30th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
- Mr President, it is with deep regret that I inform the Senate of the death yesterday of the Honourable Reginald Francis Xavier Connor. I seek leave to move a motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Mr President, Rex Connor was the son of a waterside worker from the city of Wollongong, a city which he was to serve faithfully throughout his life. He was dux of Wollongong High School, and subsequently qualified as a solicitor by working in a solicitor’s office and studying parttime for the Solicitors Admission Board Course. He had a long and notable record of public service. For six years he was a member of the Wollongong City Council. In 1 950 he was elected to the New South Wales Legislative Assembly seat of Wollongong-Kembla, which he held continuously until 1963 when he resigned to stand for Federal Parliament. He won the seat of Cunningham at the 1963 general election, and retained it until his death in Canberra yesterday. From December 1972 to October 1975, Mr Connor was Minister for Minerals and Energy and, on two occasions during that period, he served as Acting Prime Minister of Australia.
Rex Connor had a great capacity for work. He enjoyed wide support in his electorate and in his Party. He was assiduous in looking after the affairs of his electorate. Doubtless his constituents recognised him as a committed nationalist, a committed socialist and a lifelong enthusiast for the Labor cause in which he so fervently believed. His primary interest, particularly in more recent years, was Australia’s energy resources. His policies on this issue were quite distinctive and controversial. As a Minister, he was unremitting in his determination to bring those policies to reality. While many disputed his minerals and energy program, none doubted for a moment the strength or sincerity with which he espoused his views.
No one would deny the impact that Rex Connor had on this Parliament and in the wider international community through the pursuit of his beliefs. At all times since he joined the Parliament he exhibited complete loyalty to his Party and to his parliamentary leader. When he was in difficulty he made no attempt to clear himself at the expense of his colleagues. That of itself indicates an uncommon degree of dedication and commitment.
Our late colleague was a significant member of the Parliament. He will be sadly missed. On behalf of the Government senators I express our deepest sympathy to his family.
– On behalf of the Opposition I wish to associate Opposition senators with the motion that has just been moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers). As he has indicated, Rex Connor was a man who had a long parliamentary career, commencing in State politics in New South Wales. Like so many of his colleagues, especially those in the Australian Labor Party, he came from a very humble background but because of ability and commitment he established himself as one of the great figures not only of the Labor movement but also of this country for reasons which I will mention in a moment. I can recall Rex Connor when he was on the back bench in the days when we were in Opposition, before 1972. Although he was a very big man physically, as we know, he was a very quiet man, almost unobtrusive. At that stage he did not give any indication, at least to me, of the strength of feeling that he was to show later on when he eventually became a Cabinet Minister. Of course, it is for those 3 years as Minister for Minerals and Energy that most of us will remember him and, I dare say, that the history books will remember him.
The significant thing about him was that his contribution to this country changed not only the policy of the Australian Labor Party but also the policy of Australian governments, because there is no question that since 1972 there has been a much greater awareness on both sides of the Parliament and in the Australian community at large of the tremendous importance of the development of our natural resources. If there is one person to whom credit should be given for making us aware of that fact it is Rex Connor. His concept of a national petroleum and minerals authority to enable Australia to develop its resources to the benefit of Australia was unquestionably a great concept. Quite apart from the politics of it and of the controversies of 1975, I believe and I am sure that the majority of my colleagues believe that his grand design stands as well today in concept as it did then. It is a great shame that many of the events of 1975, especially his efforts to raise overseas capital to put that grand design into operation, were so misinterpreted and so misunderstood. He was not perfect in the execution of what he was trying to do any more than any of us were in the Ministry or anyone is in the present Ministry.
As I represented him in this place throughout that time I was required to acquaint myself with all that went on. At no time did I find anything that suggested that he had acted improperly. Some might have said that he acted politically indiscreetly. That is a different thing from acting improperly or illegally. I believe that he and his departmental head at the time, Sir Lennox Hewitt, were both extremely careful in everything that they did. At no time did they bring Australia’s reputation into disrepute. I add that when I was in Switzerland in July 1 975 talking to Swiss bankers I was told by them that in no way did they consider Australia’s financial standing in the world to be any less for the efforts of Mr Connor to raise funds overseas. I believe that he was a great man and I think that his impressions and the effect of his policies will live for a long time on the Australian political scene. I am sure that some of my colleagues will also wish to speak in support of this motion. On behalf of the Opposition I indicate our sympathy to members of his family today when we grieve the loss of a great Australian.
– On behalf of National Country Party senators I express regret at the death yesterday of Mr Rex Connor. I feel that it can be said with conviction that no Minister in the Whitlam Labor Government was more resolute and determined in the pursuance of his belief than Rex Connor. That quality was demonstrated clearly to the nation during his three years as Minister for Minerals and Energy. It was a quality recognised and admired by political friends and opponents alike. Mr Connor was shadow Minister for Science for the greater pan of the time that I have been the Minister for Science and I acknowledge his interest in the science portfolio. On behalf of my colleagues I extend sympathy to Mr Connor’s family and his close friends.
– I want to pay a personal tribute to the memory of Reginald Francis Xavier Connor, affectionately known by his friends as Big Rex. Rex Connor was a very great Australian and a tremendously vital man. He was very proud of the fact that he was an Australian and indeed he was very proud of the fact that he was born on 26 January, which is Australia Day. He was a fifth generation Australian, his greatgrandfather having settled in Wollongong as long ago as 1 836 in Market Street, the very street in which Rex lived at the time of his death. His grandfather and his father were members- and proud members- of the Labor movement. Everybody in this Parliament knows the service that Mr Connor gave Australia as a member of the House of Representatives and as a Minister of the Crown. That has already been mentioned. But as one who knew him for a long time and so well on his home base of Wollongong I want to mention something about what he did for the district which he represented and the people whom he served from 1 950 over the years that he was a member of the New South Wales Parliament and the Australian Parliament.
Firstly, as has been said by Senator Withers, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Mr Connor was dux of Wollongong High School. He was elected as an alderman of the Wollongong City Council in 1938 and remained a member of that Council until 1 944. When he was elected in 1938 he successfully moved on the Council for the amalgamation of the then municipality of Wollongong and the municipality of Central and North Illawarra. He was elected as State member for Wollongong-Kembla in 1950 and held that seat for the Labor movement until 1963 when, as has been said, he entered the Australian Parliament and served here for some 14 years.
As the member for Wollongong-Kembla in the New South Wales Parliament he contributed greatly to the development of Wollongong and its environs. He was responsible for the establishment of the newly amalgamated City of Greater Wollongong as a centre of State Government administration for south-eastern New South Wales. He secured the planning and construction of Port Kembla inner harbour and the associated main roads system. He secured the construction of the important No. 6 Jetty in Port Kembla outer harbour and later of course the joint construction by the Commonwealth and State governments of the Port Kembla inner harbour coal loader. He was responsible for the development of the north Wollongong education area, the construction of Keira Boys High School and the subsequent transfer of that area of Wollongong High School. He was closely associated with the development of the university college on the same site, which in 1950 comprised merely three galvanised sheds and 50 students. He successfully pressed for the change of the University of Technology to the University of New South Wales and secured the establishment of extra faculties in Arts and Economics. He was closely associated with the growth and expanded construction of Wollongong Technical College and he was responsible for the construction of Berkeley, Port Kembla and Corrimal high schools.
In association with his colleagues in the State Parliamentary Labor Party who served in that area at the time, Mr Rex Jackson who is now a Minister in the Wran Labor Government, and the late Mr Howard Fowles, a member for Illawarra in the New South Wales Parliament, Mr Connor secured the establishment of the Wollongong Teachers College which is now the Institute of Education. He was responsible for the construction of the Port Kembla District Hospital and the additions to the Wollongong District Hospital. Mr Connor also successfully moved a motion in the Labor Caucus in New South Wales in 1953 to amend the Liquor Act in order to liberalise the granting of club licences from the then restricted area. He is considered by many to be the father of the licensed club movement in New South Wales. He always believed that working men and women should be able to enjoy the benefits and facilities of licensed clubs as much as those who had the benefit of membership of very prestigious and salubrious institutions. He was closely associated with the development and financing of the Port Kembla Leagues Club, the Port Kembla Ex-servicemen’s Club, the Wollongong Leagues Club, the Corrimal Leagues Club and the Berkeley Sports and Social Club. He was active in reviving the credit union movement and was a very strong supporter of co-operative building societies. Continuously since 1 950, when he entered the New South Wales Parliament, he was the sole patron of the Illawarra Rugby League and subsequently the Illawarra Division, and was a strong supporter of the surf club movement.
I first became acquainted with Rex Connor shortly after he was first elected to the New South Wales Parliament, during the by-election for the then seat of Bulli. When Rex Connor held a political rally in Wollongong, invariably I and a number of my colleagues were invited to attend. I shall never forget the tremendous reception that he received in Wollongong in 1975.
As all honourable senators know, at that time he was under attack by all sections of the media and his political opponents. But as Rex Connor rose to speak in Wollongong City Hall that night the crowd rose with him. The roar of support was deafening and I know Rex was very much touched by it. The people whom he had served so well for so long showed their affection for him not only on that evening but also subsequently at the ballot box. In his own electorate of Cunningham in December 1975 Rex Connor polled a massive 6 1.7 per cent of the total vote recorded in the electorate.
The people of Wollongong and Port Kembla, and all the electors of Cunningham, literally idolised him. The miners, the steel workers, the migrants and the pensioners were constantly on his doorstep seeking his advice, guidance and assistance. He was a great Australian and a great parliamentarian. Those who relied on him, those who knew him so well, the members of his family, his friends and colleagues will miss him greatly but remember him with pride and affection. Rex Connor was a man among men.
-I wish to be associated with the sentiments expressed by my deputy leader, probably on different grounds. Rex Connor entered Federal Parliament in the period mentioned by Senator Douglas McClelland after a reasonably easy passage on a selection ballot in which the New South Wales executive of the Australian Labor Party had had, more or less, to ease out a man who had not lived up to his position as a parliamentarian. The message I want to get through is that while Rex was regarded as a strong man, he was also a kind man. He was magnanimous. He was big enough to offer the secretary of the previous member a job. I think honourable senators would agree that at times when one’s position is on the line, one wants staff loyalty. That is something that Rex never made a song about, but I think it showed his human qualities. I suppose that the problem for anyone who aspires to the national Parliament in a seat with the multitude of problems that Senator Douglas McClelland itemised is how to give personalised service. When I look across at Senator Guilfoyle, who represents the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, I am reminded that although there is a multiplicity of nationalities in Wollongong, Rex Connor was not a man who asked the Senator to do his work for him. He found time to do his own work as well as being a Cabinet Minister.
I conclude by making one point about professionalism. I know that whether he be a member of the Liberal Party or the Australian Labor
Party, a fluent speaker with 7 minutes in which to put his case before a selection committee is able to begin speaking in the first minute and conclude the last syllable in the seventh minute. My colleague, Senator Douglas McClelland, has served on that august body, the New South Wales Executive of the Australian Labor Party. Rex Connor was the only man I ever knew who came before the Executive to put his case as to why he ought to be elected, and who started spot on time, was not cut off in mid-air and did not end his remarks a minute before time. To me that was the mark of a professional. But I much prefer to remember Rex Connor as a man who was kind enough to take on the secretary of a man who, to say the least, had not been very kind to him in earlier days.
-I should like to associate myself with this motion of condolence on the death of my colleague and friend, Rex Connor. Rex Connor was a great man in the true sense of the word. He was a great parent to his family and a great husband to his wife whom unfortunately he lost earlier this year. He was a great parliamentarian, a great statesman and a great Australian. When we have reason to speak thus of a man such as Rex Connor, the whole country must realise that we have lost one of our most outstanding citizens. I do not think that Australia or Australians have recovered sufficiently from the events that led up to the change of Government in 1975 to realise what a towering man Rex Connor was in his insistence that Australia and its resources should be for Australians. Because of his great capacity for research, he realised more than most the wealth in the mineral and off-shore petroleum resources of Australia. He knew that these resources would follow the way of all resources in all colonial countries unless a strong stand were taken. Rex Connor lived long enough to see, unfortunately, the beginning of the sell-out of those resources. Most of them are now in the hands of overseas owners and multinationals. The Australian people will have only the equity of the few jobs of the miners and the wood and water joeys. When the history of this great man is put in proper perspective, the people who belittled and denigrated him will be shown up for their dishonesty.
Very few people in this country gave Rex Connor a fair go. The Press were absolutely cruel to him. Those who knew him, those who were close to him- and I sat next to him in our Party room for 8 years before we took office- knew him as a soft and kind man, a thoughtful man. The nicknames, ‘The Strangler’ and ‘The
Bruiser’, were made up by the Press to denigrate this great man. He was not the type of fellow to press himself forward. He really was not an extroverted man. Because of this the Press took advantage of him and denigrated him. The people who run the country, the financiers, wanted to denigrate him because he was a threat to them. He told the truth about what the Australian people had as their heritage and how it should be developed for them and for future generations, including those who came to Australia from other countries to share it with us. He knew full well that unless someone spoke out in this way that heritage would follow the way of all our previous resources. That is what is happening today. Arrangements are being made to take our resources out of Australia and for us to get the least possible benefit from them. The arrangements that are being made for our benefit from our resources only amount to chicken feed. He was denigrated also by people in business. Some of the events that took place will be on record and I hope that historians will record them truthfully. I am certain that they will. Unfortunately, in the society in which we live many people die and leave us before their true worth is recognised.
I pay this tribute to the man who, I believe, will be put down in the records of this country as being one of our most outstanding, courageous and idealistic men and one of our best visionaries. He was the man who saw the plan whereby Australia could become and remain one of the great continents and great nations on earth. Yet his word, his hopes and his ambitions were denigrated by many people. On an occasion like this when we all feel so sad about his passing, we can feel assured that if there is such a thing as everlasting life it comes when a man writes his name into his family and into the affairs of his fellow men. I believe that Rex Connor has done that with great credit and his name will remain written in bold letters in the history of this country.
-I wish to be associated for a number of reasons with the condolence motion that has been moved by the Government and supported by the Opposition. I think that Rex Connor can be properly described as one of the most significant politicians this country has produced. I have lost a close personal friend of some 30 years standing. My party and I have lost a political colleague of immense stature. I think, perhaps more importantly, the people of the South Coast of New South Wales have lost one of the most able representatives they have had in the national
Parliament. If one spoke to the people of Wollongong- irrespective of their political points of view- one would find an acceptance of the role that Rex had played in the development of that city and the way in which he had represented the diversity of his electorate in politics. I think that he was unique because he was one of the few men- I cannot readily recall any women qualifying for this distinction- who had served in the three arms of government. He served with distinction in each of those areas. Not many people are able to record that sort of achievement.
The period he spent in the State Parliament which has been referred to was a very interesting period in his development because- all things being equal and if he had stayed in the New South Wales Parliament- he would have changed the historical development in the New South Wales political arena. Undoubtedly he had the capacity and the qualities that would have put him into the premiership. I have heard many of his colleagues refer to the fact that in the 1950s when the Labor Party was so badly divided over factionalism in New South Wales and Rex, with many people including myself, was associated with one particular point of view, many people felt that if he had not had the courage of his convictions and if he had not accepted that he had a responsibility to espouse those convictions he would have been considered for the position of leader of the State Parliamentary Labor Party.
