consider to be offensive be withdrawn.
– I do not regard the words used by the Minister as being offensive in the sense or setting in which I would object to offensive words or reflections.
-Then I shall proceed to answer the question that Senator Lajovic asked. The report to which he referred is a report of a committee of experts on the application of conventions and recommendations. The report is prepared by the International Labour Organisation committee of experts each year and is submitted to the International Labour Conference for consideration. The committee comprises eminent jurists from a number of countries and was established some 50 years ago specifically to supervise the application of conventions ratified by member States of the ILO. The committee examines their annual reports and all ratified conventions and on the best basis of information available to it assesses the extent to which the countries are carrying out their obligations under such conventions.
I am afraid that I and the Minister whom I represent have not been able to assess fully the committee’s report, but I should have thought that a report of a committee of such eminence would speak for itself. Certainly, if this committee were to make similar comments about Australian practices and laws this Government would be taking immediate corrective steps in regard to the subject of those criticisms. I am happy to say that fortunately there are no such criticisms of Australian laws and practices in relation to trade unions. As to whether I shall table a copy of the report, I am afraid that limited copies are available and that precludes my tabling it. However, I understand that a copy has been placed in the Parliamentary Library. I commend it to honourable senators.
– I direct a question to Senator Withers in his dual capacity as the Minister representing the Prime Minister and the Minister in charge of some Federal law enforcement agencies. By way of preface I refer to a letter which was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on Tuesday this week and which referred to the need to ensure that the calibre of Australian Security Intelligence Organisation officers is 100 per cent. My question relates to events over the past 48 hours. That letter sought an explanation as to whether Hope reports Nos 1 and 1 made any reference to the method by which ASIO operatives are recruited. I put it to the Minister that events over the past 48 hours surely justify his providing the Senate with some information as to the criteria which are applied to the recruiting of those operatives. In view of the seriousness of this matter, and knowing that it has to be pursued in a temperate manner, will the Minister consider convening the Townley Committee, which included the Ministers, Senator Webster and Senator Durack, as well as Senator James McClelland -
– Who wrote that letter?
-I wrote the letter, which I shall table. I felt it necessary to do so because my own local member, Mr Bill McMahon, also has been concerned about whether he was misled on security. I know this is a long question, Mr President, but I simply conclude by saying that I think it would be advisable to convene the committee, which included Senator James McClelland, Senator Wheeldon, Senator Townley and others, and to allow us to have the chief of ASIO before that committee, as we had Mr Barbour before such a committee when former Senator Murphy was the Minister responsible for these matters. We might then know where we are going with the sort of Walter Mitte people we seem to be taking into ASIO.
– You must seek leave to table the letter, Senator Mulvihill.
-I shall just give a copy of it to Senator Withers.
-It looks as though I am not getting a question without notice.
-I am not going to object to it; I have given up.
– Thank you, Senator. Your generosity is marvellous. Whilst the Prime Minister has overriding responsibility for security in this country, as I understand the Administrative Arrangements order, the problems of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation come under the jurisdiction of the AttorneyGeneral. Therefore, I suggest to the honourable senator that he place his question on notice. I will alert the Attorney-General to this question and ask him to give an early reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. Has the Minister given further consideration to the proposal I presented from the Port Augusta City Council with respect to an aged homes project involving a tripartite financing approach for the provision of accommodation for the aged? Does the Minister recall that this proposal, if appropriate amendments to the legislation were made, would enable accommodation for about 50 people to be provided at a cost to the Commonwealth of $120,000 whereas, under the existing provisions of the Act, it would cost the Commonwealth $750,000? Has the Minister given further consideration to my request for changes to be made to this Act to enable such projects to be funded?
– I recall the matter that was raised previously by the honourable senator. The proposition that came from the organisations in which he was interested have been placed in the Department for study. I have received no report on the matter yet which would lead me to consider whether I need to amend the legislation to deal with such propositions. I will seek from my Department a report as to what has occurred with respect to the proposal that was put forward. I will give it some consideration in due course.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Social Security refers to the Press report this morning of the Public Accounts Committee’s hearings in which it was claimed that the large number of overpayments paid by her Department were in fact caused by claimants who had not given information as to their change in circumstances. I ask: Is it not a fact that there are some 40 000 items of unattached mail in the Victorian office of the Department of Social Security and some 18 000 items of unattached correspondence in the New South Wales office of the Department of Social Security? Could not a large percentage of the unattached items of correspondence be in fact notifications of changes of circumstances of various claimants? Does this have some effect on the high figures quoted in the newspapers this morning?
– The honourable senator seems to be very well informed about the mail and unattached mail in my Department. Those officers who are giving to him information of this nature could perhaps be better engaged in processing the mail in respect of which they have been dealing with the honourable senator. The matter raised by the Public Accounts Committee related to the year 1975-76 in a way in which the figures that were given to the Public Accounts Committee with regard to overpayments would have little relativity to unattached mail that presently is held in the New South Wales or the Victorian branches of the Department. I should like to say also that when the officers of the Department were dealing with the Public Accounts Committee on this matter they made a lengthy report. They gave information about the increase in work loads and the effect of staff ceilings on the processing of mail and other matters in the Department. They stated further that computer systems have now been employed in the Department and they believe that the steps which have been taken to automate the procedures in the Department will give important control functions. They further said that they believed that the matters that were raised by the Public Accounts Committee showed the negligible fraction of the expenditure that was related to internal fraud. They pointed to the fact that in the year concerned 0.0008 per cent of expenditure under the Social Services Act was related to internal fraud. As to the total amount which was the subject of the Public Accounts Committee investigation, they pointed to the fact that of the $3,600m of expenditure, some 0.32 per cent was dealt with as an overpayment. It would be understood that under the Act in most cases overpayments are recoverable. If any honourable senator is interested in the full details of the matters that have been raised in the AuditorGeneral’s report and through the Public Accounts Committee, the record of the public hearing of the Public Accounts Committee will give them all the relevant information.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Minister for Social Security. Is it not reasonable that the union representatives of the officers of her Department in attempting to improve conditions in the Department and the efficiency of her Department should seek the help of and give information to any member of Parliament whether he is the shadow Minister for Social Security or not? Were not her remarks a gratuitous insult to the other members of her Department who work efficiently?
-I commented on the fact that the honourable senator was very well informed on the number of items of unattached mail in my Department and I suggested that the officers who were giving him that information may well be engaged in processing the mail which they were counting. If that is a gratuitous insult in the eyes of Senator Grimes, I admire his sensitivity but I still restate that to use last year’s figures in relation to the Public Accounts inquiry seems to me to show a misunderstanding of the inquiry.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education. Does the overseas section of the Australian Development Assistance Bureau intend to develop a program to assist underdeveloped countries in the education field? If so, will Australian teachers be needed? Could there be liaison between the Department of Education and the overseas section in respect of unemployed teachers so as to give these teachers the opportunity of serving for a period in the underdeveloped countries where their skills are needed?
– This matter concerns not only my own Department but also basically the Department of Foreign Affairs. I will look at the suggestion to see whether it has practical merit and will let the honourable senator know.
-My question to the Minister for Social Security refers to the report in the Canberra Times of 5 May wherein the Minister was reported to have informed a Government joint party meeting that South Australia and Queensland were not cooperating with the Commonwealth Government in the formulation of a national compensation policy. I ask the Minister: Is this report true and did she so advise the joint party meeting? Is it not true that the last meeting of the working party of officers on the national compensation scheme was held in June 1976? Is it not also true that the Commonwealth deferred the subsequent meeting planned for September 1976 and promised to advise of a later meeting when it ‘will be able to state our position more clearly’? Is it not also true that the delay involved is related to the Commonwealth Government’s unwillingness to decide upon and commit funding for the scheme?
– It is not my usual practice to discuss matters that I have discussed with a joint party meeting. However, following a joint party meeting in recent weeks it was reported to the Press conference after that meeting that the matter of compensation was discussed. At that meeting I did state to the party members that whilst we were proceeding with collecting statistics and dealing with the matters at officer level it could not be assumed that all States in Australia were proceeding on the basis that they had some commitment to a future national compensation plan. I said, for instance, that States such as South Australia and Queensland said that they entered into the preparatory talks without any commitment to becoming involved in a joint arrangement for a national compensation plan in the future. I do not regard that as not cooperating in the terms that the honourable senator has used. I state it as a fact that those 2 States were prepared to do preliminary work towards such a plan but they gave no commitment that they would become a part of it.
As far as the other matters that have been stated are concerned, there have been difficulties in working towards a framework for any proposed national compensation scheme. It is the usual difficulty that occurs when there is to be any joint Commonwealth-State arrangement; that is, what the involvement will be in financial terms for either the Commonwealth or the States. This matter has not yet reached a stage where a framework has been suggested to the States, but considerable progress has been made along those lines.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources whether he is aware that currently there are 45 questions on notice, concerned directly with Australia’s energy resources, alternatives and policy, from Senator Keeffe to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources. Is the Minister aware that there are 17 questions on notice for the Minister for Science from Senator Keeffe, several of these questions being almost identical to some of those on notice for the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources? Does the Minister find that the manpower resources of his Department are being tied up answering these questions? Is the Minister aware that the assistant to Senator Keeffe, Mr Jonathan West, is a postgraduate student, part-time, at the James Cook University and is currently working on a thesis concerned directly with the need for and aims of a national energy policy for Australia? Is the Minister aware that his Department may be being used as a primary source of information for Mr West ‘s thesis?
-I must admire Senator Kilgariff’s resource and energy in ploughing through the notice paper, but I am not aware of whether Mr Jonathan West works for Senator Keeffe; I do not know; what is more, it is none of my business; and I do not care.
- Senator Kilgariff is making it his business, though.
-Wait a minute. I think it is fair to say that I have often wondered about the increase in the numbers of questions on notice. There is nothing wrong with it if honourable senators are genuinely seeking information. But I have instructed my departmental officers that they are not to answer questions which are already in the public record. As I look at some of the questions which I see occasionally on the notice paper I wonder about the competence of the people who put the questions there, because if they had sufficient intelligence and energy they could go to annual reports, year books or the Budget Papers and find the information for themselves. I do not see why taxpayers should be put to the added burden of having matter provided for people within this Parliament which is already available in the public record. If the present situation is to continue perhaps the costs of obtaining the answer to each question could be worked out in each department. If some of the electors found that honourable senators were perhaps costing departments hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to provide information which is already public they might have a different view about putting so many questions on notice.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources based on the answer which he has just given. Would it not be to the disadvantage of the Parliament if any limitation were to be placed on the asking of questions and the giving of information in response to those questions?
– You would need a separate notice paper for Senator Colston.
– It may be that Senator Colston has applied himself well to seeking information. Is it not a fact that, although these matters may be in the public record, it is difficult for a senator or a member to search through the public record to obtain this information? Is it not the right of senators and members to receive quick responses to questions which they place on the notice paper? If there has been some abuse of this practice- I believe that members have abused this practice- would it not be a better idea to refer the matter to one of the committees for investigation instead of the Minister coming out with a blanket statement on how this alleged abuse should be dealt with?
-If Senator Georges had listened carefully he would have realised that I was trying to answer in the blandest possible way. What annoys me is that it is known that people have electorate assistants, whom they are pleased to call research assistants. They are electorate assistants. How people use their electorate assistants is their own business. But they are electorate assistants; they are not research assistants. I feel some wry amusement when I receive representations to have the salary and emoluments of electorate assistants increased, a matter over which I have no jurisdiction. This is a matter for the Public Service Board. At the same time, one sees questions emanating from members or senators which, if their electorate assistants had any competence at all, could be answered by that assistant using a Year Book, an annual report of a department or the Budget Papers. Really, I wish they would make up their minds. I rather sense- and I put it no higher than that- that some electorate assistants are trying to justify their existence merely by dreaming up questions instead of seeking out answers.
-Senator Georges says that the administration is lousy. Of course, he would know. No doubt he has spent a lifetime in some department answering ministerial questions. He speaks with great personal knowledge.
– I said if that is the case the administration must be lousy.
– There could be other reasons. The Public Service attempts to ensureand, I think, in the main does- when it provides an answer for a Minister, that the question has been well researched and the information, as far as possible, is accurate, detailed and fully answers the question. It is because of the desire of Ministers, both in this Government and in the previous Government, to give full, frank, detailed and proper answers -
– Are you saying that it takes 2 weeks to answer a question?
-The senator would know. If the honourable senator were to make some inquiries, he would find that not just one person digs up the answer and that is the end of it. There are certain departmental procedures, fail-safes and checks which occur. If they did not occur Senator Georges would be the first person to come into this place and really start to tick off a Minister because the information supplied was not accurate or not in sufficient detail. You cannot have it both ways. That is why I say that I think there is an argument for having each question costed. I do not know whether the figure of $500 cited by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack is correct. I think that it is something that could be pursued as a matter of interest to honourable senators. I will ask my Department head about the possibilities of running a time sheet for answering questions within my Department. Without making public the information, I might keep a running eye on it and if I think the costs are exorbitant, there could be an argument- I put it no higher than that- that when every question on notice is answered, the cost should be put at the end of it.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory. Is it a fact that after 30 June the present electricity supply in Daly Waters will be discontinued and alternative provision made only for the post office and police station? If this is a fact, what plans does the Government have to supply electricity to other residents of the town? What does the Government intend to do with the generators which are at present providing the electricity for the town?
Finally, does the Government not have a responsibility to provide electricity for a town such as Daly Waters?
– I do not have the information with me. I will seek an answer for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Education. Because of the importance of the fishing industry to Western Australia, and because of the impending extension of Australian fishing limits, I ask: What progress is being made with regard to the Maritime College?
– The Maritime College has been legislated for in this Parliament. An interim committee has been set up. It has been continually at work. It has made considerable progress. It is negotiating with the Tasmanian Government for the acquisition and provision of 2 sites- one at the Newnham College, the Launceston College of Advanced Education, for the general courses; the other, in the area of Beauty Point, for a seamanship course. The Tasmanian Government has agreed that the first site, being Crown land, might be made available without cost. Negotiations are continuing with the academic institutions in the vicinity- the CAE and the technical college- to see what liaison can be arranged. Senior staff is in the process of being appointed. Planning for both the building program and the academic staff is proceeding. As this project is of major interest, I shall get, as soon as possible, a more detailed progress report, because of the elapsed time, and let the honourable senator have that information.
-Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen a report that the New South Wales Government has committed $200m for the next 5 years to improving the safety standards of New South Wales Railways following the release of the Staunton report on the Granville disaster earlier this year? Has the Minister observed that a fresh application for funds will be made by the New South Wales Premier at the next Loan Council meeting, his application earlier this year having been rejected? Will the Minister agree that the expenditure is essential to bring the railways of New South Wales up to a satisfactory safety standard? Therefore, will the Government be prepared to support any application along these lines by the New South Wales Premier at the Loan Council meeting?
-Yes, I have seen a report about this matter and about the first 2 questions. As to the third question, I do not think that is a matter upon which I ought to exercise a judgment. The New South Wales Government has the sole responsibility of exercising a judgment upon that matter. As to the fourth question, that is a matter to be dealt with when the Premier makes his application at the Loan Council meeting.
-Is the Minister for Social Security aware that according to the Australian Federation of Child Care Associations there are now many vacancies in privately operated child care centres in Australia and that these vacancies are threatening the viability of such centres? Is it true, as alleged, that the major reason for the increased number of vacancies is the Government continuing to build child care centres in areas already serviced by privately operated child care centres? Is it also true that the areas in most need of upgraded child care facilities, such as the western suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne, have been inadequately covered in the Government’s building program?
– Some indicators show that child care centres are not being fully utilised in some places in Australia, but that does not mean that there is not a need for child care centres to be established in other parts. I saw a report this morning referring to the Melbourne area where some creches and day centres are not being fully utilised. I am aware that in commercial centres there is an under-utilisation. I am having investigated the whole area of child care access in Australia at present. I think the facts are not only as may have been suggested by the honourable senator- that the Commonwealth Government is building child care centres in some areas- but also that more women are finding it difficult to obtain employment, and what may have been a need in some time past is no longer the same need. This would be particularly relevant in some locations outside the metropolitan area. With the States we are reviewing the access to child care. I hope that we will in any future planning take into account the need for child care facilities and their geographic location, having in mind their accessibility.
– The Minister for Social Security yesterday in reply to a question regarding steps that young people who left school in November and December last year should take to apply for unemployment benefit, advised that these people should apply to the Department for a review. In view of the reports of unopened mail, unattached mail and unanswered telephone calls, I ask: Was that a realistic answer to give?
– The Opposition has made much of unopened mail. I have not had reports of unopened mail in the terms used by Senator Grimes today or as have been implied by Senator Melzer in her question. Applications to the Department will be dealt with in the course of business. I announced yesterday that there will be an increase in staff in the offices of the Department and any delays which had occurred with regard to processing new pension claims I hope will be overcome. In terms of the Director-General’s statement, applications to the Department will be reviewed on request by any person who seeks such a review.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications will be aware of the efforts by the Australian Broadcasting Commission Staffs Association to ban live telecasts of the England-Australia test cricket matches. A newspaper report states that a request for support from other unions has evidently fallen on deaf ears. Can the Minister say whether any action can be taken to ensure that this ban is not applied so as to deprive Australians of the opportunity of viewing these important sporting events?
– The question asked by Senator Tehan obviously has wide public interest. I am not aware of the current situation. I will refer the matter to my colleague the Minister for Post and Telecommunications in another place and seek an answer.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Minister aware of a 4 per cent decline in new capital expenditure for the March quarter? Does the Minister not agree that these figures continue to show a lack of confidence in business circles in the Government’s economic policies? Do these figures not show the failure of the Government’s investment allowance and suggest that the problem is lack of consumer confidence in the community?
– I am not aware of the figures about which the honourable senator speaks. I would certainly not agree with the second part of the question. The third part of the question is a matter of opinion. Whether the honourable senator likes it or not- I know the Opposition does not like it- the economy is improving and will continue to improve.
-I draw the attention of the Minister representing the Treasurer to an article in today’s Adelaide Advertiser claiming harassment of taxpayers by Taxation Office officials in relation to payment of income tax now falling due. It is claimed that such harassment includes telephone calls to businesses and individuals about likely dates of payment before extensions of time are granted and threats to commence liquidation and bankruptcy proceedings immediately. Can the Minister indicate whether this action is undertaken at the Treasurer’s specific direction or do these activities result from the independent statutory authority of the Commissioner of Taxation?
-I have not seen today’s Adelaide Advertiser but I recall Senator Wright making similar complaints about the activities of the Deputy Commissioner of Taxation in Tasmania. I think more court processes have been issued in that State in the last year or so than in the previous 10 years. As the Treasurer has said continually, the Commissioner of Taxation and his department are not subject to ministerial direction. How the Commissioner of Taxation administers his Act under the law is for the Commissioner himself to determine. I hope and 1 think all honourable senators would hope that whilst the Commissioner of Taxation would carry out the duty imposed upon him by statute, he will administer the statute in a sensible, reasonable and humane manner. I believe that in general the Department does that. As the honourable senator has raised a specific question relating to the activities of the Department in Adelaide, I will refer the question to the Treasurer for his consideration but on the understanding that the Treasurer really can only pass the matters on to the Commissioner of Taxation. He has no power or direction over him.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer to an advertisement placed in the Adelaide Advertiser on 19 May this year by the Director of Employment and Industrial Relations seeking applicants for the position of clerical assistant grade 3 in the Aboriginal Employment Section located in Adelaide. I ask the Minister whether it is the policy of the Commonwealth Employment Service to advertise vacancies in the Department through the Press rather than seeking to fill the vacancies from the Department’s own Commonwealth Employment Service offices by listing these positions and selecting persons to fill such vacancies from applicants who are registered for employment.
– I will refer the question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and seek an early answer.
-Has the Minister representing the Attorney-General had his attention drawn to a submission by a senior class at a school in Canberra to the inquiry into tissue transplantation being conducted by the Law Reform Commission? Is it generally understood in the community that the capacity to make submissions to committees of inquiries, including the Law Reform Commission, exists with groups like school students, who after all are the voters of tomorrow? Will the Minister consider making more widely known the desirability of more school groups putting a considered point of view to government inquiries and also make known the desire of government to hear from students their views on current social and legal issues?
-My attention has been drawn to the submission which has been made by a group of students at a Canberra school to the Law Reform Commission inquiry on human tissue transplants. This is a very interesting and valuable initiative by a school group engaged in legal studies or a citizenship, public affairs or some similar course. Of course the Law Reform Commission is doing a very important job in investigating a number of matters that are being referred to it by the Government. In particular, the Chairman is doing a very important job in the community in publicising the role of the Commission and the inquiries it is undertaking. I have been most impressed with the Commission’s public relations role, if I may call it that. It is not something that lawyers would engage in normally, but it is a very important role for the Commission to undertake.
The question asked was whether the Government is taking steps to make known to community groups, particularly those in schools, the fact that the Law Reform Commission is conducting an inquiry into any subject. I do not think the question was limited in any way to the inquiry into human tissue transplants. I am not fully aware of just what steps, if any, the Government takes to make these matters known, but I certainly am aware of the fact that the Law Reform Commission is taking steps to make them known. In particular, as I said, the Chairman of the Commission is constantly making known the work of the Commission. However, I do not think too much can be said to publicise these very important inquiries and of the fact that any groups of citizens, including school children, are welcomed and, indeed, encouraged to give thought to these matters of inquiry and to make their views known to the Commission.
-Does the Minister representing the Treasurer know that the Treasurer said in the Parliament yesterday:
I am constantly being informed by many employers that they are continuing to shed labour because of its high cost. Of course, one of the reasons why many employers are putting in new plant and equipment at the present time is that they have the deliberate intention of seeking to pare their labour force. That is a matter of regret to the Government.
Does the Government believe that its 40 per cent investment allowance provides an incentive to industry to install new and larger plant which has the effect of paring away the labour force? Is it a matter of regret to the Government that the labour force is being so pared away? If the Government does not believe that the investment allowance encourages new investment in plant, why is it throwing away about $500m a year on that program?
-I thought that the honourable senator had asked enough questions of my colleague, Senator Cotton, to have learned something, but quite obviously he has not. It has been stated and restated and stated again in this chamber that the high cost of labour is one of the great detriments to industry in Australia. That is why regrettably so many companies have gone off-shore. What the Treasurer was saying yesterday, I imagine, was that it is regrettable that employers are still shedding labour because it is too expensive. Surely the message is there for everybody. I think it was a former Treasurer of the Labor Government-the honourable Frank Crean- who made the quite famous statement when he was Treasurer in 1973 or 1974 that one man’s pay rise is another man’s job, or words to that effect. He had received the message. Tragically, very few of his colleagues ever received it.
- Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. In view of the answer just given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate I ask him whether he thinks it would be better to subsidise the employment of labour than to subsidise the substitution of capital for labour by means of the investment allowance, if the Government’s objective is to maximise employment?
– Since the supplementary question asked was not a proper and correct one, I do not think we need to take much notice of its economic content.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. During question time today I asked the Minister the following question without notice:
Will the Department of Social Security be processing all claims for the unemployment benefit as they are received from persons who leave school in November and December 1977 and who lodge claims between November 1977 and February 1978? If not, why not?
In reply to that question the Minister suggested that the question should be placed on notice. Therefore I ask: Can the Senate reasonably infer from the Minister’s reply that she refuses to answer that question without notice? If that is the case, why is it so?
– It ought to be stated that the preamble to the question that has now been raised was to the effect that the question had been placed on notice but that the answer which had been given to the question which had been placed on notice was not satisfactory. As it was good enough to place the question on notice 2 days ago and as I believe that the answer to it should be given consideration, I suggested that the question be again placed on notice. That answer provides no opportunity to infer that I am refusing to answer the question. When the question was asked of me originally there was mention of 1976, 1977 and 1978. In order not to give a misleading answer to the question, I asked that it be placed on notice. I again ask, in the terms of my previous suggestion, that the question be placed on notice so that I can give a considered answer.
-Yesterday Senator Baume asked me whether Telecom purchased equipment from Australian suppliers and I was able to confirm that it was Telecom ‘s policy to buy Australian. He asked also what percentage of Telcom purchases were manufactured in Australia. I am now able to inform the honourable senator that within this financial year 90 per cent of the goods purchased by Telecom Australia will be of Australian manufacture.
– At the conculsion of the debate last night on amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the Bill to set up the National Labour Consultative Council I was asked whether I would be prepared to table telegrams which had passed between senior officers of the Australian Council for Salaried and Professional Association, Mr Richardson and Mr Riley. I said that I would have to consider the matter and discuss it with the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). I am now happy to inform the Senate that I have done so and, on behalf of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, I am now prepared to table the telegrams referred to. I proceed to do so.
– Pursuant to section 21 of the River Murray Waters Act 1915 I present the report of the River Murray Commission for the year ended 1976.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move:
I just add that this report has been tabled 1 1 months after the end of the financial year. Because of that I made some inquiries as to why it is so late in arriving. I inform honourable senators that the Auditor-General’s certificate is dated 17 November 1976 but the Australian Government Publishing Service did not receive the material until 1 1 February this year and the proofs were delivered back to the River Murray Commission on 15 April. I think honourable senators may find that information to be of some use.
– If the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) had given that information earlier I should have made some criticism of the lengthy delays and I am certain that Senator McLaren would have been prepared to say a few words about it. I noticed that the Minister was looking in the direction of Senator McLaren. For that matter, as I am prompted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate to say, if we had had a copy of the report we might have taken up the matter. At this time in the session we would not have done so at considerable length, of course, but we would have made some comments on it. In case this practice is continued in the Senate today, I want to make the point that we are not recieving either copies of reports or statements associated with those reports at the time the statements are being made. This limits the ability of honourable senators to participate in debate and to make comments which they consider suitable.
– Today the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) criticised research officers and said that they should seek out information. He has blamed the research officers when it is the responsibility of honourable senators to ask their staff to seek out information concerning matters which appear on the notice paper. Senator Withers said in this chamber today that senators asked their staff to go back through reports that have been tabled in this Parliament, through the Year Book and so on. Yet we have various Ministers coming in here day after day saying that there are not enough reports available for honourable senators and that copies will be placed in the Parliamentary Library. If a senator wants some information when the Parliament is not in session, when it is in recess, how will we have access to those reports when there is only a report placed in the Parliamentary Library? Copies of reports are not being made available to us. I support what Senator Georges said, that these reports should be made available so that every honourable senator will have a copy.
– I want to say in regard to the 2 questions that have been raised that I as Chairman will be tabling a report today of the Publications Committee. I will be commenting on the lack of copies of reports and I will be tabling statistics as to the considerable number of occasions on which this has happened over a considerable period of time. A considerable number of cases are involved. It is a matter which is of concern to the Joint Committee on Publications. The Committee is concerned also about the delays of annual reports which, on a number of occasions, have been late. It will be reporting on the effect of that. Annual reports are the subject of investigation and report by the Committee at the moment. I just want to say that this issue is a matter which I will be bringing before the Senate and about which I will be tabling a report in a few minutes.
– It only goes to show that one should not volunteer information. I thought I was trying to help honourable senators because there has been criticism and I am critical also of the delays in the reports that I have been presenting in the last month or two. For the life of me I cannot see why the reports cannot be tabled within 90 days of the close of the financial year. Occasionally, departments or statutory corporations attempt to push the blame on to my Department. I am further informed that the actual printed copies were delivered to the Commission on 15 April. It has taken that Commission from 15 April until today to present the report to the Parliament. It is a matter which is not under the jurisdiction of any Minister of this Government. Three State governments are involved as well. I am mindful of the criticism, which I believe is quite valid, which has been made by my colleagues on both sides of the chamber about what I believe is the inordinate delay in the presentation of reports to the Parliament. I have certainly issued instructions in my Department about this matter. I want to know why reports cannot be presented within 90 days of the close of the financial year. It may be, of course, that some reports will have to be presented to the Parliament without an AuditorGeneral’s certificate. I believe that could always follow. There is no reason why the reports should not be presented earlier.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Committee appointed to examine the desirability and feasibility of introducing a system of loans for Australian post-secondary students. With the report I also present a document which I have received separately from Mr Michael Gallagher who is the Education Research Officer to the Australian Union of Students and who was a member of the Committee. This statement is in the form of a critique by the AUS of the Committee’s proposals and of the terms of reference of the investigation.
Senator ROBERTSON (Northern Territory) by leave-I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Independent Inquiry Committee into Radio Australia.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 36 of the Aboriginal Loans Commission Act 1974 I present the report of the Aboriginal Loans Commission for the year ended June 1 976.
Senator ROBERTSON (Northern Territory) by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report by the Industries Assistance Commission on orange juice.
-by leave- I move:
I just want to remark that most honourable senators were unaware that reports were coming in today and I was not prepared for the presentation of the first report on the River Murray Commission because we have only just been handed the paper listing the reports to be tabled today. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) I present a report and transcript of some of the evidence from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on its inquiry into
The Fragile Middle East Situation and the Possible International Repercussions’.
Ordered that the report be printed.
This report is a substantial one. It is the third report that the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence has presented to the Parliament on the general region known as the Middle East. The first was presented 8 years ago, the second last year and now this one. The Middle East was an epicentre in civilisation balance a millennium or so ago. It is, today, the epicentre for Euro-Asia and a great part of Africa and from this centre the waves of disequilibrium can sweep to the Australasian shores. If I may involve myself in verbal parenthesis, I would like to remark that once upon a time a young Senator Withers by interjection claimed that I involved myself in flower picking amongst words. I now go on to say that I have deliberately used the word ‘epicentre ‘ as the centre where the earth shapes.
The Committee has disciplined its investigation by examining the epicentre of Arab and Israeli tensions and their patron powers. We have set down the facts as we discerned them and the discernible deductions we have made from those facts. However, we feel it incumbent upon us to indicate that the Committee cast a collective eye upon the periphery of the epicure, particularly to the peripheral and economic and military powers. We indicate the economic power of the oil producing states upon the periphery. A disturbance of a major order at the Euro-Asian epicentre would surely affect the Asian land mass as well as Australasia as it has in the immediate past and has begun to shake the economic stability of the industrialised nations once again. It is the hope of the Committee that the report will be debated by Parliament, digested by Parliament and will concern the Parliament. We think we can say as a Committee that we regard the subject matter reported as sombre. I take this opportunity of thanking particularly the Hon. K. Beazley, the honourable member for Fremantle, and all those who have contributed to the work of the Committee. I will leave any further comment to a member of the sub-committee on the Middle East, Senator Wheeldon.
– I have great pleasure in seconding the motion moved by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack that the Senate take note of the report. In all modesty as a member of the Joint Committee on
Foreign Affairs and Defence I feel that this is one of the most important reports on the question of foreign affairs that has been presented to the Parliament by this Committee. The report of the sub-committee was adopted without dissent by the full Joint Committee of the Parliament representing both Houses and all parties within the Parliament. I think it is interesting to note the composition of the sub-committee. It consisted of 4 members of the Australian Labor Party and 2 members of the National Country Party. I do not want that to be taken as some criticism of the Liberal Party, which is the major Government party in this Parliament, but as evidence of the fact that the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence has been an example of how members of this Parliament can work together sensibly and rationally to examine some of the problems that face this country. I think that the very fact that members of the Committee were happy with the composition of that nature shows the trust that has developed amongst members of the Committee in the objectivity of its members in bringing down reports, which was endorsed by the fact that the Committee as a whole adopted the report of the sub-committee.
The reference to the sub-committee arose from the recent tragic events in the Lebanon. Anybody who reads the report- I trust that members of Parliament at least, if nobody else, will read the report- will see that a great deal of attention has been given to the problems of the Lebanon. The contribution that Australia can make to the solution of these problems is mainly by way of humanitarian aid, assistance with refugees, medical assistance and other matters of this kind. The fundamental political problem of the Middle East, however, remains the problem of the relationship between Israel and its neighbours. It is very easy for a number of vague, amiable people to slither into a soggy morass of humbug on the question of the relationship between Israel and its neighbours. One finds so many people saying that they think that Israel ought to be there but at the same time the Arabs have a case.
The Arabs may well have a case that something should be done for the Palestinian refugees, for the Palestinian population which is scattered around the Middle East and those who were living on the west bank under military occupation by Israel. But the case which is presented by every one of the Arab countries without exception- not one of them has ever said anything to contradict this- and the case which is presented by the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which apparently is now accepted as the spokesman for the Palestinians, and most recently by the Palestine National Council, the socalled parliament of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which I regret to say is recognised as a parliament by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, is that the state of Israel has to be destroyed. They have no hesitation about that. There is no question of adjusting boundaries or repatriation and compensation. They want the destruction of the state of Israel.
The sub-committee and the Committee, and I hope all of the parties in this Parliament, have said that we will not tolerate the destruction of the state of Israel, that of course there will have to be adjustments of borders, that of course arrangements will have to be made for the wellbeing of the Palestinian people who, largely through no fault of their own, have suffered very great hardship as a result of the events that have taken place there. But whatever arrangement is made, it cannot be an arrangement which allows the destruction of the state of Israel. In the Press statement which was issued along with the report some reference is made to what the Committee believes on this matter, and that is that whilst we accept the concept that there should be a separate Palestinian state established, the Committee believes that Israel cannot be expected to allow a Palestinian homeland so close to the bulk of Israel’s population until such time as the PLO accepts Israel’s right to exist. So far it has not given any indication that it accepts Israel ‘s right to exist. Once the PLO accepts Israel’s right to exist then of course there can be no argument against the establishment of the Palestinian homeland. But for as long as it says that this is only a transitory stage, only a step along the road to the destruction entirely of the state of Israel, it is quite reasonable for Israel- in fact it is the only sensible thing Israel can do- to reject such a proposition, and I believe that we have to support Israel in this matter.
The position has been complicated just recently by the election in Israel of Menachem Begin as the Prime Minister of Israel, a man whose own record unfortunately does not compare with those of his predecessors. He is a man who was involved in terrorist activities. I do not think that one could describe them as anything else. His party is one which apparently is committed to the incorporation of the whole of the West Bank and a great many Arab territories within the state of Israel, something which I do not believe can be accepted. I think that Mr Begin and his Government will make it very difficult for a lot of people to support in detail the actions of the Government of Israel in the way that they have been able to support them in the past. I do not believe that this is a reason or can be a reason, however critical we may be of the foreign policies which Mr Begin may follow, for us to reject the fundamental proposition; that is, that we must support the existence of that state.
The state of Israel was established after many years of great suffering by the Jewish people. I believe that down the centuries progressive people throughout the world, whether Jewish or non-Jewish, have supported the rights of the Jewish people to a national homeland. Let us look back to the early part of the nineteenth century to Lord Byron, a poet whose contribution to human emancipation, in the view of some critics, would be at least as great as that of some of the people who have described themselves recently as progressives and leftists and who apparently think that Israel ought to be destroyed. Byron wrote:
The wild dove hath her nest The fox his cave Mankind their country Israel but the grave
The Jewish people set out to establish their own homeland to ensure that they had not only the grave but also a home in which to live, in the same way as everybody else has a home in which to live. I believe that in doing so they were carrying out the aspirations of all humanity. If Israel is destroyed it will mean not only that there will be another holocaust, such as the extermination of Jews which occurred under the disgraceful Nazi regimes of the 1930s and the 1940s, but also that it will be a blow to all humanity, a disgrace to all of mankind. I believe that this Parliament must make it clear that Australia will do everything that it can conceivably do to see that such a tragedy is not repeated.
– I make the point again that many senators are vitally interested in the Middle East and vitally interested in the opinions that other senators may want to express, especially those of Senator Wheeldon and Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. It would have been of great assistance to honourable senators if we had had some forward knowledge of the presentation of this very important report and, further, if we had had copies of it. It has been stated that 2 copies were given to the Opposition. I discovered this when I noticed this matter on the notice paper. I asked: Where is the report? Where is the statement? At the present time we are engaged in a debate which is of considerable interest to us all and, as Senator Wheeldon has pointed out, it is of considerable interest to the whole of mankind.
-It is on the notice paper for debate.
– I note what Senator Bishop said. The matter is on the notice paper for debate. Eventually we will have a debate. The problem is that the report has been brought down now and it is at this time that some comment on the report ought to be made. Senator Wheeldon felt that it was necessary to make some very important comments. It may be that other senators, at the time a report is being presented- not in a later debate as it may take up to 7 or 8 months before it comes back before the Parliament- will wish to make certain comments concerning it. Mr President, I put the point to you again that in future, when reports are brought down, there should be sufficient copies of the report available to senators and there should be sufficient time for senators to make a brief comment on the report when it is brought down.
– I do not wish to interfere in the debate. Could I say to Senator Georges that, as I understand it, this is a parliamentary report? Until a parliamentary report is tabled in the Parliament it would be a breach of privilege by members of a committee to let other than the members of the committee see the report. That is as I understand the Standing Orders.
– The reports are being put down at the same time.
-That is what I understood was being done. The report was tabled this morning by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, the Chairman of the Committee. He spoke briefly to it. A member of the Committee has spoken to it. It will be made an order of the day. Honourable senators will have an opportunity to read the report. I hope that we will have sufficient time when we come back in the Budget session to debate it properly. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
-For the information of honourable senators I present a report from the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations relating to its inquiry on the subject of Public Service computer use.
– I bring up the thirteenth report of the Publications Committee. I seek leave to move a motion for the adoption of the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Mr President, the Joint Committee on Publications has asked me to draw to the attention of the Senate the unsatisfactory arrangement whereby only 9 copies of the report of the Australian Assistance Plan, tabled in the Senate yesterday, have been made available to the Parliament for distribution to its members. The Committee regards such an arrangement as totally unsatisfactory as it is extremely difficult for interested senators to have access to the report. Not only is the Committee concerned that inadequate copies of this report have been made available for the use of members of Parliament but the report is dated March 1976 and it would appear unfortunate that it has taken some 15 months to finally table the report in Parliament. I point out that this is only one of many recent instances where adequate copies of reports tabled in Parliament have not been made available for distribution to members of Parliament. The Secretariat of the Publications Committee has drawn up lists of instances from February 1976 to June 1977 where totally inadequate numbers of copies of reports were made available to the Senate records office for distribution to honourable senators. These lists I have relate to instances where less than 20 copies of a report were made available for the use of honourable senators. There are 61 reports listed. I am informed that on many more occasions less than the full distribution requirement has been made available. I would remind the Senate that it is imperative that senators have ready access to reports tabled in the Parliament so that they have the information necessary to carry out their duties satisfactorily. I seek leave to incorporate these lists in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
REPORTS TABLED IN THE SENATE OF WHICH LESS THAN 20 COPIES WERE MADE AVAILABLE TO SENATE RECORDS OFFICE
Bureau of Roads:
Report on Roads in Australia. ( 10 copies)
Report on a North-South Highway connecting Darwin to Melbourne via Mount Isa and Broken Hill. ( 19 copies)
Bureau of Transport Economics:
Consumer Preferences in Urban Buses and Bus Services.
A = 20 copies
B = 3 copies
C = 3 copies
Mainline upgrading: Evaluation of a Range of Options for the Melbourne-Sydney Rail link. (3 copies)
Mainline upgrading: Evaluation of a Range of Options for the Melbourne-Serviceton Rail link. (3 copies)
Report of the Port Pirie Economic Evaluation of Harbour Improvement. (3 copies)
Joint Coal Board Annual Report 1 974-75. (2 copies)
Final Report of Australian Wool Board 1 . 7.72 to 3 1 . 1 2.72. (14 copies)
Final Report of the Australian Wool Corporation 1 . 1 . 73 to 30.6.73. (10 copies)
Final Report of Australian Wool Corporation 1973-74. (3 copies)
Statistical Returns Relating to Referenda. All States. (5 copies)
Monthly Reports on Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund for October, November and December 1975, January 1976. (5 copies)
Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Transport to and from Tasmania. (Nil copies)
Report by the Committee on Post Secondary Education in Tasmania. (1 copy)
Report of the Laverton Royal Commission. ( 8 copies)
Royal Commission on Petroleum. Fourth Report: The Marketing and Pricing of Petroleum Products in Australia. ( 1 copy)
VIP Flights by No. 34 Squadron RAAF. ( 1 0 copies )
REPORTS TABLED IN THE PARLIAMENT WHERE LESS THAN 20 COPIES WERE MADE AVAILABLE TO SENATE RECORDS AND PAPERS OFFICE
Air Safety Investigation Branch Accident Investigation Report. ( 1 copy)
Commonwealth Grants Commission: Financial Assistance for Local Government; 3rd Report 1976. ( 10 copies)
Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund: Monthly Reports-
February 1976, March 1976, April 1976, May 1976, June 1976 (includes review of activities 1975-76). ( 10 copies)
Darwin Disaster Welfare Council: Final Report. (5 copies)
Distribution of Commonwealth Funds to Municipal Councils: Western Australia 1976-77. (3 copies)
Election Statistics: Senate Election and General Election of Members of the House of Representatives, 13 December 1975-
Australian Capital Territory-Northern Territory, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria, Western Australia. ( 10 copies)
Grants to Local Authorities: Queensland 1976-77. (3 copies)
*Indications of Community Well-being: A Report to the Department of Social Security. (4 copies)
Interim States Grants Commission: Local Assistance for Local Government: South Australia 1976-77. (3 copies)
Katherine Rural College Planning Committee: Report April 1976. (10 copies)
Literacy and Numeracy in Australian Schools. (Nil copies)
Local Government Grants Commission: Financial Assistance for Local Government: New South Wales 1976-77. (3 copies)
Post-Graduate Scheme: A report on the scheme with particular reference to students commencing in 1965 and 1966. (10 copies)
*Poverty, Commission of Inquiry into. 3rd main report, March 1976. (5 copies)
*The Role of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, Committee of Inquiry into. Report, November 1976. (2 copies)
River Murray Commission; annual report 1975. (5 copies)
Schedules of special flights for the period 15 July-31 August 1976. ( 10 copies)
States Grants Committee: distribution of general revenue assistance to municipal councils; Victoria 1976-77. (3 copies)
Tasmanian States Grants Commission: 1st report 1976-77. (2 copies)
War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals Nos. 1-5 for 1975-76. (Nil copies)
*Full stocks were supplied at a later date.
REPORTS TABLED IN THE PARLIAMENT WHERE LESS THAN 20 COPIES WERE MADE AVAILABLE TO SENATE RECORDS AND PAPERS OFFICE
Australian Assistance Plan: a guide to allocating community funds. (3 copies)
Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund: monthly reports-
October 1976, November 1976, December 1976, January 1977, February 1977, March 1977, April 1977. (5 copies)
Schedules of special flights-No. 34 Squadron 1 September 1976-28 February 1977. (4copies)
Transport (Planning and Research) Act 1974: report on progress to 30 June 1 976 -
Volume I, Volume II, Volume III. ( 12 copies)
Youth Affairs, Study Group on. Report, February 1 977. ( 2 copies)
– The Committee has asked that I draw the attention of all Ministers and departments to the need for adequate copies of all reports to be tabled to be made available to senators and members. I thank the Senate for its attention.
– For some time in the
Senate and in Senate Estimates Committees I have been expressing my concern and the concern of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party about the cavalier way in which some departments and more particularly independent statutory corporations have been submitting their annual reports to this Parliament. It is something like a department getting legislation drafted and put into the Parliament in the last week of the session so that it might receive hasty surveillance rather than close scrutiny. There is an old saying that there is nothing more stale than yesterday’s news. When reports of departments come into the Parliament 11 months after the date on which they were compiled, one rather regards it as being a bit of a waste of time to be bothered looking at the report after so many other events could have happened in the interim period.
The Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) said earlier this morning that he was considering asking his Department to see whether all reports coming within his ministerial responsibility could be presented within 90 days of the date on which they were due to be made. I hope that the Publications Committee also will take up that aspect and submit it for consideration of other Ministers who have responsibility to Parliament. I note, with respect to the Minister for Administrative Services, that the annual report of the Commonwealth Police Commissioner, which I submit is a very important report, for the year ended 30 June 1 976 was tendered only yesterday, 1 1 months after the date on which it should have been compiled. I ask that as yet the annual report of the Administrator of Cocos (Keeling) Islands and the annual report of the Administrator of Christmas Island for the year ended 30 June 1976, which both come within the purview of the Minister for Administrative Services, have not yet been presented to this Parliament. I have been saying for some time that this practice on the part of statutory corporations in particular is not good. I am delighted to know that the Publications Committee is giving the matter its close surveillance.
