30th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 276 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between the 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.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in aged 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:
Require each quarterly percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index to be applied to age and invalid and similar pensions as from the pension pay day nearest following the date of announcement of the CPI movement.
Give an open assurance to all aged and invalid pensioners that any revision of the items comprising the Consumer Price Index will in no way result in reductions in the value of any future entitlements to pensioners.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate, in 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 Collard.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that:
We, your petitioners humbly pray that the Government take immediate steps to provide humanitarian aid to the refugees from South Africa, in particular by providing funds for the supply of clothing, medical supplies, etc. scholarships and transport costs to enable student refugees to continue their education in Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Davidson.
To the President and Members of the Senate assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned students, of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decision by the Government to withdraw all forms of financial assistance to students of Non-state Tertiary Institutions is in total conflict with stated Government education policy.
The decision will result in a shortage of places for training secretarial and clerical students and an inordinate demand upon the State Government education systems.
At a time of severe economic disruption, this action must lead to a serious worsening of the current employment situation, particularly for school leavers.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the Federal Government will act immediately to reverse its decision.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Guilfoyle and Senator Button.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate, assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many pensioners who are holders of the Pensioners Health Benefit Card, have suffered undue hardship as inmates of Private Nursing Homes, because the Federal Government subsidy was insufficient to meet the charges as laid down.
Many pensioners whose spouse was an inmate of the Private Nursing Homes suffered poverty in an endeavour to sustain their partner while in the nursing home.
Only in rare cases was the statutory minimum patient contribution as laid down adhered to.
That the telephone was a matter of life and death to many pensioners, but because of the cost of installation of the telephone many are unable to afford the installation.
That those pensioners who have only their pension and very little else to live on and are forced to pay high rents, are in many cases living in extreme poverty.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter or urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Guilfoyle.
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 Martin.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled.
The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Concern over abortion clinics set up in the Australian Capital Territory.
Concern over Medibank funds being used to subsidise deliberately procured abortions which we strongly hold to be acts of murder.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should:
Not allow the continuance or development of any abortion clinics within the Australian Capital Territory.
Not allow Medibank funds to be used to subsidise deliberately procured abortions.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Kilgariff.
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 Walsh.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Does the Minister recall that yesterday the Opposition sought clarification of certain aspects of the Government ‘s policy in respect of tax indexation under the new tax system? Can the Minister say whether a document entitled’The Costs of the Government’s Personal Tax Reforms’, which was circulated in Parliament House yesterday, claiming to explain in greater detail the Government’s policy, from which we are to assume that full indexation will not continue after June 1979 was, in fact, from the Treasurer’s office? Is it also a fact that last evening an officer, also from the Treasurer’s office, advised the Press Gallery verbally that the document that had been circulated was in fact incorrect and had to be changed? Is the Minister now in a position to table in the Parliament the precise position so that members of this Parliament at least are made aware of the true position and so that no doubt is left in the minds of any of us that the Budget figures which were described yesterday by the Treasurer himself as rubbery are not seen to be slippery as well?
– Yes, I do recall the questions asked yesterday and I recall my undertaking to try to get some clarity on this whole matter for today. The questions related to page 20 of the Budget Speech, some parts of Statement No. 2 accompanying it and some parts of Statement No. 4. This morning I obtained from the Treasury a statement which is part 1 of the answer that I hope will be helpful to Senator Wriedt and indeed to the Senate as a whole. I shall then deal with other matters he referred to in a circulated document which I also got this morning. The first part relates to the cost of indexation and restructuring. These words are from the Treasurer to me to announce on his behalf in the Senate:
As I announced in the Budget Speech, full automatic indexation will be maintained in respect of the new system in future years.
It was, however, pointed out that the transitional arrangements will apply with respect to the indexation adjustment due on 1 July 1978.
The cost of indexation this financial year is estimated at $965m and this together with the cost of restructuring the personal income tax scale will mean that the Government will receive $1.3 billion less from the taxpayer this financial year.
Under the transitional arrangements that are to apply to the indexation adjustment on 1 July 1978, dependant rebates which will have operated unchanged throughout 1977-78 will be indexed by the full indexation adjustment
The new rate scale, however, which will have been operating only during the second half of this financial year will be indexed by half the factor given by the annual indexation rules.
The estimated cost of indexation and the restructuring of the personal income tax scale is estimated at some $1.8 billion in 1978-79.
That is what the Treasurer has sent to me to provide answers to the questions yesterday from the honourable senator and his colleagues. There is another document which was sent to my office this morning. I think it is the one to which Senator Wriedt was referring. It reads:
The accompanying notes on the bottom of the statement read as follows:
The figures for all years are estimates.
The cost of the personal tax package in 1978, that is after the saving from granting only half indexation, is given in the Budget speech in Statement 4 as $973m. It is the cost to the 1977-78 Budget of personal tax measures announced in the Budget.
This figure is calculated as the cost in 1978-79 of restructuring the rate scale ($l,390m) less the saving from half indexation estimated at about $4 17m (this figure for half indexation is less than the one given above as the one in the table includes $50m for the indexing of rebates for dependants, sole parents, etc.).
The figure of $ 1 , 390m as the cost in 1978-79 of restructuring the rate scale differs from the figure of $ 1 , 287m given on page 125 of Statement 4. The latter is a ‘full year’ figure for 1977- 78. Essentially, the figure of $ 1,390m is derived from the cost in 1978-79 of the restructuring as it applies to 1978- 79 income plus the residual cost of restructuring for 1977-78.
In order to be as helpful as I can, having just not long ago obtained these documents, I shall send both of them out for copying so that the honourable senator will have both of them.
-I wish to follow up with a supplementary question. I thank the Minister for his trouble. The document from which the Minister just read appears to be the original document that was circulated. If my information is correct I understand that the document has been subsequently altered, and altered quite significantly, and involves a reduction of $4 17m in the case of revenue forgone for the financial year 1978-79.I am also given to understand that some of the years involved have also been altered. I do not wish to pursue that matter because I cannot expect the Minister to answer these questions precisely if in fact alterations have been made by the Treasurer of which Senator Cotton has not been made aware. I ask: What will be the position after 30 June 1979? Can he advise the Senate precisely? Is he saying still that full indexation will apply, or do the figures described here for the financial year 1978-79 mean that only half indexation will apply after 30 June 1979
-First of all, I am indebted to the honourable senator. The statement that I have in my hand is the one to which I referred. If there is a later statement that will be obtained, and I shall make that available to the Senate as well. I would have thought it was clear that I have given the statement that was given to me. If there are any other statements which change the statement to which I have referred they will be brought in. What we have at the moment is Senator Wriedt ‘s comment to me that he believes this to be the fact. He may well be right; he may possibly not be right Let us find out. In regard to the second part of Senator Wriedt ‘s supplementary question, I indicated yesterday and I indicate again that I shall give only such answers on Treasury matters as come to me from the Treasurer with his authentication.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health: Have claims been made, allegedly on the basis of research, that 25 per cent of Sydney’s Aboriginal children suffer from serious malnutrition? Is it further alleged that most of them suffer permanent brain damage from this malnutrition? In view of the fact that there is genuine concern on this side of the House for the situation and because some of us want to make an accurate assessment of what the real situation is, I ask the Minister: On what basis of evidence do the claims rest, and how comprehensive and well controlled are any surveys which have been carried out?
– I understand that the basis for the claims is the clinical examination by the Aboriginal Medical Service in Sydney of patients visiting the ‘under-5’s’ clinic. This showed that 25 per cent of children examined had weights below the third percentile. Brain damage was not mentioned in the material supplied to the Department of Health. The sample size was 160 children under 5 years of age seen since August 1976. I understand that the study included details of a number of medical conditions suffered by the children. I would add that this could not be regarded as a comprehensive and accurate research study. It would be quite invalid to attempt extrapolation of the figures to the whole population concerned. The selection is biased since the study was done on those presenting themselves at the Aboriginal Medical Service for treatment. Nevertheless the existence of malnutrition in this community is recognised and the Minister for Health is discussing remedial measures with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to see what can be done either within the medical service or in any other way in which we are able to overcome this problem.
-My question of the Minister representing the Treasurer follows the question asked of him by my colleague and leader, Senator Wriedt. I ask him whether he read the last sentence of the second notation in the document from which he read, as follows:
It is the cost to the 1977-78 Budget of personal tax measures announced in the Budget.
I ask whether the Minister is aware that another document has since been issued by the Treasurer which states:
It is the cost to the 1978-79 Budget of personal tax measures announced in the 1977-78 Budget.
That is a different sentence and a different financial year. If the second document issued by the Treasury from which I quoted is different from the first document from which the Minister quoted, will the Minister check with the Treasury to ascertain which is the right document and ask the Treasurer to ensure that the Senate and the Minister himself are properly and adequately informed?
– The honourable senator has asked a very proper question. The Senate is entitled to be accurately informed. I have sent out the papers from which I read- they were the only copies I had- with that sort of request to the Treasurer myself.
– I ask a question of the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. Local government throughout Australia appreciates the very real assistance provided by this Government, and in an effort to provide even better service to ratepayers is seeking a variation to the timing and procedure of announcement of funds being distributed to local government. The problem lies in the lateness of the notice. This year it was given in late July, by which time councils were required to have completed their 1977-78 budgets. As a result this can produce the real possibility of rates being increased unnecessarily. The question therefore is: Will the Government investigate and, if found possible, advise amounts on a best estimate possible basis in June of each year subject to any adjustment, more or less, being made in the following financial period?
– I understand the importance of the question that Senator Archer has asked. Indeed, I gave an answer to Senator
Devitt when he asked a similar question last year. The fact is that it is because of the need for some four States to have prior knowledge that a number of things happen. The Federal Govern7 ment announces at the June Premiers Conference what will be the percentage for the year. It did so this year, indicating that the percentage would be 1.52. In that knowledge local government can make a best estimate. The States can make a very accurate estimate of how much they will get and individual councils can make an estimate with reasonable assurance.
– Which are the four States to which you refer?
-In fact this year the knowledge that it would be 1.52 per cent gave a clear understanding that there would be an increase of approximately 18 per cent. That meant that councils could take that into account. Senator Devitt interjected and asked which were the States concerned. The real problem applies in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, where the local government financial year is from 1 July to 30 June. It does not apply in the other two States. So that honourable senators will understand, let me say that the understanding that has been reached with the six States, agreed to by the Premiers, is that the percentage should apply to the take of personal income tax for the previous year. For the precise amount to be known it is necessary to wait until July for the Commissioner of Taxation to indicate what that take was. Nevertheless there can be pretty accurate predictions along the line, and those were very accurate this year. On that basis the States themselves should have been able to make best guesses. In fact a number of the States have been off the mark already. I have already issued certificates for payment in the various States. A number of the State Grants Commissions have acted. I do not think I have heard from Tasmania yet.
– The rates are out in Tasmania so you are a bit late again.
-I am indebted to the honourable senator for indicating that the rates are out. Nevertheless it is not because we were a bit late again. It is certain that all local governments knew in early June that the percentage would be 1.52, and that it would mean for the State approximately an increase of 1 8 per cent. For Tasmania it means substantially more than that. While I am on my feet let me say that Tasmania protested to the Premiers’ Conference about the formula for the inter-State breakup. The Premiers agreed that it should be referred to the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The Commonwealth Grants Commission having referred back and recommended a new formula which benefited Tasmania significantly while penalising some other States, the Premiers with, I think, considerable breadth of vision accepted this formula. Tasmania will benefit significantly from it. I will arrange to inform honourable senators of the precise figures in that regard.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. May I now ask him the question which I asked previously by interjection? What is going on? How can we here be expected to gloss over the situation which he revealed this morning, especially since the Treasurer has stated publicly that the figures in the Budget are rubbery? That is a statement that needs explanation. I ask the Minister: In view of the figures that he gave us this morning, can he explain how those figures are arrived at and what are the assumptions about wage rates, employment and money wages payable, which form the basis of the calculation? I understand that the Minister has already stated that he will give that information when possible, but does he accept that it is not reasonable for the Senate to be placed in this situation? If necessary will he make arrangements to have Treasury advisers with him in anticipation of questions being asked from this side of the chamber?
-The Budget was presented on Tuesday night. The normal process is that a week expires before the Opposition makes a considered response to the Budget. A long process of debate takes place over weeks. As in the past, I shall listen to most of the speeches with the greatest of care. A lot of questions will be asked that need a lot of amplification and there will be a wide range of argument. When that is all disposed of I shall respond. If anybody expects me to be an instant calculator minute by minute he is looking at the wrong person. I do not think anybody can or will ever be able to be an instant calculator. What I shall do is what I have always tried to do, and that is to give accurate information first of all, to give a courteous response to requests, but not to provide answers for which I have no information. I understand Senator Georges ‘s problem but it will be a long time yet before the Senate finally decides on passing the Budget. There will be ample time to cover all the points that the honourable senator raises. I shall try to answer his queries as best I can.
– I ask the Minister a supplementary question. Without pressing the Minister too hard, does he expect us to enter into the Budget debate without receiving information promptly? Is it not his responsibility to ensure that he is well informed and has all the information available when questions are asked in the Senate?
-I can understand the honourable senator’s wish to get as much detail as he can prior to next Tuesday and I am certainly trying to get that for him, but I certainly do not in any way expect to be able to stand here and answer all questions concerning the Treasury, primary industry or trade as though I am an instant ready reckoner with the power of instant recall like the late Senator Martin Nicholls. I am not.
-I direct to the Minister for Science a question concerning the recent infestation of the spotted alfalfa aphid which is destroying so many lucerne pastures in many parts of Australia.
Opposition supporters- Oh!
– I add as an aside to this question that we hear much laughter from the other side of the Senate. Anybody who is interested in the rural side of Australia should show deep concern about the damage that this pest is doing to pastures. Because of my concern I ask the Minister: Can he state whether any inquiries have been made as to how this pest entered Australia, and what research is being carried out into the eradication of this pest?
-The question is a very serious and important one. In relation to the last part of the question, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is not aware of how this aphid came into Australia. We do not know whether anybody else is aware of how it came here. Such a pest can come in in upturned trouser cuffs or in the loading bays of aircraft. It is indeed a very serious problem. This pest was found in Australia for the first time in 1977 and it is very widespread in lucerne stands and to a lesser extent in other grasses. At the present time the aphid is being found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia but it is expected to spread throughout Australia very rapidly as it did apparently in the United States in the early 1950s. The extent of the damage so far caused by this pest is certainly not a laughing matter to those who are at all concerned about our rural industries. I think that the laughter that emanates from Opposition senators indicates their particular knowledge and concern.
It is anticipated that the loss of production, including that in the livestock industry, due to damage to pastures and lucerne will amount to some hundreds of millions of dollars before this pest is brought under control. Insecticide sprays will provide only a very brief respite because as honourable senators know the sprays are particularly expensive and resistance to individual insecticides will develop progressively. The main control practices will centre around the introduction of varieties resistant to the pest and on the use of their parasitic and fungal enemies. The aim is to develop a pest management system under which their effect will not be as serious as it could be. Complete eradication in terms of present knowledge is not practicable because of the widespread distribution of the pest. It is interesting to note that the CSIRO has already deployed 21 staff to work on the selection of resistant lucerne varieties and on the introduction of parasites and fungi which can attack the aphid. The first of three parasitic wasp-
– Who is that?
– I realise that Senator Cavanagh, being on the Opposition side of the Senate, would know something about this. The first of three parasitic wasp species attacking the spotted alfalfa aphid has already been received from the United States of America and is under quarantine at present in preparation for breeding up and field release. The other two are expected shortly. Due to the foresight of our officers in CSIRO, the lucerne variety, Falkiner, bred in Australia and incorporating resistance to the spotted alfalfa aphid, has been made available for bulking up. Other resistant strains are in sight. The work is being carried out in close collaboration with State departments of agriculture through a working group of the Standing Committee on Agriculture.
-I ask the Minister for Science: What is the current state of research with the Darrieus Rotar?
– If the honourable senator would repeat the question and explain what it is, I would be pleased to hear him.
-I am simply asking the Minister what is the current state of research with the Darrieus Rotar? Is he suggesting that he does not know what it is? Does he not read his own publications?
– In answer to the honourable senator, I do not claim to be a scientist. I claim to be a very good accountant who can sum up figures fairly well which is something that the Leader of the Opposition has been unable to do so far. In answer to his particular question, I have no information with me in relation to that matter. I will seek the information for the honourable senator if he will place his question on the Notice Paper.
– Is the Minister for Education aware that a series of rolling strikes being conducted by the Victorian Secondary Teachers Association is causing serious disruption and inconvenience in a number of Victorian high schools? According to a letter by the DirectorGeneral of Education in Victoria which appeared in last Saturday’s Age, the issue is: Who should run the schools?’. The DirectorGeneral went on to say that this issue is of vital interest to all people in the community who are concerned with the preservation of our democratic procedures. Whilst I appreciate that the matter primarily is one for the Victorian Government, can the Minister comment on the position on an Australia-wide basis, particularly, of course, where there are similar problems in the Territories which are directly under his jurisdiction?
– I am aware from media reports that in Victoria there has been a series of industrial disputes and troubles within the teaching profession. I am aware that there are matters, as Senator Tehan states, that wholly relate to the Victorian Government. I make no comment on those particular disputes. Industrial matters arise from time to time in the teaching profession throughout Australia. One of the interesting situations that I have noted in more modern times in the Territories and elsewhere is the growing disenchantment of parents and the community with the attempts to use and to prejudice the future of children and their education by way of industrial disputes by people who wish to further their own industrial self-interest. I pay tribute, on the one hand, to the considerable moderation of the bulk of teachers. We must be careful not to regard the majority of trade unionists as having a mote in their eye. The fact is that the majority of teachers are dedicated and hard working people who want to get on with their job. As always, particular militancy causes trouble amongst teachers.
For the most part, teachers have resisted that militancy.
I have been heartened by the fact that the community has accepted the basic principle that what is primarily needed in education today is an increase in the quality of education. That is being repeated in now more and more by community groups. There is a recognition that the amount of money available for education, particularly to schools in Australia today, comes from two streams- that is, from the Commonwealth Government and the State governments- and this year is substantially larger than last year, and will be substantially larger next year. In other words, an increased volume of money will be available for education. Despite the cries of members of the Opposition to try to destroy it, the facts are against them.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and refers to the repeated reports during the last few months of difficulties in the unemployment and sickness benefit section and other sections of her Department leading to difficulties at counters, work bans, et cetera, of which I am sure the Minister will know. What was the result of the interdepartmental committee of inquiry into counter services? What action will the Government take on that report? Will she table that report in the Senate?
– The interdepartmental committee was reporting to the Prime Minister. I do not know whether a final report has yet been received by him on this matter. I have had some interim advice on it. I will ascertain from the Prime Minister the form of the report and whether he is prepared to have it tabled. It gives some interesting comments, in particular regarding a department such as mine that relates so closely to the people. I think if it is now in a conclusive form so that it could be tabled it would be of great interest. I will ascertain that for the honourable senator.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health explain why Medibank Private in Tasmania uses the Bank of New South Wales branch at the White Horse Plaza, Box Hill, Victoria, for payments of its refunds? Why is this banking business taken out of Tasmania? While the cheque is stamped exempt from stamp duty’, does Medibank Private pay the necessary double duty for interstate traffic?
– I understood that the Bank of New South Wales in Tasmania does not have the ADP facilities which would enable it to deal with the payment of refunds to Medibank Private contributors. I add that the Reserve Bank of Australia at Hobart likewise does not have the ADP facilities, and refunds for Medibank Standard are made from the Reserve Bank at Melbourne. It is true that exchange is payable on cheques issued by the Bank of New South Wales at Box Hill, but as banks in Tasmania do not have the necessary facilities to handle Medibank Private refunds no alternative to the present arrangement can be suggested.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to newspaper reports to the effect that trusts are paying the Medibank levy after people have died. Is it true that under section 99 of the Income Tax Assessment Act a trust must pay the Medibank levy? Is this because the person creating the trust cannot nominate a private health scheme? Will the Minister agree that beneficiaries of a trust who are already paying the Medibank levy or are contributing to a private health fund are paying twice for health insurance? Will the Minister ask the Treasurer to remedy this irregularity?
– As the position is presented, it seems to represent an anomaly. It will be taken up with the Treasurer after Question Time.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Construction. I refer to suggestions that fire prevention, fire fighting and fire escape facilities for the Black Mountain Telecommunications Tower might be inadequate. Can the Minister say whether the facilities are considered adequate? Can he give details of the fire prevention and escape facilities which are provided? What investigations have been undertaken to assess whether these will be sufficient, given the number of people who will work in the tower and the number of tourists who are expected to visit it?
-My attention has been drawn to reports questioning the adequacy of fire protection for the Black Mountain Tower. On behalf of the Minister for Construction, I take this opportunity to put to rest the speculation. I have been informed that the fire protection measures installed in the structure were very carefully examined by his Department, Telecom, the Commonwealth Fire Board and the Australian Capital Territory Fire Brigade prior to construction and that the measures taken are more than adequate to cope with any fire emergency. The elevated public areas are fitted with fire sprinklers and fire alarms. The alarm system is connected to the Australian Capital Territory Fire Brigade. In cases of emergency, the lifts automatically return to die ground floor and are switched to be available only to fire officers. This prevents members of the public from entering these areas during the emergency.
Exit from the public areas is by way of an internal fire escape stairway which has a twohour fire rating. The fire stair has especially strengthened hand rails which will not impede the progress of people using the stairway. The stairway to handle the maximum number of people to be in the elevated public areas has been carefully examined and is considered to be more than adequate. The Department of Construction and Telecom have designed emergency evacuation procedures which, in the event of emergency, would alert wardens on each floor to aid the exit of the public from the building. These wardens can communicate with one another and security control on the ground floor through a built-in communication system. I point out that 112,000 gallons of water- that figure should be converted to litres; I will have a word with the Minister for Construction about that matter- are stored in tanks on the site solely for the purpose of fire fighting. This storage is connected to electrically operated fire pumps with back-up diesel pumps in case of electrical failure. I again assure the honourable senator who has raised this question that the fire protection provided is considered to be more than adequate.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate or to Senator Cotton who represents the Treasurer. I refer to a statement made at the National Press Club yesterday by the Treasurer in which he referred to a proposal of his own which was to reduce the real wages of the young. I understand that the version of the statement is correct as it is in all the daily newspapers. I appreciate that it was a personal statement and that the Treasurer said that he was not sure whether Cabinet supported his point of view. As this is almost an alarming statement which certainly goes a lot further than any point of view put in this place by any Minister or by the Prime Minister, for this is a proposal to reduce the wages of young people, and as the Treasurer is an influential member of Cabinet, I ask whether the relevant Minister will examine the statement to ensure that Government policy in respect of this matter will be stated authoritatively in the next few days.
– I did not get an invitation to the National Press Club luncheon yesterday.
– It was a great show.
-I would have liked to be there. Perhaps I will be asked one day. Therefore, I do not know what the Treasurer actually said. I would want to see what it was that he actually said. All I have heard is that he said something, which was his personal view, about wage rates for young people. Anybody is entitled to have a personal view.
– No he is not, when he is Treasurer.
– Let us be realistic. Anybody is entitled to have a personal view. Governments make policy. They make decisions totally. Such decisions are announced as government policy. It is for those sorts of reasons that when I stand in this place as Minister representing the Treasurer I announce what it is that is Government policy expressed by him. I do not put my own construction on it.
-I preface my question, which I ask of the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, by saying that I am well aware of the problem that Telecom faces from vandalism to public telephones and that attempts are often made to rob public telephones and that these are the main reasons for the size of the new massive STD telephones which are being installed at considerable expense throughout Australia. I ask: Has Telecom considered designing a less bulky and cheaper to build public telephone for use in areas that are relatively safe from vandalism and robbery, as any saving in cost of the production of public telephones would mean that more telephones could be installed? Further, will the Minister ask Telecom to examine and report to the Treasury its need of a coin of a value of $2 or $3 as suggested by me by way of a question yesterday?
– I am aware of the considerable damage caused to equipment of Telecom throughout Australia. I am aware that this is in fact a world wide problem. No doubt massive research is done throughout the world in trying to devise equipment to defeat the vandals. I do not know whether Telecom has looked at cheaper versions for more vandal free areas. I shall direct that question to the Minister concerned. I am aware of Senator Townley ‘s expression of interest in the minting of coins for use in an STD fashion so that more efficient use can be made of the time and the machinery available. I do not know whether the Minister has considered that matter. I shall refer it to him and seek an answer.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Firstly, did the Australian Iriquois helicopter which came to grief in the Wamera area of West Irian on 29 July accidentaly crash or was it shot down? Secondly, is not this area of West Irian one where indigenous people are in armed conflict with Indonesian troops? Thirdly, if so, why was an Australian helicopter in the area? Fourthly, if the answer to the third question is that it was there for mapping purposes, should Australia be involved in such an exercise in an area under dispute and would not the results of the mapping survey be available to the Indonesian Army? Fifthly, if so, does this not mean that Australian defence forces are taking part on one side of an armed conflict at a time when no state of war exists between this nation and any other, as happened in Vietnam?
-I understand that Papua New Guinea is an independent country and Australians are there at the invitation of that Government. I do not think that anybody would assert other than that the Australian forces are in Papua New Guinea at the request and invitation of that independent government. As I understand it, the aircraft did crash. I have never heard of any suggestion that it was shot down but I shall take that up with the Minister for Defence. As to the other assertions in the honourable senator’s question, I shall have them checked by both my colleagues the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Defence. It would appear that this is part of the honourable senator’s antiIndonesia campaign and now he is switching it from Timor to West Irian.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, by pointing out that the Senate would be well aware of the importance of a quarantine service to. the Australian livestock industry. Can the Minister indicate to the Senate whether the imminent inquiry into the Toomer affair will be sufficiently wide to look at the general efficiency of our quarantine service?
– I have no information readily available on this matter. I shall refer it to the Minister for Health.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Administrative Services. As the Minister, accompanied- I understand- by the Attorney-General, Mr Ellicott, recently paid a visit to Norfolk Island, can he now say what decisions have been made in regard to the constitutional position of the island and its future administration? Will any decisions as to the future of Norfolk Island take strongly into account the interests and life style of the true Norfolk Islanders? Can the Minister say what significance, if any, can be attached to the fact that in this year’s Budget the vote for Norfolk Island has been reduced by $88,000?
-As the honourable senator would know, most of the revenues on Norfolk Island are raised locally. There has been quite a significant increase in company registration fees which will add greatly to the revenue. Honourable senators can imagine with what glee that was greeted by some on Norfolk Island. I refer now to the first part of the question concerning the constitutional position of Norfolk Island. As far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned that was quite clearly decided in Berwick’s case. The High Court said that Norfolk Island is an Australian territory over which this Parliament has plenary powers. All the nonsense talked by some pseudo-lawyers and some other sorts of interesting people on Norfolk Island as to its independence and special relationship just will not hold water. The High Court would not entertain any sort of argument that the island is other than an Australian territory over which this Parliament has total legislative capacity. I inform the Senate that in spite of a campaign which is being waged over on Norfolk Island against the Nimmo Royal Commission report which was commissioned by our predecessors, the Government has not yet come to a final decision on the report. I hope that before the year is out I will be able to announce a series of Government decisions on the report
There are some matters of quite great import concerning Norfolk Island. As honourable senators will have noticed, a campaign occasionally has been waged in the Canberra Times, which for some reason is the only newspaper that seems to give much credit to it, by certain people on Norfolk Island who, I believe for their own selfish, personal and financial interests, are totally opposed to the implementation of certain sections of the Nimmo report.
– Quite vicious.
-As the honourable senator says ‘quite vicious’. The last attack was launched under privilege before a Senate committee alleging that the Administrator had committed certain unlawful acts. In spite of the fact that I have invited the person involved to go to the Commonwealth Police or the Crown Law officers he has not yet taken up the offer. That action, if I may say so, was described by a Norfolk Island councillor as the worst example of gutter politics he had seen exercised by a Norfolk Islander. That shows the tactics that some people on Norfolk Island are attempting to use to protect their own financial interests and even more tragically in some ways to persuade the Commonwealth Government not to grant certain benefits in the social security area to Australian people who live on Norfolk Island. I know that Senator Devitt has a deep and continuing interest in Norfolk Island. I assure him that I hope before the year is out the Government will be able to announce a positive decision over a whole range of these matters.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question to clear up a point in which I am particularly interested. The Minister did not respond to the section of my question in which I asked whether special consideration would be given to the interests of the people who are really Norfolk Islanders.
-I take it the honourable senator is referring to the people of Pitcairn descent. Yes, one of the fundamental aims of any Government policy in this area will be to see that those who are truly part of Norfolk Island and have not gone there for other purposes will be properly looked after.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to a Press statement from the Chairman of the Australian Cattlemen’s
Council in which he expresses regret that no provision was made in the Budget for a grant to enable beef carcass classification to commence as a first step in marketing reform of the cattle industry. Can the Minister advise whether it is the Government’s intention to proceed with carcass classification?
-The honourable senator was good enough to let me know before Question Time that he had an interest in this matter. I have some information for him. The Australian Agricultural Council clearly stated its in principle agreement to two carcass classification system on 2 August 1976. 1 can have Press statements announcing that found for the honourable senator. At the Agricultural Council meeting on 2 August 1977, just recently, work on the carcass classification scheme was accelerated. I can get information on that for the honourable senator afterwards. The Government cannot make any funding or other decisions until proposals are put to it to consider. The fact that no amount is shown in the Budget is no indication of government intention. The Government will consider and will decide when it has proposals to consider and decide on.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources. In view of the Federal Government’s recent decision to increase the price of crude oil and petroleum products as a means of encouraging energy conservation, how does the Minister justify the decision of the Government to increase registration fees in the Australian Capital Territory on small economical cars by more than 100 per cent in some cases? Is this decision not against the interests of energy conservation in transport? Is the Minister not aware that such action will discourage a rapid consumer switch to smaller and more energy efficient cars?
-I represent the Minister for National Resources, not the Minister for the Capital Territory, no doubt under whose jurisdiction the 100 per cent increase was imposed. I will take the matter up with my colleague, Mr Staley, to see whether in fact the increase was imposed directly by the Government or in fact was done at the recommendation and request of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of remarks made yesterday by Professor Warren Hogan, senior economic adviser to the Government, in a speech to the South Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry to the effect that unemployment will rise to a minimum of 6.5 per cent of the work force by next January and may reach 8 per cent? Is the Minister further aware that Professor Hogan suggested that in such circumstances a mini-budget may have to be introduced? In the light of such comments does the Government have contingency plans for the introduction of a supplementary or mini-budget early in 1978 if the economic situation continues to deteriorate and unemployment continues to worsen?
-I know Professor Warren Hogan quite well. I have a very considerable respect for bis opinions. He is a member of the Australian Manufacturing Council on my nomination. I would at least pay him the respect- and I am sure the honourable senator would understandof getting from him the full text of his remarks. Normally he sends me copies of the speeches that he makes. Usually they are very well informed. I will be having regard to what he said and I am sure the Government would take account of his views. The honourable senator may be quite sure that the Government will, watch the whole situation as it always does.
-Can Senator Cotton advise whether the Callaghan inquiry is complete? If so, when will the report be put down?
-The Callaghan report is complete. It is my understanding that the Prime Minister properly, as one would expect, has seen that the Premier of Tasmania has the original and first copy. I believe that we as a government will be considering it very shortly. When that has been done it will be presented. It is a very thorough and well done job.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. On 24 May I asked a question upon notice in relation to Commonwealth Government responsibility in the purchase of 39 electric passenger rail cars for the Queensland Railways. My question was prompted by a claim by the Queensland Minister for Transport, Mr Hooper, that the Commonwealth Government had a responsibility for two-thirds of the cost of these cars. I received a reply to that question which stated:
The Commonwealth Government has no commitment at this stage to assist the Queensland Government with the acquisition of the 39 electric passenger rail cars for Brisbane’s suburban rail system.
To clarify the situation, I ask whether the Commonwealth Government ever had a commitment to assist in the purchase of electric rail cars for the Queensland Railways? If there was some commitment, what was it and how was the obligation discharged?
-Clearly the information cannot be available to me at first hand. I would ask the honourable senator to put his question on the Notice Paper and we will get the information in that way.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Social Security. The last Estimates showed provision for a migrant welfare service in Melbourne and Sydney. I know that the Melbourne service is operative. Can the Minister give me details of the current situation in Sydney?
– I will investigate and give an up to date report on the matter that has been raised.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister as the question deals with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I refer by way of preface to the fact that a Senate committee, of which Senator Durack was a member, did interview senior officers of ASIO. I put it to the Minister that the Senate is in a dilemma. The estimates for ASIO have been boosted but normally honourable senators are not permitted to probe them. However, a certain court case is being conducted in Canberra- I do not intend to touch on it- and it has been indicated that evidence will be made public. I ask: How can we reconcile the position that the court can receive evidence on recruitment which senators probably cannot obtain at Estimates committee hearings. I appeal to the Minister to raise the shutters and let us look at the criteria for recruitment of ASIO operatives.
-That is a fair question. I shall take it up with both the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General and obtain an answer for the honourable senator, I hope, before the Estimates committees meet.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I draw his attention to the Treasurer’s article in this morning’s Age in which the Treasurer asserts that there will be- I use his words- an increase of 2 per cent in new jobs this year. I ask: Can this claim be reconciled with the statement on page 1 33 of Budget Paper No. 1 which reads: the average level of wage and salary earner employment for the year as a whole to increase by 0.75 per cent.
The Budget figure refers to male units only. Does the Government anticipate an increase in female employment of more than 4 per cent, the figure which would be required for a reconciliation, or was the Treasurer in his Age article again indulging his propensity to stretch figures?
– In accordance with my usual procedure, I ask the honourable senator to put the question on notice.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In last year’s Budget the Treasurer said:
I now ask the Minister Is it a fact that, if that promise had been adhered to, taxpayers would be paying the same amount of tax as under the proposals of the new tax scheme? In the light of this, would he not find it very difficult, as we all do, to prove the claim of the Treasurer in this year’s Budget that tax reductions have been granted to all people?
-Again I ask the honourable senator to be kind enough to put the question on notice.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources. What estimate does the Government have of the price elasticity of demand for petrol? Who prepared the estimate? What percentage decline in purchases does the estimate predict would follow a price increase of about 1 5 per cent, that is, an increase of 1 lc per gallon? If the Government has no evidence, how will the 11c price hike conserve our petroleum resources?
-Like Senator Cotton, I do not carry a calculator around in my head, or the details -
– It is about time you did.
-I would end up looking like the honourable senator if I did. Therefore I ask Senator Mcintosh to place his question on notice.
-The Minister for Social Security will recall that on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week I have sought from her confirmation regarding the transfer of the DirectorGeneral of her Department to the Department of the Capital Territory and, in seeking that confirmation, I also sought the reasons for the transfer. As the Department of Social Security plays a major role m the lives and welfare of thousands of underprivileged Australians I now ask the Minister: Why is it that in today’s Press Government officials are reported as confirming the appointment of Mr Pat Lanigan, Second Commissioner of Taxation, to replace Mr Daniels whilst the Minister herself declines to inform the Senate fully on matters relating to this important change in her own Department?
– I am aware of the honourable senator’s continuing interest in the matter that he has raised in the Senate this week. I am unable to advise him why the newspapers are printing reports when no announcement has been made by the Government. I can only assure him that I have no comment that I wish to make on the matters that he has raised.
– My question is directed to, I think, the Minister representing the Treasurer. It concerns the Australian Bureau of Statistics. I ask him whether the ABS disclosed to the Chief Electoral Officer of Western Australian information concerning the number of sheep and cattle held by individual farmers and graziers for the purpose of compiling an elector’s roll for a meat marketing referendum, which I believe is to be held next month. If so, is the Government satisfied that this action did not breach the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act?
-I think it is correct that the ABS comes under the general area of responsibility of the Treasurer. I know that the Treasury has always been particularly careful to maintain the sanctity of the ABS and I would expect that to have been maintained, but I cannot be any more helpful than simply to say that I will take the query and will try to find out what the fact is.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Education. Will the Minister indicate whether there has been a change of attitude towards the acceptance of qualifications of teachers from overseas? I raise this matter because a case has been brought to my attention in which a teacher from Singapore with two years’ training and over 12 years’ experience has been rejected by the Commonwealth Teaching Service despite the fact that a teacher from the same area with identical training and similar experience was accepted last year.
-I am unaware of any change in attitude at all but I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Commissioner and ask for information which I will convey to the honourable senator.
- Mr President, my question is directed to you. I have had a discussion with the Leader of the Government. He has extended Question Time very briefly so that I may ask this question. It is much more important than politics. It involves our meals. I ask you, sir: Are you aware that last Tuesday night the members dining room was divided in such a way as to allow what appeared to be an abnormal number of guests into what is normally the members dining area? We are accustomed to this, of course, especially on Budget night, but there was, I believe, very little space left for members of parliament to have their meals and many were seated outside the actual dining room, which was no great load to carry, I suppose, but many members were looking for somewhere to sit. Because staff were required to service more than the normal one table the service was very poor. I have noticed this in previous years. I have never raised it before, but I believe that what happened on Tuesday night was so obviously discriminatory against members that someone- I assume it to be you, sir, and Mr Speaker in the other placeshould take some action with the staff to ensure that this does not happen in the future and also to ensure that there is adequate seating and service for all members of parliament. I ask you, sir, if you would take it up with your colleague in another place.
– Yes, I shall be happy to do so. The Joint House Committee and the personnel there do their very utmost to accommodate as many people as possible and I think they do a remarkably good job in the circumstances. But I take your point on board, Senator, and I shall look into this in the light of the matter to which you have referred.