Like another one of his colleagues, the honourable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr Lionel Bowen), he found that the state of politics in the arena in which he was then working in New South Wales was such that he left that arena and came to the national Parliament. Of course, in a few short years- within a decade- he had made his mark by being elected to the shadow Ministry and, ultimately, to the Ministry. A great deal has been said about his capacity in that area. What has to be said in paying tribute to Rex is that he had a vision about Australia, a tremendous faith in Australia and a great belief that Australia could manage its affairs so that it could profit from the immense riches that exist in this country. So he became associated with endeavours to ensure that the Australian people, inheriting a rich continent, should have the right to benefit not only from the exploitation of those riches but also from the wealth that would flow from that exploitation. He gained that view as a result of the mining boom of the 1 960s.
He lived to play a significant part in changing the policy of the Australian Government. I think some tribute to him is best expressed by referring to the fact that even Mr Anthony, whose views may be said to be poles apart from the views that Mr Connor expressed when he was Minister, finally agreed with many attitudes which had been stated and many policies which had been put into effect in the period in which Rex was a Minister of the Crown.
It is a matter of regret that his illness finally overtook him. He never lost faith in the fact that sooner or later the Australian people would come round to his point of view. He fought for that point of view within the party room and at the last Federal Conference of our party which he attended at Terrigal in New South Wales where he made the important distinction that our natural resources should be developed by the public sector so that the tremendous benefits from such development would flow directly back to the Australian people.
There is no doubt that his loss is a great one to his party, to many of us personally and to the nation. He was associated with the development of Wollongong as a city. When he went there it was a provincial town- I do not think the people of Wollongong would object to that description. When he left it yesterday it was a very strong and thriving big city of New South Wales. He has left his mark in that development, as was pointed out by those who have spoken today. I would bc remiss if I did not pay tribute to Rex Connor as a person and a politician who has spent all his life serving his fellow man.
-I associate myself wholeheartedly with the motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Withers, and supported by my leader, Senator Wriedt. I do not intend to deal with Rex Connor’s political career because previous speakers have already done so. However, I should like to speak of Rex Connor, the man. He was undoubtedly a strong, determined and fearless man. Around him were waged some of the most acute controversies of recent years. Yet there is ample and eloquent evidence of the deep affection and high respect with which he was regarded by those closely associated with him. Those who knew him best loved him most. He had human and personal qualities both rich and rare that inspired and retained that wealth and warmth of friendship. Rex Connor was the son of a waterside worker. His life and record of endeavour and achievement emphasises that we live in a land and under a system whereby the highest positions of power and authority are within the reach of any Australian child no matter how humble his origin.
There was another side to Rex Connor- Rex Connor the sportsman. As a youth he played top rugby league at Wollongong and elsewhere, and he maintained a keen interest in the code throughout his lifetime. He enjoyed referring to Wollongong as England’s graveyard, because of the local team’s fine record of success against touring sides. A few days before his death I received from him a telegram which ended with the words ‘punt high and follow on’. For the uninitiated, the tactic implies keeping the pressure on your opponent at all times. That is the way in which Rex Connor applied himself throughout his lifetime. To his relatives I extend my deepest sympathy.
-I associate myself with my colleagues in paying a tribute to Rex Connor. I knew Rex for only a short time, but he was a man who impressed me very much indeed. I believed him to be a dinkum Australian, a man who loved his country, a man with a vision and a man who believed in and worked towards Australia being owned by Australians. I am sure he will be recorded in Australian history as such a man.
– I invite honourable senators to signify their assent to the motion by standing in silence.
Honourable senators having stood in their places-
– I declare the motion carried.
Senator WITHERS (Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate)- As a mark of respect to the late Mr Connor, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– As a mark of respect to the deceased member, the sitting of the Senate is suspended until 8 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 3.7 to 8 p.m.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned concerned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that
We, you 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, et cetera. 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 Jessop.
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth: That because television and radio
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray:
That the Australian Government will amend the Broadcasting and Television Act, in relation to both national and commercial broadcasters, to legislate
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray. by Senator Martin.
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 arc 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 of urgency to-
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Mulvihill.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Minister aware of a letter written by the Treasurer to the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday in which the Treasurer purports to quote an extract from his Budget Speech but which in fact is an alteration to that speech? Can the Minister state whether the difference was intentional or yet another example of the current state of confusion in the Treasurer’s mind or a deliberate attempt to mislead the public?
– I am aware that there has been a bit of correspondence in the papers, to and from. I am quite sure that the Treasurer has no intention, either in the present or in the future, to mislead anybody and that he had no such intention in the past. But, Mr President, at this moment it may be appropriate- I think you would perhaps permit me to do so- if I were to give some information that will help answer the various questions asked last week about which I undertook to get some information. I hope that this will be useful. First of all, on analysing last week’s various questions it appeared to those people from the Treasurer’s office who did this analysis and prepared this material that they fell into three areas. It will take me a little time to give the information that has been given to me, but I think the Senate is entitled to have it. It relates to the changes to the personal income tax system. First of all, the changes to the personal income tax system in 1977-78 consist of the new measures announced in the Budget and the changes resulting from the automatic tax indexation, and adjustment is made from 1 July of each year. The first area that it seems needs to be covered relaters to arrangements for 1977-78. From 1 July 1977 the 1976-77 rate scale and rebates were indexed by 10.9 per cent. The rate scale and the general concessional rebate resulting from that adjustment will apply for seven months and will be reflected in the pay as you earn instalments from 1 July 1977 to 31 January 1978. The dependant rebates resulting from that adjustment will apply throughout 1977-78 and will be reflected in PA YE instalments throughout the year. The new simplified scale with a standard rate and two rates of surcharge will apply for five months of 1977-78 and will be reflected in the PA YE instalments from 1 February 1978. For the purpose of assessment of incomes reported in returns for the 1977-78 income year a competent scale will be used. It will be derived from the present scale with a weight of seven-twelfths and the new simplified scale with a weight of five-twelfths.
The next area is tax indexation. The Government is firmly committed to tax indexation which it introduced fully in its first year of office instead of over three years as promised. On 1 July 1977 the 1976-77 personal income tax system had been indexed by 10.9 per cent. The resulting dependant rebates will apply throughout 1977-78. As from 1 February 1978 the rates scale and the general concessional rebate will be replaced by the new simplified scale with a standard rate and two rates of surcharge. The year 1978-79 is a transition year. On 1 July 1978 the dependant rebates will be indexed by the full adjustment given by the annual indexation rules and the new scale will be indexed by half of that adjustment. Full indexation will apply again in 1979-80 and subsequent years. On 1 July 1979 the scale and dependant rebates applying throughout 1978-79 will be indexed by the full adjustment given by the annual indexation rules.
The next area is revenue cost. Details will be supplied later as they are very difficult to read out. The reform of the tax scale announced in the 1977-78 Budget will mean that $406m less will be collected as personal income tax in 1977-78. Another $965 m in revenue will be given up due to tax indexation. That makes a total of $ 1,371m by which the Government’s measures will reduce personal income tax collections in 1977-78. I turn now to 1978-79. The reform of the tax scale will mean that $ 1,390m less will be collected as personal income tax in 1978-79. Apart from the cost of reforming the rates scale there is also a 1978-79 revenue loss of $467m from the remaining half indexation of the rates scale and the full indexation of dependant rebates. When that amount is added to the $ 1,390m it will be seen that the Government’s tax indexation and tax scale reforms together will reduce the 1978-79 revenue by $l,857m. The amount of $l,857m is $973m more than the estimated cost of full indexation. In other words, the $973m figure measures the net impact on the 1978-79 revenue of the Budget changes as compared with the pre-Budget situation. These various revenue calculations are set out in a table. I seek leave to incorporate it in Hansard because to read it out would be almost impossible.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I preface the question by reminding the Minister that onethird of the entire Aboriginal population of this nation dwells within my State of Queensland and that, to service the needs of my people, the Department of Social Security employs one Aboriginal welfare officer, Mrs Una Watson, who to my amazement and dismay is employed on a temporary basis only. Her tenure of employment is due to expire some time in September this year. Will the Minister assure me that Mrs Watson will forthwith be permanently employed by her Department and that immediate consideration will be given to employing others of my race within her Department to provide these essential services?
– The facts are that Una Watson was employed as a welfare officer in a temporary capacity to assist with Aboriginal welfare matters at the time of the Darwin cyclone. Until two weeks ago it was not possible to appoint her to a welfare officer position as there were no vacant welfare positions available. That situation has now changed and the Department is able to advertise a position. It is not possible to ensure that Mrs Watson will be permanently appointed as she is currently a temporary employee and under the Public Service Act she will have to apply for the position in open competition with other applicants. If she is successful she will achieve permanent status. Welfare officers in the Department are appointed to assist in meeting the welfare requirements of all our clients regardless of their race, their ethnic background or any other factors. The Aboriginal community in Queensland, however, is assisted by regular visiting services twice monthly to outlying areas and missions from departmental officers situated at Cairns and Mount Isa. In regard to the specific questions that have been asked concerning Una Watson, I hope that she will apply to achieve permanent status and that she will be able to continue to serve as a welfare officer in the Department.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Will Mrs Watson have to compete for that job with other Aborigines or against other people within the community?
– Under the Public Service Act requirements Mrs Watson will be in open competition with all other applicants in order to achieve permanent status.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer a question which follows upon the question directed to him by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Wriedt. Did he say in his long reply to Senator Wriedt that the 1978-79 financial year- next financial year- is being regarded as a transitional year? Did he also say that on 1 July 1978- the start of the next financial year- the dependant rebates will be indexed by full indexation but that the new scale of taxation as from 1 July 1978- next financial year- will be indexed by half of that adjustment? If that is correct, and I think it is correct, what did the Minister say about this financial year? I also ask, to amplify the question asked by my colleague Senator Wriedt: Is or was there in fact a difference between what the Minister told the Senate when reading the Budget Speech last Tuesday night and the letter that was written by the Treasurer to the Sydney Morning Herald this week?
-I think it will be agreed that I have taken some trouble to try to get for the Senate an analysis of the questions of last week and an answer from the Treasurer. It is that that I have read out to the honourable senator. I suggest that if he has queries about that he should read in Hansard what I have said. Tomorrow he can come and see me in my office. I shall try to get information before Question Time. But I cannot and will not try to answer on the run questions like the last one that was asked. In no way will I do that because it only leads to misinformation, false assumptions and all kinds of confusion, and it seems to me that because of this sort of performance there is already enough of that.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer and also the Minister for Primary Industry, relates to a national rural bank. Does the Minister recall his answer to my question late last year when he then expected that a proposition related to a rural bank would be available for consideration during what he described as the early part of this year? Is he further aware of newspaper and other claims in the last few days which say that a national rural bank might well have saved up to 40,000 beef producers and farmers? I ask: Has this claim any factual accuracy? Can the Minister give the Senate an assurance that the appropriate legislation relating to a rural bank will be introduced in this session? Finally, when does the Minister now expect the announcement of details relating to the bank to which reference was made last night by the Minister for Primary Industry?
-I think the honourable senator will recall that there was mention of the national rural bank in the Budget Speech. If he looks it up, he will see the exact reference. To the best of my knowledge, it is hoped that the legislation will be introduced in this session. I think the question as to whether or not beef producers might or might not have been saved by the existence of such a bank is highly conjectural. I do not want to speculate on that matter.
– I direct my question to Senator Cotton representing the Treasurer. I appreciate the amount of effort he has gone to to answer questions that the Treasurer should be answering directly. I remind him, however, that the Treasurer’s movement from point to point has added to the confusion which he shares, as is revealed by his answers in this place. My question is: Has the Government decided to argue before the next hearing of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission that the effect of oil price increases as a result of the Government’s Budget decision should not be passed on to wage and salary earners under wage indexation? Does the Minister not agree that such a proposal would lead to a further decline in real wages, thus further diminishing consumer demand? What is the justification for the decision?
– I think most honourable senators would regard the Senate as a great institution and senators of every political persuasion as remarkable people. When one considers that in practically every parliament of the world questions of a Minister regarding his portfolio must go on notice and that a Minister in the Australian Senate is expected to answer, without any notice, questions concerning his own portfolio and those he represents -
– You expected us to do it.
– It is a very great compliment to a Minister in the Senate. I believe Senator Wriedt would acknowledge that there is a slight problem in doing it accurately, continuously and well. One is not Chambers Encyclopaedia although one tries to help. I think Senator Georges will have to expect me to ask him to put that question on notice.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. It seems to me that the Minister has acknowledged that he does not know the answer. I take it that when the Minister read the Budget Speech in the Senate the other night he was aware of what he was reading. I take it also that he was briefed on it. Will he answer the question here in the Senate, and not on notice, that was clearly posed in the Budget papers from which he read in the Senate the other night?
-No. I will answer the question on notice.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the decision of the Canberra meeting in June of the International Whaling Commission to reduce whale harvesting quotas by almost 10,000, down to a total of 18,000 whales for 1978. Since this follows a reduction in the previous year, does this not indicate a growing conclusion by the world’s whaling and non-whaling nations that there needs to be more drastic action to conserve the whale? Does the Government recognise this trend and will it therefore accelerate Australia’s transition to a non-whaling nation and support the total moratorium on the killing of whales?
-In the past I have received some information on whales. Senator Mulvihill sought information from me and I was able to make it available to the Senate. That is the limit of my knowledge. I know no more. I do not know the result of the Commission’s meeting in Canberra. The honourable senator is properly entitled to ask me the question and I will obtain an answer from the appropriate Minister.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. My question relates to the undertaking given by the Government after the summary dismissal from office of the previous Government that a national compensation scheme would be produced by the present Government. As it is now approaching two years since announcements of this kind were made and as I understand that there was to be a branch of the Department of Social Security inquiring into national compensation, I wonder whether the Minister could tell us how these investigations are going and how soon it will be before we can expect to see a draft of such proposals coming before this Parliament?
– At present I have a draft of a proposed national compensation scheme which I need to discuss with the Government. I hope to make some progress on this matter with State governments in the near future. The honourable senator would be aware that we have had discussions with State governments at ministerial and officer level. These had reached a point where it was necessary for the Commonwealth Government to state its own intentions. I now have a draft of them and I am hoping to have early progress with regard to clearance from my Government so that further discussions can be held with State governments. Although it has taken almost two years to achieve the progress that has been made to date, I think we are all aware of the high costs of insurance and matters related to such a scheme. I can assure the honourable senator that the Government is giving this matter its most earnest consideration.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. The Minister may remember that in those happy days when I was Minister responsible for these matters the proposed national compensation scheme was made available to Opposition spokesmen on these questions, and briefings were arranged for the Opposition on the proposals which the Labor Government was introducing. Can the Minister tell us whether the same courtesies will be afforded to the Opposition by this Government?