-May I add 2 comments? Firstly, I would like to endorse what Senator Douglas McClelland has said as to the requirement of timely reports. If the Senate will take no action on these matters it can be expected to be ignored as heretofore. It is only action by the Senate that will produce results. Secondly, I wonder whether the suggestion is worthy of consideration, that instead of the circulation of all these reports with which my office is two-thirds full at the moment and the mere accumulation is an obstacle to understanding, an up-to-date list of reports for the year could be kept so that a report in which one has special interest can readily be obtained from the clerk of the records office.
– I wish to speak to the motion moved by Senator Missen. I want to make some remarks particularly in the light of the fact that Senator Missen has pointed out that only 9 copies are available of the Australian Assistance Plan report entitled A Guide to Allocating Community Funds. This matter is of grave importance to many people in the Australian community. We are now told that only 9 copies are available to be distributed between 64 senators.
– And other interested parties.
-And other interested parties, as Senator Georges points out. That brings me back again to what I said earlier. I revert to the question asked by Senator Kilgariff. He accused Mr Jonathan West, who works for Senator Keeffe, of using the notice paper to seek out information to assist in a part time thesis that he is doing. I am not aware that he is doing a thesis but Senator Kilgariff seems to be aware of it. As I pointed out some moments ago when I spoke on another report which was tabled, how will senators find information which is embodied in these reports if the reports are not available. I take umbrage at the fact that staff of senators are being accused of not doing the work that they should be doing but are doing their own research. It is impossible to do the research if the reports are not available to honourable senators.
Senator Cormack said in a question that he put that it cost $500 to get an answer to every question on the notice paper. Whether this is right or wrong, I do not know. If it is right we would save a lot of money if these reports could be available so that members could get information without having to seek it by asking questions, sometimes without notice and at other times on notice. I support the remarks made by my Deputy Leader, Senator Douglas McClelland. I also want to say a few things about the suggestion which has been put forward by Senator Wright. He says that his office is two-thirds full of reports and that an up to date list should be put out of the reports that are tabled in this Parliament. I say to Senator Wright that a list is available every day reports are presented. Perhaps he could adopt the same system as I have. Every day I put this list in my filing system. If I want a report, I just thumb through the file. It might be of some assistance if we had an index. I agree with Senator Wright. If we had an index, we could find reports at a glance. Of course that is if they were available. I commend Senator Missen for the remarks he has made in drawing to the attention of the Senate the problem that exists in having enough copies printed and made available to honourable senators and interested parties. I hope that the Senate takes up both his suggestion and the suggestion by Senator Wright that the Senate take some action to see that what is occurring now does not occur in the future.
-Might I say a few words in reply to the comments made by honourable senators. A number of useful suggestions have been put forward. They should not be left in abeyance at this stage and not proceeded with further. In regard to what Senator Douglas McClelland said, at present an inquiry is being conducted by the Joint Committee on Publications into the whole situation of annual reports. However, it is not the matter we will be reporting on next. We will be reporting soon on the inquiry into parliamentary papers. Of course the parliamentary papers are made available later than the departmental papers and they are not the ones that are of greatest value to us. It is the original departmental supply with which we are concerned and to which my comments have been directed this morning. A report will be presented shortly on the parliamentary papers situation. Of course the matter is linked with the fact that if there are inadequate copies of documents tabled in the Parliament we have to wait a long time for the parliamentary paper version to come out. If additional copies could be available to the Senate at an early stage, we would not be so dependent upon the later documents that might be 6 months in coming forward. I thank Senator Douglas McClelland for the comments he made.
I thank Senator Wright for the suggestion he made in regard to having a list of reports and other documents tabled. I will bring it to the attention of the Joint Committee on Publications immediately so it can consider it in its current inquiries. What has been said by Senator McLaren is a fact. The limited number of copies does inhibit proper and early debate on reports and documents in the Senate. Obviously it is not right that honourable senators should have to depend on borrowing a copy from the Senate Records Office for a short time, stopping someone else from being able to get a copy. It is important that we monitor all documents, including those incorporated in Hansard, so that honourable senators may see the extent to which there has been default over the last year. I hope that we will continue to keep the matter under observation and make sure that it is corrected.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 1976-77. Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 1976-77.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to amendments made by the Senate to the following Bills:
Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill 1 977. Administrative Appeals Tribunal Amendment Bill 1 977. Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Bill 1977.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the text of the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– I do not propose to refuse leave, but my patience has run out with having incorporated into Hansard speeches which are neither made here nor produced by senators. I suggest that the practice be adopted of using House of Representatives Hansard for second reading speeches on Bills in the context of their debate unless we are to have speeches which can be attributed properly in their authorship to senators. I do not refuse leave now, but I may refuse soon.
– There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
The main purpose of this Bill is to provide interim funds for the continuation of Commonwealth financial assistance to the States for road works during the first 3 months of 1977-78. The Bill provides for the appropriation of $1 18.75m, that is, one-quarter of the already announced program of Commonwealth assistance for 1977-78 totalling $475m. The legislation currently before the Senate can most easily be considered by taking the funding aspect separately from the general question of the administration and programming arrangements involved in the operation of the Commonwealth’s roads assistance program.
First of all as far as the funding aspect is concerned senators will be aware that at the present time financial assistance is provided to the States for road works under the National Roads and Roads Grants Acts. Appropriations under these Acts terminate on 30 June 1977 and new appropriations and legislation will therefore be needed to cover Commonwealth assistance from the beginning of the new financial year. It is the Government’s intention to introduce legislation in the Budget sittings to provide for continuation of financial assistance to the States for road works over the 3 years 1977-78 to 1979-80 inclusive. The new road arrangements which we will be proposing from 1 July next onwards do involve a number of significant policy issues. It would in the Government’s view be inappropriate to rush such legislation through the Parliament without the opportunity for proper study of the specific provisions of the legislation by members of both Houses. However, the States will need funds in the early part of the 1 977-78 financial year to meet the Commonwealth’s share of the costs of the road program. We have decided to introduce the Bill now before the Senate, so as to ensure that the necessary specific purpose funds are available for the States.
I now turn to the administrative issues. I think senators are already aware of the general shape of the arrangements under which our roads assistance program operates. However, I have arranged to have circulated to senators background material explaining in some detail the principles on which the scheme is administered. In very general terms the road arrangements involve approval by the Commonwealth of road programs proposed by the States on which Commonwealth funds are to be used. Programs are submitted for approval in relation to works to be carried out by the States on particular road categories, for example, national highways, rural arterials, local roads and so on. This system ensures that the Commonwealth can identify the uses to which its funds are to be put. Senators will be aware that the Minister makes available to members of both Houses- irrespective of party affiliations- details of the programs that affect his or her electorate. Since coming to office we have held extensive discussions with the States, mainly through the Australian Transport Advisory Council, on the arrangements which are to apply in respect of Commonwealth assistance for road works to be carried out by the States in the future.
The Bill contains some general provisions which have the effect of allowing, by the exercise of ministerial discretion, the proposed arrangements to operate virtually as if the legislation to be introduced in the Budget sittings had, in fact, been passed. As indicated, the States themselves are already aware of what is proposed with regard to future roads assistance programs. They have been assured, and I now give the Senate the Government’s assurance that the interim arrangements will be administered in accordance with the spirit of the proposed three year legislation.
I now propose to deal in a little more detail with the Bill itself. Clauses 1 and 2 provide the usual details with regard to title and date of commencement of the Bill. Clause 3 sets out a number of definitions which are needed in order to limit the ways in which Commonwealth funds may be used in relation to road works. I would also draw senators’ attention to sub-clause 3 of clause 3, which has the effect of allowing payroll tax charged by the States to be treated as an eligible item of expenditure from Commonwealth grants. This is in line with assurances given to State governments. Clause 4 provides the Minister with discretionary powers to approve road works. The purpose of this clause is to ensure that the Commonwealth is aware in advance of the projects on which Commonwealth funds are to be used. As already indicated to the Senate, this power will be exercised strictly in accordance with the arrangements discussed in detail with State administrations. It will be up to the State governments to propose road programs.
Clauses 5 and 6 are essentially to permit funds to be paid to and used by the States in accordance with their entitlement to Commonwealth funds as specified in the Schedule. Each State already knows its entitlement of grants for the full year 1977-78; in the first 3 months of the year each State will be entitled to exactly onequarter of its proposed full year allocation. The amounts for each State in this period are:
Senators will note that clause 6 also allows certain conditions to be attached to these payments. This has been done to ensure that policy objectives with regard to use of these funds are in fact adhered to. I would again stress that the Bill covers only a limited period and specifies the level of funds which may be used during this interim period. The Bill will be subsumed by the legislation to be introduced in the Budget sittings. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3 1 May, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLAND (New South Wales) (WAI)- My colleague Senator Button is to lead for the Opposition on this Bill. At the moment I do not have a copy of the Bill before me, but as he is now present I shall conclude my remarks.
– It is sometimes said that brevity is the soul of wit. That is not a comment I would apply normally to Senator Douglas McClelland, but today it certainly seems to have been true. I apologise to the Senate if I have delayed it in any way. The Opposition opposes this legislation. At a later stage I intend to move that it be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. I indicate that at this stage because some of the great parliamentarians in this place like Senator Wright will appreciate that we spent the greater part of this session talking about very little of importance to this country and we are spending this week of the session dealing with all the important legislation which has come before the Parliament this session.
The Trade Practices Amendment Bill is an important piece of legislation. It is complex and difficult to understand. I have heard it said in a discussion at which members of the 2 major political parties were present, namely, the Labor Party and the Liberal Party, that there were perhaps only 2 people in the House of Representatives who really understood what was happening when the trade practices legislation was passed by that House. I refer to Mr Howard, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, and Mr Tony Whitlam, the honourable member for Grayndler. I do not know whether that is a fair comment about our colleagues in the House of Representatives, but it may well be. It would be regrettable if this legislation were passed through the Senate on the same basis that no one in this chamber understood what it is all about. I confess in speaking during the second reading debate on this Bill that I do not know what it is all about. I would very much like to have the legislation examined by a Senate committee so that we might all be a little better informed. For that reason I foreshadow that I shall be moving at the end of my speech in the second reading debate that it be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
As far as the Opposition is concerned, the original concept of the trade practices legislation introduced in 1974 was simply that business people in Australia should compete and do so fairly within the rules. I suppose that one could say, if one was being slightly facetious about it, that it was legislation introduced by a socialist government, so designated from time to time, to make capitalism work according to its own professed ethos and rules. From what the Trade Practices Commission has said about the operations of the legislation and also from its comments on the Swanson Committee report, it can be seen that the Trade Practices Commission, which after all is a body established to represent the public interest in Australia- that is its prime function- believes that the trial period between 1974 and 1977 during which this legislation has been operating has not been long enough to warrant the substantial changes which are being made by this Bill. It is rushed legislation. It is very complex legislation. It is a matter of regret that it is brought into the Senate on the second last day of the parliamentary sitting before the commencement of the winter recess.
– We could have found some time for it yesterday.
-Senator Durack is seeking today to retrieve the embarrassments of yesterday. I suppose that is fair enough. However, let us concentrate on the trade practices legislation. Then perhaps later he will introduce an amendment to the National Labour Consultative Council Bill which will leave the Senate with some respect in the eyes of the public as we end this parliamentary session.
I can indicate quite clearly that a future Labor government would not attempt to weaken the trade practices legislation but would attempt to strengthen it. One can see from the reports of the Trade Practices Commission why we would do that. The Commission had this to say in its report on the 1974 legislation. Referring to that legislation before it was passed by the Parliament, the Commission said:
The present Act is in sharp contrast with the law it replaced. It covers matters not previously touched, for example mergers, price discrimination. exclusive dealing, and consumer protection. It starts from a general principle instead of case by case examination.
The Trade Practices Commission at that time saw its long term role as one of laying down general principles for dealing with trade practices which would be abided by. It did not adopt a case by case approach, but saw its role as developing a body of general principles in relation to the content of the Act. This Bill will result in the law relating to trade practices reverting to the old system of case by case examination. We believe that in the long term that could cause many problems for businesses.
I also say in passing that it could be said from an examination of the somewhat confused and tentative conclusions of the White Paper on manufacturing industry that the legislation which we are now debating in some respects flies in the face of any policy decisions which may have to be made in relation to competition between viable manufacturing industries, which is a matter that that White Paper advocates. It is another example of not letting the left hand know what the right hand is doing in government. I am not making that as a party criticism. I think that we are all guilty of that sort of thing. But there is a dichotomy between some of the recommendations of the White Paper and some of the provisions in the Bill in their ultimate application if the legislation is passed.
It might be said that, in relation to these proposed amendments, the Government seems to be incapable of distinguishing between its political relationships with some business organisations and the inflationary impact of reverting to a sort of laissez faire approach to competitive forces in society. We should look at the Commission’s statement in relation to the selfenforcing effect of the Act as it stands and the manner in which it is now being challenged. On page 12 of the Trade Practices Commission’s second annual report it had this to say:
Subject to the procedures for clearance and authorisation, both the restrictive trade practices and the consumer protection provisions operate by prohibiting specified kinds of conduct having certain specified effects. Consequently, the effectiveness of the provisions depends to a great extent on deterrence, and that is difficult to assess. No one can say how many anti-competitive mergers were never proposed because the parties realised there was no public benefit that would justify them, or how many competitors resisted the temptation to agree on prices because of the risks under the Trade Practices Act. However, there is some striking evidence of results the Act is producing. The evidence presented to the Commission’s public hearing on building societies’ tied insurance arrangements showed a substantial decline in insurance premiums over the preceding 2 years . . .
The report goes on to give other examples. What the Commission is saying, of course, is that one of the most substantial effects of the 1974 legislation, it believes, is not what actually has happened in the Trade Practices Commission since then but, as it puts it, the deterrent effect of the existence of the legislation. That is something which I believe will be removed if the case by case approach is adopted and if the general principles laid down by the Trade Practices Commission are departed from. As I said before, the Commission, as a body concerned with the public interest in business transactions, has really engaged, I suppose, in some quite spirited defence of its activities and operations. The interesting thing about it is that the arguments which the Commission has put in its reports have not really been challenged or ridiculed by anyone, not even the Swanson Committee and not even the Government.
I refer now to one or two particular matters in passing. First of all, I refer to the application of the public benefit test. The Government’s proposed changes in that regard are a complete turnabout on what the Commission said in relation to the public benefit test. The statements of the Commission indicate that these provisions should just not be altered. When interpreting the words ‘benefit to the public’, the Commission had this to say in its report:
The phrase ‘benefit to the public’, has been interpreted by the Tribunal as meaning ‘anything of value to the community generally, any contribution to the aims pursued by the society including as one of its principal elements
. the achievement of the economic goals of efficiency and progress.
I emphasise the words ‘including as one of its principle elements … the achievement of the economic goals of efficiency and progress’. Therefore, in terms of substantial benefit to the public or of exclusive dealings with which the Commission has been involved, no real argument has been put forward to support the changes vested in this Bill.
I mention mergers. Substantial evidence from many analysts exists to indicate that the merger section of the Trade Practices Act will be weakened considerably by this legislation and the
Commission’s role will be considerably watered down. This again is an important factor in considering the future of manufacturing industry and the sort of competitive forces one might like to encourage in the interests of efficiency. The Opposition does not believe that what the Government proposes in this Bill will overcome the enormous problems concerning economies of scale and international competitiveness. It is not just the role of the Trade Practices Commission or the Industries Assistance Commission to look at the problems of mergers. They are problems for the Government to face in terms of ultimate economic policy and the ultimate good of the economy. Therefore, they are problems to be faced by government and not just those statutory bodies. I point out that mergers do not always take place as a move towards anticompetitiveness or monopoly. They have done so in some cases but they do not always do so. Before the 1974 Trade Practices Act was passed a great number of mergers were for that purpose.
The next matter to which I refer relates to the debate in the other place when the Opposition moved that the matter be referred to a select committee. This occurred at least a week ago, I gather. The point was made there that it was desirable that the matter be referred to a select committee because the Government could not expect members of Parliament in the absence of legislative committees to understand the full ramifications of the Bill which the Government then proposed to put through the Parliament very quickly. It now proposes to put the Bill through the Senate very quickly. Twelve pages of substantive amendments to this legislation were introduced into the House of Representatives last week. They were not just drafting amendments; they were not just amendments to replace particular words or to rephrase particular clauses. They were substantive amendments introduced during the course of the debate. The Senate is indeed fortunate to the extent that the substantive amendments have been incorporated now in this Bill which is before the Senate. It is interesting to note that precisely the same tactics were used by the Government in relation to the amendments to the Prices Justification Act. Substantial amendments were introduced during the course of the debate and the whole thing was pushed through very quickly.
-The Bill relating to the establishment of the Industrial Relations Bureau was the same.
-Yes, although I think we probably -
– That was a dividend stripping case.
– There were amendments, nevertheless.
– Yes, I agree with Senator Cavanagh that that was another example. But I think there is probably a greater understanding amongst us all of what the Bill relating to the establishment of the Industrial Relations Bureau is all about than there is in relation to this trade practices legislation.
– In relation to the trade pratices legislation we have had committees, sat on the table and done everything.
– So the committees sat on the table?
– We had the committee hearings and the Bills sat on the table. This happened over a long period.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- I think we should cease the round table conference and continue the debate.
– I am fascinated by the discussion which has taken place. I am particularly grateful to Senator Walters for her interjection. She is one of those honourable senators who represents to me unfulfilled promise. By way of interjection she always indicates that she has a complete grasp of the legislation which is before this chamber. Then sometimes when she makes a speech about the legislation which is before the chamber I have the feeling that that grasp has temporarily eluded her. So we can look forward to hearing from her a complete exposition of the significance and import of the trade practices legislation. I await with fascination.
I should indicate that we on the Opposition side of the chamber are not all bitterness about the trade practices legislation. We welcome the amendments in relation to consumer protection. At an earlier stage we had fears that that situation might have been much worse than it is. But in relation to restrictive trade practices and the provisions contained in proposed amendments to Part IV of the Trade Practices Act, we repeat that the Government has acted in far too hasty a fashion for this Parliament properly to deal with the matter. Previously those who have been engaging in anti-competitive behaviour have had to go before the Trade Practices Commission and justify being allowed to continue to behave in that manner. Under this legislation the onus will be on the other side. This is a very important reversal of the onus of proof. The Commission will now have to turn round to determine not only whether the behaviour is anti-competitive but also whether there is a public benefit which outweighs that anti-competitive behaviour.
It is extraordinary that when a body which, as I have said before, has an underlying function of protecting the public interest is established by legislation the onus of proof is reversed like that; that the public interest has to be protected by a body which has to discharge an onus of proof against a corporation which it is alleged is not acting in the public interest. That is a very important reversal of the onus of proof. I have mentioned before that there is a case for saying that many of these provisions fly in the face of the White Paper on manufacturing industry and the hopes that are expressed for the future of manufacturing industry in relation to the policy outlined in that White Paper. During this second reading debate I want to refer briefly to one other provision of the legislation. Perhaps we will deal with the matter in greater length at the Committee stage. On the assumption that the Senate, the repository of legislative wisdom in this country, will not accept the amendment which I foreshadowed, I shall move to refer the matter to a committee of this Senate. My proposed amendment relates to the provisions of proposed new section 45D. I indicate to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) that at the Committee stage we shall certainly want to ask questions in relation to that proposed new clause, particularly its terminology. I look forward to hearing him tell us exactly what some of the expressions in proposed new clause 45D mean, with greater effect than he was able to advise us last night.
This legislation nominally relates to trade practices. But by way of the provisions contained in proposed new clause 45 it bears very heavily on the area of industrial relations. We say at the outset that there is an unwanted confusion between the regulation of trade practices and the bearing which this proposed new section has on industrial relations. We believe that that stems from a suggestion made in the Swanson report, which the Government seems to take up with considerable alacrity. Many of the issues which I assume the Government hopes to solve by this legislation are not related in the slightest to the matters contained in the rest of this important Bill dealing with trade practices. The essence of proposed new section 45 is that unions involved in secondary boycotts will be subject to legal restraints imposed by this particular proposed new section. I suspect the proposed new section goes far beyond the issue of secondary boycotts and would have effect on a much wider range of union activities. For example, I mention 2 points. The proposed new section, as amended, now relates to ‘a person’. The expression ‘a person’ for the purpose of dealing with secondary boycotts is a very wide one and embraces all sorts of activities which it is conceivable some persons in this community might regard as undesirable. A lot of examples of this have been given but there is little doubt that it embraces, for example, residents in a street who decide that they will stage a sit-in to prevent trees in the street being pulled down- an example of lawful activity in a strict sense, no doubt, but an example of frequent activity, particularly in the middle class suburbs of Melbourne.
– Have you had a look at proposed new sub-section (3 )? It does put on restrictions. Very often those people in the street do not really inconvenience anyone.
-I understand the restrictions. We can discuss that aspect in the Committee stage. I look forward to hearing Senator Tehan ‘s learned opinion on the subject. There are a number of other examples of a similar kind, such as unemployed workers engaged in a sit-in who would, I believe, be covered, and the expression ‘a person’, of course, now includes a trade unions- incorporated as they are. I hope the Minister will tell us later whether it includes a union deregistered under the provisions of industrial legislation.
A whole range of activities of that kind can be covered by the provisions of proposed new section 45D. We say that this is a silly part of the legislation and one which should be exorcised by an intelligent government which is concerned with its own rhetoric about industrial relations. Of course, by virtue of that provision substantial penalties can be imposed on persons, including unions, engaged in concert in secondary boycotts. The penalties, I would think, are far greater than the sort of penalties which Senator Wright suggested might appropriately have been considered if unions had been registered with limited liability. I think that was the position in 1871. Senator Wright referred to that in yesterday’s debate.
I have dealt in passing with some of the issues which the Opposition regards as important, some of the issues which seem to be the key issues in this legislation. I said at the beginning of my speech that I did not believe that the Senate, if it passed this legislation, would be acting in a conscious) and sensible way. I do not exclude myself from that. I am certainly concerned about the inadequate time that we have had to consider the detailed provisions of this Bill, the complex nature of the particular provisions and the fact that this legislation is being rushed through the Parliament in the last days of the parliamentary session. I understand that Senator Ryan will be dealing in greater detail with the provisions of proposed new section 45D of the Bill. I hope we will have a further opportunity to discuss that in the Committee stage. I again foreshadow, however, that we do not think the Senate as constituted today is the appropriate forum in which to discuss and pass this important legislation.
– On this occasion I find myself in rare agreement with Senator Button on the question of the complications of the legislation. Nevertheless, I cannot agree with him that it needs to be held over at this stage. This Bill was introduced about 6 months ago in the early part of December and has been left open for discussion since. Consequently many representationsmany of which I have made- have been made to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) and discussions have been held. Also, a debate took place in the House of Representatives towards the end of February. It seems to me that there have been plenty of opportunities for members of Parliament and the community generally to make representations on this and for members of Parliament and senators to have gained a proper appreciation of the thrust of the Bill. They have also had an opportunity to introduce amendments. I do not see any need at this stage, therefore, to refer this particular matter to a Senate select committee.
It has been reported that the Minister on many occasions has had discussions with the trade union movement in relation to proposed new section 45d. That has come out in the financial Press and in other places from time to time as points have been raised in respect of proposed section 45d. While we are dealing with that particular matter I should like to refer to that section to say that I wholeheartedly support the introduction of this provision in the Act because I believe that we cannot have a law applying to one section of the community but not to another. If a boycott is to apply and companies and corporations are to be prosecuted for taking part in a boycott against another business, I see no reason why another group of individuals should be above the law in that respect.
I should like to quote an example of a situation that might make it clear for Senator Button as to how some people might regard this matter. I know of a case of a rather large South Australian business which operates in every state of the
Commonwealth and which is presently under pressure from one particular union, none of whose members are members of the staff of this particular firm. Members of the staff are generally members of another trade union. Yet that union, which has no members on the staff of that firm, is taking action in the firms which are supplying this particular firm with goods in another State so as to force the management of the firm to accept that particular union under a closed shop arrangement. I believe that sort of activity is totally disreputable and certainly not in the best interests of the community. Certainly it is not in the best interests of free enterprise or the rights of individuals. I hope that the enactment of proposed new section 45 d will right that situation.
Perhaps I should* deal with one or two questions of philosophy in relation to the Bill before proceeding to a couple of other matters that I would like to mention. Senator Button was referring to the question of monopoly and the whole question of diversity in society. This principle, of course, is the keynote to the development of a liberal, democratic society in which we believe. Consequently, the enactment of a proper law to control monopolies is indeed in the best interests of our society. I believe that the face of business in the last 15 to 20 years has changed. It has changed significantly since the introduction of the first restrictive trade practices law in 1964, which was followed up by amendments in 1971 in respect of resale price maintenance. I believe those two major reforms have led to greater competition and, indeed, a breakthrough in the area of reducing control over businesses held by the horizontal and vertical price fixing arrangements which were very common in the 1 950s and 1960s and which, consequently, led to a lack of competition in business and to continued sweetheart agreements with trade unions which flowed through to the arbitration system, thereby imposing higher costs in the community.
The Whitlam Government, of course, introduced the 1974 amendments which we now have in the form of the present Act. It could be argued perhaps that in the 1950s and 1960s- bearing in mind the limited size of the Australian market- certain of those activities have been in the interest of development in this community. Certainly, the Whitlam amendments introduced in 1974 have produced a strangulation of development in the business area. That has occurred because business itself has felt that the Government has no particular interest in its activities and, indeed, that it seeks to control it in such a way as to make it virtually impossible to operate. That particular comment applies particularly in respect of small businesses which find it difficult to comply with the propositions that are included in the present Act, such as having to attend meetings of and make public representations to the Trade Practices Commission. I move to one or two other clauses I would briefly mention.
-Would you regard the requirement to attend before the Commissioner as a greater deterrent than the penalties?
– Do you mean the cost penalties?
-Indeed it is, I believe.
– That would not be right.
-May I turn to section 49 of the Act and the amendments proposed in the Bill. Section 49 refers particularly -
-Put it on notice.
– I am sorry, I must have misunderstood what Senator Wright said. I will check it with him later.
– No, he is being mischievous.
– I will start again, for the third time, on section 49 of the Act and the amendments proposed in this Bill which relate price discrimination. Under present circumstances section 49 makes it virtually impossible for there to be any variation in prices as between supplies to individual firms buying goods from other firms. It has been held by many small business organisations, and others, that this provision is in the interests of small business and certainly it has been demonstrated that because of the confusion that the section has generated in the community many suppliers have been unwilling to take chances and consequently have supplied goods at the one price to all people buying those goods. That has led to price rigidity rather than price flexibility in the community to the extent that in many cases suppliers have tended to change their basis of terms of supply of goods. I know of many examples of cases in which suppliers have tended to ask buyers to take minimum quantities, far outside the ability of small firms to be able to buy those goods, in such a way as to restrict small firms from buying those goods. This has led to a fall in the supply of services in particular communities and consequently people buy at increased prices. This has also led to several small firms perhaps getting out of certain lines altogether and perhaps giving away some particular sector of their operations. I know that there are differences between small businesses in this regard because it depends entirely on the sorts of operations in which they in fact work. I believe there is more than one opinion on this and certainly I am reinforced by a recent letter which all honourable senators would have received from the Victorian Chambers of Commerce in which Mr Harrower, the President of that organisation, described the long-term effect of this price rigidity which may in fact be to the great disadvantage of small businesses in the longer run.
Section 50 of the Act refers to restrictions on mergers. The Swanson Committee report recommended that we keep controls over mergers and I am one of those who support that particular point of view. The change in this Bill compared with the Bill that was introduced before Christmas is to the effect that mergers will be allowed except in circumstances where they could create a position of market dominance or strengthen an existing dominance either as a supplier or as a manufacturer of goods and services in the particular market and a market is defined as being either a State or of the Commonwealth of Australia. I happen to support very strongly that section as I believe it is in the interests of the small States, particularly companies in States such as my own State of South Australia, which being very efficient in their own way could perhaps be the target of takeover companies from interstate. Those companies that are seeking to buy South Australian companies might be motivated purely on the basis that a certain company in South Australia is efficient, and consequently they are looking for further profits from that company rather than injecting into their own companies further technical knowhow and expertise. Of course it could also possibly lead to circumstances in which management on which South Australia particularly relies as an economic tool could be restricted and perhaps transferred to other States against the interests of the economic development of South Australia. So I believe that this is a particularly vital provision in the interests of my State.
In the matter of ministerial direction to the Trade Practices Commission, I am interested to see that the Minister is not able to make directions in respect of take-overs or mergers. Rather the Minister is able, under the Bill as I understand it, to make directions on the general guidelines for the Commission to take account of in respect of such matters as the state of the economy and rationalisation of business generally.
– Have you any reference for that, Senator?
-Clause 20 of the Bill, I believe. In respect of Senator Button’s comments on the White Paper, I understand the point he is making particularly in relation to mergers. There is something of a dichotomy, as he points out, in that the White Paper is encouraging rationalisation of industry. Consequently it is only reasonable that the Trade Practices Act controlling mergers ought to allow some easier way of encouraging rationalisation. I believe that we have a neat agreement on those 2 viewpoints by the enactment of the amendment to section 50 inasmuch as we have regard to the basic proposition that market dominance is the factor which would decide whether a merger ought go ahead.
The only other matters that I would refer to are matters affecting small businesses. They relate to price lists. The amendment in this Bill allows for true price lists to be provided to small business organisations where people are not necessarily using those lists as a means of controlling prices; rather the lists are used as points of reference by small businessmen who perhaps do not have access to other information from other sources and are perhaps lacking in costing records and so on. I believe this is a valuable service and one which is in the true interests of business and of the public in general. The other point is in relation to the price restriction provisions not applying to professionals and people in private practice. Although I do not wish to refer to my own situation, I believe this is a reasonable proposition since we do understand that people in the professions are generally selling their labour rather than goods.
The only other matter in the area of small business that I would mention is that affecting buying groups. I believe there has been a good deal of success and certainly benefit to the community from the banding together of various small businesses, particularly in country localities over the years, to buy goods from a particular manufacturer in one lot. This has made for certain efficiencies in the transport and delivery as well as the choice and range of goods which are available in local areas. I believe that the amendment to allow for that situation is to the benefit of the public and certainly will lead to greater efficiencies in the economy over time. It is with great pleasure that I support the legislation.
– The Senate has before it very controversial and complex legislation which is a series of amendments to the Trade Practices Act. The Opposition opposes this legislation. It does so not only because the legislation contains many offensive and dangerous provisions but also because of the way in which the Government has handled the legislation- because of the way in which the Government has introduced the legislation, first of all into the House of Representatives and now into the Senate, providing no time for adequate discussion or even for adequate comprehension of the legislation by members and senators.
My colleague Senator Button, who led the Opposition debate in this matter, has foreshadowed an amendment which we very much hope that Government senators will support. The amendment seeks to send this extremely controversial and complex legislation to a Select Committee where proper consideration of the more controversial clauses could take place. As has already been said in the course of this debate, the original purpose of the trade practices legislation was to prevent a variety of malpractices in business, particularly malpractices having a deleterious effect on small traders and on consumers. The legislation was primarily intended to enable the free enterprise system to work. It was never intended to make trade practices legislation into an additional piece of machinery to control industrial relations. The 1965 trade practices legislation exempted unions from its provision, and that exemption was generally continued in the 1 974 legislation.
– Why should they be exempt?
– A Government senator interjects and asks why unions should be exempt. It is very clear that there is in Australia a very adequate, comprehensive conciliation and arbitration system for controlling industrial matters. It is a very poor approach to legislation to try to do many conflicting things within the one piece of legislation. The purpose of the legislation before us is not to ensure free trade and competition, or not primarily to do that, as the Government has claimed; the main purpose of the legislation before us is to curtail severely and unnecessarily the legal rights of trade unions. I emphasise that it is most inappropriate to attempt to regulate industrial activity through the trade practices legislation when the adequate conciliation and arbitration machinery exists. Not only is it inappropriate; it is also dishonest. The Government has presented this legislation as if it were simply a series of amendments to trade practice. It has presented the legislation in a hasty, ill-prepared way, arguing that it is simply a machinery matter which is not of wide interest in the community but which is mainly of a technical nature. In fact many of the provisions of the legislation are so wide that I would say that this legislation will affect all persons who are members of trade unions, and that is the majority of the work force. It will affect all individuals in the community who may wish to make active protests against some corporate body.
The entire union movement is opposed to this legislation for the reason, I suggest, that the union movement understands the legislation. I have received representations from unions of widely different political complexion, ranging from the Australian Capital Territory Teachers Federation to the Amalgamated Metal Workers and Shipwrights Union against this legislation. All unions are opposed to this legislation because they understand it. I contend that all members of the community would be actively opposed to it if they understood it. In handling this particular aspect of its attack on the trade union movement I think that the Government has been particularly dishonest. It has focused attention on another aspect of its legislation- that is, the legislation which passed through the Senate last night, the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill. It focused attention on the controversial provisions relating to the Industrial Relations Bureau. Pursuing a pattern which this Government seems to have adopted, it started off by announcing draconian measures in regard to an industrial relations bureau. It then went through a period during which it appeared to negotiate and compromise with the Australian Council of Trade Unions. It finally produced legislation which was much less severe in its effect than the original legislation and claimed great reasonableness and willingness to compromise and negotiate. As I said, it is a pattern that we have observed in the way in which this Government handles controversial legislation. It starts off threatening the worst so that when it turns out to be not the worst but only the second worst with which we are confronted we are supposed to feel relieved and even grateful.
Because the Government managed to direct attention towards the Industrial Relations Bureau, very little attention- certainly in the broad community- has been paid to the various provisions within the Trade Practices Amendment Bill. My colleague Senator Button has already mentioned the very distressing fact that the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) who handled this legislation in the other place introduced 12 pages of substantive amendments during the course of a debate. That in itself was enough thoroughly to confuse those members of the House of Representatives engaged in the debate, so how much more confused will the wider community be? As I have said, this is a Bill which can ultimately affect any individual in the community who may wish to take a certain kind of action.
I would like to draw attention to one aspect of the legislation which has received very little attention, and that is its consumer protection provisions. We recognise that in some ways the consumer protection provisions in this Bill have been improved. Various areas have been brought within consumer protection provisions. In general we would say that clauses 27 to 48 in Part V of the Act are commendable in that they improve the range of actions which may come within the consumer protection legislation. But if we turn to clause 5 1, the clause dealing with defence to a charge of violating consumer protection provisions, we find that the defence is considerably weakened and thus the position of the consumer has been considerably weakened. At this point I would like to read out the original provisions regarding defence and the new amended provisions introduced by the Government, to demonstrate how they have been weakened.
The original defence with regard to consumer protection acts was that the contravention in respect of which the proceeding was instituted was due to a mistake, to reliance on information supplied by another person, to the act or default of another person, to an accident or some other cause beyond the control of the defendant or that the defendant took reasonable precautions and exercised due diligence to avoid the contravention. That very satisfactory form of defence has been weakened to this:
We notice there that the obligation on the defendant to take reasonable precautions and exercise due diligence applies only to (c) where the act was due to that of another person and not to a reasonable mistake or to reliance on information supplied by another person. The defence regarding the mistake or reliance on information supplied by another person is reduced to this concept of ‘reasonable’, which I think is much weaker than the previous obligation whereby the defendant was required to show that he had taken reasonable precautions and exercised due diligence. So although the terms of the consumer protection provisions are widened, the defence is weakened. We of the Opposition are opposed to that.
In his second reading speech the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) claimed that the legislation was concerned mainly with preventing secondary boycotts. I would say that virtually the only thing that the consumer and the individual in the community know about is that it is primarily aimed at preventing secondary boycotts. The Minister’s claim is actually quite misleading. The entire provisions of clause 25 and in particular the provisions of proposed new section 45D are much wider than the Minister claims. If we have a look at who and what are encompassed by proposed new section 45d we see just how wide-ranging the provision actually is and how it could affect all trade unions and the entire community. Proposed new section 45D begins:
That is the purpose of the clause. The previous draft of the legislation included the word ‘employee’. Now the terminology is broadened to include the word ‘person’. That person may or may not be an employee. That person could be, for example, a student protesting against some injustice. That person could be a consumer protesting against dishonest business practice. All of them are brought within the scope of the legislation by the use of the word ‘person’. As my colleague Senator Button pointed out, a person could also be a union, which as a corporate body. Unions will be brought into the provisions under sub-sections (5) and (6) of section 45D. Subsection (5) of section 45d states:
If two or more persons each of whom is a member or officer of the same organisation of employees … engage in conduct in concert with one another, whether or not the conduct is also engaged in concert with other persons, the organisation shall be deemed for the purposes of this Act to engage in that conduct in concert with the participants . . .
In the case of 2 persons who may be members of a trade union acting without the consent of the other members of the trade union, the union itself becomes liable to the penalties.
– Would you disagree if they were acting with the consent of the union?
– That is not the point of the legislation. The point of the legislation is to trap the unions by the actions of 2 members, whether or not those 2 members are acting with the agreement of the rest of the union. I think that this is a dangerous aspect of the legislation. It does not refer to what unions may do collectively. The union will be deemed to be responsible and if it is found liable, a penalty of up to $250,000 will be imposed under section 45D. This is an extremely severe penalty. It is a new penalty and one which should not be implemented under the trade practices legislation but through the proper body for implementing penalties relating to industrial activities, the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
-Is the $250,000 a new penalty?
– Insofar as it can be implemented under the provisions of the trade practices legislation, it is a new penalty.
-I thought that was the penalty in the 1974 Act.
– I am sure that Senator Wright will raise all these matters in great detail at the Committee stage. I would like to proceed now to make preliminary comments on the exemption provision contained in section 45D, that is, sub-section (3). Much has been made by Government speakers in the other place with regard to the exemption clause in order to exonerate themselves from the accusation that they are seeking to nobble trade unions in this legislation. There is an exemption clause but it seems to me that many classes of industrial action that unions or members of unions may wish to take and, in my view, may wish to take legitimately, will in fact not be exempted under sub-section (3). I would like to give an example of the kind of actions which unions and union members may wish to take which will not be exempted. One would be if women working in a factory under very poor conditions wished to take some sort of industrial action to gain a benefit, such as child care facilities or the facility to learn English during the course of their working day. This is the sort of action which does not receive a great deal of publicity in the Press. The media is much more interested in industrial action of the kind taken recently by the air traffic controllers. Action of that kind, of course, draws a great deal of hostile criticism from the community. It is action of a kind which the present Government is able very easily to use in its campaign against unions. It is action which is generally unacceptable. However, workers are not all people earning as much as air traffic controllers earn, although their income was grossly exaggerated by Government supporters during the dispute. Workers are often people working in extremely poor conditions for very low pay.
I refer very briefly at this point to a study of such workers, which was a study of women migrant workers in factories in Melbourne. This report was undertaken in 1975 as a research report for International Women’s Year by the Centre for Urban Research and Action in Fitzroy, Victoria. The report starts with this quotation from the Jackson Report:
The work force is multi-racial and multi-cultural. Four out of ten were born outside Australia. They most frequently do the dirtiest, least skilled, menial tasks; tasks for which, despite unemployment, young native-born Australians cannot be found. Women are a quarter of the work force and in some sectors eight out of ten. Little attention is paid to their special needs, particularly of the two-thirds who are married. The married migrant woman in industry is trebly disadvantaged.
That was from Green Paper No. 2. This report, to which I have referred, explored the claim about married migrant women in industry being trebly disadvantaged and found that that was the case. If the conditions of married migrant women working in such places are to be improved, they will be improved only by actions of the workers themselves. Some of the actions would not be simple, straight forward industrial matters which are excluded under sub-section
– It is clear from their working conditions that they are exempt.
– It is not clear what working conditions mean in section 45D. I feel optimistic that perhaps such actions will be exempted from the provisions of section 45D. Some Government supporters seem to be of that view, judging by their interjections. If that is the case, I hope that the Minister will spell out exactly that when persons take such action, their union will not find itself liable to a fine of up to $250,000.
– Will you permit me one question? If they are working conditions, why should they engage in secondary boycott to get relief?
- Senator Wright has posed a question about secondary boycott. It is the contention of the Opposition that not only secondary boycotts are covered by the provisions of section 45D. Again, it will be for the Minister to clarify at the Committee stage of the debate whether that is or is not the case. It seems to the Opposition that all kinds of strikes would be proscribed by this legislation because of the wide-ranging terminology of section 45D, especially the terminology of the exemption clause. If the Government wanted to hit at the right to strike in legislation, it should have made it perfectly clear that that is what it was doing, instead of pretending that it was concerned only with secondary boycotts.
If we look at the wording of the exemption clause, we find that exemption will take place where the dominant purpose for which the conduct is engaged in is substantially related to remuneration. The Opposition finds the phrase dominant purpose’ quite ambiguous. Who is to decide whether the purpose of a certain act is the dominant purpose or a secondary purpose? What body is the properly constituted body to decide such matters, with regard to industrial actions? The Opposition contends that the Trade Practices Commission is not the appropriate body, and that the appropriate body is the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. This is a situation where there could be conflicting interpretations of industrial action by two different bodies. The Trade Practices Commission could decide that a certain act had as its dominant purpose the improvement of conditions and the Conciliation and Arbitration Act could decide that it had as its dominant purpose some other purpose.
– If you have 10 tribunals they might each decide differently.
- Senator Wright suggests that 10 tribunals might decide differently. I think that suggestion supports what I am saying. We have a tribunal. We have machinery to decide on industrial matters and faults, and how penalties should be imposed. I refer to the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. To set up in this quasi form another body to decide on industrial matters- the Trade Practices Commission- is quite wrong and could lead to conflict and, consequently, to serious industrial unrest. We contend that under this legislation unions will be unprotected against new and severe penalties in respect of any industrial activity which has the effect of causing damage to a corporation. For that reason we oppose the legislation in its p resent form. As my colleague Senator Button as foreshadowed, we shall be moving an amendment to send the entire legislation to a select committee of the Senate.
In conclusion I will summarise the kinds of provisions that we find most offensive and most unacceptable and which justify the sending of this legislation to a select committee. The use of the term ‘engage in conduct’ at the beginning of proposed new section 45D is extremely wide. We contend that in its present form it could encompass almost any action in which an individual or a union may engage. Many genuine industrial matters would remain outside the exemption in proposed new section 45D (3). For example, demarcation disputes, political strikes, green bans and, perhaps of more importance, genuine community protests would not be exempt as the legislation is at present drafted. Most secondary boycotts related to industrial matters are not exempt, the exception being if a secondary boycott is applied against the same employer. This would mean that sympathy strikes and bans are subject to penalties under the provision. The test for union involvement is a matter of great concern. It is simply this: If two or more persons, each of whom is a member or an officer of the same organisation of employees, engage in conduct outlined in the legislation, that provision could result in majority liability for minority action and would open the gateways to dissident minorities and agents provocateur.
Whilst the Government claims that individuals are exempt if they collude with other unionists, that applies only in the case where the union itself is held responsible. If the union exempts itself from the action by virtue of being able to demonstrate that it took all reasonable steps to prevent the participants from engaging in that conduct, it would appear to us that the individuals are responsible. Again we seek clarification on that point.
– How do you construe ‘dominant purpose ‘ in relation to that?
– I think that is for the Minister to define. These are the things we are objecting to in the legislation. Terms like ‘dominant purpose’ and ‘engage in conduct’ are so widereaching as to make this a totally unacceptable piece of legislation. The main effect of the legislation if passed in its present form would be to impose extraordinary limitations on the actions of trade unions and on the actions of individuals. Therefore in conclusion I repeat that the Opposition rejects this legislation. We expect that in the course of the debate and particularly in the Committee stage the Minister may come to our point of view that the most constructive action the Government can take with this controversial piece of legislation is to refer it to a select committee of the Senate.