– I lay on the table the following paper:
Advance to the Treasurer- Statement of Heads of Expenditure and the amounts charged thereto, pursuant to section 36a of the Audit Act 1 90 1 for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
I seek leave to move a motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
That consideration of the statement in the Committee of the Whole be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
By way of explanation, it seems to me that it is important to get that in today because it is part of the total range of the Budget Papers.
– I take it that this is the normal Appropriation Bill and that it is being introduced now so that we will be able to deal with it at Estimates committee hearings.
– That is right.
– In speaking briefly to the motion moved by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) I direct my remarks particularly to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers). I repeat: I direct my remarks particularly to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I believe it is important that all departments present the relevant documents for consideration by the Senate Estimates committees to honourable senators well before the Senate rises for the week preceding consideration of the Estimates. In other words, the Senate will sit this week and next week and then there will be a week’s recess. According to the Government’s timetable, the Senate Estimates committee hearings will commence on about 6 September. I suggest that in the week before the Senate rises the Government should ensure that all documents reduced by the various departments for the enate Estimates committees are in the hands of honourable senators.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Pursuant to section 41 of the Export Market Development Grants Act 1974 I present the annual report of the Export Development Grants Board 1976-77.
– Pursuant to section 11 of the Life Insurance Act 1945 I present the annual report of the Life Insurance Commissioner for the year ended December 1976.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the activities of the Australian National Commission for UNESCO during 1975-76.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the National Training Council for the year ended December 1976, together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Productivity.
Senator ROBERTSON (Northern Territory) by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the papers.
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the advice from the Industries Assistance Commission on continuation of short term assistance for certain chest freezers up to 350 litres.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Temporary Assistance Authority on tyre cord fabrics and related correspondence.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to authorise the giving of guarantees on behalf of the Commonwealth in respect of certain loans made to non-government schools in the States, and for purposes related thereto.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill is to implement a scheme to enable the Commonwealth to act as guarantor for loans raised by non-government schools in the States to finance wholly or partially the construction of approved priority school facilities. The Government accepted the recommendation of the Schools Commission that a system of loan guarantees be established and in November of last year, I announced this decision and foreshadowed the introduction of the necessary enabling legislation. The scheme will have considerable benefit for non-government schools in that it will allow loans for building projects to a maximum of $ 10m in any one year to be backed by Commonwealth Government guarantees. The scheme will provide much needed support for those schools wishing to raise loans especially those without institutional backing. In addition it will permit more favourable borrowing terms to be negotiated. Loan guarantees will also be available for projects which while approved in principle by the Commonwealth may not receive a grant. The Bill includes provision for the Commonwealth to recover any cost to it in the event of default. This scheme will foster increased building activity in non-government schools in the States. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Family Law Act 1 975 to fix a maximum age for Judges of the Family Court of Australia and for related purposes.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
This is a Bill to amend the Family Law Act 1975 to fix a maximum retiring age forjudges of the Family Court of Australia. Honourable senators will be well aware that one of the alterations to the Constitution that was recently approved by the referendum in May, and has since become law, introduced a maximum retiring age for judges of the High Court and other federal courts. The effect of this Constitution alteration is that any future appointee to the High Court or any other federal court will have to retire by the age of 70 years. In the case of federal courts other than the High Court, the Constitution alteration also enables the Parliament to prescribe by law a maximum retiring age forjudges that is less than 70 years. This BUI seeks to exercise that newly acquired constitutional authority to prescribe a maximum retiring age for judges of the Family Court of Australia of 65 years.
Honourable senators who were members of this chamber in 1 974 will recall that the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs brought down a report on the Family Law Bill, then before the Senate, that was responsible for the insertion in the Bill of provision for the Family Court of Australia. In recommending the creation of a Family Court, the Committee expressed concern that if it were a federal court the judges would have to be appointed for life, because it felt that judges of a Family Court should not continue to adjudicate when of advanced years. As a possible solution to the problem of life appointments to a federal court, the Committee suggested the exercise of jurisdiction under the Act by judges appointed by the States, who could validly provide for the appointments to expire on the judges attaining a prescribed retiring age. Subsequently, arising out of this recommendation, an amendment to the Family Law Bill moved by Senator Missen and carried by the Senate provided for the opportunity for the establishment of State Family Courts. Under this amendment, which is now section 41 of the Family Law Act, a State Family Court created pursuant to this provision may not exercise jurisdiction under the Family Law Act unless, amongst other things, judges of the Court are to retire by the age of 65 years. Accordingly, judges of the Family Court of Western Australia, which has been established pursuant to section 4 1 , have a retiring age of 65.
Honourable senators will recognise that this requirement, having been approved by both Houses of the Parliament, provides a compelling reason for prescribing an identical retiring age forjudges of the Family Court of Australia, now that the Constitution alteration has made this possible. Further, the report of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs on a retiring age for federal judges, which led to the Constitution alteration, specifically recommended 65 as an appropriate age for judges of the Family Court.
After the proposal to amend the Constitution to provide for the retirement of Federal judges was raised, and before the referendum on the Constitution alteration in May, the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) made known his preference for a retirement age of 65 years forjudges of the Family Court of Australia. The vote in the referendum on the Constitution alteration should therefore be seen against the background of the Attorney-General’s publicly stated preference for a retirement age of 65 years forjudges of this particular Federal court. Senators will also, of course, be well aware that 65 years is the maximum retiring age for the great majority of employees and office-holders in Australia, including the holders of non-judicial offices of comparable status to that of judges of the Family Court.
It is true that the Constitution alteration prescribes 70 years as the maximum retiring age for judges of the High Court, and forjudges of other Federal courts unless and until the Parliament otherwise provides. It is also true that 70 years is the maximum retiring age forjudges of the great majority of State supreme courts and other courts. However, it is generally conceded that in family law, more than in most other areas of the law, judges adjudicating over disputes should be aware of and keep abreast of current social values and attitudes. For this reason, and also because of the demanding and arduous nature of at least some of the disputes- notably, defended custody disputes- there seems to be good reason for requiring judges of the Family Court to retire at least by the age recognised as the maximum retiring age for most other occupations in the community. Accordingly, this Bill prescribes the age of 65 years as the maximum retiring age for judges of the Family Court. The Constitution alteration relating to judges’ retiring ages provides that the maximum retiring age applies only to judges appointed after the alteration became law. Since all the existing judges of the Family Court of Australia were appointed before that date, the maximum retiring age prescribed by the Bill will apply only to future appointees to the Court.
The Bill makes two other amendments to the Family Law Act. One is a formal amendment consequential on the passing of the Constitution alteration. The other is an amendment consequential on the prescribing of the retiring age. By virtue of an amendment earlier this year to the Family Law (Judges) Regulations, up to six additional judges may be appointed to the Family Court. The Attorney-General has indicated his expectation that this number will be appointed within the next 12 months. Since some, if not all, of these additional appointments are needed urgently by the Court, I ask that the Senate give this Bill a speedy passage. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
– By arrangement with my colleagues opposite, to enable a full day’s debate on the matters listed on the Notice Paper, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveagreed to:
That leave of absence from the Senate for two months be granted to Senator James McClelland and Senator Maunsell on the ground of absence overseas on parliamentary business from the termination of the sitting this day.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate requesting that Senator Georges be discharged from service on the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory and nominating Senator Devitt to be a member in his place.
Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Georges be discharged from service on the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory and that Senator Devitt be appointed to the Committee.
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 Withers) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise a contribution by Australia of $A 133.76m towards the fifth replenishment of the resources of the International Development Association, or IDA as it is commonly called. The IDA, established in 1960, is an affiliate of the World Bank which assists its poorest member countries by providing long term interest-free credits for sound development projects, utilising grant funds provided by its developed member countries. The IDA is by far the largest and most effective concessional lending institution in the world today. It has approved development credits totalling more than $US 1 1 billion for all the major sectors of economic development with special emphasis on agriculture and transportation as well as projects for education, urbanisation, industry, population and nutrition, tourism, telecommunications and electric power.
Starting with initial subscriptions made in 1960 and thereafter, together with four subsequent replenishments of its resources, IDA has been provided with a total of some $US 12 billion for lending to the poorest developing countries. The resources of the Association are replenished every three years. The fourth replenishment totalled$US4.5 billion to cover commitments over the three year period ending 30 June 1977. Since IDA resources were fully committed on 30 June 1977, additional resources are required to cover lending operations after that date.
Following protracted negotiations on a fifth replenishment, which commenced almost 18 months ago, member countries decided, having regard to the needs of the poorest countries, that they should provide a substantial increase in IDA resources compared with the level they had contributed to the fourth replenishment. The traditional donors of the IDA agreed, subject to parliamentary approval in the various countries concerned, to provide an amount for the fifth replenishment equivalent to$US7.2 billion. In addition, a number of countries intend to contribute resources to IDA for the first time. These countries are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the Republic of Korea. Kuwait, a traditional donor, apart from its share in the $US7.2 billion total, has agreed to make an extra contribution. These contributions to IDA by the oil surplus producing countries and Korea are a welcome development. I ask leave of the Senate to have incorporated in Hansard a table which sets out the prospective contributions to be made to IDA under the fifth replenishment.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-Honourable senators will observe from this table that the total replenishment has been set at SUS7.64 billion. This will furnish IDA with a substantial increase in its resources in real terms compared with the previous replenishment, to meet its requirements for a further three year period. The amounts specified are payable in the national currency of each member country up to the equivalent of the amounts in United States dollars shown, and fixed in terms of the exchange rate applying on 14 March 1977, when agreement was reached among donor countries. Thus our obligation is fixed in terms of Australian dollars and is not subject to adjustment due to fluctuations in exchange rates. Australia’s share of $US 146.9m is equivalent to $A 133.76m. This represents a share of 2.04 per cent of the SUS7.2 billion target for traditional donors and is equivalent to Australia’s share in the fourth replenishment. Most other donors maintained their percentage shares in this way. In absolute terms, our contribution of $A133.76m represents a very substantial increase on the amount of $A60.81m which Australia provided under the fourth replenishment.
Australia again has the option of paying its contribution either in cash or by lodging nonnegotiable, non-interest bearing promissory notes encashable on demand as and when funds are actually required by the IDA for loan disbursements. In accordance with past practice and in line with the practices of most other members of the IDA, we propose to lodge promissory notes. This will spread the impact on the Budget over a number of years. Small encashments are expected to be made in 1977-78 with the bulk of the encashments taking place in each of the following four to five years.
During the discussion on the level of the fifth replenishment it was agreed that essentially the same voting power arrangements which were made under the fourth replenishment should continue to apply. Accordingly, although contributions to replenishments as opposed to the original subscriptions to the IDA do not carry voting rights, a small proportion of donors’ contributions is counted as a subscription. This is designed to ensure that the relative voting power of each of the developed member countries of IDA can continue broadly to correspond to its relative share of total resources contributed by these countries. Complex calculations undertaken by the staff of IDA indicate that of the total amount which Australia is expected to make available under the fifth replenishment, an amount of $A2 12,416 should take the form of an additional subscription with voting rights. The balance will represent an additional contribution. This distinction is provided for in clause 4 of the Bill.
I should also mention that the agreement governing the fifth replenishment will not become effective and the obligation to contribute new resources to IDA will not become binding on any member country unless and until members, whose contributions total not less than $US6 billion or 80 per cent of the total, give IDA formal notification that they will make the contributions authorised for them. Because the contribution for the United States is SUS2.4 billion or more than 30 per cent of the total, this means, in effect, that the fifth replenishment cannot become effective and other countries will not be required to contribute to IDA without formal notification from the United States to the IDA that it has taken all the necessary legislative steps to enable it to participate on the basis of the agreement reached for the fifth replenishment.
It had been hoped that the fifth replenishment would have become effective by 1 July 1977 when funds provided under the fourth replenishment were fully committed. As the United States was not able to give the required formal notification by that date, and thereby enable the IDA to maintain the continuity of its lending operations in the interim, other donors have been asked, and have generally agreed, to make voluntary advance contributions on a collective basis totalling not less than SUS1.2 billion to IDA, in anticipation of the conditions of effectiveness for the agreement being fulfilled and to cover lending operations for a substantial part of 1977-78. Such voluntary advance contributions would of course be deemed ultimately to constitute payment towards the amounts due under the fifth replenishment. Similar delays have occurred under previous replenishment and Australia has made voluntary contributions in the past. In accordance with past practice the Bill has been drafted in a way which will enable Australia to join most other donors in making an advance contribution to IDA.
As honourable senators will know, Australia has always been a strong supporter of the IDA and has been a member since its inception. IDA like the World Bank is an efficient institution which is capable of undertaking large scale projects in a technically proficient way. Although its credits are interest free, the projects which it finances are subject to the same rigorous standards of appraisal that the World Bank applies to its own lending operations. Indeed, the two institutions have a common staff and are served by the same Executive Board. IDA has been of particular benefit to countries in the Asian region. Since the inception of IDA about twothirds of all IDA credits have gone to countries in Asia, particularly the Indian sub-continent, and Asian countries will continue to receive the greater share of IDA funds. IDA has also lent relatively large amounts to Papua New Guinea and that country is expected to receive further credits in future.
Considerable importance has been attached in the various major international fora to an early and substantial replenishment of IDA resources. Continued Australian support for the IDA is therefore clearly in Australia’s national interest. This Bill provides an opportunity for honourable senators once again to demonstrate their bipartisan support for the IDA as an efficient and effective development finance institution and our willingness to provide the poorest developing countries with highly concessional assistance through this organisation. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
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 Withers) read a first time.
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise an initial Australian Government contribution of $A8m, to be paid initially in the form of promissory notes, to the International Fund for Agricultural Development- IFAD- as well as to approve Australia’s membership of the fund. As honourable senators may know, the decision to set up the International Fund for Agricultural Development was one of the major initiatives taken at the 1974 World Food Conference in Rome. Australia was one of three developed countries together with the Netherlands and New Zealand, which with 3 1 developing countries cosponsored Resolution XIII of the World Food Conference which recommended the establishment of such a fund. The Secretary-General of the United Nations subsequently convened a conference to work out the details and size of the fund. Following meetings of interested countries in May and October of 1975 and in February 1976, the terms of the agreement for the establishment of the fund were finalised at a plenipotentiary conference on 13 June of last year. The text of the agreement is set out in the Schedule to the Bill. However, the agreement was not opened for signature before prospective contributors to the fund had made pledges amounting to an aggregate of $US 1000m. This was achieved in December 1976, and the agreement was opened for signature at the United Nations on 20 December 1976. To date 42 countries have signed the agreement and six have ratified it. Australia signed the agreement on 30 March 1977.
Membership of the fund is divided into three categories. Category I comprises members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Category II the members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries and Category III other developing countries. The agreement will enter into force upon ratification by six states in Category I, six states in Category II and 24 states in Category III and when the aggregate of initial contributions amounts to at least the equivalent of $US750m.
The principal objective of the fund is to make available finance for agricultural development projects. More specifically, the broad aims of IFAD include the encouragement of agricultural development in low income countries, with particular emphasis on food production in those countries which have the most serious food deficits; the encouragement of greater utilisation of the potential for food production in other developing countries; the improvement of the living conditions of the rural poor through activities which will increase their opportunities and incomes; and a reduction in malnutrition through the improvement in food production and distribution systems. The fund will become a new specialised agency of the United Nations.
One of the important features of the International Fund for Agricultural Development is that it will tap not only the traditional aid resources of the OECD countries, but also the substantial resources of the members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The OPEC countries and the OECD countries are making roughly equivalent total contributions to the fund. The Government warmly welcomes participation by the OPEC countries in a co-operative venture of this nature with the developed West. Australia played a significant role in the establishment of IFAD and has, as a prospective member, pledged an initial contribution of $A8m in the form of non-negotiable noninterest bearing promisory notes encashable over a period of not less than 3 years. This compares with pledges by the United States of America of $US200m, the United Kingdom of £stg 15m Canada Can$3Om and New Zealand $NZ2m Amongst the pledges of the OPEC countries are Saudi Arabia’s pledge of $US 10Om and Iran’s pledge of $US 104m.
The Government believes that the International Fund for Agricultural Development has an important role to play as a new source of investment for projects designed to increase food production in developing countries. The Fund accords with one of our chief aid priorities of providing the impetus for developing countries to help themselves to achieve self-reliance in food production. It is particularly appropriate that a major primary producing country such as Australia should play an active role in an organisation of this nature. Furthermore, it is likely that, as IFAD gets under way, there will be commercial opportunities for Australian agricultural machinery, technology and expertise in connection with IFAD projects. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations already looks to Australia for significant contributions in such specialised areas as dryland farming and pastoral land use in arid zone Middle Eastern countries. IFAD can be expected to continue, and to expand on, this pattern. The principal obligations imposed on Australia are stated in Articles 4 and 5 of the Agreement. Under section 3 of Article 4, the Governing Council of IFAD may invite Australia to make contributions to the resources of the Fund additional to its initial contribution. The major rights Australia will enjoy under the Agreement are those stated in Article 6 concerning the organisation and management of the Fund. Australia is entitled to be represented on the Governing Council and to appoint one Governor and an alternate to the Council which will conduct the business of the Fund.
I believe that it is in both Australia’s national interest and in the interest of the international community as a whole, that we should play an active part in the International Fund for Agricultural Development by contributing $8m to the Fund and ratifying the Agreement establishing the Fund. I commend this Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 12.42 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 25 May, on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
– This debate is on the Second Report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, commonly referred to as the Fox Inquiry, and also on the ministerial statement brought down by the Government on 24 May headed ‘Nuclear Safeguards- Government Policy’. It is probably one of the most important debates that have taken place in this chamber for some time. It is the first time that a full debate has been held in the Senate on the vexatious and controversial question of Australian uranium mining. It is being held at a time before the Government has announced its policy on uranium mining in Australia and after two reports of the Fox Commission have been received.
The Labor Movement is concerned about the spread of the use of nuclear power throughout the world. We are concerned about the use of nuclear power and the effect and consequences of its use on communities. We are concerned about the possibility of its over-use and proliferation. We are concerned that, despite the fact that thousands of billions of dollars have been spent throughout the world on trying to overcome the problems of waste disposal, quite obviously nothing has yet been devised to provide a satisfactory solution to that overwhelming problem. We are particularly concerned that at least one scientist has expressed his belief that the vast inland of this nation could well be used as a uranium waste product disposal area.
We are concerned that it has not been proved- indeed, it is far from proved- that the use of nuclear power is safe beyond all doubt. At this time it might be considered to be rather ironic that in the very week in which we are debating this nationally and internationally important issue influential scientists in the United States of America are pressing for a ban on the use of pressure pack sprays because of their likely effect on or severe damage to the earth ‘s ozone layer. That fact alone, perhaps more than anything, should indicate to Australians and to this Parliament the seriousness of the matter we are discussing, namely, whether with all the hazards that exist so far as the use of uranium as a source of power is concerned, we as a nation should proceed at this time and in these circumstances with mining of the yellowcake and its export.
The Australian Labor Party at its biennial conference in Perth in the first week of July stated positively its policy on minerals and energy. The matter had of course previously been considered by all the State branches of the Party, by the Party’s minerals and energy committee, and because of this sifting of information and evidence available to us we made the following declaration as a matter of policy:
Recognising that the provision of Australian uranium to the world nuclear fuel cycle creates problems relevant to Australian sovereignty, the environment, the economic welfare of our people, and the rights and well being of the Aboriginal people:
Believing that (having regard to the present unresolved economic, social, biological, genetic, environmental, and technical problems associated with the mining of uranium and the development of nuclear power, and in particular to the proven contribution of the nuclear power industry to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and the increased risk of nuclear war; and the absence of procedures for the storage and disposal of radioactive wastes to ensure that any danger posed by such wastes to human life and the environment is eliminated),
It is imperative that no commitment of Australia’s uranium deposits to the world’s nuclear fuel cycle should be made until-
A reasonable time has elapsed for full public debate on, and consideration of, the issues;
The Australian Labor Party is satisfied that the abovementioned problems have been solved; and
The Australian Government endorses recommendation 6 of the First Fox Report which states: ‘A decision to mine and sell uranium should not be made unless the Commonwealth Government ensures that the Commonwealth can at any time . . . immediately terminate those activities, permanently, indefinitely or for a specified period. ‘,
A Labor government will-
The minerals and energy policies of the Australian Labor Party are based on the principle of government supervision of Australia’s mining and petroleum industries through a policy of clear and consistent guidelines. That policy will be administered to establish a stable climate for long life investment that will provide growth to the Australian economy and an improvement in the living standard of all Australians. That is my party’s attitude to the development of policies in this very important and rapidly changing area of minerals and energy development.
It was the Whitlam Labor Government which commissioned the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry because we have thought about energy resources and alternatives to oil and uranium for a long time. We believe that uranium processing, leaving the world as it does with a product, plutonium, that has a half life of 25 000 years, needs detailed thought and consideration. As I have said, at the Perth conference the Labor Party announced its decision to hold a moratorium on new uranium mining. It announced that policy after considerable time spent on studying every angle of the question, in the context of fossil fuel depletion and energy needs and supplies.
The present Government appears to have had no such policy of consistency. Indeed it appears obvious that since the last visit by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to Europe and the United States of America uranium is to be used as a carrot, waved in front of other nations in order to obtain markets, particularly in the European Economic Community countries and the United States. I suggest that that is no way to consider seriously the important implications for Australia, and indeed for the world, of the mining and export of uranium. The hawking of potential future uranium contracts all over the world makes the Government’s policy on nuclear safeguards- one of the papers that we are now debating which was presented on 24 May last- look suspicious and somewhat ridiculous. One of the major points in the safeguards policy outlined to the Parliament on 24 May by the Prime Minister is: ‘Careful selection of eligible customers for uranium. ‘ That obviously is being given very wide terms of definition. Mr Fraser himself seemed very keen to insinuate future deals with France, a non signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty concerning uranium, when he was in that country, and of course Mr Anthony mentioned in glowing terms just prior to the recent Association of South East Asian Nations talks the desire of the Philippines for Australian uranium.
The Australian Financial Review in an article on 20 June this year commented on the reception that Mr Fraser ‘s nuclear safeguards policy had in Europe while he was there trying to sell it to the Europeans. The Article said:
The stiff opposition Prime Minister Fraser is meeting in his tour of Europe to Australia ‘s nuclear safeguards policy is creating an embarrassing dilemma for the Government on the eve of its final go-ahead announcement for uranium exports.
The European attempt to water down Mr Fraser ‘s safeguards policy announced on May 24 has caught Government officials by surprise.
The Labor Party believes that the importance of developing adequate and reasonable nuclear safeguards and a satisfactory answer to the problem of waste disposal is of far greater importance than short-term trade benefits to some overseas mining companies. Let me talk now about the problem of waste disposal. A number of countries, including France and the United Kingdom, still store high activity waste in stainless steel drums pending vitrification when this process is finally perfected and available on a large scale. In Britain the National Radiological Protection Board has conducted a theoretical experiment to assess the radiological consequences of disposal of vitrified high activity waste on the ocean floor. This is the first of a series of such assessments which will cover all reasonable options for the disposals of these wastes, and that fact is reported in this year’s May edition of the journal Atom. In other words, the method of vitrifying waste looks like being the best way of storing high activity waste, but little is known about the ecolological effects of storing vitrified waste by whatever means are finally adopted.
In the particular experiment to which I have referred it was assumed that the waste was first stored, or accumulated, for about 10 years and then all 72 000 containers- each 3 metres high and half a metre in diameter- were dumped at a depth of over 4000 metres. The study tried to find out the rate of subsequent release of the active material to the water, its dispersal in the ocean and the eventual uptake in marine organisms and sediments. The consequent exposure to man was assessed in terms of doses to individuals and large populations.
The study identified major uncertainties and indicated that the following would require substantial programs of investigation: Firstly, the properties of valid waste particularly its leach resistance under deep ocean conditions and the degree of fracturing likely to occur; and secondly, the rate of sediments in the removal of activity, the uptake of radioactivity in marine food chains and the long-term utilisation of the sea as a source of food for man. Scientists advise me that this is a theoretical experiment on just one way of disposing of vitrified waste. No such assessment is available of other methods of disposing of the waste. Clearly a lot of theoretical and practical research is still needed before we can be satisfied on the safeguards.
Let me at this point refer to the question of safeguards. No one can deny the need for stringent nuclear safeguards and surely no one can deny that to date the nuclear safeguards that have been developed and which have been announced are unsatisfactory. Recently I was in the United States and there I learnt from reading a publication called the National Enquirer, which was published in March this year, that since 1969 there had been 170 threats and acts of violence against atomic plants, causing millions of dollars of damage in the United States, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. These included acts in which individuals have bombed and caused heavy damage to the Stanford University linear accelerator; planted a pipe bomb at the Illinois Institute of Technology Reactor; vandalised vital equipment at reactors in Rainier, Oregon, in Platteville, Colorado, and in Indian Point, New York; breaking into nuclear facilities at Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Erwin, Tennessee; Oklahoma City and at the Vermont
Yankee reactor; and dynamited nuclear power plant transmission towers in Washington and Oregon.
In the United Kingdom, where police do not carry guns, the Atomic Energy Authority has its own special constabulary to guard installations and the movement of specified nuclear materials such as plutonium. Uniquely amongst private police forces this constabularly has power to carry arms at all times, to engage in ‘hot pursuits’ of thieves or attempted thefts of nuclear materials and to arrest on suspicion.
Those remarks carry me to the first Fox report because on page 159 of that report the Fox inquiry states:
An attempt by even a small, well trained and armed group to take over a nuclear installation could have a good chance of success . . . the evidence indicates that the risks are presently real and will tend to increase with the further spread of nuclear technology.
On pages 151 and 152 of the first report it is stated:
Numerous breaches of security in nuclear installations have been recorded, and there was evidence that attempts were being made in some countries to render nuclear operations more secure. Nevertheless, the Commission does not feel confident that nuclear facilities would currently withstand determined assaults by terrorist organisations.
That paragraph is straight from the first Fox report. At page 155 of the same report it states:
The Commission was informed of numerous incidents when nuclear materials had been stolen, were lost or simply could not be accounted for.
A safe nuclear industry would require an unprecedented security investigation and police program that threatens the liberty of any person associated with such an industry. Britain, I suggest, represents only some 7 per cent of the world nuclear power generation capacity- this is taken from the second table of the first Fox reportwhile the United States represents 5 1 per cent of the world ‘s total capacity.
Now let me deal with the possible effects of radiation exposure. The United Kingdom Atomic Energy Agency in its monthly bulletin A tom, to which I have already alluded, gives a summary of a report produced by the European regional office of the World Health Organisation on ‘Health Implications of Nuclear Power production’. The report covers a number of effects, but the most significant observation appears in item (II) ‘Radiation Exposure’. According to Atom the WHO group found:
Points where potentially useful reduction in present and future exposures are being or could be made with present technology were identified as whole body exposures of workers in the industry radiation doses to the lungs of uranium miners in due course, the collective world population dose from releases to the atmosphere.
The Implication of this is that while knowledge and technology have developed the instrumentation and practical application of that technology still has some way to go before these serious radiation levels are reduced to a more acceptable level. It must be kept in mind that in the absence of information to the contrary the International Commission on Radiological Protection in its July publication recently states:
All exposures shall be kept as low as reasonably achievable, economic and social factors being taken into account.
Now let me come to the question of the ecological situation because the WHO report that I have mentioned emphasises the need for statistical health studies and for establishing the predominant exposure routes to man through bioaccumulation or external radiation. A similar statement appeared in the earlier British Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution. That may be compared with the second Fox report which, at page 90, under the heading of ‘Water Pollution’ lists some uncertainties as follows:
The types of contaminants and the amounts and chemical forms of those that will be released if mining goes ahead; changes in the toxicity of contaminants with time and as they move to different parts of the Magela system, and their eventual destination; the sensitivity of different organisms to toxic substances and the influence of factors such as temperature changes on this sensitivity; . . . and the extent of non-toxic effects . . .
To sum up, considerably more detailed ecological studies are required to determine the pathways -followed by radionuclides once they are released to the environment. These releases may occur at such places as uranium mines, nuclear power stations, fuel processing plants or research organisations. Recently I was in the United States. I assure the Senate that there is great concern in the United States about radio-active nuclear waste disposal in that country. I visited the State of Michigan for a few days. I have taken a clipping from a newspaper published in the city of Ann Arbor, which is about 30 miles from Detroit. The article which is headed ‘State dropped as N-Dump’ of Wednesday, 20 July, 1977, states:
Michigan has been eliminated as a potential burial site for radioactive nuclear waste, according to federal energy administrators.
The news came Tuesday from the federal Energy Research and Development Administration . . .
The State was dropped from consideration when ERDA cut from 36 to 12 the number of states still being considered for geological testing to identify underground dumps for spent nuclear reactor fuel.
Three of the 12 will be chosen for geological tests as potential sites, although only two dumps will be required to meet an anticipated nuclear waste problem through the year 2000, said George Cunningham, director of ERDA ‘s waste management production division.
The article stated further:
The elimination of Michigan from the study is likely to tone down the environmental controversy which resulted when federal officials announced in March 1976 that salt caverns below the Alpena- Rogers City area were being studied as a possible dumping site.
Area residents were vehemently opposed to the idea, and Governor Milliken in May said he would resist any federal effort to locate a dumping facility there.
The state Senate- the Michigan state Senate- passed a bill last month that, in effect, would prohibit nuclear waste disposal in Michigan. A similar bill is pending in the House.
That, I suggest, gives the Senate some idea of the concern and the controversy that is raging in the United States on this vexatious and controversial problem of the disposal of radioactive nuclear waste material. The Australian electorate has shown in a Morgan gallup poll conducted in July 1977 that those in favour of uranium mining in Australia are now in the minority- 47 per cent, which is a drop of 30 per cent in the last few months. I should like to refer particularly to sources of alternative energy. In its 1975 election policy speech the Government said:
Solar energy research will receive a high priority in our energy program.
I suggest that the Government obviously has little concern for the development of an alternative safe energy source. The Minister for Science (Senator Webster) in this chamber yesterday announced that the Government will spend a mere $ 1.4m on solar energy research carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation compared with $200m which is being spent on solar energy research by the United States of America. In terms of world figures, Australia is merely tinkering with research on solar energy. In fact, it should really be doing much more than it is.
Tertiary institutions in Australia are engaging themselves in various research projects to a very minor extent in terms of world standards. Work on the development of solar energy is being carried out at the University of Sydney. Incidentally, it has been financed by a grant of about $1.4m from the New South Wales Government. That grant is comparable to the whole amount which is being devoted by the Federal Government to research into solar energy by the CSIRO. Work is being carried out at the University of
New South Wales, the Queensland University, the University of Melbourne, the Flinders University in South Australia and the University of Western Australia, and I understand that the James Cook University in Townsville also is carrying out work in this field. That work is spread around and is infinitesimal compared with the amount of research that is going on in other parts of the world. As I have said, the CSIRO will receive a mere $ 1.4m for solar energy research purposes, as Senator Webster told the Senate yesterday. That seems to be the only research into solar energy which is financially supported by the Australian Government. The Australian National University in Canberra, in terms of capital expenditure on solar energy research, has been spending a mere $20,000 to $30,000. The University has divested itself of the energy conversion group in the Department of Engineering Physics which is in the Research School of Physical Sciences. It is feared that at the end of this year, unless somebody comes to its aid financially, that research unit- it is small but importantwill be closed down.
There appears to be a feeling within Government circles that Australia cannot compete with other countries so far as solar research is concerned. Firstly, in terms of per capita spending, Australia is down compared with the United States by a factor of about 10. Solar energy research is a form of research where the size of the individual research group does not have to be very large. It is not like nuclear energy research where, of necessity, the research has to get bigger and bigger. Of course, in that type of research undertaking we end up with multi-million dollar funding projects which really can be undertaken only by the world’s superpowers. The size of solar energy experiments need only be quite small. There is no doubt that it is the one area of energy research where Australia can compete and, indeed, should compete with any other country. It is the one area of energy research in which Australia as a nation has a vested interest. We have plenty of space and plenty of sun. We have to look in terms of where we are situated geographically.
I believe that a fantastic market is available to us in South East Asia for any development of solar energy because what those countries want is a source of energy that has nothing to do with oil or nuclear power. These countries do not have the distribution networks which a nation would need or must have with nuclear power. We cannot have small nuclear power stations operating because they are not economical. Nuclear power stations appear to be designed only for highly developed areas such as the East Coast of the United States or large cities like Chicago and large cities in Europe. I am speaking only in terms of economics, not in respect of hazards or waste disposal problems. Nuclear power stations certainly are not appropriate for the developing nations. In this geographical part of the world we have a natural responsibility to assist the developing nations. Those countries need small energy resources to replace their present diesel power stations. Most of those countries have plenty of sunshine. At the moment they have no alternative to the use of oil, and in fact the only alternative on the horizon for them appears to be solar energy. The other reason for Australia’s interest is that we have so many mining towns in the outback of this nation. There are a lot of these remote towns spread throughout the nation, all of which have similar problems so far as power development is concerned. Those towns are paying tremendous amounts of money for their power, and all have plenty of sunshine.
I suggest that we have missed the boat so far as oil is concerned. We should have carried out long before this research into alternative sources of oil, such as obtaining oil from coal. Overseas countries which have been using oil almost exclusively are now looking at the two alternatives -nuclear power and coal. A lot of them are not using nuclear power but are reverting to the use of coal, as is set out in the Carter policy in the United States. Therefore the market for steaming coal will boom, and the repercussions on Australia and its coal resources will have to be looked at very closely. As Australians, we think we have a lot of coal, but I understand we have only about one per cent of the world’s total reserves of coal. That fact apparently is not generally realised. If we divide the coal amongst ourselves it would appear that we, as a nation, have a tremendous amount of coal. In terms of the world situation we have what might be termed a drop in the bucket. If, for example, the American market for coal altered and its demand for coal increased by 10 per cent it could swallow our entire production because it, as a nation, produces 10 times as much as we do. Therefore, for all these reasons, there is a necessity for us to be devoting our resources to the development of other forms of power- power from solar energy, power from coal and its alternatives.
The Labor Party appreciates this opportunity to outline its fears for the future so far as the mining and export of Australian uranium is concerned, given the unknown hazards that lie ahead, the doubt and the uncertainty that are before us. We believe that the policy that we have announced after detailed consideration by our State branches, by the minerals and energy committee of our party and by the federal conference of our party is one that will win the acclaim and the approval of the Australian people. The Labor movement believes that it would be quite irresponsible, without all the inherent dangers being properly faced up to and all the critical questions being satisfactorily answered, to mine and export uranium. Therefore, our decision to impose a moratorium is in the best interests of Australia and mankind generally. We believe it shall receive the overwhelming support of the people of Australia.
– We are debating today one of the most important issues that has come before the Senate for a long time. Let me hasten to add this is not the first time we have had a debate in this chamber on the matter, nor is it the first time there has been a debate in the Federal Parliament because there have been four debates in the House of Representatives. In the last 12 months we have received two very detailed and comprehensive reports. I refer to what I call Fox No. 1 and Fox No. 2. The first deals with the general aspects of the mining of uranium and the usage of uranium, and the second deals primarily- I emphasise ‘primarily’- with the environmental aspects of the mining of uranium in relation to the Ranger mine in the Northern Territory.
I listened to Senator Douglas McClelland today. I listened with great interest to what he had to say. He referred to the recent federal conference of the Australian Labor Party and the decision that it reached. I was surprised to see the conference come down with a firm decision. I saw reports that it was only a 45 -minute debate. I will not enter into or encourage any controversy with regard to the time, but I say with great respect to members of the Opposition that I think it was unfortunate that that conference came to a decision because there are members of the Opposition who hold differing views to the policy to which they are now tied. I think this is most unfortunate. I would hate to see it on this side of the House because what I want to see is a good, full, solid, open and constructive debate. There may be members on my side of the chamber who have differing views from me. I do not know. By the end of the debate we will know. I know that we can debate this issue very freely.
Comment was also passed- critical comment -in relation to the Government, that it has no policy of consistency. I think they were the words used. I have taken notice of the change in the stance of the Australian Labor Party from the time when Mr Whitlam was Prime Minister of this country. I have also taken note of the fact that part of the decision reached at the recent federal conference of that party was that it will repudiate any commitment of a non-Labor government to the mining, processing or export of Australia ‘s uranium ‘. It is interesting to note in Fox No. 1, as I call it, the original report of the Fox Committee dealing with the Ranger proposal, the third paragraph of chapter 2 at page 9 states:
According to a memorandum of understanding between the co-venturers, dated 28 October 1975, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission (AAEC) will provide 7214 per cent of the capital required for the project and Peko and Electrolytic Zinc 133/4 per cent each. Two directors will be appointed to Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd by the AAEC -
Let me say this is a government operation- and one each by the two companies.
I emphasise this:
The memorandum gives the AAEC responsibility for all future sales of yellowcake from the mine.
I refer now to the memorandum itself. I refer to clause 2, sub-clause (d) which states:
Australia, Peko and EZ shall do all things necessary to enable the objects of the joint venture to be achieved.
Let me emphasise again that this is a memorandum of understanding between the Whitlam Government and the two interested parties in the Ranger project. Clause 4 states:
This Committee -
Referring to the Ranger Project Committee- shall be responsible for making certain fundamental policy decisions such as cessation, curtailment or suspension of construction or operation of the Project and major expansion of treatment plant capacity.
I emphasise these words:
The decision of the committee shall require a unanimous vote.
It is most interesting to note that this was a memorandum of understanding between the then Government and the companies concerned in the Ranger inquiry. That memorandum came out well before the first Fox report. Yet this recent conference of the Labor Party resolved that the Party will repudiate any commitment of a non-Labor government to the mining, processing or export of Australia’s uranium. I wonder if they spoke to the Ranger group. I wonder whether the Australian Labor Party has taken into consideration the previous arrangements that it made with the Ranger group when Labor was in government. It is most fascinating to hear the
Labor Party talk, as Senator Douglas McClelland did today, about a policy of inconsistency. Perhaps he and other Labor Party members should look at what was said previously by their party. To take the matter a little further, I refer to a Press report as recent as 5 February 1975 which states:
Mr Whitlam headed off yesterday a move within his party to bring the development of the Australian mining industry to a standstill. Mr Whitlam warned that the move could force the cancellation of contracts for the sale overseas of enriched Australian uranium and yellow cake.