– When we have reached a point at which something more definite is able to be proposed I shall certainly seek the views of the Opposition on this matter. We have negotiations to undertake with State governments and there are also some considerations for our own Government. I well recall the days which the honourable senator mentioned when we not only had a proposed national compensation scheme but also a proposed national superannuation scheme to consider. At that ti:ne we had a great deal of consideration to give to those national programs. I can assure the Sena e that when we do have progress in the proposals now before us for a national compensation scheme I shall seek the advice and expertise of the Opposition.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Education. Firstly, what indexes, projected or actual, have been applied to base capital and base recurrent programs for 1977-78 in each sector of the Tertiary Education Commission and each program of the Schools Commission so as to arrive at the estimated total of $75m which is provided for cost supplementation of grants made by these bodies in the financial year 1977-78 and which appears in the financial tables in Budget Statement No. 3- Estimates of Outlay 1977-78? Secondly, how is the $75m estimated to be apportioned amongst capital and recurrent programs of each sector of the Tertiary Education Commission and the Schools Commission?
-If I understood Senator Mcintosh’s question correctly- and he will correct me if I did not- it related to how the figure of $75m for cost supplementation in the Budget had been calculated.
– And recurrent programs.
– Yes. As to the cost supplementation for the first half of the fiscal year, which is the last half of this calendar year, there will be full cost supplementation for all education programs, including full supplementation for wages and salaries fixed by arbitral authoritiesnot above-award ones- and for approved rises due to inflation and cost increases in capital. As to the first half of next year, there will continue to be full cost supplementation as to wages and salaries but not for capital. In most of the areas the capital programs are being recommitted at this moment and better and keener tenders are being submitted. So in fact the same job is being done for less than the original budgeted money. The actual figures themselves would be a Treasury calculation of what the commitment would be under those circumstances.
-I would like to ask a supplementary question. Can the Minister supply me with the actual figures which the Minister claims are Treasury figures?
-If Senator Mcintosh wants the precise figures, I invite him to put his question on notice. I will be happy to obtain them for him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Can the Minister indicate how many employers have taken advantage of the Special Youth Employment Training program? How many young people have been trained or are training under this scheme? How many of these young people have found permanent employment following their training?
– I am unable to give the exact number of employers who have been involved in the scheme. However, it is estimated that about 10,000 employing establishments have trained young people since the commencement of that program. As to the question concerning the numbers of young people taking advantage of the program, in the 10 months in which the scheme has been in operation, approximately 15,000 young people between the ages of 1 5 and 1 9 years have received employment training assistance. At the end of July some 8,500 young people were in training under that scheme.
– Are they trained to live on the dole?
– If Senator Cavanagh listens to the rest of my answer it may help him. A recent survey of a sample of trainees who commenced training in the first six months of the program revealed that 68 per cent of that group was in employment either with their training employers or had found work elsewhere several weeks after completion of their training period.
– I would like to ask the Minister a supplementary question. Is the Minister of the opinion that this puts the lie to the proposition that we are training young people for unemployment?
-I think those figures speak for themselves and are a very clear refutation of the insinuations that were being made by interjection during my answer.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications: Can he yet tell the Senate what the function of the special broadcasting commission which the Government has announced will be? Has the Government received a report from officers of the Department recommending that no political programs be broadcast on ethnic radio and recommending that there be no further access radio in foreign languages? Will the Minister table in the Senate a copy of this report?
- Senator Button asked for a series of factual answers, some of which are not available to me. Clearly, his questions relate to things that have happened in recent days. The Government has made a statement regarding the functions of the special broadcasting body. I am not certain of the particularities. If the honourable senator puts his question on notice I will be able to get the specific details for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. On the Australian Broadcasting Commission program Broadband on 1 8 August, it was alleged by Mr Neville Perkins, who was the Australian Labor Party candidate for MacDonnell for the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly elections, that there had been large cuts in Government spending for Aboriginal people.
– That is right.
– Is the statement correct?
– I am asking those questions of the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I have my doubts as to whether the honourable senator opposite knows what life is all about. I ask the Minister: What is the total amount of funds which has been allocated by the Government for Aboriginal purposes in the Australian scene in each of the last three financial years? What funds have been allocated by the Government for Aboriginal purposes in the Northern Territory for each of the last three financial years? What funds have been allocated by the Government for the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, of which Mr Perkins is a director, for each of the last three financial years?
– I am unable to answer all the queries that were raised. I am aware that no cut has been made in Aboriginal expenditure this year. In fact, as I understand it, there has been an increase of some $ 15m, bringing the total Aboriginal expenditure this year to $177m. I shall undertake to have provided the information concerning the other detailed parts of the question relating to the Northern Territory and to the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, although I understand that funds provided for the Consultative Committee have steadily increased during the past three years. However I shall get the detailed information for the honourable senator.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources. As I understand the arrangements, the managing company for the exploration and mining of the Ranger uranium deposits is the Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd. According to a memorandum of understanding between the co-venturers dated 28 October 1975, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission would provide 7216 per cent of the capital required for the project and Peko Mines Ltd and the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australia each would provide 13% per cent. I ask: Has the Government sold or does it intend to sell its 722½ per cent interest in this project?
– The honourable senator will recall that this arrangement was entered into by the previous Labor Government so that mining of uranium in the Northern Territory could be carried out. I think that ought to be well remembered in view of the Labor Party’s decision on uranium in Perth this year. The arrangement was entered into to provide capital for the company to mine and export uranium. The honourable senator’s question was in two parts. In one part he asked whether the Australian Government shareholding has been sold. The answer is no. I shall seek from my colleague the Minister for National Resources information about the current intentions as to the shareholding.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science. I refer to reports that services from the Canberra office of the Bureau of Meteorology are to be reduced. Are these reports correct? If so, can the Minister say what reductions in services are proposed, the reason for these and whether any further reductions are likely?
-Previously the honourable senator has asked questions about the Australian Capital Territory regional office of the Bureau of Meteorology. I acknowledge his very close interest in the Bureau and indeed in the regional office and its employees. The Director of Meteorology is examining the efficiency of the Bureau’s operations throughout Australia at present with a view to conserving costs and is making recommendations to me relating to this matter. For many years weather forecasts and information have been sent to media officesthat is, radio and television stations- at public expense on a number of occasions every day. In the light of rising costs of communication and the continuing need for restraint in public expenditure, it is becoming necessary for the Bureau to streamline the dissemination schedule so as it can maintain a balanced program of service to all sectors of the community.
Honourable senators may have some idea of the cost of this service. If my memory serves me correctly, the cost to the Bureau of dissemination of information is something in excess of $ 1.25m. Hence radio and television stations this year are being advised- incidentally they were advised in the previous year- that some of the services that have been provided to them are likely to be curtailed. The stations are being informed that because of the importance of these services in the interests of safeguarding life and property there will be absolutely no change at all in the frequency and the type of warning on hazardous weather programs that are being sent to them. From the beginning of September this year there will be a reduction in the routine forecasts of weather information.
The stations are being advised that if they should wish to have more forecasts and other information it will be supplied, provided that there is sufficient interest by the stations and provided that they see their way fit to obtain the information at no communication cost to the Bureau. In some cases, I imagine, as in most capital cities at present, the media collects the information from the Bureau of Meteorology. It is obvious, for practical reasons, that this information should be available and should continue. I imagine that situation will apply in Canberra.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations aware that a number of married women have already lost, and others are in danger of losing, their employment, particularly in the unskilled and semi-skilled areas in the textile industry, the footwear industry, the food processing industry and in other areas of manufacturing industry because of the Commonwealth Youth Employment Scheme? Is the Minister aware that this $63 a week, which I understood was to be an incentive to employers to create additional employment, is in actual fact being used by some employers to replace married women with younger people, which means that the employers are paying less wages, and the scheme is not being used to create additional employment at all? In view of the fact that married women do not show up in the general unemployment figures, I ask: Is this another method being used by the Government to cook the books and make believe that unemployment figures for the future are not as bad as they would otherwise appear?
– I can recall a question along the broad lines of the one asked by Senator Coleman in relation to the Commonwealth Youth Employment Scheme being considered by me and answered by me some time ago. At that stage the question of whether employers were simply putting off people in order to take advantage of the scheme was fully investigated. I can remember assuring the Senate that as a result of the investigations made by the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, which I represent, there was no evidence to suggest that that was the case. If Senator Coleman has obtained such evidence I think it would be helpful if she were to make the particulars known to myself or to the Department so we could have these matters investigated. As far as I have been advised- I cannot say that I have made any inquiries on the matter in recent weeks- there is no reason, as I said last time this matter was considered by me, to believe that this situation is developing. However I will certainly raise the matter again with the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations whom I represent and seek to have the matter looked at again by his Department.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Education in his capacity as Minister for Education and in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. Has he seen a report in today’s Press from the Australian Children’s Television Action Committee recommending that advertising be removed from children’s viewing times on television? The Minister may be aware that the average child who left school in 1975 spent 15,210 hours in a class room as against 17,520 hours in front of a television set. Can the Minister say whether either his Department or the Australian Broadcasting Commission is conducting any research into the effect of television generally and television advertising in particular on the minds and outlook of school children?
– My Committee is looking at this matter.
– Whilst I did not see the item in the Press, I am well aware of the widespread interest in the community in the possible effect of advertising in general and of certain forms of advertising in particular upon children who watch television. I am equally aware- I am helped by an interjection by my colleague Senator Davidson- that the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts, which he chairs, has been looking at this matter.
– And is still looking at it.
– And is looking at it now. Again I am helped by my friend. Of course, the matter is one that quite properly would be one for submission to the Broadcasting Tribunal itself. I have no doubt at all that the body concerned has made such a submission. I will certainly bring the question to the attention of my colleagues in another place, because I think it is one of particular public importance.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce and it refers to discussions which the Minister had with Whyalla community leaders in respect of the future of Whyalla. As the Minister well knows, the question of the activity of the shipyards is in some dispute, and it may be that within the next 12 months the shipyards will go out of existence. I understand that the Minister advised the Whyalla community that he would send some officers to Whyalla to consider whether there were opportunities for alternative employment. Can he advise what has followed since the deputation he had from the Whyalla interests?
- Senator Bishop, in company with other South Australian senators from his side of the Parliament and the Government side of the Parliament, went to Whyalla. They made some arrangements for the Whyalla Mayor, the Town Clerk, the man in charge of the steel works there and the man in charge of the shipbuilding section to meet me. They were very helpful. After talking to them it seemed to me that the best thing I could do would be to get a task force of officials together to go to Whyalla and talk to the Mayor, the Town Clerk and the industry people to see what could be done about the whole problem- what the future might be, what alternatives were available and what difficulties there were. I arranged with Senator
Guilfoyle and Mr Street to send officers of their Department with one of my officers. I cannot be accurate- I can find out by tomorrow- but these three people have either been and are about to report back or they are on their way. Having made their visit, they are then to produce information so that one can decide what one can do to help. I believe it was a useful exercise to arrange that these people come to see me in the first place.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Last week ‘s Press recorded the impending closure of the renowned fashion apparel business of Norma Tullo. The announcement listed several factors which included Australian industry’s inability to provide the quality fabrics she needs, strikes and other problems that prevented her from receiving the fabrics she ordered, and an inability to make quality fabric garments out of inferior fabrics. Is it the intention of the Government in its latest instructions to the Industries Assistance Commission to provide a climate in which people like the great Norma Tullo can continue to produce world class apparel with Australian fabrics of a quality as was previously possible?
– I am a great admirer of Norma Tullo clothes. I do not wear them myself, but on given occasions members of my family do so. I agree that there is very singular merit in the achievement of some Australian girls who from Australian fabrics and design have made clothes which they have taken to other parts of the world and as a result done very well indeed. This lass was good enough to make a start in Australia and finally make a big impact in Japan- so much so that manufacturing in Japan is now the main basis of her business. To me it seems a tragedy that because of costs and other difficulties people of that capacity cannot find a place to remain in Australia. The honourable senator may be quite sure that it is the Government ‘s wish to be able to get to a situation in which these people can do the sort of job they did before. Miss Tullo is not the only one; there are many others.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that because of the inclusion of primary producers’ taxation returns under the stock valuation concession scheme hundreds of tax accountants in rural areas have run into insoluble problems in assessing primary producers’ incomes under the market selling value criteria where flocks or herds comprise animals born on the property, that is, natural increase, and others bought in? If so, will the Minister ask the Treasurer to have this matter investigated with some urgency and bring in amending legislation should such prove necessary?
– I am interested to hear of this. It is a new development as far as I am concerned. I had not heard a case put before. The honourable senator can take it from me that I will take it to the Treasurer urgently. If the honourable senator has any details of areas or names of cases that can be referred to it will help get things moving faster.
-Is the Minister for Social Security aware that the Treasurer claimed in his Budget Speech that $60m would be saved in the coming year as a result of the Government’s decision to pay unemployment benefits two weeks in arrears instead of two weeks in advance? Is it not a fact that $30m of this $60m represents the postponement of fortnightly payments, which will appear in next year’s Budget? Is it a fact that the Minister’s Department estimates that the overpayment of unemployment benefits to be saved will amount to less than $2m? If these facts as I have stated them are correct can she tell us where the extra $28m comes from? If they are not correct, will she give us the breakdown of the $60m to be saved?
– I am unable to answer in detail all the questions that have been raised, but it is a fact that an estimate has been made with regard to the savings that would apply to the payment of unemployment benefits in arrears. I am unaware that my Department has estimated that $2m will be saved. That would seem to me to be a gross under-estimate of the amount that would be saved with regard to the payment in arrears of unemployment benefits. I will analyse the question that has been put to me and I will see that the questions that have been raised receive an answer as soon as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. By way of preface I refer to a letter which I presented to the Minister this morning which implied that the National Australian Association was emulating the National Front in Britain with its extreme racist views. Can the Minister allay the fears of the Latin American community of Sydney and Melbourne and assure them that some of the insertions in the Latin American Press do not have the imprimatur of the Australian Government and that Latin Americans are not regarded as the dregs of the community, as the National Australian Association wrongly implies?
- Senator Mulvihill raised this matter with my office earlier today. I thing it is important to explain the points that have been stated by him because I agree with the implication in his question, that the objectives of the National Australian Association are not those that would have support in the Australian community. The matters that were raised by a member of that organisation in a paper in South America have caused concern and we have called for a report from the Australian Embassy in Buenos Aires. We have not yet received that report. What I think is of concern is that it was stated that the position of elderly migrants was being endangered and that they were being abandoned by their children in this country. It should be understood that under our immigration policy of reunion of aged parents with their children in this country it is provided that the sponsor shall submit a written undertaking to be responsible for the full time maintenance of the nominee as a prerequisite to the issuing of a visa. If a sponsor fails to honour his obligations in this regard my Department can seek reimbursement from him of any expenditure that is incurred in the payment of a special social service benefit to assist in the maintenance of a destitute parent.
It may be recalled that some months ago I decided that only the sponsor would be required to honour that commitment and not other relatives, as had previously been the case. It is important to say that where there are elderly people in this country who could become destitute for any reason the payment of a special benefit is made by my Department to them if there is no other way in which they are able to be maintained. The principal thing to say is that matters that are raised in this way in a country overseas that reflect on the treatment of migrants to this country should be put into perspective. The organisation concerned, the National Australian Association, has no official status and its comments should not be regarded as being indicative of more than the views of a small, isolated group in the Australian community. I think all honourable senators would agree with me that they are not the objectives of this Government or of the Australian community.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question relating to that vexed area between liberty and licence. Will the Minister ask the Attorney-General to ascertain whether in view of the vicious activities of organisations like this the provisions of the anti-discrimination legislation or the Crimes Act could be applied to them?