-The Senate is debating the Trade Practices Amendment Bill which is a piece of legislation of vast importance to the Australian community as a whole but in particular to those people directly concerned with the areas of trade, commerce and industry. I think it is true to say that apart from the Budget and the legislation which implements it, this area of legislation will have more impact on the daily activities of trade and commerce than any other legislation introduced by the p resent Government during the life of this Parament. One of the basic planks on which the Governmnent was elected was to get the country back on its feet, to restore confidence in the business community and in general promote policies which would generate the investment of risk capital with a consequent increase in gross national product, further employment opportunities and all the other benefits which flow from a buoyant business community.
Let me say at the outset that I support this legislation, although some concern has been expressed in the commercial world as to whether the present amendments to the Act achieve the policy objectives which I have mentioned. Some restraints on businesses, which the business community thought might be removed, remain in the legislation. I go on now to deal with the points raised by Senator Button and Senator Ryan in relation to the appointment of a Senate select committee. This legislation has been before the other place since December last year, substantially in its present form. It is true that there has been some amelioration of proposed new section 45D and some of the other sections but basically the legislation has been in its present form. The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) has taken on board the comments of all sections of the community affected. I do not think any purpose at all would be achieved by referring this legislation to a select committee of the Senate. I think the best way to test this legislation is to put it into operation, try it out and see how it works. I think it is fair to say, however, that the Minister and the Government will be responsive to representations from the business community should it be found after the amendments have been given a fair trial and operation that some further amendments involving removal of the restraints are necessary.
Legislation of this kind cuts across the day to day negotiations of commercial contracts which, while they were affected to some extent by the pre- 1974 legislation, were further restricted by the 1 974 Act. It is of course necessary in looking at the problems caused by the legislation to balance against them the need to protect the consuming public. Our Government is alert to the rights of the consumer and consumer protection. I think Senator Messner illustrated that vividly during his remarks. But against that we must be careful not to place too great a restriction on the day to day operation of business and corporations, large and small, in the commercial field. I think it is a grave difficulty of this sort of legislation to strike a balance. On the one hand we have the consumer rights and on the other hand we have grave unemployment problems which can be solved only by the investment of risk capital, expansion of industry and creation of more employment opportunities. That is the gravest dilemma that any government faces in dealing with legislation of this kind. Naturally of course the far-reaching changes made in the 1974 legislation had a major impact. They had a drastic effect on the free enterprise system. But that is not to say of course that the Government does not recognise that there are legitimate areas where restraint must be imposed. The amendments introduced by this Bill do, to some degree, correct the malfunctions of the legislation in the light of experience since the passing of the 1 974 Act.
The Swanson Committee was set up to review the Act and to make recommendations as a basis for amendments. The Government has not accepted all the suggestions of the Swanson Committee. It has accepted only some of them. I want to refer particularly to proposed new section 47 and briefly to two major areas of capital endeavour which are still subject to restriction by the amending legislation. I want to make it clear that I support the legislation but I want to alert the Government that in these areas there may be need for a review of the legislation in the light of the experience after the amendment. The first matter to which I wish to refer in that context is the situation of capital intensive industries. They, of course, are large corporations dealing with such matters as the chemical industry, the steel industry and the paper industry. The proposed new section in its present form perhaps discourages industries of this type to enter into long term capital investments as their markets cannot be secured in the long term.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting I mentioned that capital intensive industries would have a problem under this legislation. They occupy an important place in the Australian economy. It is probably worth while spending a few moments considering their peculiar position. A capital intensive industry can be defined as one which relative to sales turnover has high capital investment in manufacturing assets and has high capital servicing charges for depreciation, interest, etc., relative to labour costs and has a scale factor which requires it to operate at a level near full capacity if it is to be profitable.
Capital intensive industries in Australia have much greater problems than do their counterparts in competing countries, such as Japan and the United States of America, which have much bigger populations and therefore greater domestic markets. In the small Australian market the economic size of a manufacturing plant or an increase in capacity of a plant has to be studied in depth because Australia has a much smaller population and domestic market than its competitors. I suppose a typical example, although I would not cite it as being exactly a capital intensive industry, is the motor car industry in Australia today. A great deal of its problems stems from the small size of the Australian market because of our population. If Australia is to compete in the world market and thus maintain its position in the Australian market, Australian manufacturers must install units of plant as large as are feasible in the relatively small Australian market. In most of our capital intensive industries this involves expenditure ranging from $50m to $250m or more. Before companies are prepared to risk capital of that magnitude they want to be certain that their market opportunity is secure and that their business will be viable. A capital intensive industry of this kind should have some security in the home market, which in turn provides the bases on which it can develop its export markets.
Thus it is reasonable for an Australian manufacturer to make supply arrangements with large customers which will give them some assurance of having a continuing base load demand. Where a customer commits himself to buy a substantial proportion of his requirements from the manufacturer or to buy only Australian made goods, the manufacturer should be permitted to reward the customer with some form of price discount and to enter into a long term commercial agreement with that customer to ensure continuity of supply. The customer would then be assured of a sustained and reliable source of supply at more stable prices. Furthermore, the danger of damage to the manufacturer caused by spasmodic imports, including dumping, which is common in capital intensive industries, will be reduced.
Under the existing Act, and in the amendment, the manufacturer and customer in the context I have mentioned are prevented from effectively making long term or continuing agreements freely negotiated between the parties which in the first place will permit the manufacturer to reward a customer who commits himself to buy from the manufacturer a substantial proportion or quantity of his total requirements and/or who commits himself to buying Australian made goods and which, in the second place, will assure for himself a sustained and reliable source of supply at reasonable prices. There are a number of situations in the Australian economy today where a manufacturer and a customer are ready, willing and able to enter freely into an agreement which will create employment opportunities, attract risk capital, increase production and will go a long way towards solving our problems. These industries find themselves still in a situation of stultification because of the provisions of this legislation. I make that point because I think it is important to future employment and the future development of the nation. I trust that if the experience of the legislation shows that the facts I have put before the Senate warrant some re-examination of the legislation this will be done.
I want to refer very briefly to the position of commercial leases of the kind which oil companies and other manufacturers have had with retailers over the years. Following the High Court decision in the Quadramain case, the parties to these leases now find themselves confronted by proposed new sub-sections (9), ( 10) of section 47 of the Act, which prohibit the sort of leasing arrangement which has been commercial practice for some years. The leasing arrangement which is freely entered into enables a lessee to obtain a prime commercial site at far less than a reasonable rental. The site might be worth $250,000. A reasonable rental would be 10 per cent or $25,000. Yet an oil company may allow an operator to lease it for $5,000. Under a condition of the lease the operator agrees to take the whole of his supplies from the oil company for a number of years. That sort of arrangement is no longer possible under the legislation.
– The rents have gone up 4 times.
– I do not think they have. At all events, the operator is perfectly happy. He can sell tyres. He can run his service station. He can sell his product, which the company has the right to supply. The companies now face a situation where it will be virtually impossible to renew leases on existing terms and conditions.
The only alternative course they have open to them is to operate the sites with company employed personnel, which really is not in the best interests of the company or the lessee. The operation of this amendment in the long term will add to the price of motor spirit to the consumer without promoting competition, and in practice it will lead to a greater degree of vertical integration by the oil companies. If the legislation means that the service stations created by the companies and leased to independent operators may be used for the sale of competitors’ motor spirit certainly there will be a number of further consequences. As has already been said by the Opposition, one of the prime purposes of this legislation is to provide consumer protection. If the effect of legislation is an increased cost to the consumer for a commodity like petrol, we all ought to be concerned about it.
One aspect which comes to mind is that disruptions could be caused to delivery patterns. Very significant savings have been achieved by introducing in recent years sophisticated and large scale delivery arrangements known as the big drop’ technique. Quite obviously, if in future one service station distributed several different brands of motor spirit the ‘big drop’ technique could be employed no longer. Probably additional capital expenditure would be incurred also in providing more underground tanks to permit isolation of brands. Invariably such associated costs are passed on to the consumer.
Under the legislation it is possible to get an authorisation but this means further delays and uncertainty. Of course no one can proceed with certainty until the authorisation is obtained. I simply draw attention to the 2 matters I have mentioned as an indication of the dramatic effect of the legislation on the sorts of commercial agreements that have been accepted in the Australian business community for so many years. I mention them at this stage because there are areas where the amendments are not consistent with the Government’s policies of increased production, less interference from the Government with legitimate business operations and generally encouraging initiative and endeavour. I feel certain that the Government will be prepared to look at the legislation in the light of experience, as I have said already.
Before I conclude I want to say a few words on proposed section 45D, which refers to secondary boycotts. I think there is a great deal of misconception about the purpose and object of that proposed section. That provision has a great deal to do with the situation out in the marketplace. It is idle for Opposition senators to say that secondary boycotts do not have any effect; for example, that the air traffic controllers strike did not have any drastic effect, which is what Senator Ryan was trying to say. The indirect effects of strikes of that nature are very far-reaching, and no one can assess those effects accurately.
When objecting to the provisions of proposed section 45D (5), Senator Ryan said that it was dangerous to unions. The whole point of the legislation is that a union will have to face any prosecution which is initiated, but under this provision a fair number of things have to happen before a prosecution will be initiated. The provision protects the individual. If a union organises a secondary boycott, the legislation provides for the union to be prosecuted rather than an individual. It cannot be said that the legislation destroys the rights of the individual, because it protects them.
Proposed section 4SD has to be looked at in the context of even-handedness between the employer and the employee in what is, after all, a commercial situation. As I say, it is a situation dealing with trade and commerce. Basically, what happens in the case of a secondary boycott is that people on the staff of, say, John Fairfax and Sons Ltd- people belonging to the Printing and Kindred Industries Union- go on strike and then the transport workers who deliver goods to the premises of John Fairfax and Sons Ltd from some other company refuse to deliver those goods. The worker driving the transport vehicle is not on strike; he is engaging in the sort of activity that this legislation seeks to cover. The legislation does not attempt in any shape or form to deal directly with a strike situation, and that is made very clear.
Senator Ryan found some difficulty in relation to sub-section (3) of proposed section 45D. It refers to a person- I think that is fair enoughengaging in conduct that hinders or prevents the supply of goods or services by a third person to a corporation. The term ‘corporation’ is used because of the constitutional limitations of the legislation. That is a great defect of this legislation, which I will mention now in case I do not have time to deal with it later. Without complementary State legislation to cover the whole field, this legislation cannot be fully effective, because the Commonwealth’s powers extend only to corporations. So the legislation has to deal with a situation of a corporation being involved in receiving goods or services. In addition, that action has to cause one thing or the other. The relevant part of the proposed section reads:
– It requires only one of those 2 things.
– Yes, that is quite right. I think I mentioned them as alternatives. The point raised by Senator Cavanagh is quite correct. It is apparent from an examination of subsection (3) that the Minister has been at great pains to exempt what we might call a legitimate strike situation from the operations of this legislation.
– And so exempt the secondary boycott.
– I do not quite agree with Senator Wright’s interpretation of the language. Let me deal for the moment with the situation of a person- any person- in the terms of subsection (3). It states that a person shall not be taken to contravene the Act where:
The dominant purpose for which the conduct is engaged in is substantially related to-
So, what we have come to know in Australian jargon as a legitimate strike situation is fully protected; it is not affected by this legislation. I think it is important that the people of Australia realise that. We are not attempting to bash the unions, or to do anything like that, by means of this legislation. We are simply prohibiting secondary boycotts because they have such a damaging effect on the economy of the nation. We are seeking power to deal with them under this Act. It is quite clear that the legislation does not strike at the legitimate right to strike over those issues that are mentioned in sub-section (3).
– It gives it a new protection.
– That may be. I do not quite share Senator Wright’s view. The position of unions is even stronger, if Senator Wright’s interpretation is correct. I do not think I can deal with that aspect in any greater detail, except to say that proposed section 4SD deals equally with employer and employee. I want to mention very briefly a couple of other points. One feature of the legislation which I think is reasonable is that it applies to the Commonwealth in its commercial operations. I wish to say a few words also about the merger situation. Under the amending legislation, mergers which place corporations in a position to control or dominate a market for goods or services, or acquisitions made by corporations which are already in a position to control or dominate a market, are prohibited. The phrase ‘control or dominate’ is new to this legislation. That phrase may need some more precise definition in order to avoid the uncertainty which has been expressed by those people who are affected by the merger provisions of this measure.
As I have said, the legislation is limited in its operations by the corporations power. The Swanson Committee recommended that the Commonwealth should initiate consultations with State governments in order to achieve universal application. As the Minister has said in his second reading speech, the Government has decided to seek consultation with the State governments to that end. I have highlighted some of the problems which I believe remain unsolved by the legislation, but I readily concede that the Minister has presented a reasonable Bill which does remove some of the anomalies that became apparent under the existing legislation. As I said earlier, I think the Minister and the Government will be responsive to representations made by the commercial and business people who feel that they are still disadvantaged by the amending legislation. I support the Bill as being a first step along the road towards reform in an area of legislation which is very difficult and complex.
– One of the frustrations about debates in this place is that when important legislation comes before the chamber we cannot devote our full time to listening to the various contributions that are made. I regret that I have not been able to follow this debate today as closely as I would have liked to, because I consider certain sections of the legislation to be very important. In fact, the debate on this legislation should have been- it may still become- as vigorous as the debate which took place on the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill, because this Bill affects considerably the trade union movement in Australia. For that reason I would have liked to hear the contributions made earlier in the debate.
I am interested to hear that Senator Wright has some ideas that the vital proposed new section 45D will reinforce and protect strikes rather than disadvantage them. As far as I can see, proposed new section 45D and its implication limit the trade union movement as a whole in effectively improving the conditions of its individual members. It will separate unions and, although it may not have any power and does not intend to have any power over a strike situation within a union, it definitely does have the power to prevent support of strike action in a particular place of employment. That will limit the trade union movement in obtaining those improvements which it desires.
I am hoping, however, that the legislation will not be as effective as I thought in the first place and that this penalty of one quarter of a million dollars might be large for the purpose of frightening unions from taking any step which they may consider to be in conflict with the trade practices legislation. But it could have the effect that employers- corporations- would take action against unions, not hoping to achieve a decision but hoping to involve a union in a very expensive exercise. It seems to me that this legislation as well as the legislation we debated yesterday is determined to make it financially difficult for unions to operate.
Let us consider the Trade Practices Amendment Bill as a whole. I hope I will not offend anyone, but my belief is that the Trade Practices Act was conceived by lawyers who have no understanding of the market place. I thought that originally and I believe it now. The Act is largely unworkable, but it has had an effect in the market place which should concern the Senate. I believe that sooner or later the Senate will have to set up an inquiry to see exactly how the Trade Practices Act has affected the market place and the conditions of those people who are in the market place, small businessmen and the persons employed by them in particular. My experience of the Trade Practices Act is that it has downgraded the quality of service and conditions of employment in the market place. This is a serious matter. The quality of service and the quality of goods which are produced is important and ought to be measured to be of some considerable value.
This legislation places the market place in the hands of irresponsible discounters who not only discount prices but also discount the quality of the goods and the services which should support those goods. In many places and in many big cities rather than services being provided from properly operated premises or, shall we say, properly appointed premises- premises employing people under proper conditions- we are finding a depressed bazaar-type, Eastern-type operation where the discounters sell their goods at the poorest of margins in order to attract a volume of business and to hell with the people who seek to survive by adopting proper standards and ensuring their employees are properly paid. I believe this is to the disadvantage of the whole of our society, and eventually it will be proven to be so.
If this trade practices legislation does nothing to control corporations I believe its powers will be limited. The Trade Practices Act has depressed the market place in the way I have stated. From a consumer point of view, in the short term the consumer does get his goods at a lower price; but the services he receives in association with those goods are being diminished, as is the quality of those goods. In the long term that constitutes a disadvantage to the consumers. Anyone who wants to get goods at the lowest possible price deserves to get the lowest possible quality, and that is what we are receiving.
Let me take the distribution of petrol as an illustration. In spite of the trade practices legislation, the major oil companies are in a position to protect themselves. They protect themselves behind their wholesale price. They protect themselves and their margins by pitching the wholesale price of petrol at a certain level. But then they allow their distributors- the people who use their premises and the independents- to be forced into depressed conditions. In other words, they allow the discounter to enter the market place and to seek volume sales on a low margin in order to disadvantage his competitors. The fault is not in the retail margin which the service stations have been applying in the past. Often they have been limited to a 1 5 per cent margin on the goods which they sell, as against as much as a ISO per cent margin on some of the goods which are sold and which are outside the control of the trade practices legislation. In the past they have been faced with an industry which, because of neglect on the part of several governments, has allowed distribution to get completely out of control, with too many people trying to make a profit out of distribution. We have too many chemists, too many garages and too many service outlets which are over-capitalised and each of which is unable to make a profit without overcharging.
– You would make the wrong impact on unemployment figures if you got into government.
-The honourable senator states that I would make the wrong impact on unemployment. I put it to him that at the present time this trade practices legislation not only is adding significantly to unemployment in the petrol distribution area, but also is breaking down the conditions of the people employed in the industry. I take the garages in Brisbane as an example. There are too many of them and some of them ought to be put out of business, but that is a different matter. We need a proper approach to correcting the distortions in that industry. At the present time because of a heavy discounting war in Brisbane and possibly in New South Wales and Victoria, senior men who have worked in the industry for a number of years are being dismissed and juniors are taking their place.
What is more, in some cases the juniors cannot be afforded and are being dismissed and selfservice is being forced upon the motorist. Certainly we obtain cheaper petrol, but we have to drive up the driveway, put the hose into our cars, service our own vehicles and pump up our car’s tyres. We have cheaper petrol but we have it at the expense of the operator of that station and the people who previously were employed there. What I am saying is that what Senator Steele Hall claimed my proposition would do is being done already by virtue of this heavy discounting which the Trade Practices Act has facilitated. The Act states that there shall be no minimum price, there shall be no protection of quality of service, there shall be no protection of quality of goods. There must be an approach to our distribution problems in Australia other than this approach.
To get away from being emotive and to return to the Bill, since we have it and since we find it hard to understand I hope, as I said, that I will be assisted by our legal men in this chamber, who may be able to provide me with some understanding and some comfort. The major grounds upon which my opposition to this Bill and these amendments is based are, firstly, that I believe that proposed new section 45D will provoke a direct confrontation with the trade union movement. It is provocative and it will create industrial turmoil. That is my view of it. I know that the Government has moved away from the position of imposing a $50,000 fine on an individual who is engaged in a so-called secondary boycott, but it has still left a $250,000 penalty.
I think that these judicial powers about which we are speaking weaken the ability of the Commission to pursue vital lines of prosecution. I am finding it hard to put this case. Perhaps I should not put the case because I take the position that the Act ought to be amended completely or done away with. In any case, there is increased secrecy and confidentiality. There is the abolition of public hearings. There is a reduction of powers to subpoena witnesses and documents. The Commission now has no power to obtain evidence on oath. The Bill takes away the power to enforce witnesses to appear and it ends the Commission’s power to enforce answers to questions that may incriminate witnesses. How is the Government going to bring a big corporation to account, especially a trans-national corporation, after limiting the powers of the Commission? I do not know how the Government will do that. It will not succeed. What it will succeed in doing, of course, is ensure that the smaller duties of the Commission will be carried out- for example, it may prevent a notice going up at a service station which says ‘Discount cigarettes’ or ‘5c off’. That is illegal and the whole inspectorate will be occupied with petty duties and nothing else. The Government will be able to get at the little man but it will not be able to get at the big man. Mark my words, this is what will happen. A big man does not want to be interfered with in any way. The amendments provide a long list of definitions which can be argued by an alleged offender in order to escape prosecution. These are: If the breach of the Act was due to a mistake; if the breach was due to information supplied by another party or individual; accidental breach; or if the breach occurred but the employer had taken reasonable steps to avoid any breach. These amendments make the task of prosecution, in many cases, almost impossible. It will be difficult to pursue breaches. If the Government accepts that the Commission is a worthwhile commission and that the powers of the Act are worth while-I questioned that- I cannot understand why the Government wants to diminish the powers of the Commission any further.
I turn now to monopolies. I will not go into the subject of monopolies because I have already expressed my point of view that the Trade Practices Act is limited and the task of the Commission has been made more difficult in controlling exclusive dealings or increased noncompetitive practices. There is a lack of resources to support the Commission. If, as I said, the Act is so confusing and its powers are so ill-defined, of course it needs to have a Commission which is substantially supported with resources. I do not think that the Commission is fully geared at the present time to carry out its powers, such as they are. I merely reiterate to honourable senators that the Trade Practices Act and the work of the Commission have not been satisfactory in achieving what it was intended that they would achieve, that is, the protection of the consumer against monopoly practices and other practices which are to the disadvantage of business.
Let us examine the situation from the point of view of an ordinary business operator. I should like to add that my business experience is limited to a workers’ co-operative in Queensland. It is not a small co-operative any more. It has grown because of the support which workers within the trade union movement have given to it in Queensland. It is a co-operative which now has branches in 5 cities. It is run by a group of directors who receive no compensation for their efforts. The Board endeavours to give a service to members of trade unions. It has grown because of that support and it now has a turnover of more than $3m a year in supplying goods and services. No matter how we may like to reduce the price of an article, and we endeavour to do so, one practice the Opposition resists is a cut price operation- a trade practice which, in the past, was considered unfair but because of this legislation suddenly becomes fair. Trade practices which cut down the quality of the goods which are being supplied and cut down the services and the conditions of employees are quite unfair. I am not talking about unfair profits. I am not talking about the person who buys goods from overseas and puts a 400 per cent mark up on those goods. That is what this legislation should be looking at, but it does not do so. Unfair margins of profit are what I consider a theft against the consumer.
This Act does not deal with that sort of situation. It endeavours to free the marketplace to allow the forces in the marketplace to take effect. The end result has been a depression in the marketplace. That is the point that I am making. We are going to become like some of the change alleys in places overseas. We already have those. A legitimate enterprise which is paying high rentals for premises in the centre of the city may be undermined completely, unfairly and unjustly by some discounter who runs a barn at Fyshwick. The consumers could line up in their hundreds but eventually, in the long term, it will be to their disadvantage. They will get furniture that may not last 12 months when it should last a person a lifetime. They may get imitation goods which are supposed to represent quality but will not stand up to a push. Cars could be bought which have been produced and sold at over inflated prices, sometimes discounted, but they may not run for 12 months. That is the sort of quality of service we will receive in this country if this sort of legislation is allowed-
– You are not serious.
– I am perfectly serious about it. No person -
– Why is it possible to buy good stuff in Hong Kong where they do not have all these sorts of regulations?
– Goods produced in Hong Kong do not have the same duties and taxes on them as they do in Australia. They are justified in imposing taxes and duties on goods so long as they are at a fair level. But the service which supports those goods in Hong Kong, Singapore and Sri Lanka is based on a person working 18 hours a day in most depressed conditions. I am not saying -
– He is talking about quality.
-The quality of goods is the quality produced in the factories of Japan. Those goods could be of an extremely high quality but the distribution of those goods at a very low mark up depends on the depressed conditions of those engaged in the distribution of those articles.
– The point you were making was that a free market could not produce quality goods.
– I am referring to what could happen if a free market is not protected by certain regulations which control quality and control a minimum price. I suppose the honourable senator would object to a minimum price. I do not know whether at any time he was involved in the poultry industry. That industry became organised, licensed, controlled and protected. I do not know whether the honourable senator has been a sugar farmer, but that industry is controlled from the moment the plant is placed in the ground until the product is sold at a fixed minimum price. That industry has organised marketing and the quality of the product is retained. Admittedly there can be abuses in an industry if there is no control of the profits which are made along the line of distribution. To take regulation out of the pricing system and the distribution system would be to go back to the position the poultry farmer found himself in some few years ago and in which the beef producers at the present time find themselves. They have no sorts of protection for their efforts.
What I am saying to the Senate is that in this country we need to have some control over the distribution so that the price for a product does not become distorted.
– It is not socialisation. Are you saying that the poultry farmer in Australia is a socialist? Are you saying that?
– I am asking you to tell me what you mean.
– If you want a treatise on socialism I will give it to you on the adjournment debate. All that I am talking about at the present time-
– It would take hours.
-It would not. It is a simple proposition which those who sit opposite do not understand.
– It would take a couple of hours to get it through to them.
– Order! Senator Georges, please direct your remarks through the Chair.
– I am sorry. Senator Button’s point is that so dull are the minds of the people who sit on the Government benches that it would take at least 2 hours to explain such a simple proposition. Let me explain what I am saying. I am talking about a planned economy. I am talking about a planned market place. I am talking about a fair go for each person in the market place. I do not see why we should have the price of goods reduced in Australia because the person who bears the burden is the one who works in the industry concerned.
– What about Solo petrol?
-If you want to apply the argument as I have put to ACTU-Solo you may do so, but the message must be perfectly clear to you.
– Do you agree with it?
– Do you not agree with ACTU-Solo petrol?
– I do not agree. If I may continue my remarks about what I was saying on the co-operative in Queensland, it runs 7 petrol stations. Since discounting came into Queenslandand there were several entrants- the Total company with its brilliant people sold to the dealers at wholesale price and then expected its product to be distributed on a profit margin of 0.25c per litre. That is economic slavery which it has imposed upon its distributors. ACTU-Solo entered into that discount market and what happened to the co-operative’s members? They were forced to reduce their prices in order to survive at such a low level. They had no choice because the price went down through the bottom. They had to dismiss personnel because they could not pay them. They had to dismiss seniors and put on juniors. It is a matter of survival. There is no protection because the Minister himself has said he is not going to interfere.
If the Minister wanted to take into account the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Petroleum Prices he would have taken some steps to rationalise petrol distribution but he opted out because the price of petrol is going to go up. Discounting has delayed the increase but the price of petrol in Australia will eventually go up and it will go up to $1.50 a gallon in spite of the heavy discounting that has been forced upon the industry. The problem in the petrol industry is that too many distributors, far too many distributors, have been allowed to enter the market place by previous governments. There has been no rationalisation. There has been no planning and we are now seeing the results. This Government cannot achieve any improvement in the market place by allowing heavy discounting. All those errors that I have pointed to have occurred. The Trade Practices Act will not assist in the reformation of the market place. It has created the distortions about which I have spoken. Let me make it clear. I have serious reservations about the effect of this legislation. I have considerable reservations about the ability of the Trade Practices Commission to carry out what I would say are very complex and confusing regulations. Having said that and having been drawn in- and I apologise to you Mr President because I have a tendency to be drawn into further debate by interjection; I notice that Senator Bonner came in for that purpose and he succeeded for a while but he has now disappearedI can sit down on a quiet note. I can see the Government Whip giving me the nod. We will finish by 5 o’clock tomorrow, do not despair. I conclude my remarks.
– I am very pleased with the admission which Senator Georges has made that he has been drawn in but I do wish he would resist temptation before he discloses too much of his own philosophy of life which is obviously quite opposed not only to the amendments that are before us today but also of course to the entire scheme of the Trade Practices Act. What he has described to us today is quite simply, I think, a Soviet-type system of trade practices.
– Oh, no!
– Do not get upset. I am not accusing you of communism or anything. I think you have your own quaint form of individualism which would be quite inappropriate really to the Soviet system, but I do think that the idea on trade practices which you have is a system that is controlled and ensures that there are no cut prices at all- a system which ensures that those people who want to buy things will pay the high price for poor quality which is so much a part of the Soviet system.
– Rubbish! All that I am saying is that there ought to be a minimum price as well as a maximum price.
– This is what you want, Senator. I saw it last year when I was in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I invite you to go to the Soviet Union and look to the type of system which you are representing today because we are in fact talking about something quite different. We established a system of trade practices here a few years ago and it is one which the Liberal and Country Parties have maintained. It is designed to improve competition in this country. What we are doing today in this legislation is merely embellishing, amending and trying to improve the system that we have. It is a system to outlaw certain practices; and of course the whole basic system as it exists under the Trade Practices Act remains consistent and it will continue. What the Government is doing is introducing a series of amendments which I think will greatly improve the system. These amendments will enable the people to do that terrible thing that Senator Georges does not want to see; that is, to have cuts in prices at times and to give to the citizens better service than they would otherwise get.
I understand that among the proposals which the Labor Party makes there is one that there should be an amendment to this legislation to refer it to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs for consideration. It would be my misfortune, being the Chairman of that Committee, if the Senate were so unwise to refer this matter to the Committee.
-You are a reluctant bride again.
– I would be very much a reluctant bride. I can assure you of that because to my mind the committee system of this Senate is to be enhanced greatly by referring to committees matters that are not of the essence of political differences but matters on which senators can come together and find solutions to problems that are not at the heart of political disagreement. If anything is obvious in the amendments to this Bill it is the matter of political difference on clause 45d. It is a proposal which I support, along with the other major amendments in this Bill, but clearly it would be highly inappropriate and useless to refer to any Senate committee suggestions like this which have been debated over a considerable period and which call for resolution by this Parliament. I totally oppose the amendment, which is put forward by the Opposition, as being quite inappropriate and unnecessary.
Let us look a little further at the legislation and see what has happened with regard to these amendments to the Act. I took part in the original debate on the trade practices legislation in 1974, when we as the Opposition secured some amendments, but not altogether satisfactory amendments, to the Bill. We have had 3 years in which to look at the operation of the Act and to come forward with proposals. The suggestion made today that these amendments to the Act have been hurried before the Parliament and not given proper consideration is nonsense in the extreme. The Swanson Committee was appointed in April 1976 to look at the operation of the Act. It reported as long ago as last August.
– What do you say about 12 pages of amendments being introduced in the House of Representatives last week?
-I say: ‘Excellent’. The ability of the Government to listen to proposals right up to the last stage and to propose alterations to a Bill indicates that there is nothing calcified about this Government. I think that the Opposition should be extremely pleased about that. The legislation has been examined by a committee and the Bill has lain on the table of the Parliament. It has been considered in detail by members of this Parliament and others. I speak for myself, my staff and others interested in the proposals. Seminars were held to discuss the details. Many excellent suggestions have been made. Many people, and I am one of them, have made representations and have expressed concern from time to time about various proposals contained in these amendments. I am quite reasonably satisfied with the amendments that have been accepted by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) and his staff in the course of the discussions.
On our side of the Parliament committees have discussed the legislation. I cannot speak for the Opposition. If it has not done its homework, that is too bad. On our side of the Parliament, committees from our parties have looked at the legislation over many months and have considered the alterations which have been proposed. They have listened to representations and put forward proposals.
I pay the highest tribute to the Minister, Mr Howard, for the time he has spent and for the way in which he has explained proposals and considered amendments. I think that he has handled the Bill in a most admirable way throughout the period up to the conclusion of this discussion. Therefore, I say that there has been ample time for us to consider and determine this Bill today. In the course of the discussions many alterations have been made.
One can draw attention, by referring to the Minister’s speech, to the important provisions of this Bill. The Government has created a lot more certainty in regard to the determination of restrictive trade practices. It has taken examples of what has happened in the course of evidence before the committee and it has shown that there need to be adjustments to the law. It has cut out of the general provisions the restraint of trade provisions which were obscure and which caused some confusion in the law, and has created a single test in regard to trade practices. It has looked at price agreements and has come to the conclusion that there should not be an outright prohibition of them. I think it has been sensible in deciding that, whilst it wants as far as possible for there to be competition, it does not want to create for business organisations the position where they cannot consider reasonable price agreements and arrangements which are made and which facilitate the efficiency of business.
It has gone further and has created the very controversial but, I think, very essential proposed section 45D, which deals with secondary boycotts, and has applied it logically to employees as well as to employers. It was curious to hear today the criticism that was made by members of the Opposition of the penalties which would be applied where secondary boycotts are imposed by employees. Although there is a maximum figure of $250,000 which might be applied, one must realise that the damage that can be done by employees in regard to companies can far exceed $250,000. It is quite obvious that the damage that can be done can be ruinous to large business in this country. I think that that ought to be a matter in which employees are treated equally with employers, and I think that this is done. I will not say very much about proposed section 45D, except that I believe that the refinement of it which finally has come into this legislation after much discussion and much controversy is desirable and necessary if we are to have fairness, equality and justice before the law, which applies to employees as well as to employers. Surely that is basic to this community and something which we ought to support.
If one looks at the provisions in regard to small businesses, which have suffered very greatly from inflation over the last few years, one finds very refined but excellent proposals in the Bill. Where there are recommended price lists that are true price lists designed to protect and help businesses, they can exist. There are no longer to be blanket prohibitions which stop them from operating. There is a further concession in regard to price lists if they are issued by trade associations of more than 50 members. Even if they do have some anti-competitive effect, they will be eligible for authorisation on the ground of public benefit. Public benefit surely should be the major test in these matters. I think that the various provisions relating to small businesses should have the support of the Senate.
I am very happy to see that in the final analysis section 49 of the Act, which relates to price discrimination, is retained. I know that at one time it was proposed that it be abolished because it has not been completely effective. But I am delighted to see that the Government has decided finally, bearing in mind the very substantial recommendations that were made by very many associations of small businesses to me and to other members of the committee such as Senator Messner, not to abolish this section. At the same time the Government says that there are difficulties in the section and that it does not intend to leave it as it is at the present time. It will look at its operation in the next session and at the same time it will consider what alterations can be made that will lead ultimately to this being a much more effective section than it is at the present time.
I do not propose to go through the major parts of this Bill. There is a tendency on the part of the Opposition to concentrate on proposed section 45d. That means, in effect, that other very useful amendments tend to be neglected in the public mind. The procedures of the Trade Practices Commission have been reviewed. Now there is to be a simple balance between benefits and detriments to the public which will determine whether the authorisations shall be allowed when it comes to a decision being made. I believe that the various proposals in regard to the workings of the Commission have a great deal to recommend them. I had some doubts at one stage as to whether the fact that there will not be public hearings in the earlier proceedings was desirable, but it is clear that on appeal proceedings there will be public hearings. Therefore, in essence, there will not be the great wastage of time which occurred in the original proceedings. In the ultimate there will be a right to public hearings in the area where it counts most to the public, namely, on the appeals, and this is important.
Senator Ryan had something to say about consumer protection proceedings. I was amazed when I heard that she was quite praiseworthy of the earlier provisions; but then, of course, she fell into some criticism of the Bill. It is very important to look at the provisions which improve the position of consumer protection. Clearly there will continue to be a common rule and common procedure in regard to it, but the fact that the court may now order affirmative disclosure or corrective advertising as a remedy for contravention of the consumer protection provisions is an important change. It enables the court therefore to be more effective in ensuring that the consumer is better protected in this area. So, I welcome the changes that have occurred in this area. I note that the Government intends to legislate in the area of consumer protection and ultimately to cover the field. I think that is desirable, rather than having a multiplicity of laws both in the Territories and in the States.
Perhaps the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) could give me some information on one matter. Last year the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs considered the Australian Capital Territory ordinances in regard to manufacturers’ warranties and misrepresentation and made recommendations. I do not think they have been proclaimed yet. They have been before the Legislative Assembly.
– Did the Committee recommend them?
– Yes, in an altered form. We recommended some amendments. We recommended that both should be reintroduced as ordinances and that both should come into effect. They have not come into effect yet. I hope they will come into effect and that they will operate as a guide, to some extent, to other areas of Australia where the same proposals are not as far advanced at the moment. Even if the Commonwealth intends to cover the field in due course, I hope the operation of such proposals in the Australian Capital Territory will not be delayed. I hope that they will be brought into effect. I was pleased to hear that ultimately the desire is to have Commonwealth legislation covering the position in regard to many of the consumer areas. I would be interested to know whether that aspect is to be included in the meanwhile so that there will not be a complete delay.
I do not propose to go into the precise details of the clauses because I think they have been argued very widely in the community, perhaps not widely by individual members of the community as these are particularly specialist matters. As a lawyer, I do not maintain that I have a specialist detailed knowledge of the operation of the Trade Practices Act. It has never been within my practical experience as a lawyer that I have had much to do with it. I have been interested in this field. I was interested in the Bill which went through the Parliament in the first place. I took part in its deliberations. I have known people who, because of their professional knowledge and business knowledge, have been concerned about the Bill for more than a year, during the deliberation of these amendments. I believe the result is a very good amendment Bill. It will have to be amended subsequently. There is no doubt that that will happen. I think it is to the credit of the Government, particularly the Minister, Mr Howard, that the Bill has been handled patiently and in elaborate detail over the last year. I hope it will be passed and will come into operation at an early date.
– The Trade Practices Amendment Bill was described by the first speaker in the second reading debate today as, I think, beyond nearly everyone but 2 members of the House of Representatives. In the House of Representatives we sought to have the Bill examined by a committee so that we would get a legal examination of the question and a report back. The second speaker today was a qualified accountant. He agreed with the first speaker about the difficulties in comprehending the Bill. As the Bill is essentially one dealing with business practices, and as 2 professional men- a legal man and a professional accountant- had difficulty in understanding it, it is nearly impossible for the layman to interpret the Bill. Therefore I am not in a position to offer any comments on the effects of the Bill on ordinary trade and business. I will have to be very brief.
My concern is at proposed new section 45D, which has caused quite some concern in the trade union movement. It was suggested that other sections of the community have an obligation under the Act. The query was: Why should one section be relieved of that obligation? This is not the point. The question is: Why should the trade union movement be singled out as the organisation whose activities are subject to and regulated by 2 Acts or 3 jurisdictions? Whether there is a secondary boycott or not, a dispute never occurs other than as a result of a decision of an organisation by which that organisation takes some industrial action which puts some pressure upon a particular employer or a group of employers. Immediately a union does that it is in breach of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Now, in certain circumstances such a union can be in breach of this Act. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act was introduced many years ago to deal specially with a particular branch of activities in our commercial life. I refer to the activities of the trade union movement. The movement has an understanding of the issues involved. It takes action. It has certain expertise in that direction, and it makes decisions according to the best interests of the community at large as to how a particular dispute should be settled.
Now the Government wants the Trade Practices Commission to cover the unions. It has not the expertise in that sphere of activities. This Act imposes penalties of up to $250,000 on the trade unions. That forces the trade unions to seek other means of achieving their desires. There are many questions. I believe this provision was sought to be implemented when the Trade Practices Commission found that it had no control over the trade union movement when there was a boycott of petrol stations in New South Wales which were undercutting the price of petrol. The trade union movement refused to supply certain outlets which were undercutting the price. The movement did so because of a fear of the monopoly control which would deprive its numerous members of employment rights and so reduce the activities of members in that field. Whether this was right or wrong, or whether this was the correct procedure, that was the intention. So the question of secondary boycotts was brought in. They are no longer permitted.
Senator Messner told us of the activities of a South Australian union which took action interstate on some non-union membership affair in South Australia. Trade unions will always take action on non-union membership. That is one of the things which is prohibited. Despite what was said today about the penalty being imposed upon the unions- a penalty in excess of the capabilities of the unions ever to pay- the operations of the Act permit the making of an order against any member of a union who has some interest in union property which is held by virtue of his position in the union. He might have some emoluments or some financial assets.
– I thought the Bill exempted individuals.
-I am trying to say- I will develop it- that the Bill does not exempt individuals. It exempts individuals from an order against a trade union, but an individual may still come within proposed new section 45 D, subsection (6) (v). It states: for the purpose of enforcing any judgment or order given or made in a proceeding mentioned in sub-paragraph (i) that is instituted under section 77 or 82, process may be issued and executed against any property of the organisation or of any branch or part of the organisation, or any property in which the organisation or any branch or part of the organisation has, or any members of the organisation or of a branch or part of the organisation have in their capacity as such members, a beneficial interest, whether vested in trustees or however otherwise held, as if the organisation were a body corporate and the absolute owner of the property or interest but no process shall be issued or executed against any other property of members . . .
These are some of the things that need explaining. The order can be made against members. It brings in a question of things such as mortuary funds operated by unions and superannuation trust funds held by unions in which the member has individual operation. To the extent that it may apply to individuals, Senator Ryan has pointed out the situation in respect of the dominant purpose, which is outlined in sub-section (3) of proposed new section 45d. She referred to the example of women who take some industrial action for the purpose of trying to have English classes established in their work shop or to have child minding centres in their place of employment. These women would not be exempted under section 45d (3). Proposed new section 45d(1) states:
Subject to this section, a person shall not, in concert with another person, engage in conduct that hinders or prevents the supply . . .
If two or more persons in a factory stop work or take some industrial action for the purpose of enforcing some conditions exempted under subsection 3, they are guilty. In that case the personal fine applies to the individual. I refer to proposed new section 79 (b).
– I think that perhaps you are wanting section 76 (2) in black type appearing on page 74.
– I am looking for the new sub-section (2).
– That is it. It reads:
Nothing in sub-section ( 1 ) authorises the making of an order against a person not being a body corporate by reason that the person has contravened or attempted to contravene, or been involved in a contravention of, section 45d.
-I cannot find it in the Bill which I have, which possibly is the House of Representatives Bill. I am looking for proposed new section 76 (2) of the legislation. I thank the
Clerk for providing me with the relevant document. For the information of honourable senators, I repeat proposed new section 76 (2). It states:
Nothing in sub-section ( 1 ) authorises the making of an order against a person not being a body corporate by reason that the person has contravened or attempted to contravene, or been involved in a contravention of, section 45d.
This section gives the court authorisation to make an order against a person. What we must understand is that anyone who assists in an offence, in contravention of section 45d, is in breach. The whole point is that the breach is by a person. It need not be a breach by an organisation or at the direction of an organisation. If two or more people in concert decide to take certain action, the union is responsible for the action of those 2 persons, although it knows nothing about the action they contemplate or the action they put into operation. Under this section the union will be penalised for the action of the individuals. In the case of anyone assisting the organisation in this activity, the union, again, might not have known of that action. This includes the withholding of service.
If two men on the street decide that they will not work for such and such a firm because they do not like its attitude and, so, deprive the firm of their services, this is a breach. This breach can occur with no responsibility of the union but it is a breach in accordance with the Act. Surely, this situation should not occur. Whilst the industrial code has provisions for conferences, consultation and conciliation, this legislation has no such provisions. It is a question of being in breach of the Act or not being in breach of the Act. I refer to the question of action which is not included in the exemptions under section 45d. The taking of action in relation to non-unionists would be in breach of section 45d of this Act. This situation is occurring in every State throughout this Commonwealth on a number of jobs. It is something that will be unlawful under this Act. It is something that the trade unions will not give away. It is an area in relation to which the Arbitration Commission has given preference clauses to trade unions in certain awards, the federal clerks union being one example.
During the debate on the Industrial Relations Bureau Bill yesterday much was said about compulsory membership of trade unions and conscientious objection. I have never believed in any way in compulsion and I do not support compulsory membership of the unions.
– Except in unions.
-I do not support compulsory membership of unions. But as an example let me refer to the case of a person who obtains employment with the tramways in Melbourne. The wages and conditions that have been obtained by the workers in the Tramways Union of Victoria have been gained by struggle and a loss of income to achieve conditions that are attractive. If a person works for the tramways but will not contribute to the organisation that has made conditions beneficial, he has no conscience. I have always maintained that if one objects to joining a union one should not go into an industry where conditions have been improved by the trade unions, if one does so to obtain the benefit of the financial contributions of other people. There are many occupations not subject to awards. There is the dairy industry, the farming community or wood chopping. They are not covered by awards. People should have freedom to go where they choose but they should not bludge upon those who for years have made sacrifices to build up better conditions. Honourable senators on the other side of the chamber talk about conscientious objections. People who will not contribute but who accept conditions that someone else has worked to achieve have no conscience.
We have at the present time the Workers Party, which is an organisation in functioning for the purpose of breaking down the trade union movement. We find now that the Government is supporting the Workers Party. It proposes to amend the Trade Practices Act, with fines of $250,000, against any organisation which dares to take action. Do honourable senators think that organisations will give away their rights that they have built up over the years for the purpose of letting scabs and non-unionists come into the organisations to reap the benefits that the organisations have obtained when these scabs and non-unionists will not pay for improvements and benefits in the future? The threat of possible action will have some effect upon individuals and unions. Another means will have to be found.