I emphasise the words:
The report continued:
A contract had already been completed for the sale of yellow cake to Japan and his Government was negotiating for the sale of uranium in Europe.
Mr President, I could refer to other Press statements of more recent time which report discussions that were being held with regard to an enrichment plant in South Australia. Let me go further. Comment was passed about the possibility of the Australian Government having dealings with France for the sale of uranium. I remind the Senate that there were reports at one stage that Mr Whitlam, as Prime Minister of Australia, was having discussions with the French and the Japanese with regard to the financing and establishment of an enrichment plant in Australia which would involve an investment of $2,000m. That plant was possibly to be in South Australia. It is important that people be reminded of these facts. I grant that people have the right to change their minds; but one also has the right to be curious as to why minds have been changed. I will leave my comment on that basis.
I wish to refer also to the inconsistency of the Premier of South Australia. For a long time we have been hearing that the hope in South Australia was that an enrichment plant would be established there. We have heard talk of an investment of $2,000m. We heard of discussions taking place between the then Minister for Mines in South Australia, Mr Hopgood, the then Federal Labor Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, and the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam. As recently as February of this year in answer to questions in this place the relevant Minister has said that the State Labor Government in South Australia was still having discussions with departments in Canberra with respect to a feasibility study for the establishment of a uranium enrichment plant in South Australia. Suddenly, by March, the tide had turned, for some unknown reason, and we found opposition to that proposal. I should not say that this occurred for some unknown reason, as we know the reason why the tide suddenly changed. Pressures were put on Mr Dunstan within his own party.
– By the extreme Left.
– As Senator Jessop says, by the extreme Left. If we are to talk about inconsistencies, we should mention what we find happening today in South Australia. The Premier of that State is still going ahead with feasibility studies for the establishment of an enrichment plant there. He is having discussions with the Western Mining Corporation with regard to a possible big mine in South Australia for copper mixed with uranium. Incidentally, if uranium is mined there, this on a value basis would be the equivalent of some 6 per cent of copper, which is a very good mine. Without the uranium mining, the financial return drops considerably.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why the Premier of South Australia saw fit to second a motion at the federal conference of the Australian Labor Party in Perth last month proposing an indefinite moratorium in respect of uranium when he is still encouraging finance for exploration in South Australia centered on uranium and copper and is still pressing ahead with a feasibility study concerned with a uranium enrichment plant.
An election was held in South Australia in 1970; the issue was the Chowilla Dam as opposed to the Dartmouth Dam. Mr Dunstan said then that he would be fighting for the Chowilla Dam. He made this a great election issue. After he had won back the premiership of South Australia at that election, Mr Dunstan admitted that, unfortunately, what he proposed to do was not possible because he had discovered that the terms of the River Murray Agreement prevented action by him which would result in the Chowilla Dam being constructed. Quite frankly, I think the uranium issue in South Australia is an exercise similar to the Chowilla Dam election issue. I challenge the Premier of South Australia to stand up and to state publicly why he is continuing to press ahead for a feasibility study concerning a uranium enrichment plant in South Australia when he believes and stands by the fact that in the next two or three years he will not support the mining of uranium in Australia and South Australia.
What does Mr Dunstan fear? Senator Douglas McClelland quoted gallup poll figures today which show that support for the mining and export of uranium is down to 47 per cent. There has been a drop in support. By his own choice, the Premier of South Australia now has an election on his hands. He is seeking to make sure that his rating in the popularity stakes does not drop further. He is fearful of losing the support of people who may be opposed to the mining of uranium. That is what this is all about. It is another example of a jolly good Chowilla exercise, and the people of South Australia know what that means.
We hear all sorts of arguments with regard to the pros and cons of the mining of uranium. We can be told of all sorts of policies, such as we have been given today by Senator Douglas McClelland who claimed that the Australian Labor Party is opposed to the mining of uranium. No matter what the Labor Party’s policy is or what our policy is, we will not discourage countries from trying to obtain uranium or going nuclear because today we are living in the age of the nuclear reactor. Whether we like it or not, that is the position. It is not our choice; it has been the choice of other countries. Nuclear energy is the main energy source that they see to bridge the energy gap which has increased and has become more critical year by year.
It is all very well for the Australian Labor Party to say that if Australia does not sell its uranium it will have an effect in so many ways on the world situation. I agree that if Australia does not sell its uranium its action will have an effect, but I believe that that effect will be quite the reverse of what the Labor Party claims. What the countries which are turning to nuclear energy want is a reliable source of supply of uranium. If they do not get a reliable source of supply of uranium, they will face not just an energy gap but a uranium gap which, in turn, will encourage fast breeders and plutonium. If we possibly can, this is what we want to avoid.
At present Australia has 20 per cent of the known world reserves of cheap uranium. We have a moral responsibility to the world and especially to those countries which wish to buy our uranium under certain guidelines and conditions with which I will deal later. If we do not sell our uranium, we will encourage a plutonium economy. We will then be faced with the problems of plutonium storage and nuclear proliferation. Let us press on and support the mining and exporting of uranium to selected markets while still being responsible and avoiding the encouragement of fast breeder development throughout the world.
We have heard a great deal said about coal as an alternative to uranium. We heard that argument today. Let us look at the economics of coal.
If we turn to the use of coal we will have great environmental problems. I mention first the pollution of the outer atmosphere. It has been stated not by one scientist but by many scientists that the outer atmosphere could become so polluted that the temperature of the earth could increase by some 6 degrees- not in 5 or 10 years time but in the long term- and that this would lead to the melting of the ice caps. In this chamber before I have cited the fact that, if that were to happen, even a rise of 5 degrees would mean that there would not be one Australian capital city with the exception of Canberra that would be above the water level.
One can move into other areas regarding coal as an alternative. Let me deal briefly with the economics of coal. One pound of coal equals some 12 SOO British thermal units and one pound of ordinary uranium is equal to 250 000 000 British thermal units. To put it another way: In volume, a pound of uranium is equal to some 20 000 pounds of coal. So we have to look at the physical aspect of trying to handle this much coal-not in Australia because we will not need a nuclear reactor here in the foreseeable future, but in countries overseas. We are talking about their problems and what they need. It is all very well to talk about the economics of coal but we should realise that in Europe today coal costs in excess of $50 per ton. We in Australia have cheap coal. Our coal averages less than $10 per ton. So let us look at things realistically. Let us look at things through the eyes of people overseas. We will find that there are great limitations involved in using coal. Also, if coal were to be used there would be great risks to the environment. Physically and economically they are prevented from using coal. When comparing a coal fired thermal generator with a nuclear generator of the same capacity, let us remember that there are 1 1 times more deaths in the coal industry than in the uranium industry. Perhaps some honourable senator on the other side of the chamber could bring up other figures but these are the figures given to me by responsible people. So one must discount coal.
One must consider the economics for consumer countries overseas. They are concerned about their economics and the instability that will follow unless they can fill this energy gap. We have had a Japanese delegation to Australia. We have had Japanese trade unionists in Australia appealing to unionists in this country to mine and export uranium because they know what the needs are in Japan and they are concerned about them. As mentioned today, we have had representations from the Philippines and other countries. We have had many people from Europe appealing to Australia on this matter because we have 20 per cent of the world’s known reserves of cheap uranium and we would be a reliable source of supply. Those factors should be noted because if we have a continuing increase of 3.5 per cent per annum in the consumption of energy the world will use nearly 2y, times more energy up to the year 2000 than has been used in all previous time up to 1975. Even though we can cut back on the use of energy to some extent, there is a limitation on how much we can cut back. Whichever way we look at it, there will be an increasing demand in consumption of energy throughout the world because of industrialisation and the development of so many countries. I repeat that when one talks about the nuclear energy age into which we have entered, one must remember that today there are some 46 countries which have nuclear reactors. They have 1 80 nuclear reactors with another 300 under construction and a further 300 planned. There may be suspicion by some people regarding countries adopting this stance in an effort to fill the energy gap. There may be criticism of some countries; I am not criticising them. Switzerland, which internationally has been regarded as a symbol of peace, with its white cross- from which the red cross originated- today has three nuclear reactors with another three under construction and another five planned.
Then there are the dangers of radiation. No country knows them better than Japan. Yet Japan, with a history of two nuclear bombings and the horrors that they caused, has 13 nuclear reactors with another 1 1 under construction and a further 64 planned. Is it any wonder that the Japanese want our uranium? They have an energy gap that has to be filled. They know what happened with the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries a long time ago. They know what happened to oil prices and supplies, so they have turned to what they consider is the safest and surest method of filling that energy gap. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development group of countries are rapidly turning to nuclear power. Figures I have show that the share of nuclear power for electricity requirements in the OECD countries in 1985 will be 20 per cent; by the year 1990 it will be 27 per cent and by the year 2000 it will be over 40 per cent. We have heard a lot about the dangers of nuclear reactors. I challenge anybody on the other side of the chamber or this side of the chamber to cite a reported case of any death as a result of a commercial reactor. I have looked for such a report and I cannot find one. My information is that there has not been such a death and that the hazards involving nuclear reactors are very low in comparison overall with coal.
I have dealt with the economics of the whole thing. Much has been said about waste disposal and the concern about it. Yes, there are grave problems regarding waste disposal in the past. The great majority of those problems have been created more by the United States Army than by anyone else. They did not handle the waste as well as they should have, because of a lack of technology and a lack of encouragement of technology at that stage as the concentration of effort was in other directions. But today a lot of research has been done in this area. There have been great technological advances with regard to the handling and storage of waste. This afternoon Senator Douglas McClelland referred to solidification or vitrification of the waste. This is now regarded as a fact of life. The French have stated that by 1981 they will be handling this waste commercially. This gratification of waste brings it down to a very solid form. It is practically insoluble and is very stable and, to quote the French, ‘easy to store’. This solidification is being carried out not only in France, but in Germany, the United States of America and the United Kingdom. As I said, France will be handling this waste commercially by 1981 and the other countries claim they will be doing so by the early 1980s.
There are other areas of concern with waste disposal related to the fast breeder reactor and plutonium. I emphasise the point that this is one area that does concern all countries. Today Russia, which is not a signatory to the nuclear nonproliferation treaty but which is a member of the international atomic energy agency, is working like fury with other countries to see what can be done to establish international banks to handle plutonium wastes which come as a result of fast breeders. This is the concern at the present time. The other is still a concern because of the great amounts of liquids that are still being held in storage. But with the vitrification or solidification of wastes many of the problems regarding waste to a great extent will be overcome so long as a normal, common sense security goes with it.
Having referred to the aspect of plutonium, let me turn to proliferation. Whether or not we sell uranium, enough countries today- some 46 countries have gone nuclear- could create dangers of proliferation. These dangers are far greater in a plutonium era than in normal atomic waste eras. I emphasise that. Let us have a look at the overall situation of a country if it wants to build a bomb. If a country picks up the waste from a normal reactor it is left with dirty, messy waste for which at present- I emphasise ‘at present’- no country has totally perfected reprocessing. No country has as yet perfected reprocessing. I stand corrected if anybody in this chamber can contradict me. If a coastal state wishes to build an atomic bomb all it has to do is use uranium in sea water. If the country which wishes to build an atomic bomb has shale rocks it has any quantity of uranium at a price. It is dearer; but it is there. If a country has the necessary ability it has a source of uranium at a price.
One can go on in this area of terrorism: Individual groups do not need atomic bombs for terrorism. It is more a national problem, particularly if atomic bombs are to be built. I ask honourable senators to show me a country where a terrorist group can develop an atomic bomb from nuclear waste. It would need a fair bit of plant to do so. In thinking of ways for terrorists to operate one is reminded of what happened in New York a few weeks ago with the electrical blackout. There are easier ways for terrorists to operate, such as poisoning water, blowing up transformers or sub-stations, or so many other things. Whilst I do not discount for a momentlet me make this clear- the problems of proliferation, let us not get carried overboard. There are other methods by which terrorists can operate.
The greatest problem the world is facing with regard to filling the energy gap by nuclear reactors, as I said, is the fear of a shortage of uranium. President Carter put forward a proposition to the world that, because of the concern regarding fast breeders and because of the concern about reprocessing directly related to the operation of fast breeders, all further research in those two areas should be stopped. President Carter was not successful for the simple reason that countries themselves expressed concern that there would be a uranium gap and as such there was a need for them to turn to fast breeders. A fast breeder is estimated to be between 50 and 70 times more efficient than a normal nuclear reactor. Not only does it use a lesser amount of uranium but also in the process of operation it virtually creates plutonium. Estimates are that in a period between 13 and 17 years a fast breeder will produce enough plutonium to establish a further fast breeder. So we have the problem of a surplus of plutonium, the very thing I mentioned when discussing the establishment of banks to hold this waste. This is what President Carter wants to stop. Unfortunately, because of the concern at the possible lack of supplies of uranium, many countries are still pressing ahead with research into the establishment of fast breeders and also with regard to reprocessing to get plutonium to use in those fast breeders.
I mentioned earlier that I feel that we as a nation should export our uranium. The second report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry which deals with environmental aspects states that under certain conditions of the environment we can export uranium. I interpret the second Fox report as a green light to the export of uranium. Let me refer generally to some of the areas covered by the report. The report stated that the social and cultural implications for Aboriginals of mining in the area was one of the most important elements to be considered in the decision on uranium mining. This is something to which the Government has given great emphasis. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has made his views clear in this area. Let me quote from the Advertiser of 14 July of this year an address made by the Prime Minister at the National Press Club. He said:
No decision will be made on mining until we are absolutely satisfied that the needs and interests of the Aboriginal people are safeguarded and that the environment is also fully protected. Decisions of this importance will not be decided overnight, nor should they.
I heartily concur. Whilst I support the mining of uranium I also support the need for a thorough inquiry and discussion by the Government and those concerned to make sure that the socioeconomic well-being of the Aboriginals as well as the environment will be given serious consideration. These are things that the Fox report brought out. It stated that the release of both the radioactive and non-radioactive contaminants that would flow into the Magela Creek drainage system would only be done when there were high water flows so that none of the contaminants would be hanging round the banks. There would be a quick flush out to sea and the contaminants would then be gone. The tailings of any of the minings and the stockpiles of any of the lowgrade ores again would be placed in worked out mine pits. With the exception of perhaps the Pancontinental Mine at Jabiluka the Ranger project would be the only one that would go ahead at this time, not because of radiation hazards but because of the impact of perhaps too many workers in the area, particularly during the construction stage. On top of this, all rehabilitative work with regard to the environment would be done by the operators at their expense and also under certain standards which could be upgraded and subject to review the whole time.
I have tried to be fair and deal with the major recommendations. The Ranger Inquiry concluded that if these recommendations and others were adopted the environmental consequences of mining could be kept within acceptable limits. I would like to quote very briefly two conclusions of the Fox report. The first appears at page 32 1 and reads:
The Ranger project as proposed, and in the land use setting which was assumed, should not in our view be allowed to proceed. On the other hand, if the plan we propose is accepted, and the various matters we recommend in relation to it, and to the mining operation themselves, are carried out, the adverse environmental consequences of the proposal can be kept within acceptable limits.
I emphasise the words ‘within acceptable limits’. Page 324 states:
The chief recommendation we propose concerning the Ranger project is apparent from what we have already said. If an adverse decision is not made on the basis of the wider considerations discussed in our First Report and summarised in Chapter 1 of this Report, the project should be allowed to proceed, but only in the circumstances stipulated in this Report and subject to the recommendations we make in it.
I read out some of the recommendations earlier in general terms. I feel that I am not biased in any way in reading and interpreting the second report to say that it has given the green light if we abide by the environmental recommendations set down. Let me turn to the Fraser guidelines as I call them, guidelines which are far more stringent than those of any other country in the world, and far more stringent than Mr Justice Fox recommended in the first report. For the record they read as follows:
The need to keep policy under review; careful selection of eligible customers for uranium; the application of effective International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards; bilateral agreements with customer countries; fallback safeguards; prior Australian Government consent in relation to reexport, enrichment and reprocessing; physical security; safeguards provisions in contracts; and international and multilateral efforts to strengthen safeguards.
One could expand on the safeguards as set down by the Prime Minister, but because of the time factor I will confine myself to repeating that the safeguards as set down by the Prime Minister and the Government are the strictest and most stringent safeguards set down by any country. If we mine and export our uranium we will have the opportunity as one of the major suppliers of uranium to enforce our safeguards and guidelines overall because we can work in with other major suppliers such as Canada. The situation will be entirely different if we do not supply uranium to a world that has decided itself that it is living in a nuclear reactor age, a world that wants our uranium and a world which, if it cannot get our uranium, will continue to move rapidly towards the establishment of fast breeders with the consequent plutonium era. I feel that if we were to encourage this we as a nation would have a lot to answer for. As I see it, it is our responsibility to mine our uranium and to supply uranium responsibly under the guidelines as propounded by the Prime Minister to many of those countries that have committed themselves to a nuclear age. If we do this we can then hope to delay the establishment of fast breeders and plutonium and perhaps fill the energy gap until such time as solar energy, a wonderful renewable source of energy, can take up the slack and continue filling the energy gap, which, if it is not filled, will grow greater and greater because of the continuing demands of an expanding society throughout the world.
-In rising in this debate I must point out to Senator Young that the difference between his party and my party is that the Australian Labor Party is aware of what is going on in the world. We are alive to the developments in the world and when we have made a mistake we are big enough and honest enough to change our policy. Senator Young said he was curious to know why we changed our policy. He obviously had some ideas about why we changed it. I wish he had been honest enough to come forth and say what he thought the reasons were. The point is that we reflect the changing views of the community when it comes to the use of uranium. We have taken to heart the call of the first Fox report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry which, as Senator Douglas McClelland reminded the Senate, recommended that no decision on the mining and export of uranium be taken until a reasonable time had elapsed and there had been an opportunity for the usual democratic processes to function, including in this respect parliamentary debate. Mr Justice Fox wanted the fullest possible public and parliamentary debate on the matter. We have tried to assist that debate by producing material on the subject, by producing a book, by producing films, by endeavouring to give all sides of the argument and by encouraging wide-ranging debate. In view of what we now know about uranium and the use of uranium, we feel that our policy is in line with both public awareness and what the public wants.
Despite what the first Ranger report said on the matter of mining uranium, it had to be noted that when the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was in Europe in May and June obviously he was selling uranium. This was despite the fact that he had been advised that no decision should be made until the community was aware of the difficulties and despite the fact that no announcement had been made in Australia.
On 20 June it was recorded in the newspapers that Chancellor Schmidt of West Germany had said:
I understand Australia has no intention of sitting on its uranium. It wants to sell it.
That remark was made immediately after he had spent 90 minutes in intimate discussion with our Prime Minister. From other remarks in other European newspapers it was obvious that our Prime Minister was trotting around Europe assuring all and sundry that we would sell our uranium so long as the price was right. After our Prime Minister has made these arrangements and had these discussions, at this late date, we are now debating the second Fox report and the so-called safeguards put out by the Prime Minister. This week the Melbourne Herald carried the headline ‘Uranium Mining: Government All Clear’. The article stated:
The Federal Government has decided to authorise the mining and export of uranium. Federal Cabinet met today to complete details of the policy.
That was reported in the Herald. So far as I have been able to find out, there has been no denial by the Government that it has agreed to the sale, mining and export of uranium. I have not heard any denial or explanation of the report by the Government. When the Government obviously agreed to sell uranium it should have remembered that the first recommendation of the second Fox report was:
That the Ranger project, as proposed, and in the land use setting which was assumed, not be allowed to proceed.
The Government has never taken account of that, nor has it ever publicised the point. The report went on to state:
That, if an adverse decision on the Ranger project is not made on the basis of the wider consideration discussed in our First Report . . ., it be allowed to proceed, but only in the circumstances stipulated in this Report and subject to the recommendations we make in it.
It states further:
No pan of our proposals be varied unless it is clear that alternatives will be pursued which will just as satisfactorily achieve the same purposes and satisfy the same principle.
As yet nothing has been done. No legislation is proposed. Despite that sort of report from the Fox inquiry, despite the fact that the newspapers are saying that the Government has agreed to the mining and export of uranium, and despite the fact that the Victorian Government has reported that it proposed a 1000 megawatt nuclear station for Victoria by 1995, we have yet had no report from the Government on any sort of legislation that would safeguard Australians or, for that matter, the world from what the consequences of all that might be. We have just heard key Government Ministers saying: ‘Of course we will mine uranium. Of course we will export it’. The only safeguards that have been handed down are the safeguards that deal with what might happen to uranium when it is exported.
There are dangers to miners in Australia, although our mines will be open cut rather than deep mines, and although it is acknowledged that in deep cut mining of uranium in America a miner has a 400 per cent greater chance of dying of cancer than a miner who is not in the uranium field. Our mines will be open cut, so presumably there will be greater ventilation, but rich sources of uranium mean high concentrations of uranium, which mean high concentrations of radon gas. Radon gas is the material which, lodged in miners’ lungs, causes cancer. The Ranger report agreed that protective measures should be brought to bear in mines in Australia. It declared that these measures must be carried out before any mines are allowed to be opened in Australia.
The Fox report said that there must be assured protection of the environment at the expense of the person who was mining, and that the obligation on the operator to protect the environment must be legally enforceable. It was said that the performance of the obligation must be fully secured before any mine was opened; that a trust fund or bond must be provided for anybody or anything that may be damaged by the mining; that there must be firm and legally binding undertakings to replace the tailings in the pits and that no relaxation of those bindings must be allowed under any circumstances; that the tailing dams must be sealed by an impervious membrane; that steps must be taken to reduce the loss of yellowcake dust; that the protection of the environment must be assured if mines were to go into liquidation or for any reason were to terminate their operation; that the Government should immediately explore what steps it can take to assist in reducing the hazards, the dangers and the problems associated with the production of nuclear energy; and that a national energy policy should be developed and reviewed regularly.
None of those things has happened. There is no evidence that any of those things are even anticipated in the future. Yet we have the Government assuring people that we will mine and export our uranium. Uranium miners are told that they must be very careful to wash the dust off their faces and hands, yet there are no rules and regulations brought in to ensure that that happens. The dust particles are the danger. They can breathe the particles into their lungs. Some miners in uranium mines in Australia have already been shown to have been irradiated in their work, and some have left the industry. Queensland Mines Ltd takes some of this very seriously because it has estimated that without protective clothing a worker can stay in some areas of the mine for only one hour a week before receiving the maximum permissible dose of radiation. So at least that company takes it seriously even if the Government does not.
The South Australian Branch of the Australian Medical Association in a report it brought down on the biological effects of radiation on human health and safety said:
Nuclear energy creates an unprecedented possibility of unintended or malicious disaster, affecting whole communities.
The Fox Report went on to say:
The nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to an increased risk of nuclear war. This is the most serious hazard associated with the industry. Complete evaluation of the extent of the risk and assessment of what course should be followed to reduce it involve matters of national security and international relations which are beyond the ambit of the Inquiry. We suggest that the questions involved are of such importance that they be resolved by Parliament.
As yet nothing has been brought to our attention. We were told by a speaker today that it is impossible to produce a nuclear bomb. The Ford Foundation in America, a respected research establishment there, has said that crude atomic bombs can be manufactured in clandestine laboratories with relatively modest amounts of know-how. The Canberra Times of 18 May 1977 reported a British newspaper which said that it had assembled all the parts of an atomic bomb except for the plutonium explosive, to demonstrate that terrorists could do the same. Professor Joseph Rotblat, Professor of Physics at the London University, said that the Daily Express had shown him a picture of the device and details of its construction. He said: ‘If I were a member of the Government and were shown by a group of terrorists what you have shown me I would not like to gamble with the lives of thousands of people. I would also be terrified. So we have the know-how to make the bomb. We need the material.
The Government Accounting Office in America reported to Congress that 1 1 000 lb of plutonium and enriched uranium had vanished from government factories there. It went on to report that 20 000 lb of that same material had vanished from private facilities in America. Britain reported that enough material to produce 15 nuclear bombs could not be accounted for. They do not know whether it is their accounting system that is at fault, whether the material has been lost in the machinery, whether it was never produced or whether it was stolen or sold, but it is missing and from it nuclear bombs can be produced. We all remember the ship that sailed from Antwerp to Italy and when it arrived in Italy it was found that 200 tons of plutonium and enriched uranium had vanished. Despite the fact that the security services of four European countries were concentrated on the matter, no trace of the material was ever found. People have ideas about where it is but nobody knows where it is. It has not been found.
We know that there are countries agitating to use atomic bombs- small countries that want to improve their status, small countries that want to be big countries. They want to use atomic bombs. Once one bomb goes off, no one knows where the next one will go off. When President Carter told South Korea that he was taking American troops home the South Koreans immediately said to him that uranium from Australia was essential so that that country could produce nuclear weapons with which to protect itself. There are supposed safeguards against nuclear war- non proliferation treaties. One has only to look at non proliferation treaties and at which countries have not signed them to realise how useless they are. Countries such as China, France, Chile and South Africa have not signed a non proliferation treaty, A non proliferation treaty does not prevent the material or the knowledge being passed on from countries which are signatories to countries which are not signatories. A country has to give a mere 90 days notice of withdrawal to get out from underneath a treaty at any time. We all know that no piece of paper and no treaty will protect a country from another country. No piece of paper will protect people from wicked people or desperate people. One has only to look at the pieces of paper that have been torn up in our lifetimes to know what a flimsy safeguard they are against nuclear war.
Malcolm Booker, a former Australian diplomat, pointed out in a speech that proliferation of nuclear weapons had been slow because of the difficulty in developing an intercontinental missile to carry the warhead. Now the United States has come to our rescue. It has produced the cruise missile. It is ideal for the purpose of carrying nuclear warheads. The Prime Minister has proposed certain safeguards if we mine and export our uranium. As has been mentioned, amongst them were the following:
Should the Government approve further development of the Australian uranium industry it will retain the right to be selective in the countries to whom uranium export will be permitted.
Australia would seek to arrange with uranium importing countries export level consultations to satisfy itself of the implementation of the provision of bilateral agreements.
Let me remind honourable senators about India and Canada. Canada provided India with a nuclear reactor and fuel to experiment with the peaceful use of atomic energy. India cheated and made a bomb. Canada cut off its source of supply but in the last few months the United States of America has told India that she will again be able to receive supplies of fuel from America so long as she promises to talk about the safeguards that could be brought into being. Once such material has been given to a country like India and she has made a big hole in the ground with it, why should Pakistan, her neighbour, not equally receive material and a nuclear reactor for which she is agitating?
Further safeguards are as follows:
The Government wishes to ensure that if a decision was taken to permit new uranium export, the uranium would be covered by International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards from the time it left Australia ‘s ownership.
How would it be covered? There are no safeguards that are universally accepted. There is no way to enforce the safeguards if there were any. There are very few safeguards practised in the world today as the material moves around the world, as is obvious from the material that has vanished already. Let me quote Dr Edward Teller who has been working on the peaceful application of nuclear power and who was brought out here to encourage us to mine and sell our uranium. He said:
But here is a serious question, a question to which I don’t have a complete answer and I will not pretend to have one. Every nuclear reactor produces material that can be used in nuclear explosives. None of us want proliferation of nuclear weapons. At least we should try to slow down this proliferation so that our politicians, who have the hardest job of us all, should be able to deal with the questions of lasting peace. If you ask me whether I can guarantee that uranium oxide, yellowcake, exported from Australia will never be used in war, I will have to admit that there is no such guarantee. We better recognise that the world is full of dangers and that life itself is dangerous and short. All we can do is choose the lesser danger.
Frankly, I am not prepared to accept a danger that he calls lesser and I call greater. The fifth proposal of the Government to protect us from the final use of our uranium was:
The Government believes that nuclear material supplied by Australia or nuclear material derived from its use should remain under safeguards for the full life of the material in question or until it is legitimately removed from safeguards.
Once used, uranium produces plutonium. Plutonium has to be guarded for half a million years. That is a much longer time than that for which we have record of a civilisation existing on this earth. Yet this Government says very blandly that it believes that so long as it is needed such material should be guarded to safeguard the world from its consequences. Through half a million years we have to guard plutonium. It stays active that long. One ten-millionth of a gram will cause cancer. It is universally admitted by every known scientist that it cannot be destroyed.
Once we have used uranium to produce nuclear power we have radioactive waste and, despite what Senator Young has said and despite the pious hopes he has that we may find a way to dispose of the waste, there is no known satisfactory way to deal with the waste at this moment. There are scientists in some parts of the world who hope that by 1985 they may have found a way. There are people who hope that we may find a way to deal with it, but if there was a satisfactory way to deal with it there would be somebody on top of this Parliament House yelling it to the four winds and those people would be from the Uranium Producers Forum because they would have found a way to deal with all the people who object to the use of uranium at the moment. Nobody has found a satisfactory way to deal with the waste at the moment. The South Australian branch of the Australian Medical Association has pointed out that nuclear energy entails unprecedented potential risks for future generations via the possible erosion of the human gene pool because of the radiation and because of the attack on human genes by the material we produce by mining and using uranium.
Plutonium was taken seriously by the Flowers mission in Britain which had set down guidelines slightly different from those for the Fox Commission. This very proper royal commission reported to the British Parliament that if the world were to continue to use nuclear energy and so produce plutonium then the world might very well look at establishing plutonium parks- areas around the world where plutonium could be stored forever and be guarded by a plutonium priesthood composed of people devoted to guarding the world from the plutonium lodged there. It sounds like science fiction but it is not science fiction. It is what a very proper royal commission found on the evidence that was placed before it.
The sort of proposals that have been made for waste disposal include bringing the waste to Australia and burying it in the centre of Australia. That has been laughed at by some people in Australia. It was laughed at by the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) when he returned from an overseas jaunt. The Minister said he saw no mileage in talking of plutonium dumps, but at that stage Government advisers had already drafted the pros and cons of such a scheme for Australia, and this was published in the Age of 1 3 May 1977 which read:
An international fuel cycle centre in Australia would take back spent fuel rods from overseas, extract the re-useable uranium and fabricate it into new fuel rods for re-export. The plutonium by-product, however, would be held here under IAEA control and supervision, while the nuclear wastes would be vitrified and buried.
The proposal has a number of advantages for Australia, said the advisers.
It would strengthen non-proliferation by regaining the spent fuel derived from Australian uranium exports.
There would be safer burial of wastes than if these were buried in less geologically stable user countries.
They did not mention politically stable countries, honourable senators will notice. The article went on to say:
There would be substantial economic benefits from royalties, rent, employment and capital inflow.
The advisers did go on to list the disadvantages that there might be. They included: The public fears about the safety of our nuclear waste dump; the security threat from terrorists or other countries who might raid the plutonium stockpile for weapons material or even bomb the fuel centre to cripple other countries’ nuclear industries; the political problems in handing over our local sovereignty to the international supervisory agency, including questions such as whether Taiwan could use the centre; and the precedent created for further ‘garbage can’ industries in Australia. What a great future! Australia- the world’s nuclear garbage can. If we are going to sell the material and if we are going to get some economic advantage out of it perhaps we have a moral obligation to take these very dangerous by-products back into our country and keep them here. One has only to be reminded at this stage that science has established that there is no dose of radiation that is so low that its cumulative effects may not cause cancer, affect life or affect life in the future.
The Government is hypocritical to copy President Carter in his reaction to fast breeder reactors. We talk about increasing the amount of plutonium in the world and so increasing the dangers that everybody admits exist with this dangerous material. At the moment we have something like two million tonnes of uranium. Used in a conventional reactor that will produce 200 000 tonnes of plutonium. Two hundred thousand bombs of the sort that devastated Nagasaki could be made from that material and it could produce the sort of plutonium that is 800 times more than the amount needed to kill every man, woman and child on this planet. So when we hypocritically talk about the dangers of fast breeder reactors coming into the stream in the world, let us be fair dinkum and talk about the amount of material that the use of our uranium in the world will produce for the world.
Senator Young wanted examples of how nuclear power can kill. In the short time I have left in this debate I will give him two examples. In January 1961 the reactor in the Idaho Falls complex in the United States of America experienced a power excursion that lasted one fivethousandths of a second. The three-man crew was killed on the spot. The victims were so severely irradiated that their exposed hands and heads had to be severed from their bodies and buried in a dump for radioactive waste. Years were required to dissemble the radioactive wreckage of the reactor and its eventual burial ground will have to be guarded forever. The official investigation stated: ‘We cannot say with any certainty what initiated the explosion and it is possible that we may never know’. I remind honourable senators that a few weeks ago there was a report that a scientist working at Lucas Heights had died of cancer and that the Atomic Energy Commission had accepted responsibility to the extent that it was paying compensation to the man’s wife. The head of the AEC said on Monday morning: ‘Nonsense, it could not have happened because I do not know’. By Monday night he was saying it did happen and ‘why did I not know’. So it has happened.
We talk about why the world should want to handle a material that is so dangerous in the current circumstances. We are told that it is because there is an energy crisis in the world. We know that there is an energy crisis coming in liquid fuel, but the use of uranium does not help us produce liquid fuels in this world. If we use the large brown coal deposits that we have, if we get on with that and if we look to establishing plants from which a liquid fuel can be produced we might do better than by playing around with a material that will not give us the sort of fuel we want. Coal has been cited as an alternative energy supply and we have heard what a dangerous substance it is and that it will not last us very long anyway. The Fox Committee reported that it was apparent that there was a great deal of scope for reducing the rate of energy consumption required for a given level of economic activity, particularly in countries such as the United States of America and Canada which historically have had access to cheap energy and have therefore not been economically motivated to conservation. Perhaps now they may be economically motivated to conservation or they may at last believe we should not go on using up the world’s resources on rubbish when we have a finite amount of them. The Fox report went on to point out that there was a large amount of coal in the world and it was not likely to run out for decades in the future. Senator Douglas McClelland pointed out that we have one per cent of the world’s total coal deposits. To give the Senate some idea of our deposits I will refer to the Victorian Government Green Paper on Energy. It states that Victoria has known coal deposits of 66 700 million tonnes. Geologists believe that our actual resources may be nearly twice that amount. In 55 years we have so far extracted less than one-half of one per cent of that amount of coal.
When one talks about the cost of producing energy from coal compared to nuclear energy, one must examine other costs, for example, the cost of nuclear reactors and the cost of producing energy from coal. They are out of kilter because the capital and development costs of coal-fired stations and oil from coal plants are comparable or less than the capital costs of nuclear power. The costs of nuclear reactors are rising rapidly. The costs of disposing of nuclear waste are rising rapidly. The costs in this field are rising rapidly all the time.
The number of objections from people in the world also is rising rapidly. For example, only three reactors were built in the United States of America last year- not the large number that had been indicated would be built. Japan, which said that 17 per cent of her energy would be produced from nuclear energy by 1980, now admits that that figure will be 6 per cent. Germany, which said that 75 per cent of its energy would be produced from nuclear energy by 1985, has now reduced that figure to 8 per cent. The market is drifting away from us.
In West Germany, as all honourable senators would be aware, there are areas in which the courts have refused to give licences for the building of nuclear power plants until the courts can be convinced that proper arrangements have been made to deal with the waste. In Germany there are more people now in the movement against uranium mining than there are in all the political parties combined. The people in Austria think that their country may be the first country in Europe to completely turn her back on the use of nuclear energy because she wants to be assured that the waste can be handled safely and that people will not be endangered. Sweden has turned her back on nuclear energy until she can be assured that the world can handle the dangerous waste. In Sweden, 100 000 people sat on a mine to prevent it from being extended because they were so concerned about how the world was using this energy. In France, as all honourable senators will be aware, thousands of people are concerned about the dangers that come from nuclear power plants and the fast breeder reactor that France is trying to build. They are prepared -100,000 of them- to protest to their governments about the building of nuclear reactors. This movement is extending to Italy and Switzerland. As was indicated today in the Senate, people in Switzerland have signed a petition demanding that the Government hold a referendum before any further steps are taken in relation to nuclear energy. In the United States of America, of course, the need for nuclear energy has fallen away-so much so that the nuclear energy industry itself is saying that it is in disarray, that it does not know where it is going and that it would rather get out of the industry before any more problems arise because it cannot handle the problems facing it at the present time.
The reactors that are built last about 30 years. They cost more than $2 50m to build. They cost about $ 100m to entomb in concrete at the end of their 30 years of life. Added to that are the costs of guarding the waste which will need to be guarded for thousands and thousands of years. This Government should take to heart what was said in the Ranger inquiry. It should endeavour to ensure that the Atomic Energy Commission is in a position to act as an honest adviser to the Government on the use of atomic energy rather than as an agent for the uranium producers. Information about atomic energy should be given in the market place so that the people of Australia can be concerned and fully informed about the mining of uranium. If the Atomic Energy Commission adopted that role it would contribute much more than it has done up to this time.
If the $20m which has been spent up to this point of time on research into atomic energy was spent on research into solar power- a clean renewable safe source of energy- we would be advancing the cause of the Third World countries much further than we are advancing them at the moment. There is no answer to the problems associated with the disposal of the waste that comes into being once uranium is used to produce nuclear energy. There are no safeguards against nuclear war which is possible once uranium is mined. This is one area in which I feel Australia ought to take a moral stand and show the way to the rest of the world by keeping this highly dangerous material in the ground until we can be shown that the world can use it safely. An atomic energy scientist in America when queried about the amount of radiation that people can stand and the amount the world can stand, said:
The world may have to take a higher dose of radiation or freeze to death.
I do not believe that is true. If it were true I believe the people of the world should have the right to make that decision. They can make that decision only if all sides of the argument are known to them.