– I could have the Attorney-General look at this matter. I think the organisation has shown itself to be racist in its attitude, and I am sure that an investigation of the matters that have been brought to our attention could be undertaken by the AttorneyGeneral.
-I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question which relates to the arrival occasionally of Vietnamese refugees on the north-west coast of Australia. What steps are being taken by the Government regarding quarantine of the refugees and any of their possessions to prevent the possible entry of any diseases into Australia?
– I am not aware of any special arrangements that are being made in regard to the quarantine of Vietnamese refugees, but I am sure it is a matter that the Department of Health has in hand. I shall refer the matter to the Minister for Health to obtain whatever information is available.
-Can the Acting AttorneyGeneral inform the Parliament whether it is a fact that the application for a bench warrant in the prosecution of the Prime Minister, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Queensland Premier in the Canberra Court of Petty Sessions cannot be argued as the case cannot be called on again before 7 October 1977 because there are no magistrates in the Australian Capital Territory to relieve Mr Kilduff, Stipendiary Magistrate, who is hearing the matter? Can the Attorney-General provide relief for Mr Kilduff so that the case of Daniel Bruce Munro against those people mentioned may be dealt with in the same manner as any other case before the Court of Petty Sessions in Canberra?
– I take this question as being really directed at the availability of magistrates to hear cases in the Australian Capital Territory. I am not aware of the other matters to which Senator Keeffe has referred. 1 shall take note of the matters raised by him. I understand there have been some problems in this matter. I do not have the information on hand at the moment but I shall endeavour to obtain it for the Senate as soon as possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I appreciate the dilemma in which the Minister finds himself but I want to refer particularly to the answer that he gave in detail today to the original questions that were asked last week and the supplementary question that was asked today by the Leader of the Opposition. I refer to the Treasurer’s statement at page 18 of the Budget Speech in which he states that the new tax system will provide very substantial benefits to taxpayers at all income levels’. I specifically ask this question because I have done my homework and I have come up with answers in respect of which I sought confirmation from the Legislative Research Section of the Parliamentary Library. Is it not true that people receiving incomes between $6,371 and $8,096 inclusive are actually worse off under the proposed new system than under the old system with full indexation at 12 per cent? I refer particularly to what the Minister said today, that is, that full indexation would apply in 1977 and 1978. In the circumstances will the Minister request the Treasurer to provide to the Parliament detailed tables comparing the two systems with the tax rates indexed at the inflation rates of 10 per cent, 12 per cent, 13 per cent and 14 per cent so that we can actually see the sort of information that will give us an opportunity to interpret the Budget.
– I shall as requested direct that question to the Treasurer.
– Will the Minister for Social Security inquire why the deserted wives’ pension paid to a Mrs K. Porter of Salisbury North, South Australia, a deserted wife with three children, was stopped on 6 June this year? The Appeals Tribunal upheld the appeal but the Department will not resume payment because the Director in Adelaide disagrees with the decision of the Appeals Tribunal and intends to refer the matter to Canberra. My question is: What is the authority of the Appeals Tribunal if a government authority does not accept its decision? As there is a mother and three hungry children in South Australia who have not had a feed since June, will the Minister hasten a final decision on this question before the woman is forced to ply for hire on the streets?
– I have taken note of the specific case that has been mentioned with regard to an appeal for a benefit from my Department. I am unaware of the facts but I will have them checked. With regard to the status of the Social Security Appeals Tribunal, I would like to explain that the Appeals Tribunals make recommendations to the Director-General or his delegate. The Director-General then either accepts or rejects those recommendations.
– So they have no authority.
-They have the authority to deal with matters that are brought to them and to make recommendations. I have recently decided that in order that a person has the ultimate right of appeal, where the DirectorGeneral disagrees with the recommendation of the Appeals Tribunal, it should then go to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal so that that body can make a final determination on it. Appeals will go firstly to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. If the decision is not upheld, they will then have the same right of appeal -
– What is the use of appealing if it is not upheld?
– The Social Security Appeals Tribunal was instituted by the Labor Government as an informal appeal body. It was felt that the nature of appeals on social security matters were best served in this way. I believe that my decision to take this matter now to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal gives the same right of appeal as under any Commonwealth Act. I will see that a decision on this particular case is expedited.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. In view of the widespread opposition that is being expressed by trade unionists, businessmen, State Premiers and even members of Government parties to the recently passed Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Bill and in view of the fact that it is apparent that this legislation will result in greater industrial unrest and economic dislocation, will the Minister consider either amending the legislation or even repealing it in the interests of industrial peace?
– The answer is no.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question of the Minister. Do I take it from that answer that no Government supporters have shown any opposition to any of the clauses of the Bill?
– I have nothing to add to the answer I have given.
– I desire to address a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the recent action of the Rockhampton City Council terminating the employment of a female employee simply because she married. This action apparently is a policy which that Council invariably follows. Will the Minister have this discrimination investigated to see whether this 19th century practice can be stopped?
-I should have thought that what the Rockhampton City Council does it does either within its own area or as a result of a power granted to it by the Queensland State Parliament. Why the honourable senator should imagine that the Commonwealth has some direct influence over what local authorities do in Australia totally escapes me. We know, of course, that during those three terrible dark years of Labor government there was a continuing attempt by the then Canberra government to take over local government. I am old fashioned enough to believe that local government ought to be left to its own devices.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. I preface my supplementary question by stating that I addressed my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister because I thought this was an important matter. I ask the Minister whether the Commonwealth does have any power which will allow it to stop such discrimination in Australia.
– I know of no power that the Commonwealth Government has in this area.
– It is a powerless government.
- Senator Devitt is interjecting. If he is such a great expert on the Constitution, I invite him to advise the Senate where the power would lie.
– The Minister for Social Security will recall that last week I asked questions regarding the transfer of the head of her Department to a position of lesser importance. The Minister in reply to my first question on Tuesday stated:
The matter raised in the terms in which it has been raised is not Tact.
I now ask the Minister: Will she explain to me the areas of my question which were not fact?
– I do not think the honourable senator fully stated the earlier question in the question which he has just asked. Is that so, Senator?
– I asked you whether you recalled the question.
– I recall the question but if you restate the question I shall then be able to point out to you where it is not fact.
– I will be happy to do that. I asked:
Is it a Tact that the head of the Department of Social Security is being transferred to a position in the Department of the Capital Territory - which in my view is of lesser importance - because of disagreements with you and the Cabinet?
-It was that series of comments that were not facts. They were not facts then and they are not facts now. The transfer of the head of the Department of Social Security to the Department of the Capital Territory was not as a result of disagreements with either myself or the Cabinet.
– But he lost $3,000 a year, did he not?
– If the honourable senator had listened to answers given on subsequent days and later on Friday, he would have understood that I said that there had been no dispute between myself and the head of the Department or between the head of the Department and the Government. Although I am not inclined to discuss in the Senate salary levels and personal matters relating to another person, I do think it is appropriate that I should say that he suffered no reduction in salary on his transfer to the Department of the Capital Territory. It has taken several attempts by me to clarify this matter with individuals of the Press and in the Senate. So perhaps we can now at last clarify the matter. The transfer of the departmental head has been made from one department to another with no loss of salary and without dispute with myself and the Government. I should think that all matters have been satisfactorily dealt with, and, I hope, dealt with to the satisfaction of the Senate. I regret that there had been speculation about his transfer prior to my being able to make any announcement about it. The matters were not finalised through the Executive Council. I do not make announcements with regard to permanent heads, but I do want to take the opportunity finally to clarify that there has been no loss of status or salary. It was an amicable arrangement and one, I think, of mutual appreciation.
-Earlier this evening Senator Grimes asked me a question with regard to payment in arrears of unemployment benefits. I undertook to obtain for him the information which I now have. The savings for the current year will be $62 m which is made up of an estimated $32 m over-payments which will not be made- that is, the week in which a person returns to work in the middle of an advance payment period will show a saving of that amountand $30m because this year in most cases we will have 25 payments instead of 26 payments as we are moving to payment in arrears. That is the amount of $62m which has been shown in the Treasurer’s figures as savings on this item.
-On 18 August, Senator Wriedt asked me a question without notice concerning the progress of research on the Derrieus Rotor.
– I heard what the honourable senator said and I hope it will go on the record.
The question has aroused some public interest and warrants a reply by me, especially since the honourable senator may not have accepted my invitation to place the question on notice. It is regrettable that Senator Wriedt apparently did not seek to identify correctly the subject of his question in the parliamentary records. Last Thursday’s Hansard records it as the ‘Darrieus Rotar’. To end the confusion for those who read Hansard and, I suspect, for Senator Wriedt, I place on record that the correct spelling is Derrieus R-o-t-o-r. It is also known as the Savonius Rotor.
I am advised that the Savonius Rotor or the Derrieus Rotor is one of a number of vertical access wind turbines that have been proposed. Its design should enable it to be produced cheaply but it is not considered to be a highly efficient machine. It has been used in the Antarctic Division of the Department of Science to provide power for scientific instruments. The University of Queensland is undertaking research on the performance of the machine. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation currently is examining methods of harnessing wind power in Australia together with its economic potential. It is not carrying out research specifically on the Derrieus Rotor.
– by leave- Honourable senators will be aware of the announcement by the Government of the decision to establish facilities in Australia to receive and process photographs from the United States Landsat earth resources technology satellites. This decision, taken in a period of economic constraint, is a clear recognition by the Government of the need to ensure that Australia is in a position to benefit from advances in space technology particularly where such benefits lead to better exploitation and management of our natural resources. Nations have only recently begun to realise that resources are no longer unlimited and that more effective tools must be employed to ensure that available resources are utilised wisely. This has created a demand for more and more information and the demand has exceeded the capabilities of existing surveying and monitoring systems.
Space technology through the National Aeronautics and Space Administration earth resources survey program provides a means whereby the increasing demand for resources information can be satisfied. The technology has advanced dramatically since the first Landsat satellite was placed in orbit in July 1972, and it is now widely accepted that routine remote sensing from space provides an effective means for supplementing and improving the traditional methods of surveying and monitoring the earth’s resources. The extent to which Landsat has been accepted internationally is evident from the number of countries which have already established their own receiving stations or are planning such stations. Almost complete coverage of the earth’s inhabited land masses will be achieved when all these stations are operational. Because of our large land mass and sparse population we are in a position to benefit substantially from the application of satellite remote sensing technology to resource monitoring and management.
The Government’s decision will be of particular significance to the States, which have recognised the value of Landsat in their areas of responsibility and have supported the need for
Australian Landsat facilities. Studies undertaken by my Department which preceded the Government’s decision were facilitated in no small measure by the co-operation of State Government officials. I anticipate that State Departments of Agriculture will be amongst the more significant users of Landsat data for tasks such as assessing potential yield and health of growing crops and for monitoring the state of pastures particularly in the semi-arid areas of the country. Landsat will also enable drought areas to be delineated accurately and breeding sites for plague locusts located before swarming occurs so that corrective measures can be undertaken.
Many other areas of application will become evident once the data from the satellites can be provided on a regular basis. The paper which I shall seek to have incorporated in Hansard provides a brief description of practical applications that have already been identified overseas and some of the preliminary work that has been undertaken in Australia. The data reception and processing facilities are estimated to cost $4.2m and will be entirely Australian owned and operated. The Department of Science will be responsible for the establishment of the facilities and their subsequent management, although operation and maintenance will be contracted substantially to private industry. This follows the practice adopted by the Department for staffing the NASA tracking stations located in the Australian Capital Territory and will provide a further opportunity for Australian industry to develop expertise in space-related technology.
An initial sum of $140,000 is being made available to the Department in 1977-78 for essential planning purposes. The remainder of the $4.2m will be made available for equipment purchases during 1978-79 and 1979-80. The facilities are expected to be fully operational towards the end of 1979. The receiving station is to be located at Alice Springs to enable data of the whole of Australia to be obtained from the satellites. Engineers from the Department of Science will shortly undertake a survey to locate the most suitable site for the station. From Alice Springs the satellite data will be sent to a processing centre to be located in a capital city, probably Canberra. Here the data will be transformed into photographic images and computercompatible tapes ready for detailed analysis. Intending users will be able to purchase Landsat products directly from the centre. Charges for the products will be determined on the principle of recovery of operating costs once the facilities are fully established.
The analysis of Landsat data can be undertaken by traditional methods of photointerpretation which have been used for many years with aerial photographs. More detailed analysis is possible with the assistance of computers. My Department will be carrying out a detailed survey commencing later this year to determine the best method of providing such computer-based analysis facilities in Australia. When the results of that survey are available the Government will be in a position to decide what further facilities will be required.
The Department of Science will be working closely with both Federal and State government agencies, industry, research organisations and tertiary institutions to ensure that satellite remote sensing technology is introduced and applied in such a way that maximum benefit can be derived from it. A project team is being established within the Department for the purpose and special arrangements will be introduced to provide effective liaison with the user community. Because of the global nature of satellite remote sensing inherent in the Landsat program the decision to establish Australian Landsat facilities will provide a further avenue for technical cooperation with other countries in our region.
With regard to the studies by my Department to which I have already referred I would like to place on record the Government’s appreciation of the co-operation and assistance provided by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Honourable senators will be aware of the benefits which Australia has already derived over many years from the US meteorological satellite program. These particular satellites have become accepted sources of data for daily weather forecasting in Australia and many other nations. The generosity of the US Government in making its satellites available to other nations should not go unrecognised. The Government looks forward to continued cooperation between the US and Australia in the important field of space technology.
I am having distributed to honourable senators a map which illustrates the extent to which coverage will be achieved from existing and planned Landsat stations around the world, including the Australian station. I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I present the following paper:
Australian Landsat Facilities- Ministerial Statement, 23 August 1977- and move:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a background document relating to Landsat and its relevance to Australia.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
LANDSAT and its relevance to Australia
The LANDSAT scries ofearth resources technology satellites has been developed as a new generation of remote sensing satellites dedicated to the task of providing repetitive coverage of the earth’s land masses and adjacent coastal waters. As a result LANDSAT is being recognised and accepted internationally as a powerful tool for use in monitoring and managing the earth’s resources.
The data gathered by LANDSAT have been applied for a variety of practical applications. For convenience these are usually divided into six main categories: agriculture, forestry and range resources; land use and mapping: geology: water resources: oceanography and marine resources; environment.
The extent to which LANDSAT data have been applied in these categories in Australia has been severely limited by the lack of adequate LANDSAT coverage. As a result the application of the technology of satellite remote sensing is still in its infancy in Australia and will remain so until such time as Australian LANDSAT facilities arc established.
Agriculture, Forestry and Range Resources
The potential of LANDSAT as a tool to aid the monitoring and managing of natural resources is perhaps greatest in the agricultural, forestry and rangelands areas. Overseas experience has demonstrated that, by using LANDSAT imagery, it is possible to discriminate between different types ofvegetation thereby providing an accurate estimate of acreages used for cropping, timber production and grazing.