Government is going dangerously close to sabotage and wanton destruction under the cloak of night by imposing conditions that have never applied in Australia. We will rue the day that we forced the trade unions into a position where they cannot operate openly to advance the conditions of employment of their members. It is for that reason that the trade union movement is scared of proposed new section 45. The suggestion is that it does not apply to industrial disputes. It does apply to industrial disputes. Senator Guilfoyle called the ban put on work for politicians by her staff in Adelaide an industrial dispute. It is recognised as a dispute between employer and employee. It is an industrial dispute, as she said, within the industry. All disputes are taboo, under this legislation, unless the dispute is actually over wages and conditions of employment. There are one hundred and one other things. People may dislike the attitudes of a company or foreman. Let me instance the case which occurred at General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd. The management wanted staff to go on one week’s annual holiday. Stoppages were considered.
This Bill bans the very thing that has been accepted as industrial practice in this country in the past years. The trade union movement on the face of it is opposed to this amendment and will take some action against it. We have been assured by Senator Tehan and others that the legislation does not have the ramifications which we think it has. The amendment we have moved seeks to have the Bill examined by a committee of this Senate for the purpose of bringing forward a report. If we try to fathom what the Bill really means we will be a long time in Committee. I accordingly support the amendment to be moved by Senator Button.
– As a non-legal person I share some of Senator Cavanagh ‘s inability to grasp the finer detail of this Bill. I have been pleased to consult with the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Howard) on a number of occasions and put to him views that I personally hold and on behalf of my constitutents in South Australia. In general terms I would think that the Opposition would be largely in favour of and rather happy about this Bill. Honourable senators who were here in 1974 will remember the high passions that surrounded the passage of the Trade Practices Bill and how the Opposition at that time- which is now on this side of the House; I am a member of it- opposed many of the clauses in the Bill and particularly spoke strongly against consumer protection.
It should be something of an encouragement to the Opposition- certainly it is to me- to know that the Government has not taken forward those rather over-enthusiastic views it had when in Opposition. It has not tried to destroy the impact of the Act. In fact as speakers on this side of the House have said, it has set out largely to improve the operation of the Act which was brought in by the Labor Government. I think this should therefore mean in general terms that we have something of a bipartisan approach to restrictive trade practices in Australia. In any case, I am especially pleased to find that the consumer protection clauses are being strengthened and that most other alterations have been made in response to legitimate claims by business. I am particularly pleased to know that the cry of small business has been listened to in regard to these amendments. Senator Cavanagh, in concert with a number of his colleagues, seems to have endeavoured to make out a case for secondary boycotts. He seems to be saying to the Senate that unions ought to be able to hurt a third innocent party to achieve their objections however desirable those objectives may be. I cannot, for the life of me, find the logic in the claim that an innocent party should be hurt however good the objectives may be that the union sets out to achieve.
The leading speaker for the Opposition, Senator Button, mentioned in his remarks the weakening, as he termed it, of the control of the merger situation in Australia. I must say that some people in my State have made strong representations to maintain the provisions as they were. I listened and considered those representations as did many other members and I think all Liberal senators from South Australia. It has been very difficult for the Minister to maintain the strength of the previous conditions and at the same time give justice to the commercial community which is laced with a number of organisations which quite properly should be able to merge or sell their operations to other concerns. Many family concerns have been built up over a number of years of hard work by the principal who started them in the first place. It is quite legitimate that the families should want to have the advantage of the capital of that company and be able to obtain it through a merger situation. It is very difficult to say to the companies concerned that they are prohibited from obtaining such an advantage. I think that it is somewhat an overriding situation in the smaller company field.
Senator Ryan in speaking to the secondary boycott position outlined in proposed new section 45d seemed also, as did Senator Cavanagh, to make out some case for persons, as she termed it, hurting a third and innocent party for the sake of their own ends. I think she ended her speech by saying that a union may wish to take such action. None of these reasons is good enough to in any way demolish the need for proposed new section 45d. Senator Georges rather astonishingly seemed in his argument to go completely against the reason for the Bill in its entirety. He did not seem to want to have legislation to remove restrictive trade practices. He appeared to require legislation to establish restrictive trade practices and fought in his speech for a minimum price structure, something which I resist with all my heart.
I believe fully in restrictive trade practice legislation with teeth to take out the unfair aspects of trading between large and small companies and the many other combinations that there are in the commercial world. I believe in a set of rules which is as fair to one part of the commercial world as it is to any other operator in that field. This does not mean that one should accommodate the proposition of the Victorian Government that all beer prices should be at the one level; that we should have petrol sold at the one price; that we should, according to Senator Georges, have a single similar standard in all petrol reselling outlets with the price of petrol set to support these equal standards. He ignores the proposition that people, if they desire, should be able to serve themselves with petrol and accept a lower standard of care for their car in order to buy petrol at a lower price. If people want a higher standard of maintenance for their car they will buy their fuel at a higher price at a petrol station where they get better service. He ignores those necessary trends in commerce in our community. As I have said, to take his general proposition to the extreme is to deny entirely the need for the removal of discriminatory practices and to establish them. I find that a very strange recommendation, coming from a person who was a supporter of a government which at the time was to be congratulated for introducing this legislation.
I will deal with only 2 points. The first relates to the matter of secondary boycotts. Labor speakers have tended to dwell on the problems of proposed section 45d because of its impact on unions in situations in which they have got together, I suppose I might say ‘fairly’ for the purposes of debate, which could prove difficult to interpret and which might produce some unjustified penalty. One happening in South Australia was reported in an article in the Adelaide Advertiser of 31 May 1977 under the heading ‘Oil tanker banned ‘. The article reads:
Another tanker has been banned from berthing and discharging crude oil at the Port Stanvac refinery.
The tanker the Safina Star is anchored off Port Stanvac waiting to unload her 700 000 barrels of Middle East crude oil.
On Friday, the Seamen’s Union lifted its ban from the tanker Ocean Venture to allow her to discharge her cargo of crude oil at the week-end.
The State secretary of the Seamen’s Union (Mr R. Barklay) said each ship was being assessed on merits.
Each ship that berths at Port Stanvac will be assessed by the local secretary of the Seamen’s Union on its merits. It is Seamen’s Union policy in South Australia to make sure that only a few days supply of crude oil is on hand at the refinery so that the union can have the whole of South Australia at its mercy. Why? It wants to force a policy on a matter outside the immediate running of the Port Stanvac refinery, namely, to get an Australian-owned tanker put on to the oil run around the Australian coast. I understand- I stand to be corrected- that that tanker is not owned by the Mobil company. Therefore, 1 250 000 people could be starved of fuel, as they have been in the past, if this legislation is not effective. Surely the idea that 1 250 000 people can be starved of fuel by the Seamen’s Union in South Australia by penalising the Mobil company at Port Stanvac for an objective outside the normal operation of the refinery surely must come under proposed section 45d. There may be reasons of which I, as a non-legal man, am not aware why- it does not come under proposed section 45d.
– The seamen will only have to say it is connected with wages and it will not.
– I know that Senator Wright has been making that point by way of interjection. It may be a valuable point, but I would have thought it would be fairly clear in this situation that the commercial enterprises are separate. I hope they are separate. I take Senator Wright’s point. Quite frankly, if he is all too correct, I would like to see this legislation amended at some time in the future to take out the difficulty he sees. In any event, I believe that it is a major step forward to have that provision in the Bill.
I agree with Senator Missen that we cannot look at this Bill in any way as being in its final state. Of course, it is not likely ever to be in its final state. I would not be surprised if this legislation were amended by the Houses of Parliament every year or every second year. I draw the attention of the Senate to the quite specific, well known situation in South Australia. Of course, it does not pertain only to South Australia. I refer to South Australia because I know it best. There are other greater secondary boycotts which are operating around the Australian coast and which are appalling in their national effect; but, as I have said, the one to which I have referred is specific and we know it. It ought to fall under proposed section 45d. I draw that to the attention of the Australian Labor Party senators to counter the rather small and ineffective instances which they have raised and which go against the operation of this provision. I put this squarely to them: Do they approve of the Seamen’s Union vetting every tanker that berths at Port Stanvac for the purposes I have outlined? No reasonable man who believes in maintaining or increasing the living standards of people around Australia or in his own State could possibly support that action.
I want to end by saying briefly how pleased I am that the Government has retained section 49 in the Act. I received many representations during the early stages of the consideration of this legislation, before the Government reversed its decision on this matter. I believe that the Swanson Committee was not approached properly by the representatives of small business and that it was neglectful in the recommendation it made. I will not refer again to the enormous pressure a big trading concern can bring to bear on small or relatively small suppliers of manufactured and processed goods in the commercial world. There are many instances where they have done it and where they have practically ruined small businesses through their demands for discounts which are quite unrelated to the volume of business involved. I am extremely pleased to see that small business is looked after in the fashion that it is. I am pleased to support the Bill in the knowledge that it cannot be perfect but that the Act is improved, and I hope that it will be improved further in the future.
– I declare my support for the amendment. I would have thought that it would have been obvious to all, listening to the debate thus far, that there is a great deal of confusion about the clauses in the Bill; that it would be of advantage to everyone if these clauses were to be sent to the appropriate Senate committee for thorough, mature examination. But it appears that the Government has set its face against this course. At this late stage I appeal to the Government to consider whether it is not in the best interests of the implementation of this legislation to refer it to the appropriate Senate committee as a matter of consensus.
I do not intend to canvass those clauses which have been canvassed more than amply by other members of the Senate. However, I wish to direct the attention of the Senate to proposed section 45d regarding secondary boycotts. I do that for the same reason as I spoke yesterday. At the moment the Government is engaged in digging its own grave in the way that it is handling industrial relations matters. As I said yesterday in the debate on the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill, the Government appears to be under the impression or to be giving the public the impression that stability in industrial relations can be achieved only by legislation. Again in the name of equality before the law it is amending a section of the Trade Practices Act to deal with matters of an industrial character.
There are 2 things wrong with that. The first and obvious thing is that already there are ample unused provisions in other statutes which cover the situations which the Government seeks to cover. Secondly, the idea of hoodwinking the public into believing that amending statutes will create stability in industrial relations is a crime against the public. It is a crime not only against the Australian people but also against those within the trade union movement who know the real story, who have fought for years and who are still righting to maintain the integrity of the trade union movement- those very people whom the Government refuses to acknowledge or to consult and whose questions they refuse month after month to answer in this place.
-What other statutes?
- Senator Wright asks: What other statutes?’ Yesterday I referred to the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and another member of the Government were going around the countryside saying that the Industrial Relations Bureau legislation was tailor-made to fit the problems which were confronted in Tasmania as a result of the air traffic controllers strike. We have heard them saying again that the amendments contained in proposed section 45d are required. I pointed out yesterday how that statement fell to the ground when it was examined because, as I said, two of the salient features of the Industrial Relations Bureau Bill, as it was originally introduced into the House of Representatives, were the enforcement of a secret strike ballot and an additional ground for deregistration under section 143 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, being on the basis that the union’s action was interfering with interstate trade. I proved on that occasion and in that circumstance that the first matterthat is to say, the enforcement of a secret strike ballot- would only have legitimised the extended strike because the air traffic controllers had already conducted a secret ballot, the result of which was to continue their strike indefinitely. Secondly, I pointed out in that instance an additional ground for deregistration by pointing to the fact that when the pilots were threatened with deregistration some years ago they deregistered voluntarily. What did the Government do? It set up a fix-it tribunal called the Flight Crew Officers Industrial Tribunal, which gave them a better go than ever they would have had had they retained their registration.
Senator Wright asks me to cite other Acts. I refer to section 30J and 30K of the Crimes Act, which are very relevant indeed if the Government thinks that legislation is the answer to all these problems. Let me read what those sections of the Crimes Act provide. Section 30J reads:
That is a proclamation made by the GovernorGeneral referred to in sub-section ( 1 )- takes part in or continues, or incites to, urges, aids or encourages the taking part in, or continuance of, a lock-out or strike-
Section 30k reads:
Whoever, by violence to the person or property of another person, or by spoken or written threat or intimidation of any kind to whomsoever directed, or, without reasonable cause or excuse by boycott or threat of boycott of person or property -
obstructs or hinders the transport of goods or the conveyance of passengers in trade or commerce with other countries or among the States;
compels or induces any person employed in or in connexion with the transport of goods or the conveyance of passengers in trade or commerce with other countries or among the States to surrender or depart from his employment; or
prevents any person from offering or accepting employment in or in connexion with the transport of goods or the conveyance of passengers in trade or commerce with other countries or among the States, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: Imprisonment for one year.
For that occasion the provisions of section 66 of the Public Service Act were also available. All this legislation with draconic powers were available to the Government. Yet the Government goes around the countryside saying that it wants more legislation on the statute books and that that is the way in which there will be a restoration of stability in industrial relations. I believe that that sort of attitude should be exposed, and exposed quickly, before the Government finds that it has painted itself into a corner and has dug its own grave and, worse still from my point of view, the people within the trade union movement, who are the constitutionalists who reject the revolutionary approach- the approach made by the extreme left of the trade union movement - tum it into a political battering ram and find themselves in an untenable position by virtue of the ignorance of the Government. Let me say that that is not only my opinion.
– It is mine too.
-It is Senator Button’s opinion too. It is the opinion of many people. The degree of ineptitude which the Government’s Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and the Prime Minister demonstrated in many of these areas is extraordinary in the extreme. The chickens are coming home to roost. They should know that as a result of the recent elections held by the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association they will soon see where the chickens go home to roost. I do not think honourable senators opposite understand what I am talking about.
– They would not know what the ACOA is.
– They would not know what I am talking about.
- Senator Wright is excepted; Senator Wright knows.
- Senator Wright knows. They soon will know what I am talking about. Let me now deal with some of the highfalutin comments that are made from time to time about this proposal. I heard Senator Missen defend proposed section 45 d of the Act on the basis that it provided justice before the law. What nonsense!
– What do you say to Senator Hall’s example?
– I apologise to Senator Wright and to Senator Hall because I was not in the chamber when he was speaking. Let me give an example of this so-called justice before the law as it would be applied under proposed section 45D (3) of the Act. I believe that proposed section 45D(3) would provide to a ruthless employer the opportunity for monopoly power and unfair advantage over unprotected workers in certain industries.
– What rot! It is an exemption clause.
- Senator Tehan interjects: ‘ What rot! ‘ Let me give Senator Tehan an example. The one that comes to mind is the Fitzroy Flour Mills. Let us say that that firm employs 30 workers. It is known that the boss of that firm is anti-union and that the conditions of employment in the firm are very bad indeed. It is thought by the Federated Millers and Mill Employees Association that, in the interests of maintaining a relative degree of decent working conditions in the flour milling industry, it should unionise that particular flour mill. The Association demands its rights under the award to enter the factory. It speaks to the workers at the time determined by the award, that is, at lunch time. After having spoken to the 20 workers concerned -
– You said thirty a while back.
– Correction, after having spoken to the 30 workers concerned four of the workers join the union. The rest of them are too scared to join the union because they know the attitude of their boss. This is not an isolated case; it has happened hundreds and hundreds of times. Over a period the boss then gets rid of those 4 workers, not in a manner that would attract action under section 5 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, but by giving them notice one every 2 weeks, for example. Everybody knows why it was done but they can not -
– They can do that now without proposed new section 45D. Proposed new section 45D does not affect that situation.
– I thank the honourable senator for his interjection; it helps me a lot. They can do it now, but the response the union movement has to such an action will be closed off by proposed new section 45D.
– It will not be.
– I ask the honourable senator to allow me to continue. He may tell me afterwards, if he would, how such a response is not closed off. So these 4 members are dismissed. The union then has to go to the Trades Hall Council and say: ‘We know these members have been put out of work for that particular reason and we want some united assistance by the trade union movement to overcome the problem’. By the way, the union in such cases might even be urged to do that by other employers in the industry who are doing the right thing and who want to see business operate on a proper and fair competitive basis.
– So what do they do?
– The Trades Hall Council disputes committee meets. It calls in the representatives of the unions concerned- the Federated Millers and Mill Employees Association, the Transport Workers Union, the Manufacturing Grocers Employees Federation, the Federated Storeman and Packers Union and the
Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association. They decide then that something must be done about the situation; so they ask the secretary of the Trades Hall Council to get in touch with the manager of the Fitzroy flour milling firm. He tells them where to go in no uncertain terms. It is a not negotiable situation. No provisions are made elsewhere or are available to the union to obtain preference for unionists in that particular firm. So what happens is the Manufacturing Grocers Union, whose members receive the flour to make biscuits, says that it will not touch the flour because it is black as it has been produced by non-union labour forced upon them through fear of their boss.
– Surely those primitive, barbaric operations should have gone out 50 years ago.
– I agree with the honourable senator, but they have not gone out. I say this to him in all sincerity: When I was the secretary of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council one of my chief functions was to overcome that very type of industrial dispute. What I am saying is that that sort of action by the unions will be closed off by virtue of the operation of proposed new section 45D (3) (b).
– Perhaps it ought to be closed off. The workers should get their conditions and the employers should give them to them.
– The honourable senator said that perhaps the option to take that sort of action should be closed off. The employer would then be given a monopoly control and unfair advantage over employees in a nonunionised shop and there would be no way in which the trade union movement would be able fruitfully to overcome such an industrial dispute. What the legislation would then be doing would be to say to that employer that he could have non-union labour and whatever conditions he liked, and so put him in a better financial competitive position than his other competitors in the industry. That would be done by virtue of the Trade Practices Act which the Government says has been introduced to establish proper competition in industry.
– An employer can be prosecuted under State legislation.
– No, that is where the honourable senator is wrong.
– You are putting up a hypothetical case.
– Not at all. If the honourable senator does not believe me he has that right. I am saying that this sort of dispute took a greater part of my time as the secretary of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council than did a number of other large disputes.
– Why could you not have a wages board established for that?
– Yes, but we would have a wages board setting minimum wages and working conditions. But the whole point, which is understood and accepted by everybody from the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Sir John Moore, to the employer organisations and trade unions and everybody else, is that the day to day management of industrial affairs requires a co-operative spirit with trade unions. It requires trade unions.
– Why could you not have a wages board?
– There is an award, but the award -
– They want to blackmail for something better.
– That is not so. I do not know whether I have to go back further to have the Government understand the basics of how workers operate on a day to day basis. We have to have a union in a factory in order to ensure that the boss in that factory observes minimum standards and that there is protection for the workers in that factory. I mean protection of the safety of the workers, very often protection of their lives and limbs. By virtue of the operation of this proposed new section 45D any action which the trade union movement might take to protect on a day to day basis the workers in an industry is closed on”. I can only say that the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the trade union movement generally will not accept that. I agree with them that they should not accept it because a legitimate industrial activity is being closed off by a provision inserted in a Bill which is alleged to have the purpose of creating free competition.
As I mentioned before, the ironical part of my example is that this new legislation will provide the firm which does the wrong thing with an opportunity to be more competitive than its competitors by reason of the fact that it will insulate that firm from unionising its shop. There is supposed to be equality before the law. Let us examine that concept again. Why should the trade unions not have the right to provide protection for those workers who would join the union but do not through fear of losing their jobs, particularly in this time of high unemployment? It is a very real fear and it is a fear which is held by a large number of people. It is a fear which is held particularly by junior workers who comprise such a high percentage of the unemployed and by female workers. I know because I am President of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association. I know that this fear exists. If the employer indicates, however slightly, that he does not want the union involved in his shop then, of course, they fear for their jobs. This is supposed to be equality before the law. As Senator Wright will appreciate, the Government itself gives to one union compulsory unionism yet it denies that right to every other union. This is contained in the Stevedoring Industry Act which was introduced by a Liberal-National Country Party Government in 1956. The Government itself provides to the Waterside Workers Federation compulsory unionism -
– In this case of the flour mills could not the union cite this firm you are talking about before the arbitration court in the Federal jurisdiction?
- Senator Wright, the unions can certainly do that but that is to establish minimum working conditions and wages.
– That is what we are talking about. That is what the exemption is all about.
– We are not talking about that at all. Honourable senators opposite do not understand that the day to day implementation of industrial relations depends on unionisation of the plant. If they cannot understand that, it is no good my talking any further in this place.
– You want to be so dogmatic. You are apparently habituated to domineering. You want to dogmatise this argument.
- Senator Wright, I am loath to do that. Previously I adopted the patient approach by writing to the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) in August of last year setting out certain proposed amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which, I believed, were in the interests of the trade union movement as a whole, of the employers and of stability in industrial relations. What did I get? I got an answer some 5 months later. It was a one page answer containing 3 paragraphs in reply to my detailed letter. The first paragraph said that certain provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to which I had referred were inserted into the Act as a result of a High Court decision. I wrote back to the Minister and said that I was surprised to hear the first law officer of the Crown make the statement when the provisions were inserted before the decision was made by the High Court. Here was the first officer of the Crown ignoring my letter for 5 months and then giving me false information.
What have I seen happen? Senator Wright says that I should not be domineering but month after month in this case I directed valid questions to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Month after month, my questions were ignored by Mr Street. I say to you, Mr President, and to the Senate that the Government is digging its own grave. Let me illustrate how much the Government believes in equality before the law. I should like to indicate to Senator Tehan that the Government provided compulsory unionism for one union- the Waterside Workers Federation- under section 29 of the Stevedoring Industry Act. This legislation was introduced by the Liberal and National Country Party Government and it deals with registration of waterside workers. I am not opposed to it but this illustrates the double standards of the Government.
– It supports the objects of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
-Of course, it is for the furtherance of the object of the Act which states that where a person applies for registration as a waterside worker at a port and that person satisfies the reasonable requirements of fitness, competence and suitability of persons to be registered as waterside workers and is a member or satisfies the Authority that he has applied for membership of the union in relation to the port he can be registered as a waterside worker. Is that equality before the law? I would like to -
– This Bill has nothing to do with compulsory unionism.
– According to Senator Missen and according to the second reading speech it has a lot to do with competitiveness and equality before the law. I should like to refer the Senate, particularly honourable senators opposite, to an article I read last night in the monthly magazine Quadrant of May 1 977. It is an article written by Peter Westmore entitled Why Political Strikes Work’. I will refer to some excerpts over which honourable senators opposite can chew. It states:
In the second half of 1977. relations between the Federal Government and the trade unions will be sorely tested by four issues; uranium mining, wage indexation, the federal Government’s industrial legislation, and the establishment of an Omega navigation station in Gippsland, Victoria.
Where individuals or sections of society oppose a decision of government, their only recourse is to try to dissuade the government from pursuing its chosen course. Trade unions, on the other hand, have the power to exercise a practical veto over decisions of governments, using their industrial strength. This is the essence of the political strike.
At present, most unions do not use their industrial power to veto decisions of governments- even where they vehemently disagree with them. However, there are a number of powerful unions which reject this convention, and strongly assert the right of unions to take any action, within the selfimposed limits of political expediency. Their policy is to broaden the area of industrial action, to the point where it is accepted in the trade union movement that strike action on political issues is a legitimate part of the function of the trade union movement.
The Medibank strike … the bans on Indonesian and Chilean trade, green bans and the Newport power house ban have had the effect of widening the ‘accepted’ area of political activity of unions. Although political strikes have comparatively little support among the general public, they are becoming increasingly respectable with some trade union officials. The explanation is simple: political strikes work’.
This is the point I emphasise. He wrote:
Neither governments, nor industrial tribunals, have yet found an effective way of legislating against political strikes, without facing the prospect of massive resistance from the trade union movement. Legislation such as the amendments to the Trade Practices Act and the Arbitration Act, now before Federal Parliament, have aroused opposition across the whole trade union spectrum, because they restrict legitimate trade union activity, as well as abuses of unions’ power. The only restraint on the misuse of power by an individual union is the possibility of isolation from the rest of the trade union movement, and the possibility of government action (e.g. deregistration) against the union.
– You speak as though this is a new idea. This idea is 70 years old.
– What idea?
– The idea of legislating against secondary boycotts. The author speaks as though it is a new idea.
– No, he does not speak as though it is a new idea. He stated:
Neither governments, nor industrial tribunals, have yet found an effective way of legislating against political strikes, without facing the prospect of massive resistance from the trade union movement.
He specifically states:
Legislation such as the amendments to the Trade Practices Act and the Arbitration Act, now before Federal Parliament, have aroused opposition across the whole trade union spectrum, because they restrict legitimate trade union activity, as well as abuses of unions ‘ power.
That is the point I was making in my address. That is the very reason this provision will fail and why, unless the Government is prepared to heed the advice which sometimes is given to it but which might well be cut off, it will be digging its own grave.
– I enter this debate only because of some of the remarks which were made earlier, particularly those made by Senator Hall and those made by interjection by Senator Tehan about the magnitude of secondary boycotts, as though this was the end of industry. I well remember coming into this place in 1966 when the Mount Isa dispute was on. Statements were being made about the millions of dollars that would be lost. Yet, when that strike was settled- it was a blueprint for how not to handle industrial relations- within 6 months the mining company concerned was making massive profits again. The point I make is that there is a tendency in any dispute to grasp figures out of the air and to say ‘This is what this stoppage will cost ‘, whether it lasts for one day or 14 days.
When we talk about private enterprise and the special safeguards that are in the minds of some honourable senators, I point out that the concept of business enterprise as it operates in the United States economy has always been put forward in this place as one that we should emulate. It is even said that the United States trade unions are not smeared with or involved in the goal of socialism; but, in respect of some of the things about which Senator Wright has been talking, secondary boycotts were morally justifiable. For instance, we know at this time that the wet-backs were exploited in the Califorian grape fields and wineries. The secondary boycotts did give some dignity to the Mexican workers there by allowing them to unionise. The firms that felt the full impact of the secondary boycotts finally had to learn that, as a part of the United States, they had obligations under the United Nations charter.
Coming back to the situation in Australia, Senator Harradine was trying to develop his argument, and I think the inability of some Government senators to grasp what he was saying justifies the Opposition’s proposal that the legislation should go to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs, which is one of our leading committees. I pay a tribute to that Committee, which avoided what would have been endless dialogue on the Family Law Bill in this place by the considerable work it did in that area and in one or two other areas. The point Senator Harradine was making was that if the Government is to have a bit of blood sport at the expense of some sections of the trade union movement it will not have any effect on certain areas of industry that traditionally are bastions of working class solidarity, such as the waterfront, railways, mining and heavy engineering areas.
In the area Senator Harradine mentioned- the manufacturing industries and the service industriesthe operatives are predominantly female, and it is in these industries that snide tactics are used. To those honourable senators who ask Why do you need a union?’ I would say that any honourable senator who has had to deal with fringe cases involving women who have suffered some strain and who did not have a union available to them but had to rely on the solicitor acting for the insurance company will know that these workers are bled white, whether it be by the insurance company or by the legal eagle. Only in those cases in which there is a trade union or a labour council with efficient legal people to protect the workers is there justice in compensation cases.
Let me take this a little further. It is necessary to have trade union membership in these relatively small industrial work forces to establish the right to recruit people without fear of sacking. The wages board syndrome about which Senator Wright talked does not come into this unless there is a union. The union membership is only one-third or one-quarter of the potential membership. It is a case of the egg and the chicken. If a union is able to go to the wages board, as Senator Wright visualises, and gain some wage adjustment, well and good; but it has to fight to get that membership. I know that sometimes there is a threat of execution. I know a gentleman who I think is well known to Senator Button and who is involved in a union that has these difficulties. It is the Pastrycooks Union in Victoria. I know that the secretary, Bill Novak, an extremely competent official, has to handle a very difficult situation. He has a multitude of female members of various nationalities. We know that employers are not above trying to play one ethnic group off against another. In these cases the union secretary needs all the assistance he can get. It may be a case of the Transport Workers Union indicating to a very militant employer that there will be some difficulties with deliveries.
Let us be realistic about this. What would be the position if there were no trade union involvement in this legislation? We know that there are non-trade union elements in the community who take militant action. We have seen this in the rural industries. Dairy farmers have poured milk into the gutters rather than permit it to be used. There is something in the newspapers today about stockmen who shot a few cattle. I did not hear anybody in this place this morning beating his breast about the manifestation of militantism in the rural industries. Honourable senators say that they are fighting for their home and their heart. What do they think is happening sometimes in these areas? It is only the trade unions, warts and all, that can protect some of the Greek women and ensure that they get their entitlements.
I know that my very good friend Senator Melzer can tell us of situations on the assembly lines in Victoria. These have been brought out in reports of unsupported mothers and various other women who have had to cop an arrogant foreman because although they wanted to take militant action they could not afford to have even a week ‘s stoppage. I make no bones about this. If I could put indirect pressure on some of these employers I would do it. I am not going back to the 1870s. I am not going back to the Tolpuddle martyrs, as Senator Wright implied; but I do say to honourable senators opposite that human nature never changes. There are the same frailties in character today as existed when Governor Phillip arrived at Sydney Cove. There are good people, bad people and arrogant people. The only way is to meet force with force. If we are going to look at factionalism in the trade union movement we will find that most trade union secretaries in the manufacturing industries have had to be very diplomatic.
The situation here is no different from the situation in the United States involving the people who picked the grapes in California. They nad to live with this relatively new union. What was the alternative there? This could also happen here. They did not want the new union which was largely composed of Mexican-United States citizens to be part of the Teamsters Union, preferring to have a separate independent union. They had to deal with the Teamsters Union under Jimmy Hoffa. No trade union official in Australia is as discredited as Jimmy Hoffa was. The American Federation of Labour would not have him; the Congress of Industrial Organisations would not have him; and we would not have him either. There is not a trade union leader in Australia who could not stand up and defend himself, but Jimmy Hoffa could not do so. The only way justice was achieved there was through a secondary boycott.
I have never had any compunction in naming firms involved in office cleaning which were trying to gyp their female ethnic workers, and I have got results. When Senator Murphy- a very illustrious Attorney-General- was here, on one occasion I named 2 firms at 10 a.m. one day and at 4 o’clock the next day they started paying out on compensation claims. I used this Senate for that purpose. Honourable senators can probably say that that was parliamentary exposure or a boycott. I met one of the managing directors of those firms, who said to me: ‘You have prostituted your position as a senator’. I replied: ‘You have bludged on society, the way you have exploited your employees’. I can assure Senator Wright that I won that one. When I go out on Saturday night to a big Greek function I get cheers not because I am a senator but because I exposed a commercial and industrial buccaneer. That is what I did. So let us have no more humbug about this.
Senator Button will deal with the legal niceties in respect of this legislation, but I say to honourable senators opposite that life never changes. It has always been a struggle. Some of us have to struggle harder than others; we know that. The fact is that if this legislation is to be handled in temperate discussion it should be sent to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, which comprises people whom I would call big league legal luminaries, such as Senator Missen and my own colleagues Senator James McClelland and Senator Wheeldon. They will come back with legislation that we can pass.
– The debate on this Bill to amend the Trade Practices Act has certainly ranged far and wide over a large number of issues. I suppose that is understandable; the Bill itself ranges over a large number of economic and political issues. However, I remind the Senate of the length of time that the Government has devoted to the preparation of this legislation and the length of time in which the Parliament has been invited to consider the legislation. I say that because, apart from the attack on proposed new section 45D, the main issue that seems to have emerged in this debate concerns a motion foreshadowed by the Opposition to refer the Bill to a Standing Committee of the Senate.
This legislation has its origin in a committee set up to review the Trade Practices Act. The committee was set up by the Government shortly after it came to office. The Senate will remember that the trade practices legislation in its present form was passed in 1974. It was one of the major pieces of legislation of the Australian Labor Party Government and its first AttorneyGeneral, Senator Murphy. The 1974 trade practices legislation also progressed through the Parliament in a fairly leisurely manner. The same argument could have been put forward then for it to be referred to a committee of the Senate. But the Government of that day did not suggest it and nobody in Opposition made any suggestions of that sort either. I think the reasons which we have put forward now were the reasons then, namely, that the legislation has been given a very thorough consideration both before it was introduced into the Parliament and after it was introduced into the Parliament.
As I said, the Bill before the Senate has its genesis in a committee known as the Swanson Committee which was set up last year under the chairmanship of Mr T. B. Swanson, who is a former deputy chairman of ICI Australia Ltd and a former chairman of the Commission on Advanced Education. Other members of the committee were Mr J. A. Davidson, the managing director of CIG Ltd; Professor Alec Kerr, Professor of Economics at Murdoch University and formerly chairman of the Consumer Affairs Council of Western Australia; Mr Howard Schreiber, solicitor, of Sydney who is well known for his great and expert knowledge of the subject; and Mr Hartnell, the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs, who is also an expert on the subject. Whilst I do not want to detract from the expert standing of members of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, the Trade Practices Act and this legislation have been considered very extensively Dy experts of the calibre of those I have mentioned.
– Who was the industrial relations expert who put in section 45D?
– Who would be the industrial relations expert on the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee? The Swanson Committee took a great many submissions from a great many people ranging over the whole of the Trade Practices Act. Following the recommendations of the Committee at the end of last year, the Government introduced a Bill broadly along the lines of the Bill which is now before us. It was what one might call the first draft of the Bill. The Government introduced it with the objective of allowing public consideration and public comment on its terms. That was done. Many people commented on it. That Bill was re-introduced this year after the Parliament had been prorogued. It took into account many of the comments that had been made on it. There was a debate on the Bill in December and there was another debate on it in February. The Government further considered matters arising out of those debates in the Parliament- not in the Senate but in the House of Representatives where there was some very lengthy, learned and valuable consideration of the measure. When the Government brought it on for consideration last week again there was a lengthy Committee debate. Further amendments were made to the Bill at that time as a result of previous discussions.
The situation is that this legislation was the product of a learned, expert committee which reviewed the whole of the existing legislation last year. The Bill has been available for public scrutiny and public discussion for 6 months. During that time the Government has taken note of a great deal of the comment and as a result has made a number of amendemnts to the legislation. I do not know what more could be expected of Government in the way of making an effort to associate the Parliament and interested sections of the community in its legislation than the record that I have just outlined. For those reasons the Government is now unwilling to delay this legislation further by referring it to another committee, whether it be a committee of the Senate or any other committee.
The other major issue in the Bill appears to be the opposition expressed by honourable senators opposite to the proposed new section 4sd. I think it is a pity that almost the whole of the attitude of the Opposition revolved around that section. Fortunately other honourable senators on this side of the chamber addressed their minds to other questions arising from the Bill. I thank them for that. No doubt we will have some further debate in the Committee stage on new section 45d, but I want to refer to the reasons why the Government has decided to introduce this section into the legislation. It is based upon the recommendations of the Swanson Committee which believed that the Trade Practices Act should leave no doubt that it applied to restrictive conduct of organisations of employees which is carried out by agreement or understanding with another person engaged in trade and commerce. The Swanson Committee acknowledged that the Trade Practices Act in most cases would be inappropriate for most of the issues involving employee-employer relations. However, it pointed out that some conduct really falls outside the operation of the present Trade Practices Act, the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and most State industrial legislation. I refer to the area of secondary boycotts.
Some very good examples of this type of conduct were given in the debate. I thought a notable example was that given by Senator Messner of a business with which he was acquainted in South Australia. Senator Hall gave another example. He referred to a ban on tankers at the Port Stanvac refinery in South Australia. The situation comes about when employees of an employer place a boycott upon the dealings of that employer with another person. Because of the limits on the constitutional power of this Parliament, that other person has to be a corporation. We can seek to limit the application only to corporations. These secondary boycotts usually do not involve disputes between employer and employee which would come within the ordinary jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It was for those reasons that the Swanson Committee and the Government believed that it was appropriate that this type of conduct, which has very severe consequences, as it does, on the activities of certain people and businesses that they conduct, should be brought within the purview of the law. The Trade Practices Act appeared to be a suitable place to deal with the question.
I emphasise that proposed new section 45d applies only to conduct which hinders or prevents the supply of goods to a target corporation. That conduct must be engaged in for the purpose and must be likely to have the effect of causingit must have this purpose, which I emphasise- a substantial loss or damage to the business of the corporation or a substantial lessening of competition in any market in which that corporation is operating. There must be all those elements. There must be the target corporation. There must be the purpose by the people who engage in the conduct directed to the corporation. There must be the purpose of causing substantial loss to the business of that corporation. When one looks at the question in those terms one sees readily that a good deal of the fears about the operation of this section- that it might apply to situations that have been canvassed in this debate- are quite irrelevant. One suggestion was that it would apply to a group of residents conducting a sit-in to preserve some trees. That was actually an example given. I noted it, I was so staggered by it. No wonder the trade union movement is being stirred, with that sort of misunderstanding of the Bill being conveyed. I think Senator Ryan said that it would prevent consumer action. Proposed new section 51 sub-section (2a) specifically excludes action by consumer groups. I hope that members of the Senate will no longer be labouring under such gross misunderstandings of proposed new section 45.
There are one or two other matters to which I think I should refer briefly. Senator Tehan referred to some of the restrictions which he felt the trade practices legislation placed upon companies which were capital intensive. He referred particularly to the well known arrangements entered into in the past between suppliers, particularly in the oil industry, and retailers which tied up the retailers. He said that there were strong arguments in favour of these arrangements. I point out to him and to the Senate that under the provision in the Bill for notification to be given to the Commission such conduct can proceed, after notification has been given, until the Commission decides that the conduct is not permissible. Then there are the authorisation procedures. There is the new test of the validity of or justification for this type of conduct. That is provided in proposed new section 90. The Commission must weigh whether the arrangement, contract, understanding or whatever it is is likely to result in a benefit to the public and whether that benefit would outweigh the detriment to the public constituted by any lessening of the competition that would result. Firstly, there is now by notification the right actually to enter into that arrangement and to carry it on until the Commission stops the conduct. As Senator Tehan recognised, there is the authorisation procedure. There is now this very much more realistic test of justification for that conduct- it is set out in the proposed new section- compared with the previous section which was much more difficult to implement.
asked about manufacturers warranties. I am unable to give him a direct answer in relation to the Australian Capital Territory ordinance on manufacturers warranties.
– Or what it means.
-Senator Wright says: ‘Or what it means’. I was about to inform the Senate that all senators, including Senator Wright, will have the opportunity to debate legislation on this matter, because it is the intention of the Minister to bring forward in the near future legislation on the subject. A draft Bill has been prepared and is being circulated at the moment among those sections of the community which would be interested in it. No doubt in due course there will be an opportunity for the Senate, Senator Wright in particular, to debate the matter. I think I have covered the major points raised by honourable senators in this debate. I hope I have. I thank all honourable senators who have taken part in it. I feel that the Government has given ample opportunity to the Senate as well as to the Parliament to debate this most important legislation. No doubt we will proceed to a further discussion of the subject during the Committee stage. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– The question is:
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– Was not an amendment moved?
– An amendment has not been moved.
– I have an amendment which I thought should be moved after the vote on the second reading had been taken.
– This is the second reading stage. Do you wish to oppose the second reading?
– I am sorry. If it is the appropriate time to move the amendment, I will move it now. However, I think that it is not the appropriate time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Condor L. Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I move:
– I second the motion.
That the morion (Senator Button’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Condor L. Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clauses 1 to 19- by leave- taken together.
– As I said in the second reading debate, many of the issues I will raise in Committee will be raised for the purpose of clarity and not necessarily by way of criticism. This Bill extends far beyond the knowledge of a layman, but I think we have a responsibility to know what it means before we vote on it. Section 4 of the principal Act is amended, by means of clause 5 (o), as follows: by omitting sub-sections (2 ), ( 3 ) and (4) and substituting the following sub-sections:
Paragraph (a) of proposed sub-section (2) of section 4 reads: a reference to engaging in conduct shall be read as a reference to doing or refusing to do any act, including the making of, or the giving effect to a provision of, a contract or arrangement . . .
Paragraph (b) of the proposed sub-section reads: a reference to conduct, when that expression is used as a noun otherwise than as mentioned in (a), shall be read as a reference to the doing of or the refusing to do any act, including the making of, or the giving effect to a provision of, a contract or arrangement -
I am wondering why there is the necessity for change here. Is the change designed to permit the section to encompass such a thing as is envisaged in proposed section 45D? I want to develop 2 arguments. One relates to the application of the word ‘person’ in proposed section 45D and the other to bringing employees within the ambit of the Act. If the legislation does bring employees within the ambit of the Act it will not be only proposed section 45D that will apply to trade unionists; the whole Act will apply to trade unionists.
– It states ‘persons’ now, not employees’.
– It is wider than employees.
– Yes, it refers to ‘persons’. I am referring to the question of employees because of the trade union significance. I am concerned as to whether engagement for employment is a contract of employment entered into between employer and employee. Is this aspect covered by this definition? Does the contract of employment bind someone to the Trade Practices Act, or are we in a position where people cannot leave employment if that would deprive the employer of certain benefits?
Let me refer to the Act, with your permission, Mr Chairman, for the purpose of developing the matter of the application of provisions to individuals. I am wondering whether persons, as individuals which includes trade union members, are bound by the whole Act. Section 82 of the Act states:
A person who suffers loss or damage by an act of another person thatwas done in contravention of a provision of Part IVorV -
Part IV is significant now- may recover the amount of theloss or damage by action against that other person.
– What section is that?
-Section 82 of the Act. This would appear to apply to what Senator Wright was talking about yesterday, namely, a civilian action against a person for doing an act in breach of section 4 and proposed section 45d- the trade union part of the Bill. The Act provides for a fine of $50,000 in the case of an individual or $250,000 in the case of an organisation. A penalty also can be imposed under section 82 of the Act upon a union or an individual. The escape clause in proposed section 45d does not prevent the operation of section 82 of the Act. So, a person who has been damaged as a result of a decision to stop work or to take proceedings against a firm can prosecute any person involved in taking that decision or those proceedings to recover the amount of the loss or damage. In the debate on the Industrial Relations Bureau legislation in the other House, Clyde Cameron said that $22 8m was involved in some action at General Motors-Holden’s Ltd which possibly could be recovered from each and every one of the company’s servants. This is what I am asking the Minister about. The other provision relating to how much an individual is involved is clause 45. It states:
Before section 76 of the Principal Act the following section is inserted in Part VI:- “75b. A reference in this Part to a person involved in a contravention of a provision of Pan IV or V -
That refers again to the trade unions- shall be read as a reference to a person who-
Surely an industrial dispute that creates a contravention must include the shop steward who has advised other members. It could well include agitation by someone in a discussion over a pint of beer in the pub at night. The proposed new section 75B refers to a person who has aided, abetted, induced, whether by threats or promises or otherwise, the contravention, and so on. We are creating situations which are dangerous for the individual. Of course it is very pertinent now because the trade union movement is involved in the question. All these matters have to be cleared up. I am concerned about proposed sub-section (2) of section 4, which is set out in clause 5. I wonder whether this is the commencment of roping in all persons. Previously the legislation envisaged only people supplying goods or service to a corporation. The new legislation may go far beyond that.
-The definition of ‘engaging in conduct’ is not a new definition. It is made up of two old definitions, one of ‘conduct’ and one of ‘engaging in conduct’, in existing section 4 of the Act. The Trade Practices Act applies only to persons who have aided and abetted- Senator Cavanagh read the relevant provision- to corporations, or to persons in the Territories. Of course there was an application of the Act to the Territories within the constitutional power. Senator Cavanagh ‘s other point concerned the claiming of damages against persons under proposed new section 82, which is related to clause 45. The clause is not before the Committee at this stage, but as the question has been asked about it I will answer it now. We must refer to sub-section (6) of proposed new section 45D. It excludes from liability any persons who are members of an organisation of employees which engages in conduct in conceit with members in contravention of the proposed new section. Members of the organisations are not liable either to penalties or to recovery of damages under proposed new section 82. The only application proposed new section 45D would have to persons would be to persons who were not members of an organisation engaged in the conduct.
Clauses agreed to.
Clause 20 (Commission to comply with directions of Minister and requirements of the Parliament).
-I take exception to the shoulder note to this clause. I have no doubt it is there by accident, but it is most misleading. I find nothing in the clause that states the requirements of the Parliament. The objection to the clause is that it is devoted exclusively to speaking about directions from the Minister. The shoulder note reads:
Commission to comply with directions of Minister and requirements of the Parliament.