– My remarks will be brief, to the point and fairly simple. I should like to congratulate Senator Young on the excellent coverage that he gave to the main arguments and on the information that he provided to the Senate about why he supported the mining and exporting of uranium. I should like to indicate why I agree with the points made by Senator Young.
We do not need uranium ourselves, but that is not the issue. Waste disposal is not the issue either. That is not our problem; it is the problems of the countries that are using uranium. If we want to come to some arrangement in the future about the disposal of waste that is another issue. It is not the issue at the moment. Other countries have decided to use uranium, whether for good or for bad, but that is not Australia’s decision; it is the decision of those other countries. They have made their decision. It is a moral decision and an economic decision. But it is their decision; it is not our decision. They have made the decision in order to maintain their living standards.
Senator Young correctly pointed to the fact that many other countries are very short of energy. Australia is not in that position and, as I said earlier, is not seeking to use uranium itself. The countries that have decided to use uranium will continue to use it whether or not Australia exports it. If we refuse to export uranium those countries will still get uranium. They have committed themselves to producing electricity from uranium. They will get that uranium from any one of a number of countries which have vast quantities of uranium. The difference between our uranium and that of other countries is that ours will be cheaper. As Senator Melzer pointed out, Australia’s uranium will be mined on the surface and the mines will not be deep. The fact is that whether or not we export uranium those countries will still use exactly the same amount of uranium and will produce exactly the same amount of waste. As I said earlier, Australia probably has the cheapest uranium in the world. That is a very good reason why the world wants it. Our Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, has laid down safeguards in relation to uranium. We have absolutely no power to enforce those safeguards if we do not export uranium, but we have some power if we export it. We could impose very rigid conditions on those countries that wish to import our uranium, with the threat that if they did not meet those conditions we would refuse to export uranium to them.
– How effective is our participation, as an exporter, in that organisation?
– This is one thing that we will have to ensure before we write any agreements with those countries. There is no guarantee that they will honour the agreements. At least we can be more certain than any other country that those agreements will be abided by.
– Why will we be more certain?
– Because we have the cheapest uranium in the world. They want our uranium more than any other uranium. If we refuse to sell it to them, that will add tremendously to their costs.
Uranium is probably the safest mineral to mine. It is far safer than copper and lead. Unlike those two minerals, it has no residual effect. It is easily detectable and easily cured. It is so safe that even Premier Don Dunstan wants to set up an enrichment plant in South Australia.
– Are you sure?
-He still does. I would like to point out the benefits that will accrue to Australia. According to the first Fox report, by 1995 about 10 000 extra jobs will be created in Australia. I know that is of no interest to the Opposition, but it is definitely of interest to the Government. It will create annual export earnings for this country of about $ 1,200m. A very reputable firm of consultants, W. D. Scott and Co, has done a projection which showed that by 1995 our export earnings from uranium will be about the same as our export earnings from wheat, about the same as our export earnings from wool, about half the value of our export earnings from coal, about two-thirds of our export earnings from iron, more than our export earnings from sugar and more than our export earnings from beef. That puts the matter in perspective.
Many people have a genuine fear of uranium, and I respect that fear. Uranium and its byproducts can be some of the most dangerous products that we know, but there are many other dangerous products. If they are handled properly, there are no deleterious results. I suspect that the opponents of the mining and exporting of uranium have other motives. I think those motives are rather suspicious.
– Opposition to the mining and exporting of uranium will not win votes.
-The Labor Party certainly will not win elections by opposing the exporting of uranium, as I will demonstrate later. The Labor Party wants Australian living standards to decline because it knows that socialism can survive only in the situation of a poor standard of living. The Labor Party wants the countries in the Western world which I hope will be our potential customers to have problems. Do we hear protests when Russia accelerates tremendously its use of uranium? There are no protests at all. It is well recognised that Russia’s safeguards in respect of the use of uranium are minimal.
Western Australia has a potential mine at Yeelirrie, which is controlled by the Western Mining Corporation Ltd and which has the support of the Western Australian Government. It is ready to go and will present far fewer problems than some of the sites in the Northern Territory. Senator Melzer quoted some figures that purported to support what she claimed was a fact, that the majority of Australian people are against the mining and exporting of uranium. She was very selective. Let me be selective, so selective that I quote from the headlines of the Kalgoorlie Miner. It is not reputed to be a strong right wing paper, quite the reverse. This copy was provided to me by Senator Chaney who visited Kalgoolie recently to discuss this problem with many of the people there. The paper ran a poll. The headlines were:
The Goldfields’ Vote: ‘Yes’ for Uranium.
The article stated:
The majority of people in the Goldfields want uranium mining in Australia, including Yeelirrie, and they want a pilot plant in Kalgoorlie Boulder . . .
Some detailed questions were asked in the poll. The first question was:
Some Australian uranium should be mined.
A very large majority said yes. The second question was:
Uranium should be mined at Yeelirrie.
Remember that Yeelirrie is just a few hundred miles north of Kalgoorlie. A very large number were in support of the yes case. The third question was:
Kalgoorlie should have a uranium plant.
Remember these people live in Kalgoorlie. A large majority were in favour. Another question was:
We need the money from uranium.
The answer was yes. Another question was:
Uranium is the energy source of the future.
A very large majority were in favour. Another question was:
Australia can influence world opinion.
A very large number of people said yes. This poll was carried out by a very well known left wing newspaper in Western Australia.
– What was the date of that edition?
– It was dated 16 August 1 977, a very recent publication.
– How did Kalgoorlie vote at the last State election?
-At the last State election a Labor candidate was returned in each electorate in the Kalgoorlie area. Senator Melzer was selective when she quoted from the Herald. Can I also be selective and quote from the Age. I refer to the article headed ‘Uranium’s critical mass: The unions’. The sub-heading is ‘The movement is itself divided- even two-faced’. The article refers to Mr Isaacs, the leader of the Labor Party in the Northern Territory. The article states:
But Mr Isaacs did say that if Labor won the Assembly election last Saturday, the party would co-operate with the Federal Government if it decided to go ahead with uranium development . . .
A Labor majority in the Assembly would co-operate with the Federal Government . . .
He is well known amongst the Labor Party as the Secretary of the influential North Australian Workers Union. The article refers to Mr Ray Hogan, the State Secretary of the Miscellaneous Workers Union. The article states:
Yet this vehemently anti-uranium union of 95 000 has been discussing with executives of Peko Mines Ltd and Electrolytic Zinc Co. the question of exclusive rights to cover all workers involved in the mining and processing of uranium in the Northern Territory.
These two companies are joint partners with the Federal Government in the Ranger Uranium Project and are strong supporters of the pro-uranium lobby, the Uranium Producers’ Forum.
That union is arguing in favour of uranium mining. The Miscellaneous Workers Union and its Federal Secretary, Mr Ray Gietzelt, a name that is very familiar to us, are quoted as saying:
But if mining of uranium is to take place in the Northern Territory, it will be MWU members who mine it . . .
The bitterest struggle involving unions and uranium may not be aimed at keeping the stuff in the ground. It could well be over who should have the privilege of digging it up.
-The Australian Workers Union has an interest in it, too.
-It certainly has. I repeat the points I made at the beginning because I think they are relevant and completely different to the irrelevant arguments of the Opposition. Firstly, the argument is not whether we will use uranium. That is not the issue. Secondly, waste disposal is not the issue. That is not our problem. It may be our problem later but that is a different subject. Thirdly, although the decision to use uranium is a moral and an economic one, it is not our moral and economic decision; it is the decision of the countries which are committed to the use of uranium.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, let me clarify, firstly, one or two of the points made by Senator Thomas. It may be a matter of what newspaper one reads, but I can recall that ultra right wing newspaper News Weekly chastising Ray Gietzelt, the Federal Secretary of the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union, because of what it claimed were his utterances against the extraction of uranium. As I interpreted his remarks, Senator Thomas was saying that Ray Gietzelt was taking a different point of view i.e.: supplying uranium extract when the reverse is the position.
Let me take this aspect a little further. The whole tenor of the remarks made by Senator Thomas was related to the question: ‘Am I my brother’s keeper?’. The honourable senator claimed that the dangers of radioactive waste and other related matters are problems which will be the responsibility of Western Europe; they will not be the responsibility of Australia. In my response to that claim, I commence this way: I was one of the 49 delegates who assembled at the Hotel Sheraton in Perth for the federal conference of the Australian Labor Party which carried a unanimous declaration with respect to uranium. In this respect, I draw attention to the position in West Europe. What is happening in West Germany is a case in point. Mounting public concern is being expressed there as to what may happen in the event of a minor mishap with uranium. That public concern is growing all the time. Further, I have no doubt that if the moratorium proposed by the Australian Labor Party continues for two years or more, the onus will be put on the scientists of the world to come up with a solution to the problems associated with the disposal of radioactive wastes. I compare that situation to the classic case of the chicken and the egg and which comes first.
Argument has arisen whether uranium extraction in the Northern Territory can be carried out without excessive pollution. On this matter, I simply say that the track record of the Atomic Energy Commission should give none of us any feeling of confidence. In the course of several debates of this nature in the past, I have been most critical of how the Finniss River in the Northern Territory was polluted as a result of the extraction of ores from the Rum Jungle area. One remarkable aspect is that I have heard people say that the Rum Jungle undertaking operated without anybody complaining about it. The fascinating point is that nobody complained about it at the time. The complaints came only when the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, headed by Senator Davidson, arrived in Darwin. We heard witnesses from the Atomic Energy Commission brazenly tell us that its standards were 10 per cent above North American standards. I say, with respect to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, and other speakers in this debate, that the term ‘standards’ does not mean a lot if the people who apply the so-called ‘standards’ are not honest. It was only when the witnesses from the then Department of the Interior were recalled by that Senate Committee that we discovered the situation with respect to the Finniss River and what had been said by the Atomic Energy Commission.
There is a more important aspect. Honourable senators may say that it was probably people like Senator Ridley and I, who were a little bit antimining and were unduly suspicious, who put forward this view. But we see the same view coming from people who are not socialists. I draw the attention of the Senate to the Northern Territory Newsletter of June 1977 which contains an article by a Mr Withnall who was then a member of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. I do not know what his position is following the recent election in the Northern Territory. At page 5 of that publication he is reported as stating:
A number of conservationists had ‘rightly flogged’ the question that mining uranium itself may result in some hazards. I have a long acquaintance with the mining of uranium, and I can remember going to the Finniss River when Rum Jungle was operating. The Finniss River, of course, was quite dead. You could not find life on the banks, in the water or anywhere. This was entirely due to the discharge into the Finniss River of high concentrations of copper compounds, principally, I think copper sulphate. When questions were asked in the Legislative Council -
This is where the deceit occurs: about the hazards of uranium mining, the answer was that they had monitored all the streams and there was no evidence at all of any deterioration in the streams or in the country due to uranium mining. This was given by a fellow named Timms who I knew at the time quite well ….
That is an example where false testimony was given. I refer to a report which I circulated in Labor Party circles. It was based on an Alligator
River study, called Part Six, provided to me by the then Minister for the Northern Territory, Dr Rex Patterson. I wish to quote a few extracts from it. What argument am I trying to produce in this respect? I am trying to show that I fail to see how with any existing safeguards in an area of high tropical rainfall we will be able to combat the impregnating of the Alligator River with excessive impurities arising from uranium extraction at Ranger. Among other things, this study says:
The quality of water and sediments carried by it are determined by the source of the water. In the wet season, the waters of most streams are soft, slightly acid and poorly buffeted, low in heavy metals and low in radioactivity. However, with excessive rainfalls, the proportion dramatically changes and the Finniss River pollution episode would be repeated.
If honourable senators look at the Second Report of the Fox Inquiry they will find that it points out, even in a limited way, the excessive forms of supervision, controls and interceptors that must be applied. A study of some of the various mining journals reveals that they claim that this approach is excessively cautious. I answer that response by saying, based on facts, that, if the Finniss River was polluted when we were told that there were adequate safeguards, I fail to see how any uranium extraction in the Northern Territory will not completely pollute the Alligator River system.
One point in the discussion here and elsewhere seems to be the talk about capitalist morality. People talk about the evils of socialism. I defy any honourable senator to stand with me in Simpsons Gap, to see the rock formation and the rock wallabies there, and not to be concerned as I was about what a friend said to me. He asked: What would Lang Hancock do if he was here?’ I said: ‘He would have it blasted out in 24 hours’. That is the difference between capitalist morality and socialism. We believe that there are many good things from the past in this country which must be preserved.
Some honourable senators opposite support the Australian Mining Council which would ravish this country completely. Why are not honourable senators on the Government side honest about this matter? I have thrown this challenge out to the Australian Mining Council. I was surprised that Senator Thomas did not respond to my interjection Would honourable senators opposite be prepared to say to me: ‘Look, the Alligator River system in the Northern Territory ought to remain in a Garden of Eden state. Perhaps, if we are to mine, we ought to start in Western Australia.’? But honourable senators know as I do that so much of the areas involved is locked up by these buccaneers of commerce. That is all any mining company is. They are not big enough Australians or decent enough Australians to say: ‘Yes, the Alligator River area is a Garden of Eden setting. We will abdicate all our rights to it’.
Let me illustrate the attitude adopted by such companies. In 1966, 1 asked a series of questions of the then Senator John Gorton. He was a great Australian, in his own way. He said: ‘I think that in a couple of years time the boundaries for the Kakadu National Park will be finalised’. But then these vultures of commerce arrived. The smell of uranium filled their nostrils. They could see a big killing. They went after it. Honourable senators have talked about the spirit of compromise. If I was on the side of the Australian Mining Council, I would be prepared to say: ‘Look, we will keep Australian conservationists quiet. We will make a contribution. We will leave the whole of that area in its virgin state ‘. Not on your life! Show to me any mining council, any mining manager or any mining director, whether that organisation or person is in the United States of America or Latin America, and I will show you an organisation or a person without a soul. I will tell you why they have no soul. I met some mining company directors some two years ago. They had had quite a bit of Scotch. One man was about 74 years of age. He was telling me how, for years, they had got by in Bolivia with Indians just wearing G-strings and a few beads around them. That was the sort of life he wanted. That is what I have to say on the first question.
If we are to have these absurd television commercials in which we see Rod Taylor walking around in the guise of the big Australian, telling us how good these mining companies are, I say that they should prove that claim. Let them abdicate their claim to the whole of the Alligator River system. Let them leave that country as it is. If they are still concerned with the profit motive, I say that they know as well as I do that they will obtain their dividends from the tourist industry which will be generated if that area is left in its present Garden of Eden state. Once we allow mining, we know what will happen.
I remind members of the National Country Party about the Finniss River. If they were to ask the cattlemen they would be told that we cannot afford to pollute any river in Australia. Members of the National Country Party know that better than I do. Every year we are paying money to try to regenerate the Finniss River. For goodness sake, let us not have any more of this ravaging of the Northern Territory. At present the United States Senate is looking at a carve-up of Alaska.
It is still prepared to set aside 40 per cent that will not be available for mining. I am not suggesting, and nobody else has suggested, that 40 per cent should not be mined at all, but I do say that with uranium we have to look at what is involved. When my colleague, Senator Douglas McClelland, was in the United States I was in Japan, and it was common knowledge that Sir Charles Court was prepared to concede that there was a case for conservation in the Northern Territory. His plug was: ‘You Japanese investors had better get into the West Australian project because it is a desolate area and there will be no problem at all. Not like the Alligator River region’. I am not going to buy that outright but I do test the sincerity of the propounders of uranium extraction. I say to them: ‘Are you prepared to have some part of Australia off limits?’ The fact is that if and when we get the safeguards and if and when we are able to find an effective way to dispose of radioactive waste, we will find alternative sites. Why have we to go to this excellent virgin country that has other uses?
I am sure that some of my Senate colleagues from New South Wales on the other side of the chamber will know the story of the Colong Caves. A great New South Welshman, Milo Dunphy, single-handedly took on a State Liberal Minister- now a Commonwealth Liberal MinisterMr Wal Fife, over the matter of limestone deposits. We were told then that we were sabotaging the cement industry. People in the Australian Workers Union said to me: ‘You are going to do us out of jobs’. I did not bat an eyelid; I said: ‘Look, we will tough this out’- to use the words of the former Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam. We did tough it out. Other limestone deposits were found and we still have the Colong Caves. I say: Hands off this area of the Northern Territory; leave the Alligator River system alone. It may be that some solution will be found for the other aspect. The great fear I have- and I know that Senator Wright, too, who is trying to interject knows this- stems from the conduct of those big-hearted mining companies in Kentucky and other States of America. They made such a mess that when Carter brought in his new fuel plan he had to have supplementary legislation so that a lot of this strip mining did not perpetuate the mistakes of the past.
When we talk about employment in the mining industry, we have only to look just outside the Federal Territory to the Lake George mining area. I can remember that when I was a Labor Party Official in about 1957-58 there were rumblings about people who had been eased out of the Lake George mining company. They said:
Look, it was a commercial enterprise. We did our best and that is it.’ Then there was the famous Davidson water pollution committee. The Australian Mining Industry Council came before us and I said to them: ‘You made a hash of Lake George.’ They said: ‘But, Senator, the State never demanded any standards. ‘ This gets back to the lack of morality shown by some of these big capitalist enterprises. They are not interested in morality or anything like that. In effect, it is virtually vandalism. They prefer to use the words ‘commercial operation’. I harp on that point. The Mining Council had no intention of even making a gesture. I say unhesitatingly that it would be very nice for our sense of values if the rock wallabies in some of those areas rated at least on a par with the profits of the Ranger mining company. Let the company transfer its capital elsewhere and have a go there. That is the message I reiterate.
I refer to the next question of atomic material and its availability in other areas. Let us consider rutile. With the stability developing in quite a number of the new African countries the demand for our rutile could diminish. We should never put all our eggs in one basket. We do have ample coal supplies. There are many more mines to be developed. Senator Melzer raised the horrible details of nuclear casualties. People like Senator Lajovic compared weekend accident casualties and coal mining casualties with nuclear casualties. I put it to honourable senators that not only mishaps in a nuclear power station are involved. For example, in the State of Colorado where a small amount of mining was carried out by men in their physical prime in their twenties, they had cancer eating into their lungs by the time they were in their forties. It was a bit late then to talk about rectifying the situation. I asked the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, about our code on radon gases. It is all very well to say that uranium mining will be open cut mining and therefore there will be less danger. With all due respect to Senator Baume and his other learned medical colleague, Senator Grimes, nobody can say that in 15 years’ time a person’s lung -
- Senator Sheil, too.
– Yes, I include him in the round-up. I do not think that anybody can be sure that some of the men in these mines will not be affected by the ravages of cancer of the lung because it has happened in the United States. People talk about political implications. I came into the Senate in 1966. At that time our party told the then Government of the futility of being engaged in wars on the Asian mainland. It is true that we were ahead of public opinion. People did not accept our view for a couple of years, but subsequently they did. I wonder whether any honourable senator opposite had read The Futility of Vietnam by Denis Warner- not a leftwinger but a very right-wing journalist. I am not going to rehash the article, but when one appreciates the lack of drive by South Vietnamese to fight people they regard as invaders, it is clear that morally such a war was futile. It is true that Gallup polls published in the Bulletin three or four issues ago showed Australians were very much in favour of uranium extraction but the gap is narrowing. So for that reason I say unhesitatingly that Australia will not lose by our not mining uranium. Senator Thomas referred to our various products and said: ‘This is the dividend we are going to lose’. To me they were just figures plucked out of the air.
I can remember an occasion when there was a strike at Mt Isa mine. The Queensland Industrial Commission made a major contribution to settling the dispute. There were also industrial problems in the AWU. I am not questioning that. That strike went on for a lengthy period. We were told that X millions of dollars had been lost in exports from Mt Isa. The men went back to work and in six months the company had recovered that loss. Because of world market fluctuations it picked up the slack. So that strike virtually did not cost the Australian economy anything. Anyone can prophesy, as Senator Thomas was attempting to do, the percentages of our various exports in 1995. I still say that coal will be king for the next 10 years. If honourable senators were to read Common Cause, a Miners Federation journal and if they were to talk to Japanese buyers they would agree. But in mining, be it coal or uranium, we have these buccaneers. That is why the present Government has had to intervene on certain coal mining developments. The gentlemen involved do not work under the Marquess of Queensbury rules. They will strike any foul blow that they can.
I say to Senator Thomas that if we have uranium extraction we will be adopting the Pontius Pilate approach and saying: ‘Well, this is their problem ‘. I think that the time is right to say that the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, rightly chastised the Queensland Premier when he said that he was un-Christian in his attitude to aid to Asia. Some people say: ‘Get rid of it quickly. That is it’. Let me give another analogy. The honourable senator talked about Kalgoorlie. I read recently in an article concerning a certain street in Kalgoorlie which is regarded as rather low grade that Sir Charles Court said that it was not much use prosecuting the prostitutes; would it not be better to look at the people who own the houses where the profits are made? I draw an analogy between that situation and our letting all this yellowcake go overseas, with the resultant increased amount of waste matter that goes with it. The waste might be put in some salt mine in France or somewhere and a disaster could occur. In that situation I would honestly say that we would feel that we contributed to that hazard. That is the way I see it. I would much prefer to be at the Bar of the United Nations and arguing as I am than saying let us get in for a quick dollar, which I think is the situation.
Honourable senators have taken the matter a little further and talked about countries coming here to take the uranium. I know the dilemma that Japan is in at the moment. I am not breaching any confidence relating to discussions I had when I was over there recently. It is probably true to say that both North and South Korea are better equipped defensively than Japan. Let us forget the idea that Japan will invade us over the question of uranium. I believe, as I have said before, that it is a case of remaining solid and determined and then finding, in the negotiations, who will crack. It may be that somebody will get a Nobel prize for finding a successful way of controlling this radioactive waste. I for one would not like to believe that Australia will contribute to a holocaust that could easily occur in the not too distant future, either via a mishap at a power station or by way of an earthquake in which a lot of this radioactive waste is vomited up again to create a lot more hazards. I repeat what I have said on the second point. I have said this in the columns of the Australian Financial Review and I am sure that the Australian Mining Council will monitor all our speeches in Hansard. The organisation could do a good PR job instead of employing for that purpose Rod Taylor whom I like as a film star. I have nothing against him personally.
– He is good.
-I believe, Senator Baume, that the council should say: ‘We agree with you. We are just as good a conservationist as you are. We will abdicate the Alligator River’. If it had the vision splendid that former Senator John Grey Gorton shared with me I would believe that our agitation had achieved something.
-At present we are debating the second report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. I guess it is pertinent to look back briefly on the first report and to see some of the recommendations made by Mr Justice Fox. The major concern was not whether there were inherent dangers in nuclear power generation but rather whether such dangers were sufficient to require Australia to ban uranium exports. Our introduction to the awesome power of the nuclear age came in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Because of that a lot of people in the world who know nothing more about nuclear power than that introduction have a quite emotional problem in coming to grips with it. I think we can all concede that that is a quite legitimate emotional hangup. At the same time, because if the awesomeness of these bombs, the nuclear power industry- Operation Ploughshare, as it became known- was able to take commensurate safeguards down to this present day and age so that we now have safe nuclear power generation without any fatality to this point.
It has been said that if our introduction to electricity was the electric chair, because of the emotions involved we would still be using candles for light. The first recommendation of the first Fox report reads:
The hazards of mining and milling uranium, if those activities are properly regulated and controlled, are not such as to justify a decision not to develop Australian uranium mines.
The second recommendation reads:
The hazards involved in the ordinary operations of nuclear power reactors, if those operations are properly regulated and controlled, are not such as to justify a decision not to mine and sell Australian uranium.
Those first two recommendations in the first report were made after the closest scrutiny by the Fox Commission. It stated that Australia should be free to go ahead with the mining and export of uranium. The third recommendation dealt with the prospects of nuclear war, and that is a different subject. Later on I shall touch briefly on the subject of the atomic bomb, which has been mentioned by members of the Opposition, and on the scares that they have about it. Recommendations 6 and 7 have been picked up already by the Federal Government in its policy on nuclear safeguards which was handed down by our Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser).
The second report takes up all the aspects of the mining operations as it relates to the environment and the tribal Aborigines in the area in the Northern Territory. I think it must be said that it takes the matter up as a mining operation. The second Fox report is a detailed and very complex list of guidelines which could be attached to any mining operation that is proposed in a unique area such as the Northern Territory. As well as having one of the largest uranium lodes in the free world the Northern Territory is also a unique area. 1 find myself on one of the few occasions in agreement with Senator Mulvihill on the uniqueness and the beauty of the Northern Territory. It is these aspects that Mr Justice Fox has tried to come to grips with in his second report. That is why he had laid down such a detailed list of guidelines. The area is spectacular. There are large populations of waterfowl and bird life. There are unique plant species, fish species, native mammals and all that could be imagined that would go into a tropical wilderness and wonderland.
To protect this area the national park proposal has been before us for some time. While the proposal was being looked at we became aware of the fact that the area contained one of the largest uranium lodes in the world. Thus we have to come to grips with the problems, and Mr Justice Fox has indeed tried to do so. He has come up with suggestions that would in part allow mining and also protect the uniqueness of the area. At the same time we must recognise that there is an Aboriginal population in the Alligator Rivers area with a history which can be traced back for about 25 000 years. There are archaeological sites, art galleries and rock paintings. All these sites are extremely valuable for the history of Australia and to the Aboriginal race. Mr Justice Fox has tried to come to grips with this aspect also when looking at the situation in the Northera Territory.
Unfortunately the relationship of the tribal Aborigines with the white man has not been a happy one. Mr Justice Fox found that the morale, employment, health and education of these people was at an extremely low level. I think we all concede that one of the major problems was the introduction of alcohol into their way of life. Mr Justice Fox mentions this throughout his report. Some few years back when we decided to give the Aborigines the right to vote and the right to drink we thought we were somehow or other enhancing their prospects. In retrospect, it has done irreparable damage to these people. There are drunken brawls, hardships for mothers and children and interruptions in employment, education and, what is worst of all, in their traditional ceremonies.
Mr Justice Fox agreed that uranium mining would be highly profitable and that there would be benefits to the Australian shareholders and to the Australian citizens through the taxes that would be paid. There would be benefits to the Aborigines through the royalties that would go to them. Uranium mining would provide jobs and, of course, this is a most important aspect when we are looking at the emerging state of the Northern Territory. It would give the Territory an industry other than the grazing industry, which we know is having the utmost trouble. The overall earnings from uranium mining have been estimated to rank with those of the black coal and iron ore industries in our country. We have to come to grips with the fact that the uranium lode in the Northern Territory is a vast source of energy. We have to balance that against the uniqueness of that part of the Northern Territory landscape.
We cannot possibly imagine that we can sit on such a large source of energy forever. We can imagine what would happen if one of the largest oil producing countries in the world in the Middle East turned off the taps overnight. The world would be in turmoil. Se we have to think of the same situation when we are looking at our uranium. It is nothing more or less than a source of energy. We are fast running out of our fossil fuels. Fox mentioned this in his first report. He said that our coal would last about 206 years, our petroleum 39 years and our liquid petroleum gas 55 years. Of course it must be taken into consideration that these estimates depend on our usage, known reserves and any further finds that are made. Everybody must realise that these reserves are finite. They will not last forever. We have a responsibility to see as far as we possibly can that they are used in the best and most efficient manner.
In any major steps that mankind takes forward there are risks. This time the risks have been well calculated. As I said in my opening, we knew what we were in for because of the atomic explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki and we were able to take commensurate safeguards to protect future generations. Nuclear power generation is now a fact of life. As of the first of this month there were 184 nuclear power generators operating, 204 being built, 102 ordered and 291 planned. One of the major concerns that is expressed by people everywhere is the hazard of radiation. It does not seem to have become obvious to most people that we are subject to radiation every day of our life. It is known that 83.7 per cent of the radiation comes from the earth, the sun and outer space, 1 3.5 per cent from medical use and X-rays, 2. 1 per cent from nuclear fallout, 0.7 per cent from industrial and miscellaneous use, including our watching of the idiot box and 0.0 1 per cent from the nuclear fuel cycle.
Of course it is well known that some areas of the world have higher radiation than other areas. In some areas there is a.vast amount of thorium in the soil or cities are built on granite. Both these elements have radioactivity. Rome, for instance, is a high radiation area; Dunedin in New Zealand is a low radiation area. Yet there is no perceivable genetic or medical damage. Certainly there is not a mass exodus of people from Rome to Dunedin. We know that radiation has an effect above certain levels and can be responsible for genetic mutation. We do not have much information on its effect on human life on which to work, but we have the experience of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. An American medical specialist, Dr Leonard Sagan, Assistant Director of Environmental Health at the Palo Alto Medical Clinic, California, who has supervised numerous medical studies of the bomb survivors told a Los Angeles engineering and science seminar last April:
Horror stories about nuclear radiation health effects are disproved by studies of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors. There has been a 0.3 per cent increase in their cancerleukaemia death rate. Detailed studies of 73 000 pregnancies during 19s3-s4 failed to show abnormally high rates of stillbirths, miscarriages, infant mortality or congenital malformations.
On 8 March this year Senator Keeffe asked a question upon notice in four sections. He asked:
I will precis the answer. It states:
The following are typical results of the studies of these non-genetic abnormalities given in the scientific publication to which reference has been made.
About 13 per cent of a group of children irradiated in utero as a result of the atomic bomb explosions showed a mean reduction of head circumference at maturity of about 1 centimetre compared with an incidence of about 4 per cent of a like deformity in a control group of Japanese children in utero at the time of the explosions but not exposed to radiation doses.
In other words, for those who were in utero at the time it was 9 per cent worse than for those in the control group. The answer went on:
On the other hand about 3 per cent of a group of children irradiated in utero as a result of the atomic bomb explosions showed evidence of some mental retardation compared with an incidence of about 1 per cent in the control group.
In other words, those who were in utero at the time were about 2 per cent worse. The answer also stated:
As already indicated in answer to pan 1 of the question, in some of the children born of mothers who were pregnant at the time of the atomic bomb explosions, effects of a developmental character occurred. These effects are not hereditary in origin and will not continue to occur.
On the basis of the studies carried out to date there is no evidence of any effects on the genetic structure of the Japanese population of Hiroshima and Nagasaki exposed to the atomic bomb explosions.
That is the only study that we have been able to do, but fortunately it proves that the genetic effects are not great and certainly not hereditary. We are going to get to the stage when the economics of the situation will not be the main criterion. As I have said, the criterion will be the preservation of our fossil fuels. I think we all would agree that we would have to go down in history as one of the most wasteful generations that has ever been put on earth. We have to come to grips with the situation that the fossil fuels that we are using in enormous amounts are finite and indeed some of them will not last past the current generation. I believe that at present we could be doing such things as making more use of electric cars. I see no reason why, even with our present technology, the second family car should not be an electric vehicle. We know enough to know that we can get 45 to 50 kilometres between recharges. I see no reason why parking lots at railway stations and parking meters in towns should not have plug-in points for electric cars so that electric cars could be used with greater benefit to mankind. Think what they would do to the pollution problems in central Sydney and Melbourne. Maybe we could get rid of this ridiculous Australian design rule 27a, which was instituted only because of the exhaust emission levels in Sydney and Melbourne but which is stifling motor cars right around the country. It is making us burn more petrol to get less power.
Any electric power generated should be generated either by nuclear reactor or by the burning of coal. I think it is of the utmost folly that any large power station in this day and age should use anything other than those methods. To think of using the portable fuels, as I call them- fuel oil and liquid petroleum gas- is most wasteful because we will need our portable fuels for our transport system. They are the most useful fuels and the easiest to carry as far as aircraft, railways and motor transport go.
As the power requirements of developing countries rise in the future they will be looking more to nuclear power generation, especially those that cannot meet their own fossil fuel requirements. It has been estimated that for a 1000 megawatt power generator the annual fuel consumption would be 2.3 million tonnes of coal, 420 million gallons of fuel oil, 64 billion cubic feet of liquid petroleum gas or 30 tonnes of enriched uranium or, in yellowcake standards, 130 to 140 tonnes of yellowcake as it leaves
Australia. I do not need to say what this means as far as transport and the ancillaries are concerned. To have a 2 -month coal supply, for instance, there would have to be 45 acres of land under coal stockpile. So we see the problem that we will face in the future, especially the developing countries that do not have their own fossil fuels. It costs only about one-and-a-half times the cost of a 1000 megawatt coal-fired power station to put in a nuclear power station and the running costs are now less.
When we look at the waste releases we find that 7 million tonnes of carbon dioxide are released from a coal powered station, 1 million tonnes from a fuel oil station and 60 billion cubic feet from a natural gas powered station. Sulphur dioxide released from coal is 24 000 tonnes depending on the coal content and 2 1 000 tonnes from fuel oil. So it goes on. By using a nuclear powered reactor we are cutting down the necessity for our ancillary industries to provide fuels and we are cutting down by a tremendous amount the dissipation of wastes, both on to the earth and into the atmosphere.
It has been estimated that, depending on the positioning of the power station and the number of scrubbers that it has in its funnel stacks, between 10 and 100 people die each year because of the noxious emissions from a fossil fuel power station. In all the years of nuclear power generation there has not been one death. So every time we put in a fossil fuel power station instead of a nuclear powered reactor we are condemning between 10 and 100 people a year to death. I ask the Opposition to think about that.
One of the problems that has been raised quite often is that of heat pollution. Nuclear power stations give out a tremendous amount of heat. Fox discussed this and he said that not enough is known about the atmosphere for confident predictions to be made of the actual consequences of any increases in carbon dioxide dust or low temperature heat release. However, evidence indicates that carbon dioxide and dust are the more important factors. Low temperature heat release, to which nuclear energy contributes, is directly related to total human energy use. At present it contributes to the biosphere only about one tenthousandth of the energy input from the sun. I understand that in some places of the earth where cities are being designed around nuclear powered reactors the heat produced, instead of going into the atmosphere or into sea inlets as is often the case, is being used to heat the houses of the inhabitants. So another saving is being made there.
Society tends to tolerate technologies which can inflict a steady flow of casualties amounting to millions over a period of time but unfortunately it rejects a situation where maybe- I repeat ‘maybe’- hundreds or even thousands of casualties may be sustained at points in time perhaps 100 years apart. I instance the motor vehicle. It has been estimated that the motor vehicle has caused 25 million deaths since 1898, yet who would dare to suggest that we do away with the motor vehicle? When we are looking at the nuclear fuel cycle we are taking a mineral which is found at random throughout the universe, using its energy, concentrating the waste and the burying it in selected areas. Much has been said and will be said and much concern has been expressed over waste disposal. Senator Douglas McClelland went into the subject at length. Much has been done towards vitrification. I mentioned this in my speech on the First Report.
The Americans are looking at a scheme whereby the waste can be buried underground or in holes dug in the seabed. The British are also looking at disposal ofthe waste in the sludge on the seabed. Not only could it be done in glass form but they are also looking at doing it in either bronze or lead. It is estimated that with the vitrification process, which is making it into glass, the leaching can take about 1 million years. Strontium or caesium, which are two of the products of high level waste, have a half life of about 30 years. This means that in 300 years they are literally of no further problem. Of course, plutonium is a different subject. Its half life is a little in excess of 24 000 years, so we are looking at 250 000 years before its radioactivity is such that it is completely harmless. But if we can vitrify it, put it in bronze or lead and store it in a place where it will leach out slowly over a period of 1 million years, a lot of our problems are not as insurmountable as they first appear. At the present dme low level waste is being dumped, under international agreement, in the Atlantic Ocean. At present there is no knowledge of any effect on the food chain. I would say that that is a more dangerous operation than the solidification, by whatever means, of high level waste and putting it either in the ocean or in salt mines. It has been suggested that central Australia, because it is geologically stable, would be an ideal area. I personally have no hangups about that. We could bury the waste out there. We could even take tourist buses out for people to look at it; that is how dangerous it would be. Perhaps some of the members of the Opposition who express such concern would be prepared to stand a 24-hour watch. At least they might be contributing something more significant than they are contributing at this point in time.
I turn now to plutonium. Recently I read an article in Time magazine, to which I usually give a bit of credit for common sense, which stated that plutonium was twenty thousand times more toxic than cobra poison. I do not know whether one dies twenty thousand times quicker than from cobra poison or whether the death is twenty thousand times worse. It is a rather ridiculous remark. Plutonium, like any other poison, is dangerous only if it gets to mankind. Senator Melzer made some remark about there being enough plutonium to kill every person in the world. First of all it has to get to every person in the world. I suppose that there is enough cyanide or enough arsenic to get to every person in the world. If one takes a bit of arsenic or cyanide one is dead. I challenge the Opposition to tell me of one person anywhere who died of plutonium poisoning. There is no record of it.
Plutonium is an alpha emitter and it is a well known fact that a cigarette paper will protect a person from any radiation from plutonium. That is quite correct. If a person swallowed it, it would probably be excreted. If it reached a person’s lungs it would probably kill him over a period of time. I reiterate that cyanide would kill him instantaneously. If it happened that a person came in contact with plutonium in a certain manner and it reached his lungs it would kill him over a long period of time. There are far worse substances with which we have to contend than plutonium and we have learnt to live with them. Because we can do nothing about it we will be living with them for some considerable time.
I turn now to the mining operation of uranium. It is no more or no less dangerous than any other mining operation, depending on where it is situated. In Australia it is basically a hard rock mine. Most of the mines are open cut. As I said in my previous speech, there was a problem with radon gas, but there has also been a tremendous problem with black lung amongst coal miners. At the present time the American Government is paying out literally millions of dollars a year in compensation to coal miners who have contracted that disease. But it was found that the same means could be used to overcome this problem- better ventilation of underground mines. By using this method we can overcome the problem of radon gas in the same way as we can overcome the problem of coal dust in underground mines.