This capability is being extended to the point where, within the foreseeable future, it will be possible to predict with greater accuracy than by conventional methods, the expected yield from important agricultural crops such as wheat. An experimental program known as LACIE ( Large Area Crop Inventory Experiment) being conducted by NASA in cooperation with the US Department of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is intended to demonstrate the capability of providing a more accurate and timely estimation of worldwide wheat production. LANDSAT provides the major data source for this program. Since Australia is one of the three net exporters of wheat (the others being the US and Canada) the ability to improve our estimates of wheat production would be of considerable economic importance. Some experimental work involving the New South Wales Department of Agriculture and the CSIRO has already been undertaken in this area.
LANDSAT has proved effective in the broad classification of forest types (e.g. deciduous and evergreen) and in determining the acreages of each. As a result it offers a powerful tool in monitoring changes in forests brought about by felling and planting. This effectiveness can extend to the detection, measuring and monitoring of areas of forest affected by fires and disease.
The extent of droughts and effects of grazing pressures on rangelands have been determined using LANDSAT data. Its effectiveness for these purposes has been clearly demonstrated in the semi-arid areas of the Sahel region of Africa. Regular access to LANDSAT data would provide a valuable monitoring tool for these purposes in similar areas of Australia.
Further significant tasks for LANDSAT include the detection of disease outbreaks in growing crops and the location of potential breeding sites for plague locusts.
Land Use and Mapping
Land use planning has been hampered in the past by the lack of up-to-date maps showing exactly what use is being made of land and what changes, such as urbanisation, are occurring.
A land use classification system, using LANDSAT data, has been developed in the US which enables land use categories to bc correctly identified and mapped to an accuracy of 90 per cent or greater. The relative costs for land use mapping by ground surveys, high altitude aircraft and LANDSAT in the US are estimated to be approximately $20. $6 and $.40 per square kilometre respectively.
A combination of satellite and aircraft data makes it possible to monitor changing land use patterns, survey environmentally sensitive areas and perform land capability inventories on a continuing basis. As a result it offers a new approach to land use planning for urban and regional planning authorities.
The traditional approach to geologic mapping has been by ground survey and has involved years of field work. The use of aerial photography to pinpoint outcrops and other anomalies which might indicate the presence of minerals or petroleum enables the task to be undertaken at a faster rate and at a lower cost. However, high-resolution aerial photographs have certain limitations in that they cannot be readily used for providing synoptic overviews which are of particular value in geology for identifying land forms structural deformations and drainage systems. LANDSAT therefore provides the complementary tool required by geologists for obtaining such overviews. LANDSAT data has enabled geologists in many countries to identify previously unknown linear features (lineaments) which arc important targets for minerals and petroleum exploration and for detecting geologic hazards to major civil engineering projects such as dams and pipelines.
In many instances this contribution to geologic mapping should enable several phases of field exploration and mapping effort to be reduced thereby providing substantial savings in cost and time. A number of engineering and exploration companies in Australia have expressed interest in obtaining detailed repetitive LANDSAT imagery of various parts of the continent.
Hydrologic features are readily detected by remote sensing satellites because of the strong absorption by water of light in the near infrared region. This causes water to contrast sharply with soil and vegetation in LANDSAT images. As a result LANDSAT provides a valuable tool for water resource management and the repetitive coverage provided by these orbiting satellites enables hydrologists to undertake snow and ice mapping, surface water measurement, flood assessment and water quality monitoring at u much lower cost than by conventional methods.
The Mineral Physics Division of CSIRO has demonstrated the utility of LANDSAT for assessing the extent of flooding in the Channel Country of Queensland in 1974. The cost of obtaining aerial photography for this purpose would have been prohibitive.
Oceanography and Marine Resources
In this category the major applications of LANDSAT have been associated with coastal processes such as defining inshore currents and upwelling using sediment as a natural tracer. This has led to an improved understanding of seasonal changes characteristic of coastal circulation. An analytical technique for measuring water depth in areas of low to moderate turbidity down to 20 metres and for updating the location of reefs, shoals and sandbanks has also been developed. Some preliminary mapping in the area of the Great Barrier Reef using LANDSAT imagery has been undertaken.
A further possible role Tor LANDSAT is for identifying conditions suitable for fish schools. The utility of LANDSAT for this purpose has already been demonstrated in the Gulf of Mexico
LANDSAT has proved to be a most effective tool for monitoring man’s interaction with the natural environment, both on land and in the oceans. Satellites have the capability of providing a synoptic overview of the environment and a perspective of the land, water and air as an integrated system. Furthermore, they can provide a repetitive or seasonal view thereby making it possible to detect slow changes to the environment not readily visible by other means. As an example, LANDSAT data has provided an effective means of monitoring strip mining and clear felling as well as land reclamation.
In pollution monitoring and control LANDSAT has demonstrated the ability to detect oil spills, ocean dumping and discharges into water systems.
Considerable interest has developed in Australia in the use of LANDSAT data to assist in a broad ecological survey of the continent. The CSIRO has been involved in a pilot study in South Australia to determine the utility of LANDSAT for this purpose.
For Australia, with its large landmass and sparse population, satellite remote sensing offers an effective tool whereby the nation’s managers could obtain the type of information necessary to develop and conserve the natural resources and environment. A national LANDSAT facility would give Australia direct access to the satellites and would enable these information needs to be satisfied.
-The Opposition welcomes the move of the Government to include Australia in the Landsat receiving facilities, as it has been included in so many other countries. Landsat is a very important satellite. As the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) said, it will enable us more readily to obtain information from which we can get a better knowledge of the ecological nature of our country and the changes in that ecology. We will be able to monitor various forms of pollution, potential locust plagues and many other things.
– In some countries it is used to monitor the growing of marihuana.
– One understands that in some countries it is used to monitor marihuana growing. One may have mixed feelings, depending on one’s views on the use of the substance, how that should be used by the law enforcement agencies. It is of great importance and obviously has been of great importance to those countries, which have had access to its facilities, in the pinpointing of geographical areas in which mining may be usefully attempted- mining both for petroleum and for other minerals.
We hope that the information obtained from Landsat will be available very widely in this country. We hope its use will not be restricted too much by the cost of obtaining the information which one understands is not inconsiderable when one considers the necessity to process the information available. We hope its use is not too restricted, in some cases only to those companies which can afford it. One would expect that most of the information available from Landsat should be available to geographers, mappers and agricultural experts in tertiary institutions as well as to private companies and private individuals. We will watch with interest the development of the Australian facility to receive information from Landsat. We will watch very carefully the availability that the Government makes of information from this service. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– On 16 August Senator Archer asked me whether in the light of present circumstances I would consider the wording required for the presentation of petitions to the Senate to see whether some alterations and simplifications may be appropriate without removing the underlying expression of appeal. I understand that Senator Archer feels that expressions such as ‘respectfully sheweth’ and your petitioners most humbly pray’ and the customary concluding words ‘and your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray’ may be inappropriate in our modern age and perhaps could be replaced by language which would express more effectively the prime purpose of the petition, which is to request that the legislature take or not take certain action.
The form of petition was evolved in the 1 7th century, and the rights of petitioners and the power of the House to deal with such petitions were laid down by two resolutions of the House of Commons in 1669. Our procedures in regard to petitions are based largely on those of the House of Commons, and the formal words of petitions presented to our respective Houses are relatively uniform. However the Standing Orders do not spell out the formal words to be used in a petition.
In regard to Senator Archer’s reference to the prayer, I think it appropriate that I should make one observation. It is a basic requirement of every petition, provided for in Senate standing order 79, that the petition should end with a prayer. I think it is generally agreed that ‘prayer’ in this sense means a request to the Senate to do or refrain from doing something. Senator Archer has raised an interesting question, but there is an historical significance and dignity about the form of words of a petition which appeal to me and which I would like to see preserved.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Diesel Fuel Tax (No. 1) Amendment Bill 1977. the Diesel Fuel Tax (No. 2) Amendment Bill 1977 and the Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax Bill 1 977 being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of all of such Bills together in Committee of the Whole.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Durack) together read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speeches read as follows -
Diesel Fuel Tax Amendment Bill (No. 1) 1977
Mr President, the purpose of the Bill I have just introduced is to make to the Diesel Fuel Tax
Act (No. 1) 1957 an amendment which is consequential to alterations in customs and excise duties on refined petroleum products. Those alterations were referred to by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) on 16 August 1977 when he outlined to the Senate the Budget proposals. The Bill increases by a quarter of a cent per litre the tax payable on diesel fuel which is sold or otherwise disposed of to a person who is not the holder of a certificate certifying requirement of diesel fuel for purposes other than for road use. I commend the Bill.
Diesel Fuel Tax Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977
Mr President, the purpose of this Bill is to make to the Diesel Fuel Tax Act (No. 2) 1957 an amendment which is consequential to alterations in customs and excise duties on refined petroleum products. Those alterations were referred to by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) on 16 August 1977 when he outlined to the Senate the Budget proposals. The Bill increases by a quarter of a cent per litre the tax payable on diesel fuel purchased by a certificate holder for an ‘exempt’ purpose but which is subsequently used in propelling a road vehicle on a public road. I commend the Bill.
Liquefied Gas (Road Vehicle Use) Tax Amendment Bill 1977
Mr President, the purpose of the Bill I have just introduced is to increase by one-eighth of a cent per litre the present tax of 2c per litre on liquefied gas used for propelling road vehicles. The increase is complementary to the increases in duties on refined petroleum products which were referred to by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) on 16 August 1977 when he outlined to the Senate the Budget proposals. The increased rate applies in respect of liquefied gas that is used for road vehicle propulsion on and from 17 August 1977. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1 8 August on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr President, I presume that the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) intends to have this Bill and the International Fund for Agricultural Development Bill 1 977 debated cognately.
– That is the position.
– The Opposition will not be opposing these Bills. On many occasions in the past, as a government we were very much involved in the payments, which have continued now over some years, specifically in respect of the International Development Association (Further Payment) Bill. As the Minister for Administrative Services has pointed out, the purpose of that Bill is to authorise the contribution by Australia of $ 133.76m towards the fifth replenishment of the resources of the International Development Association, or IDA as it is commonly called. The Association was established in 1 960 as part of the World Bank. Its purpose is to provide credits to what are classed as the very poor countries of the world. At the present time that means countries having an annual per capita income which is less than $375.
It is interesting to note that in 1976, 92 percent of all the Association’s payments went to countries with an annual per capita income of $200 or less and that in 1974, as the World Bank report has pointed out, it involved per capita incomes of approximately one million people who are living in countries which are currently serviced by the Association. Those per capita incomes on average have declined in recent years by one half of one per cent. Currently about 40 countries throughout the world are eligible for this assistance. As the first article of the Association points out, the purpose of its existence is to promote economic development, increase productivity and thus raise standards of living in particular by providing finance to meet the important developmental requirements on terms which are more flexible and which bear less heavily on the balance of payments than do those of conventional loans.
It is obvious that a body of this nature which can make these funds available to these very poor nations of the world is something which any government ought to support. In 1976 the Association’s lending expanded by $79m to a total of $ 1.655 billion. Most of the money is spent on agriculture or the development of power programs or transportation. It is a matter of regret that the devaluation of the Australian dollar has meant a loss in real terms of Australia’s commitment. Most, if not all, of the member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations are recipients of International Development Association programs. The activities of the Association which I have just outlined very broadly are essentially supported by the present Government and the current Opposition and were supported by the previous Government. For that reason I do not wish to dwell at any length on that particular Bill.
The other Bill that is before the Senate relates to the International Fund for Agricultural Development. This Fund arose out of the World Food Conference which was held in Rome in 1 974, at which I happened to represent Australia as Minister for Agriculture. It was one of the achievements- I do not mean just of the Australian government or Australia itself but of the world community- that the countries which were brought together at that conference because of what then appeared to be an impending crisis in agricultural development attempted to set up programs which would avert what seemed to be shaping up as a very grave shortage of food throughout the world. It is interesting to recall now how slow some countries were to commit themselves to something specific. I well remember that in the plenary session of that conference it took a whole day of speeches by various nations, none of which would really make commitments that would set the pattern for the conference, before the Canadians came along with a very generous commitment. It was a commitment to assist in this whole program. It did not specifically involve this Fund. But it was an attitude which set the pattern for that conference. Australia and one other nation- I think it was West Germany- made a commitment similar to that of Canada. Although this Fund has taken some time to reach fruition it was an outcome of the considerations of that conference.
It is interesting to consider that unless programs of this nature are continued and supported by the wealthier nations such as Australia the problems of the developing countries will of course become greater as time goes by. Notwithstanding the enormous amount of credit and loans that have been made available to developing countries over the years they still find themselves mainly in a state of poverty. One of the most disturbing facts is that during the 1950s and 1960s the terms of trade for the industrial countries actually increased by 10 per cent whereas they declined by 10 per cent for the developing countries. That means of course that the farmers in those developing countries are not able to purchase the basic agricultural implements which are so necessary to their form of farming unless they are able to produce much more over a longer period of time. Of course this aid program is designed to help these countries overcome their difficulty to some extent.
It is also a matter of great concern to developing countries that the remittance of profits from investments in many of these countries greatly exceeds the amount of money which developed countries actually make available to them. So no matter how much aid money may be made available to them a lot more money is flowing out of these countries back into the wealthy countries which have had the capital to invest in these developing countries. This is not a clear cut argument, I am fully aware of that. Many of those nations are quite happy to have overseas capital investments within their own borders but this results in so much of their own resources eventually being exported without the benefits flowing to the developing nation itself.
The question of the policy of Australia and particularly of this Government in respect of its aid program is one which should concern people who are interested in the subject. Not long after this present Government came into office the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Peacock, announced a reduction of $2 1.5m in foreign aid which included $5. 3m in food aid, $12m in multilateral aid and $3.25m in bilateral aid projects. This was a retrograde step. For example, in 1975 0.6 per cent of our gross domestic product was going to developing countries in the form of general development assistance. Last year that had fallen to 0.42 per cent- a very significant reduction. 1 do not know what the figure is in the present Budget which I have not had time to consider but the previous reduction would suggest that the aid figure is now on the decline.
The Government must realise that the aim set in line with the United Nations resolution whereby developed countries would in fact commit 0.7 per cent of their gross national product to aid programs is receding into the distance now under the present Government. It is to be regretted that the Government cannot find the necessary funds to maintain the level of commitment that had been set by the previous Government. Despite all the arguments on tariff protection, which has been a matter of interest to all of us over the past couple of weeks since the visit by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to South East Asia, it is essential that we do not take steps which will reduce the expanding trade which we have had with our neighbours, particularly the member countries of the Association of South East Asian Nations and Asia and Africa generally. Australia is in a position to restructure its own industries in line with its traditional trading patterns. We would be very unwise and very short sighted if we were to take the short term view and shut out trade with countries with which we have a very big future. If we are prepared to recognise that and adjust our trade patterns accordingly- obviously they are prepared to do so- it can only be to our mutual benefit. We must realise that by going backwards, no matter how much advantage may be gained in the short term it will in the long term be to our disadvantage.
Those few comments of mine, I hope, will indicate to the Senate the concern that we have in one or two areas. In the main we support this legislation and I am sure that even with the limitations that exist within it it is a step forward and in the right direction.