If the clause goes through as printed, the very vice of the clause is that the Commission is required to comply with the Minister’s directions. That is the antithesis of complying with the requirements of Parliament. I expect it is a hangover from a previous section, but it is very misleading as a shoulder note. The main purpose for which I rose was to consider the justification for the clause at all. It states:
The Minister may-
give directions as to matters to be given special consideration by the Commission in determining applications Tor authorizations or in making decisions for the purposes of paragraph 93 (3) (a)or(b);
I hope that it is the correct way of putting it. I would have thought that it was section 93 subsection (3) paragraph (a) or (b). Why does the Minister have the right to give directions as to matters for special consideration by the Commission in a case of exclusive dealing, which is what I think the clause refers to? I find myself completely handicapped going through this mass of verbiage. Paragraph (b) of the clause states:
The Minister may- give directions to the Commission in connexion with the performance of its functions or the exercise of its powers under this Act, not including, except as mentioned in paragraph (a), functions or powers related directly or indirectly to Part VII.
In the first place I thought I would have to compliment the Minister for passing around a memorandum showing the old and the new proposals, but in the Bill as printed, for some reason or other, the Parts are not set out. One has to go through 13 pages of proposed sections to find in which Part they are. I hope somebody will be good enough to tell me on what page of the Bill I may find Part VII. While that is being done I ask the Committee to direct its attention to the interpretation of paragraph (b) of clause 20, which states: give directions to the Commission in connexion with the performance of its functions or the exercise of its powers under this Act -
That is a general matter so that the Minister is entitled to give directions to the Commission as to any power or function under the Act - not including -
After those words ‘not including’ there is an exception which is mentioned in paragraph (a)-
Can I be assisted by being told where I find Part VII in the memorandum?
– Page 82.
-Page 82. If I am not going to be given assistance by the Minister, I will not be constrained to exercise economy in relation to time. I have done so by remaining silent during the second reading debate. I find this heap of verbiage to be entirely disadvantageous. I am obliged to my colleagues for telling me that Part VII is to be found on page 82. That deals with authorisations, notifications and clearances in respect of restrictive trade practices. What is the justification for the Minister giving directions on special matters that he should take into consideration in relation to exclusive dealing? What is the justification for the Minister giving the Commission directions generally in relation to its performance under the Act? The Commission cannot be very much advantaged if it is subject to the directions of this Minister or the next Minister in regard to its functions.
– I refer to one of the matters which Senator Wright raised. The marginal note is exactly the same as that which appears in the present Act. The only part of this section 29 being amended is sub-section ( 1 ). Sub-section (2) remains as it appears in the original Act. Sub-section (3) reads:
If either House of the Parliament or a Committee of either House, or of both Houses, of the Parliament requires the Commission to furnish to that House or Committee any information concerning the performance of the functions of the Commission under this Act, the Commission shall comply with the requirement.
That sub-section remains in the Act. I think it is in that regard that the marginal note is correct.
-Senator Missen has cleared up the first point raised by Senator Wright. The other matter that he raised referred to sub-section ( 1 ) of section 29 of the Act which is to be replaced by an extended subsection.
– On what page of the memorandum does that appear?
-On page 24. Paragraph (b) of proposed new section 29 ( 1 ) is exactly the same as appears in the existing Act. The reason that it excludes mention of Part VII is that it is in that Part that authorisations are given to particular corporations or decisions are given in respect of notifications by particular corporations. It is considered to be quite inappropriate that the Minister should be giving directions to the Trade Practices Commission in making its decision in relation to particular persons. However, the power of ministerial direction in relation to the policies pursued by the Commission has always been in the Act. All that is added now is a power for the Minister to give directions on special matters of policy which the Government may wish the Commission to follow.
– I am surprised to hear the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) tell me that what is embedded in the Murphy Act is a guide to what I should accept by way of amendment. I do not. I protest. However, to be brief, I shall leave my protest as a blunt disapproval of the idea that the Minister is entitled to give directions. Ipoint out that those directions are not in relation to the policy to be provided; they are directions as to matters to be given special consideration by the Commission in determining applications of a particular type. Policy directions may be included in that, but the provision does not confine itself to that. It entitles the Minister to give directions as to matters to be given special consideration by the Commission. I regard that sort of thing as anathema.
-I ask the Minister whether, before a matter goes before the Court in respect of a contravention of section 45D, ministerial approval is required.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) The question is: ‘That clause 20 stand as printed’.
- Senator Harradine has asked for an answer to his question. Can we be provided with an answer from the Minister, or is his question to be ignored? I think other honourable senators are interested in the points raised by Senator Wright. I am interested to hear the matter fully explained.
-I can only put the question that the clause stand as printed, and if no one rises to speak the question is decided.
– I was about to get to my feet when Senator Bishop rose. I was discussing the matter with my advisers. Honourable senators are pretty triggerhappy at the moment. The situation is that proposed section 45d does not provide for a procedure of conduct. Any breach of the provision would go before a court, as I am advised.
– I am still not clear on the point I raised. Am I to understand, as I was previously given to understand elsewhere, that really there still will be ministerial control over the operation of proposed section 45d? I know that we are dealing with clause 20 of the Bill which provides that the Commission is to comply with the directions of the Minister and the requirements of the Parliament. I was given information elsewhere that the provisions of proposed section 45 d would not operate unless approved in particular circumstances by the Minister. Can I be informed whether that is the situation or whether any other person who complains of action taken contrary to proposed section 45d will be able to take the matter to the Court?
– I think Senator Harradine has been misinformed in relation to that matter.
– I was informed by the Minister.
-Well, perhaps he misunderstood the Minister; I do not know. The fact is that what he has just said is not correct.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 21 to 24- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
– Included in clause 25 is proposed section 45D. The clause covers many pages of the Bill. The matter that needs clarification appears in sub-clause ( 1 ) of proposed section 45D, which reads:
Subject to this section, a person shall not, in concert with another person, engage in conduct that hinders or prevents the supply of goods or services by a third person to a corporation . . .
So 2 people have to be involved under this provision; there has to be a minimum of 2 people involved each time. The exemptions are contained in sub-section (3) of proposed new section 45D. Sub-section (3) states:
A person shall not be taken to contravene, or be involved in a contravention of, sub-section ( 1 ) by engaging in conduct where-
the dominant purpose for which the conduct is engaged in is substantially related to-
the remuneration, conditions of employment, hours of work or working conditions of that person or of another person employed by an employer of that person; or
an employer of that person having terminated, or taken action to terminate, the employment of that person or of another person employed by that employer;
If the dominant purpose is what we generally know it to be- that is, wages and conditions of employment- then the organisation and the person would escape any penalty. Senator Ryan mentioned some cases this morning. If the people in a workshop were to take industrial action to influence the employer to install a child minding centre or creche in his factory, would that be covered by the exemption? Would action taken over non-union membership be covered by an exemption? The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) said earlier that it was ridiculous to mention the situation of people sitting down in a street to protect the trees in the street. But if demonstrating in this way to protect the trees in the street hindered or prevented the supply of goods or services in that area, as stated in sub-section (1) of proposed new section 45D, as such an action would not fall within the exemptions contained in sub-section (3) would it not constitute a breach of proposed new section 45D? Sub-section (4) of proposed new section 45D states:
The application of sub-section ( 1 ) in relation to a person in respect of his engaging in conduct -
We know the definition given for ‘conduct’- in concert with another person is not affected by reason that sub-section (3) operates to preclude the other person from being taken to contravene, or to be involved in a contravention of, sub-section ( 1 ) in respect of that conduct.
But I am more concerned with sub-section (5), which states:
If two or more persons (in this sub-section referred to as the ‘participants ‘) each of whom is a member or officer of the same organization of employees (being an organization that exists or is carried on for the purpose, or for purposes that include the purpose, of furthering the interests of its members inrelation to their employment engaged in conduct in concert with one another, whether or not the conduct is also engaged in concert with other persons, the organization shall be deemed for the purposes of this Act to engage in that conduct in concert with the participants, and so to engage in that conduct for the purpose or purposes for which that conduct is engaged in by the participants, unless the organization establishes that it took all reasonable steps to prevent the participants from engaging in that conduct.
This means that in a factory if an employee in concert with another employee- only two of them- were to engage in conduct which constituted a breach of proposed new section 45D the organisation and not the 2 employees would be responsible and would be prosecuted in accordance with the Act unless a defence could be put up that the organisation took all reasonable steps to prevent the participant from engaging in that conduct.
I venture to say that at the time the 2 participants were engaging in the conduct the organisation would not have known even that the participants contemplated engaging in that conduct, let alone that they were engaged in conduct which consituted a breach of proposed new section 45D. Obviously, because the organisation would have no reason to do so, it would not take any steps, whether reasonable or unreasonable, to prevent such conduct. Yet the legislation states that the organisation would be responsible. Do we have to have an educational system which includes teaching individuals the obligations involved in membership of a union? Will individuals have to know a code of conduct which they must follow before they are accepted as members of a union? Continuing through the Bill, despite what the Minister said, sub-section (6 ) (c) of new section 45D states:
If the organisation is not a body corporate-
I think section 77 relates to the Attorney-General recovering a debt on behalf of Australia and section 80 relates to injunctions- against an officer or officers of the organization as a representative or representatives of the members of the organization and a proceeding so instituted shall be deemed to be a proceeding against all the persons who were members of the organization at the time when the conduct was engaged in;
So if an official of a union is prosecuted every member of that union is thereby prosecuted, with whatever complications might result from that.
Sub-section (6) (c) (ii) states: sub-section 76 (2) does not prevent an order being made in a proceeding mentioned in sub-paragraph (i) that was instituted under section 77;
Then sub-section (6) (c) (v) states: for the purpose of enforcing any judgment or order given or made in a proceeding mentioned in sub-paragraph (i) that is instituted under section 77 or 82, process may be issued and executed against any property of the organization or of any branch or part of the organization, or any property in which the organization or any branch or part of the organization has, or any members of the organization or of a Branch or part of the organization have in their capacity as such members, a beneficial interest, whether vested in trustees or however otherwise held, as if the organization were a body corporate and the absolute owner of the property or interest but no process shall be issued or executed against any other property of members, or against any property of officers, of the organization or of a branch or part of the organization.
Perhaps some of our legal personalities could decipher that and tell us what it means. I gather it means that proceedings can be taken against a member- I am concerned now with a memberwho has any property or any entitlement as a result of being a member of the organisation, but that the member’s private bank account cannot be seized or his house sold for the purpose of paying a debt for which the organisation has been prosecuted.
I am concerned with many things other than wages and conditions that trade unions offer to their membership as ancillary benefit. My organisation had a mortuary fund in which every member had an interest and to which he had an entitlement upon death. Would that be sacrificed? Would a member have to forgo such an interest which he obtained as a result of his membership of a union? Other retirement pensions could be offered by unions. A union could have a credit union available exclusively to members of that union; membership of that credit union would not be open to anyone who was not a member of the union. How far will this sub-section of proposed new section 45D go to recover a penalty from an individual member? It is regrettable that the Minister does not seem to be paying much attention to my remarks. I hope that he heard me and that he can answer my questions.
– I do not want to delay the Committee for too long, but I want to deal briefly with the objections which Senator Cavanagh has to proposed section 45d (5). I refer him to proposed section 45d ( 1 ), which is where the offence is created. One must look at that proposed sub-section in context and read it to the point where it says that a prosecution under that sub-section can not be thought of or initiated in any way unless the conduct is engaged in for the purpose, and would have or be likely to have the effect, of causing substantial loss or damage to the business of the corporation. What has to be proved is that substantial loss or damage has occurred. It does not mean a minor loss. Obviously, for this sort of boycott to be engaged in successfully, substantial interference must take place with the day to day operations of the company. Obviously, it could not be done by one or two people; it would have to be a concerted effort by a number of people.
The same point applies in relation to proposed section 45d (1 ) (b), which refers to a substantial lessening of competition in any market in which the corporation or a body corporate that is related to the corporation supplies or acquires goods or services. One of those things must be proved before proposed section 45 d (5) can be invoked. It envisages major disruptive conduct by a number of people to achieve that result. If the result of loss or damage to the business or lessening of competition in a substantial way does not follow, there is no offence under that section.
– I think that Senator Tehan ‘s experience with companies has been in the board room, not on the job. Two key employees on the job can paralyse a whole factory.
– They ought to be prosecuted if they take that sort of action and muck up the machinery.
-The fact is that they are not prosecuted. The union, which knew nothing about it, is prosecuted. The union may have been against the proposal or may not have supported it. It may have known nothing about it. The union is summonsed and prosecuted. I am envisaging the case where a person has been found guilty under proposed sub-section (1). Senator Tehan should not say that 2 people cannot paralyse a whole factory. It has happened. If two or more people acted for the purpose and had the effect of causing substantial loss or damage to the company, that is covered by this proposed section. I have recited the proposed section, which will enable the company to recover damages.
– The Bill states: ‘would have or be likely to have ‘, not actually has had.
-Yes, ‘or be likely to have’. I think that is an expression of intent more than anything else. But the organisation is prosecuted. By prosecuting the organisation every member of the organisation is prosecuted. If the situation arose where there was a prosecution against a group of employees of General Motors-Holden’s Ltd in South Australia, the prosecution possibly could be taken against members of the Vehicle Builders Union in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. I expected the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack), rather than a back bencher, to respond to my questions. My questions related to the power to take any property or money of the individual which he has obtained as a result of his membership of the union. How far can this go?
– The mortality fund.
– I mentioned superannuation funds and mortality funds. It could be a sickness fund to which the individual has belonged. I envisage the case where it could even be a credit union run by the organisation concerned.
– I rise again because I bought into this debate and I want to answer Senator Cavanagh ‘s further objection. I refer to proposed sub-section (5) which states:
It is quite obvious that, if the organisation knew nothing of the conduct of two employees engaging in sedition in the plant and causing major damage to it, the organisation could not be prosecuted under that sub-section, because it would have known nothing about it.
-I regret that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) has left the conduct of this argument to Senator Tehan ‘Q.C, who has really provoked me.
– He is doing well.
– If the view is that he is doing well, perhaps he should go a little further. I refer to proposed section 45D (5), which has been the subject of the debate between Senator Cavanagh and Senator Tehan. I would be helped if I could have some better understanding of what ‘all reasonable steps’ taken by an organisation means. That sort of terminology is used in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in relation to rules of organisations. I wonder whether the same kind of thing is envisaged by that expression in that proposed sub-section of the Act. That, of course, is nothing more than a lawyer’s paradise and an evasive trade union official’s delight, if he wants to get around the provisions of that proposed section. In using the word ‘evasive’, I am not implying that any trade union official would intentionally be evasive; but he might, of course, take steps to protect the interests of his organisations, as he saw them, which were not regarded as ‘ all reasonable steps ‘ having regard to the provisions of this proposed section.
While I am on my feet I should like to make one or two other observations about proposed section 45D. The Opposition’s general objection to this proposed section has been particularised in various ways and in relation to various points. I suppose that from the point of view of the Parliament we would say that our objection to proposed section 45D is that it is not going to work. So, it is not desirable in the interests of the community that this proposed section be included in this legislation. I want to make one p articular comment about what seems to me to b e the very clear purpose of it. It relates to the provisions of proposed section 45D (1) (a). The action in concert referred to in proposed subsection (1) has to have the effect of causing substantial loss of damage to the business of the corporation.
-No. It states: ‘. . . for the purpose, and would have or be likely to have . . . ‘
-All right; I am grateful to Senator Wright. But the point I am making is not altered by the interjection.
– The damage is not an actuality; it is a potentiality.
-Yes, I appreciate that and I am grateful for the correction. Of course, the purpose of this legislation, as one sees it in its totality, is to prevent action which is detrimental to competition or fair trading. This is the purpose of the whole legislation. In proposed section45D the purpose is to prevent action which is in any way inimical to the interests of a business or corporation. That is a different purpose from the purpose of the whole legislation. That, of course, goes to the crux of the objection to the presence of proposed section 45D in the legislation. It may not be action under proposed section 45D which in any way has the effect of being detrimental to competition or fair trading, but it can be action which causes or has the potentiality to cause substantial loss or damage to the business of the corporation. The connection with the dominant purpose of the legislation in terms of competition and fair trading is particularised in this provision down to the provision in 45D ( 1) (a). It does not follow that that son of action which is covered by sub-clause (l)(a) would have effect on the whole question of competition.
The other couple of points which I wanted to mention in relation to this matter refer to the question of the difference between the expression purpose’ and ‘dominant purpose’ in sub-clause (3) which is the exemption provision. Sub-clause (3) provides that a person will not be taken to have contravened the main provisions of this clause if the dominant purpose for which the conduct is engaged in is substantially related to several things which are set out in the sub-clause. Basically, they are the things which the Government likes to regard as being the normal subject matter of industrial relations- the remuneration, conditions of employment, hours of work or working conditions of the person or of another person employed by an employer of that person, and so on. Of course they are, with respect, very narrow exemptions when one has regard to the totality of industrial activity which may occur.
The exceptions in that provision would involve a good deal of complexity over determining what is, for example, the remuneration of employees. Does it include, for example, matters which affect the money value of one’s earnings? Does it include the Medibank levy? Does it include any matters relating to taxation? Does it include all sorts of questions which may arise about remuneration such as ancillary payments? Those are the sorts of difficulties which are seen in that type of expression. The phrase ‘conditions of employment contains the same sort of vagueness as to what it means. It is a very wide head. What about matters such as superannuation, manning disputes and demarcation disputes? Do they fall within the question of ‘conditions of employment’? Seven per cent of the industrial disputes which occur in Australia are demarcation disputes. They should be got rid of. They are like level crossing accidents. Most of them could be got rid of if the Government adopted a proper approach towards union amalgamation. Instead of dealing with them in the proper area of industrial relations it is now sought, presumably, to include them in the provisions in this legislation. So those are the sorts of questions which arise about the sorts of exemptions which may be considered.
Take the expression ‘working conditions’. That can be interpreted quite narrowly as relating to pure physical working conditions within the work place. If it is interpreted narrowly it cannot possibly relate to questions of travel to and from the work place or to all sorts of ancillary benefits which go with the modern corporation and which in another context honourable senators opposite would say were desirable in terms of conditions of employment. So all these things in the exemption provisions are most unsatisfactorily defined. They are in my view, as I said before, a lawyer’s delight and cause for great dissention in terms of the administration of this provision. But they are only illustrations which I have tried to give. I repeat the point which I made at the beginning, that is, the clause will not work. The Government has been told it will not work, and if it has to learn by experience that is something we can all wait for over the next few months.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– We are dealing with clause 25. Senator Tehan and I seem to be having a polemic discussion across the chamber about the questions I raised. He has said on each occasion that I was wrong. I have never suggested that I might be right about anything. I was only asking the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) for clarification of matters. Instead of letting the Minister reply, Senator Tehan took it upon himself to reply. I take his action to be a vocal condemnation of an elected Minister, such as I have never heard before. I suppose if he thinks that he is a greater legal authority than the Minister I ought to be pleased that he has taken the trouble to reply instead of leaving me with what he considers to be the inferior comments of the Minister. The only disadvantage with Senator Tehan ‘s advice was that on each occasion he was wrong.
In my first contribution I dealt with how 2 people could engage in conduct which would be in breach of section 45D. His reply on that occasion was that that was impossible. I then brought into the question my knowledge of shop floor happenings. On the second occasion he gave it away and, by not proceeding to answer, suggested that I may be right. But he then said that the organisation is exonerated because it has to take reasonable steps. If it can show that it has taken reasonable steps to prevent the action of 2 people it is a complete defence. I cited the case of 2 people- it could be more than two- acting in a way which would bring them in breach of subsection (1) of section 45d without the union knowing anything about it. Not only did the organisation not take reasonable steps, it took no steps because it knew nothing about it. So how in the name of providence could it plead the only defence available under this section; that it took reasonable steps, when it took no steps? So once again I have not the confidence in Senator Tehan ‘s legal advice that he has in himself. I would prefer the Minister to answer.
If the Minister answers and is then found to be wrong he as the Minister in charge is responsible. I do not know whether one could blame him too much. If the organisation knew nothing about the action, ignorance is no defence in law, so that defence cannot be put up. The Minister said that he would have a look at the matter during the suspension of the sitting for dinner and try to provide me with some answers.
- Senator Cavanagh has raised several matters relating to proposed new section 45D. I thought that Senator Tehan answered some of the points raised by Senator Cavanagh very effectively. I do not see any point in having a Committee debate which is simply a session where the Minister is asked a series of questions. A Committee debate is a debate, and any honourable senator is welcome to take pan in it and to contribute to it. I welcome the fact that other honourable senators are taking part in the debate. That is not a matter for criticism. In his first point Senator Cavanagh expressed some concern about the liability of unincorporated organisations to have their property sequestrated to satisfy any judgments or penalties that may be obtained against them. He cited sub-section (6) (c) (v) of section 45D. He read it out. He then presented an interpretation of it which I think was correct. I do not know why he should ask me what it means. It seems to me that he interpreted it quite correctly himself.
He raised a point about certain funds of an organisation- the mortality fund was one that he mentioned or some other fund. Of course, the clause would apply only to property in which the organisation had a beneficial interest. If the organisation were maintaining a trust fund, such as the ones Senator Cavanagh mentioned, I think that it would be most unlikely that this would apply. Of course, it would depend upon the terms on which the fund had been created. Without knowing the particular facts of the case it would be very hard to apply. The intention is that it should not apply to trust funds.
Senator Cavanagh also asked what is the position with organisations taking reasonable steps to prevent participants from engaging in conduct which is in breach of section 45D. These are general words. It is a question of fact in every case. I do not think that there is any matter of interpretation or anything that may be added to what the words say. I suppose that they have been taken from another clause of industrial legislation. Senator Button asked me where they come from: I suppose that that is where they came from. These matters are questions of fact and have to be resolved in each particular case.
All I want to say generally in relation to these sub-sections of section 45D is that they were introduced to give protection to individual members of unions so that the organisation would be caught rather than the members. When there had been some interpretation of earlier versions of section 45 and individuals were affected there was great objection to that. This is meant to be a limiting provision. Justice must be done to organisations as well as to individuals, but the Government believes that the way in which it has gone about it in providing a defence to an organisation- that it takes reasonable steps to prevent the conduct from occurring- is fair and it would have to be decided on the facts of every case. It is provided that the courts shall interpret these matters, and the Government has full faith in the courts doing so fairly and justly.
– I do not wish to trade off my restraint in the second reading debate by any bid to be heard with tolerance because of the undue tediousness in Committee. Although I restrained myself from speaking in the second reading debate, I want to make one or two preliminary observations on this clause. I remind Senator Harradine of the context of the Sherman Act, which was the original parent from which Senator Murphy’s 1974 Bill was derived. The Sherman Act was interpreted by the Supreme Court of the United States as covering boycotts of this character as restraint of trade only in 1909. It took a struggle of 25 years of interpretation-
– You confuse 2 totally different systems. There is no arbitration system in the United States. That is the point.
-Of course there is not. That is completely immaterial. The point is the principle of the legislation. In the Danberry Hatters case the union sought to secure a closed shop. It began a campaign in 1897. It was so effective that by 1903, 187 concerns were operating under closed shop conditions, with only 12 firms producing hats remaining non-union by 1903. No doubt that was using the means which were the sole means of which Senator Harradine has had experience, namely coercion. To a considerable extent, these results were obtained with the aid of highly organised boycotts against hats made under non-union conditions- the point put by Senator Harradine. The Danberry firm of Loewe and Co. was asked by union officials to operate under closed conditions. It was refused, and 250 employees went out on strike at the call of the union. The union soon initiated a secondary boycott against the firm’s products. It found out to whom the company’s goods were sent and then set out all around the country to boycott the market of the firm.
I need not go into the details. Loewe and Co., the company against whom the boycott was directed, filed a suit. In a unanimous judgment, after a terrific travail of litigious controversy, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the effect of the union boycotting the goods of the employer as against other firms was a restraint of trade that was struck down by the Sherman Act. We know that after that legislation was passed in 1913 it was thought to ameliorate the situation. It failed. Roosevelt was elected in 1931 and gave the carte blanche to unions to go their hardest. Such was the situation immediately after the war that there were 6 million people or more unemployed because of strikes. The Taft-Hartley Act was brought in. Lest it be thought that I am taking too much time, let me remind this Senate that the United States Senate committee inquiring into that Act took 56 days, if I remember correctly, to debate the provisions of that Act. One of the provisions was prohibition against secondary boycotts. It was defined in about 20 words, as distinct from this long convolvulus self-defeating clause in the Bill.
I rose because I thought this was a wonderful initiative on the part of the Government. It illustrates how the trade union movement, if properly enlightened, has no need to resort to combined boycotts which Senator Harradine, as presiding officer of the Trades Hall council, would arrange, by which the various unions operating labour supply to the target corporation would boycott the goods of the corporation. In Tasmania there could be established immediately a wages board for the flour industry. I have no doubt that in another State, which has an industrial court, he could go immediately to that court. If the industry were under federal jurisdiction, the jurisdiction of the court is so wide that it would take cognisance of a dispute between employer and employees although the issue was not related to the wages which the employees got from the respondent but the wages which other employees outside that immediate issue were getting in the industry. I say that in the hope that I can secure the interest of Senator Harradine so that we can debate these matters on a basis of mutual recognition. There is not a monopoly of experience and knowledge on one side of the scale. Senator Wriedt ignorantly interjected that he was in the trade union movement and that he knows more than -
-(Senator DrakeBrockman) - Order! Order! Senator Wright, I do not think you should go that far.
-I withdraw the remark. I say this: Senator Wriedt unfortunately interjected that he has more experience of trade union conditions than we ever dreamed of. I was lecturing on this subject probably when other members of this chamber were in their knickerbockers and before they ever earned a penny. I demand the right to have a little knowledge understood. Who would justify this boycott to which Senator Harradine referred?
– He would lose you at any time on these matters.
-I know that.
– That is why he did the job that he did.
-That is why you excluded him.
– I did not.
-Despite all your impotent endeavours, your excruciating Caucus expelled him. In an endeavour to bring secondary boycotts into the rule of law so that justice as between all persons operating boycotts, including unions and employees, shall be done, the Government introduced this clause. Unfortunately, it is like Senator Wriedt ‘s Government- it is ramshackle. It will fail. We are in duty bound to point out the limitations of the clause so that the Government will consider immediately whether there is anything in the contribution that I am offering which would make the clause purposeful.
I draw the Committee’s attention to a few matters. The first is proposed new section 45D. It states:
Subject to this section, a person shall not . . .
I am told that we rely for our understanding of what ‘a person’ means on the definition in the Acts Interpretation Act which states:
In any Act, unless a contrary intention appears- person ‘ shall include a body politic or corporate as well as an individual.
So in the proposed new section a ‘person’ is dependent upon that connotation. The proposed new section states: a person shall not, in concert with another person, engage in conduct that hinders or prevents the supply of goods or services by a third person to a corporation, . . .
So, there is an immediate antithesis between person’ and ‘corporation’. The Acts Interpretation Act definition applies only unless a contrary intention apears. So, when one considers a person, as opposed to a corporation, one refers to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. These organisations registered under the Act become quasi-corporations. Section 136 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides:
Every organisation registered under this Act shall for the purposes of this Act have perpetual succession and a common seal, and may purchase take on lease hold sell lease mortgage exchange and otherwise own possess and deal with any real or personal property.
That is the language upon which we depend for an industrial organisation to be considered as a corporate body. It is incorporated only for the purposes of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
I return to proposed section 45D. of the Trade Practices Act, and I find that the prohibition is against a person operating to restrict supplies to or to interfere with the acquisition of goods by a corporation, called appropriately the target corporation. That is a situation in which it is immediately an offence for a person to do that on the basis that a person, I take it, includes a corporate body- a quasi-corporate body which is corporate only for the purposes of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I mention also- I will come to other matters in a minute- proposed sub-sections (5) and (6) of the Act. The latter proposed sub-section contains 3 paragraphs, one of which contains 5 sub-paragraphs. There I pray forgiveness for my want of understanding. I am in search of understanding- if the debate is to be of any purpose- because, once one finds an organisation of labour, whether or not it be quasi-corporate, or the members of an organisation in breach, one finds immediately that there are exemptions created if the interference with the other person’s trade is due to a matter substantially related to remuneration, conditions of employment, hours and so forth.
I intend to return to that if I am called again by the Chair, as I hope I may be. In the meantime, I intend to demonstrate, by reference to proposed sub-sections (5) and (6), that the Bill has travelled completely beyond any power that can possibly be considered to be contained within the corporations power of the Constitution upon which this Bill depends. Proposed sub-section
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I am unable, because of the legal questions that Senator Wright raised, to enter into that discussion. I think it needs legal consideration and I suggest to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) that, if he is not impressed with Senator Wright’s comments perhaps he should look at the legal implications of what Senator Wright has suggested. I do not want to enter into the question of the Sherman Act. I forgive Senator Wright for his reference to me when he said that he was lecturing when some sentaors were in knickerbockers.
– He did not mean you.
-Of course he did. I want to express appreciation to the Minister for replying. At last we provoked him into a reply, I am fully appreciative of that. He will see the value of his reply because he agreed that I was right, whereas Senator Tehan said that I was wrong on every question that I raised. So, there is a difference of legal opinion. I was not so much concerned with weighing the value of one legal opinion against the other. I was concerned to have from the Minister clarification of the particular clauses. While the Minister agreed with me, there is one matter on which I disagree with him. He said that the member is protected under proposed sub-section (5); the organisation of which the person is a member can be fined, but the members are protected. I think it was shown by the interjection of Senator Wright that that is incorrect. Sub-paragraph (v) of proposed subsection 6 (c) refers to: the organisation or of any branch or part of the organisation, or any property in which the organisation or any branch of the organisation has, or any member of the organisation or of a branch or part of the organisation have in their capacity as such members, a beneficial interest . . .
Therefore, the claim can be made against a member of the organisation. I think that is now beyond dispute. Such things as mortuary funds and sickness and accident funds to which Senator Bishop referred, can be confiscated. So, it is an action against individual members. This is what I have been saying from the start.
The other question concerns 2 members who decide to take action. The Minister said that I was right. I want to say now, while we have reached agreement: Let all honourable senators on the other side of the chamber realise what is contained in the legislation. I want to know how they can justify it. There is no dispute about what it applies to. I refer to 2 key members in a factory who decide to take same action against the employer for the purpose of causing him damage, whether they do cause him damage or not. That action is included under proposed sub-section ( 1 ). Although they take that action without the agreement of the union and without the support of the union, the union and every member of that union are guilty of an offence under proposed section 45d.
– But they can get out of it.
-They can get out of it if the union can establish that it took reasonable steps to prevent the members from taking that action. Senator Missen obviously was not here when I discussed the matter. If 2 members act, without the knowledge of the union, in a manner that brings them in breach of proposed section 45d the union’s only defence- and the Minister agrees with this- is that it took reasonable steps to prevent such an occurrence. But the union may have taken no steps because it did not know the act was taking place. In that case the union would have no defence and, therefore, the union and every member of the organisation would be guilty. Not only are they guilty of a breach for which they can be fined up to $250,000, but the company can take action under section 82 of the Act to recover any loss that has been incurred by the company as a result of the actions of the 2 members. Can anyone justify such legislation being in operation?
– What does ‘taking reasonable steps ‘mean?
-It is a question of taking reasonable steps, but I am not entering into the legal argument. An organisation may take no steps because it did not know about the event. It may be that the organisation knew about it but thought it was unimportant and did not intervene. An organisation cannot intervene in every dispute between every employer and employee. They intervene only when perhaps support is needed. Therefore the innocent members of the organisation are in breach of this award. This shows the sort of legislation the Government wants the Senate to endorse tonight. Where is the Government’s honour and responsibility? I suggest now that we have reached agreement on what is meant -
– Everyone is not agreeing with you. I do not.
- Senator Tehan does not agree with me. I give Senator Tehan his due; he does not agree with me. But his legal opinion is at variance with the legal opinion of the Minister, who I believe has more qualifications as a legal authority. It is a question of which opinion we accept.
– Carrying silk.
-Whether carrying silk makes one a better authority on law than not carrying silk I do not know. I am not conversant with the profession. I do not know the title of someone carrying silk.
– Do not let it confuse you.
-Perhaps the honourable senator thinks I should accept the view of the honourable senator who carries silk, but it is not something that persuades me. The Minister is not prepared to say that I am wrong. He has said: Senator Cavanagh obviously knows the interpretation. It is plain. It is the wording of the English language’. Senator Missen disagrees. There is some ambiguity in the whole clause when two legal opinions differ. Should we not straighten up the whole matter so that this does not occur? Could we reach a situation where we could write a clause into a Bill with which all legal authorities would agree, no matter how ill informed they were.
– You are the only one who has any difficulty, Senator.
-I have never known anyone with more difficulties than a legal practitioner, unless it is a member of the Liberal Party. I have asked these questions and await the
Minister’s reply. We know the ramifications of the clause. No one can justify it. For God’s sake let us do something before we enact this legislation.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Durack)- by leaveagreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Amendment Bill 1977 and the Stevedoring Industry Charge Amendment Bill 1977 being put in the one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speeches read as follows-
Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Amendment Bill 1977
This Bill is to extend the operation of the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act until 1 January 1978. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) expected to be introducing this Bill as part of a legislative package that would set before the Parliament the precise nature of the arrangements the Government proposes for the Stevedoring Industry. Because of the legislative program, however, it is simply not possible to introduce that legislation this session.
This is unfortunate for, since November of last year when the Minister outlined the Government’s position on future arrangements in the industry, a very great deal of work has been done. I intend to outline in this speech the decisions which the Government has taken. It is intended to introduce early in the Budget session the legislation which will clear the way for the introduction of new arrangements in the industry.
The Minister indicated last November that provided the industry could place before the Government a viable alternative to the present regulatory arrangements applying to the industry under the stevedoring industry legislation the Government would be prepared to discontinue its direct intervention in the industry through the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. The Minister outlined a number of requirements which the Government considered were essential to any new arrangements that might be devised by the industry. He also said that an essential first step would be to ensure that the size of the labour force in the industry was reduced to a level properly attuned to efficient stevedoring operations. Let me outline briefly for honourable senators what has taken place since November.
First of all, Mr Justice Robinson of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission chaired a conference of the parties which resulted in a special redundancy program being introduced into the industry for a limited period. Under that program which was endorsed by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission special benefits accrued to waterside workers who left the industry by the end of March this year. This resulted in some 900 men opting to leave their employment in the industry in addition to more than 300 who left the industry in 1976. Since June 1975, the number of waterside workers has been reduced by almost 3000, including 2100 who have accepted voluntary retrenchment. The cost of this in paying benefits to waterside workers has not been light. By the same token, it represents a recognition by all parties to the industry that the level of the labour force has had to be reduced. I am pleased to say that the reduction has been achieved without disruption. I shall come back to redundancy later in this speech. In December 1976, the Minister convened the National Stevedoring Industry Conference under the chairmanship of the former President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, Sir Richard Kirby. This conference was attended by representatives of the employer body covering the conventional and terminal areas, the National Industrial Council, by the Waterside Workers Federation, the Broken Hill Proprietary Co. Limited, the Australian National Line and officers of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, including a representative of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority.
In addition, the Conference invited a wide range of other parties with an interest in the industry to consult with it. Their views are reflected in the report of the Conference and obviously influenced many aspects of what the Conference put forward to the Minister. The Conference met from late December until early April and accomplished a great deal of detailed work in putting before the Minister a viable alternative to the statutory arrangements applying in the industry. I take this opportunity, Mr President, of expressing on behalf of the Minister his warm appreciation to Sir Richard Kirby for accepting my invitation to chair the Conference. He took on this task at considerable inconvenience to himself and to Lady Kirby. The report outlines a framework which would involve the industry taking responsibility for managing its own affairs.
The report will now be available publicly. It presents to the Government detailed arrangements for: Future distribution of labour within the industry; periodic adjustment of labour; procedures for the transfer of labour between employers; arrangements for the introduction of a supplementary labour scheme in the major ports in addition to that which already operates in smaller ports; consultative arrangements to allow all relevant interests to have an effective voice in the industry’s affairs; the setting up of a committee structure at the national and port levels to manage the new arrangements; adding labour to and removing it from the workforce; and improving industrial relations. These are all subjects to which the Government attaches particular importance. The Minister laid down certain requirements about them in his second reading speech of November last. The Conference spells out its proposals in detail as to all of these matters and then sets out how it believes the remainder of the total framework should be developed. It is particularly pleasing to see that the Conference placed much emphasis on preparation of the industry for the new arrangements and that already the industry has been pursuing in even more detail how the arrangements should be implemented and how both sides of the industry should obtain the best possible appreciation of what is intended. The fact that the legislation that would permit the new arrangements to operate is not now being introduced has a particular advantage in this connection. It will enable the industry to go even further in developing this all important task of preparation.
Let me make some observations about the significant features of the Kirby report. One of the most difficult problems associated with the present arrangements has been to devise a method- acceptable to all employers- of determining company quotas to ensure equitable distribution of labour between ‘operational’ employers. The aim of the Conference has been to overcome this problem. The present system whereby labour in the major ports is employed in a pool would be abolished and that labour distributed to employers in the port. It has devised a method of determining the appropriate labour strength of conventional stevedores in accordance with a mathematical formula based on labour usage over the previous 12 months. There is provision for quarterly reviews of the labour strength of conventional stevedores with adjustments according to variations in relative employment levels of the respective employers. The proposed method of determining labour strengths is designed to ensure that no employer gains an unfair advantage and that the labour is distributed equitably and in accordance with the relative volume of business. Because of their more stabilised labour requirements, the Conference has recognised the special needs of terminals and depots so that they are not included in the automatic review and adjustment of labour strengths. The Conference has recognised the special needs of Newcastle and Port Kembla. It has developed a scheme involving part of the labour force remaining in a pool administered by the employers organisation.
The Conference proposes that all surplus labour of any employer should be made available for use by all other employers in the port. This is an entirely new concept and has the full support of the principal parties, including the Waterside Workers Federation. It represents a gain of some magnitude and should result in substantial savings to the industry. The new arrangements provide for the establishment of a supplementary labour force in the major ports in addition to the existing arrangements for supplementary labour applying in the smaller pons. This availability of additional labour will go a long way towards meeting port shortages during temporary periods of increased labour requirements. In turn, this should reduce delays to vessels needing labour. In times of continuing shortages of a temporary nature the industry will also be able to increase the available hours of work of the entire workforce by the addition of an extended shift per week and the extension of all shifts to complete vessels which are to finish and sail. This represents a valuable increase in the hours of work when they are most needed.
The Conference has developed a detailed scheme for dealing with recruitment and redundancy in an orderly fashion. It has established, for example, a system of port quotas and interport transfers. In light of experience in recent years the Conference proposes that voluntary means be employed to separate surplus men from the industry. The employers, however, have reserved their right to seek compulsory redundancy arrangements when the current terms and conditions contract in the industry expires in May next year. I have already spoken of the large number of men who have left the industry by voluntary means in recent years. The Government will watch with very great interest the operation of the voluntary redundancy arrangements. The federal and port co-ordinating committees proposed by the Conference as a means of ordering relationships between the parties in the industry at the port and national levels will be essentially consultative in nature. They are intended to achieve agreement between the parties for the management of industrial affairs whilst primary responsibility for administrative arrangements rests with the employers. The Conference has recognised that, because of the nature of the matters with which these committees will be dealing, they should be established by legislation. The Government will introduce legislation to achieve this.
Of very great significance to the Government was the need to ensure improved industrial relations in the industry. It is true to say that relationship in the industry have improved significantly over the last ten years but the Government wants the industry to put even more work into this. It is pleasing to note from the Kirby report that it recommends the appointment of port conciliators whose task it will be to settle job disputes. The Conference was assisted in its consideration of this matter by Mr Justice Robinson and Commissioner Neil. The Conference recognises the need to have the port conciliators appointed by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Anyone who knows of the past history of this subject will see this as a major step forward. We will legislate to enable the Commission to appoint the port conciliators.
Throughout the report the Conference recognises the role to be played by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It accepts that with the withdrawal of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority the jurisdiction of the Commission should be widened so that it may deal with such matters as entry of labour into the industry, the transfer of labour, determining the size of the labour force, redundancy and supplementary labour forces. The Government will introduce legislation next session to widen the jurisdiction of the Commission to accommodate these matters. This will bring a new dimension to the work of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. The Government recognises what has been done by voluntary means to reduce the size of the labour force. We shall therefore include in the legislation a provision that the Commission may not award compulsory redundancy. The legislation will, however, contain a mechanism which will enable the Commission to make such an award if situations should emerge which show that the industry itself is not capable of settling issues of this nature by voluntary means.
The report recognises that there should be opportunities for interests associated with, but not directly involved in, the industry to consult with the industry and Government as to the affairs of the industry. Thus, it proposes the establishment of the Stevedoring Industry Consultative Council with broad terms of reference and wide-ranging membership going well outside the parties directly concerned in the industry. The Government has accepted this proposal in principle and the Minister will move to establish the proposed Council after proper consultation with all those interests whom the report suggests should provide the standing membership of the proposed Council. I would add that the concept of the Council is that it would not only consist of the standing members. There would be every opportunity for other interests in the community to join in the Council’s discussions as the need to do so arose.
The Government has concluded that the report of the Conference has covered adequately the matters that the Minister raised with it. The Minister believes significant gains will have been made with the introduction of the arrangements that the Conference has put forward. While the Conference was carrying out its work a consultant to the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations was also working on the proposed details of future funding in the industry. Honourable senators will be aware that by long standing legislation of this Parliament there are established central funding arrangements to meet costs associated with the operation of the industry. I refer here to the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act which imposes a tax on each manhour of employment of waterside workers with the proceeds of that tax going to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. In a detailed report, the consultant, Mr Neil Stevens, suggests a future financial framework. His report is now available as a public document.
Some of the main features of his report are that he envisages the creation of a central funding body for the industry; proposes the introduction of a levy on tonnage to secure recovery of what is commonly called the ‘industry deficit’ so that payments for long service leave may be secured; proposes that any ultimate surplus in the funds of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority should go towards reducing the industry deficit; proposes that the Authority’s financial assets and/or liabilities should be taken up by the proposed central funding body; and proposes revised man-hour levies mainly to meet obligations of employers in the smaller ports and the provision of payments by employers to the Stevedoring Employees Retirement Fund. A notable feature of Mr Steven’s report is his suggestion that there be continued central statutory funding arrangements. The Government has accepted this recommendation in the interests of public scrutiny of the large sums of money that will be involved. It therefore will legislate to set up a Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee by statute to oversight the distribution of funds to be derived from statutory levies to which I will come shortly, Mr President.
The Committee will have corporate status but its members, to be drawn from the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the Australian National Line, and the Waterside Workers Federation will not be full-time functionaries. Moreover, it will be able to make arrangements with the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour to provide the necessary administrative backing for its operations. Its accounts will be subject to scrutiny by the Auditor-General and it will be required to produce an annual report to me for presentation to Parliament together with a statement of its audited accounts. We shall also legislate in the Budget session for a revised system of stevedoring levies. These levies will be imposed on man-hours of employment for the purposes that I have outlined already and by a combination of a special surcharge on manhours as to bulk cargoes and on tonnage of cargoes handled by waterside workers in order to recover the so-called ‘industry deficit’. We will make special provision for the interstate trade by instituting a reduced rate of tonnage levy on cargoes loaded by waterside workers in connection with that trade. We shall introduce legislation to impose these levies and to govern the collection of them.
Two further pieces of legislation will need to be introduced. The first of these will be a Bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. This will be necessary to make adjustments to Division 4 of Part III of the Act which is a special division under which the Commission exercises jurisdiction as to the stevedoring industry. It is a division which now deals with the traditional areas of work of waterside workers and we propose to maintain that in the amending legislation. Thus, the special provisions of the current Stevedoring Industry Act as to certain bulk handling work and stevedoring work in ‘industrial undertakings’ will continue to be excluded from the operation of Division 4. We shall also include provisions designed to preserve the concept of the special position of the bulk handling companies which are now in the Stevedoring Industry Act. It must be emphasised, Mr President, however, that the very fact that we shall be repealing the current stevedoring industry legislation which regulates the industry will not make it possible to preserve that concept by the same legislative techniques.