We have been told about the alternatives of wind power and solar power. Let us look at the problems of wind power. It is a known fact that a 100 kilowatt wind generator, which is the biggest that can be produced at the moment, needs a wind of at least 18 miles an hour to reach full output. That is the sort of wind speed that is standard for all types of wind generation. Taking a city the size of Canberra, the daily electricity consumption of which was 2.9 million kilowatt/ hours in 1976-77, if there was a suitable wind speed, 2900 wind generators would be required. These generators have blades of 125 feet and of course they cannot be arranged in close proximity. So the area required would be about one acre per windmill. There are very few towns in Australia that have a constant wind speed of 18 miles an hour. Canberra’s daytime average is 6 miles an hour and the night average is nearly zero. We would also need to have the maximum amount of storage. So using a daily average of three miles per hour wind speed over a 24-hour period, Canberra would need a minimum of 17 400 wind generators covering about 17 000 acres. Each windmill would cost about $ 100,000. Therefore the minimum cost we are looking at would be about $ 1,700m to provide wind generators for electricity, and that is only for Canberra.
In solar power there are two methods, either by using the concentration of the sun to make steam or, as has been done at the Australian National University, by breaking down ammonia and re-combining nitrogen and hydrogen and using the resultant heat. By using the concentration of the power of the sun we need 2.3 square miles of collectors, which would be six times the cost of a coal plant to produce a similar amount of energy. The photo voltaic collectors are only half as efficient as other methods so we would need about 4.6 square miles of collectors, and I must say at at least 18 times the cost of a coal power station, and this is only for a city the size of Canberra. So there is a lot of work to be done before we can even think of solar power taking over our power generation. I would concede that more use could be made of solar power as far as domestic and commercial heating of water and the heating and cooling of homes are concerned. I believe that the Government should take a lead and when Government houses or buildings are built in the tropics they should be designed so as to make the maximum use of solar power as a supplement, but only as a supplement. That is all we can use it for at this point in time, but it could be used and it should be used as a supplement to the electricity that is normally used.
We are doing work in this field, as has been indicated by the number of questions asked and answered in this place. We are working with the United States which is looking to us for our expertise in solar power, and we are looking to that country also. It is estimated that the United States will spend $300m on solar power exploration this year. Yet by the year 2000 it is estimated that it will provide only 7 per cent to 8 per cent of its total power output. Japan, I understand, will spend $100m per year between now and the turn of the century, and even France is spending $30m this year looking at the possibilities of solar power. So a lot of work is being done not only by us but also throughout the world. I think it is essential that Australia does its bit and works with the other countries. It would be ridiculous to see all nations spending all that money doing the same sort of research.
As I said previously, there have been no reactor deaths in the commercial power generation field since it has been in operation. There have been defence reactor deaths and we must concede that, but the first reactors were experimental and were defence reactors. When project Manhatten was going it was obvious that there was a race on to be the first to build that atomic bomb before our then enemies did. It was obvious that the precautions were not as good as they should have been, not only in the building of the reactors and in their operation but also in the management of waste, which is where the problem is at this point in time. The problem was with the Defence and research reactors, not in commercial power generators. Their record is impeccable. Of course they realised that they were on show and that they would have a lot of problems with the people in their areas if they let up on safety.
Much has been said about the Browns Ferry accident where a workman inspecting the control cables used a candle to inspect them for air leakage. This set fire to the insulation, it did burn the control cables and control of the Browns Ferry reactor was lost. But it never even breached the first line of defence. The control rods went in, stopped the nuclear fission and they were able to bring in an outside pump to get water in and stop the heat that was generated by the natural radioactive decay. I ask the Opposition what would happen if a workman was so careless as to inspect a pipe for leakage with a candle on a liquid petroleum gas farm. The results would be instantaneous and devastating. So all the problems do not reside in nuclear power generation.
Senator Melzer mentioned the man from Lucas Heights who died of leukemia. The Atomic Energy Commission did not accept responsibility for his death. It agreed with the compensation tribunal that compensation should be paid. There has never been a mishap at the Lucas Heights establishment. That man never worked near the reactors in any case. I have probably been as close as he has to the reactors there. We know that leukemia is a disease which affects people in all walks of life. Does the Opposition suggest that if a worker at a GeneralMotors plant died of leukemia the company should immediately cease the manufacture and sale of Holden motor cars? That suggestion is just as ludicrous as the one the Opposition is proposing.
Senator Mulvihill has mentioned the Finniss River, and rightly so, but I think the thing that should be made clear is that the problem with the Finniss River operation was with the heavy metals which were involved in the mining of uranium in Rum Jungle. There was no radioactivity that had anything to do with the problem causing the destruction of wildlife and the vegetation along the Finniss River. It was the result of a normal mining operation which has happened before. We hope that with the stricter guidelines it will not happen again. But lest the people of Australia be misguided, it had nothing to do with any radioactivity. It was because of the heavy metals that were mined in conjunction with the uranium there.
Much has been said by the Australian Labor Party about a moratorium. Even if we gave the go-ahead now there would be about a two-year to three-year lead time at least before any of the mines came on line. So we have a natural built in moratorium whether we like it or not. The major concern is the manufacture of bombs. First of all, let it be stated that no bomb has yet been made out of plutonium that comes out of nuclear power reactors. There is too much impure plutonium within that plutonium.
– Where did the Indians get theirs?
– The Indians used the defence reactor. They used it specifically for manufacturing plutonium and it was bomb grade plutonium at that. There has never been a bomb made out of plutonium that came out of a normal power reactor.
– That shows how much you know. Once again we are up against the ignorance of the ALP on this subject.
– It shows how much you know.
-Are you saying it cannot be made?
– You tell me of any bomb that has been made out of plutonium that came out of a nuclear power reactor.
-Are you saying it cannot be made?
– You are making the claim. I said it has never been made and it is not likely to be made. It is such a critical thing to make a bomb that they use pure plutonium 239. If they wanted to use plutonium with impurities the calculations and the criticalness would make it impossible to do so. Countries have their own research reactors. If we stopped nuclear power generation today we would not prevent countries making atomic bombs. Economics do not come into it. If a country makes up its mind to build a bomb it puts in a specific research reactor to do so. So the nuclear power generation cycle has nothing to do with bomb manufacturing. But in any case countries usually use iron or steel or something similar in the bomb casing. Does the Opposition suggest that we prevent the export of our iron ore because it might go into the production of casings for an atomic bomb? When we talk about the ease with which an atomic bomb could be made I remind the Senate that when the first atomic bomb was made it took hundreds of the top scientists in the world, a blank cheque, and years and years to do it. It is ridiculous to assume that a country could just on its own build an atomic bomb. It just could not be done.
I suggest that most of the other methods of generating electricity already stand indicted. As I said before, they are killing people every year they are in operation. Nuclear power generation stands accused with no real evidence to say it is of any harm to the population. It is safe, it is clean and it is viable.
We see the situation now where the ALP has done a complete about turn. Its leader in the House of Representative and its leader in the Senate are on record, when in government, as saying what they would do with uranium, how they would export it and how they would come to agreements with other countries. We find them now struggling in the morass of selfinflicted political oblivion in trying to grasp something with which to convince the people of Australia how competent, how knowledgeable they are and why they should be the alternative government. The Labor Party’s three years in government, its ignorance- albeit emotional ignorance-about the subject on which it has chosen to hang its hat and its now contradictory stand on this subject of uranium mining will not convince anyone.
– This is the second part of a debate that has taken place in this chamber. Regrettably, we did not have an opportunity to debate this matter before we went home for the winter recess. It was about that time that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) announced that a decision on the mining of uranium probably would be reached during that recess. All honourable senators are aware that there have been problems in the Cabinet since then and that some deferrals have been made. I will have more to say about that later. I think that the Government has shown its great interest in the debate here today by putting up its lightweight speakers. Whilst I respect what Senator Collard said -
– What is the Opposition doing?
– I will be a little more specific. On this side of the chamber the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt), the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Douglas McClelland) and all members of the shadow ministry in this chamber have spoken or are listed to speak in this debate. Only one Minister is listed to speak in the debate, and he will speak when the debate is wound up. It is rather strange that the Government does not attach too much importance to this matter. This matter concerns the portfolios of National Resources, Science, Environment, Housing and Community Development, Aboriginal Affairs and the Prime Minister. Yet not one Minister has seen fit to participate in this debate.
Before I deal with this subject in detail I should like to answer a couple of points raised by Senator Collard. I think he was very racist when he said that giving Aboriginals the right to vote has caused irreparable harm. I do not know precisely when he means by that statement unless he is still reeling under the effects of the recent vote in the Northern Territory where all the heavyweights in the National Country Party and Liberal Party lost their seats. I suppose that is the harm about which he is worried. It is hardly a statement that one would expect to be made in this place. He referred to a reply to a question asked by me in this chamber some time ago. In a condensed report he tried to point out that although a few more thousand people had died as a result of genetic defects that was not a great number. If one person dies the situation is serious. That principle should apply to persons involved in road traffic accidents or anything else.
– What about coal? Do you think we should mine coal?
-Senator Walters can make her apple strudel on a cold stove. She will have an opportunity to speak later in this debate. We will find out then how deep her knowledge is. Senator Collard backed a couple of quite unreliable scientific people who have said that we ought to bury our nuclear waste in Central Australia. I think Senator Kilgariff said that he is not going to let it be buried in his backyard or anywhere close to it. In fact, in a public statement, he condemned one ofthe sites chosen. The Government does not have support from honourable senators on its own side of the chamber to bury nuclear waste in Central Australia. I suggest, with respect to Senator Collard, that if he wants to bury nuclear waste somewhere he can bury it in his own backyard.
– You can bury it in your backyard.
-Senator Collard probably would like to do that. That is the general feeling of honourable senators opposite. Their attitude is that they do not care how many people suffer as long as they do not suffer. That is how honourable senators opposite think. Senator Collard said that there had been a lot of research into solar power. I have asked question after question in this chamber about the amount of Australian Government funds spent on research into solar energy. On 3 days I received three different replies from the Minister for Science (Senator Webster). The end result was that about $600,000 a year was being spent on solar energy research. That is a lot of money to be spending on solar energy research!
– That is more than the Labor Government spent.
– We are spending more than that on a State basis. Wran in New South Wales and Dunstan in South Australia have put five times that amount of money into solar energy research. Honourable senators opposite cannot bleat about that. Senator Collard then said that we could not build an atomic bomb and that there is no danger with an atomic bomb in the hands of people unless they are experts. In reply to that, an article which appeared in the Canberra Times of 18 May 1977 and which carried a London dateline stated:
A British newspaper said today it had assembled all the parts of an atomic bomb, except for the plutonium explosive, to demonstrate that terrorists could do the same. ) We have designed and built a nuclear device, portable, using declassified documents and materials which are freely available ‘, the Daily Express reported.
Polish-born Professor Joseph Rotblat who worked on the Hiroshima A-bomb in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and is professor of physics at London University, said the Daily Express had shown him a picture of the device and details of its construction.
Professor Rotblat said, ‘If I was a member ofthe Government and was shown by a group of terrorists what you have shown me, I would not like to gamble with the lives of thousands of people. I would also be terrified. ‘
There is adequate evidence that a bomb could be built by amateurs. I should like to direct my remarks mainly to the possibility of examining alternative energy sources. The debate on uranium is developing into an emotive campaign when in fact all of us should be approaching the subject with a combination of realism and logic. The fear tactics used by various Federal Ministers and the Uranium Producers Forum are to be condemned. When I queried, by way of interjection, some facts and figures which were mentioned by honourable senators opposite today and asked which consortium had published them, I did not get a reply. Obviously, most of the facts and figures produced by honourable senators come from one source.
I should like to emphasise the following points which, I believe, are too often overlooked when the subject of nuclear power is brought up. The real energy crisis facing Australia and the rest of the world is not a shortage of energy in general but specifically a shortage of liquid and gaseous fuels which are necessary for our transport, petrochemical industries and lubrication. Neither nuclear power nor coal- unless it is liquefied- will solve this problem. Despite all the loud cries about the important contribution that nuclear power will make to the world’s energy needs, it will be only a minor energy source by 1985. I think that Senator Collard made that point in his speech. He said that very little would be done for the next two or three years. This is the same year in which miners in Australia are saying that nuclear power will be making a significant contribution. To emphasise this point, I cite the latest Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development figures of May 1977 in relation to energy demand and supply. It is stated that by 1985 nuclear power will contribute only less than 7 per cent of” total OECD energy use. It should be remembered that the OECD includes most energy-hungry industrial countries and, more importantly, the nuclear powered countries of Germany, France, England, Japan, the United States of America, Sweden and others. All these countries have been mentioned as prospective buyers of Australia’s uranium. Yet it can be seen just how little uranium is really needed.
Having stated these two very important facts, I wish to outline briefly the reasons which I consider to be rational, and a logical conclusion from available evidence, for my opposition to nuclear power in its present state of development. The reasons are: Nuclear proliferation; sabotage, terrorism and theft; and inappropriateness to meet Third World energy needs. I interpolate here to say that a lot of people had not heard of the Third World until the uranium lobby decided that it needed it for power. It is unlikely that the Third World would be able to utilise it, any way. Further reasons are: Waste disposal problems and related health problems; poor safety record in the industry- despite what honourable senators opposite have said; and inappropriateness of nuclear energy as a solution to the real energy crisis.
– Half his luck.
– If Senator Chaney wants to run his car on plutonium I suppose he is a little ahead of everyone else. Whilst I consider all the points I have raised to be important I think that perhaps the last is most sobering. It will be shown that nuclear power does not solve our real energy problems. After the investment of billions of dollars into a suspect industry we will still be no closer to solving the real problem. In other words, nuclear power already is redundant.
Any debate on the nuclear industry must be in the context of total energy demand and supply scenarios. To debate nuclear energy without reference to other alternatives, the future world energy needs and where energy shortages will occur and are occurring, will lead to an illinformed and lopsided debate. The uranium lobby insists on conducting that type of debate. The Australian Labor Party has contributed more than the Government has to the national debate on uranium. It has published a book called Uranium- A Fair Trial which, unlike the view put by the Government and its mining friends, gives both sides. If anybody wants to procure a copy of that book, it is available. It is part of the Labor Party’s contribution to the national debate. There is not only a book but there are also back-up films, tape recordings and other aids to make sure that one gets both sides of the issue.
It is appropriate to mention here that while debate was being stifled by the Government and while the Government was saying that it was still considering a decision, I was in the Northern Territory. That was prior to the Assembly election on 1 3 August. On one part of the Track I saw no fewer than six portable offices being carried to remote northern parts of the Northern Territory. They were the type of offices that all well organised mining companies use. Obviously the green light had been given somewhere along the line. In addition, a firm of business consultants were advertising for people to work in a remote area of Australia. The salaries and conditions were attractive. Obviously they would not have been employed in the Torres Strait. The suggestion is that this early planning received the green light from the Government long before it admitted to the people of this country that it would allow uranium mining.
Mr Justice Fox went on an overseas trip to look at some of the processing installations and at the manner in which power was being used. At least one of his messages to the Prime Minister was totally distorted in a leak from the Prime Minister’s office which indicated that Mr Justice Fox now totally supported uranium mining. Nothing was further from the truth. That has since been corrected by Mr Justice Fox. On 19 July the Prime Minister was so upset about the national reaction that he issued the following Press statement:
I have informed Mr Justice Fox, through one of the Commissioners, that I am deeply disturbed by the media speculation about his reports to me. I am appalled that it has taken place.
That was a professional leak from his office.
Energy resources can be divided into two groups- the non-renewable resources such as coal, oil, gas, uranium, et cetera, and the renewable resources such as solar energy, wind power, tidal and wave power, et cetera. Today we depend almost totally on the non-renewable energy resources. So it is worth mentioning that the world’s resources are mainly coal 70 per cent, with important contributions from oil 14 per cent and natural gas 12 per cent. Uranium currently makes up less than 5 per cent of the world ‘s nonrenewable energy resources. The total nonrenewable resources are equivalent to less than 1 50 years of energy consumption at the current world level, without allowing for any growth in energy use. Australia is in a better position than the rest of the world generally because our coal reserves alone contain as much energy as we would use in 350 years at the present rate of consumption. Our resources of oil and natural gas are much smaller. Oil accounts for just over one per cent of our fossil fuel reserves, and natural gas for about Vh per cent. By far our largest nonrenewable energy resource is our enormous stock of coal. The same situation applies in the global scene, with coal the dominant non-renewable energy resource.
Two conclusions emerge from this quick summary of the world’s resources. The first is that oil and natural gas represent a small proportion of our non-renewable energy resources. So these fuels will rapidly become scarce, expensive or both. There is no longer any doubt that oil will become scarce. The only question is whether the decline in world production will occur late this century or early next century. Australia’s oil production is expected to decline within the next few years, and within 10 years almost all of our oil will have to come from other sources. The Moonie field is rapidly running down. The second overall conclusion is that the world will have to become increasingly dependent on coal and renewable resources and will have to use its energy more efficiently as our energy resources dwindle, with the total non-renewable resources equivalent to less than 150 years supply at the present rate of consumption. I emphasise those words ‘at the present rate of consumption’ because this is where the theory of energy conservation must be considered. Even assuming substitution of coal for other fuels, it is clear that the rapidly increasing demand for energy cannot be sustained for very long. Even the OECD, which includes virtually all the industralised Western countries, has sharply reduced its predictions of energy use. The Organisation now says that energy demand will rise quite slowly in the next 10 years and even makes the optimistic assumption that the price of oil will stay constant until 1985.
A perusal of both Fox reports would indicate the degree of apprehension and fear that the Commission held for the nuclear industry. One could cite numerous examples of this, but as this has been done repeatedly I will restrict my comments in this area to a few salient points that need to be re-emphasised. At page 320 of the second Fox report this statement appears:
No overseas country has an absolute need for our uranium . . .
That fact was emphasised quite recently by a European scientist who said that overseas countries would not break into boils if they did not get Australian uranium. At page 6 of the first report this statement appears:
We understand that it is unlikely that there can be production from any of the mines we have mentioned before about 1980.
I quote from page 3 1 of the first report: the developing countries with market economies, which accounted for nearly half the world ‘s population, consumed only lOper cent of the total.
The total referred to is the total energy consumption. This finding appeared at page 186 of the first report:
A program of energy conservation should be instituted nationally.
That is something which this Government has consistently failed to do. At page 15 1 of the first report this statement appeared:
A Commissioner of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission has stated that the development of a black market in plutonium is likely . . . Numerous breaches of security in nuclear installations have been recorded . . .
At page 153 of that report this statement appeared:
A terrorist team could, if conditions favoured them, construct a very destructive device.
Contrast that statement with the denials of my colleagues opposite. I quote from page 155 of that report:
The Commission was informed of numerous incidents where nuclear materials had been stolen, were lost or simply could not be accounted for.
I quote from page 1 59 of that report:
An attempt by even a small, well trained and armed group to take over a nuclear installation could have a good chance of success . . . the evidence indicates that the risks are presently real and will tend to increase with the further spread of nuclear technology.
At page 167 this statement appeared:
Numbers of scientists with intimate knowledge of the scientific and technical considerations involved have this year expressed grave disquiet. Some are less concerned; some see the situation as already beyond control.
Further evidence of the dangers of nuclear power are illustrated by Dr Michael Flood in his paper on nuclear sabotage. I hope the Senate will note that the authorities which I am quoting are impeccable, unlike some of my opponents opposite who made very flowery statements but were unable to quote any authorities. Dr Flood listed the breaches in the nuclear power industry under the following headings: Attacks on nuclear installations or facilities; threats to nuclear installations or facilities; vandalism and sabotage to nuclear installations or facilities; security breaches of nuclear installations or facilities; United States nuclear companies fined for noncompliance with security regulations. Examples of these are shown in the five tables which I shall now seek leave to incorporate in Hansard. They were shown earlier to you, Mr President, and to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). Their incorporation was approved. They are technical and would be difficult to read out. I formally seek leave to have the five tables incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The tables read as follows-
– I thank the Senate. What of the appropriateness of nuclear power to the developing nations? Mostly they are poor and cannot afford the billions of dollars needed to establish a nuclear industry. It was not until the uranium lobby became very vocal that certain people discovered that there were Third World countries. Dr Ken Newcombe of the Australian National University in a paper which was published in Uranium- A Fair Trial states:
To my mind, nuclear power is the least desirable of all energy forms for them (the developing countries). Nuclear electricity can only be produced in large chunks, and this is entirely inappropriate to the needs of developing nations, needs which are at present either small scale and dispersed, or at the most, in the cities, only medium scale.
One of the greatest problems facing developing countries is migration of the rural poor to the cities. Twenty-five per cent of the urban population of Africa and Asia will not be able to acquire even the crudest housing during this century and unemployment in cities in the developing world is regularly between 5 and 20 per cent.
I suppose that Australia is rapidly heading towards that situation too. The paper continues:
It would be many decades before even the most rapid industrialisation fostered by increased energy use could employ a fraction of the rural poor. A more appropriate development strategy is to provide labour intensive alternatives in rural areas and to increase rural productivity, using the resources that are locally most abundant. These are muscle power and solar power.
Nuclear power, because of the size of production at which it is feasible and economical, cannot serve vast and scattered rural populations and, instead, would simply enhance centralised development and exacerbate the drift to the cities. Also, nuclear power requires massive amounts of capital, which is clearly in short supply in developing countries.
In any case, it is nonsense to subordinate developing countries to such a sophisticated and dangerous energy source, which would make them totally reliant on, and at the mercy of, the developed world for raw materials and technical expertise.
These sentiments are echoed at page 56 of the First Report of the Fox Committee where it states:
The possibility that Australia could be of greater long term assistance to the rest of the world and, in particular, to less affluent countries by participating in international effort to develop those forms of solar technology most suited to the needs of the developing countries appears worthy of serious consideration.
At page 320 of the Second Report of the Fox Committee we read:
The most important markets at present envisaged are the highly developed industrial countries, particularly Japan, the United States of America, and countries of Western Europe.
The report continues:
For at least 15-20 years, most developing countries will have relatively little need for uranium.
What of the full scale widespread and long term public debate that the Fox Report recommends? We now find that the Government is not even going to allow a parliamentary debate before a decision on uranium mining is reached. It is certain that Mr Fraser will be making his decision and the decision on behalf of his Government next week. Albert Einstein once said:
To the village square we must carry the facts of atomic energy, from there must come America s voice.
The Fox Report says almost the same thing, though not using precisely the same words. The report laid great emphasis on public debate, but that is not to be the case.
– What is this, Senator?
-We have debated it only a few hours in the two Houses of the Parliament. The Government suppressed this debate. It should have been held many weeks ago. It is a sheer accident that we are here discussing this subject now. I repeat: The report laid great emphasis on public debate about the so-called benefits and safety of the nuclear industry when decisions are rushed through and the people are not allowed their democratic right to decide for themselves.
– At the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party, the motion on uranium was rushed through in 40 minutes and that has committed each and every one of you.
– Calm down. Anyone would think that the honourable senator was on small doses of plutonium. The Australian Labor Party has conducted an on-going debate on uranium in every Australian State in the last three or four months. But I have not seen any initiative taken by the Liberal Party and, least of all, I have not seen any initiative taken by the National Country Party. The Young National Party, as it is called in Queensland, recently in Townsville did become a co-sponsor of a uranium debate but it did not supply any speakers.
What are our options if we do not develop nuclear power? We have already heard a lot about the possible use of tides, waves, wind, solar energy and other more exotic energy alternatives. However, these are not immediately available to us and will not solve our immediate problem of a shortage of liquid fuels.
In the time that remains, I wish to dwell briefly on the immediately available energy alternatives. These will help to solve our problem of shortages of liquid fuels although one is not saying that this will be cheap, easy or quick. It must be recognised that energy use patterns are slow to change and that new technologies take time to develop. Decisions taken today would not make a major contribution before 1 985. Let me outline the three main energy alternatives that are immediately available. The first is energy conservation. It is significant that no-one on the Government side of the chamber has yet mentioned energy conservation.
- Senator Collard did.
– I know. He made a one sentence reference to it and immediately branched off on to another topic. On the subject of energy conservation, in fact the now famous Ford Foundation energy policy study found that it was cheaper to save a watt of energy than it is to produce a watt of energy. The second main energy alternative is the generation of liquidgaseous fuel alternatives. The immediately available options include the liquefication and gasification of coal, the use of liquid petroleum gas- LPG- as a transport fuel, the use of methanol as a transport fuel and, less encouragingly, the generation of ethanol from plants, algae, waste and other biological matter. This has been proved over a long period. It has been done at a plant at Sarina in North Queensland which has been able to make power alcohol from sugar cane. Brazil is expanding its activities in this connection and, I think, will produce some 20 per cent of its requirements in this respect this year.
– You have cassava up there, too.
– Cassava is all right, too. It is a very good fuel source. A number of plants can be used for this purpose. This possibility has been looked at very closely in the Ord River area in the light of the proposal that sugar cane will be grown there for the production of alcohol and not for sugar. The third main energy alternative is the use of low grade solar heating. This can be used for heating and cooling of domestic and commercial buildings for temperatures up to 120° celsius. It should be realised that 50 per cent of our total electricity needs are used for this purpose. Thus, the efficient and total use of low grade solar heat for these energy needs would represent a total energy saving of up to 30 per cent. This is a most significant contribution towards the conservation of energy. In round figures it is one-third of the energy that we use.
If every member of this chamber and every family associated with them used one electric light where now five or six electric lights are burning at night, used one gas jet where now two or three gas jets are turned on, and if we set out on a real energy conservation campaign, we would cut drastically the amount of liquid fuels that we are using at present, particularly the derivatives of fossil fuels. That is the reason why
I asked a question in the chamber this morning about the decision by the Minister for the Capital Territory or the Federal Government to increase the registration fees on small vehicles. The increase would probably be sufficient to deter people from purchasing small cars because, if they are to pay the same registration fees for all cars, they might just as well have the additional horsepower of a large car.
I have a further short document for incorporation. It has been shown to you, Mr President, and to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). He has agreed to its incorporation. I ask for leave to incorporate this short document.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
THE IMMEDIATE ENERGY ALTERNATIVES AVAILABLE TO AUSTRALIA
By J. P. West B.Sc. (Hons) July 1977
Introduction. A sense of direction is an essential foundation for an energy policy. Many strands must be interwoven, short-term and long-term considerations, local questions and issues of international significance, predicted demand and likely resources, moral principles and economic problems. Discussion of a policy on the mining and export of uranium must be conducted in the context ofthe overall energy demands of Australia, likely world energy demand, and the energy resources available. It must also be recognised that patterns of energy use change slowly and new technologies take a long time to implement, few energy projects not already in the pipe-line today are likely to make a major contribution to energy production before 1 985.
Energy resources can be divided into two groups, the nonrenewable resources (coal, oil, gas, uranium etc.) and the renewable resources (solar energy, wind power, tidal and wave power etc.). We depend today almost totally on the non-renewable energy resources, so it is worth mentioning that the world’s resources are mainly coal (70 per cent), with important contributions from oil (14 per cent) and natural gas (12 per cent), while uranium currently makes up less than 5 per cent of the world’s non-renewable energy resources. The total non-renewable resources are equivalent to less than ISO years of energy consumption at the current world level, without allowing for any growth in energy use. Australia is in a better position than the world generally; our coal reserves alone contain as much energy as we would use in 350 years at the present rate. Our resources of oil and natural gas are much smaller; oil accounts for just over I per cent of our fossil-fuel reserves, and natural gas about Vh. By far out largest non-renewable energy resource is our enormous stock of coals. As mentioned earlier, the same statement applies to the global position, with coal the dominant non-renewable energy resource.
Two conclusions emerge from this quick summary ofthe world’s resources. The first is that oil and natural gas represent a small proportion of our non-renewable energy resources, and so these fuels will rapidly become scarce or expensive (or both). There is no longer any doubt that oil will become scarce; the only question is whether the decline in world production will occur late this century or early next century. Australia’s oil production is expected to decline within the next few years, and within ten years almost all our oil will have to come from other sources.
The second overall conclusion is that the world will have to become increasingly dependent on coal and renewable resources, and use its energy more efficiently, as our energy resources dwindle. With the total non-renewable resources equivalent to less than 1 SO years supply at the present rate of consumption, even assuming substitution of coal for other fuels, it is clear that rapidly-increasing demand for energy cannot be sustained for very long at all. Even the OECD, which includes virtually all the industrialised Western countries, has sharply reduced it’s predictions of energy use. The OECD now say that energy demand will rise quite slowly in the next ten years, even making the optimistic assumption that the price of oil stays constant until 1985!
In summary, both Australia and the world generally do face an energy crisis during the next 10-30 years as supplies of oil (and, to a lesser extent, natural gas) become scarcer or more expensive or, most probably both scarcer and more expensive. Areas likely to suffer in this situation are those that will not be able to substitute another fuel for oil, such as the chemical industry (particularly plastics), the applications of lubricating oil and, crucially, the transport sector, which is almost totally dependent on petroleum products. This is the real energy crisis: a shortage of liquid and gaseous hydrocarbon fuels. There is no imminent shortage of electricity; in fact there has recently been a decline in orders of new electrical power stations, most notably in Britain. At this point it is important to remember that nuclear energy is used to generate electricity; all controversy aside, nuclear power will not help to solve the coming energy problems of the world. Even on their reduced estimates of energy consumption in 1985, the OECD now believes that nuclear power will contribute less than 7 per cent of their energy use. The OECD it should be remembered, includes the U.S.A., Japan, France and the U.K., all mentioned as potential buyers of Australian uranium.
Solving the coming energy crisis will necessitate two forms of action, the development of alternatives to naturallyoccurring oil, and more efficient use of our fuels. Some possibilities will now be explored, beginning with energy conservation, as it is easier and more sensible to eliminate wastage before facing up to production of new fuels.
Energy Conservation. Almost 30 per cent of our fuel is lost as waste in the conversion of energy from one form to another. In the production of electricity, this loss is over 70 per cent. In addition, nearly 50 per cent of energy delivered, goes to waste.
In round figures, for every 3 units of primary fuel burnt 2 units are delivered to the consumer, and only 1 unit does useful work. These figures show the potential for saving fuel by a programme of energy conservation measures. Such a programme could aim to:
Reduce further expansion in the use of electricity as the production of this form of energy is relatively wasteful of fuel.
Extract maximum use of heat rejected from power stations, wherever possible.
Ensure that energy is used as efficiently as possible. In other countries (e.g. the U.K.) Government programmes have succeeded in conserving energy. Measures adopted have included: financial encouragement to improve insulation of houses; and to install more efficient industrial equipment.
Energy conservation has been assigned a very important role by the Fox Uranium Report, and has been studied by many other eminent authorities; the 1974-75 House of Commons Inquiry in the U.K., and the recent U.S.A. study by the Ford Foundation are two examples.
No one disputes the desirability of achieving savings in energy use through a programme of energy conservation and improved efficiency. The scale of possible economics is vast.
Other countries have begun serious programs to conserve energy. The United Kingdom Government recently spent about $5m on a campaign to persuade people to save energy. The program included simple, down to earth advice on more efficient use of energy at home, in offices and in factories. The total energy use in the U.K. in 1975, the year of the campaign, was substantially less than the figures for the preceding four years.
The Canadian Government has launched an energy conservation program, aimed at reducing the rate of growth in energy use below 3.5 per cent per year (compared with the recent annual Australian growth rate of 6 per cent). In the United States of America, a multitude of booklets, pamphlets, leaflets and even calendars devoted to popularising energy conservation have been produced recently.
Thus the major energy-consuming nations have embarked on energy conservation programs of varying intensity. These programs have been given nigh priority as it has become apparent that conservation can play an important part in reducing short-term energy problems. Many specific suggestions were put forward by the detailed inquiries; the Summary of Main Recommendations’ from the House of Commons Inquiry is a good example (in the accompanying documents). In overall terms, these authoritative inquiries have demonstrated that an aggressive energy conservation policy could save 15-25 per cent of the total annual energy consumption.
Energy conservation programs have the added advantage of creating jobs in all sectors of industry. Perhaps more importantly, the jobs created are inevitably de-centralised, as jobs in energy conservation activities will exist wherever energy is used.
Liquid Fuel Alternatives. As mentioned earlier, the real energy crisis will be a shortage of liquid and gaseous fuels, thus the most urgent energy alternatives are those that will help solve this problem.
A quarter of Australia’s energy demand is for liquid fuels for transport. Currently, we import approximately 30 per cent of this fuel. At the present rates of use, Australia’s liquid fuel reserves will be exhausted within a decade, unless new oil fields are discovered and developed almost Immediately. Total dependence on imports would leave Australia politically vulnerable, and would also result in high prices for consumers.
Techniques for producing liquid and gaseous fuels from coal, natural gas, and liquid petroleum gas exist. Methods for producing liquid fuels from vegetable matter, and organic and human wastes are also currently being developed.
The following methods for producing liquid fuels in Australia are those which have the greatest potential and should be urgently explored.
Coal as a Source of Oil and Gas. Coal can be turned into a motor spirit or petrol substitute. This type of conversion was successfully used in Germany during World War II. Today there are a number of pilot demonstrations and working plants where conversion of coal is being accomplished on various scales. The largest commercial operation is in South Africa where coal is being convened to gas at the rate of 300 million cubic feet per day with conversion efficiencies of 50-60 per cent. In the simplest terms the conversion of coal to petroleum gas in liquid or vapour form is achieved by the addition of hydrogen which is derived from water. Not all types of coal can at present be used for this conversion process. Softer types are most suitable. No doubt technology will be developed to process the less suitable types.
World coal reserves are vast. There are some 160 324 million tonnes of brown coal (enough for 194 years) and some 430 867 million tonnes of black coal (enough for 198 years) left in the world today. No doubt further substantial coal reserves will be found in the future.
The oil bonanza diverted exploration from coal seams to oil beds. All over the world half finished coal mines were closed down. Oil was cleaner, cheaper and easier to transport. It is reasonable to assume that coal reserves will last at present rates of consumption for at least 200 years.
Australia’s coal reserves are also very substantial with approximately 122 200 million tonnes of brown coal and 228 673 million tonnes of black coal. These reserves will last for 444 and 400 years respectively.
There are over 2000 million tonnes of brown coal in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria alone. We should be urgently researching ways of convening this to liquid and gaseous transport fuels. Current costs of producing oils from coal are in the range of $10-$ IS per barrel which compared favourably with current world oil prices of nearly $ 1 2 per barrel.
Unless Australia embarks on large scale research and development programs aimed at solving our shortage of liquid fuels,, we could find ourselves running out of these essential transportation fuels within the next 25 years. However, with foresight and intelligent planning we should be able to get along with reasonable supplies of liquid fuels for a hundred years or more. After this- what then?
Summary of Coal Liquefaction Processes
Available and developing processes for the production of liquid fuels from coal fall into five categories:
The production of methanol is first by gasification of coal to synthesis gas followed by catalytic synthesis of methanol.
As far as is known no plants exist for the sole production of fuel-grade methanol from coal. However, the technology exists and could be made commercially available in a short time.
Lurgi gasifiers are well proven and are used in South Africa and elsewhere. Advanced gasification processes are being developed in the United States. Well-proven technology for the synthesis step is available ‘off the shelf from a number of licensors including ICI, Lurgi and VulcanCincinatti
Methanol synthesis could be commercially available by 1980. This process is applicable to Australia’s conditions but methanol has different properties from conventional hydrocarbon fuels.
A commercial Fischer-Tropsch plant has been operated by SASOL in South Africa since 19SS. The plant has a capacity of 350 000 t/y of oil products and is the only commercial unit in the western world for liquid fuels production from coal. Plans are well advanced for the construction of a second SASOL plant with a substantially increased capacity. Fischer-Tropsch synthesis is well-proven and can be regarded as immediately available and suitable for Australia’s conditions. However, thermal efficiency is low and the economics of the newer processes are potentially more favourable.
Pyrolysis routes are based on the carbonisation of coal to produce tar/oils. The primary product is hydrogenated (destructive distillation) to produce clean ‘syncrude’.
Well-proven and highly reliable technology for lignite pyrolysis is available in East Germany where 1 200 000 t/y of tar are currently treated to produce liquid fuels. This technology is strictly conventional and has remained basically unchanged for 25 years.
Two advanced processes are being developed in the United States. The Garrett flash pyrolysis process is being developed for low rank coals but is unlikely to be commercial before 1985. The most advanced U.S. process, the COED process, is based on fluidised bed pyrolysis. Two small pilot plants are operating. At some nsk the process could probably be scaled up to commercial size immediately to be in production by the early 1980s’.
As liquid yields are low, pyrolysis routes are not suited to lignite. Also, the economic viability of pyrolysis is critically dependent on the existence of high value markets for the main end-products- char and/or gas.
World-wide, the most intense interest is being shown in non-catalytic’ processes. For true liquids production, these processes are two-step- the first stage is solvent extraction, using a hydrogen donor solvent, to produce a heavy extract; in the second stage the extract is catalytically hydrogenated to produce liquid products.
These processes fall into two categories:
The first route has the advantage of enabling simplification to a one-step process, if the extract alone is the required product- for instance for boiler fuels. The second route has the advantage of producing a very active donor solvent. The second stage hydrogenation is always required, even if a heavy extract is the desired end-product.
The SRC or PAMCO process is the most advanced and is being developed in the United States by the Gulf Oil Co. Several pilot plants are operating. The mainstream SRC process which is aimed at bituminous coals may possibly be available by 1985 but at that stage is unlikely to include the additional technology for producing ‘syncrude’ from the primary product.
Variants of the SRC process are being developed to deal specifically with low rank coals. The U.S. Bureau of Mines has developed the CO-STEAM process and other processes are being developed at the Colorado School of Mines and the University of North Dakota. Several pilot plants and bench scale units are operational.