– In supporting this legislation I should like to refer particularly to the International Fund for Agricultural Development because it is an important new multilateral development assistance scheme. It is also worth, I think, referring to the International Development Association which is a long established development assistance agency. It was established in 1960 and it is generally recognised as the most effective and largest concessional lending institution in the multilateral field. It has over the years since 1960 provided development assistance credits totalling $ 1 1 billion to developing countries. Under the legislation before the Senate there is provision for Australia to contribute to the IDA another $134m. This confirms again that Australia is, as it has been traditionally, a strong supporter of the IDA- and it has been a member since its inception. The IDA is very closely associated with the World Bank. Like the World Bank and in co-operation with the World Bank the IDA carefully scrutinises projects in which it is involved, and it has a very fine record of success in the programs in which it has been involved in the developing world. For those reasons Australia’s contribution is doubly justified. The second Bill before the Senate provides for an initial Australian contribution of $A8m to the International Fund for Agricultural Development and is of particular significance. It is a new institution and I think it needs to be seen in the broader context of proposals for a new international economic order which emerged most specifically from the sixth special session of the United Nations General Assembly in 1974. I think it represents a recognition amongst the socalled developed world and, most significantly, the OPEC countries that we are living through a period of fundamental change in which perceptions and assumptions with respect to the developing world are changing on the part of the more affluent countries, particularly countries that are classified generally as OECD countries or, as I have mentioned already, the OPEC countries, which are making their first major commitment as a bloc to an international development assistance agency.
This, in itself, emphasises the fact that we are living through a period of what might be referred to as the new internationalism in which there are clear perceptions and a clear recognition of the greater interdependence of nations and the greater responsibility of one for another. As I have already mentioned, I think that was symbolised effectively in the declaration and program for a new international economic order adopted at the sixth special session of the United Nations General Assembly. It is, I think, a continuing process which countries such as Australia must be prepared for and be ready to accept some fundamental changes. Some of these are already occurring in proposals for a ‘Common Fund’ in connection with the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, in proposals for tariff adjustments to assist developing countries, in attitudes towards trans-national corporations, the transfer of resources from the more affluent countries to the developing world and, of course, in the field of energy. In all that the International Fund for Agricultural Development is in many ways symbolic of the move to a new international economic order and is regarded by many people as the first substantial step towards the establishment of a new international economic order.
I think it is worth recalling that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) has made clear some of the implications of this proposed new international economic order for Australia. He has referred to it in the context of what he has called a new agenda’ in international affairs. I wish to quote from a speech that he made in November last year, in which he said:
In terms of the established, traditional agenda, framed essentially in terms of political and military power, our problems have always been that we do not possess enough of that power. Our broad foreign policy strategy has been to make up for that deficiency by maintaining close alliances with other democratic countries. But to the extent that the new agenda-
Here he is referring to the new agenda in international affairs- with its emphasis on economic questions, north-south issues of redistribution, food, nuclear energy, mineral resourcescomes to prevail, our position will be quite different. In most cases it will be one of being rather richly endowed with the going currency, rather than being short of it. This is likely to increase our international significance and bargaining power in some respects, but it also is likely to result in more demands being made on us, more pressure being brought to bear. How. then, should we respond to the efforts to redefine the issues of international affairs?
I think this legislation needs to be seen in that context in that we are, in a sense, redefining our responses to these elements in international relationships. The International Fund for Agricultural Development, as Senator Wriedt suggested, emerged from the 1974 World Food Conference and Australia was one of the three developed co-sponsors with, if I remember rightly, the Netherlands and New Zealand. The Fund will be established with a capital of $US 1 billion for granting and lending, as appropriate, to developing countries. It will place emphasis on agricultural development in low income countries. It will also emphasise food production in areas of major food deficit and the improvement of living conditions of the rural poor in developing countries. Of particular importance is the fact that it will place emphasis on the reduction of malnutrition in developing countries. As I have already suggested, one of the most important new elements in the establishment of the International Fund for Agricultural Development is the involvement of the OPEC countries which are subscribing a very large part of the initial capital. This is the first time they have been involved in this way as a bloc in this sort of international development program to assist the developing world. In his second reading speech the Minister for Foreign Affairs made it clear why the Government supports this legislation. I recall, in passing, that he said:
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.
To that extent and in that way this legislation represents an important element in the development of a new international economic order. In that context it is also worth recalling that Professor Brezinzki. who is a special assistant to President Carter, recently suggested that in the world there is a quite fundamental change occurring from what he refers to as the ‘libertarian’ ideal to a greater emphasis on ideals of equality, which he refers to as ‘egalitarian ‘ concepts. That, again, is directly relevant to the new international economic order. Professor Brezinzki refers to ‘the rising global egalitarian passions’. It is this pursuit of equality in the world which, I think, in many respects is more important now to many people than the traditional pursuit of the concept of freedom.
The International Development Association represents the traditional element in international aid programs whereas the International Fund for Agricultural Development represents a new element in the scheme and is symbolic of moves towards some new international economic structure. I think it indicates the new emphasis and urgency of the new international economic order, and it is worth recalling that there are now 400,000,000 people in the world suffering from malnutrition, many of them children; that the developed world consumes the vast bulk of the world’s resources and that it is necessary that a privileged minority in relation to the rest of the world, such as we are in Australia, should consider our position very carefully and contribute as we are doing, and as this legislation provides, to international assistance funds of this kind. We have an important and, I believe, an inescapable role to play, one that these Bills suggest and, I hope, confirm that we are ready to play. I believe that they represent a commitment to moves towards a new international economic order. I therefore support the Bills.
– There is some question about the last remark made by Senator Knight as to whether the International Fund for Agricultural Development Bill is a step towards a new economic order. I doubt whether the Third World accepts it as such. It is closer to the Kissinger plan and I think the Third World has rejected that Kissinger’s plan is a step towards a new social economic order. I will speak in shorthand if I may because the areas covered by the two Bills have already been covered by previous speakers. The International Development Association is a lending institution which has provided SUS12 billion in low interest loans since 1960. This is the fifth replenishment of the Fund since 1960 and contains a large contribution from three major member countries of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, as Senator Knight indicated. Those countries should be named. They are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates. Australia’s share is $ 133.7m, or 2.04 per cent of the target sought. The contribution will not be made until the United States passes through Congress legislation for the payment of its portion. Although the loans are interest free, the IDA applies some very stringent conditions to them. It is those conditions which ought to be examined because their very stringency can impose acceptance of the terms of the lender to the disadvantage of the borrower.
The International Fund for Agricultural Development Bill 1977 came out of the Rome
World Food Conference in 1 974. An amount of one billion United States dollars was raised. Australia signed the agreement and initiated the proposition. The agreement was signed on 30 March 1977. It is the financing institution for agricultural development, and Australia’s share over the next 3 years is expected to be $8m. But what ought to be pointed out is that in Appropriation Bill No. 1, Budget Paper No. 2, there is no appropriation for 1 977-78. To save me from raising this matter in the Committee stage, perhaps the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) could explain why no provision appears to have been made in the Appropriation Bill. Further, in 1976-77, there was an appropriation of Sim yet there was no expenditure. Perhaps the Minister could explain the two matters: Firstly, there does not seem to be an appropriation in the present Budget and, secondly, in 1976-77 there was an appropriation of Sim yet apparently there was no expenditure. So the good intentions may not have been followed through.
I want to make a number of brief points on the policy of the loans. There seems to be some misplaced good intention here which is not followed or supported by the real facts. The total private and public debts to the developing countries amounted to an accumulation of SUS150 billion. The trade deficits per annum of those countries are SUS35 billion yet aid totals only SUS15.2 billion per annum. So one can see that there is a substantial shortfall. In fact one could say that it is a massive increasing shortfall between the accumulating debts and trade deficits of the developing countries and the amount of aid which is provided. Further, for the 86 poor developing countries, the debt servicing payments in October 1976 amounted to SUS2.1 billion below the aid received. So for this reason in 1 976 the poor countries asked for a debt conference for the purpose of a moratorium on debts. This request was rejected. This is a matter of concern to me because it seems to me that in spite of all we are endeavouring to do to assist the developing countries, their position is becoming worse, not better. If the countries sought a conference in order to achieve a moratorium on their debts, then that conference at least should have been agreed to so that this grave matter could be considered.
I indicated that I am concerned about the strains which are placed upon these economies to meet their payments. I make this point too: The lending countries could be in difficulties if there happened to be default. The actual level of aid provided by industrialised countries, is, to say the least, abysmal, lt is even worse if one considers that the grant of aid alone. Only three countries- Sweden, Norway and Holland- have reached or passed the official development assistance target of 0.7 per cent of the gross domestic product which was supposed to be reached by 1980. The rest are well behind, with the United States 0.25 per cent, the Federal Republic of Germany 0.37 per cent and Japan 0.25 per cent. I must admit that all these figures are 1974 figures- that is, 3 years ago- but I believe the lag still exists. Now what concerns me and what should concern the Senate is that Australia’s aid allocation is Deteriorating in terms of the gross domestic product. In the last year of the Labor Government, the Hayden Budget proposed a level of 0.6 per cent of the gross domestic product to be spent on aid. The present Government has eroded that figure to 0.47 per cent of the gross domestic product. This is the level which is contained in the 1977-78 Budget.
Instead of moving towards the 0.7 per cent target, Australia is going backward. Although the Government still professes its determination to reach the target in fact we are going backward and not forward. It argues that the present economic position does not allow for increased aid but surely this is a specious argument because comparable countries which are increasing their aid suffer the same problems as Australia. My view is that the trend must be arrested. We should not listen to remarks made by people such as the Premier of Queensland, Mr BjelkePetersen. He made some very retrogressive remarks about aid. He said that we should be looking after our own first and the devil take the poor to the north and the countries that surround us. There would be very few senators on the opposite side who would agree with the Premier of Queensland. In fact he was denied by the national leader of his own party, Mr Anthony, and so he should have been.
I wish to finish my remarks on perhaps a little more positive note. Whilst the problems of poverty, starvation and disease, are immense, the developing countries have suggested programs which go a long way towards redressing the imbalance between the rich and poor countries. The integrated commodities program and the Common Fund are the most important of these initiatives. The integrated commodities program covers 18 major raw material commodities. It must be remembered that raw materials account for 80 per cent of the total revenue of the Third World countries. Unfortunately, price fluctuations create havoc for the Third World countries and diminish their ability to plan development programs. The concept of a common fund to establish and finance buffer stocks to cover the 18 raw material commodities is considered by the Third World countries to be of critical importance to their economies. My view is that these two schemes are the correct ones to be considering if we are considering a new economic order. It is proposed that a fund of $US6 billion be created to finance such a buffer against price fluctuation. These two interlinked proposals must be supported if we are to have a commonsense process and an equitable distribution of wealth. I believe that Australia should give active support to the proposal. Unfortunately there are many reports overseas that Australia has been less than enthusiastic about the proposal. Finally, I suggest that the Australian Government should not oppose but should give support to these proposals which will lead, I believe, to a new international economic order.
– in reply- I thank honourable senators who have taken part in this debate and who have supported the Bill. It has been a most thoughtful debate in which three honourable senators have taken part who obviously are very interested in a personal sense in the matter of international aid. Senator Georges asked a number of questions. If he examines clause 7 of the International Development Association (Further Payment) Bill 1977 he will find that that is where the authority for the appropriation of money is provided. It is not provided by Appropriation Bills (No. 1 ) and (No. 2). It is a special appropriation. A special appropriation also is made for the International Fund for Agricultural Development. If Senator Georges examines clause 5 of that Bill he will find that there is an authority for the money to be paid. These appropriations are not shown in the normal Appropriation Bills.
Senator Georges referred to page 14 of the Budget Paper No. 8. He alluded to that Budget Paper in which it is shown that no appropriation was made in 1976-77 and the amount of $2,200 is shown for 1 977-78. 1 am advised that the Fund will not become operational until mid-December 1977. Therefore, there is no requirement for the figures in 1976-77. The money will be going to the Fund in December of this year.
Senator Georges made some remarks about what he considered to be the erosion of the percentage of gross domestic product which the Government is putting into aid. I am advised that the amount of $425m which is allocated for aid in the 1977-78 Budget- this year’s Budget- is for official development assistance. This is an increase of $47m or 12 per cent over actual net expenditure of $378. 3m in 1976-77. 1 am further advised that the 1977-78 allocation is estimated to represent 0.47 per cent of the forecast gross national product. Expenditure in 1976-77 represented 0.46 per cent of gross national product. The 1977-78 Budget proposals represent a move towards a 0.7 per cent of gross national product aid target to which Australia still remains committed. I do not think that my figures match those cited by Senator Georges. If Senator Georges has any doubts about these figures perhaps the officers of the Department could inform him later how they arrived at their figures. In that way, Senator Georges could ascertain whether the percentages came from the same source.
– The figures are a bit rubbery.
– I am not one to stretch a point but it is easy to talk about figures being rubbery. Senator Georges should always remember that the Budget figures are estimates. In fact, they are called estimates. Anyone who prepares a budget in the private sector or the public sector and anyone who prepares a budget for his own private life knows that they are only estimates of income and expenditure. I do not think that anyone who has prepared a budget has been held to the last cent, in local government or elsewhere.
I again thank the honourable senators who spoke in this debate. All members of the Parliament have taken a bipartisan attitude to this matter. In spite of the differences that we have on some subjects, this is one matter on which honourable senators are not divided, irrespective of the advice which is proffered to us occasionally by people who have no constitutional powers in this area. The Government remains committed to its course- a course to which it has been committed for a great number of years and to which the Australian Labor Party also has been committed, both in opposition and in government. I think the best approach we can take is to ignore extraneous advice we receive from outside and get on with our bipartisan policy.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 1 8 August on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– One point about this Bill intrigues me. It deals with the endorsement of the agreement to establish the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Article 3 refers to membership of the Fund. It states:
Membership of the Fund shall be open to any State member of the United Nations or any of its specialized agencies, or of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
I am wondering why the International Atomic Energy Agency is eligible for membership of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Article 2 deals with the purposes of the Fund and includes anything that will improve agricultural productivity for the developing nations. The inclusion of the International Atomic Energy Agency in the membership of the Fund suggests to me that a decision of the Fund can be made by two-thirds of the majority of members to use the fund for some atomic application for better grinding of rice in China or elsewhere in Asia, for example. This could be one of its purposes. I particularly ask why membership of the Fund should be open to specialised agencies of the United Nations or the International Atomic Energy Agency. The second reading speech of the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) seems to hide this fact. In his second reading speech he stated:
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.
No mention is made of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Why is it linked to the International Fund for Agricultural Development? Why is membership open to it? I do not understand why it is included in the Bill.
– If the Senate will bear with me for a moment I will seek advice from my advisers. I am trying to recall how this arose. I thought this idea was developed when the Labor Party was in government and that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) had quite a deal to do with this at the conference held in Rome.
– Even that needs some explanation.
-That is right. I am informed that there is no relationship between the agencies as to the operations of the Fund. All this does is to say who is eligible to be members of the Fund. As the honourable senator quite rightly said, membership of the Fund should be open to any state member of the United Nations or any of its specialised agencies or the International Atomic Energy Agency. As long as a country falls into one of those categories- a member of the United Nations or one of its specialised agencies or the International Atomic Energy Agency- it has the capacity to be a member of the Fund. As I understand my advice- I hope it is correct- that has nothing to do with the operation of the Fund.