I mentioned earlier that we would expand the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and that will also be done within the scope of Division 4 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It will be under this Act that we will establish the proposed Federal and Port Coordinating Committees in the industry and permit the appointment by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission of Port Conciliators. Finally, Mr President, there will be a need for legislation to repeal the considerable number of Stevedoring Industry and Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Acts that have been passed since 1956. A Bill will be introduced to achieve this, with suitable transitional arrangements included in it.
It is regrettable that time has not permitted the introduction and passage of this total parcel of legislation. However, as I have already said, it is our intention to introduce it and secure its passage very early in the Budget session. It is not expected that this will have much, if any, effect upon the introduction of the new arrangements that the Government has endorsed. Indeed, in the coming months the parties will be able to spend time on the all important task of preparation of the industry for those new arrangements and attending to the enormous amount of detailed work required. The regulatory scheme in relation to this industry has now operated for 35 years; the dismantling of it is no mean task. Every effort must be made to ensure the smoothest possible transition from the old to the new. The new arrangements must be given time to work themselves in and it would be a mistake to judge them too quickly after their introduction. Their introduction will represent a bold step. The Government will encourage them to succeed. It will therefore be watching their operation with keen attention and it will want to assess how they have performed after a reasonable interval. It is in these circumstances, Mr President, that the Government will, by appropriate means, institute a review of their operation twelve months after they have been introduced. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Stevedoring Industry Charge Amendment Bill 1977
This Bill is a companion to that to amend the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions)’ Act which I have just introduced. The Bill would extend the life of the Stevedoring Industry Charge Amendment Act 1975 until 1 June 1978 pending the introduction of the program of legislation which I have outlined in my second reading speech on the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Amendment Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3 1 May, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Senate is now debating the Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Amendment Bill 1977 which the Opposition does not oppose. I suppose the gravamen of the reasons that the Opposition does not oppose this proposal is in actual fact set out in the fourth and fifth paragraphs of the summary of the Industries Assistance Commission’s report of 30 October 1976 which was released after the IAC had inquired into the question of assistance for the consumption of phosphatic fertilisers in Australia. In those 2 paragraphs the Industries Assistance Commission’s report which was tendered to the Government states:
The availability of cheap phosphatic fertilisers has influenced the size and composition of Australian agriculture over a long period. It has served mainly to support agricultural production in southern Australia, in particular the wool-wheat-meat complex of industries. These industries are low-cost, efficient by Australian and world standards, and receive little assistance in other forms or in total. However, some high-cost industries are also assisted.
In assessing whether the Australian Government should continue to provide assistance for the consumption of phosphatic fertilisers, the Commission has considered both the economic efficiency and welfare implications.
I emphasise these words-
It has concluded, on efficiency grounds, that assistance for the consumption of phosphatic fertilisers should be continued. It has reached this conclusion on the basis of its judgment that, given the present levels and pattern of assistance to Australian industry generally and the low-cost status of the major phosphate-using activities, removal of the present assistance would lead to less efficient use of Australian resources.
Again the Opposition in offering no opposition to this proposal emphasises those words:
However, it does not favour increased assistance.
By this legislation the Government is increasing the phosphate bounty from the current rate of $1 1.81 a tonne by a mere 19c a tonne to $12 a tonne. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack), in his second reading speech, said that the action that is proposed by this legislation is in accord with what was set out in the report of the Industries Assistance Commission. But I suggest that that is not quite so. The second paragraph on the second page of the summary of the IAC report states that 2 bounty rates are recommended. These are a 20 per cent ad valorem rate on superphosphate and on phosphate rock prepared for use as fertiliser and a broadly comparable specific rate on the available phosphorus content of ammonium phosphates and other compounds or mixed fertilisers containing phosphorus. The latter would require review from time to time. So by majority the Industries Assistance Commission recommended 2 forms of bounty or 2 bounty rates. It recommended a 20 per cent ad valorem rate and a rate of $ 138 a tonne of available phosphorus content of single superphosphate. I suggest that the Government is now announcing its intention to decrease the rate of bounty that it is prepared to pay over the next 5 years. There is an analogy between this superphosphate bounty and child endowment. The rate of child endowment was fixed for the first child in about -
– I wish we got as much.
– I agree that the same sort of principle could be applied. But the rate of $ 12 a tonne for phosphate is different from the rate of 50c a child. In about 1 949 the rate of child endowment was 50c for the first child and in 1972, when the Labor Government came into office, despite the inflation that had been experienced, the rate was still 50c. What this Government is doing by fixing this rate of bounty is phasing it out by way of inflation. It is announcing now its intention to decrease the bounty over the next 5 years.
I drew an analogy between the superphosphate bounty and child endowment. I used that analogy advisedly because there is a difference between the way in which this bounty is paid and the rate at which child endowment is paid. Despite the phasing out of the bounty by way of inflation, at the same time the price of superphosphate to the Australian consumer, the Australian farmer, of necessity will continue to rise. The deposits of phosphate on Ocean Island from which we have drawn some of our supplies have now been worked out. The deposits in Nauru also will come to an end in the next 10 or 15 years. I think it is common knowledge that in order to get the mixture of superphosphate required to overcome the soil deficiencies in Australia, farmers have used a mixture of phosphate from Ocean Island, Nauru and Christmas Island. Of course the Christmas Island deposits have been worked since 1948 or 1949 when Australia acquired that Territory from the colony of Singapore, as it was then. The deposits have been worked by the British Phosphate Commission.
I suppose it is true to say that a form of indentured labour was used for the working of the phosphate deposits on Christmas Island until the advent of the Labor Government. It insisted that economic and human conditions that existed on Christmas Island should be brought up to a standard comparable with conditions that existed for Australian people on the mainland. As a result the Labor Government sent Mr Dunkley to Christmas Island to look at the education facilities. It ensured that the Christmas Island education system was brought into line with the Australian education system so that the children of workers on Christmas Island, be they Malay, Singaporean, Australian or of any other nationality, received the same education as other children received at Commonwealth expense in Australia. It uplifted the standard of living of people on Christmas Island. It set about to provide a resettlement program to allow people who had worked on Christmas Island for a period to migrate to Australia. Unfortunately that program had not come into force at the time the Labor Government went out of office. To the credit of this Government it has proceeded with that program.
All of these things are additional charges against the cost of winning phosphate from Christmas Island. At the time the Labor Government was dismissed from Government in
November 1975 it was about to appoint an arbitrator to determine an improvement in wages and working conditions for the Asian workers engaged on Christmas Island. As a result of an agreement between the New Zealand Government and the Australian Government an arbitrator was appointed. Mr Wilson, a former Conciliation and Arbitration Commissioner, made a determination that resulted in an increase of 22 per cent or 25 per cent in the wage rate paid to Asians working the phosphate deposits on Christmas Island. All the initiatives of the Labor Government resulted in an improvement in the standards, the living conditions, and the working conditions of the people who were taken from Asian countries to Christmas Island to provide a form of cheap phosphatic substance for use by the Australian primary producer. Obviously the cost of those gains in social and economic conditions on Christmas Island has to be met by the Australian consumer because, as the IAC report said, the product was provided to the Australian consumer at cost.
So, I make those statements in relation to only some of the conditions that have been achieved on Christmas Island since 1972. It is obvious ipso facto that over the next 5 years the price of superphosphate will continue to rise. Once the price has increased- I understand that another price increase is imminent- the rate of bounty automatically or obviously will not be a 20 per cent ad valorem rate as is recommended in the report of the Industries Assistance Commission, but will be something less. Then, over a period, it will be ever-decreasing. Let me ask rhetorically: Is the review that is to take place within the 5-year period, as has been suggested by the IAC, to be a review of the rate of bounty to be paid or is it to be a review of whether the bounty should continue to be paid after 1982? I think that is a question which the Government should answer for the information of Australian primary producers.
I make the point that the report containing the recommendations of the Industries Assistance Commission was not a majority report. One of the commissioners, Mr Robinson, for whom I personally have a great deal of respect, recommended the phasing out of the bounty over 2 years from the present expiry date of 30 June 1 977. If one reads page 47 of the IAC report one sees that Mr Robinson recommended that the bounty should be phased out over 2 years from its present expiry date of 3 1 June 1977.
– That is inconsistent. There is a mistake there somewhere.
-There is obviously a mistake in the printing. I merely mentioned it for the Minister’s edification and to show that I have read the report with some interest. Mr Robinson also recommended that payment for the first year should be at the current rate and on the basis existing at present and that payment for the second year should be at half the current rate. Comments were made in the report on the future of Christmas Island rock. Mr Robinson, in his minority report, concurred in the suggestions regarding research and extension work being conducted on phosphatic fertilisers.
The Industries Assistance Commission made some very interesting observations on the future operations of Christmas Island deposits on pages 41 and 42 of its report. Because I have an interest in the operations on Christmas Island, I take the liberty of referring to a couple of the paragraphs in the IAC report. The last paragraph on page 41 of the report reads:
The Charters under which the BPC and CIPC operate require that phosphate rock from Christmas Island be supplied to Australia and New Zealand at a price which covers costs of production. The ‘cost’ on which the price of Christmas Island rock is based is an accounting, not an economic, concept of cost. A proper reckoning of the cost of supplying Australia and New Zealand with this rock (i.e. its opportunity cost) is the revenue foregone by not selling it for the best price it would fetch on the open market. In the past, Australian and New Zealand users of this rock have received an implicit subsidy equal to the difference between its export parity price and its ‘ accounting cost ‘ price.
The IAC went on to say on page 42 of its report:
The Commission will recommend that no direct or indirect subsidy be paid on phosphate rock. It suggests that the Charters of the BPC and the CIPC be revised so as to require that phosphate rock and rock products obtained from Christmas Island be sold on the best commercial terms available; that sales not be restricted to Australia and New Zealand, and that profits from the Christmas Island operations be shared among the partner governments according to some agreed formula. (This would, of course, require negotiation with the New Zealand Government, and perhaps with the British Government also. The Commission suggests that, if agreement along the lines proposed cannot be reached regarding the Christmas Island operation, all possible steps be taken to achieve an equivalent situation in respect of Australia ‘s share of the island ‘s output).
– Do you generally see that as an acceptable principle?
Frankly, I think it is something that should be looked at by government, because what the IAC is saying -
– It is not much good looking at it. Do you support the idea?
– I think it should be looked at. Prima facie, I think I would support the idea. If one compares the price of phosphate rock on the international market with the price which the Australian consumer pays for it, I think it will be found that, from the point of view of it being a commercial and viable situation, the Australian community as a whole would receive far better value by disposing of that rock on the international market at the Florida price than by virtually disposing of it to the Australian farming community at a price equivalent to cost of production. The whole of the Australian community would benefit to the extent of probably millions of dollars over and above the benefit it is receiving at the present time by merely exploiting those deposits and providing phosphate to the Austraiian consumer at a price equivalent to cost of production.
In support of that argument let me cite one or two answers that I have received to questions I have placed on the notice paper. I asked the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) the following question:
What arrangements, if any, have been made between the Commonwealth Government and Broken Hill South for the export or use in Australia of phosphate from the Duchess deposits in north Queensland?
There are vast, virtually untapped deposits of phosphate rock in north Queensland which the Broken Hill South company is anxious to exploit and which it says- I know that the British Phosphate Commission and the Christmas Island Phosphate Commission are at variance with it in this regard- are suitable for use by the Australian consumer. The answer that was provided in response to my question, on 25 May 1976, was as follows:
On 1 1 September 1975 - that was at a time when the Labor Government was in office-
Broken Hill South Ltd was given approval by the Commonwealth Government to export up to 2 million tonnes of phosphate rock each year over a 10-year period. The approval to export was given subject to the company’s undertaking to give priority to making up shortfalls in supplies for the local market if that situation should arise in future.
Obviously that company was anxious to supply the Australian market. When in government we said that we would allow the export of a certain amount of this phosphate rock but, at the same time, in the event of being unable to obtain supplies of phosphate rock from Ocean Island, Nauru or Christmas Island, they would be able to give an undertaking to supply any shortfall that existed in Australia. In reply to question No. 1 72, on 25 May 1976, the Minister for Administrative Services went on to say:
There have been consultations between BH South and Government officials on the possibility of domestic use of phosphate from Duchess. No arrangements have been concluded between the Commonwealth Government and the company in this regard.
I instance that merely to indicate that 2 months before the Labor Government was dismissed from office we gave permission to an Australian enterprise, Broken Hill South Ltd, to put on the export market 2 million tonnes of phosphate rock, deposits of which are in Queensland. Frankly, I am at a loss to understand why, on the one hand, in September 1975 we were able to do that with rock found in north Queensland while, on the other hand, no attempt has been made by this Government to amend the charter that exists between the British, Australian and New Zealand governments insofar as the Christmas Island Phosphate Commission is concerned to allow the export on the international market at a Florida price of the phosphate rock that is won from Christmas Island.
I placed on the notice paper question No. 132 in which I asked what was the total stockpile of phosphate rock in Australia, the amount of phosphate rock at present in stockpile that had been imported from Christmas Island, Nauru and Ocean Island, the estimated amount of the stockpile that would be used in the calendar year 1977 and the estimated amount that will be brought to Australia in the calendar year 1977. On 29 March 1977 1 received an answer from the Minister for Administrative Services. Mr President, I seek leave to have that answer incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The answer read as follows-
From that answer it will be seen that as at 3 1 December 1975 the total stockpile of phosphate rock in Australia was 2 383 000 tonnes, the market value of which was $112,102,000. As at 31
December 1976 the total stockpile of phosphate rock in Australia was 1 686 000 tonnes, the market value of which was $73,518,000. Those figures are not small in anyone’s terms. Because of that vast stockpile which is held in Australia and because of the markets which are available abroad at a price much higher than that which is paid by the Australian consumer, I suggest that the Christmas Island Phosphate Commission and the British Phosphate Commission, which are responsible for the administration of the Christmas Island deposits, should be seeking discussions between Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand for the purpose of placing future production of phosphate rock from Christmas Island onto the export markets.
The Opposition has given great consideration to the measure which is now before the Parliament. For the reasons set out in the fourth and fifth paragraphs on page 1 of the summary of the Industries Assistance Commission report, which I enunciated, we do not oppose the proposition that is put by the Government in this legislation. However, during the Committee stage on behalf of the Opposition my colleague, Senator McLaren from South Australia, will be moving an amendment which virtually will spell out a proposal that recipients of the superphosphate bounty to the extent of over 200 tonnes should be mentioned publicly and should be set out publicly in a report to this Parliament. After all, these are public funds that are being expended. A large amount of public money is involved. We of the Labor movement believe in the simple principle that there is public expenditure and where public moneys are involved there should be public accountability. As I said, on that principle my colleague Senator McLaren will be moving an amendment during the Committee stage. Although the Opposition does not oppose the legislation, it believes that the primary producers of this country should realise that what the Government is doing is, over a period of 5 years, actually decreasing the value of the bounty that is being paid to primary producers. The Opposition does not oppose the legislation.
– More than any other single action this legislation epitomises the hypocrisy of the Fraser Government. This Government issued a directive in breach of the Social Services Act to withhold unemployment benefits from school leavers. This Government has a Treasurer (Mr Lynch) who asserts ad nauseum that public financial assistance must be restricted to the really needy. This week it has brought in legislation under which the Prime Minister (Mr
Malcolm Fraser) is a direct financial beneficiary to the extent of at least $5,000 a year and in which four or five other Cabinet Ministers have an unquantified vested interest. To support legislation which will appropriate an estimated sum of $250m over a 5-year period the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) delivered a second reading speech of fewer than 400 words. No justification for the expenditure of so large a sum was even attempted in the second reading speech. With such contempt does this Government treat the Parliament.
Disregarding the pseudo-economic gibberish of the National Country Party politicians, which will probably be added to by Senator Walters who will follow me in this debate tonight, who throw around like confetti at a wedding references to production and productivity without knowing the difference between the two, the only rationale put forward for the subsidy is found in the majority report of the Industries Assistance Commission. This report on phosphatic fertilisers was leaned upon very heavily by the honourable member for Barker (Mr Porter) and the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly) in the other place. I want to make quite a few comments about that report. It incorporates technical error, internal inconsistency and a string of ludicrous assumptions. It embraces the tariff compensation argument, which the Commission ‘s annual reports have explicity rejected. Moreover, tariff compensation was rejected in the Commission’s report on the production of gold, where the tariff compensation argument was most relevant and most valid because a direct production subsidy could have been paid and the commodity was exported- because its supply is price elastic and its production is price elastic and because the price elasticity of export demand within the context of Australian production is almost infinitely elastic. A tariff compensation based superphosphate subsidy fulfils none of those criteria.
The majority report, on which this Government rests its case, is a one-off document contradicted by everything else the Industries Assistance Commission has published on the subject of tariff compensation. Mr Robinson, an Associate Commissioner, to his great credit, dissented from the majority report. That report was signed by a former professor of agricultural economics who, ironically, made his academic reputation as a great laissez-faire free market economist. If there were a register of agricultural economists and a responsible body to maintain minimum standards of professional competence and integrity, any economist who endorsed that majority report would have his registration cancelled. It should be regarded as political and not as an economic document. In its summary at page 1, the report states:
It has concluded -
That is the majority of the Commission- on efficiency grounds, that assistance for the consumption of phosphatic fertilisers should be continued. It has reached this conclusion on the basis of its judgment that, given the present levels and pattern of assistance to Australian industry generally and the low-cost status of the major phosphateusing activities, removal of the present assistance would lead to less efficient use of Australian resources.
The Commission recognises that a fertiliser subsidy has disadvantages but assesses these to be small relative to the advantages of maintaining encouragement for the use of resources in a relatively efficient sector of the economy.
The framework within which the Commission reached these conclusions is technically wrong. The criterion it used in assessing efficiency of resource allocation is that of the average in that section of the report- of average costs and of average returns. The correct criterion to use for this purpose is marginality, that is, marginal costs and marginal returns. The Australian beef industry to demonstrate my point, on average is economically efficient even now, but at the margin it is not, partly because costs at the margin are high but more importantly because marginal production or any extra production must be dumped on world markets at well below average prices. Similar conditions apply to dairy products. In the summary of the report the 2 Commissioners who signed the report are in fact arguing that resource allocation efficiency would be improved by increasing the production of beef and, therefore, the amount dumped on export markets at very low prices.
Most of the superphosphate used in Australia, as the report notes, is used to produce four final commodities- meat, wool, wheat and dairy products. Later in its report, at page 28, the Commission belatedly addresses itself to the question of marginal prices under the heading: ‘The terms of trade’. Incidentally, it says nothing in this section about dairy production, but, with respect to wheat production, it states:
Australia’s share of theworld cereals market is relatively small. Hence, expansion or contraction of Australian supply is likely to have very little effect on export prices, and therefore on the terms of trade.
That may be correct but it ignores one important fact, that wheat deliveries were arbitrarily limited by quotas between 1969 and 1971 or 1972 and that already there is speculation about wheat quotas in 1978 or 1979.
– Who was in government in those years?
-In 1969 the LiberalNational Country Party coalition was in government. It would be absurd to subsidise fertiliser on grounds of increased wheat production, improving resources allocation and then to limit production by legislative fiat. I would have thought the absurdity of that would have been apparent even to Country Party senators and to Senator Walters although, I note in passing, such absurdities have many precedents in the history of Australian agriculture. When referring to wool, the report states:
As Australia dominates world trade in fine wool, the reverse may be true of wool.
In simple language that says that any significant increase in Australian wool production would force prices down. Under those conditions a production increase, the allocation of additional resources to the industry, might not increase an industry’s gross revenue, much less its net revenue. However, the report proceeds to speculate that since wool is an industrial raw material: the price elasticity of export demand in the longer run may be higher than suggested by available econometric studies.
In simple language, that section of the report is saying that it has evidence that more wool will force prices down in the near future, that it has no evidence about likely prices in the distant future or price changes pursuant to increases in production, but it has a hunch that prices may not fall in the distant future by so much as people think. It then decides that the correct policy response to that is that the evidence should be ignored and the hunch endorsed. When dealing with meat, the report states:
During the not infrequent periods of over-supply of meat in world markets it is usually very difficult for Australia to sell additional meat without accepting drastic price reductions.
It notes that the drastic price reductions are caused mainly by restrictions imposed by foreign governments against imports of Australian meat. However, it overcomes that problem- that problem which destroys the whole rationale for the conclusion in the report- by assuming the problem out of existence with phrases such as ‘considerations of market access aside’ and ‘presuming increased market access’. Neither evidence nor reasons are produced to explain why such assumptions have been made. In that evidence vacuum and by such processes of reasoning the majority report rationalises its politically determined conclusion.
Although the Commission stated that the bounty should not be regarded as a welfare measure it examined superficially- admittedly superficially- the welfare implications at page 34 of the report. Using data from the Bureau of Agricultural Economics it calculated that the bounty in 1973-74 increased the net incomes of the poorest 20 per cent of users by 4.3 per cent and the richest 20 per cent of farmers by 2.6 per cent. On that basis, that is of a percentage instead of an absolute effect on net income, the report asserted that the income distribution effects of the bounty were not adverse or regressive. On those figures, the bounty would increase the net income of a poor farmer with, say a $1,000 net income- and there are such farmers in some years-by $43 and the rich farmer’s $20,000 income would be increased by $520. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) apparently receives more than $5,000. That in benefit distribution, the report decided, was not regressive. That is a strange interpretation. The same data, analysed differently, shows that 20 per cent of the richest farmers get 47 per cent of the money while the 20 per cent of poorest farmers get 5 per cent of the money. That, I suggest, is regressive.
Many valid criticisms can be aimed at this legislation, not the least of which- as Mr Robinson suggested in his dissenting report- is the degree to which the commitment of so much money will pre-empt other more equitable and efficient rural assistance measures. What is the opportunity cost of this legislation? Is it more adequate assistance to the beef producers who jeered the National Country Party Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) today on the front steps of Parliament House and among whom were some Queensland producers? Few of the Queensland producers will receive any benefit from this bounty because they do not use superphosphate. Is the opportunity cost an acceptable farm income support scheme? Is the opportunity cost the Government’s non-honouring of its promise to reconstruct the new land farms in Western Australia. Has agricultural research and extension, or management training which will improve the real as distinct from the synthetic efficiency of agriculture by far more than this measure been sacrificed? Is that the opportunity cost of the appropriation of this money? Would so much money as this fund the research to develop a less phosphate hungry agricultural technology obviating the crucial dependence of Australian agriculture on an increasingly expensive and globally limited resource, as Hylda Rolfe the former presiding commissioner suggested before she was hounded off the inquiry by the Country Party politicians in this Parliament.
I know that for a fraction of the money we could extend television services to remote mining towns like Laverton in Western Australia or to Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. For just a fraction of this money television services could be provided to all such areas in Australia. I do not know the answers to the other questions, but I know that this Government has not even considered them. It has abdicated its responsibilities. On the basis of arguments, at best fragile and at worst dishonest, it gives a massive financial drench to the sacred cow of Australian agriculture. Nothing has been said by the Government about implementing any of the more rational and sensible recommendations in this report. One recommendation concerned the grossly inefficient method of distribution of phosphate to the manufacturers throughout Australia where ships criss-cross each other in the Bight carrying Christmas Island phosphate from the west to the east and Nauru and Ocean Island phosphate from the east to the west. The Government has said nothing about its intentions on that recommendation.
In the meantime we see tariffs shooting upwards rapidly under this highly protectionist Government with its highly protectionist Prime Minister. The danger of this to agriculture is perceived by the more astute farmer organisations, hence the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council in the Australian Financial Review last month offered a trade-off suggesting that the Government should wipe the superphosphate bounty in exchange for a rational tariff policy. A rational tariff policy from this Government is precisely what it will not get. This drift to increasing protectionism- it is not actually a drift; it is a slide- will compound the adverse pressures on agriculture caused by mining industry growth. As Mr Baume, the honourable member for Macarthur in an article in the May issue of Quadrant- and which Senator Webster told us yesterday was true- stated:
The facts are that, but for the mining industry, the man on the land would be facing a far better future than the dismal one he must now inevitably come to terms with.
I want to make it clear that in drawing attention to that reality which the honourable member for Macarthur has correctly stated, I am not bashing the mining industry. I am simply pointing out that a substantial structural change has occurred in the Australian economy which has intensified the cost-price squeeze on agriculture because of its effects on our balance of payments and the exchange rate of the Australian dollar. On top of those additional pressures caused by structural change it has now become perfectly clear that this Government’s protection policy will throw all the adjustment burden onto agriculture and beside that penalty a superphosphate bounty is petty cash.
-We have just listened to the usual tirade from Senator Walsh- his hate campaign. It is a wonder it does not burn him up inside. It is exactly the same speech as he gave last year- apart from the stuff that he read out from the Industries Assistance Commission report- attacking Ministers, the National Country Party and farmers generally. He is a true farmer basher.
– He is a farmer himself.
-He is no farmer! He has insulted the commissioners. He has, of course, under Parliamentary privilege insulted the commissioners of the IAC by statements that Country Party members in the other place have leant on them. I expect Senator Walsh to have the courage of his convictions when the time comes for a vote. I expect him to defy his Caucus and vote against his Party. It will be very interesting to see whether he does. However, Senator Walsh’s speech just sickens me. So I prefer to turn my attention to Senator Douglas McClelland ‘s speech. He has at least admitted that the Labor Party was wrong last year when it opposed the reintroduction of the superphosphate bounty and also I gather it considers it was wrong in abolishing it at the end of 1 974. Senator Douglas McClelland did try to start one of those rumours that we were going to phase out the superphosphate bounty- very similar to the rumour that we were going to abolish the $ 1 6 a day private hospital bed assistance. We have had these rumours; we know them well. We can only tell the public to wait to see what happens; not to take any notice of these rumours.
The history of the superphosphate bounty is very interesting to follow. It is stated here in the IAC report that superphosphate has meant a lot to the Australian agriculture industry ever since the end of the nineteenth century, and from 1 93 1 onwards except for 16 years there has been a bounty or assistance in some way. As the IAC report says, when the first Phosphate Fertilizer Bounty Act was introduced in 1963, the objects of the bounty were stated to be to encourage the most economic use of agricultural resources, stimulate pasture improvement and to help increase productivity and the expansion of rural production. Those objects are as justified today as they were in 1963. I would like honourable senators opposite to look at a few facts because these are facts, not just opinions. I mention Australian soil deficiency. We know that there are vast areas of land in Australia that are deficient not only in phosphate but also in sulphur. Senator Walsh said last year that he had no idea what soil fertility or soil health meant.
– He did not say that at all. Where did he say that?
– If you have a look at the Hansard of last year at page 1060 you will find that Senator Walsh said:
It means that Senator Walsh had no idea and has said he has no idea about soil fertility, soil health or whatever that may mean.
Page 6 of the IAC report shows that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation says there is such a thing. The report reads:
CSIRO said that, in addition to phosphorous, there was a very high incidence of sulphur deficiency in Australian soils
. Sulphur deficiency is . . . far more . . . serious than previously realised . . .
It says that sulphur deficiences are very common in soils used for pasture. The CSIRO contends that the application of artificial fertilisers, of which the phosphatic fertiliser is the most important and widely used, has greatly assisted the development of Australian agriculture. We know that there are still wide areas of bush land that would benefit from the application of superphosphate. That is one fact. The Australian soil needs it. The second fact is- I am sure that Senator McLaren will agree with me- that primary producers are and have been for some time going through rather hard times. I would like to cite a few figures of their incomes. In 1973-74 their average income was $ 1 5,902. The next year it dropped to $9,672. The next year it dropped further to $9,194. This financial year it dropped still further to $6,545, because the farmer cannot keep up with the high wages.
– Are they gross or net figures?
-They are net figures.
– Do they include interest on capital as well?
– They include interest on capital. It is their whole investment. That is what they get back for the thousands of dollars they have invested. What other business could possibly stand that declining rate of income? I would say none. Those are 2 facts. Another fact that the report stressed was that superphosphate needs a build-up if it is to do any good for the soil. A level has to be reached. This happens over several years, and if the farmer does not apply superphosphate for three or four years he may not notice much difference until there is a sudden, dramatic fall-off in productivity. It can be very deceiving. Following a lack of superphosphate, one will see a great drop in productivity after 4 years. These are not opinions; they are facts.
I am sure that all honourable senators opposite realise that we are a country of primary produce. We are primary producers first. We need fertile soil. We need it to keep our domestic prices down. We need it for our productivity. We need it also for our exports.
– But we are having problems selling our exports at profitable prices.
-That is right. The exports have gone way up in the last year, since we devalued, and the honourable senator knows it.
– And farm returns have gone down.
-That is right; but we are selling more.
– Why did the farmers come to Parliament House today?
-That was over the meat Bill. The New South Wales Department of Agriculture stated the position clearly. The IAC report states:
The New South Wales Department of Agriculture said that, on some soils in the State, farmers could reduce fertiliser application for up to 4 years- that is what I have been saying- before any marked reduction in output would be experienced.
Many other witnesses claimed that rapid deterioration followed straight after that. The report also said:
All these things are facts. Rural industries have made and are still making a large and valuable contribution to Australian exports. Where would Australia be without them? The IAC report stressed that the bounty should be continued for the best and most efficient use of Australia’s resources. This is because assistance should go to the least costly of the industries. We find these industries mentioned on page 26 of the report.
The major phosphate-using industries are the cereals, wheat, wool, sheepmeat, beef and dairy products industries. The greatest of them is wheat.
The report then goes on to explain that they are the least costly of all Australian industries. It says that the beef industry is assisted at the rate of 4 per cent, and the wheat industry at between 5 per cent and 10 per cent. Assistance to the wool industry also is very low, but the figure for that industry is not given. Evidently the IAC had its difficulties. The only industry which received a high rate of protection was the dairy industry, with a rate of assistance of 40 per cent; but the report pointed out that the dairy industry used only 10 per cent of phosphatic fertiliser anyway. Let us compare that with the rates of assistance for other industries in Australia. The automobile industry has an effective protection rate of 42 per cent- roughly the same as the dairy industry. However, the shipbuilding industry goes up to 74 per cent and the clothing industry to 7 1 per cent. So, I do not feel that the rural industries are doing very well when compared with those other industries. I think most farmers will agree that they are the only people in Australia who sell on the wholesale market but buy on the retail market.
I turn now to the prices of superphosphate in the past few years. I will take the price rises during the period of the bounty from 1964 onwards. In 1964 the bounty was $5.9 1 a tonne and the average cost to the farmer was $13.65, the bounty being 30 per cent of the total cost of superphosphate.
– That was in the preWhitlam days.
– They were well preWhitlam days.
– Oh !
-Just be patient and I will tell the Senate what happened in the Whitlam days. That was in 1964. Ten years later, in 1974, the bounty had risen to $1 1.81 and the average price to the farmer was still only $15.87. The bounty was 42.7 per cent of the total cost. That was still quite reasonable. Six months later, on 1 July 1974, the price had more than doubled. The bounty was still $1 1.81; but the price to the farmer had risen from $15.87 to $35.23. It had risen by over 120 per cent. The bounty was then 25.1 per cent of the total cost. Six months later, at the end of 1974, the price went up nearly another $18. The price to the farmer then was $54.78. In a year it had gone from $15.87 to $54.78. It was then that the Labor Government decided to abolish the bounty.
– That is right; in the face of all those historic rises.
-Thank you very much. So, at the end of 1974 the farmer was paying $54.78 a tonne, with no bounty at all. At the end of 1975, when we came into office farmers were paying $64.50 a tonne for superphosphate. We reintroduced the bounty. I think that it is not enough at the present rate of $11.81 a tonne. Farmers are still paying $52.28 a tonne and the bounty is 1 9.6 per cent of the total price.
Naturally, the rate of consumption has fallen. In 1973-74, 4.1 million tonnes were used. In 1975-76, the amount had dropped to nearly half. It was 2.5 million tonnes. It would have been less if we had not brought in the bounty half way through the year, because 1.8 million tonnes was attributed to the bounty being paid. In Tasmania, in 1973-74, 180 000 tonnes were used. In 1975-76, 58 000 tonnes were used. What would such a reduction in the use of superphosphate do to the soils of Australia? There would be no growth. We would not be able to use our bushland. The soil would no longer be fertile. It appears to me that the 4 Labor senators who are present are ridiculing this Bill.
– We are not.
-Yes, you are. You are poking fun at the plight of the farmers. It would be most interesting to know what the farmers think of your attitude. You are poking fun at this Bill and carrying on as if it were a big joke. I am quite sure that if you were in the position in which they are- if you watched your income fall from $15,000 to $6,000-you would not be sitting there poking fun. You would be feeling a little sorry for yourself and attempting to do something about the position. The bounty to the average farmer is worth $470 a year. Compare that with the position in other industries in New South Wales. They are not doing so well. Senator Walsh talked about the bounty to the poorer farmers being equal to 4 per cent of their net income and about the upper three-fifths of farmers getting back 2.5 per cent. He can twist those figures around to show that the wealthier farmers are doing much better than the poorer ones. I cannot imagine how he can do that, but he is quite capable of doing anything along those lines.
The efficiency of rural industry cannot be disputed. I do not think honourable senators opposite are attempting to do so. If one refers to the
IAC report one finds that even by world standards our industries are doing very well. They are very efficient industries. A lot of experimentation is going on in respect of lower grade rocks, particularly the C grade rock from the Christmas Islands. If successful, it will give us far cheaper fertiliser. In accordance with the recommendations of the IAC, the bounty is being extended to apply to the production of crushed and calcinated rock, phosphate rock and phosphatic substances for use as stock food.
I remind the Senate of a few of the figures that I gave last year when I pointed out that Australians pay a lot less for their food than people in any of the other developed countries do. I quoted the cost of a basket of food, expressed in American dollars. The only country that came within cooee of us was Canada. The other countries, the United States of America, England, France, Italy, West Germany and New Zealand, paid far more for their food than we did. It illustrates to me very clearly the efficiency of our rural industries. If we upset the balance of our soil by not encouraging farmers to keep up the fertility of the land through spreading super, we deserve to pay twice as much for our food, as West Germany does. I have much pleasure in supporting the Bill. I hope that Senator Walsh will have the courage of his convictions and that he will defy his Caucus and vote against the Bill. We will see whether he does.
– The Senate is debating the Phosphate Fertilisers Bounty Amendment Bill. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack), in his second reading speech, pointed out the purpose of the Bill. He said:
The purpose of the Bill now before the Senate is to give effect to the Government’s decision, made on the basis of the Industries Assistance Commission’s report of 30 October 1976, to continue for a further 5 years from 1 July 1977 the payment of bounty on the production of phosphate fertilisers for use in Australia.
Tonight we heard Senator Walters on her hobby-horse again- the superphosphate bounty. She reminded me, as she has reminded me so often, of an advertisement that appeared in the daily press many years ago, when I was a boy, that if one took a little Kruschen salts, about enough to fit on a threepenny bit, in one’s cup of tea every morning one would get the Kruschen feeling. It is quite obvious that every morning Senator Walters takes a little superphosphate, about enough to fit on a threepenny bit, in her cup of tea. Of course she gets the old superphosphate feeling. She must have had a double dose this morning. That is what she reminds me of. Since she has been a senator she has become very famous as an authority on apples. Often when we are talking about apples we remember that fine speech she made when she had an altercation across the chamber with Senator Wriedt about her knowledge of the apple industry and the different types of apples. She came up with the old Geeveston Fanny. That name might be superseded now. She is known as the phosphate fanny now.
Let us return to the legislation. Senator Walters criticised Senator Walsh because most of his speech, she said, was taken from the IAC report. Most of Senator Walters speech was taken from the same report. If she was not putting down the report, she was picking it up. If we look at Hansard tomorrow we will see that most of her words were taken from the IAC report. She claimed that the Australian Labor Party was now admitting that it was wrong when, to use her words, it abolished the superphosphate bounty. That is what she said. The Labor Government, I point out to Senator Walters, did no such thing. All it did was not introduce new legislation when the old legislation expired. I remind Senator Walters and Senator Hall that the only Federal Government which abolished the superphosphate bounty was the Liberal-Country Party Government in which Mr McEwen was Minister for Primary Industry. I will quote his words when he repealed the Act. Before I come to that, I point out some of the remarks made by the honourable member for Barker when he was speaking to this Bill in the other place. He tried to mislead the public at large, as Senator Walters did.
-Mr Porter, the Liberal member for Barker in South Australia. He tried to claim credit for the Liberal Party introducing the superphosphate bounty. I will quote his words. They appear at page 2 192 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 3 1 May of this year. Mr Porter, when speaking to this Bill, said:
Referring briefly to the history of the subsidy, when it was introduced by the coalition parties in 1963 the objectives of the bounty were stated to be to encourage the most economic use of agricultural resources, to stimulate pasture improvement, and to help increase productivity and the expansion of rural production.
He has not done his homework. Neither has Senator Walters. He claimed in the other place that a Liberal-Country Party coalition introduced the superphosphate bounty in 1963. He was wrong.
– I did not say that.
– No, but you claimed that we abolished it. We did not. Mr Porter also said:
In announcing the Government’s decision the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) stated that the bounty would apply on sales to users from 1 1 February 1976 until 30 June
A little later he contradicted himself. He said:
I ought to point out to the Labor Party that the bounty is not a payment to the farmers, as Opposition members seem to think, but rather a reduction in the cost that the farmer has to pay for one of his input components.
What is the difference? He is using double standards and double talk in the same way that Senator Carrick often does in the chamber when we are talking about putting another tax on the States. When it is said that this is double taxation, Senator Carrick says it is not double taxation but a surcharge. What is the difference?
Senator Walters has claimed repeatedly tonight that the bounty is assisting the farmers. Yet Mr Porter, a member of her own Party, claims that it is not and that it is assisting the producers. We find when we go a little bit further that that eminent National Country Party member in the other place, Mr Lloyd, who took over from Mr McEwen, has not done his homework either. He interjected on Mr Porter and said: ‘Who took off the subsidy?’ Mr Porter replied: ‘The Labor Government did in December 1974.’ Of course, honourable senators know that that is not the case. Let us look at the House of Representatives Hansard of 29 November 1950. On page 3311 we find under the heading Superphosphate Bounty Act Repeal Bill 1950-Senator Walters should remember this- Mr McEwen in presenting the second reading speech said:
The object of this Bill is to repeal an Act that was passed in 1941 . .
Who was in Government in 1 94 1 ? It was a Labor Government, of course.
If we go a little further in that debate, we find the comments of Mr Pollard, who was then one of the Labor spokesmen on primary industry matters. He reminded the Parliament and Mr McEwen:
Members of the present Government parties gave no hint to the electors during the general election campaign that they intended to take the retrograde step of eliminating this subsidy.
Let us look at the history of the subsidy. On 29 November Mr McEwen introduced a Bill to repeal the Act. During the election campaign he did not tell the farmers that he had any intention of repealing it. This was in 1950. The farmers went ahead and placed orders for superphosphate for the coming season, thinking that they would be in receipt of a subsidy. What did he do? He made it retrospective to 1 July. A Country Party Minister led the farmers to believe that they would be in receipt of a subsidy and he then brought in a repeal Bill and made it retrospective to 1 July so that the farmers who had been fooled into thinking that they would be in receipt of a bounty and purchased superphosphate on that understanding then found that they had to pay the extra money because there was no bounty available. As Mr Pollard pointed out, the superphosphate bounty was enacted in 1941 by a Labor Government.
Yet Mr Porter claims, for those uninitiated and uninformed people who read his speeches in Hansard and to whom he sends copies of his speeches in the electorate of Barker, that it was a Liberal-Country Party government which introduced the superphosphate bounty in 1963.
-What about the nationalisation in 1949?
– We are discussing the Superphosphate Bounty Bill which is now in this Parliament. I believe that Senator Walsh did a very remarkable job in the remarks that he made. He did not get emotional, as did Senator Walters. He was quite stable in his contribution. All that Senator Walters did in her speech was to say that the Opposition was jibing at the farmers. No one on this side of the House is jibing at the farmers. Senator Walters knows that the Opposition is supporting this particular piece of legislation. The reason we are supporting it has been pointed out by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Senator Douglas McClelland, who led for the Opposition in this debate. He quoted some of the paragraphs of the Industries Assistance Commission report. I want to quote several more because it is on record that when the initial IAC report was brought down and tabled in this Parliament we became aware that, if it had not been for the fact that one of the members of the Commission had been hounded off the Commission, the report could well have recommended a continuation of the bounty. All honourable senators know the history of Mrs Rolfe and the actions taken against her by Mr Anthony, both in the Parliament and outside. He did everything he could to hound her off the Commission because of some remark she made about natural grasses. Had Hilda Rolfe been on the Commission it is quite possible that- I am not saying that it would have happened- the IAC report could have contained recommendations which were the reverse of those which were contained in the report.
As I said in this Parliament when I spoke on this Bill when the Government reintroduced the superphosphate bounty and we debated it on 6 April last year, the person who replaced Mrs Rolfe on the Commission had not sat on the Commission to hear any of the evidence. He did not cross-examine any witness, yet he came down on the side of the other Commissioner in support of the bounty. He had been on the Commission about a fortnight when the report was brought down. He had little or no knowledge of the evidence that had been given to the Commission. I want to turn now to what Mr Robinson had to say in this IAC report of 30 October 1976. Paragraph 8 on page 2 states:
Mr Robinson does not agree with the conclusions and recommendations summarised in the preceding paragraphs. In his opinion there is no case on efficiency grounds for recommending a long-term bounty on the consumption of phosphatic fertilisers. He does see some case for giving farmers under current economic circumstances time to adjust to the removal of the existing bounty, and therefore recommends that the bounty be phased out over 2 years from its present expiry date of June 31, 1977. Payment for the first year would be at the current rate and on the basis existing at present, and in the second year at half the current rate.
I look further into this report which has been used extensively tonight- as it should be, because it is an authority- and look at subparagraph 6 of paragraph 8 on page 33 which deals with incomes and welfare. I do not intend to quote all of it but I will quote the second paragraph on page 34, which is very important. It says:
How the gains from the bounty and the increased production that it helps sustain are ultimately distributed among different groups is a large and complex question. Land owners, the suppliers of non-land inputs to agriculture, fertiliser manufacturers and their suppliers, and consumers of the farm products all benefit to some degree, and the country as a whole gains from the better allocation of resources. The Commission is unable to quantify these effects.
It has, however, attempted to ascertain how bounty payments have been initially distributed among different income classes of farmers. The data used for this purpose were supplied by the BAE and obtained from the 1 973-74 Australian Grazing Industry Survey. The farms represented by this survey are responsible for over 80 per cent of superphosphate consumption. As would be expected, it was found that bounty payments were positively related to net farm income: For example the average bounty payments received by the lowest and highest fifths of farms (when ranked by net farm income) were $137 and $1,200 respectively . . . when expressed as a proportion of net farm income . . . bounty payments received by the lower two-fifths of farms averaged over 4 per cent of net farm income, while the corresponding figure for the upper threefifths of farms was about 2.5 per cent. It would thus appear that the initial effect of the bounty is to widen absolute income differences among farmers but to narrow relative differences.
When one takes into account that paragraph of the report and if one does a simple sum, one will find that the average farmer, with the average use of superphosphate, would have been in receipt of about $437, had the bounty continued during the term of the Labor Government. Claims have been made by honourable senators opposite. They have made the superphosphate bounty into an emotional issue. They have convinced a lot of farmers and a lot of people living in country towns that the cause of their financial trouble was the farming community losing the superphosphate bounty under a Labor Government. I have never spoken to any farmer who has convinced me that that is so or who will admit that had he been in receipt of $400 he would have had a viable farm and would have been much better off.
It is just nonsense for honourable senators opposite to say that the cause of all the problems was the Labor Government not re-legislating for the bounty. I said to a lot of the beef producers who filled Kings Hall today and spilled out the front of Parliament House: ‘What would you sooner have? Would you sooner have a stable price for your beef or have the superphosphate bounty?’ They said: ‘We are not interested in the superphosphate bounty. It is not worth a cracker to us. We would sooner have a stable price for our beef. If the Government could guarantee us that we would be happy’.
That brings me back now to Senator Walters’ challenge. Senator Walters has challenged Senator Walsh to cross the floor. Senator Walsh never at any time said he was opposed to this legislation. Our Party is supporting it. I challenge Senator Walters, when the Australian Meat and Live-stock Corporation Bill is debated, to cross the floor if she is game.