There are two known U.S. developments based on sole extraction by a donor solvent, followed by external hydrogenation of the solvent. The CONSOL process has been developed by the Conoco Coal Development Co. A pilot plant operating since 1963 is no longer funded by the U.S. Office of Coal Research because of severe operational difficulties, but Conoco is continuing the work.
A similar process has been developed by the Exxon Group and a six-year development program is under way. A CONSOL-type process is also being developed in the United
Kingdom by the National Coal Board, and it is hoped to have a pilot plant operating by late 1 975. It is possible that a CONSOL-type process could be commercial by 1985.
Work on one-step catalytic processes is entirely confined to the U.S. These types of process all use high temperature and pressure and produce a true liquid ‘syncrude ‘in a singlestep operation. Varying schemes have been devised for achieving reaction in a multiphase system containing coal, solid catalyst, a carrier solvent and hydrogen. These processes operate at high temperature and pressure and will handle all ranks of coal.
The H-COAL process, developed by Hydro-carbon Research Inc., is the most advanced process and is based on an ‘ebullated’ bed reactor. Similar fixed bed processes have been developed by the U.S. Bureau of Mines (SYNTHOIL process) and Gulf Oil (CCL process).
Both the ‘non-catalytic’ and catalytic solvent extraction processes appear to be applicable to Australia, although the latter seems to be the more attractive. It may be desirable to combine the CO-STREAM process which is specific to lignites with a CONSOL-type process. The H-COAL process is not likely to be commercially available until 1985 while the SYNTHOIL and CCL processes will require even longer development.
Because 1980-1990 is the period when Australia will become almost totally dependent on overseas oil supplies; it is necessary to see when the coal liquefaction alternatives are likely to be available for commercial use.
On the basis of the present state of development and the potential engineering problems, existing and developing processes can be placed against a ‘time to commercialise’ scale. This is defined as the earliest time at which it would be feasible to bring a commercial unit on-stream with the objective of producing ‘syncrude ‘ or the equivalent.
Pre- 1980 Methanol synthesis, Fischer-Tropsch synthesis and pyrolysis, using East German technology are available options within this period. 1981-1985. It is estimated that the COED pyrolysis route could be commercialised by the early 1980s’. Provided that engineering problems are overcome there is a chance of the H-COAL catalytic route and a CONSOL-type solvent extraction route, being commercially available toward the end of this period.
Post- 1985. The current status of development makes it unlikely that the Garrett pyrolysis route will be commercially available until this time. It is probable that commercial versions of either the SRC or COSTEAM ‘non-catalytic’ processes will be available prior to 1985 but it is estimated that this will not include technology for producing syncrude’. It is estimated that reactor scale-up problems with both the CCL and SYNTHOIL catalytic routes, will delay commercial availability until after 1 985.
Since soft coal is generally suitable for conversion to oil, there are high hopes that brown coal will be a particularly good raw material. There are over 2000 million tonnes of brown coal in the Latrobe Valley in Victoria.
Very little work has been done to develop the technology for production of liquid fuels from brown coal, and a significant research and development effort wilt be needed if this process is to make any impact before 1990. Meanwhile the existing technology could be implemented to produce liquid fuels from our suitable black coal.
Liquefied petroleum gas, LPG, is a generic term used to describe propane and butane gases. These gases have two and three carbon atoms respectively. While gaseous at atmospheric temperatures and pressures, they can be stored as liquids under moderate pressures or reduced temperatures.
Although the heat of combustion of a kilogram of LPG is higher than that of a kilogram of motor spirit (49.5-50 megajoules per kilo as compared with 46.8-47.5), the heat of combustion value per kilolitre is less. The heat of combustion value of propane is 25 400 megajoules per kilolitre and of butane 28 000 megajoules per kilolitre as compared with 34 380 to 34 893 megajoules per kilolitre for motor spirit.
Propane has a research octane number (RON) substantially higher than premium motor spirit (100 + ). This characteristic tends to favour the use of propane as a vehicle fuel, particularly in vehicles where demand is less severe. Forklift trucks, city delivery and vehicles used indoors, are particularly well suited.
LPG propane is an effective alternative fuel to motor spirit for spark ignition engines. It is a clean fuel, it has a research octane number (RON) of 111, compared with premium motor spirit at 98. It gives smoother running with better engine performance ana lower emissions of noxious exhaust gases/air pollutants since it burns more cleanly and completely and does not contain lead additives. Engine maintenance costs are claimed to be lower with double the mileage before maintenance and reduced costs for lubrication oil and spark plugs.
In terms of energy value the rate of consumption is about 10 per cent higher than motor spirit. The conversion cost of a vehicle from motor spirit to LPG is about $400 to $600. Modern conversion systems can retain the power output of the engine while still improving comparative exhaust gas emission quality. However, there is a factor of inconvenience due to accommodation of the gas container on the vehicle and the presently restricted number of refuelling outlets.
Obviously greater quantities of LPG could be used in Australia as automotive fuel, either by converting it to motor spirit or directly as fuel. LPG can be converted, by refining, to a motor spirit component, and this absorbed into the motor spirit pool. The method is similar to that used in Australian refineries to convert LPG such as propylene, butylene and isobutane to motor spirit components through polymerisation and alkylation plants.
The Royal Commission on Petroleum in Australia (1976) indicated the advantages and disadvantages of using LPG as an automotive fuel in the currently used spark ignition car engines. These are outlined in the accompanying documents.
Market penetration by LPG will be assisted if energy costs become rational. Present low cost petroleum products based on cheap indigenous crude distort Australia s energy economy by encouraging the consumption of motor spirit from indigenous crude and failing to support alternative fuels such as coal, electricity, diesel fuel etc. by investment which should but does not reflect their cheapness and superior economy. No effective conservation of resources seems possible until this position is rectified and much of the Commission’s work is based upon the proposition that a program of rationalisation of energy economics will be perceived to be essential and unavoidable.
In Australia, the principal areas in which LPG should be used are:
The Royal Commission (1976) recommended that the Australian Government engage the State Governments and particularly the Government of New South Wales in discussions concerning the use of LPG.
State Governments should encourage the use of LPG by offering major fleet owners reductions in registration costs if the fleet (or a substantial percentage thereof) converts to LPG.
Governments, both Federal and State, should set an example by converting their own fleets, the fleets of their instrumentalities and local government vehicles.
Thus LPG is a feasible substitute for motor spirit between now and 1990. Yet granting all the dedication that successive governments have applied to the national retention of indigenous crude oil, no part of any similar dedication seems to have been applied to LPG.
Methanol has been used as a motor fuel for over 5 years (both as pure methanol and as a methanol/gasoline mixture). The 1930s and early 1940s were the periods when methanol saw it ‘s greatest use as a motor fuel; particularly in Europe as a consequence of the war economy.
Such methanol was supplied by wood distillation units attached to the vehicle; or blended with petrol, benzole and ethanol.
Since then methanol has been used mainly as a motor racing fuel; either as pure methanol or blended with petrol and/or ethanol.
More recently, methanol has been investigated as a commercial fuel, either pure or blended, to extend petrol supplies and also to improve exhaust emission characteristic In a recent experiment in New York, methanol was used over a period of months for a car fleet. No problems were reported, and it was concluded that methanol (especially mixed with petrol) was a successful and viable alternative liquid fuel.
From such tests, methanol and it’s blends with petrol have, under certain conditions, been found to give more power, better fuel consumption, cleaner exhaust emissions, and smoother running.
Basically there are two alternatives available with methanol fuels, these are:
The complete replacement of petrol by methanol would require engine modifications. Further it is not as economic as petrol, so it would appear that currently it is not economic on either a cost or energy basis to substitute 100 per cent methanol or methanol fuel for petrol.
However, a 15 per cent methanol/ 15 per cent petrol mix would not appear to ha ve any detrimental effects when use in the compression engines typically found in Australia. The main problem with this is that there are some minor difficulties in producing stable methanol/petrol blends economically.
A U.S. company (Vulcan Cincinnatti) have succeeded in developing a methanol which has proved suitable as a boiler fuel and as a potential transport fuel. This methanol fuel has the advantage over methanol in that it is a little cheaper due to credit for the additional production of electrical power.
The foregoing illustrates that methanol will be a viable liquid fuel alternative in the near future. It has an advantage over liquid fuel alternatives in that it is slightly cheaper than present petrol prices.
In the 1930s- 1950s many Australian sugar mills were totally powered by the pyrolysis of sugar waste and byproducts. Recent research, principally in South America but also here in Australia, has indicated that liquid fuels could be obtained from sugar cane at an average cost of about $1.00 per gallon. Although this is more expensive than current fuels, it is a viable and potentially commercial process, particularly when it is appreciated that current petroleum prices in Australia are much lower than world prices.
As well as providing much-needed liquid fuels, this industry would have several other advantages. It would use a totally renewable resource, it would create a large number of jobs and it would help to develop such regions as North Queensland and the Ord River in Western Australia.
Lastly, the generation of hydrogen gas as an alternative fuel for transport offers some potential. Solar harvesting systems utilizing photosynthesis or similar processes would not require expensive mirrors to focus sunlight, but would soak it up directly. This process has been demonstrated repeatedly, but at present the costs are very high, and research is continuing in order to try to reduce them.
Solar energy has been most successfully utilised for ‘lowgrade heat’, that is for heating at relatively low temperatures. Solar water-heaters, space-heaters and drying systems have been developed to the commercially viable stage, and these are now in widespread use. Many of these systems have been developed here in Australia by CSIRO.
One third of our energy is used to produce ‘low-grade heat, i.e. heat below 120°C. About 50 per cent of electricity used domestically is consumed in this way (space hearing, water hearing, air conditioning).
Virtually all this heat can be obtained from solar energy using proven technology.
The advantages of using the sun in this way are:
The Australian Academy of Science, a highly authoritative and well-informed organisation, stated in 1973 that up to 25 per cent of our total energy needs could be supplied from solar energy by the turn of the century. It is worth noting that this estimate was made before the new developments in solar energy announced recently.
Several different studies have shown how effectively solar energy can be used for domestic heating especially when houses are well insulated. Experimental houses are being constructed (in Canberra and Broken Hill) with a design intended to allow them to be heated entirely by solar energy. One such house, already constructed in Canberra, is so successful that the living-room temperature did not fall below 20°C last winter, despite overnight sub-zero temperatures outside. A bonus is that a well-insulated house like this one is typically up to 10°C cooler than the outside temperature on summer days.
Solar energy can also be used to generate high temperatures, by concentrating the sun’s rays with lenses or mirrors, or to produce electricity by using solar cells. The technologies are proven; U.S. spacecraft were powered by banks of solar cells, and an experimental solar power-station is operating in France.
The development of high grade solar heating is still in its infancy, largely as a result of very restricted research programs. However, there have been some very encouraging developments in this field in both Australia and the U.S.A.
The main thing that is holding back this process is the very high cost of energy derived from solar cells. However, research projects currently being pursued in the U.S.A., N.Z. and U.K. in particular are aimed at reducing these costs.
Meanwhile in the U.S.A., Honeywell Laboratories are developing heliostats which when mounted on a turntable can tilt, rotate and follow the sun while focusing the reflected beam on large water tanks up to 1 kilometre away. These heliostats are 3 by 7 metres in size, and Honeywell plan to manufacture 74,000 which would reflect enough heat onto a boiler on the top of a 500 metre high water tower. The cluster of heliostats is expected to cover more than 2.5 kilometres, but would be capable of generating temperatures in excess of 500’C,-sufficient to produce power for 40,000 homes!! !
Whilst this technology is not commercially viable at the present time, it is worth noting the comments of a number of solar energy researchers in Australia who are intimately involved with this son of research.
Scientists indicate that, with sufficient funds, they will be able to develop this process within 5 years, and will then be able to build a prototype plant, near a country town, which would be able to produce continuous supplies of electricity and saleable gases.
Dr Close and his research group at J.C.U.N.Q. in Townsville have indicated that they have almost developed an air conditioning unit that is solar powered, and is commercially competitive with current electrical models.
Clearly, both Government and Industry sponsored research organisations have an important and vitally necessary role to play in such research.
Although there are many areas in the energy field that require research, an order of priority for research and development of the more ‘attractive’ energy sources must be established. Such an order must be established very early in the formulation of any National Energy Strategy.
Energy Research and Development programs are now being pursued by most countries of the world, though on varying scales. For comparison, the Energy Research and Development programs of the U.S.A., Japan and Australia are briefly examined.
The U.S.A. Federal Government expenditure on all Energy Research and Development in 1975 was in excess of $2 billion (more than double the 1974 figure). Of this figure, in excess of $37 million was appropriated for solar energy research.
Further an advisory Panel of the Energy Research and Development Agency has recommended to Congress, a solar energy research and development program over the next 15 years. This program is estimated to cost $3.52 billion, and is briefly outlined below:
Thermal Energy for buildings- $100 million.
Renewable clean fuel sources
Electric Power Generation
Further, additional monies are to be appropriated for coal research, with emphasis on the liquefacation and gasification of coal, and reducing pollution by coal burning.
In Japan, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry and it’s agency for Industrial Technology and Science have drafted a national program which aims at ensuring energy sources to satisfy Japan’s needs in the 2 1st Century. An expenditure of $4.1 billion over the next 30 years is envisaged.
The program covers systematic research and development in four areas- solar, power generation, geothermal energy, the production of synthetic gas and oil from coal, and the use of hydrogen energy.
In the United Kingdom, over £134.5 million was spent on energy research and development by the National Government in 1974-75.
In Australia, only a relatively small sum of money is annually allocated for energy research and development. These monies were increased when Labor came to power in 1972, but still lag far behind that spent in comparable countries.
Other than direct expenditure by Government’s research organizations (such as CSIRO, AAEC) only $288,000 was allocated by the Federal Government in 1976 for all energy research carried out by the use of ARGC grants. In the same year, the CSIRO only spent $684,000 on solar energy research and $360,000 for coal to oil research in 1 974-75.
Many recent authoritive reports, such as the 1975 House of Commons Select Committee on Energy Conservation, the Fox Report, The Flowers Royal Commission, ERDA reports and the Senate Select Committee on Solar Energy have all indicated the urgent need for large scale alternative energy research and development programs.
Over the past decade, Australia has slipped from being the world’s leading authority and researcher on solar energy to somewhere well down amongst the also-rans. This position can be retrieved, but it will require far more government support for energy research than is presently being made available. Compared to other countries Australia’s energy Research and Development program is pitiful. We have world class researchers- all they need is the money.
Australia is geographically, geologically suitable to energy Research and Development in the fields of solar and wind energy; oil and gas from coal; and the production of oils from plant matter such as sugar cane. The development of these technologies would not only strengthen our energy position and help overcome our dependence on the rapidly dwindling oil supplies, but it would be easily available to the third world countries who do not have the high level technology necessary to develop large scale power networks.
No mention has been made of the more exotic energy alternatives such as oil shales, wind, wave and tidal energy (although some are already in commercial use in other parts of the world). This is because they do not solve our immediate problem of a shortage of liquid fuels and secondly because they are generally still only potential alternatives.
Numerous authorities have indicated that the presently commercial available alternatives could be immediately implemented and account for 40-60 per cent of total energy requirements. Energy conservation could result in immediate energy savings of 20-30 per cent of total energy requirements, and low grade solar heat could result in energy savings of the order of 25-30 per cent.
This total saving of 40-60 per cent would allow the redirection of our precious oil and gas resources from the area of electrical generation to the fields of transport and lubrication. This would also result in the extended life of our oil and gas reserves, thus easing and postponing the energy crisis. Energy conservation should include the cessation of the use of oil and gas for the generation of electricity. This could be achieved by coal in Australia (of which there is no shortage). Coupled with the introduction of energy conservation and low grade solar heat; large scale Research and Development programs directed at producing liquid and gaseous fuels should be implemented immediately, to overcome our projected shortfall in liquid fuels. It is interesting to note that the Fox Report and the recent Senate Select Committee inquiry into Solar Energy has recommended that there should be increased Research and Development programs in Australia, directed towards these fields.
Furthermore, the development of a National Energy Policy with emphasis on Energy Conservation; Low Grade Solar Heating, and the Production of Liquid Fuels will result in the development of new industries in Australia, and perhaps equally important; will create 10 000 ‘s of new jobs.
– I thank the Senate. Lastly, let me have a quick word about energy research and development. At present, Australia spends less than Sim on all non-conventional and nonnuclear energy alternatives. This compares dismally with a budget of $23m for the Australian Atomic Energy Commission alone in 1975-76. Until there is a more proportionate level of spending on all other energy alternatives, it is little wonder that they are not much more than potential energy sources.
In summary, both Australia and the world generally do face an energy crisis during the next 10 to 30 years as supplies of oil and, to a lesser extent, natural gas become scarcer or more expensive, or most probably both. That point is worth re-emphasising. Areas likely to suffer in this situation are those that will not be able to substitute another fuel for oil, such as the chemical industry, particularly plastics; crucially, the transport sector which is almost totally dependent on petroleum products. This is the real energy crisis: A shortage of liquid and gaseous hydrocarbon fuels. There is no imminent shortage of electricity; in fact there has recently been a decline in orders for new electrical power stations, most notably in Britain. At this point it is important to remember that nuclear energy is used to generate electricity and- all controversy asidenuclear power will not help to solve the coming energy problems of the world.
No mention has been made of the more exotic energy alternatives such as oil shales, wind, wave and tidal energy, although some are already in commercial use in other parts of the world. This is because, firstly, they do not solve our immediate problem of a shortage of liquid fuels and, secondly, because they are generally still only potential alternatives. Numerous authorities have indicated that the presently commercially available alternatives could be implemented immediately and account for 40 per cent to 60 per cent of total energy requirements. Energy conservation could result in immediate energy savings of not less than 20 per cent and probably in the vicinity of 30 per cent of total energy requirements. Low grade solar heat could result in energy savings of 25 per cent to 30 per cent. Australia, with its abundant sunshine, is an ideal country for the use of solar heaters.
– What acreage of land would be required?
– I doubt whether it would be much good in your apple orchard, Senator. This total saving of 40 per cent to 60 per cent would allow the redirection of our precious oil and gas resources from the area of electrical generation to the fields of transport and lubrication. This would also result in the extended life of our oil and gas reserves. Surely one of the most important things is to spin out our hydrocarbons for as long as we can. Energy conservation must include the cessation of the use of oil and gas for the generation of electricity. This could be achieved by coal in Australia, of which there is no shortage at all. Statements were made that the burning of coal is dangerous. I admit that there are certain dangers associated with it- unlike people on the opposite side of the campaign who say that uranium yellowcake is so good and so safe that you can eat it; you can have it for dessert three times a day. There are great dangers in the burning of coal but some safety measures, if properly enforced, can reduce those dangers considerably.
– That was an accurate quotation about eating yellowcake, was it, Senator?
- Senator Thomas was sitting in the chamber today and he heard the enthusiastic reception from that side of the chamber in regard to the digging for uranium. I do not think it is improper for me to suggest that if it is so safe we could use the yellowcake as food. That is the sort of general attitude he is adopting and he is not prepared to look at safety precautions.
Coupled with the introduction of energy conservation and low grade solar heat, large scale research and development programs directed at producing liquid and gaseous fuels should be implemented immediately to overcome our projected shortfall in liquid fuels. It is interesting to note that the Fox report and the recent Senate select committee inquiring into solar energy recommended that there should be increased research and development programs in Australia directed towards these fields. Furthermore, the development of a national energy policy, with emphasis on energy conservation, low grade solar heating and the production of liquid fuels will result in the development of new industries in Australia. Perhaps equally as important, it will create tens of thousands of new jobs which the nuclear industry will not create. I know that people who want to mine in the Northern Territory are using the argument that it will provide thousands of jobs as a basis for the encouragement of the opening up of the industry.
– The Fox report says the same thing.
– It will not provide thousands of jobs for territorians at all. The present economic circumstances, brought about by the activities of the Fraser Government, have driven many professional people out of the Northern Territory. They are unlikely to go back for a second dose of the same sort of economic medicine. So in effect, if you open up a field or some fields there, you will have to import your labour and little or no work will be provided for the local people. Worse still, if you open up those areas that are Aboriginal lands, you will destroy socially and culturally every Aboriginal clan in that area. These are the big moral issues that have to be weighed before we agree to mining. I have not heard any criticism from the other side of the chamber in relation to that aspect except from Senator Collard who apparently does not like Aborigines, period. The Labor Party has recognised the benefits that a national energy policy could bring and our current energy policy is aimed at encouraging the development of these energy resources. I suppose we are the only major political party that has an energy resources policy.
I wish to conclude my remarks by making particular reference to statements that were made by Senator Thomas in particular and by Senator Young. When he opened the dabate for the Opposition he sounded like a member of Packer’s new cricket team.
– He hit you for a six.
-He probably used a yellow ball. Senator Young’s comments were conspicuous for their lack of mention of the safeguard policy of the Prime Minister and especially the reception- a hostile reception- that it received in Europe. I think that had he put his case tidily he would have made some reference to it; but he did not. His inability or lack of desire to do so was conspicuous. Senator Thomas referred to waste disposal. He said that it was not a problem and was not an issue.
– I said that it was not our problem.
– You said that it was not a problem and that it was not an issue.
– I said that it was not our problem.
– Well, where do you want to put it- in somebody else’s back yard? They are going to put it in our back yard but you do not care; you are not worried about it.
– It is a different issue.
-It is not a different issue at all. You have to get rid of the waste somewhere and as yet there is no reliable way known to science of disposing of waste, in spite of all the flowery words we hear. If Senator Thomas has the answer to the problem of the disposal of waste, I think there is an obligation on him to tell the Senate. It should not just be shifted into somebody else’s back yard. Senator Thomas admitted that there was no guarantee that other countries would honour the safeguard policies. It is an admission of the failure of his own government to impose those policies. This Government is prepared to export uranium at this point in history without having any adequate safeguards as to what finally becomes of it. Uranium has disappeared before.
– We have set the most severe safeguards of any country.
– Goodness gracious me, let us be practical about it. I do not mind political burbling- and that is what it amounts to. After all, most European countries are not happy with Australia’s safeguards. This Government cannot set out what they are. Senator Thomas referred to U308 export earnings not of $ 1,200m but $700m per annum. At the same time our oil import bill will be $3,000m. This is the real problem. I think that there are a lot of people on the Government side and amongst the uranium miners who want to export uranium because they believe it will help us to pay for our oil imports. If we were to spend the same sort of money on alternative energy sources we would probably overcome many more of our problems.
Senator Thomas referred to and placed firmly heavy emphasis upon the results of polls showing the number of Australians in favour of uranium mining. The latest figures, which Senator Thomas apparently declined to cite, show that less than 47 per cent of Australians favour uranium mining. That is a drop of 1 1 per cent in just over a year. That is a very significant drop so far as public opinion is concerned.
– Which poll is this?
– I will get a copy of it for you, Senator. I shall send it to you personally. It is the only possible way you have of understanding the situation.
In concluding my remarks on this debate, again I wish to say that the Prime Minister has made a hasty decision to go ahead with uranium mining. We will get that announcement within the next few days or a week. That decision is in spite of the promise made earlier that there would be tons of public debate and that everybody would be given the opportunity to find the facts. I suppose while polls show the number of people in favour of uranium mining declining, we will not be given opportunities to debate the matter anyway. The uranium policy to be announced next week undoubtedly will show no concern for the major recommendations of the Fox reports. They recommended that land rights and national parks should be established before any decision to mine is made- not afterwards, picking up the bits piecemeal. There has been a lot of comment about the Finniss River and the types of metals responsible for the devastation there. The same mining companies will be operating in the same areas. Unless they are closely watched there will be exactly the same shortage of safeguards as there were in Rum Jungle. The Fox reports also recommended sequential development of the mines. It is unlikely that the Government will adopt this. I submit that the Prime Minister will virtually say ‘ It is open go; go for your life ‘, regardless ofthe social, cultural, financial or other consequences to this country.
Debate (on motion by Senator Walters) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 5.56 to 8 p.m.
– I move:
I understand that members on both sides of the Parliament were informed some time after 3 p.m. that the reason why the Government wanted the
Senate to sit tomorrow was to consider some urgent legislation.
– I, on behalf of the Opposition, oppose this proposal that has now been put forward on behalf of the Government. True it is, I think, that some time after 3 o,clock this afternoon the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) told the Leader of the Oppositon in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) that the Government desired that the Parliament should sit tomorrow. That was the first official indication given by the Government to the Opposition that the Government intended to have the Senate sit tomorrow. After all, we came here at the commencement of this week in the belief that we were to deal with the Budget sittings. We had been told well in advance that the Parliament would be sitting Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I, as Manager of Opposition Business in the Senate, as well as my colleague Senator Georges, the Opposition Whip, were given an indication of the matters it was intended by the Government would be debated by the Senate this week.
I recall that on Tuesday Senator Sheil introduced a matter relating to a report of the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce into the wine and grape industry. My colleague Senator Georges responded and said that we were told that that matter was to come on on the Wednesday. It is a fact that we heard rumours during the day that the Government intended to introduce something of an untoward nature in the course of the day. During the suspension of the sitting for lunch I went to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and suggested to him that something of an untoward nature might be carried out by the Government. He said that he would contact Senator Withers. At practically the start of my remarks at 2.15 p.m. when speaking on behalf of the Opposition in the uranium inquiry debate, Senator Wriedt passed me a note saying that the rumours were false. An hour later we were told that it was probable that the intention of the Government would be to sit tomorrow.
The Government says that it wants certain legislation urgently. I understand in respect of the legislation that the Government wants urgently that it does not intend to seek that it be proclaimed after this Parliament has passed the l egislation. Frankly I cannot see why, if that is the Governments attitude, it cannot have the legislation referred from another place into the Senate and left on the Senate Notice Paper to be made an Order of the Day for a later day. Then, if the Government wants to hold some bludgeon over the trade union movement or the workers of this country it might be able to do so.
The Opposition is entitled to know in advance what is going on in this place and what it is intended will go on in this place. We are a bit sick and tired of the Executive of this nation using this place as a rubber stamp. I suggest that the attitude of this Government is merely another nail in the coffin of this Parliament as far as the Australian people are concerned. I object strongly on behalf of the Opposition.
-The announcement which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) has made is an important one. It is not quite unexpected since we received information that so-called urgent legislation was required. Of course debate has taken place in the other House. Since the proposition that the Leader of the Government puts to us is so important I think this place deserves a quorum, so I attract your attention, Mr President, to the state of the House before we proceed. (Quorum formed.) Let me inform those who are present of the important nature of the proposition which the Leader of the Government puts. At great inconvenience to us all and for a specious reason we are to meet tomorrow at 9.30 a.m. and proceed through to about 5 p.m. I think all senators are aware of the dislocation that that has caused not only to their own programs but also to the officers of this Parliament and to those who serve the Senate. For that reason I take very strong objection to what is being done.
If the legislation is of such an important nature it should not be brought forward in this way. There is sufficient time for the other place to discuss the legislation. If it wants to proceed through a series of guillotines to bring the legislation to this place, well and good; that is its problem. We should be given the consideration of receiving legislation in the proper way. We cannot possibly in the circumstances deal with the legislation in a rational way. Tempers tomorrow will be frayed; they ought to be frayed. I would say -
– You have not got one, Senator.
-I will catch your interjection, Senator, if you speak up.
– You have not got a temper.
– I have a temper, yes, and I lose it from time to time.
– I said you have not got one.
– She is being nice to you.
– The honourable senator is not being nice to me. I have a temper and I use it at times for a particular reason. If you have not eloquence you become emotive. If you are emotive you need to have adrenalin, a temper. If you confuse the argument by so doing of course it is a consequence you have to suffer. Let me get back to the point. Honourable senators opposite have endeavoured to divert me from the proposition that I am putting. The Government has come forward in a most irrational and inconsiderate way to present legislation. From what I hear of it, it is very important legislation. It is draconian legislation.
– They are not going to proclaim it.
-I do not know whether it is to be proclaimed or not, but to me the very thought of this legislation is horrific. That is the only way one can describe the legislation which the Government is endeavouring to bring forth.
The economy has suffered one or two jolts. One was the refusal of Supply and the sudden dismissal of an elected government. Now this Government, having failed in its program, having failed in its promises, and seeing its economic strategy in tatters, seeks a series of confrontations with the trade union movement. The economy will suffer. There are certain structural problems within the economy and the economy cannot withstand another assault of the type that the Government is planning. I would have thought that if the Government’s advisers and the Executive suggest that this legislation should be brought forward and if Government supporters decide to support their Executive, really the Government should permit Parliament to debate it at length. It ought to allow for consultation with those who are to be most affected. Apparently that will not be the case.
The Government is rapidly reaching a point where it will have to call out the troops. I heard a remark to that effect in the corridor this morning. It was not one of my colleagues who said it; it was one of Senator Withers’ colleagues. At the time I wondered what he was talking about when he used the words ‘call out the troops’. I now know what he meant, and I do not doubt that that is the intention of the Government. I say to the Government that it ought to reflect. We do not seek to stir the electorate in such a way as the Government intends in order to gain a cheap electoral advantage. It will not gain such advantage. The economy is in a serious position, and the Government has admitted it. It will put the economy in a more serious position than it is already in by using tactics that some of the more radical, irrational Government supporters are proposing and supporting. It would be far better if the Leader of the Government in the Senate were to reconsider what he is proposing, withdraw the motion that he has put before us and proceed with the ordinary program next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I cannot appeal to him because he does not respond too easily to an appeal of this sort, but common sense should prevail. Mr President, in some way I believe that at times common sense does prevail in this place.
– I wish to join with my colleagues, Senator Douglas McClelland and Senator Georges, in voicing my opposition along with theirs to the proposal that has been put down by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers). If ever there was any doubt in the minds of the people of Australia about this House not being a House of review that doubt has been erased from their minds by the proposition put forward in the other place today and put forward by the Leader of the Government in the Senate tonight. Conclusive proof is now available to everybody that this is not a House of review. We have now had put to us the proposition that we are to be kept here tomorrow to vote on legislation which no member of the Opposition saw before it was introduced into the other place. It was introduced in such a manner that the legislation was given to the Opposition spokesman shadowing Mr Street and he was under an obligation-he was made to promise not to show that legislation to any other member of the Australian Labor Party before it was tabled in the House of Representatives. That was utter blackmail on behalf of this Government.
When this happened today I recalled to mind a speech I made in this Parliament some years ago retailing to the Parliament a conversation that I had overheard in the Parliamentary Dining Room between Mr Street and Mr Fraser about the tactics they were to use to bring about a confrontation with the trade union movement. Part of what was said in that conversation has already come true and the rest of it has absolutely fallen into place this evening. Embodied in that conversation was the method they were using to usurp the leadership of Mr Snedden. When Mr Fraser became leader of the Liberal Party, refused the Budget, and won government he made Mr Street Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. The last part of the conversation was that they would teach the trade unions a lesson.
Now we find that the legislation has finally surfaced. It has come forward today in the other place. A guillotine has been applied without proper regard to the processes of examining legislation being extended to members of that House. I have sat in the other place for most of the afternoon and listened to the remarks made by Government supporters. I know that most of them are not aware of what is embodied in the legislation. They do not have a clue of the ramifications of that legislation and how it will stick the jackboots into the work force of this country. Of course, the wheel has now turned a full circle. We find that the trade unions are to be taught a lesson, as was cooked up in that penthouse in Toorak some years ago when Senator Cormack organised a meeting, at which quite a few prominent members of the Liberal Party were present, to get rid of Mr Snedden and to put Mr Fraser in the seat. Now of course we find that they are going to finalise that piece of conspiracy and put the boots into the trade union movement by bringing in this very repressive legislation. Because the Government has the numbers, we are to be called upon to vote on this legislation tomorrow without using this House as the House of review which honourable senators opposite always say that it is.
What is the purpose of the legislation? The whole purpose of the legislation is to bring about a confrontation with the trade union movement and, as Senator Douglas McClelland and Senator Georges have pointed out, to hide the economic mess of this country. Of course the Government will go to the people as soon as it can and say that it wants a mandate to govern. Here we have a government in Canberra that has a massive majority in the House of Representatives. It also has a massive majority in this House. If it calls an election on this issue it is admitting to the electorate at large that it does not have the capacity to govern. It has the numbers and it can govern this country. It is proving to the people by its very actions in the other place today and the proposition put down by the Leader of the Government in the Senate that it does not have the capacity to govern. It has lost control of the economy and it is going to try to fool the people into believing that it has to have an election to give it the numbers so it can govern the country. That is something that we will use against the Government. I say to Senator Withers that he will not get away with it. The public at large will not be fooled on this issue as it was fooled on 1 1 November 1975 when the Liberal and National Country parties usurped the rights of the properly elected government.
Senator Georges said here tonight that he has overheard comments in the corridors to the effect that if this legislation is passed and it is used the Government will have to fall back on bringing in the troops to control the chaos that will erupt in this country. Of course we are well aware that we were on the verge of having the troops called out in November 1975. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that that is what the party opposite has in mind. It intends to govern the country at all costs. Senator Withers is on record in the Hansard on more than one occasion when he was in Opposition as saying that no sooner had the people of Australia made their views known in December of 1972 that they wanted a change of government when the then Opposition left no stone unturned to bring about the defeat of the Labor Government. It started at midnight on the night that it knew it was defeated. It frustrated us at every turn of the wheel. It forced the Whitlam Government to an election following the double dissolution in 1974. There was then a Joint Sitting of both Houses. What did we see? Legislation was passed. The then members of the Opposition would not even accept the will of the people on two occasions and the vote of the Joint Sitting of both Houses on all the contentious legislation which they had opposed in this Parliament at every turn of the wheel. They took the legislation to the High Court by way of challenge. That legislation was upheld. Being frustrated there, what did they do? They co-operated with the Governor-General to sack a properly elected government. They were successful.
Now they have the numbers in both Houses they find that they are unable to fulfil the policies that they put forward and the promises that they made to the electorate of Australia. They have the numbers in both Houses. Now, because of their inability to govern, they want to cook up this harebrained scheme to bring in this repressive legislation and try to fool the people into believing that it is the trade union movement and the workers of this country frustrating them in their efforts to govern. Mr Street is on record as saying only a few days ago that in the early part of this year we had the lowest number of industrial stoppages for a decade or more. Yet on the television program This Day Tonight, when both he and Mr Sinclair were properly trounced by Mr Willis, Mr Young and Mr Hawke, he was trying to tell the public that the legislation was needed because of the industrial chaos in the country. But in his very own words just a few days ago he said that in the early pan of this year the number of industrial stoppages was the lowest that it had been for a decade. So they are talking with forked tongues. I want to lodge the strongest protest against what Senator Withers has proposed here tonight. We will not let him forget it. He will never again be able to argue that the Senate is a House of review. It is nothing more than a rubber stamp for the Liberal Party when it is in government. It is nothing more than a House of frustration when the Australian Labor Party is in office and does not have the numbers in this place.
– in reply-I can understand the problems that have occurred. Senator Douglas McClelland adverted to a conversation which I had this afternoon with Senator Wriedt. I did see Senator Wriedt. Normally I would not disclose what happens between Senator Wriedt and me outside this chamber but as Senator McClelland has disclosed the fact that we had a meeting I think that I am entitled to put my side of the case. I did say to Senator Wriedt that there was no intention of the Government to do anything startling this afternoon and that in fact it was a rumour. I said that. It was true at the time and I said it honestly. I know that one should not normally disclose what happens, but at 2.45 p.m. today the Government was informed that the Federal Executive of the people who are causing industrial turmoil in the Post Office had lost control of a State branch and it was at that time and at that time only that the Government decided that the Senate would sit tomorrow.
– When did you prepare the legislation?
-The intention was that we would deal with the Bill next Tuesday because we thought that those involved in the dispute in the Post Office in Sydney would have had enough sense and enough decency to pick up the offer which Commissioner Sweeney had obtained from the Postal Commission, that all bans be lifted for 7 days and within that 7-day period the Postal Commission and the union would negotiate a settlement. It was in the expectation that the unionists concerned in Sydney would accept a sensible, reasonable, rational solution put by Commissioner Sweeney that the Government intended to put the legislation through the House of Representatives today and bring it into the Senate for debate on Tuesday. One of the Opposition speakers said that the Government was remiss in not consulting those who are going to be most affected by the legislation. Let me say this, Mr President: The Government is elected to look after the whole of the Australian electorate and it has a duty to look after all Australians.
– You have a duty to the unemployed.
-It is no use Senator Cavanagh trying to divert me. The simple fact is that we have a duty to those who wish to use the mail services of this nation, who pay money, put stamps on letters and post them. They are entitled to have been delivered. When a union branch, in defiance of its Federal Executive’s recommendations, decides that it will not lift industrial bans so that there may be negotiations between the employer and the union to solve the dispute, the Government has no option but to step in and protect the public interest. I put that in the lowest possible key. In any event, Mr President, I thought we were talking about whether or not we ought to come back tomorrow. Also it seems that what honourable senators opposite used to consider the biggest issue before the country- namely, the uranium issue- has been washed out of their hair. They are more interested in talking about this proposal. I intend to be fairly brief so that we can get back and finish the debate tonight. I meant to thank the Opposition this morning for giving up General Business so that this matter of national importance might be debated all day today. Mr President, I hope that no honourable senator will ever claim that he is being personally inconvenienced because the House of Parliament to which he is elected has to sit.
– We cannot get a plane home tomorrow night.
– There we go. I am most surprised. Senator, if you cannot get a plane home tomorrow night I will arrange transport for you even if I have to get you a push bike. Senator Mulvihill, that very fit colleague of yours, could most likely pick-a-back you right home without any problem.
– That is your whole attitude. You joke over the crisis of the country.
-The crisis that Senator Cavanagh cannot get home tomorrow night? I only hope that the Remuneration Tribunal does not read those remarks. One ought not to complain about these matters. I am not trying to be provocative. I wanted to do this as calmly as possible. After all, Senator McLaren made a speech that was more than provocative and I can understand why he did so.