– What the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) has told us is clearly set out in Article 3. It refers to any state member of the United Nations or any of its specialised agencies? Why have we a bar on anyone who does not come within those two categories or who is not a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency? Why do we welcome into the Fund a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency? I am trying to find out the relevance to agricultural development. Why are we prepared to take into this Fund only a specialised or selected group of countries? Is there some doubt about the capabilities of those who are not members of these organisations? If we read the Bill we see that countries need not be members of the International Atomic Energy Agency if they are state members of the United Nations or any of its specialised agencies. There must be some logical reason why the International Atomic Energy Agency comes into this. I am trying to find out the reason. Obviously there must be some reason. We are committing ourselves to something for a reason which we do not know. The reason might be perfectly logical. I do not know the composition of these bodies or why the stipulation is there. Surely we can get some information on this matter.
– Again I am informed by the advisers that the purpose of this provision is to make the
Fund as open as possible to as many people who want to join it. It is not necessary to be a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency. I am informed that a country may be a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency but not a member of the United Nations. One country may not even be a member of one of the United Nations specialised agencies. As I understand it, the idea was to cast a net as widely as possible to get as many countries as possible to become contributors to the Fund. That is why the membership was made as wide as it is. I do not know whether that satisfies the honourable senator.
– It does not; far from it.
-I have no further information. Does the honourable senator want me to stand the Bill over till tomorrow? Will he be satisfied with an answer tomorrow? I am quite relaxed about what we do. If the honourable senator thinks somebody is under the bed with a piece of yellowcake I am quite relaxed about the matter and will report progress and get some further and better information for him. If the honourable senator does not wish that course to be followed we will get on with the Bill and provide the information later.
– I am not able to throw any light on this matter either. When the conference was originally held in 1 974 these thoughts were considered. From memory there was no detailed consideration of the membership. I think we all assumed at the time that any member of the United Nations could be a member of the Fund. I must confess my surprise now that Senator Cavanagh has drawn attention to this matter. One might specify the International Civil Aviation Organisation or the International Air Transport Association -
– If you wanted to widen it, you would.
– Yes. Whether or not the International Atomic Energy Agency is there simply because of its United Nations association I cannot say. I do not think that Senator Cavanagh is suggesting that there is anything improper about our ratifying an agreement which would involve the Agency. I certainly would not put that interpretation on it. In view of the significance of the matter and the fact that we have not got the information I think it is incumbent on the Government to supply the information in detail so that the Committee can be satisfied before the legislation is passed.
Debate resumed from 1 7 March, on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
– It has been a long wait.
– As my colleague Senator Georges says, it has been a long wait not only for me but also for Senator Tehan. So, taking account of the time, I will try to make sure that Senator Tehan gets some time to speak on this matter and does not go through the frustration that I have experienced in the last week. Already there have been two speakers in this debate. My colleague Senator Mulvihill dealt fully with all aspects of the Green Paper. Senator Messner also has spoken.
I should like to comment on two points that Senator Messner raised. Firstly he spoke on immigrants maintaining a separate identity in a cultural sense. In doing so he referred to the German community in South Australia. I certainly do not disagree with his comments, but unfortunately maintaining a separate identity sometimes leads to discrimination. The German community in South Australia dates back to the 1840s. I think we would agree that there was some discrimination against this community during World War I and even to some extent during World War II. Therefore I think it is very easy for us to understand the tension that has been shown in recent times in such communities as the Lebanese community, the Greek community and the Turkish community in cities like Sydney and Melbourne.
Senator Messner also mentioned in his contribution the guest workers scheme. The Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence of which I am a member is presently looking at Australia’s aid in the South Pacific region. It is unfortunate that Australia is criticised on this issue in the area because of the New Zealand Government’s attitude to allow guest workers into that country. In my opinion I do not think that Australian aid in some instances is fully appreciated because of our attitude on the guest worker issue. This is one of the problems on which the Committee will have to deliberate. We will have to make recommendations accordingly. It probably will be quite difficult for us to do so.
This paper is the first Green Paper on immigration policies and Australia’s population that has been tabled. Therefore it is a paper for discussion and a paper that serves as a basis for developing government policy. I think it is fair to say that Australia’s immigration policies for the last 30 years or so have developed essentially on the basis of agreement between both major political groupings in the Parliament. That in itself is a good thing. The paper points out that in the post-war period 3.3 million new settlers have come to Australia to begin new lives. This in itself is one indication of the success of the Australian immigration program. However, what concerns me is that the Green Paper draws attention to the fact that between 1 966 and 1 976 approximately 330,000 Australian citizens left this country to settle permanently overseas. This has to be taken in conjunction with the loss of former migrants who left Australia to take up permanent residence overseas. Therefore not only is there a loss of people but there is a consequent loss of technical and professional skills. One element in considering Australia’s population that is seldom taken into account is the number of people who emigrate from this country.
The Green Paper indicates that Australia is very fortunate in terms of underlying natural resources that might be exploited and the potential for growth in our economy. I must say that I think this growth has been curtailed during the period that the present Government has been in office. The Green Paper states that in terms of the numbers of immigrants that we can accept and can absorb we are not limited by any lack of resources. This leads me to query whether we believe immigration should be tailored to the needs of the economy or whether our economic programs should be tailored to the needs of people, including immigrants. I think previous conservative governments have seen immigration as something akin to a tap which can be turned on or off in accordance with the prevailing economic climate in the country. I do not think that is acceptable at present, and I do not think that has been acceptable previously. Therefore I think we must look very carefully at the statement of the Australian Population and Immigration Council that Australia has the capacity to absorb some 100,000 settlers annually. We must look very carefully at that, and we must look at the human factors involved. We must look at the social and cultural problems that confront new arrivals that make it difficult on occasions for the easy settlement of immigrants rather than simply look on the immigrant as an economic statistic.
I wish to make some comments about the situation in the United States because the United States Commission on Population Growth and the American Future has done some valuable work in looking at population trends in the light of social and environmental circumstances. The Commission has placed primary emphasis upon improving the quality of life of American citizens rather than simply adding more Americans to the population. I think Australia can learn from the American experience in this area. While the Green Paper is to be commended for a reasonable assessment of Australia’s immigration needs and future trends in population, I think a number of questions should be posed. They are not posed either by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) or the Immigration Council. For example, what are the consequences of zero population growth for Australia if this becomes policy? Does a viable economy always require an expanding population? What are the consequences of a slower rate of population growth for our economy? These are some of the questions that should be posed in order to be totally realistic in assessing our population and immigration needs for the future.
Another comment should be made. I believe that is recognised in the Green Paper. It should be emphasised in any discussion of the paper. It is no good looking at immigration in isolation. We must look at it in the total context of the Australian society, especially our education and social welfare systems. We must ask ourselves: Are they adequate to meet the needs of a diverse population? Are they adequate to respond to the pressures of a multi-cultural society? I think the Parliament requires accurate and up-to-date information about our current demographic patterns and our population trends. The 1 976 census has the information about which I just spoke. It has the information in large measure. The information should be made available in comprehensive detail to members of the Australian Parliament. The information should be disseminated as widely as possible in the general community to promote discussion on these matters about which I have just spoken.
I want to make a few comments about refugees because chapter 5 of the Green Paper stresses the need for Australia to have a refugee policy. Chapter 5 points out that two parliamentary committee reports have focussed on this need. The first one was the interim report of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence entitled ‘The Lebanon Crisis- Humanitarian Aspects’. The other was the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence entitled ‘Australia and the Refugee Problem’. This Committee made recommendations which cover 10 pages in chapter 7 of the report. As a member of both committees, I realise the tragic situations that arose in the two cases that I mentioned and also as a result of what recently occurred in East Timor. Our handling of refugees from Lebanon was criticised, especially in the area of family reunion. However I think we must realise that different standards apply, especially to family reunion of these people. What concerns me is that this sort of tragedy is likely to recur not only in countries in South East Asia but in South America, the Middle East and southern Africa, as Senator Mulvihill mentioned in his contribution. One could visualise any number of situations. It could arise anywhere in the world if refugees looked to Australia, especially for assistance, particularly for resettlement.
It seems to me that at the moment certain nations to our north are not only refusing admittance to refugees but are encouraging them to try to reach Australia. We must accept that a large number of refugees will never be employed in Australia because of chronic illness, age, language barriers and many other reasons that I could state. Together with other members of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence I visited the refugee camp at Wacol in Brisbane. All I can say is that the Vietnamese there, people from South East Asia, were certainly living in very depressing circumstances. I think we must accept that our handling of refugees does not compare with the handling of refugees by countries such as the United States and Canada especially. That was something which was brought home to the Committee on many occasions.
One situation has arisen quite recently which I think deserves some comment. That is the situation in which these Vietnamese refugees who are arriving from our north are pointing out weaknesses in our coastal surveillance. This matter was raised at the Sub-Committee of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence that dealt with the Indian Ocean region. Sections of that report dealt with control and surveillance of smuggling and drug trafficking. Recently a group of refugees spent a week looking for somebody to help them after they had arrived on the north-west coastline. When one looks at the report about which I was just speaking, it is quite farcical that this situation should arise. It certainly raises the question of how easy it would be for people who did not want to be found to land in this region. A large group of people spent a week there waiting for somebody to find them. Therefore, as pointed out in chapter 5 of this paper, there is an urgent need for a refugee policy.
I think it is certainly time that Australia took an initiative to conduct a national population inquiry along the lines of the United States Commission on Population Growth and the American Future which was established in 1970. We, as a country, have much to gain from investigating in full and searching detail our immigration needs and our projected population growth for the last quarter of the 20th century and beyond.
– 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.
- Mr President, I am not sure whether the arrangements have fallen down again, but I did notify two Ministers that I would be speaking on a particular matter tonight. I notice that one of the Ministers is not yet in the chamber. During the adjournment debate we often hear about miscarriages of justice. One of the values of the adjournment debate is that members of this chamber can air their views on certain matters at this time. On a number of occasions when I have spoken during the adjournment debate I have spoken on matters of social security. The matter I speak of tonight covers that area as well as the area of employment and industrial relations.
Tonight I outline what appears to me to be a gross miscarriage of justice which has been meted out to an Australian citizen because of what is nothing other than an illegal activity by an officer of the Commonwealth Employment Service. The issue subsequently involved two departments- the Department of Social Security and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. Twice this year I have been forced to mention activities prevalent at the Redcliffe Commonwealth Employment Service office. As citizens of Queensland would know, Redcliffe is a city just north of Brisbane. On one occasion on which I spoke about the Redcliffe CES my speech concerned the apparent breaking of confidentiality by that office. On the second occasion I made brief reference to what I considered were illegal activities at the Redcliffe office of the Commonwealth Employment Service. The last time I mentioned it I did not mention that it was Redcliffe. I mentioned the matter in passing because I thought the problem had been overcome at Redcliffe and that the same thing would not happen again. Apparently the problem has not been overcome. This will be the third time I have had to mention Redcliffe. If I have complaints made to me about Redcliffe again it will not be the last time, although I hope that it will be.
The case I mention tonight is different from the other cases that I have mentioned previously. This evening I purposely intend not to mention the name of the person involved. I do this so that he and his family will not be caused any embarrassment. When I have to refer to him I will call him John Smith. I think the Ministers concerned have been notified of the identity of this person. I hope that they will be able to refrain from causing any embarrassment to him by not mentioning his real name, but if they have to mention his name I will understand. John Smith has experienced a series of awkward confrontations with the Commonwealth Employment Service and the Department of Social Security. After speaking to this man it seems to me that these awkward confrontations could be a product of both John Smith and the Commonwealth Employment Service at Redcliffe. I do not lay all of the blame on any officer or officers at Redcliffe. However, in my opinion they are at least partly to blame.
During the parliamentary recess it was brought to my attention that this young man was having difficulty in receiving unemployment benefits. In fact he was not receiving any benefits at all. On investigating his case I was astounded to find that the Commonwealth Employment Service had refused to register him for employment. He received a letter not from the Commonwealth Employment Service but from the Department of Social Security telling him that this had happened and outlining the reasons why his claim for unemployment benefit had not been successful. I would like to read the contents of that letter which states quite clearly that this man was refused permission to register for employment. It states:
Your claim for unemployment benefit has been rejected as the Commonwealth Employment Service has refused to accept your registration for employment.
The Commonwealth Employment Service will not consider acceptance of your registration until you can produce a reference from an employer to say that you have worked for a period of 3-6 months.
This seems to me to be a most incredible situation. That letter was from the Depanment of Social Security, not from the Commonwealth Employment Service. The remarkable thing about it is that it contains an admission that although this man wanted to register with the Commonwealth Employment Service for employment he was not allowed to do so and, what is more, he would not be allowed to do so until he had actually worked for a period of 3 to 6 months and had obtained a reference from an employer. I think the illogicality of this can be seen quite easily. A person who goes to register for employment is told that he cannot do so until he has had a job for 3 to 6 months.
During recesses of the Parliament members of Parliament have no parliamentary forum in which they can air happenings like this but if a member of Parliament thinks it necessary he can use the forum provided by the media of Australia. Subsequently I informed the media of what had happened and one evening some comments were made on the the Broadcasting Commission ‘s program PM. I outlined what had happened and said that this person had been refused registration by the Commonwealth Employment Service. Then a spokesman for CES made some comments on that program. I quote what Geoff Duncan said on that program:
I did manage to speak to a spokesman for CES just a few minutes ago, and he told me that the CES cannot refuse to register a person for employment. He was adamant that that was the situation. He would not be drawn on a particular case just cited by Senator Colston but he said that the CES was looking into it and would report to the Minister, Mr Street. Any person can register for employment. The crunch comes when they try to apply for unemployment benefits.
– What date was that interview?
-The date of that PM program was 1 8 July. I understand that the situation always is that if a person does not pass the work test and is not eligible for unemployment benefits the decision is made not by the CES but by the Department of Social Security. In this case I raise it appears that the decision was made prematurely by an officer of the CES who said that this person could not register. Later in that interview Geoff Duncan said:
If Senator Colston’s claims are correct then I am informed that the action of the CES in this particular case is likely to be highly illegal.
I used the word ‘illegal’ because that is what I believe to be the case. There are certain unanswered questions which I hope Senator Durack, the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), might be able to answer at a subsequent stage.
There are two basic questions. The first is this: What action has been taken at Redcliffe over this illegal action by an officer of the Commonwealth Employment Service? One might then ask: Was this part of a deliberate attempt to make the unemployment figures at Redcliffe look better than they actually were by refusing people the right to register at that office? The second main question which I wish to ask is: How many other such cases were there at Redcliffe? I have virtually stumbled on two. I say ‘stumbled’ because these cases have been brought to my attention. But how many more were there? These are the two main questions that I hope the Minister will be able to answer.
As well it seems to me that John Smith has been deprived of unemployment benefits. Because he was not able to register he was not able to qualify for unemployment benefits, as the letter which I quoted stated. My information is that he ceased work on 16 March 1977 and did not again have work until 1 August 1 977. My information again is that during this period he was not in receipt of any benefits of any kind. Subsequently I asked the Minister for Social Security to look into this case. I do not do this as a matter of course and I hesitate to ask the Minister to look at particular cases because I know the number of representations that must be made to her; but I thought that this was an important case in which there had been a miscarriage of justice and I asked her to investigate the case of John Smith.