– I have not said I am against it. Senator Walsh has.
-He has not. Senator Douglas McClelland, when leading for the Opposition in this debate, foreshadowed an amendment that I would move in the Committee stages. It will be my intention to move that amendment in the Committee stage. It has been circulated in the chamber so that honourable senators opposite can see what it entails. It is most necessary.
I think Senator Douglas McClelland pointed out briefly the contents of the amendment. I join with my other colleagues who have spoken in this debate tonight in saying that I will be supporting this legislation.
– in reply- I thank the Opposition for its support of this Bill. In view of the support which the Opposition is giving the Bill in this place and which it gave the Billin another place I have been rather surprised at some of the speeches that have been made by members of the Opposition. I refer particularly to Senator Walsh and to a lesser extent to Senator McLaren. The history of the Labor Party when in government indicates that its whole attitude to the question of the bounty is rather ambivalent. Nevertheless I am glad that the Opposition is supporting this measure. I hope it will have a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– As foreshadowed by Senator Douglas McClelland and myself I move:
I have 2 documents. I have shown them to the President of the Senate and to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) who is in charge of the Bill. I seek leave to have the documents incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The documents read as follows-
– These documents are tabled in the House each year. I want to refer to the tabling of them and to a letter dated 26 April 1977 that I received from Mr John Howard, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. He writes:
Dear Senator McLaren,
Senator Durack has referred to me a question you asked in the Senate on Wednesday 23 March when you sought the tabling in the Senate of the names of all persons and companies which were in receipt of the superphosphate bounty for orders of 400 tonnes or more in 1976. The situation regarding the payment of the bounty is as follows.
The Phosphate Fertilizers Bounty Act 1963 requires that bounty be paid to the manufacturers of phosphatic fertilizers. This is in accordance with Section 5 1 (iii) of the Constitution which requires that bounty be paid on production or export.
As required by the Act a return was tabled in the Parliament on 13 October 1976 for the 1975-76 year. This return shows the name and address of claimants under the Act and the amount of bounty received by each.
Any purchaser of bountiable phosphatic fertilizers would derive a benefit from the payment of bounty but this benefit is by way of lower prices and is not a direct cash payment, nor does the department record purchases by users.
Yours sincerely, John Howard
Mr Howard goes on to say that the Department does not record purchases by users. We find that when the Labor Government was in office the Minister for Customs and Excise, under the existing Act- it has not been repealed or amendedwas able to ascertain the names of and the record of purchases by users of superphosphate. That is the purpose of the amendment that has been moved tonight. The only information that I was able to get from the Minister was the 2 documents that I have had incorporated in Hansard. These documents set out in detail the names of the producers of superphosphate and nitrogenous fertilisers. All we get is a list showing the quantity of tonnes the companies have produced and the subsidy paid to those companies. Very extensive amounts are involved in some cases. I will not refer to the lists as they are in Hansard. When I made the request I was seeking the tabling of the names of the purchasers of superphosphate who were in receipt of a bounty payable on 400 tonnes or more. We now hope by way of this amendment to have information showing the purchasers of 200 tonnes or more.
When I spoke to this earlier legislation in April of last year it took me 4 days to get these names incorporated in Hansard. It was obvious that honourable senators opposite did not want the information made known to the public at large. They did not want the public to know who were the recipents of this bounty. Honourable senators opposite were very touchy. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), their own Leader, was one of the biggest recipients. We know from the record that he was in receipt of a minimum amount of $5,000. If the requirement was for the list to give the total amount any user received we would have known the exact amount. The whole purpose of the amendment, as Senator Douglas McClelland said, is that public money is being expended and the public ought to be able to know or to find out just who is in receipt of these public moneys. I do not know why honourable senators opposite should be ashamed or afraid to have this information made public when some of their own leaders in their parliamentary party are recipients of that bounty. I am sure that some members of the Australian Labor Party were users of superphosphate when the Labor Party was in government. They would not have been ashamed of, or would not have wanted to cover up, the amount they received in bounty. Yet the farming members of the Liberal and National Country Parties do not want the general public to know what they are ripping off by way of a superphosphate bounty. The purpose of the amendment is to make their names known.
– I thought you supported the Bill.
– We support the legislation, but we want the people at large to have access to the information on just who are the recipients of the bounty. Why do honourable senators opposite object to the people at large knowing who are the recipients of the bounty?
– What is the rip-off?
– The honourable senator must think that it is a rip-off.
– You said that it was a rip-off.
-I said that. Honourable senators opposite must think it is a rip-off; otherwise they would not oppose the amendment. They would agree to the passing of this amendment if they did not want to hide the fact that many people on the Government side are recipients of a very large amount of bounty. Most of them supported the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) when she wanted to take away the miserable $40 funeral benefit for age pensioners. They had no qualms about that. But when we want to make public the amount of money being received by members of the Government Parties and their supporters honourable senators opposite renege.
I can tell from the attitude of the 3 honourable senators opposite who are vocal that they will oppose the amendment. I am not referring to the Minister, because he has not said anything yet. Nor do I refer to Senator Davidson, who is sitting in his seat but is not taking much interest. The 3 vocal honourable senators opposite indicate by their attitude that they will oppose the amendment that I have moved. In my view and in the view of many people outside the Parliament, it is most essential that the public should have access to the names of the recipients of the bounty. After the episode I had to go through here last year over 4 days -
– You are going through it again now.
– Unfortunately, I do not have the names now to put in the Hansard, but I did have them last year. I had to go through an episode for 4 days. I was amazed at the number of people who wrote to me or telephoned me, wanting the names of the recipients of the bounty. It kept my staff very busy for quite a long time, photocopying that material and sending it to people. That just shows the importance of such information to the people outside who have to contribute to the provision of the bounty through their taxation.
– But you support the bounty.
– Of course I support it. What I am saying is that the people want to know who the recipients are. Why are honourable senators opposite rejecting the amendment? I think that is all I need to say. I have said enough. I put the point that the people at large, in the main, want to know who receives the bounty. If honourable senators opposite reject the amendment that has been put forward, it will be quite clear that they want to cover up the benefits that are accruing to many of the people they represent in this Parliament.
- Senator McLaren should be ashamed of himself tonight. He has continued the unremitting vendetta which members of the Australian Labor Party, both State and Federal, conduct year in year out against people who live on the land, who invest money in the land, who continue a family farming enterprise without any proper return on the capital involved in that enterprise, who continue their vocation simply because it is what they like personally and what they are trained for. Tonight, in a series of contradictions, Senator McLaren continues to say that he supports this legislation; yet, in his vindictiveness, he would like to be able to send throughout his area in South Australia the names of large users of superphosphate, who somehow in his thinking are recipients of a large Commonwealth subsidy. Of course, his argument falls to the ground.
Recently the Federal Government increased very significantly the bounty that is paid for the manufacture of agricultural tractors in Australia. That is not the only area in which bounty payments are made, but I choose it because it is allied to agriculture. Under the new system I believe that the Government will pay to the manufacturer up to $2,500 per tractor of the highest kilowatt performance. In fact, the bounty is received by the workers who make those tractors in 2 Australian factories. The bounty would amount to some thousands of dollars per employee per annum. Does Senator McLaren ask that the names of those employees be placed on the public record? Why not? Because they are unionists on his side of politics, he would not ask for their names to be revealed to the Australian populace at large.
Farmers are people whom his Party and he have treated vindictively over the years. He could say that the Labor Government gave attention not only to the superphosphate bounty but also to things such as petrol prices in country areas. It took away from country areas something like $50m, which had been used previously for a petrol prices equalisation scheme in country areas. The Labor Government instituted a system of Post Office charges that placed such a penalty on the extension and maintenance of telephone services that it was impossible for people to become subscribers and ordinary Australians in the communications sense. Of course, one could go through the areas in which the Whitlam Government, actively supported by Senator McLaren, deliberately and vindictively deprived agricultural operators not of benefits but of normal support which was far below that enjoyed by secondary industry.
If Senator McLaren likes to equate the tariff support for secondary industry with the meagre support, by comparison, which goes to the agricultural industries, he is revealed for what he is- a vindictive operator. He is like his colleagues, particularly those in his own State, who do down the agricultural people at any chance they get. I have had experience of their methods at the State level, where year after year they have denigrated anyone who produces. Anyone who produces with his hands for his own business enterprise is anathema to Labor people. Senator McLaren in his speech tonight particularly demonstrated how he has allied himself with those who are anti-agriculture.
This amendment is a pitiful exercise in politics. He wants to reveal the names of people who use over 200 tonnes of superphosphate on their properties. Senator McLaren and a significant number of his colleagues-I would not say that they all adopt his standards-want to hold this up to the public gaze and say: ‘Here you are. We voted for the Bill, but these people are ripping you off’. This man, this great senator from South Australia, is willing to vote for the Bill, but at the same time he says: ‘These people are ripping you off’. What sort of hypocrisy is that? Senator McLaren will vote for the Bill, but at the same time he accuses recipients of what he will vote for of ripping off the community. The standard which he adopts is illustrated in his own speech. He claimed with great fervour that the Australian Labor Party introduced the superphosphate bounty in the early 1940s. That is about when the Labor Party stopped thinking. He claimed credit for the introduction of the bounty in the 1940s.
It was good enough then for his Party to introduce it without political vindictiveness and without requiring the keeping of a register of those receiving more than a certain tonnage that had been set arbitrarily. The Labor Government did not require it in the 1940s because it had a better sense of responsibility in those days. I pay tribute to the Party led then by the Curtins and Chifleys- a quite different Labor Party from the Labor Party today. It did not show the vindictiveness that has developed in the last few decades. That was the claim that Senator McLaren made tonight. He said: ‘I am quite proud to say that we did it first’. Having done it first, he says tonight: ‘I am going to vote for the second reading of the Bill but I want to reveal all those people who are ripping it off’. Senator McLaren, as I said at the commencement of my remarks, ought to be ashamed of the hypocrisy which he presents to the Senate.
– I am amazed at the remarks just made by Senator Hall. I regret that I have to intrude into the Committee considerations of the Bill at this late hour. Despite what Senator Hall might like to say or might say in indicating publicly his spleen against my colleague Senator McLaren, and in publicly indicating his dislike of the utterances of my colleague, I suggest that the language he used was very intemperate and in excess of what was required. Despite what Senator Hall might have said about the policies pursued by the Labor Government between 1972 and 1975, despite the fact that he said that Senator McLaren was continuing a vendetta by Labor members against people on the land- I come back to that phraseand despite the fact that Senator Hall engaged in much excess verbiage which, with great respect, was far removed from the provisions of the Bill, the simple fact of the matter is that Government senators conveniently ignore that fact that it was the Menzies-McEwen Government which completely removed the superphosphate bounty in 1961.
– And made it retrospective, too.
-As my colleague, Senator McLaren, said, it was made retrospective. So it is all right for my friend Senator Hall, who really is a former member of the Liberal movement- although from his remarks this evening one could have thought he was making application to join the Democratic Labor Party- to make extreme utterances such as those he has made tonight, but the simple fact of the matter is that when he was a member of the Liberal Party and probably at or about the time when he was Liberal Premier of South Australia, the Menzies-McEwen Government took action in this Parliament to remove the superphosphate bounty. That is something that we of the Labor movement now say at this time, in view of the Industries Assistance Commission’s recommendations based on efficiency, should be continued.
Senator Hall mentioned one or two other matters. For instance, he mentioned the removal of the superphosphate bounty, or the proposal to remove the superphosphate bounty, by the Whitlam Labor Government. He mentioned the matter of petrol prices in country areas and said that something like $ 1 5m was involved.
– He said $50m. That is worse.
– I was not sure whether he said $ 15m or $50m. If he had said $ 1 5m he would have been very close to the mark. The amount involved was approximately $ 14m. In fact, I think it was $ 13.7m. I was not sure whether Senator Hall said $15m or $50m. Government senators conveniently ignore the great things that the Labor Government did for the people who live in country areas. For instance, where are the schemes such as the Regional Employment Development scheme which the Labor Government started?
– You abolished them.
-Has the present Government re-commenced them?
– Order! I remind the honourable senator that we are debating a Bill which deals with superphosphate.
– With great respect, Mr Temporary Chairman, I agree with you, but I must remind you that I have to reply in defence of my colleague Senator McLaren to the intemperate and excessive language used by Senator Hall in his vitriolic attack against my distinguished and revered colleague.
– You are not answering my interjection, are you?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDGovernment senators conveniently forget the hundreds of millions of dollars spent by the Labor Government on establishing schemes such as the Regional Employment Development scheme. One can see in country areas throughout Australia today town water supplies which have been provided as a result of the Regional Employment Development scheme. One can see playing areas and amenity programs in operation. All those things had never been provided previously. One can see, for instance, the developments that have taken place in relation to isolated children’s schemes. Those things had never been done until the Labor Government came into office and took up the recommendations of a report of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts, of which Senator Davidson was Chairman at that time and which presented an eminent report to the Senate. Only the Labor Government took notice of that Senate Committee report The Labor Government extended television services to rural areas. That is something that had been denied by the Liberal and Country Party governments. Action was taken only after the Labor Government took office.
Senator Hall now has the gall to say that Senator McLaren was continuing his vendetta against people who live on the land because he believes and we believe that there should be public accountability in relation to the large amounts of public moneys involved in paying those people who use in excess of 200 tonnes of superphosphate. We believe the Government has a responsibility to account to the Australian people for that expenditure, and the way in which to attain that accountability is by the Committee carrying the amendment that Senator McLaren has proposed.
– On behalf of the Government I indicate that we oppose the amendment moved by Senator McLaren. Senator Hall has given some very important reasons for doing so, but there are many other reasons as well. The fact is, of course, that what Senator McLaren put forward is quite contrary to principal. There are many government programs involving the payment of moneys, whether they be bounty payments or other direct payments to people by Government. The adoption of the principle of so-called public accountability about which Senator McLaren spoke would involve all such payments being made public. That would be quite undesirable and, of course, it would place a ridiculous burden on the Public Service and others who would have to prepare the required list.
Furthermore, the lists required in this case would contain the payments made to the producers because the bounty is actually paid to the producer of the superphosphate; it is not paid to the end user. A list of the people who purchased from the producer would not necessarily be a list of end users either, because there are many middle men who buy from the producer who receives the bounty. So even that would not achieve the vindictive purpose that has been so correctly ascribed to the amendment moved by Senator McLaren. As far as the Government is concerned the proposal is completely wrong in principle. It would introduce a thoroughly impractical, highly expensive and bureaucratic addition to the burdens already placed on the Public Service.
– The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) stated again, as many other members of his Party have stated, that the producers of superphosphate are the recipients of the bounty. The argument has been advanced that if the bounty is not paid the farmers will suffer. The Minister’s argument is contrary to the argument put forward by Senator Walters. The Minister said that the producers are the beneficiaries from and the recipients of the bounty. Senator Walters has claimed that the user is the beneficiary. Who of the government speakers is right and who is wrong? I claim that the user is the beneficiary of the superphosphate bounty because it is embodied in the end price that is charged to the user of the superphosphate.
Senator Hall, in his very spirited reply to my remarks, claimed that I had said there had been a rip-off. I hope that when I read Hansard tomorrow I will see that I said what I meant to say, that is, that the people to whom I was referring who are getting a rip-off are people like the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), who is receiving a minimum of $5,000 in superphosphate bounty. Throughout my speech I referred to what little the average farmer receives in superphosphate bounty. Senator Hall cannot change that around and say that I was meaning that people in receipt of a bounty of less that $500 were getting a rip-off.
I want to read to Senator Hall some figures I used last year and which were put out by the Minister for Agriculture in South Australia. They are the superphosphate figures for 1973-74 for South Australia, when a total of 25 521 South Australian farmers used superphosphate. Of that number 18 500 farmers used 12 tonnes. They received a bonus of a little less than $ 144 in their incomes, because the bounty was not $ 12 then. A total of 5000 farmers used 60 tonnes, 1000 farmers used 150 tonnes, and 500 farmers used 300 tonnes. This is where we get up into the big figures: Forty farmers used 750 tonnes, 10 farmers used 1500 tonnes, and 2 farmers used 5000 tonnes. In the main, these great big massive users of superphosphate are not resident farmers. As Senator Hall would well know, they are what we know in Adelaide as Rundle Street farmersspeculators and developers who because they are able to get the superphosphate bounty and can pour it onto these big properties that they are developing they are able to increase the value of the property they have. Then the farmer alongside who is unable to develop his property to the extent that these developers can is penalised. Once one of these big properties is sold the surrounding properties are rated by the local government body on the amount per acre that that big farmer received for his property. Once again the small farmer is the sufferer in the long run.
If we go back and look at the situation when the superphosphate bounty did not operate we see that a farmer, because he was not in receipt of a bounty, could claim what he paid for his superphosphate against his income tax. So in effect when the bounty did not operate farmers were not losing anywhere near as much as honourable senators opposite claim. The table put out by the Minister for Agriculture in South Australia indicates that 18 400 farmers received an average of $141.72 in subsidy, 40 farmers received an average of $8,857.50, 10 farmers received $17,715, and 2 farmers received an average of $59,050. So we see that some massive amounts of money went to people who, in the main, did not deserve them. As was pointed out by Mr Robinson in the report of the Industries Assistance Commission, if that money had been channelled into other means of assistance to small farmers we would have a more viable farming community in this country.
That is the reason the Opposition has moved this amendment. We have not moved it for vindictive purposes but in order to make public statistics concerning the big users of taxpayers’ money by way of subsidy. I say again that it is people like Mr Fraser who are getting a rip-off in the subsidy. If we are to continue such subsidies and if members of Parliament have a pecuniary interest we should be able to devise some means whereby they themselves are not entitled to those subsidies. If that were done I might have a different view about subsidies. When we have the Prime Minister making an election promise to restore the bounty, of which he will be one of the biggest recipients, it does not smell good to me. I take nothing back. I have no worries about what Senator Hall has said because I know the attitudes of the small farmers in South Australia. I have lived with them and have worked with them ever since I went to South Australia in 1950. 1 know their feelings and what they think about big people like Mr Fraser and those others I have mentioned whom I shall not name but who are receiving large superphosphate bounties when 18 500 farmers were receiving an average of $141.72 under the old bounty. That amount is nothing to them; it is of absolutely no benefit at all to them. Senator Hall also accused the Labor Government of taking away the differential in the price of petrol. I challenge him to put it back again.
– Order, Senator McLaren! That has been answered effectively by Senator Douglas McClelland. I think we should stick to the Bill and debate it.
– I agree with you, Mr Temporary Chairman, that it has been answered by Senator Douglas McClelland, but I am replying to the very vindictive remarks made by Senator Hall about what I had said when seeking support for our proposed amendment. He tried to vilify me and put me in the wrong light as though I had some ulterior motive in moving the amendment. He raised these matters and you, Mr Temporary Chairman, let him do so. I do not think I have transgressed except for about 5 seconds.
– Order! You say that I let Senator Steele Hall go, but I balanced it up by letting Senator Douglas McClelland go. So it is a case of tit for tat, and we are square now.
-I think I have just about completed my remarks. I think I have answered Senator Hall.
Government senators- Hear, hear!
– If honourable senators opposite are provocative I shall keep going because I have another 6 minutes. We hear cries of Hear, hear’ from the other side of the chamber. It is all very well when honourable senators on this side of the chamber expose what those people are doing for people who support them and people whom they represent. There are others- quite a few of them in the Federal Cabinet- who are recipients of this superphosphate bounty. I make no apologies for criticising them for what they are doing, in view of the fact that they were prepared to make every move possible to take away $40 in funeral benefits from the poor old pensioners.
– I want to thank Senator McLaren for clarifying his position. Indeed, he has ignored the comparisons I gave of people in industry who are the recipients of very large bounties. He has not required that they be named publicly so that they can be shown-
– They are not responsible for passing legislation.
-No; neither are farmers in this case.
– Yes, they are. There are Mr Fraser, Mr Sinclair and Mr Anthony.
-Neither are the railway workers in most of the States of Australia, particularly some of the smaller States, responsible. Senator McLaren does not ask that they be named as recipients of the huge subsidies which railways have received from the general revenue of the various States. Many thousands of dollars are paid each year to subsidise the railway jobs, but Senator McLaren does not require that information to be made public. That is an aside. I thought Senator McLaren cleared the matter up quite delightfully when he became clearly ideological and made his attack on the basis of size. He said it was all right for a small farmer to receive the bounty but it was no good for a large farmer to do so. I thought that was very revealing. It came out that, as I tried to say in my earlier few words, that the Labor Party has been quite destructive of anyone who moves beyond what it considers to be the average or the small model in any productive society. Senator McLaren has cast himself completely against anyone who is beyond the normal average size.
That is the ideology which he follows. He does not believe in someone being able to get on. Clearly he always will support someone of the lower echelon and not any of the people who try to get on a little bit. He will never support an increased target in the community. He has clearly said that he does not believe in supporting those who are beyond what I suppose he would consider to be the level of subsistence farmers. I am pleased he has clarified his position. It is clearly political and clearly ideological. He supports this legislation even though he would like to use it to vilify the more successful in the community.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1 June, on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
-The Senate is debating a total of 5 Bills dealing with the dairy industry. These Bills are the result of recommendations contained in the Industries Assistance Commission report of September 1976 on dairying. That report called for the implementation of a 3-stage mandatory marketing scheme for the manufacturing sector of the Australian dairy industry. The current Bills introduce stage 1 of the 3 stages and deal essentially with the compulsory equalisation scheme which will supersede the previous voluntary equalisation scheme which left, quite frankly, much to be desired. Under the previous equalisation scheme which was totally voluntary, a number of firms declined to join the scheme and the fear was always present in the industry that one or more of the larger milk companies in the equalisation scheme might withdraw and, as a result of that withdrawal, destroy the orderly marketing system that prevailed at that time.
That situation has been compounded in recent years by the dramatic downturn in dairy production in some States. Possibly the most notable of those States is Queensland. Because of this factor the industry in those States believed that the equalisation scheme worked against them- I think justifiably so. They were not putting dairy products on the export market. They utilised their total production within the State and, in some cases, were in fact importing from the other States. Equalisation which had equalised the price received both on the domestic and the export market resulted in a loss factor to the producers in those States. As a result of the modified equalisation scheme a couple of years ago the situation was reached where producers in the non-exporting States were able to receive a marginally higher price for their commodities than the traditional exporting States.
The method by which equalisation will be implemented in stage 1 of the current proposals will be by the imposition of a levy on prescribed products. The products which are to be prescribed are butter, butter oil, skim milk powder, buttermilk powder, whole milk powder, casein, cheddar and Gouda cheese with provision, of course, that other products may be brought into the scheme on the recommendation of the Australian Dairy Corporation, after consultation with the Australian Dairy Industry Advisory Committee which will be a body set up by the carriage of the Dairy Produce Amendment Bill. The rate of each product levy will be that which will amount to the difference between the domestic price and the average price for that product as assessed on the export market. Of course, as all honourable senators know, the difference between the domestic price received and the export price can be, and has been in many cases, a large amount. Overseas markets which have been good for the production side of the industry have, to a large extent, been a disaster for the financial side of the industry.
Unfortunately, the export markets for Australian dairy produce are influenced by political rather than commercial factors. The political decisions made in the European Economic Community, Japan, America and Canada influence those markets more than any commercial propositions. For that reason- I have said this before and I think that what I said still holds good; I certainly believe it- the production of dairy produce in Australia will have to contract further if those who remain in the industry are to remain viable, if viability is based on market return. I notice from the second reading speech of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) that the Government hopes to introduce stage 2 of the 3-stage plan prior to July 1978. The second stage is intended to encourage production in line with marketing possibilities. As such, I believe it will lead to further rationalisation in the Australian dairy industry.
Stage 3 which is the final stage will, when implemented fully expose producers and processors to the actual return for production sold overseas. As such, unless overseas prices somehow improve, it must lead to a realisation that our overseas sales have been, as I have already said, somewhat disastrous for the Australian producer. Unfortunately, the producer has never been able to ascertain the prices actually received on those markets and, for that reason, has gone on producing ad infinitum in the belief that the more he produces the more he will receive whereas, in actual fact, the opposite has often been the case. I mentioned a few moments ago the problem the farmer has had in trying to find out what his product has obtained for him on the export market. It has been very difficult. The previous Dairy Board would not- even to those in the higher echelons of the industrydisclose what was received for produce on export markets. It refused to disclose this information even though at times there were furphies and rumors around the industry that a particular product, say butter oil, was being sold at giveaway prices on the overseas market. I can remember prices being quoted in those furphies as low as 8c and 10c a pound. There was no way by which a farmer could find out what was the actual price received for his product. I noticed an article m the same vein, in the Canberra Times oi 1 June 1977. It referred to a proprietary company which is involved in the dairy industry in a very large way- Kraft Holdings Limited. The headline states: ‘Kraft earns $6.43m over the year’. Unfortunately, for the primary producer, the supplier to Kraft- there are many hundreds and probably thousands of them throughout Australia- there is no way by which he can find out what percentage of that profit of $6.43m that Kraft made came from the dairy industry. He cannot find it from the company’s annual reports. It may well be that the Kraft company made a loss on its dairy products but there is nothing to indicate that. While that sort of situation prevails the farmer- who goes on working 365 days a year and perhaps buys an extra cow or two- does not know in actual fact whether he will receive more or less for his toil.
– But you would acknowledge that, amongst the dairy farmers in the area in which you live, the Kraft company has been a maximum contributor to the wellbeing of the industry.
– I certainly do acknowledge that. The Kraft company and one or two other proprietary companies, as the honourable senator well knows, did a great deal to lift the dairy industry out of the mud and mire in the 1920s and the 1930s. If the farmer could see an actual breakdown of the annual reports of those proprietary companies he would be in a better position to assess what he should do for the future.
Any policy or any talk at the primary producer level which puts forward a theme that production should be curtailed in order that prices might be improved does not go down well with the farming community, and that is fairly understandable. Farmers, like everybody else in the community, are very much aware of the proteinrich food which they produce. They also are aware of the millions of people in the world today who are undernourished. Consequently the farmers feel that they should have the right to supply those people with this protein-rich food. However, I think it is regrettable that we live in a world dominated by commercial and monetary factors, a world which seems to be motivated only by the profit motive. It seems that the countries which suffer most from undernourishment are the countries which are unable to purchase our protein-rich food.
In some countries the people traditionally do not eat dairy produce. Our experience with the Japanese some years ago shows that, in those countries in which people traditionally do not eat dairy produce, this problem can be overcome by a gift. We gave the Japanese cheese in trial lots for school children so that they could acquire a taste for cheese. But I believe that this can be done only in those countries which have rising expectations and an increasing gross national product. We cannot do this unless those rising expectations, perhaps dramatically rising expectations, are running side by side with a very astute promotion campaign. Currently the price received for cheese on the Japanese market is subject to the influence of other dairy produce exporting nations and as such- this is a guesstimate of mine- probably is deflating the return to the Australian producer. There is probably a similar position- this is another guesstimate- in respect of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with its recent purchases of butter.
Undoubtedly the dairy industry is fortunate that at the moment it is exporting only around 26 per cent of the total production, as against SO per cent in times past. However, despite this good fortune, the producer is receiving only some 38 per cent of the consumer dollar, as against 64 per cent some 10 years ago. Roughly the same situation applies currently in the Australian meat industry. It is little wonder, of course, that in circumstances such as that the dairy farmers of this nation are either up against the wall or leaving the industry daily. The financial and social stresses on those who are still in the industry are enormous. What was once considered to be something of a way of life for many men, women and children has become something of a trauma.
-I do not say this to embarrass you; but would you not agree that in the highly productive areas that you represent in Victoria the farmers have less of a problem than in the less economic areas in other parts of Australia?
-The honourable senator is probably right. Throughout the whole of the second reading speech of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) it seems that there is one State that is offside, and that happens to be the State which I represent. That State has around 50 per cent of the dairy industry producers in this country and produces roughly 60 per cent of the milk produced in Australia. I think it is a shame that a situation prevails in which one State is offside and that State is the largest dairy producing State in the Commonwealth. Throughout the Minister’s second reading speech the words ‘with the exception of Victoria’ crop up. The Minister was talking about discussions that went on recently at the Australian Agricultural Council level.
Yesterday I received a rather lengthy telegram from the Minister of Agriculture in Victoria, Mr Smith, who is a member of the same political party as the Government. It is patent that he is very disturbed about this legislation. For the record, I would like to read the telegram.
– I will move that it be incorporated.
– I seek leave to have the telegram incorporated in Hansard. It is rather lengthy.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The telegram read as follows-
The Victorian Government is critically concerned about the Dairy Industry Assistance Levy Bill 1977 and the Dairy
Industry Assistance Bill 1977 currently in the Federal Parliament. The intention of this legislation is to stop any interstate trading of market milk and any other related products the Commonwealth government wishes to prescribe. The effect of this legislation will be to erect tariff walls on states from fair and reasonable competition to the detriment of the more efficient states of Victoria and Tasmania where the bulk of dairy farmers are. Despite an undertaking given by the Federal Primary Industry Minister at Agricultural Council that UHT (Longlife) milk would not be included it is included in section clause 4a of the levy Bill. In his second reading speech the Federal minister also said that table cream could be a prescribed product under this Bill. Victoria already has substantial interstate markets for this product. I was also led to- understand at agricultural council that any levy money collected would be returned to the state where it was collected. However clause 14 of the Assistance Bill does not provide for this. Also the ministers second reading speech indicates that not all of the levy collected from a state will be returned to the state in which it was collected. The Bills provide for the minister to make decisions based on majority decisions of the Australian Agricultural Council. This will enable the majority of States representing the minority of dairy farmers to dictate to the minority of States representing the majority of dairy farmers. The Victorian Government opposes the principle of erecting tariff walls on State borders and asks that at the very least you insist on the specific exclusion of UHT milk and table cream from the levy bill and specific provision being made in the assistance bill for all levy collected from a State to be returned to that State The Victorian Government stand is supported by the united dairy farmers of Victoria.
– Perhaps I can return to one or two matters raised in the telegram during the Committee stage of the Bills. I do not know whether the Minister of Agriculture in Victoria is over-reacting, but he certainly has cast some rather strong barbs at his colleague the Federal Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). There was obviously a good deal of antagonism between the 2 Ministers during the discussions leading up to the implementation of this legislation.
I just hope, for the sake of the dairy industry, particularly in Victoria, that the Minister or his advisers tonight can elaborate some of the reasons for this telegram. I hope that things are not as black as the Minister in Victoria has painted them, because if they are I can see problems ahead for the dairy industry in this country. The Federal Minister, Mr Sinclair, seems to me to have answered many of the aspersions that Mr Smith cast in a reply to a question in the other place yesterday. I just hope that that is so. But somewhere along the line we must be able to find out just who is telling the truth on this matter, because there is, as I have said, a great diversity of opinions and expressions. The Opposition supports the legislation. We believe that it will go a long way towards rationalisation and, we hope, stabilisation of the industry. We certainly hope that the Government moves on as quickly as possible with the implementation of stage 2 and stage 3 of this legislation.
– I support the 5 dairy industry Bills now before the Senate. Whilst I would like to speak at some considerable length, which I believe these matters deserve, I will react to the necessities of the situation and act in the interests of the Senate and in keeping with the general co-operation that has been extended by other speakers this evening. I think it would be fair to say that no other industry, primary or secondary, has had to adjust to the extent that the dairy industry has had to do in the last few years. I do not think there is any industry in which it came as such a surprise either to the industry or to the community as a whole. It has been suggested that the industry might need to revamp, but I think that at all levels people believed it would still come right again, even though they understood for many years that-
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
-I believe that the importance of Great Britain’s inclusion in the European Economic Community had been overlooked and that many of the problems that have arisen were as a result of that. In the main dairying areas of Australia we have undoubtedly efficiency second to none in the world. I do not think it is easy for us to write off the effect that that has right throughout the industry when we know how efficient we are but, just the same, we have to adjust and it is not very easy. Over the period that the numbers have been declining from over 60 000 farmers to fewer than 30 000 farmers there has been, just the same, constant upgrading of stock, better feeding, better management, increased productivity and more efficiency generally, which have largely counteracted the decline which the reduction in numbers may have produced. Many of the improvements that have been made are really quite remarkable, but they still have not prevented the decline that was needed in order to rationalise to the level of trade which is now available to the industry. The forces from both within and without Australia have led to this, particularly the EEC question which I have already mentioned. When that happened it left this most efficient and valuable industry very much in a heap.
Within days of my election last year I started seeing dairy men, quite a few of whom are friends of mine whom I have known all my life. I was born on a dairy farm. The current tragedy of the situation came through to me very clearly. Coupled with the overseas collapse, the ravages of inflation and falling domestic consumption,” everyone needed help. On 13 April last year Mr John Howard, the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, put the matter to the Industries Assistance Commission. I am most grateful for the consideration and general help that I have received in so many places in Australia while I have been going around and trying to improve my understanding of the industry as a whole. While I was doing this I was very appreciative of the way that I was received everywhere I went. In all the places I went to among all the people I saw I found only two or three people who did not have sufficient understanding to realise why we were there. I would say that there were only two or three people from whom we had to suffer abuse of any sort. I found that the people who adopt an abusive attitude turn out to be counter productive for the people they presume to represent.
The appalling seasonal conditions of last year, pertaining right through the latter part of 1976, served to make the overall position that much worse, and the industry really wound down towards the end of last year. When the Crawford report was received and we had more meetings in various places we found that generally the report was fairly hard to handle. Very few people understood it and very few people could see the relativity between the 3 sections or how they were going to tie in. It made the job of selling the new dairy situation fairly difficult. If it had been all in one piece it would have been difficult enough, but in 3 pieces it was even more difficult. In the period until now I have had many discussions with the Minister and the departmental officers. I appreciate the consideration that I have received to the suggestions that I have made and the requests that I have put. I feel it necessary to go on record in expressing my thanks both to the Minister and to the Department for the way in which they have helped me and the people I have tried to represent.
I would like to issue something of a warning and say that stage 1 will not solve all the probelms of the dairy industry by any means. It is not a cure-all. But I hope that it leads us to a way in which we can find some assistance. In converting the entire industry to the management and operation of the Australian Dairy Corporation a tremendous responsibility is being placed on that body. The whole industry will be looking at one body- the ADC- to give the lead in organisation, marketing and technology. The industry will be looking for a lot of new technology, new products, new processing and new packaging. It will have to start to take more account of what the customer is looking for and not just what the market is trying to supply. Campaigns like the ‘Only Butter Butters’ will need to be more carefully planned and better carried through if they are to be successful. I believe that more and more the promotion has to be on the lines of what the market is looking for. We will have to find new avenues, and the ADC will be responsible for this.
One of the problems from which we suffer is the sheer snobbery which goes with much of the cheese importing. In particular I draw the wood on the invasion by stealth of some of the cheeses that are coming in from New Zealand. In my view the Government is still not taking this matter seriously enough. I have been pressing for a revision of the method of classification of cheeses coming in from other countries and I will continue to do so, however long it takes. I respect our trading position with other countries and the import question generally but I do not accept that we can let our own industry go down the drain against the ravages of exporters in other countries who are being subsidised to put cheese into Australia on a price basis that can only be considered as dumping. I have no objection to other ordinary imports under regular methods and legitimate deals.
As far as Tasmania is concerned I have a few still unresolved matters that will require quite a lot of attention. In Tasmania at present the plant utilisation is only between 50 per cent and 60 per cent, and this is resulting in a very high unit cost. The alternative to this high unit cost is to have amalgamations and probably the construction of a centralised dairy plant, at some considerable cost, which would have to pay a different set of higher costs than the ones currently in hand in order to reduce the costs on the other. At whatever cost, the fullest retention of the flexibility of the product mix is necessary. I have severe reservations on the distribution of entitlement and I do not envy whoever is going to be the new chairman of the new State authority in Tasmania as he will have to be a man of very great wisdom and judgment to ensure that the entitlement is distributed in the fairest possible way. How this is to be distributed between the 3 co-operatives and the 2 proprietaries, I do not know. I think everybody has a leaning either towards the cooperatives or towards the proprietaries, depending on their background.
I raise one particular case in our area and that is the cast of Cadbury Confectionery. It runs a small milk processing operation in that the company handles exactly the quantity of milk it needs for its operations. It has done this for many years. The company does not interfere with any other suppliers of any sort. It pays a reasonable price depending on what it can stand. There is no way I can see that an organisation such as that should be included in any sort of a quota distribution. I do not think that its suppliers should be included either. But I do not see how we can organise a scheme that may leave one firm out on its own.
The question of compulsory acquisition of fresh milk is one of the matters that has caused some problems in Victoria, as I understand from the previous speaker in the debate and gentlemen with whom I sit on this side of the House. I believe that I fully understand and appreciate the situation as it is explained to me. But what the dairy industry needs most particularly in Victoria, the biggest producing State- and my remarks are more applicable to Victoria than anywhere else-is stability. I do not go along with the situation that could leave any or all of the difficulties up in the air or not knowing when the next crisis is likely to arise. This is what it is all about. I believe that Mr Smith, while not wanting to see the farmers disadvantaged, has not considered all the possible disadvantages that could arise. But as the legislation provides that equalisation in this matter can be implemented only at the behest of the Australian Agricultural Council of which Mr Smith is a member, I do not see that he should be disturbed.
I have substantial regrets about the phasing out of the equalisation organisation as we have known it. It has performed tremendously valuable service for many years. I think that far too few people fully understand and appreciate what that organisation has done. It certainly is due to come under some criticism. But its main crime is, I think, that it has done its job too well. It has so satisfactorily shielded both farmers and manufacturers from the full market signals that the industry has never really know the problems existed because equalisation covered it up. If the Australian Dairy Corporation can perform its functions as well as the equalisation committee has done, I and the dairy industry as a whole will be very happy.
The initial product levy is aimed at arranging compulsory equalisation between the domestic price structure and the export sales on the range of products. As Senator Primmer has already outlined them, I will not repeat them. This is an extension of the present voluntary arrangement and is the basis of stage 1 of the scheme. The underwriting last year by the Government was of great assistance when the industry was in the trouble it encountered then. The purpose of the underwriting should be explained a little more to farmers. Its purpose is to enable payments to be made ahead of when they would otherwise be made by providing that guarantee from the Government for the money. In itself it is not necessarily a price support scheme although a couple of the pools last year turned out that way.
Last year’s opening underwriting was of the order of 50 cents per lb. It has now grown to approximately 65 cents per lb. But the final price will depend on the markets, the Australian supply, consumption generally and the efficiency of the factories concerned. It is all the more necessary to produce according to the markets available. This is where the duties of the ADC will become very difficult. I give a warning on this underwriting question also. It is much the same warning that was applicable under equalisation. It is not a way of covering inefficiency, wrong technology, wrong products or just bad marketing. The companies which may be tempted to make a quick and bad deal in the belief that underwriting will cover them I hope will be badly mistaken. The Australian Dairy Corporation has many added responsibilities that I do not think it has even started to know about yet. I certainly wish Mr Webster every success. Like the industry at large, I support this part of the dairy legislation in the hope that we can settle in as quickly as possible and get the next bit going.
– I want to register a complaint that the Senate, to discuss this Bill, is sitting beyond the time set for the adjournment and, more importantly, that within the last week the Government has introduced in the House of Representatives 14 agricultural Bills which nobody had sighted previously and which the Australian Labor Party had no chance to consider adequately because they were not available until the end of last week. I ask honourable senators to bear in mind the fact that we have spent about half the time during this session sitting around looking for something to do and filling in time. I think it is quite disgraceful that the Government has so mismanaged its business that it has introduced not only 14 agricultural Bills but also 25 to 30 Bills in the last fortnight of this sitting. It is no wonder that the Government cannot manage the economy or anything else, when it cannot manage its own parliamentary business better than it has been shown to be able to do.
The first 2 Bills of the 5 Bills which are being discussed cognately concern the implementation of stage one of the Industries Assistance Commission report. Let me make it perfectly clear that the intention of this legislation is to defeat the free market forces. It has the object of reducing surplus dairy production which has for many years been dumped on overseas markets at unprofitably low prices. The first stage is a very incomplete measure. The implementation of the first stage of the IAC report is very incomplete. To be really effective in achieving the objectives set out in the report, the second stage must be passed. My great fear is that the second stage of the IAC report, the awarding of negotiable market entitlements, will be wrecked by parochial State governments. The third Bill establishes an advisory body, and the fourth and fifth Bills provide for a levy of up to 15c per gallon on market milk, that is milk that is sold as fluid milk for direct human consumption.
Despite all the euphemisms in the second reading speech about orderly marketing, let us be very clear that the purpose of this Bill is to defeat, if necessary, the intention of section 92 of the Constitution which guarantees free trade between the States. It can be activated by a majority decision of the Australian Agricultural Council. This means that 4 States can subsequently make the decision which will make this legislation operative. I am disturbed about the possibility of the Federal Government losing control of its own legislation to that extent. My strongest reservation of all about these Bills which pave the way for a levy on fluid milk is that they further institutionalise unnecessarily high milk prices and the existence of 2 classes of dairy farmers. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack), in his second reading speech, compared this proposal with the legislation in the poultry industry, the hen levy legislation, and, in fact, said:
The legislation is based on the same general concepts as the Federal hen levy legislation.
That statement is true only in a very general sense. We do not have 2 classes of poultry farmersone producing eggs for table consumption and another producing eggs for pulping or other manufacturing purposes and receiving one-third to one-half of the price received by poultry farmers producing eggs for direct table consumption. Although all producers have, under consequential State legislation, quotas for a certain number of hens and to market the eggs therefrom, the individual growers are not divided into these 2 clear classes of first class poultry farmers and second class poultry farmers. The dairy industry in every State of Australia has for many years been divided into 2 classes.
This Bill provides the framework and the potential to ossify. If it is passed there is a grave danger that it will perpetuate the existence of first and second class farmers and unnecessarily high milk prices. Ironically, the second class dairy farmers- they are the ones in the manufacturing sector against whom this Bill proposes to discriminate- are the more efficient farmers.
We are not opposing any of these Bills, as Senator Primmer said in his more comprehensive comments, but I want to place on record my reservations about the possibility of Stage 2, which is the crucial stage of the legislation governing the manufacturing sector, being wrecked by the parochialism of State governments and the potentially- it is only potential at this stage- obnoxious feature of the final 2 Bills covering liquid milk. I also place on record the dissatisfaction of the Opposition with the way in which the Government has handled this legislation. It has received inadequate consideration. It certainly deserved far more than the couple of days in which we have been forced to consider it as a result of the way this Government has mismanaged its parliamentary business.
-I rise at this late hour briefly to support these Bills and to deal with the points which Senator Walsh has made. Senator Walsh quite often in debates on primary industry Bills in this chamber-he did it again tonight- exhibits his abysmal ignorance of primary industry. I want particularly to deal with 2 points he made. He said that this legislation perpetuated unnecessarily high milk prices. It shows that he is completely out of step with the producer section in the whole Australian industry when he says that because no producer of milk is receiving a high price for his product. The problems of the industry stem from the fact that not enough is paid for the product. The second thing he said on which I wish to join issue is that this legislation will perpetuate the existence of first and second class dairy farmers. Nothing could be further from the truth. One of the great problems of this industry is the relatively high price which is received for whole milk by people who enjoy the supply rights to the milk markets of the capital cities in comparison with what is received by the manufacturing side of the industry. Senator Walsh is some years behind the times because there is a rationalisation process going on at State level, and this Federal scheme would not be possible if that rationalisation process was not taking place.
These 5 dairy Bills are of great importance to the industry, and I congratulate the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) for the great deal of time and effort which he and the officers of his Department have put into the discussions at the Australian Agricultural Council which have given to the legislation. The Australian Agricultural Council is a meeting of all State Ministers for Agriculture with the Federal Minister, at which the problems of the industry are thrashed out. As a result of those discussions these Bills have come forward. The first 3 Bills deal with the introduction of Stage 1 of the Industries Assistance Commission dairying plan, which has become known throughout the industry as the Crawford report. Stage 1 which is embodied in this legislation seeks legislative approval of the old voluntary equalisation scheme.