– I was entitled to. I have read the legislation and your people have not.
-Get up tomorrow and speak about it -
– I will.
-Perhaps you will not get on the list of speakers.
– I will be on it.
-We will have to call quorums because you will empty the chamber. I think that really the Government has good and sufficient reasons for asking the Senate to sit tomorrow. I am certain in my own mind, in spite of what -
– You have seven supporters behind you.
-There were seven Opposition supporters here also when honourable senators from your side were speaking. I wrote it down on my pad. I thought that on this great issue for which you were fighting so much you would have had the place full of senators. I am quite certain that no honourable senator believes that he ought to shirk his duty. When the Government believes in the national interest that a House of Parliament ought to meet, I am quite certain that honourable senators believe that they ought to do their duty, to sit, to debate and to consider legislation.
That the motion (Senator Withers’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I lay on the table the report of the Reserve Bank Board on the operations of the Reserve Bank of Australia, together with financial statements and reports of the Auditor-General thereon for the year ended 30 June 1977.
-A tremendous degree of heat and emotion has been generated over the uranium inquiry. I do not believe that it is fair to say that the debate has not been extensive. We have had debate in both Houses of the Parliament. It has been debated on television and on radio. It has been debated in every paper in the country. There have been demonstrations. There have been debates at schools throughout the whole of the community. The Friends of the Earth have been putting forward one side of the argument and the Uranium Producers Forum has been putting the other side. I believe that if we look at the Fox report, which is perhaps the most comprehensive report available and the most unbiased report, then we are not doing too badly. We have heard Opposition supporters quoting from all sorts of sources but I do suggest that we should keep to the Fox report. If honourable senators on both sides did that then the debate would have some meaning.
I would like to look as this subject in a most unemotional way because I am an unemotional person. The first reactor has been working for 35 years now and that is something of which I do not believe the majority of the community are aware. We have had the first reactor working for 35 years. The first commercial reactor has been working for 2 1 years.
– Where is that, Senator?
– I have a paper here. I will let you know.
– Twenty-one years without any problems?
– It has been working for 2 1 years without any problems, as you say, Senator. The first uranium ore was mined 66 years ago in 1 9 1 1 , so let us get this in perspective.
– That was uranium ore?
– It was uranium ore as we know it now- not the Madame Curie type, et cetera, but uranium ore as we know it now. Let us get this in perspective. The country has known -
- Mr President, I draw your attention to the state of the Senate.
– A quorum is not present. Ring the bells.
The bells being rung -
– Order! Senator Gietzelt has just left the chamber. An honourable senator shall not leave the Senate during the ringing of the bells.
The bells continuing to ring -
– Order ! A quorum is present.
– I raise a point of order. In view of the fact that someone left the chamber contrary to the Standing Orders- and I think you, sir, have asked the Black Rod to recall the honourable senator- I wonder whether we should proceed until such time as the Standing Orders -
– Order! Senator Gietzelt is now in the chamber. I must point out to you, Senator Gietzelt, that when a quorum is called and bells are ringing no honourable senator may leave the chamber.
-During the ringing of the bells to form the quorum I found a piece of information in which Senator Melzer may be interested. The first commercial nuclear reactor was completed at Calder Hall in the United Kingdom in September 1956. So you might be interested in that, Senator. I think perhaps, as I said, that if we stick to the Fox Report we will not be doing too badly. If we look at page 3 of the second Fox report we find that the report says- and says very definitely:
We are of the view that total renunciation of intention to supply is undesirable.
If we bear that in mind during the debate I think it would be a very good thing. Firstly, let us realise that the uranium issue is a fait accompli.
Twenty countries already are operating power stations. They are Argentina, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Finland, France, East Germany, West Germany, India, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.
– It is not a fait accompli.
-It is a fait accompli. They are already getting electricity from 181 power stations. Those honourable senators opposite who say that uranium is not a fait accompli are not facing the facts. There are five countries with seven fast breeder reactors. There are 352 research reactors with 2 1 under construction. Those honourable senators opposite who say that it is not a fait accompli are not facing facts. Will it make any difference at all to the world situation if Australia exports uranium? At page 69 the Fox report states:
It states further:
Clearly, the development of nuclear power in the rest of the world can continue whether or not Australian uranium is made available.
We come to the question of whether or not we should mine our uranium- not whether the other countries should be using it. As I said earlier, that is a fait accompli.
– They cannot use it if we do not mine it.
– They are already mining it and producing electricity from it. Let us not say that if Australia does not mine uranium the rest of the world cannot use it. That is ridiculous. The Fox report points out very clearly that if Australia fails to mine uranium it will not make the slightest difference to the rest of the world. It will still use uranium for electricity.
– But why kill a few more thousand people?
– Order! There are too many interjections. Every honourable senators has had or will have an opportunity to speak in this debate. I ask honourable senators to allow Senator Walters to express her point of view with reasonable freedom. I call Senator Walters. ( Quorum formed.)
-As I said earlier, five countries already have fast breeder reactors. This is the danger. As Senator Young said so eloquently this afternoon -
– I rise to a point of order. I think that debate today has gone quite well so far. I think that Senator Walters is reading from a script prepared by the uranium lobby- an outside organisation. I do not think it has anything to do with the Senate.
– There is no substance to the point of order.
– The remark should be withdrawn.
– I ask Senator Keeffe to withdraw that remark. I have notes in front of me which I am happy to show you, Mr President. I am not reading from any script whatsoever.
– A despicable suggestion.
– I rise to a point of order. The imputation was that Senator Walters’ speech was prepared by outside interests. That is obviously objectionable and should be withdrawn.
– I should like to speak to the point of order. The interjection made by Senator Wright to Senator Keeffe ‘s suggestion that the speech was prepared outside the chamber is pretty hollow. The same applies to Senator Walters. We held a debate in this chamber some months ago about the right of honourable senators to read speeches. I want to make this point clear now: I do not alter my stand for one moment. I believe that if Senator Walters wishes to come in here and read a speech she should be entitled to do so. But it is pretty false when a point of order is taken and not supported after the Senate fully debated this subject and overwhelmingly came to the conclusion- against my better judgment- that honourable senators are not entitled to read speeches. If my memory serves me correctly, one of the arguments used by Senator Wright on that occasion was that honourable senators should not come in here and read speeches that might have been prepared by persons who are not members of this Parliament. I have always said that that is a judgment for the individual senator. At least one honourable senator and possibly two honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber tonight have taken position completely contrary to the positions they took when this matter was debated some months ago. I put it to you, Mr President, that in view of the Senate’s decision of some months ago if Senator Walters is reading her speech she has no right to do so.
– Order! Senator Walters has denied that she is reading her speech. Her denial will suffice as far as I am concerned. I call Senator Walters.
– I should like to speak to the point of order.
– Order! I have ruled on the point of order.
– I voted the same way as Senator Wriedt on that occasion. However, I am not reading my speech and my notes are exceedingly brief. When I first became a senator I may have read my speeches but I have not read any speeches since that debate on the reading of speeches took place. I have no intention of succumbing to those interjections from Senator Keeffe. I was saying: As Senator Young said so eloquently this afternoon the danger arises from the fast breeder reactors and from the plutonium that -
– That you approve of.
– Why do you not keep quiet?
– These dangers arise from the reprocessing of the reactor fuel.
– You have never heard of plutonium.
- Mr President, I object to the remarks passed by Senator Sim. I ask for a withdrawal of those remarks and an apology.
– What is the remark to which you object?
- Mr President, I withdraw the remarks, to please Senator Keeffe.
– These fast breeder reactors are very expensive for any country to build. Consequently, no country will indulge in building these fast breeder reactors if plenty of uranium is available. This is what Australia should be concerned about. If we keep plenty of uranium available there will be fewer fast breeder reactors. At present, very few high level waste products are being made.
-Senator Melzer says nonsense’. Perhaps her main trouble is that she has not read the first Fox report, because it states very clearly that at present little fuel is being reprocessed, so little high level waste is being produced. Let us keep it that way. Let Australia export its uranium and make uranium plentiful so there will not be additional fast breeder reactors. Australia has 21 per cent of the uranium available. North America has 41.8 per cent. Those figures relate to the reasonably assured resources. Of the estimated additional Western world resources Australia has 3.9 per cent, and North America has 77.7 per cent.
– You were not listening. (Quorum formed). I think my speech will be a lengthy one. I repeat: Of the reasonably assured resources Australia has 2 1 per cent, and North America has 41.8 per cent. Of the estimated resources Australia has only 3.9 per cent, and North America has 77.7 per cent. Surely it is obvious that if we fail to mine and export our 2 1 per cent of the reasonably assured resources, the other countries which have large estimated resources will do so. North America has an estimated 77.7 per cent. It will surely find and use that extra uranium.
I turn to page 68 of the first Fox report. lt was generally agreed in evidence that if Australia does not supply uranium to the rest of the world in the first half of the 1980s additional uranium mining and milling facilities will have to be established in other countries.
So the Fox report considered it a fait accompli that other countries would continue mining it and would find additional reserves. The report states that it will not make the slightest difference to cost. (Quorum formed). I think it ought to go on record that at the moment four Labor senators are present. There were 17 senators on this side of the chamber when a quorum was called. I think that demonstrates how importantly the Opposition is treating this debate. I return to the first Fox report and its conclusions about the position in the world supply of uranium if Australia did not mine and export its share. The report states that the position of all governments with nuclear power is clear; they support the maintenance and expansion of nuclear energy. So uranium will be mined.
Australia does not have to worry about nuclear energy. We have sufficient supplies of coal. We will not be establishing nuclear power stations for many years, if ever. As Senator Thomas said earlier Mr President, Australia has its black coal which, if it is not exported, will last us 400 years. We have brown coal that will last us 444 years. Our oil will last us only 14 years. Our natural gas will last 170 years. If we export our black coal our supplies will last us 210 years. I come now to solar energy. The first Fox report looked very carefully at this matter. It pointed out that the amount of solar energy available to a country in any one year was limited and that this depended on climate, suitable sites and available space. If solar energy were to produce the total energy supply for America, it would have to have an area of 9000 square miles. Not many countries have that much land available. Solar energy is a possibility for the future, but it has many problems.
Five very important questions are referred to in the second Fox report. The first relates to the dangers associated with uranium mining and milling. I think all people in Australia should read the first few pages of this report. In regard to the first question the report states:
The hazards of mining and milling uranium, if those activities are properly regulated and controlled, are not such as to justify a decision not to develop Australian uranium mines.
The first report states that yellowcake in itself is only slightly radioactive. The second important question raised in the latest report relates to the dangers associated with the operation of nuclear reactors. The report states:
The hazards involved in the ordinary operations of nuclear power reactors, if those operations are properly regulated and controlled, are not such as to justify a decision not to mine and sell Australian uranium.
The first Fox report, at page 98, states:
However, the overall safety record of the nuclear industry is a good one. British statistics show that the accident rate to nuclear power workers is less than the average accident rate for British industry as a whole.
The third question is concerned with the problems associated with the safe disposal of nuclear wastes. The Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry reported:
While we do not think that the waste situation is at present such as to justify Australia wholly refusing to export uranium, it is plain that the situation demands careful watching and, depending on developments, regular and frequent reassessment. If, even in a few years, satisfactory disposal methods have not been established, it may well be that supplies of uranium by Australia should be restricted, or even terminated. This would in any ordinary case only be done after consultation with the purchasing country, which would probably also be the country where the wastes would be and which would therefore be more directly affected by the problem.
Let us not forget that the report says also:
If Australian uranium is only mined and milled for export … no material of value to terrorists would be produced in this country.
The next question concerns the dangers of the diversion of fissile material for terrorist purposes. The report states:
In our view, the possibility of nuclear terrorism merits energetic consideration and action at the international level. We do not believe that this risk alone constitutes a sufficient reason for Australia declining to supply uranium.
Those are four of the main questions asked. The fifth question is concerned with the dangers of the diversion of fissile material for nuclear weapons- the problem of nuclear proliferation. This question worried not only the members of the Fox Committee but also the Government. The Fox Committee report states:
We were, and are, of the view that the most serious danger is that referred to . . . that of proliferation of nuclear weapons.
The report continues:
We suggest that the questions involved are of such importance that they be resolved by Parliament.
Let me quote what the Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, had to say on this aspect in his speech of 24 May 1977. The Prime Minister said:
The Government fully accepts that if it were in future to permit new uranium export from Australia, this would carry with it added responsibilities.
This implies a requirement for selectivity in the choice of customer countries and the closest attention to ensuring adequate safeguards. It is not the Government’s view that safeguards should be regarded as something to be balanced against commercial considerations. We view adequate safeguards as a fundamental pre-requisite of any uranium export which we would also expect responsible customer countries for Australian uranium readily to accept.
The Prime Minister goes on to point out those safeguards that he considers most necessary. Dealing with the main worry expressed in the second Fox Report, the Prime Minister announced the specific components of the comprehensive safeguards policy which the Government had adopted. These were: the need to keep policy under review; careful selection of eligible customers for uranium; the application of effective International Atomic Energy agency safeguards; bilateral agreements with customer countries; fallback safeguards; prior Australian Government consent in relation to reexport, enrichment and re-processing; physical security; safeguards provisions in contracts; and international and multilateral efforts to strengthen safeguards.
I believe that the Prime Minister and our Government can implement these safeguards and that Australia, as a responsible country, ought to enter into these contracts. If we do so, we will be behaving in a responsible fashion as one of the major uranium developers in the world. It is up to us to determine how much plutonium that is capable of being used in a bomb is to be manufactured in the world. If we decide to supply our uranium and then maintain that supply at a plentiful level, fewer fast breeder reactors will be necessary in the world.
I wish to correct one of the quotations made by an honourable senator opposite. I think it was Senator Melzer who said that the incidence of cancer was 400 times greater in the case of a miner in a uranium mine. I am not sure whence she obtained that figure but it certainly was not from the Fox Report. That report states:
The Australian Code of Practice recommends a maximum radon decay-product intake of 4 WLM per year, corresponding to an average concentration of 0.33 WL throughout the year. This standard is as restrictive as that in force anywhere in the world, and corresponds to a cumulative intake of 120 WLM over a 30 year period.
The Code recommends a maximum cumulative intake of radon decay-product intake of 120 working level months. That example relates to a miner breathing in this radon decay-product level for 42 hours a week for 30 years of his life. That is the situation if the level stiplated by the Australia Code of Practice is adhered to. (Quorum formed). I was saying that I do not know where Senator Melzer obtained her figures because the Fox Report certainly does not say what she contended. It does say that if the Australian Code of Practice recommendation as to the maximum radon decay-product cumulative intake of 120 WLM is adopted- that is, a miner breathing this radon level for 42 hours a week for 30 years- the miner exposed to that intake shows no different level of lung cancer to the normal lung cancer incidence detected in the rest of the Australian population. Miners exposed to higher levels however do show a higher than normal incidence of lung cancer. So if we stick to the Australia Code of Practice there should be no additional risk of lung cancer for those working in the mines. The report deals with a study of uranium miners in Colorado conducted by the United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. It states:
The study indicates that the risk of contracting lung cancer is about 8 times greater for miners who smoke cigarettes than for non-smoking miners.
I think the argument advanced by the honourable senator was a red herring. I conclude by repeating that how much plutonium is produced in the world is up to Australia. If we care to export our uranium and to keep that uranium in plentiful supply, there is far less likelihood of the dangerous fast breeder reactors being used throughout the world.
-Mr President -
– I wonder how many of his supporters will come in to listen to him.
-They have probably heard all the arguments by now so they are probably doing more productive things. Since Senator Walters has been a member of the senate we have been accustomed to expecting speeches of no great substance and we were not disappointed tonight. But she did make one comment which I shall refer to immediately and come back to later. Not only did she make it once but she made it many times. She said that the rest of the world could go on using uranium and developing their nuclear industries. She said this as though the rest of the world was doing this when of course we know that the rest of the world is not. A very select number of countries are doing so but the great bulk of the world is not and cannot even hope, for reasons which I shall mention shortly, ever to enjoy- certainly not within the foreseeable future, anyway- any benefits that may accrue from the development of the nuclear industry.
– There are some 46 countries which are using nuclear power. Many of them are major trading countries.
– Yes, Senator, I listened to your speech also. I shall cite some of your figures shortly which will tend to reinforce the point I wish to make. So if you are patient I shall give them to you shortly. I think that today we have heard most of the arguments advanced for and against the development of the nuclear power industry. It would be idle to suggest that there are not cogent arguments on both sides. That is why I am amazed at the contribution that Senator Walters has just made in which everything seems to be so simple and straightforward. Apparently there are no reasons why we should concern ourselves as to the development of the industry; we need not worry about the sickness factor, cancer and so on. In fact I think Senator Melzer put up a very convincing argument, sufficient to deter anybody from involving themselves in the mining of uranium. Senator Walters appeared to brush off that sickness factor as being of no significance. Well, after the argument advanced by Senator Melzer, I would certainly pay much more concern to that factor.
I want to concentrate my remarks on an aspect which I think has not been given much consideration during the course of this debate. It revolves around this question of the rest of the world. I come back to some figures cited by Senator Young. I think they came from the Fox report. Senator Young said that there were already 180 reactors operating throughout the world, with 300 under construction and a further 300 being planned. I want the Senate to consider what this means in terms of investment. One of the strong arguments according to those who support the mining and export of uranium from Australia is that we have a responsibility to the rest of the world to sell our uranium. They say that if we do not care about the rest of the world we will leave uranium in the ground; but if we really care about the rest of the world, we will export the uranium. But to whom will we export it? We will export it to the countries which today are far and away the greatest consumers of energy and the greatest consumers of all material things that are being produced. If we are to consider just how much chance these other countries have within our lifetime of deriving any benefits from the nuclear industry, we must look at the facts. Figures have been given to us on the amount of investment that has been put into the development of these nuclear reactors. On page 23 of volume 18, No. 1, of the International Atomic Energy Agency bulletin, there is a table which shows the construction costs of various types of plants for nuclear development. I did not advise the Minister that I intended to seek leave to incorporate this table in Hansard, but I now seek leave of the Senate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Drake-Brockman)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
-The table shows that in 1975 the cost of construction of a conversion plant was $US50m; the cost of an enrichment plant was $US !000m and the cost of a fuel fabrication plant varied between $US100m and $US200m. The cost of a reprocessing plant was $US 1000m and the cost of a mere storage facility for spent fuel was $US2Om. Of course today all of those costs would be much higher. Let us assume that the average cost of these reactors worked out at $500m. When we first talked about the development of a nuclear reactor in Australia- I suppose that would be about four or five years ago- that figure was originally nominated. So we would be approximately right if we averaged out the cost of those reactors throughout the world at that figure. That means that the total investment so far has been of the order of $250,000m. Just let us consider that figure. As my argument revolves around the capacity of the developing countries to avail themselves of the nuclear industry, it is well to consider what that amount means in the light of the amount of money the developed countries have made available to the underdeveloped countries over the years. The World Bank record for the 10 years 1967 to 1976, shows that the total loans outstanding over that 10 year period amounted to a mere $22,000m. They were not grants to developing countries; they were loans which those developing countries had to repay. So the amount that has been invested alone in those 1 80 reactors- I am sorry, I am including the 300 under construction in that figure. I correct myself. That figure is the number built and the number under construction.
– Ha, ha!
– If you think it is funny, Senator, you ought to leave the chamber, because it is not a funny matter. Just because I made some arithmetical mistake, it is not funny. I suggest that you treat the matter a little more seriously. That $240,000m represents 10 times the amount which the developed countries, through the World Bank, the main instrument, have been able to make available in loans to the developing countries. If we go on with the planned program, by the turn of the century or the year 2010, we will find that at least double that amount will be required for the development of these reactors, the infrastructure and all the rest of it. I might add that the International Atomic Energy Agency points out that 90 per cent of that amount will be invested in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. The rest, more than $490,000m, is the amount that the OECD countries will invest in their development. The balance, that miniscule amount, will go to developing countries. The reason is that they just have not the capacity to do it. What we are doing by getting ourselves further involved in the nuclear industry is locking these vast amounts of capital into the rich countries of the world that already have per capita incomes 10, 20, 50 times greater than those of the poorer countries.
So how can the argument be advanced that one of the reasons for developing the nuclear industry is that the developing world needs it. The developing world will not have a hope of capitalising on any benefits that flow from a nuclear industry. Of course there has been the odd project in India and Pakistan. They are of miniscule proportions when compared with the places to which our uranium would go. Our uranium will not go to those countries. It will go to the countries that already have more than they need. That includes ourselves. If we have any concern and care about the rest of the world- this term is so loosely used- we will think about the countries which really need assistance. Assistance will not come in the form of sending them uranium; it will come in the form of helping in their development. I hope that it is apparent to any person who claims to be of good intent and who uses the argument that we must export for the benefit of the developing countries that that argument is not sustainable. At the same time will these countries have any hope of paying for the necessary expertise and technology? They will not.
I read an interesting comment by a delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency Conference in Vienna in 1975. The delegate was from Indonesia and explained the difficulties confronting developing countries. I refer to Mr Abdullah Kamil, the Chairman of the Indonesian delegation to the 19th general conference of the IAEA. He said:
My delegation listened with great interest to the statement made by the Chief Delegate of the Philippines in which he gave facts and figures illustrating the very high cost involved in the building of nuclear power plants. It will be very interesting to know of the reasons and causes of such an enormous increase in the cost of bringing light and power through nuclear energy to the less prosperous countries. Is this caused by the inflation which is showing signs of abating? Can the higher price of oil instituted in 1973 be once again used to blame an increase in 1975 prices? Or is it perhaps due to the very high price developing countries must pay for scientific knowledge and technological know-how which are in the hands of a very few countries.
That is the essence of the problem. It becomes much more difficult as time goes on. The cost of obtaining the technology, the sheer infrastructure and the construction in regard to development programs is always greater in developing countries than it is in developed countries. It becomes more and more difficult. We in the developed world press on, victims of our own mad race for more and more of everything while the developing countries will fall further and further behind. Every country that assists and takes part in this program is taking part in that development. That is one of the factors why we as a nation are wrong to make up our minds now and say: ‘Yes, we will export uranium’ or ‘No, we will not export uranium’. It appears that this Government is to say very shortly: ‘Yes we will’. The Opposition is prepared at this stage to say that we do not believe it is possible now to make a judgment because of all the factors involved, not only the things I have been talking about but also because of the truth that there is no solution to the wast problem at this time. They surely are sufficiently powerful arguments for us not to become involved and locked into this nuclear rat race that is going on in the developed world.
Again we have the problems of safety for any developing country that might proceed with this industry. It requires great expertise and very great technical know-how. How are these people expected to find all these things and pay for them if we continue to press on with this madness of consumption into which we have locked ourselves. It is not so much that the developed countries basically must have the energy. The fact is that we cannot satisfy ourselves. There seems to be no end to it. I do not intend to speak much longer. I understand that one of my colleagues, Senator Button, if he is able to get on to the speaking list, will dwell more on this subject later on. He will outline the problems that we get ourselves into by this mad rat race of technology and the consumption drive. I hope that the Senate will have an opportunity to listen to him. I do not believe that any of us are wise in taking hard and fast decisions on this matter. I said when we began that there are cogent arguments for and against the nuclear debate in Australia. I am not one who says that forever and a day there will no export of uranium. I believe that would be a wrong thing to say. If ever we do make the decision to export we should do it knowing that the safeguards are adequate and that we as one of the world community at least have done whatever we can and will continue to do whatever we can to ensure that the rest of the world can receive benefits from this increase in technology.
-The Senate is debating the second report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry and the ministerial statement on nuclear safeguards. This is a very important debate and gives members ofthe Senate a chance to intervene and comment on a matter on which the Government has not yet announced its policy. I regard this as an important opportunity to put down a position statement in advance of the Government’s decision and to set out the reasons which I think are relevant in regard to the future of uranium and to make a number of observations.
I have been disappointed at the contribution of some members of the Opposition but listened with great interest to the Leader of the Oppostion (Senator Wriedt). He advanced the argument, I believe, that developing countries cannot afford the costs of developing nuclear energy. He set out some of the reasons. I think he is aware that developing countries do need light and power and that they will be looking to some means of satisfying their needs.
The honourable senator will be as aware as anyone else that there is a lot of discussion at present about the need to develop what is known as intermediate technology, to move away, as Senator Wriedt said, from the use of high technology in countries where it is inappropriate, to the use of a lower grade of technology. This could be appropriate in the development of energy for some of the developing nations. I agree that we do not need necessarily to seek for some developing nations the high technology and high cost techniques where these cost jobs and divert capital and what might be scarce human resources. No one will disagree that if it is inappropriate to force uranium on particular nations perhaps we should not do so. However, the honourable senator has not established by that argument at all the propositions that we in Australia should not mine uranium. He has not established the proposition that we should not use uranium or that we should not sell uranium. This, in the end, is what the debate is about.
This debate gives us a chance to set down what we think should be the safeguards and what we think should be some of the principles which should guide the formation of policy. It is appropriate at this stage that I should make special mention of the contribution to the Senate today by my colleague, Senator Collard. It was, I believe, one of the most useful and balanced presentations I have heard on the subject of uranium policy. I believe that the honourable senator is to be congratulated.
It has been put to Australians that uranium is inherently unsafe. It is said that because it is unsafe to mine it may be unsafe to use and to dispose of the by-products. The conclusion reached by the Australian Labor Party at least is that because of this we should leave uranium where is is. The available facts do not support this argument. It is an argument for which there is no logical framework.
In attempting to understand the issues, evaluate them and reach a considered judgment, I have been disappointed by the shrill voices raised in the community from the extremists on both sides of the argument. Honourable senators may care to direct their attention to the Fox report. It draws our attention to the same point when it states:
In considering the evidence, we have found that many wildly exaggerated statements are made about the risks and dangers of nuclear energy production by those opposed to it. What has surprised us more is a lack of objectivity in not a few of those in favour of it, including distinguished scientists. It seems the subject is one very apt to arouse strong emotions, both in opponents and proponents … I regret to say that the input which we have received from the community has been of poor quality, has made it difficult to evaluate where the true facts are and has made it difficult for a rational argument to emerge.
But it has emerged and my colleagues have drawn attention in some detail to what the environmental inquiry found. It is worth just repeating some of the conclusions. First Mr Justice Fox found that under the procedures laid down in the Australian code of practice for the operation of uranium mines, radiation from mining and milling is not such as to justify a ban on uranium exports. Similarly the commissioners found that the next steps of uranium processing are considered to involve only a few problems. The Ranger report finds little danger from a reactor accident whereby vast amounts of radioactivity could be liberated into the atmosphere. The Fox inquiry supports the findings of the Rasmussen study, an American study on the safety of reactors. The report goes on to suggest that some of the dangers involved in the extraction and use of alternative sources of fuel, some of the fossil fuels, particularly coal may be greater than those involved in the extraction and use of uranium.
These facts are worth having before us. It is not the only study available. I believe it may have been Senator Melzer who earlier today referred to the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution under the chairmanship of Sir Brian Flowers which reported to Her Majesty’s Government in Great Britain in September 1 976. The findings of this study tend to show that it is possible to justify on perfectly proper grounds the use and development of nuclear power in Britain.
The Australian Government has responded to the findings of the Fox inquiry by developing our own safeguards. These safeguards were contained in the Government’s statement of policy on nuclear safeguards announced by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) which forms part of the subject of this debate. It is sufficient to say that the safeguards outlined by the Prime Minister on behalf of our Government went beyond those suggested by Mr Justice Fox. They went beyond those suggested by Sir Brian Flowers. We have identified the safeguards. We have confirmed and expressed our concern. We have gone on record as to the position we take. We have taken a position more strict, more cautious and more secure and have made it clear that we do not intend to compromise or move away from it. That at least should be acknowledged because these are all elements in the background to a policy which the Government will announce.
We know that around the world there is considerable public support for the use of uranium and nuclear power. Honourable senators will be aware that 42 million people or about 20 per cent of the citizens of the United States of America, in seven States, had a chance to vote at referendums giving them a chance to say in their own States whether there would or would not be use of nuclear power in their own areas. By a majority averaging out at between 65 per cent and 70 per cent they determined the vote in every case in favour of the use of uranium and in favour of the development of nuclear power. For those who have a belief in the value of the democratic vote, for those who trust the public, these findings are quite reassuring. In Australia, as honourable senators would know, the position is less clear. Several different polls have been conducted. Senator Keeffe referred to one earlier tonight. We asked him for the source and he has been kind enough to supply it to me. It shows that Australians are pretty evenly divided at the moment on the mining and export of uranium. A slight minority is in favour of mining it but about 59 per cent of the people are in favour of sending it overseas if it is mined. The Australian populace was fairly evenly divided on this question when last polled.
If we can just talk briefly about the process of mining uranium, I note that it has been said already that we have already had some demarcation disputes between the trade unions determined to have control of the mining of uranium when it is approved. They have no doubt what the outcome will be. They are now fighting for the spoils. The uranium available in our major deposits is surface uranium easily accessible by a very simple process. It is present in vast supplies readily available. One deposit of uranium is available in part of the country where Aborigines have been living. It has not been possible to identify so far in those Aborigines any health hazards or bad health effects. In commenting on the amount of uranium available in this country, Mr Justice Fox, made this comment on page 39 of his report:
This is one of the facts that we have to acknowledge and recognise. We are a world in need of energy. We are a world in need of safe, clean, low cost energy and we must at least consider uranium as a source of this energy. There is a highly developed technology for the mining of uranium. There is an international commission on radiological protection which has set down the medical safeguards which are to be employed for those involved in uranium mining and technology. It monitors the exposure and the dosage of anyone involved in the industry. This system has been refined over decades and has been effective in protecting those in the industry.
There are vast amounts of coal. I note that my colleague, Senator Walters, in her contribution set out some of the amounts of coal reserves likely to be available in Australia. Nevertheless let us not forget that the extraction of coal is dangerous. It is much more dangerous than the extraction of uranium. It is dangerous because of the traumas, mine accidents, mine cave-ins and explosions. It is dangerous because of the long term effects upon the miners. We are being told about the potential hazards of uranium but it has been my misfortune over the years to have to treat people with the actual disabilities which have come from miners’ lung, from chronic obstructive airways disease directly attributable to their involvement in the coal mining industry. The generation of electricity from coal is associated with environmental damage far in excess of that which has occurred or which would occur from uranium use. The expense of coal is greater than the expense of uranium. It is worth noting that there are projections on the amount of the world’s energy which will be derived from different sources. A table appears at page 1 1 of the annual report for 1975-76 of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission which sets out the contributions which will be made from fossil fuels, hydro-electric and geothermal energy and nuclear energy in 1973, 1985 and the year 2000. Mr Acting Deputy President, I showed the table to Senator Mulvihill when he was keeping the House for the Opposition, to Senator Cotton and to the President I seek leave to have the table incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- Is leave granted?
There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
– With regard to the processing of uranium, the processing planned for this country is simple. It involves the crushing and chemical treatment of the rock taken from the ground so that we can extract the yellowcake, or uranium oxide, U3O8. Generally the yellowcake contains more than 90 per cent uranium. That is what we are talking about extracting and developing in this country at the present time.
Let me go on to talk a little about reactors and the reactor process. Let us acknowledge that many of the reactors being developed are being developed for the generation of electricity. Heat is released from the nuclear reaction in a controlled fashion. This controlled release of heat is used to generate steam and the steam generates electricity. We know that at the end of 1 975 there were 157 reactors operative in 19 countries in the world. That means that we have an established industry, an established technology. I am not saying that it does not require supervision or care but it is established and had been established for enough years to let us have a look at what can happen and at whether or not it is safe.
Let us talk about the reactor process and let us look at the safety factors. We know that the reactors cannot explode. A lot of the public do not know that The way the waters have been muddied by some of the contributions to the public debate, it is no wonder. The reactors used to generate electricity cannot explode. The thing that could occur in a disaster is that they could melt down. There could be release of radioactivity if that happened. Mr Justice Fox and Sir Brian Flowers both accept the safety involved in the reactor process as set out in what is known as the Rasmussen report as being adequate and appropriate at the present time. The record of this major industry at the present time is impressive. There are numerous accounts of the safety record. For example there is the Australian Financial Review of 10 October and the journal of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association in the uranium debate conducted on its pages, which I read with great interest. The statement on safety in the journal of the ACOA said:
No member of the public or employee in a commercial nuclear power plant has been killed in a radiation accident. There have been the normal construction, transport and other industrial accidents, but even these have been less in the nuclear industry, which now has 2000 reactor years of experience, than in the fossil fuel power undertakings. Nuclear reactors cannot blow up.
Even if we talk about the Brown’s Ferry incident in which two very foolish employees took a lighted candle to check for air leaks and there was a fire, the fact that emerges is that the reactor was closed down, that the safety processes did work, that they were adequate. This is the point that should be remembered. The Brown’s Ferry disaster told us that the procedures available there were adequate and that they succeeded.
Let us ask what contribution we are going to find from uranium to the radiation background to which we are going to be exposed. I am sure you would be aware, Mr Acting Deputy President, that you, Senator Button and all of us are emitting radiation at this moment. You would be aware that in the air we breathe there is radiation. There is no such thing as a nil radiation situation. The question is: How much radiation? How much is there in relation to what we consider to be safe level? Is it within acceptable limits and what contribution to that radiation level is made from various sources? One of my colleagues earlier gave some figures but I have a second table which I have shown to the same honourable senators as I mentioned before, which sets out the different sources of radiation in the United Kingdom in the bone marrow and in the reproductive cells. I seek leave to have that table incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
– The point that emerges is that naturally occurring radiation to which you and I and every other Australian is exposed comes largely from the atmosphere, from the soil and sometimes from within the body, from potassium which we take in in our drinking water and our food. A much smaller amount of radiation is taken in from medical sources. Honourable senators who have an X-ray will receive more radiation from that examination than they will receive from the effects of nuclear power generation in this or in any other country. If we take orders of magnitude we see that the naturally occurring radiation may contribute to bone marrow 101 millirems per year, medical radiation may contribute 46 millirems per year and the radiation from the nuclear power industry may contribute 0.25 millirems per year. These are the orders of magnitude we are discussing as they have been measured in Great Britain, They are the actual levels. It is important that we all get the opportunity to understand what these levels of radiation mean. Sir Brian Flowers’ report takes the matter a little further. In paragraph 53 of his report on page 1 9 he states:
It has been estimated that irradiation from medical X-ray examination (in which doses of about 100 mrem are given to bone marrow and of between 30 mrem and several rem to the skin) will give rise to one or two extra cases of leukaemia a year (compared with the spontaneous rate of 50-60 per year) for every million people involved.
They are the kinds of hazards, the kinds of doses that are needed. Sir Brian Flowers makes the point that medical radiation is a useful yardstick to take since it is quantitatively orders of magnitude greater than the radiation which you or I will receive from nuclear power reactors. Flowers says in relation to the people who worked at the Windscale plant in Britain:
On the basis of the information that we have been given about the doses of radiation that the men are likely to have received, we are not persuaded that any notable hazard has existed.
They are not members of the public; they are the people who work in that nuclear power generating facility. We must understand that there is no such thing as absolute safety. There is no safe motor car ride. Nothing is safe. All safety is relative. A call by a political party for a moratorium until safety is achieved is an empty and spurious call. There is no such thing. For honourable senators who are interested, there are some very useful publications dealing with safety theories. I know that Senator Button reads widely. He may care to examine the very good account which appeared in Nature- which I am sure is one of the honourable senator’s favourite journals- of 12 May this year at page 92 dealing with relative risks and the theory of risks. It tries to set out how to develop models. You do not do it by expecting, imagining or demanding that you can have zero risks in anything you do in this world. In science or in life all hypotheses can be falsified. That is one of the things about an hypothesis. In scientific terms we can never have absolute safety.
I want to talk now about some of the other uses of nuclear power and nuclear energy. First of all we must acknowledge what honourable senators have acknowledged today, that is, that nuclear energy has been used for weaponry. We know that a lot of this debate has developed around the question of power generation, but there are other important uses for nuclear power in this and in other countries. For example, there is extensive industrial use of radioisotopes. We have on-stream analysis of some production processes in the metal industry. We have analysis of bulk materials using radioactive processes. We have tests on safety in coal mines which are dependent upon nuclear technology, measuring radioactivity deliberately placed there to give a measure of safety in coalmining. In hydrology radioactive isotopes are being used for tracking water, liquids and gases. Even in the eradication of termites radioactivity is used to help identify the site of the nest to enable people to eradicate the pest.
Finally, and most importantly, radioactive technology is used in medicines in this and in every other country. The use of radioisotopes is now central and essential to the practice of medicine. I must say to the Senate that a political party which would advocate a policy at its national conference which would threaten our use of or our access to radioisotopes is a party which is irresponsible and ignorant of what goes on. The motion passed at the Labor Party Conference included the words that there should be no mining of uranium. I say to honourable senators opposite that we require uranium for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, not for generation of power in this country.
The radioisotopes we use in medicine can be made in two ways. They can be made from a nuclear reactor which is efficient, highly developed technology and cheap, or they can be made by a process, which is now obsolete, using accelerators or cyclotrons. It may interest honourable senators to know that we have no cyclotron process available in this country now to develop the kind of isotopes we require for diagnosis and the treatment of Australians. At the end of World War II a cyclotron was operated at the University of Sydney and, following the death by leukemia of one of the workers, it is interesting that the University of Sydney accepted liability and paid compensation for his death. I would say this to the Senate that with the safeguards that go with nuclear technology it is safer than the use of a cyclotron, and it is cheaper and more efficient.
Australia has two small reactors at Lucas Heights. One of them, the Hifar reactor, is used for the manufacture of our medical isotopes. I do not know how we would cope in this country if we did not have these available. The annual sale of radioisotopes produced by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission exceeded $lm in 1975-76. The main isotope produced and sold was an isotope of radioactive technetium. It is a short lived isotope, useful in a whole range of important diagnostic processes. Not only that, we exported some of these isotopes to other countries which required our assistance in supplying the radioactive isotopes that they required for the care of their own citizens.