The other 2 Bills anticipate the imposition of a levy in the event that there are major disruptions to the market by any particular State or States. It should be realised that these Bills do not of themselves impose a levy on the domestic milk section. They give the Agricultural Council the right to intervene and make recommendations to the Minister for Primary Industry both as to the date to be prescribed for each type of fresh milk product and the operative rate of levy for each product. This, of course, will be done by majority decision of the Agricultural Council. The legislation represents a step forward in a comprehensive marketing scheme for the whole of the products of the dairy industry throughout Australia.
When our Government came to office the industry was in a parlous state, with export manufacturing in a state of chaos because of the collapse of the international skim milk powder market, the heavy subsidy of the European Economic Community to the British market and the failure of the Labor Government to initiate a support scheme for the industry by underwriting a minimised equal price. The Senate is aware of the initiatives undertaken by the Minister for Primary Industry and our Government in providing underwriting at a rate of approximately 50c per lb on butterfat which was subsequently increased to 60c. The Minister has already announced a continuation of a level of underwriting at 60c to 65c per lb for the 1977-78 season. The total cost to the Government of this initiative to date is $10m. Of course there will be considerable additional expenditure because of the underwriting for the forthcoming year. This allows both the farming and the manufacturing sides of the industry to plan for the future with some certainty. As I have said, the legislation really implements stage 1 of the 3 stages set out in the Crawford report. All it does is give statutory recognition to and make compulsory the present voluntary equalisation arrangements for manufactured dairy products.
No one likes levies for primary industry or any other industry but it is important to realise that any market stabilisation scheme introduced by the Federal Government must have some machinery which will enable the scheme to be a disciplined one and thus an effective one for the whole industry. This legislation is the first step designed to make it a compulsory marketing scheme for the whole of Australia. Stage 1, of course, is of great assistance to the southern export States of Victoria and Tasmania because of the concentration of manufactured milk products in those 2 States, particularly Victoria, and the imposition of the market milk levy is necessary to achieve orderly marketing stability. The levy will apply only if the market milk sector is threatened by imminent breakdown.
It is interesting to look at the figures of percentage production for each State for market milk. It varies considerably from State to State. The figures are available in the Industries Assistance Commission’s report for 1973-74. The report shows figures of 56 per cent in New South Wales, 12 per cent in Victoria, 40 per cent in Queensland, 35 per cent in South Australia, 48 per cent in Western Australia and 20 per cent in Tasmania. These figures indicate the major variation in each State between market milk and manufactured products. The great problem of the industry is to integrate the market milk with the manufactured products on a Commonwealth basis. This is difficult when such a wide variation exists between the 2 sections from State to State. The legislation is a step on the way. It is the first step, and other steps will follow.
The States are in the course of rationalising market milk against manufactured milk. This is a slow and involved process but it is at least under way and hopefully will be completed before any legislation is introduced to implement stage 2. Stage 2 of the Crawford report deals with marketing entitlements of total Australian production. These marketing entitlements for the whole of Australia will be tailored to meet the market. There is so much of a domestic and an export market for whole milk and other products so it is to that level that production will be tailored. Every farmer will have an entitlement. As Senator Archer said, there will be considerable discussion, debate and difference of opinion among the States before Stage 2 can be implemented. It will have to be implemented by Federal legislation.
At the annual conference of the United Dairy Farmers of Victoria recently, certain decisions were made in relation to the market share entitlement, which, as I have already said, is the basis for stage 2 of the scheme. To save some time of the Senate, I have shown the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) a Press report on the decisions arrived at by the United Dairy Farmers of Victoria at their annual conference. It is an article in the Shepparton News of 3 1 May. The conference asked that the scheme include 6 different points: I seek leave to have that article incorporated in Ilansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The article read as follows-
UDV SEEKS SUPPORT
The annual conference of the United Dairyfarmers of Victoria has directed the UDV to support a market share entitlement scheme provided it operates on a truly national basis.
And conference asked that such a scheme includes:
The butterfat equivalent of all-liquid milk in each State in the assessment of that State’s market share entitlement or an equitable amount of Government support which would go to Victoria, to bring Victoria’s to 80 per cent of total entitlement.
That provision is made for controlled transfer of returns to maintain a difference between pools of no greater than 10 cents a kilogram from butterfat.
Market shares be issued on an individual basis.
All entitlements be not negotiable, but that market shares may be surrendered into a National pool at reasonable level of compensation and this pool of entitlements be distributed amongst those who remain in the industry and that entitlements remain with that property if sold for dairying, otherwise the entitlement reverts back to a central administrating authority to be distributed in equal allotments to all applicants.
That because of the precarious position of the younger dairyfarmer, this organisation keep them in mind at all times and work for their welfare to the utmost.
In the event of market share entitlements being implemented, the Government underwrite a guaranteed minimum price to ensure comparable standard of living with other sectors of the community.
– There will need to be some flexibility to enable an annual review of interstate sales of liquid milk along with State aggregate entitlements. I have every confidence that as production conditions are, in the main, more favourable in Victoria than in other Statesproduction figures per cow, per acre, are available to prove this assertion- the Victorian producers will, in the long term, survive because of this greater productive capacity. Some of the concern expressed by the Victorian Minister of Agriculture in the telegram which Senator Primmer had incorporated in Hansard is unfounded for that reason and because, as I have already stated, before stage 2 of the scheme is implemented, there will be opportunity for further discussion. If Victoria has a view, which undoubtedly it has and which has been expressed by the organisation representing farmers in Victoria and which I support, an opportunity will be available for that opinion to be ventilated at the Agricultural Council. The points made will be given due weight.
I feel that the Minister should allow adequate time for discussion and debate on the difficult problems which will arise in the implementation of stage 2 and that the views of the producer organisations not only in Victoria but also in other States should be heard and of manufacturing industry in all States should be considered before stage 2 is implemented by legislation. In the meantime, the position is safeguarded by these 5 Bills and the underwriting support to which I have referred and which the Minister has announced is to be available for the next 12 months. The Minister is to be commended for bringing stage 1 of the Crawford report to fruition by means of this legislation. I commend the Bills.
-Since becoming aware some months ago of the proposed legislation in relation to the dairy industry I have been somewhat concerned for 2 reasons. Firstly, I was concerned whether it would accord with the philosophy of our Party. I am interested to note that the legislation before us tonight is supported by the Opposition. That was one of the matters which concerned me. It seemed to me to be more in line with Oppositions proposals than with proposals normally associated with the Government. The other matter which caused me considerable concern was whether the legislation would be good for the Victorian dairy farmer. However, I found that members of the Government committee had been working on the Industries Assistance Commission report for some months before I came to the Senate. All I could really do was talk to them about it. They assured me that the proposals would be of advantage to dairy farmersin general and Victorian dairy farmers in particular. I read in the Press criticism of the proposals by the Victorian Minister of Agriculture. I live in his electorate in Victoria. In fact, I have a close association with him. He made no complaint about the legislation to me. So, I formed the conclusion that he was grandstanding. I am not being critical by suggesting that. I think it is typical of practically all State Ministers. They grandstand for their own electoral purposes and perhaps in an attempt to get more out of the Federal Government.
On Tuesday night I received a telephone call complaining about the legislation, and on Wednesday I received the telegram already referred to. Both of these actions emanating from the Victorian Minister came after the party room discussion and after the Bills had gone through the other House; so it was too late for me to raise in the party room the matters about which he was talking. I expressed to him my displeasure that he should leave it until the last moment to register his complaints with me. I have discussed that matter with him at considerable length, and I believe that the position will be different in the future; that if he has any complaints about actions of the Federal Government I will hear about them with good time to do something about them.
The result was that yesterday I spent most of my time in conference and on the telephone, trying to sort out matters raised in the telephone discussion which I had had and in the telegram. The Victorian Minister’s position is a sort of fall-back position. Firstly, he claimed to be against the l egislation. If the legislation had to go through, then he was against the levy provisions. If the levy provisions had to be included in the legislation, then it was his view that the levy should be returned to the offending State, not the State in which the offence took place-in other words, to the State from which the milk was sold interstate.
Yesterday I spoke to the Federal Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) about these matters and put in much time discussing the orderly marketing arrangements with him and other members of the Government committee studying theIAC report. It was put to me by the Federal Minister that stage I would be of advantage to Victorian dairy farmers, but that the other States would not agree to the implementation of stage I without the levy provision. When I examined the proposals, that seemed to me to be quite fair and proper. I had a good look at the Industries Assistance Commission recommendation also. There is no doubt that, as mentioned in the second reading speech of the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack), the IAC scheme is aimed essentially at protecting the domestic market price structure. Its recommendation is to maintain stability, or rather to overcome the potential for instability. The Victorian Minister had not spoken to me about the advantages which the Victorian dairy farmers might gain from stage I; but when I put it to him that there may be an advantage for the Victorian dairy farmers he disclosed to me that he had formed a view already that it would be worth at least $2m and probably $3m to them. This led me to the conclusion that the Federal Minister’s position was not only crystal clear but also quite valid.
I also spoke to the Federal Minister about the Victorian Minister’s proposal that the levy should be returned to the offending State. I discovered that the Federal Minister favours the return of the levy when it has been triggered, to the offending State. In other words, it is his view that if Victorian dairy farmers market milk interstate and the levy is triggered, then the levy should be returned to Victoria. Of course, Victoria would not return it to the offending marketers but would use if for its general purposes in connection with the industry. As I understand it, and as in fact I am assured by the Federal Minister, that is his personal opinion. But because it was a matter to be considered in the future when the levy is imposed, if ever it is imposed, and because it had been decided that other matters in the legislation should be left to a majority decision of the Agricultural Council, he decided that this matter should be left to a majority decision of the Agricultural Council, too. So that is the situation as it is in the legislation. That again seems to me to be quite a reasonable proposition.
The final problem which had been raised by the Victorian Minister was on the question of cream. In his second reading speech on the Dairy Assistance Levy Bill the Minister said:
There is provision for other products to be prescribed-
And he gave as an example fresh cream. The Victorian Minister became considerably concerned about this because Victoria already has a substantial interstate trade in cream. It then appeared as though this levy could be triggered from the moment that the legislation comes into force on 1 July this year. I went back to the Federal Minister who then reminded me that in fact the levy cannot apply to existing agreements. In other words, all existing agreements stand. So long as Victoria continues its interstate trade in cream that is an existing agreement and it cannot be used to trigger the levy.
I did put to the Minister that this point was not quite clear in his second reading speech in relation to cream and other milk products because in his second reading speech he said that where arrangements existed between State authorities for the supply of milk between States the levy collected on such milk should be returned to the supplying State. I repeat that he said ‘milk’. Unfortunately the Minister should have said milk and milk products’. He did not say that but he acknowledged to me that that was what was intended. He further said that he would arrange for the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs to make that point clear during the debate in this chamber. When I went back to the Victorian Minister and explained all this to him he was then quite satisfied. Weighing all these assurances and the benefits of this legislation for all dairy farmers against the matters which I mentioned at the beginning of my speech as being of concern to me, I support the legislation.
– in reply- I thank the Senate for its support of these Bills. A number of senators will probably have concern about the matter that Senator Lewis has mentioned, as a result of telegrams sent to many honourable senators by the Victorian Minister of Agriculture, I point out that in the second reading speech on the Dairy Industry Assistance Bill I stated that at the special meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council on 18 May all States other than Victoria agreed that the payments to the States should be related basically to the levy collections on the quantity of milk sold within each State; that where arrangements existed between State authorities for the supply of milk between States the levy collected on such milk should be returned to the supplying State. Any other moneys are to be retained in the trust account for the benefit of the industry generally and should be used in accordance with recommendations of the Agricultural Council.
I want to make it clear on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and to advise the Senate that the above arrangements apply to levy collections not only in respect of market milk but to all fresh cream products that may be prescribed, such as table cream and ultra-high temperature long life milk. Again I should mention that the legislation has been drafted in a manner which allows for flexibility to deal with a particular problem arising from the marketing of a specific product or products. For example, the legislation will allow for a levy to be imposed on market milk, table cream and long life milk concurrently, or for it to be imposed on market milk only, or table cream only, or UHT long life milk only, in each case depending upon the circumstances which obtain at any point of time. Mr President, I trust that these Bills will have a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
– I rise very briefly to lay some stress on and just to be clear in my own mind about the question raised by the Victorian Minister of Agriculture in relation to clause 14 of the Dairy Industry Assistance Bill. Clause 14 reads:
I presume that clause 14 is the one to which the Victorian Minister referred. I hope that the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) can give me some assurance that Mr Smith has misinterpreted that clause, that under that clause any money raised by the levy will be paid back to the State in which the product was produced.
– The Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) has sent a telegram to Mr Smith on this matter. The telegram reads:
On the question of the distribution of levy proceeds, all States, other than Victoria, at the meeting on 18 May strongly supported the need for levy collections to be returned to the States where the milk was sold, except where arrangements existed between State milk authorities for the supply of milk between States. Victoria was the only State to support the return of all moneys collected by way of the levy.
That is the point at issue, as I understand it. The only exception is in those cases where arrangements already exist.
Bills agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment or requests; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Mr Chris Santos;Aid to Indonesia;East Timor
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I do not intend to keep the Senate for very long at this rather late hour. Some two, three or four weeks ago I asked a question in relation to an application by Mr Chris Santos for permanent residence in Australia. Mr Santos’ visa expired on 30 April. I have not received a reply to that question from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar). I know for a fact that Mr Santos is somewhat apprehensive about the fact that it is one month since his visa expired. As far as I know, there is still no answer as to his future. Surely the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has a duty to make some decision on this application as soon as possible and relieve Mr Santos of the worry that is currently in his mind.
Further to the question of Mr Santos and the work he has done for Timor and the refusal by this House to vote for an inquiry into the events in East Timor before and after the Indonesian invasion, it is interesting to note that American Congressional hearings on this matter are to be held later this month. It seems rather strange that the Americans, who are many miles away- much further away from Timor than we are- should be concerning themselves with an investigation to try to find out the truth of the matter when we in Australia thus far have been prepared to turn a blind eye. In fact we have virtually closed the door on our near neighbours. It is also of interest to note that American military aid to Indonesia will be cut off after this financial year. As far as I am aware, that also is a decision that Australia has yet to reach, if we ever are prepared to do so. It seems to me that Australia is prepared to go on supplying military aid in all its various forms, including the training of Indonesian troops in this country, and to say nothing when those troops are used against a very near neighbour of ours. At this stage, Mr President, I seek to have incorporated in Hansard 2 documents. One is a Congressional report on East Timor by Congresswoman Meyner and the other is a background report on the events before the Indonesian invasion of East Timor and events up until quite recent date.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The documents read as follows-
REPORT ON THE CONGRESSIONAL DELEGATION VISIT TO EAST TIMOR BY REPRESENTATIVE HELEN MEYNER
Reasons for the Visit
On March 23, 1977, a joint hearing was held by the Subcommittee on International Organisations and the Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs to consider the reported mass atrocities in East Timor during the invasion and occupation of the territory by the Indonesian forces beginning in December 1975. Testimony was received by Robert Oakley, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs. Jim Dunn, Director of Foreign Policy Section of the Legislative Reference Service, Australian Parliament, Mario Carascalao (leader of Uniao Democratic party), and Jose Goncalzez, Timorese Governmental official.
Mr Dunn testified on the basis of reports from Timorese refugees in Portugal. These refugees had reported to him that Indonesian forces had committed gross atrocities against the Timorese people. Mr Carascalao and Mr Goncalzez referred to the atrocities committed by the Fretilin (an acronym for Frente Revolucionaria de Timor Leste Independente, the East Timorese party which sought independence).
Several issues were the focus of attention at the hearing:
1 ) The question of the use of U.S. military equipment by the Indonesians in the invasion and occupation of East Timor. Was the use of such equipment in compliance with U.S. laws regarding security assistance. It was disclosed during the hearing that the Department of State had administratively suspended military aid to Indonesia from December 1975 to June 1976.
Did the people of East Timor have an opportunity to freely exercise their right ofself-determination? Under Indonesian supervision an ‘Act of Free Choice’ was held in which the chieftains of East Timor affirmed their support for union with Indonesia. The United Nations General Assembly and Security Council continue to recognise East Timor as anonself-governing territory.
Arrangements for the Delegation Visit
As a result of the hearing, the Government of Indonesia invited members of the two subcommittees to visit East Timor. Representative Meyner accepted the invitation.
On behalf of Representative Meyner the subcommittee staff began to discuss with State Department officials arrangements for the visit. The Department in turn was in communication with Indonesian officials. Having extended an invitation for a Congressional visit, the Government of Indonesia was in general determined to retain control over the trip arrangements. It was not happy at certain requests by subcommittee staff to meet privately with East Timorese individuals, or proposals that we bring an independent interpreter. As the time for the actual visit to East Timor drew near, other requests on behalf of Representative Meyner and staff for specific arrangements were likewise politely ignored. Inshort, it was clear that the Government of Indonesia would consider efforts to tamper with or question its arrangements as an ungracious response by guests of the Indonesian Government. As a result there was little free time for conversations which were not directly in the presence of Indonesian officials; those individuals whom the delegation asked to see were available only, if at all, in the context of public group meetings.
There were only 2 weeks to arrange the mechanics of a side trip to East Timor, and the normally demanding details of such a visit at such a distance were even more complicated. During that time, efforts to arrange a schedule more suitable to the purposes of the delegation were generally thwarted. Requests made by Mrs Meyner and staff for a limited itinerary with ample free time for individual appointments met with frustration. In fact, it was only after we boarded the aircraft in Kupang, West Timor, and met with GOI officials who were to accompany us througout the trip, that we began to learn the itinerary. We were informed that we were to visit the towns of Viqueque and Baucau, where we would stay overnight.
Even at the last moment urging that we limit our visits to Baucau and Dili, and stay overnight in Dili, were frustrated. Indonesian officials indicated that it was not possible to change our schedule since people were expecting us in each of the scheduled stops.
We reiterated our desire to meet with certain individuals and presented the list which had already given to Indonesian officials in Jakarta. Our Indonesian Government escort officers said that they had learned of our request but that sufficient dme was not provided to fulfill this request.
Visit to East Timor
On April 14, we visited Viqueque and Baucau. We stayed overnight in Baucau. On April 15, we visited Bobonaro and Dili.
In each town the format was fairly similar. We were received by large and friendly crowds including children dressed in uniforms and tribal people in colorful indigenous dress. Both at the airstrips and in proceeding to the villages we were greeted with banners, signs, and chants saying “Viva Indonesia, Viva Suharto, Viva Jimmy Carter,” and even some saying “Viva U.S. Congress.” Upon arriving at each village, we would proceed to a meeting hall. The administrator of the village or sometimes several local officials would formally address the delegation.
Following these speeches other Timorese would make statements or ask questions of us. The Timorese spoke in Portuguese and their comments were interpreted into English. These meetings were always held in the presence of Indonesian Government officials.
At each of these meetings the Timorese expressed their affirmation of integration with Indonesia. They noted that union with Indonesia made sense in terms of geography, ethnic bonds and common history. Particular emphasis was placed on Timor’s economic, social educational and health requirements, and the conscientions effort being made by the Indonesian government to help in this regard.
The Timorese often referred to atrocities committed by the Fretilin when they had been in control. They indicated resentment towards foreign governments and individuals who seek to interfere in the internal affairs of Timor. They alleged bad faith on the part of some who express concern about human rights. On several occasions Australia was singled out for criticism.
It was not possible to meet with Fretilin forces nor did we attempt any such meetings. No evidence of Fretilin activity was noticed by the delegation and Indonesian control of the five towns we visited appeared secure. In some towns local militia seemed fairly numerous. Very few Indonesian forces were noticed, although we were introduced to several Indonesian officers.
Indonesian Government officials stated that there were only a few hundred Fretilin troops remaining. They have been offered general amnesty and a number have surrendered.
1 ) Restrictions on the trip make it difficult to reach firm conclusions on (a) the question of whether the Timorese have freely chosen integration with Indonesia, and (b) the question of alleged atrocities by Indonesian or Fretilin forces. The Indonesians were concerned about our security and this may explain the reason for the restrictions.
The delegation received the impression that the Timorese people were satisfied with Indonesian integration. It appeared as though the Indonesian Government was making a determined effort to assist Timorese economic development.
) There was no opportunity to investigate the charges of Indonesian or Fretilin atrocities as alleged in the subcommittee hearing. However, there was no indication of ongoing repression; quite the contrary, the people appeared free ana uninhibited.
There was no opportunity to investigate the extent of current use of U.S. military equipment in the conflict with Fretilin forces. Local militia were all armed with Sten guns or NATO type small arms.
The following recommendations are addressed to the Department of State for its consideration. It is hoped that the Department can pursue all or some of these recommendations with the Indonesian Government and other interested parties:
1 ) Neither the U.N. nor the former colonial administrator of East Timor, Portugal, have accepted the integration of East Timor as part of Indonesia. The United States does not challenge the position of the Indonesian Government that East Timor has become an integral pan of the Republic of Indonesia. However, the Indonesian Government might profitably be encouraged to address the task of arriving at some mutually acceptable formula under which the United Nations could send a visiting mission to East Timor.
It would be helpful if the International Committee of the Red Cross ( ICRC) were permitted to visit East Timor for the purpose of (a) providing humanitarian relief, and (b) studying the conditions of prisoners of war.
Other nongovernmental humanitarian relief organisations might also be permitted to engage in relief work in East Timor.
BACKGROUND ON EAST TIMOR
East Timor was a Portuguese colony for nearly 450 years. In the twentieth century, Timor served as a place of exile for Portugal’s political dissidents, particularly under the Salazar regime. During the Second World War, the territory suffered a harsh Japanese occupation, which grew especially brutal when the East Timorese began to assist a company of Australian commandos who were conducting effective guerrilla warfare against the Japanese. More than SO 000 East Timorese died during the war. Current Australian protest of the Indonesian invasion stems in pan from sympathies on both sides during that period, as many Australians have never forgotten the help they received from East Timor.
Under Portuguese rule, there were virtually no advances in education, medical care, or economic development. A 1 972 survey showed the illiteracy rate to be more than 90 per cent, the infant mortality rate at more than SO per cent, and per capita income at $30 per year. East Timor’s economy derived foreign exchange almost exclusively from one product, coffee, although potential existed for agricultural diversification, a fishing industry, and oil production.
In early 1970, a group of young nationalists began to hold discussions on the state of the territory, and in this way began to come to grips with the problems of the country. After the fall of Portuguese fascism, the discussion group members helped to form the Timorese Social Democratic Association, which later became FRETILIN, the movement which is presently waging guerrilla war against an Indonesian invasion.
This information bulletin was prepared by the East Timor Information and Research Project and the Cornell East Timor Association. Additional copies may be obtained from 410 Stewart Avenue, Ithaca, New York 14850.
EAST TIMOR: A BRIEF CHRONOLOGY
April 25, 1974
A military coup in Lisbon brings nearly 50 years of fascist rule in Portugal to an end.
In a new climate of political freedom for Portugal’s colonies, three political groups are formed in East Timor over the following three months. They are the ASDT (Timorese Social Democratic Association), which subsequently changes its name to FRETILIN (Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor), a group favoring independence; UDT (Timorese Democratic Union), favoring continued associations with Portugal; and APODETI (Timorese Popular Democratic Association), favoring East Timor’s incorporation into Indonesia. It soon becomes clear that APODETI has far less support than the other two.
Jose Ramos Horta, Secretary of the ASDT’s Political Committee, visits Jakarta, and obtains a written assurance from the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Adam Malik, that Indonesia has no objection to East Timor’s becoming independent. ‘The independence of every country is the right of every nation, with no exception for the people in Timor,’ says Malik.
Indonesian radio starts carrying broadcasts hostile to the idea of an independent East Timor, attacking FRETILIN as communist and UDT as fascist.
UDT and FRETILIN enter into a pro-independence coalition.
Upon the return of a group of its leaders from a visit in Jakarta with the Deputy Chief of Indonesia’s Central Intelligence Agency (BAKIN), General Ali Murtopo, UDT breaks off its coalition with FRETILIN.
In obvious collusion with Indonesia, UDT stages a ‘show of force’ in the East Timor capital, Dili. Pro-UDT police units execute scores of FRETILIN members. Timorese regular forces (of the Portuguese Army) subsequently leave their barracks to support FRETILIN, which finally emerges in control of East Timor.
Acknowledging Portugal’s continuing sovereignty, a Fretilin de facto government takes steps to normalise conditions after the bloodshed of August. Overseas journalists and aid teams visit the country and report that there is widespread support for the Fretilin administration.
An Indonesian military incursion into the border village of Batugade begins a phase of low-level warfare between Indonesian and East Timorese units.
East Timor’s independence from Portugal is declared by Xavier do Amaral, President of Fretilin. The declaration is made after more than 2 months of ‘creeping invasion’ by Indonesian soldiers on the western border, at a time when a much larger invasion is feared, and Portugal is not expected to be able to defend its claims to sovereignty.
General Ali Murtopo says that Indonesia is preparing to intervene militarily in East Timor. ( Washington Post)
Fretilin appeals to President Ford, who is in Peking and about to visit Jakarta, to prevent an Indonesian invasion of the territory. (Los Angeles Times)
President Ford and Secretary of State Kissinger arrive in Jakarta for a 1 9-hour state visit with President Suharto. Ford gives Suharto assurances of continued U.S. ‘security assistance’. Kissinger tells Reuters that ‘the United States understands Indonesia’s position on the question of East Timor. ‘
Three ministers of the newly formed government of East Timor, Mari Alkatiri (Minister of Political Affairs), Rogerio Lobato (Minister of Defence), and Jose Ramos Horta (Minister of Foreign Affairs and Information), leave East Timor in anticipation of an invasion.
Less than 12 hours after the U.S. presidential party leaves Jakarta, Indonesia launches an air and sea invasion of Dili, the capital of East Timor, and Baucau, the second largest town.
East Timor’s radio reports, ‘The Indonesians have invaded. Their soldiers are in Dili. They are killing indiscriminately. Women and children are being shot in the streets, ‘ then goes dead.
Anticipating the invasion, Fretilin had dispersed food, fuel, weapons, and ammunition throughout the rugged, mountainous interior of the country.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Adam Malik describes the invading forces as ‘volunteers’. David Andelman reports in the New York Times that ‘Malik’s statement was seen as a response to the warnings of many American diplomats that overt military action, particularly with the use of American material, could jeopardize the proposal for $43 m in military aid to Indonesia then pending before Congress’.
Adam Malik says that he did not believe that the Indonesian action would affect the flow of U.S. aid to Jakarta. ‘We did not use American weapons there,’ Malik said, adding, ‘why should comrades make noise?’ ( Washington Post)
Portugal breaks off diplomatic relations with Indonesia. Portugal’s ambassador to the U.N. calls for a Security Council meeting on the question of Indonesian aggression against East Timor.
Indonesia announces the formation of a ‘Provisional Government of East Timor,’ headed by Armaldo Araujo, the President of APODETI. In 1946, Araujo was convicted of wartime collaboration with the Japanese. At that time, evidence was given in a civilian court in Dili that he had led a force known as the Black Column against East Timorese sympathetic toward the Allied cause.
The Christian Science Monitor reports that ‘Indonesia may be in for a nasty guerrilla war . . . Fretilin has considerable support among the people in the hinterland.’ December 10
Adam Malik, in an apparent reference to international criticism of the invasion, says: ‘Let the dogs bark, the caravan will go on. ‘ ( Washington Post)
The U.N. General Assembly calls on Indonesia to withdraw all its military forces from East Timor ‘without delay’. The 144-nation Assembly asks Indonesia to desist from ‘further violation of the territorial integrity of the country.’ The vote is 69-11. States supporting the resolution include Australia, Brazil, China, Greece, Mexico, Mozambique, Pakistan, Portugal, Sweden, the USSR, and Tanzania. 38 states, including the U.S., abstain from voting. A Washington Post editorial refers to Indonesia’s ‘felonious and forcible’ invasion of East Timor.
December 1 3
A New York Times editorial condemns the Indonesian invasion, calling on Congress to examine carefully the proposal for $43 million in military aid to Indonesia. The editorial describes the Indonesian invasion as a ‘lightning takeover’. The Foreign Minister of the newly established East Timor government, Jose Ramos Horta, tells a New York press conference that heavy fighting is continuing in many parts of East Timor, including Dili itself. Citing messages received from Fretilin radio via Darwin, Australia, Horta says that many of the Indonesian weapons captured are of U.S. manufacture. Horta also indicates that Unsupplied warships are being used in the naval blockade that has been maintained around Timor since September 197S. According to Horta, the U.S. therefore has the right to demand a ceasefire and the withdrawal of Indonesian forces.
The U.N. Security Council unanimously calls on Indonesia to withdraw from East Timor without delay. The Council also instructs the U.N. Secretary-General to send a factfinding mission to the area.
Indonesian forces launch a second offensive in East Timor. Reports leaked by Australian intelligence state that between 1 5,000 and 20,000 troops were used in this second offensive, in contrast to the 4,000-6,000 deployed in the offensive of December 7. The American press gives almost no coverage to the second offensive. It subsequently persists in accepting the official Indonesian view that Fretilin resistance is of minor and dwindling significance.
January 4, 1976
A Reuters dispatch says the Fretilin radio has reported that Indonesian planes have been using incendiary bombs in certain areas of East Timor.
A report in the Canberra-based daily, The Australian, says that Indonesia has been using an unidentified chemical spray that causes symptoms similar to the flu.
The London Guardian cites Australian intelligence, using information based on the monitoring of Indonesian communications traffic in the area, to the effect that there has been widespread killing of non-combatants by the Indonesians.
The Guardian also quotes Australian intelligence sources as saying that new information has emerged indicating that the five Australians journalists believed accidently killed in Balibo, East Timor on October 16, 1975, had in fact been executed on Indonesian orders.
Fretilin names four possible sites within Fretilincontrolled territory for a rendezvous with U.N. SecretaryGeneral Waldheim’s Special Representative, Vittorio Winspeare Guicciardi.
The Australian Commonwealth Police seize Fretilin radio in Darwin, the Australian city closest to Timor, on the grounds that its operator is unlicensed. This makes it impossible for Fretilin to arrange a visit by Waldheim’s representative to Fretilin-controlled areas of east Timor.
East Timor’s Foreign Minister Jose Ramos Horta protests to Security Council President Daniel P. Moynihan about the continued Indonesian naval blockade and air bombardment of East Timor. He also protests to the Australian government about its refusal to supply an airplane by which Special Representative Guicciardi might be able to reach Fretilinheld areas of East Timor.
February 1 5
The vice-president of the Indonesian-created ‘Provisional Government of East Timor’, Fransisco Lopez da Cruz, says in Jakarta that 60,000 East Timorese have died as a result of the recent fighting. This figure would represent nearly onetenth of East Timor’s 650,000 people.
Representative Thomas Harkin (D-Iowa) proposes on the floor of the House that the Military Assistance Program aid of $ 1 9.4 million to Indonesia be eliminated.
Rep. Harkin stresses the Indonesian invasion of East Timor as a major reason why aid should be cut off. ‘The question to be answered,’ he said, ‘is whether the Congress condones Indonesia ‘s acts of aggression. ‘
The amendment is defeated.
The U.N. Security Council reaffirms its December 22, 1975 resolution calling on Indonesia to ‘withdraw its forces from East Timor without delay.’ The United States abstains on the vote. According to the New York Times, Indonesia’s position is ‘discreetly backed by the United States.’
Jose Martins, a member of the ‘Provisional Government of East Timor’ delegation to the December 1975 U.N. debates, changes his position. In a letter to U.N. SecretaryGeneral Kurt Waldheim, Martins writes: ‘I came in December not as a free man. I was forced, like others then, as a prisoner, to read what the Indonesians had written. ‘
An article in the Washington Post says that the United States is concerned that Australia’s relations with Indonesia have become strained as a result of Australia’s position on the question of East Timor, and that ‘American diplomats in the area are working overtime to contain the dispute. ‘
The Indonesian government bans the publication of a book critical of its Timor policies. The book, ‘Why We Are Isolated in the World ‘, was written by newspaper editor and former Minister of Information B. M. Diah.
The Indonesian-sponsored ‘Provisional Government of East Timor’ holds a ‘People’s Assembly’ in Dili. Twenty journalists are flown to Dih for a visit of three hours. None of the journalists had ever visited East Timor before. In addition, 25 states are invited to send diplomatic representatives, but only 7 do so.
According to Hamish McDonald, one of those who made the three-hour visit, ‘Today’s meeting is presented as an act of self-determination. The observers had no chance to probe its authenticity, however. Proceedings were held in Portuguese and explanations were sketchy. No opportunity was given to meet the representatives of the People ‘s Representive Council.’ (Washington Post) According to Peter Monkton of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, reporters were not allowed to stray from the immediate area of the Assembly Hall.
Fretilin gunfire prevents the scheduled landing at Baucau airport of a group of Indonesian officials led by Minister of State Sumarlin
Sources in Jakarta say that over 100 soldiers of the Indonesian KKO (Marine Corps) have gone over to the Fretilin forces in East Timor.
Indonesia announces that East Timor has been formally incorporated into the nation as its 27th province.
UDT leaders in Portugal issue a statement applauding the refusal of the Portuguese government to accept the integration of East Timor into Indonesia. ‘The leaders of ourparty in Dili are prisoners in the technical sense. Their actions are therefore null and void. ‘
Indonesia releases 23 Portuguese soldiers held prisoner since August,1975. Forty-five prominent East Timorese, icluding Joao Carrescalao, former chairman of UDT, are evacuated as well. Both the soldiers and the East Timorese are instructed not to talk with newsmen in Lisbon.
Michael Richardson, Singapore correspondent for the Melbourne-based daily The Age, reports that U.S. officials in Southeast Asia have warned Australia not to allow further deterioration of relations with Indonesia over the issue of East Timor. According to Richardson, the U.S. believes that control of East Timor by a ‘ friendly anti-communist ‘ government is of direct strategic interest to the United States, because one fast and safe way for American nuclear-armed submarines to pass undetected between the Pacific and Indian Oceans is through the Ombai-Wetai straits north of Timor Island.
Independent analysts doubt that the Ombai-Wetai straits are of any special significance to the U.S. These analysts believe that the warning to Australia is part of a strategy to end Australian government criticism of the Timor invasion.
A London Times article headlined ‘East Timor Fighting Mars Indonesia’s Anniversary’ cites growing disaffection in the Indonesian Army over what if termed ‘Indonesia’s Vietnam’.
The Colombo Summit Conference on Non-Aligned Nations discusses the East Timor issue, despite Indonesian protestations. In the final communique, the conference lists East Timor among non-self-governing territories ‘still to be liberated’.
TheSydney Morning Herald quotes Indonesian strongman Suharto as saying that Fretilin still possesses some strength in areas of the former Portuguese colony. Suharto’s remarks are the first public admission by the Indonesian government that Fretilin is still a force to be reckoned with.
Indonesia closes off waters around East Timor and warns that foreign ships will be fired upon. The Indonesian move is apparently part of a buildup of forces against the FRETILIN guerrillas who have been claiming military successes in preceding weeks, according to the Australian.
American sources assert that the U.S. has delivered the first three of sixteen Vought A- 7 Corsair jets ordered by Indonesia. In addition, the first three of sixteen propellerdriven Rockwel OV-10 Broncos were also delivered, say the sources. Both planes are suitable for ground attack and napalm bombing.
PresidentSuharto, in his Armed Forces Day speech, pays homage to the ‘volunteers’ who have died in East Timor. Analysts seeSuharto as responding to pressure from military wives and widows for recognition of their husbands’ sacrifices in the continuing and unacknowledged war.
The 4th Committee of the U.N. General Assembly, in reaffirming its previous resolutions and that of the Security Council, strongly deplores the consistent refusal of the Indonesian government to comply with the provisions of these resolutions. The General Assembly rejects the claim that East Timor has been integrated into Indonesia, and reaffirms the inalienable rightofthe people of East Timor to self-determination and independence, and the legitimacy of their struggle to achieve that right. ‘
The vote is 61-18, with 49 abstentions. The United States votes against the resolution.
A highly confidential report given to the Australian government, sections of which are published in the Melbourne Age, says that FRETILIN still controls about 85 per cent of the countryside in East Timor, and that fighting is widespread.
The five-page document, smuggled out of Indonesia, was prepared by relief workers who recently visited East Timor. According to the Melbourne Age, the document ‘is regarded by Australian officials as one of the most authentic accounts of the situation in East Timor since Indonesian troops invaded the former Portuguese colony late last year. ‘
The report confirms that 60 000 East Timorese have been killed since the Indonesian invasion. The reports also says that 20 000 people in Dili, out of a total population of 30 000, have registered themselves for passage to Portugal.
A Plenary meeting of the U.N. General Assembly votes 68-20, with 49 nations abstaining, to uphold the resolution of November 17. Nations voting for the resolution include Brazil, China, Colombia, Greece, Iceland, Mozambique, Norway,Portugal, Sweden, and the USSR. Nations opposing the resolution include Chile, Iran, Thailand, the United States, and Uruguay.
Reliable Indonesian military sources recently returned from Dili say that Indonesian military control around Dili extends only 500 yards outside the town during the daytime. The sources say that at night the out streets of Dili are unsafe for Indonesian forces.
January 16, 1977
Australian parliamentarian Gordon Bryant calls for a full international inquiry into Indonesian atrocities in Timor.
Bryant and James S. Dunn have been conducting extensive interviews with Timorese refugees in Portugal. (Dunn, former Australian consul in East Timor, is a specialist in Indonesian and Timorese affairs. He is currently head of the Australian Parliament’s foreign affairs research unit. His trip to Portugal, however, has been made on a nonofficial basis.)
There is mounting evidence of continuing atrocities of the order for which we hanged people after the Second World War, ‘ Bryant says. (The Melbourne Age).
January 1 7
Indonesian Home Minister Amir Machmud says that upcoming national elections in May will not cover East Timor. The present situation in the territory will not allow the holding of elections, Machmud tells reporters. He does not elaborate. (Associated Press).
Unofficial Indonesian sources reveal that one of the six American-supplied OV-10 Bronco counter-insurgency planes currently being used in Timor has crashed. (The Melbourne Age).
February 1 1
Dunn presents to the Australian government a 17-page dossier based on interviews conducted in Portugal. The Dunn report asserts that the situation in Timor ‘might well constitute, relatively speaking, the most serious case of contravention of human rights facing the world at this time. ‘
Six leading members of the Australian Labor Party write to Representative Donald Fraser of the House International Relations Committee, requesting that he look into charges of human rights violations in East Timor. Representative Fraser (Democrat-Minnesota) chairs the House Subcommittee on International Organizations, a panel concerned with human rights issues as they relate to U.S. policy.
Ninety-four members of the Australian Parliament sign a petition asking President Carter to comment publicly on the situation in East Timor.
Dunn is invited to testify before the Fraser Subcommittee.
International Oil Limited of Australia announces its decision to abandon its concession on the Indonesian (western) side of Timor. Mention is made of ‘numerous operational difficulties over the last two years because of the war in nearby East Timor. ‘ (Australian Financial Review).
Indonesian Foreign Minister Adam Malik warns Australia not to allow Dunn to testify in the U.S. Congress, hinting that if he does, ‘spontaneous’ demonstrations will be unleashed against the Australian Embassy in Jakarta.
The U.S. State Department, with the backing of the Australian and Indonesian embassies in Washington, arranges for the hearings on Timor to proceed under the joint sponsorship of the Asia and Pacific Subcommittee and the Fraser subcommittee.
The Asia and Pacific Subcommittee, headed by Rep. Lester Wolff (Democrat-New York) is seen as being less concerned with human rights issues than the Fraser subcommittee. According to a cable allegedly leaked by an Australian Foreign Affairs Department source, the feeling is that ‘joint hearings might dissipate, to some extent, the intensity of criticism of Indonesia on human rights violations.’ (Australian Broadcasting Company - ABC).
Hamish McDonald, writing in the Australian Financial Review, states that ‘both the Indonesian government and the United States StateDepartment have labored in recent months to keep Indonesia out of the limelight as concern for human rights takes a bigger role in American policy formulation and consideration of aid requests. ‘
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Robert Oakey tells the Asia and Pacific Subcommittee that the FordAministration stopped all military assistance to Indonesia from December 1975 administration to June 1976 because of reports of barbarity by Indonesian troops in East Timor.
Oakley adds that the Ford Administration later resumed military assistance and recognized Indonesias annexation. He claims that the Carter Administration is following the same policy. ‘As a result, if Indonesia uses any of the $58 million in U.S. military assistance requested for fiscal 1978 in East Timor, it is defending its own territory, ‘ Oakley says.
The $58 million request is a 25 per cent increase over the amount of military assistance approved by Congress in fical 1977.
Dunn testifies before the joint hearing. He states that he has learned that all mail from East Timor bound for Portugal has been stopped, presumably to prevent further disclosures that would be harmful to Indonesia.
The U.S. State Department says that Dunn’s charges of Indonesian atrocities ‘have been greatly exaggerated’ and that there is ‘no useful purpose’ in questioning Indonesia’s annexation of East Timor.
Despite the State Department’s admission that Indonesian troops invaded East Timor with Americansupplied weapons, two pro-Indonesian East Timorese also testifying deny that East Timor was ever invaded.
– I shall take into account the remarks made by Senator Primmer tonight and pass on his comments to my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.53 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 9 March 1977:
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 8 March 1977:
Did a training scheme for unemployed youth, sponsored by the Blacktown Youth Council in New South Wales, nearly collapse prior to its commencement as a result of the Federal Government delaying funding for the scheme. If so, (a) under what Federal Government program has the scheme been funded, (b) why was there a delay in the funding, (c) have there been any similar instances of delays in providing funds for similar schemes, and (d) has the Minister taken any action to ensure that delays in providing finance after approval of grants do not occurin future.
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The honourable senator’s question refers to a project approved for funding under the Community Youth Support Scheme. After the project was approved the processing of an initial payment of $2,600 was delayed in my Department due to heavy pressure of work at that time. There have been a few similar instances but the Department has since corrected the situation.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice, on 29 March 1977:
What are the details of the Travelling Allowance paid to each member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly for the period 1 July 1976 to 3 1 December 1 976.
– The Minister for the Northern Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Each Member was paid travelling allowance during the period 1 July 1976 to 31 December 1976 at the rate of $41 per overnight stay and on the conditions prescribed by the Remuneration Tribunal.
Extraction of Oil from Shale (Question No. 450)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources, upon notice, on 20 April 1977:
– The Minister for National Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 3 1 March 1 977:
How many persons are currently receiving assistance in each State and Territory under (a) theNational Employment Training Scheme, (b) the Community Youth Support Scheme, (c) the Special Incentive for Youth Employment Training Scheme, (d) the National Apprenticeship Assistance Scheme, and (e) the Commonwealth Rebate for Apprenticeship Full-Time Training Scheme.
-The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The information sought has been set out in the answer to Senate Question No. 5 1 of 9 March 1 977.
The actual number of young people expected to participate in each CYSS project is estimated by an organisation when applying for a grant. On this basis it was estimated that about 14 000 young people were likely to participate in those projects which had been approved up to 3 1.3.77. Because the involvement of young people in projects is voluntary and not for fixed periods and because projects may provide repeating programs or services, actual participation figures are not readily available at present.
Following the introduction of CRAFT on 15.1.77 the National Apprenticeship Assistance Scheme is being progressively phased out and the numbers receiving assistance are expected to decline rapidly during 1 977.
NAAS provides three measures of assistance namely, an employers incentive subsidy, a subsidy to employers providing off-the-job training to approved standards, and a livingawayfromhome allowance for first and second year apprentices. 1 Employers Incentive Subsidy
Claims for the employers incentive subsidy may be lodged at any time from the end of the particular quarter for which the claim is made until 9 months later. The most recent complete data on claims refers to the situation as at end of June 1976 when 1 5 467 employers had lodged claims in respect of 25 0 1 6 first year apprentices employed up to March 1 976.
Claims for the remaining quarters of 1976 and for 1977 are still being received. However, the number of claims received from employers up to the end of March 1977 and of the number of apprentices that generated those claims are as follows:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 June 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770602_senate_30_s73/>.