The technology associated with the nuclear industry in Australia is sophisticated. It is high technology. It is not new. It is well proved. Since we do not live in a risk-free world we have to take a balance of whether the benefits we are deriving from nuclear technology properly applied outweigh the risks of things which have not happened and which I believe will not happen because of the safeguards in the industry now and because of the safeguards contained in the Government’s paper which we are discussing.
It is very interesting that we seldom see any advance in technology in this world without some sizable group of conservative thought opposed to it. For example, metric conversion. Generally the opposition comes from hidebound experts who cannot change, but in this case we have the interesting spectacle of the opposition coming from the mindless pursuit of a policy decided at a political conference which has bound all the members of the Labor Party and has removed from them the opportunity to give any independent consideration to this question in the light of developing knowledge and in the light of what may emerge. All honourable senators will be aware of the objections raised by some eminent Labor men to some of the proposals. I am impressed by the Canberra Times of 29 July in which we see that no less a person than Mr Bob Hawke has been told by his party that in spite of his own views he is to back the party’s policy, or else.
The fact is that the opposition of the Labor Party is on ideological grounds and it is just a pity that the lefties in the Labor Party who got this through their conference have not done something about convincing their friends in China to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty as other countries have. What would be the consequences to Australia if we were silly enough to listen to the Labor Party? Mr Dunstan has been known to say that there would be considerable economic costs to Australia. Does anyone doubt that? He said it would prejudice our relations with Japan. Does anyone doubt that? Those are the words of Labor men about some of the consequences which might flow.
If we do not mine uranium in this country a number of consequences will flow. The first is that we will have to start importing uranium because if we are to operate our own radioisotope production we will require uranium for our own reactors. Without that uranium we cannot carry out our own task of keeping our medical industry running. But more than that, if we stop mining, processing and exporting uranium, what effect will it have on the rest of the world? It is very likely that we would create a situation in which the only country to suffer from such an action would be Australia itself. It is ridiculous to think that we would inhibit the development of nuclear technology around the world. By mining and exporting our own uranium we have a chance to assist in the policy outlined by President Carter to assist in the policy of retarding or preventing the development of a plutonium industry which involved the recycling of uranium and which is more likely to develop if supplies of uranium oxide are difficult to find.
By exporting, we may in fact be doing something to assist in the rational use of nuclear energy in the world. The issues which have emerged in this debate are simple: There is no risk free world. All risks have to be balanced and are relative. The uranium mining industry is well controlled. The processing and the reactor history is good. I am disappointed at the Labor Party which has argued not for a moratorium but for an indefinite halt to the development of uranium in this country. I should like to draw attention to one of the statements by a very great American- one of the great men of this century. I am referring to Mr Adlai Stevenson. I think Senator Button, who is attempting to interject, would acknowledge that he is a man whom we all can respect for his intellect and for his intellectual honesty and integrity. He said:
There is no evil in the atom, only in men ‘s souls.
Mr Adlai Stevenson set down what I see as an essential component of this debate. The issue does not concern uranium or plutonium. I think that my colleague, Senator Collard, in his excellent contribution made this clear. There is nothing wrong with uranium or plutonium. What is wrong is with people who would misuse it. Over a period of decades now we have had the chance to observe what nuclear energy can do. In the profession which I have practised, it has added new dimensions to what we can do for people. But to use that technology I must have available uranium in our reactors. I must have available the means and the sources to get the radioactive isotopes that I require. Often they are very shortlived isotopes and often they are very difficult or impossible to import.
This country is continually developing greater prospects of helping people through medicine and through industry. The Australian Labor Party, in arguing for a risk free program, must acknowledge that no such thing exists. It must acknowledge, as Senator Collard stated, that no one argues that there is no risk at all associated with uranium technology. It is no good building castles in the air and trying to pull them down.
The fact is that we have a safe, effective and well controlled industry. Australia has developed good safeguards in relation to the use of uranium. I commend the statement and the report of the inquiry.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Motion (by Senator Durack) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– Order! I am sorry, Senator Cavanagh, there is no debate on this motion.
– Surely I can debate the question that the Bill be read a first time?
– It is not a money Bill.
– Surely a debate can be held if we are opposed to the Bill being read a first time. That is what I am opposed to.
– Order! Standing Orders do not provide for that course to be followed.
– I rise to a point of order. There is an essential difference between this Bill and a money Bill. On the motion for the first reading of a money Bill an honourable senator can speak on any matter which is either relevant or irrelevant to the Bill. Surely there can be no objection to an honourable senator speaking to the motion that a Bill be read a first time in the same way that honourable senators can speak to the motion that a Bill be read a third time.
– Order! There is no Standing Order in respect of the matter to which you refer.
– If there is no Standing Order we can proceed to oppose the motion, providing our remarks are relevant to the Bill.
– Order! Standing Order 1 89, which is the relevant Standing Order, states:
Except as to Bills which the Senate may not amend, the Question ‘That this Bill be now read a First time ‘shall be put by the President immediately after the same has been received, and shall be determined without Amendment or Debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The purpose of the Bill I am introducing to the Senate today is to enable Commonwealth Government employing authorities, in the public interest, to suspend from duty, or in appropriate circumstances dismiss, Government employees who take industrial action which disrupts the provision of services to the Australian community, and to stand-down, without pay, Government employees who cannot be usefully employed as a result of industrial action taken by fellow Government employees or by workers in private industry, or who are engaged on functions the performance of which is seriously disrupted.
The feature that distinguishes Government employees is their responsibility for providing the wide range of services essential to the wellbeing of a modern day community. If Government employees do not, or are not able because of the actions of others, to fulfil these responsibilities the effect reaches into the very fabric of our society. I do not need to remind honourable senators that the Australian community has been subjected to great inconvenience and hardship through the industrial actions of some government employees and their trade unions. It has been deprived of services to which it is entitled. One need only point to the current disruption to community mail services. The Government is not prepared to tolerate this type of situation. To do so would be to shirk its clear duty to protect the public interest.
Finally, let me emphasise that it would be the Government’s hope that it will not be necessary to use this legislation and it is the Government’s intention that this Bill will be passed by the Parliament but not be proclaimed to operate unless circumstances so dictate. Certainly it recognises that the very great majority of government employees and their unions have acted, and do act, responsibly. Indeed the legislation would not have been necessary but for the actions of a minority. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) adjourned.
– I move:
– I oppose the motion and, by way of amendment, move:
Leave out the next day of sitting, insert, Tuesday 23 August 1977.
The Government has indicated in the second reading speech of the Minister for Veterans Affairs (Senator Durack) that when the Bill is passed the Government does not intend to proclaim the Bill. Therefore, as I said earlier this evening, I am completely at a loss to understand why in another place the Government declared this Bill an urgent Bill and at 8 o’clock tonight the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) sought the adjournment of a nationally important debate on the question of uranium and moved that the Senate adjourn until 9.30 tomorrow. I would have thought that if this Government were fair dinkum it would be saying that it needed this Bill as a matter of urgency. What it has said, what the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has said in his second reading speech, is that when the Bill is passed by the Parliament it is not the intention of the Government to seek proclamation of the Bill. The Government will have it hanging over the heads of workers in industry, like the sword of Damocles.
This is the greatest farce that I have ever seen made of this Parliament. We have not seen the Bill. We have not been given the opportunity of having it discussed by our party’s executive. We have not been given the opportunity of having it looked at by our party’s industrial committee. We have not been given the opportunity of having it looked at, discussed and debated by our parliamentary party as a whole. Yet the Government is telling us that the Senate must sit tomorrow as a matter of urgency to get the Bill debated by the Parliament and then, when the Bill is put through, the Government will say that it will not be proclaimed.
Unless what? Unless what? Unless what? I have given honourable senators opposite three chances to add to the conjunction, but not one of them has responded. Tonight is a very sad night for democracy in this country. It is a very sad night for the institution of parliament. It is a very sad night for good industrial relations in this country. It is a very sad night because of the way in which the Executive Government is riding roughshod over the affairs of Parliament. Because of the attitude adopted by the Minister in his second reading speech, when he had the audacity to say that notwithstanding what happens tomorrow it is not the intention of the Government to have the Bill proclaimed, I have moved the amendment that the resumption of the debate be made an Order of the Day for Tuesday, 23 August.
– I second the amendment, although I am not too happy about the debate being resumed on Tuesday of next week. I think we are a responsible organisation and, as was told to us in November 1975, we have a responsibility to democracy and a responsibility for the democratic process. I do not think this House, with its august personnel and its responsibilities, should ever stoop to degrade itself by taking the step that the other place has taken. It is something that destroys the whole democratic process and our way of living. I think it is contrary to the principles on which we are elected.
There is a history to this matter. It was unfortunate that Senator Withers, as the mover of a motion this evening that we sit tomorrow, insisted on his right of reply when an Opposition member was on his feet and wanted to contribute something to that debate. I think if Senator Withers had not taken the unusual course of gagging the debate by replying he would have heard Senator Colston give good, logical reasons which I think would have convinced even the other side of the House of the justification for our not sitting tomorrow to debate this question. Senator Withers, as usual, tries to make fun of the whole question. He does not realise- I do not know whether he is sufficiently mature to realise- the seriousness of the legislation.
If the other House does not accept its responsibility, our responsibility is to guard the democratic rights and principles of the Australian community. After we debated the trade practices legislation and after it was gagged- there was no discussion in the Committee stage- I adjourned from here to a Minister’s office with Senator Wright. He was ropable about the question. He said: ‘We could have showed up that Bill if they had given us a day to debate this question’.
– You had a day, and you could not do it.
-We did not have a day. We had no Committee stage. We could have showed up that Bill as impossible, incompetent and undesirable. We will have the same situation tomorrow with this Bill. We will have to fit in a second reading stage, a Committee stage and a third reading stage. There is not a clause in this Bill that does not need some clarification or some criticism. It is not a job that can be done in a day if we are to carry out our duty. Therefore, if we are to entertain the Bill, we must see that a period longer than a day’s sitting is set down to consider this vital legislation. It is peculiar that all repressive industrial legislation seems to be restricted to a one-day hearing so there can be no discussion. I mention this aspect of urgency because anyone who saw the This Day Tonight segment on the national station tonight in which Mr Bob Hawke faced Mr Sinclair and Mr Street in an interview would have seen him actually call them liars. He said that they were lying. There was no repudiation of the statement. There was no denial of it.
– They did not have an opportunity.
– I do not know whether they did. I thought there was plenty of opportunity for the angry man to deny it, but he did not. This evening we were told that the decision to sit tomorrow was made at 3 o’clock, when Senator Withers told Senator Wriedt that it was necessary because the Sydney branch of the Postal and Telecommunications Union had rejected some recommendation from its federal organisation. The second reading speech indicated an attack upon the postal workers. The Bill is no such thing. It covers every employee who works for an organisation in which the Government has a controlling interest. It has no time limitation. It is not intended to meet only this dispute. It is legislation that was prepared to meet the air traffic controllers dispute. It is now being introduced because the Government wants it on the books. The time of the decision, 3 o’clock, is significant. That is the time at which the Sydney Sun arrived here. According to an article in the Sydney Sun, the dispute at that stage was just about finished. The Government had to utilise that dispute as the excuse for this legislation. Therefore the Government had to rush through the legislation, in the fear that the dispute would finish before the Government could get the legislation into the Parliament and before the Government could get it carried.
The legislation which the Government wants will suppress working class people in the Public Service, without the right of trial, without the right of hearing and without the right of appeal. Furthermore, clause 1 1 states that after making a declaration on the question the authority- that is, the employer- can then make a determination i establishing the terms and conditions of employer ment in which the Australian Conciliation and ‘ Arbitration Commission or the Public Service
Board has no say. This is the very thing that S. M. Bruce, as he then was, as Prime Minister tried to do. He sought to abolish the Arbitration tribunal. This legislation will not abolish the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission but it will make an employer a greater industrial authority than the Arbitration Commission, as the employer can, by determination, set out the terms and conditions of employment. Imagine the situation if for the rest of his employed life an employee of the Government has to work under the terms and conditions determined by the employer. An arbitration system was introduced in this country to prevent that sort of thing happening.
– They can still use arbitration.
– Why did not those in dispute go to conciliation before Commissioner Sweeney?
– Do you support anarchy?
-No, but I think this Government is bringing it about by its action. I have been challenged by way of question as to why those in dispute did not go to arbitration. If certain things happen when a declaration is made -
– Order! The question before the Senate concerns an amendment moved by Senator Douglas McClelland proposing that the words ‘the next day of sitting’ be left out. The debate must be restricted to the terms of that amendment.
– I appreciate your ruling, Mr President. I agree with it. But I have been drawn into discussing other questions. I am raising the point that what is proposed in this legislation is beyond the pale, without decency and undemocratic. These are reasons which justify delaying the debate until we can give full scale consideration to the legislation. I have been challenged as to what I said will happen under the legislation. I have been challenged by the claim that that will not happen, and that those in dispute have the right to go to arbitration. I am sure that the honesty of the honourable senator who interjected is such that, if I could show him he was wrong, he would vote for a delay in consideration of the legislation.
As the scope of my remarks is limited at this time, in all sincerity I appeal to the Senate. Surely as senators of the Commonwealth of Australia we should not be led by the other House or by power-seeking governments. We should not be led by timid governments afraid of annihiliation if elections come. Really the attitude we ought to adopt is to reject this legislation at its first reading. We have not done that. At least adequate time should be available to ventilate the points which are in dispute between Government supporters and Opposition senators, including me. This cannot be done tomorrow. If we commence this debate on Tuesday next, the Senate could sit until it concluded consideration of the legislation by the method of going over every point until each question is cleared up.
Another inhibition that we face arises because Senator Durack has the carriage of the legislation. When we were considering the legislation dealing with the Trade Practices Tribunal at the end of the last session, the Opposition had extreme difficulty in getting any replies from Senator Durack. This makes it likely that we will face the same situation tomorrow. I appeal to the Senate to consider whether we should resume debate on this Bill tomorrow or adjourn consideration of it until we have had time to consider it.
– I support the amendment moved by Senator Douglas McClelland. The issue is whether the Senate should sit tomorrow to consider a Bill which contains very embracing provisions on the rights of labour, of unions, and members of the Commonwealth Public Service to abide by Public Service regulations or by union directions. It seems to me that the principle involved in this matter is whether the Senate itself ought to perform what has been its traditional function. The role of the Senate in this respect has been argued by both sides. I remember when the present Government parties were in Opposition that they argued that the Senate had the right to review legislation from the other place.
What has happened today is that the Government has introduced into the House of Representatives a Bill with most embracing provisions. The Bill does not purport to cover what is claimed to be a dispute in the Postal Commission. Its provisions go further than embracing the Postal Commission. The Bill as introduced in the Senate covers not just the dispute in the Postal Commission but every department of the Government as well as statutory corporations. Its provisions mean that any incident or dispute which involves employees of the Commonwealth Public Service or a statutory body may result in a declaration by the department or Minister concerned which will lead to the dismissal of a public servant or an employee of a statutory authority. As a result of such dismissal, the employee may lose all privileges. The legislation contains a very important matter of principle which ought to be considered. It should be studied, particularly by this Senate.
It has been claimed over the years that the Senate has a special capacity to review legislation. This has been claimed by those on both sides of the Senate. The authoritative work dealing with the role of the Senate says that the Senate has a review obligation. It is not suggested that the legislation which has been introduced purports to solve the postal workers dispute. The legislation is a most embracing arbitration law which may involve every Commonwealth public servant and other statutory employees. For that reason, my view is that what should happen is that members of this Senate ought to have the chance to review the proposed law. I would expect that those on the other side of the Senate who are lawyers might well suspect what is being put forward by the Government. I have seen the l egislation. I note in the legislation that the Government can sack any employee of the Commonwealth or any employee of a statutory corporation. The re-appointment of the sacked employee to the department or the statutory authority is subject to review by the head of the department or statutory authority or the relevant Minister. That seems to me to be a very arbitrary provision in this legislation. Before the Senate embarks on a consideration of that law, honourable senators should have time to consider thoroughly what is proposed by the Government.
I am persuaded by arguments which I heard today in the other place that this law was prepared in the course of the air traffic controllers dispute which occurred some 4 months ago. I should point out that it was not the arbitral authority which solved that dispute. It is clear that the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the organised trade union movement, helped to solve that dispute. I am persuaded by that argument that the Senate should have time to consider what is proposed in this law. To me, the proposals which have been put forward in the Parliament and which honourable senators and members in the other place have had little time to consider are very important and most comprehensive laws which strike at the very roots of negotiation procedures and labour laws in Australia.
I cannot remember a government department or a Minister arguing that one or the other should have the right to determine what should be the conditions of employment for an employee when therehas been a strike. The history of industrial relations in Australia reveals that matters such as these have always been referred to the umpirethat is, the arbitral authority. What the Government proposes is that a Minister or a department or authority can now make this decision. The manager of authorities such as the Snowy Mountains Authority, Telecom, the Postal Commission or the Commonwealth Railways will be able to decide, if this legislation is passed, whether an employee should be sacked.
Retirement of Principal Attendant- Joint House Committee-Prosecution in South Australia
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in conformity with the Sessional Order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no.
- Mr President, I seek -
– The question is that the Senate do now adjourn. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the noes have it.
- Mr President, I rise to a point of order. You put the question that the Senate do now adjourn. On any adjournment motion an honourable senator has a right to speak. You anticipated that it was going to be rejected and your anticipation proved correct. Nevertheless, this does not deprive an honourable senator who has a right to a call from speaking on the adjournment motion. The motion has to be put after any one who wants to speak on the adjournment has spoken. If the majority of the Senate wants to reject the motion, it can be rejected. But I do not think we have any right to anticipate what a vote will be.
– I call Senator 0 ‘Byrne.
– I shall be very brief in addressing the Senate on a matter that I feel should be drawn to the attention of honourable senators. I rise tonight for the purpose of a valedictory to a very well respected and long serving member of the staff ofthe Senate, Arthur Maxwell, who is on the eve of retirement after 30 years in the service of the Parliament.
Arthur Maxwell joined the Joint House Department in 1947 and transferred to the Senate in 1950. For a number of years he served in the -n capacity of Senate Transport Officer. I do not think there would be any honourable senator here or any other senator who has been in this House over the years, who would not fully appreciate the service that is rendered by these loyal and devoted people who are transport officers. Arthur Maxwell served in various positions associated with the conduct of the business of the Senate. He became the Principal Attendant in 1958. Over the years he has been noted for the loyalty and conscientious service that he has rendered to the Senate. On occasions too numerous to mention he has gone out of his way, beyond the bounds of normal duty, to give thoughtful and personal service to individual senators.
He became a father figure amongst his colleagues on the attendant staff. They have respected him very highly and sought the benefit of his experience and his judgment on many occasions. He always responded to the requests they made of him.
Arthur Maxwell has also distinguished himself in that famous pastime followed by so many people who retire, that is, the sport of bowls. I hope that during his retirement he will find much of the happiness and the good fellowship that so many bowlers are able to achieve. His colleagues speak very highly of him and I feel that in drawing the attention of the Senate to his retirement we are doing a justice to him that he has richly earned in his long, loyal and devoted service to the Senate. By placing it on record in a small way we recognise the service that he has performed.
– I feel it is entirely fitting that Senator O’Byrne, with his long occupancy of a Senate seat, should refer to this officer. I, after some period here now, have a long recollection of Arthur Maxwell’s splendid service to the Senate and to honourable senators. Indeed, one of the warming qualities of this place is that despite all our shortcomings the staff who are the servants of the House serve us with an assiduity and devotion to duty that over look those many defects. Arthur Maxwell ‘s unfailing respect for senators and continuous observance of their requests, I think, is an outstanding example of that parliamentary tradition that exists in the servants of the House.
Might I just be permitted to recall an incident of 18 or 19 years ago- perhaps 25 years agowhen my devotion to duty was a little more compelling than it is now. I was arguing at the Committee stage of a Bill at about 2 o’clock in the morning of the night when the Senate was preparing to rise for the Christmas recess. I had been going on for about three hours, searching the Ministers of my own Government as to the meaning of clauses. Arthur Maxwell came to me and said: ‘Senator, I think you would like a Christmas drink; your contribution tonight has been so outstanding. ‘ We walked along the corridor and almost before I got the drink I was overcome with an infusion of the idea that a messenger of the Senate should take notice of a senator’s contribution to debate. Of course I had not gone very far before I realised that it was the best leg-pull that could have occurred that night. But we had our drink and I came back and resumed the debate. No doubt the Senate did adjourn in due course. I hope that Arthur Maxwell will recall that occasion with as much real pleasure as I do. I rise from this side of the Senate to express our real appreciation of him. In the tradition of Senate service he has given to the Senate unremitting attention, respect and service.
– It has been most pleasing to hear two of the longest serving senators in this place- the father of the House, Senator O ‘Byrne and Senator Wright-speak as they have spoken about a member of the staff here, an attendant who for 30 years has served this place with great application and distinction in fulfilling the duties of his office. On Friday last, Mr Arthur Maxwell, the Principal Attendant, commenced sick leave pending his retirement due to ill health. He commenced duty with the Joint House Department on 17 February 1947. He transferred to the Senate on 22 February 1950. He was appointed Principal Attendant on 24 March 1 958. Her Majesty was pleased to bestow the British Empire Medal on him in the New Year’s honours of 1969. 1 endorse very warmly the remarks made by Senator 0 ‘Byrne and Senator Wright. I commend Mr Maxwell for the diligence and efficiency with which he has carried out his duties as Principal Attendant. He shall long be remembered not only for his courteous and pleasant manner but also for his undoubted ability as a raconteur. I join with honourable senators in offering my best wishes to Mr Maxwell and his wife. I wish him improved health and a long and happy retirement with my most sincere thanks for all the assistance that he has given to the Senate through his long career.
- Mr President, the matter which I wish to raise on the motion that the Senate do now adjourn concerns yourself as a member of the Joint House Committee. You will remember at the last meeting of the Joint House Committee prior to the Parliament’s rising for the winter recess that the Committee was told by the Speaker of the other place that the nominated and elected members of that Committee had no jurisdiction or authority whatever to make any decision as members of that duly elected or appointed Committee and that the sole responsibility for any decision taken by the House Committee rested within the province of the two Presiding Officers. I want you to clarify for the Senate- I do not expect you to do so tonight; I want you to give it some thought- the duties and the responsibilities of the persons who are nominated in each chamber and are duly elected to that body.
I have served on the Committee for a number of years now. I was greatly surprised when Mr Speaker told us that we were on the Committee in an advisory capacity only and that we had no authority to make any decision concerning the running of this Parliament on any matter which supposedly comes under the jurisdiction of the Joint House Committee. That was a great surprise to me. I feel that if that is correct the members of the Joint House Committee over the many years it has been in operation have been wasting not only their own time but also the time of the persons who have nominated them in their various party rooms and have brought the nominations into this chamber and into the other place so that the members could be duly elected to that body. I feel that if the situation is as Mr Speaker has told us, the Joint House Committee should not be in operation because it is a waste of time. It is a tame cat body and has no authority whatever.
I believe that some standing orders should be laid down as to the proper sitting times and the authority of the Joint House Committee. Apparently there are no standing orders covering these things. Usually we get notification within 48 hours of a proposed meeting. The agenda is bogged down so that when members want to raise anything time has run out because either the Speaker or yourself has to attend to duties in the respective chambers. We are never able to discuss business which has been brought to our notice by the elected members of this Parliament. In my view a set of standing orders needs to be drawn up, that is, if we have any authority at all. If the sole responsibility for the functioning of that Committee lies within the jurisdiction of the two Presiding Officers we do not need any standing orders. We do not even need to meet. If the case is the reverse of what Mr Speaker has said I think the time has come for the Joint House Committee to be put on a proper basis so that the members who are elected to it know where,they are going and what their responsibilities, are. I know that my colleague Senator Melzer has also expressed some concern as to the operations of that Committee. I know that Senator Melzer wants to add something to the remarks that I have made on this matter tonight.
– I would like to support Senator McLaren in his remarks regarding the Joint House Committee. There could not be a more frustrating committee in this place to belong to than the Joint House Committee. At every meeting, as Senator McLaren has said, all we do is get half-way through the minutes of the previous meeting. We never really get time for a proper discussion or time to make proper decisions or plan what should happen in the House. Now it appears that we have no right to make those decisions or to plan what should happen anyway. I was very shocked to find the Speaker telling me that really this was none of my business and that it was only by courtesy that I was having these matters put before me in the first place. Perhaps this accounts for the fact that we had to wait for 5 months this year before there was a meeting of the Joint House Committee.
It appears that we have no say in when the Joint House Committee will meet but that the Joint House Department determines when it shall meet. We sit around and wait for the Department to call us together and to put various matters before us. We seem never to have time to bring forward matters that occur to us or matters that we want to discuss. We can find the time to discuss whether or not we should have margarine at the table, but we never get time to talk about the real running of Parliament House and the sorts of things that concern the comfort of members who spend so much of their lives in this place. When we do put forward matters and h ave discussion it is on things that I suppose will not bring the country to its knees. For instance, we made a decision about a female hairdresser in Parliament House. Without any discussion by the Joint House Committee, the female hairdresser has gone. Since there are a number of women in Parliament now we had discussions about the sorts of goods we could buy in the bar. We cannot buy these goods in the bar. We asked that they be there. We were assured that they would be. They are not there. We had discussions about who should use the sauna and the sort of roster that would be drawn up for its use. That was all ignored.
It appears that we waste our time by belting into yet another committee meeting and sit there and agonise over the things that go on only to find that everything goes gaily on behind our backs without so much as a by your leave. I join with the remarks of Senator McLaren. I want to know what the Joint House Committee is for. What is it supposed to do? What authority has it? If it is merely window dressing let us out so that we can use our time for the other committees of the Parliament that are always asking us to attend extra meetings.
– I raise a matter which I think is more important than the debate on whether we should continue on the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Bill tomorrow or Tuesday. The matter I raise has had quite an amount of publicity in the South Australian Press. It relates to a family man who was sentenced to nine months’ gaol by a magistrate in South Australia because he gave wrong information in obtaining unemployment benefits. I understand that as a result of the present Government’s economic mismanagement he lost his job in August 1975.
– Which government was in power then?
– Employers knew what they were in for and started putting off employees in advance.
– Whitlam was the Prime Minister then.
-Anyhow, the man lost his job and applied for unemployment benefits for himself and his four dependent children. He was receiving unemployment benefits from August 1975 until June 1976 when his unemployment benefits were suspended because he would not accept employment under a scheme which meant that he would be separated from his family for a quite considerable time. When he had no income he applied again for unemployment benefits and told the Department of Social Security that at that time his wife was in employment. Officers of the Department of Social Security did not find this out; he told them that his wife was in employment. As a result of this inquiries were made. On the recommendation of the Department of Social Security the Crown Solicitor’s Office in Adelaide prosecuted him because, it claimed, he gave wrong information in seeking benefits.
During this period the man had been to three highly qualified South Australian specialists and had three X-rays to try to diagnose a serious complaint that he had for the whole of this time. Had the medical officers in South Australia been as efficient in their medical profession as they are at cheating Medibank they would have diagnosed his complaint during the time he was on unemployment benefits and he would have been entitled to sickness benefits. Under the Social Services Regulations a wife’s income is not taken into account when a husband who has a medical certificate applies for sickness benefit. So for the whole period that this man was on unemployment benefits, including the short period when he did not disclose his wife’s income, he was entitled to sickness benefit for himself and his four dependent children. He did not receive it only because the medical profession failed to diagnose a serious complaint that he had which eventually meant that he had to have a very major operation.
At the time he advised the Department of Social Security that his wife was working, which caused the Department to carry on with a prosecution resulting in a sentence of nine months gaol being imposed, he had already agreed to repay the Department of Social Security any overpayments on the basis of $10 a week out of his sickness benefit. That was agreed and accepted. Nevertheless the Department of Social Security, through the Crown Solicitor’s Office, prosecuted this person and he was given nine months gaol. To me this was a callous approach by the Government in trying to get some publicity out of a person who could not find employment, who was seriously sick, who should not have gone to gaol and who should have been on sickness benefit and not unemployment benefit.
However, through his solicitors, the man appealed aganist the severity of the sentence. It was a much more severe sentence than that imposed on doctors who have cheated the Government of up to $150,000 in fraudulent claims under the Medibank scheme. They get let off with a bond. An unemployed worker who cannot find employment gets a severe sentence of nine months. He appealed to a higher court in South Australia. Before the appeal was heard I wrote to both the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and the Crown Solicitor’s Office in Adelaide and requested that they support his appeal and not press for the nine months gaol sentence to be served because of his serious state of health following a major operation. I did not get a response from the Minister for Social Security, only a telegram from the DirectorGeneral who I understand has now been transferred.
-Or he has been sacked. If he got the sack over this incident he deserved it. A representative of the Crown Solicitor’s Office in Adelaide called at my office and delivered a letter saying that it would remain neutral during the hearing of the appeal.
– It would what?
-He said that it would take a neutral stand and would not press for the charges to be continued and for the man to be forced to go to gaol; that it would let the court take whatever action it considered necessary. Since then, on my advice, the man has sought under the Social Services Act to transfer from unemployment benefit to sickness benefit because there was no doubt at all that during the whole of the period that he was on unemployment benefit he was entitled to sickness benefit. In support of his application to be transferred to sickness benefit he put in a medical certificate from his own medical practitioner and a medical certificate from a very eminent doctor, Dr Richie Gun. I have not been advised of the result of his application, but there is provision under the Social Services Act for such a transfer. Had the Department of Social Security accepted a transfer from unemployment benefit to sickness benefit the action in the court for wrong representation would not have stood up. I have no doubt that the Department of Social Security will reject his application for a transfer because it would be very happy to see this unemployed worker who is in receipt of sickness benefit forced to go to gaol, and to sacrifice his sickness benefit so that his wife and children would have no income and would be forced to apply for community welfare payments from the State. I think it is a disastrous, callous approach by the Government in its attempt to create an illusion in the minds of the people that there are people who are wrongly in receipt of unemployment benefit. I hope that even at this late stage the Minister for Social Security herself will take action to see that this case is treated more leniently, and rule that the person concerned was entitled to sickness benefit for the period agreed to and see that prosecution for any alleged overpayment is withdrawn and no further action is taken against this person.
– As requested by Senator McLaren and Senator Melzer I shall give a considered reply as soon as possible to the matter that they have raised
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I support the amendment moved by Senator Douglas McClelland which proposes that the Senate should consider this matter on Tuesday. I do so for the reasons which I advanced earlier, that a Bill proposed by the Government and drawn up many months ago, alleged by the Government to be designed to correct abuses by industrial action, has been introduced again into the Parliament to solve the dispute in the Postal Commission. My argument has been that the Bill is not designed to solve a dispute in the Postal Commission but is a more comprehensive Bill which ought to be studied by the Parliament in a quiet way. All parties in the Parliament should have dme to consider the implications of the Bill.
I want to mention some of the issues contained in the Bill which concern me and which I am sure must concern every other member of the Senate. It seems to me that the issue in the Postal Commission is not so urgent that it cannot be left until next week. In making that statement, I am strengthened by the fact that, as you know, Mr President, I was the last Postmaster-General. I think I can say, being quite modest, that while I was the Minister industrial disturbances in the Postal Commission and the Telecommunications Commission were at a minimum. I do not think that anybody would challenge that. I do not claim that that record was the result of my own ministry; it was the result of having a staff which applied itself to the industrial disputes which occurred in the commissions. As a result, that staff developed a technique which solved many of the disputes. Putting it coldly, if we sat in a committee of the Senate, I think that most honourable senators would agree with what I am saying. I used the people in the commissions who were experienced in industrial matters -
– Order! Senator, you appreciate that the question before the chamber is that words proposed by Senator Douglas McClelland be left out. The discussion must be restricted to that question.
-I understand that, Mr President. What I am putting is that the matters before the Senate are matters which should be properly considered by the Senate. They involve a Bill which has been introduced by the Minister, and the Senate ought to consider them. Unless we are properly apprised of the contents of the Bill and have had time to examine it, the Senate would not be competent to debate the matter tomorrow. I am suggesting that the amendment moved by Senator Douglas McClelland would allow the Senate to debate the matter competently. The Senate has a particular character in the Parliament. I am not the greatest advocate of the Senate, but I do know that the Clerk of the Senate has written many books and has arguedthe Senate has more or less confirmed this-that the Senate is a place of review and that a proposal which is introduced in the other place should be considered properly by the Senate.
– People might have second thoughts.
– Yes, of course. I suggest that there are senators on both sides of the chamber who are competent to examine this legislation. It purports to solve an industrial issue which has arisen in the Postal Commission, but in fact it is an all-embracing law which involves the Conciliation and Arbitration Act of this country. It is a very serious matter, and I think that the Senate should have a few days break to consider it. The Senate has the competence to examine the legislation. While I have been a member of the Senate, as well as of various committees of the Senate, honourable senators have proved that on a matter of review they are very accomplished in the examination of legislation.
I wish to refer quickly to clauses 6 and 8 of the Bill. They seem to me to vest in the head of an authority or in a Minister an arbitrary power which is not consistent with the designs of the Parliament and of the Constitution. The Constitution implies that in the matter of labour relations there ought to be conciliation and arbitration and respect for the rights of both employers and emloyees. Under this Bill it is possible for the head of a department or a Minister to sack an employee, as a result of which the employee might lose all of his inherent rights. So I think this Senate ought to have time to consider this legislation. I think it is improper to embark upon a hurried debate tomorrow. I think we should allow the employers and the unions to consider what is proposed in this legislation.
To summarise quickly, the Bill is not proposing to solve a situation in the Postal Commission. In my opinion the Postal Commission issue is a matter which should be for the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson), the head of the Postal Commission and the unions. Beyond that it is a matter for arbitration. It seems to me that what is proposed in this legislation is wide arbitration law which will catch everybody in the Public Service. If I may just refer to what is involved in the present legislation -
– Order! The question is whether the debate should go on tomorrow or next week. Please get back to that point.
-Mr President, I conclude by saying to you that we received the Bill in the Senate tonight, a Bill which the Government says is urgent and ought to be disposed of tomorrow to solve the postal dispute, but in fact the Bill which is before me has this definition about Commonwealth -
– Order! Please keep to the matter immediately before the Senate.
-The matter before the Senate seems to me to be a question of whether this Senate should discuss this Bill tomorrow or on Tuesday. Our decision should be tempered by our judgment as to whether the Bill is an important one and requires urgent resolution by the Senate. I put it to the Senate that honourable senators should be allowed to discuss the Bill over the weekend. Accordingly, I support the amendment moved by Senator Douglas McClelland and I resist the proposition that we should meet tomorrow to discuss this Bill.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Douglas McClelland’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Withers) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I shall not detain the Senate for long. I am concerned about honourable senators opposite. I express my sympathy to those honourable senators opposite who may have consciences. I feel that they will be worried tonight because of the complete destruction of democracy that we have seen today. I shall not deal any further with that question now. I do not know whether my prayers will assist them but I will see what I can do for them tonight.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.21 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 20 April 1977:
What steps has the Government taken, or will it take, to implement the recommendations of the first report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry which states that immediate and urgent energy research and development programs should be undertaken into (a) liquid fuels to replace petroleum and (b) energy sources other than fossil and nuclear fusion.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The National Energy Advisory Committee and the Australian Science and Technology Council have been asked to undertake independent examinations of Australian energy research and development needs and to advise on that matter.
When their advice is available consideration will be given to future energy research and development policies. Reports by the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry and the Report on Solar Energy prepared by the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources will be taken fully into account.
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 30 May 1977:
In view of the urgent need to develop alternative energy sources in Australia over the next decade, and considering the long lead times from research to development, will the Minister undertake to encourage by means of funding, tax, and other incentives, research projects in (a) oil from algae, (b) oil from cellulose, (c) alcohol from sugar cane, (d) use of waste as a source of energy, (e) increased car engine efficiency, (f) wind energy, (g) coal liquefication, (h) coal gasification, (i) photochemical and photobiological proauction of hydrogen, and (j) tidal and ocean wave energy.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
See my answer to Question No. 442.
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 30 May 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: (l)Yes. (2-5 ) See my answer to Question No. 442.
Energy Research: Mission to the United States (Question No. 721)
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 28 April 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Dr Hill W. Worner; Member of the Executive
Mr I. E. Newnham; Director, Minerals Research Laboratories
Mr D. E. Roney;Senior Principal Research Scientist, Division of Mineral Chemistry
From the Department of National Resources:
Mr P. H. Barratt;First Assistant Secretary, Energy Policy Division
3 ) The purpose of the visit was:
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 24 May 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 24 May 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 24 May 1977:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 3 June 1977:
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 so what form will the processing take; if not, why not.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
An inquiry is currently in progress regarding all aspects of unemployment benefit. The current procedures for making and processing of unemployment benefit claims may require some review as a consequence of that inquiry. In any case all claims received from persons who leave school in November and December 1977 will be determined for eligibility by the Department of Social Security, in accordance with the procedures in operation at that time, as soon as possible after they are received.
Australian Opera Company
-On 25 May 1977(Hansard, pages 1337-8) Senator Davidson asked me a question, without notice, concerning the Australian Opera Company. The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in the Arts has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government is aware of recent reports about the Australian Opera. The Government is concerned to see that public funds are not wasted or misused, and the Australia Council has the Opera’s operations under close and regular review. As part of this, the Council meets quarterly with the management of the Opera and it scrutinises current and forward programs and financial planning to ensure funds are spent m the public interest. The Opera itself has taken steps to improve the conduct of its affairs and, among other things, has appointed a new General Manager.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 August 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770818_senate_30_s74/>.