Because the fact that he refused to register had some bearing on the matter I asked Mr Street for information on how long John Smith had been off the register. It seemed to me that this was pertinent information to pass along to the Department of Social Security. Eventually I was informed of the dates that he was off the register. I received a telegram from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations which stated:
Your telegram re John Smith. He was taken off the CES register on 5 April 1977 and restored to it on 19 April. These dates have been passed to Senator Guilfoyle ‘s office.
Frankly- I say this with some hesitation- I do not believe that those dates were correct. The telegram says that he was taken off the register on 5 April and restored to it on 19 April, yet the letter that I quoted earlier was dated 10 May. On 10 May the Department of Social Security wrote to this man and said that he could not receive unemployment benefit because he had not been accepted for registration by the Commonwealth Employment Service. I do not say that the books have been cooked, an expression which was heard earlier tonight, but I do say that there has quite conceivably been a mistake, either by the Department of Social Security in the letter that was sent to the lad or by the Commonwealth Employment Service which states those dates of 5 and 19 April.
I received a letter from the Minister for Social Security in relation to my request to have John Smith reconsidered for unemployment benefits. 1 will read the letter because it is pertinent to the argument that I am developing about John Smith tonight. The letter stated: 1 am replying to your personal representations of 19 July 1977 and 8 August 1977 on behalf of John Smith concerning his eligibility for unemployment benefit.
In order to qualify for unemployment benefit, a claimant must be unemployed: be capable of undertaking and willing to undertake suitable work: and must have taken reasonable steps to obtain such work.
The process of registering persons for employment, seeking work for them and determining whether they are prepared to accept the offer of such work is culled the work test. The test is administered by the Commonwealth Employment Service on behalf of the Department of Social Security.
My Department therefore may only grant unemployment benefit on receipt ora report from the CES that the applicant has satisfied the work test. In Mr Smith’s case there were a number of reports from the Commonwealth Employment Service that he has not satisfied the work test and my Department had no alternative but to disallow his claim.
Following your further representations the DirectorGeneral has again reviewed the case and in the light of the reports from the Commonwealth Employment Service has confirmed the decision not to grant Mr Smith unemployment benefit.
The point I want to make with regard to that letter is that it states that the process of registering persons for employment is part of the work test. This person was not permitted to register for employment. Therefore he was automatically discriminated against in not being able to participate in the work test. Further on the letter states:
In Mr Smith’s case there were a number of reports from the Commonwealth Employment Service that he had not satisfied the work test . . .
How could he satisfy the work test if he was not registered, particularly when he was not registered not through any fault of his own but through the fault of an officer of the Commonwealth Employment Service at Redcliffe? I suggest that in this case there has been a real injustice.
To recapitulate what has happened: This person went along to register for employment and was refused registration. He was under the impression that he could apply for unemployment benefit, and he did so. He was then told that he could not receive it because the CES had refused to register him. Again I say that there may have been fault on the part of John Smith, but if there has been fault on his part there also has been fault on the pan of the Commonwealth Employment Service in not allowing him to register. The proper procedure would have been for the CES to have allowed him to register. If the CES considered that he would not pass the work test, that information then should have been passed on to the Depanment of Social Security, which then would have been able to use that information to refuse him such benefit. But he was not able to register. So it seems to me that there is a good case for the Minister having a look at this matter again to see whether it would be possible for some benefit to be paid to this lad. I could relate a great many more pertinent facts about this case, but I do not think it is necessary for me to do so as the most pertinent ones have been related already. If necessary, I will relate more facts that will elaborate this case.
I await the comment of the Minister for Social Security as to whether it would be possible to have a look at this case again. If it is not possible to do so, I will advise John Smith to take this matter further. At this juncture I am not sure what action can be taken, but I have made some tentative inquiries today and the answers seem to indicate that there is an agency under Commonwealth jurisdiction that will allow this person to take his case further because of the injustice that was done to him. I hope that this is not necessary. I hope that the Minister will see that an injustice has been done and will be able to look into the matter once more.
– I take advantage of the presence of both the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs (Senator Durack) to raise a case concerning an unemployed person who, for some reason, was advised to apply for an invalid pension and was told that if he refused to take the invalid pension he would not be eligible for unemployment benefit. As a result of that, the lad came to see me and quite angrily said: ‘I do not want to go on to an invalid pension. I want to work. I am registered for work and I see no reason why I should be declared an invalid’. The only advice that I could give to him was that he should proceed to apply for the invalid pension and he should insist upon a review. I ask the Minister whether it is becoming a practice within her own Department to place these people who have been unemployed for some time under some medical scrutiny and whether the giving of the advice given to this person is a growing practice. It is rather souldestroying to be told when you are seeking work that there is no work available. But the Department is saying worse than that to this lad. It is saying to him: ‘You are an invalid. You are not capable of working. We are prepared to give you an invalid pension’. Perhaps it was an humane act on the pan of someone making the judgment.
Is this an endeavour by the Department to lower the number of those people who have been unemployed for some months? If it is it will not lessen the economic support which has to be given because I suppose the invalid pension is about the same as the unemployment benefit. The placing of young people on an invalid pension decreases the number of young people on the unemployment benefit. However, I would say that the consequences of such an act are souldestroying, as I have said previously. In this case the person was very dispirited and he fought against the decision of the Department. To my mind he did not appear to be a person who could be termed an invalid, and that mark should not have been put on him possibly for the rest of his employable life.
– I wish to take up a short amount of the time of the Senate this evening to pay a tribute to a very close friend and colleague from my State of Queensland who passed away today at approximately I a.m. I refer to the Honourable Keith Hooper, Minister for Transport in the Queensland Government. Mr Hooper was a great Australian. He served Australia during a time of war and he served Australia through the State of Queensland in the Queensland Parliament as a Minister from 1972. He was the Liberal member for Greenslopes. He entered the State Parliament of Queensland in 1957, winning the seat of Buranda from the State Labor Party which had held it for almost 50 years. Mr Hooper served with the Australian Imperial Forces, 2/10 Field Regiment of the 8th Division from 1940 to 1946. He was a prisoner-of-war in Changi from 1942 to 1943 and a slave labourer in Japan from 1943 to 1945.
I wish to pay a tribute to this fine Australian- a fine Australian who served, as I said earlier, his country in more ways than one. He was a great Australian. He was a great Queenslander. Queensland will certainly be the poorer for his passing. The Queensland Government certainly will be the poorer for losing a Minister and a fine gentleman of the calibre of Mr Keith Hooper. To his wife and two daughters I express in this Parliament this evening as my forum my deepest sympathy on the bereavement, the loss of a husband, a father and a great Queenslander, and my personal feelings for a great friend indeed.
– I take the opportunity to respond on behalf of Senator Durack who represents the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) and my own Department in regard to the matter raised by Senator Colston. The honourable senator read to the Senate a letter that I wrote to him about a week ago regarding the case he mentioned. In that letter I told him that the Director-General of Social Services had reviewed the case again and that in the light of the reports from the Commonwealth Employment Service he had confirmed the decision not to grant the unemployment benefit in this instance. I will undertake to have discussions again with the Commonwealth Employment Service and to ask my DirectorGeneral to review the matters that have been raised in the way they were brought forward by Senator Colston to see whether any further action can be taken. The person mentioned by Senator Colston has access, if he wishes, to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. I do not know whether that avenue has been considered by him.
– Can this be done after the Director-General has reviewed the case?
– If we look at the case again and if he wishes to go to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal, I feel sure that there would be no impediment to that person having access to that Tribunal because the Director-General has reviewed the case. I certainly would raise no question as to his right to do so. I am sure that the Director-General would not. In the light of what has been said about the Commonwealth Employment Service and my own Department’s decision, I believe that if we looked at the file and any way was found in which assistance could be given, the Director-General would have no hesitation in doing so. It seems to me that this is a complex case going back over a long period. Certainly some misunderstandings have arisen. 1 undertake that I shall refer the case back to the Director-General for his further consideration.
I now refer to the matter raised by Senator Georges. There certainly is no instruction that people who seek unemployment benefit should be transferred to either the sickness benefit or the invalid pension. I think I mentioned on the last occasion we dealt with financial Bills during the sittings of the Estimates committees that I was interested to see the growth in numbers of invalid pensions paid. It should be understood that invalid pensions are paid subject to medical certificate following fairly stringent medical tests. Therefore, I would question whether anyone who has been endeavouring to obtain the unemployment benefit would find it easy to transfer to the invalid pension. 1 think the usual attitude is that it is fairly difficult to do so.
– That is what made me raise the question. He has been transferred from the unemployment benefit to the invalid pension.
– I know of no widely established practice that suggests there is any change in the way in which invalid pensions are granted. It seems to me that there is probably a number of people in our community who could be in an unemployable category and perhaps, on occasions, it is less of a harrassment to them if they are categorised as being in another category. But this is not a practice that has been established. It is one that on medical grounds may be suggested to a person who believes he is able to undertake work. But I am unable to say whether this is the case in this instance.
– I will supply the name.
– If the honourable senator could do so, the matter could be investigated. I would be happy to give whatever information is sought by Senator Georges in this matter. However, there is no general pattern of transfer. In fact, it is more difficult to obtain the invalid pension than one might imagine because of the degree of invalidity that is required for something that is a permanent benefit whereas the unemployment benefit is a very temporary benefit which is paid from week to week subject to the prospects of employment. However, if the honourable senator gives me the information I shall be happy to have this matter checked and I will advise him accordingly.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 20 April 1 977:
In the light of widespread public interest and concern in Australia regarding the energy crises, will the Minister consider reporting frequently to Parliament outlining the nature of research, level of funding, level of energy research, and degree of success of this research in all fields associated with the research and development of alternative energy sources in Australia; if not, would the Minister indicate why he would be reluctant to undertake such a worthwhile task.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
See my answers to Questions Nos 442 and 860.
Ethanol: Use as Motor Fuel (Question No. 616)
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 2 1 April 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable senator to the answer of the Minister for National Resources to Question No. 615 (Hansard, page 59, 16 August 1977).
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 30 May 1 977:
I ) Does the Minister recall his Government’s 1975 election policy statement on minerals and energy that ‘The Liberal and National Country Parties will place a high priority on research into the development of solar energy units for industrial applications’.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 30 May 1977:
– 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:
There is a great deal of published information on research by other countries in the solar energy field. This is available to Australian scientists through various channels. For example, the CSIRO Central Information Library and Editorial Section has access to a number of energy research data bases maintained in the US and is examining ways of expanding on the information sources already available to it. Information which is held by the Section is available to interested parties in Australia.
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 24 May 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory, upon notice, on 4 May 1977:
Is it the Government’s intention to continue to make funds available for a freight assistance subsidy on the movement of cattle to abattoirs, rail-heads, markets et cetera, in the Northern Territory in view of the depressed situation in primary industry and the fact that the natural increase in cattle population means that cattle numbers in many areas will be far in excess of the safe cattle carrying capacity of the country.
– The Minister for the Northern Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government has decided to continue to assist Northern Territory cattle producers with transport costs of moving cattle for sale during the 1 977 season.
In reviewing last year’s subsidy the Government approved some significant modifications to the scheme. Under the new scheme, which applies for the period 1 January to 31 December 1977, the subsidy rate of 25 per cent is being maintained in the case of male cattle. However, in the case of female cattle it has been substantially increased to50 per cent. The limit of 3,000 head per producer only applies now to male cattle. A rate of 0.3 cents per beast mile is being paid after the first 50 miles where a producer uses droving instead of road transport.
Department of the Capital Territory: Staffing (Question No. 971)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 25 May 1 977:
How many (a) permanent employees, (b) temporary employees and (c) other employees were there in the Minister’s Department for each month since and including November 1975.
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the answer to Question on Notice No. 949.
Alleged Activities of the United States Central Intelligence Agency in Australia (Question No. 1021)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 25 May 1977:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Government Services for non-English Speaking Persons (Question No. 1032)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 26 May 1977:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
3 ) The Government is aware of the difficulties of people whose first language is not English and has taken steps to overcome those difficulties. These steps, by Commonwealth Departments, include:
The new Ethnic Affairs Branch of the Depanment of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, staff for which is now being recruited from inside and outside the Commonwealth Public Service, will have responsibility, amongst other matters, for developing an overview of the position of migrants in the community in relation to health, welfare, housing, education, employment, communications, the law and other matters affecting their integration; identifying gaps in services or programs and, in co-operation with appropriate government and non-government agencies, developing approaches and pointing to action to remedy deficiencies.
The Ethnic Affairs Branch will also be responsible for:
Other recent initiatives by the Government in this field include the establishment of the Australian Ethnic Affairs Council, the National Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Council and a new independent authority to provide an ethnic broadcasting service.
The terms of reference of the Australian Ethnic Affairs Council require it to advise the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on the major policy areas mentioned above. The Council will evaluate the special needs and problems of ethnic groups and provide expert guidance on ways to ensure that individuals are able to contribute to society to the fullest extent of their potential and that existing policies and procedures are designed or improved to assist them toward that goal. Most of the work of the Council is done through its specialist committees; i.e.,
The Government has also agreed to the establishment or two experimental Migrant Resource Centres for an initial period of two years, one at Richmond, Victoria, within the Australian Greek Welfare Society, and the other to be administered by the Depanment in New South Wales. The work of the centres falls into two broad categories: the provision of information and advice to migrants and to act as a referral service; community development, involving liaison with ethnic communities, local institutions and Government departments at the Federal, State and local level. The Melbourne Centre commenced operation at the Australian Greek Welfare Centre at Richmond on 1 February 1977. Although suitable accommodation has been located in Parramatta, New South Wales, for the operation of the second centre, staff have yet to be selected.
The Government has also agreed to the establishment of a National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI). Arrangements are proceeding and its establishment should be announced shortly. Standards of practice for interpreters and translators in Australia, and the accreditation of individual practitioners, will be functions of the new body. It will also give advice to education authorities on the content of courses for interpreters and translators. This should ensure the development of a separate occupational field of interpreting and translating in Australia.
The newly created National Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Council (NEBAC) has been established to advise on ethnic broadcasting needs and the operation of future services. In this respect the Government has decided to establish a new independent authority to provide an ethnic broadcasting service. This decision takes account of the strong preference of the ethnic communities for an ethnic broadcasting authority which will be responsive to their needs and will provide a medium for presenting non-English speaking residents of Australia with entertainment, news and other information in their own languages and will also transmit programs whose purpose is to encourage and facilitate the learning of English.
The Depanment of Social Security administers special programs which relate specifically to the settlement and integration of migrants.
The Depanment provides a direct welfare service to assist migrants with information, advice and counselling concerning individual problems and referrals to relevant authorities and agencies for relief or treatment. This service is provided in State capitals, Canberra, Wollongong and Darwin, through a field staff of about 25 social workers and 50 welfare officers, of whom the majority are competent in languages other than English.
The Department is responsible also for the coordination of welfare services provided for refugees, evacuees etc. who have been admitted to Australia and for the administration of the Immigration (Guardianship of Children) Act 1973 which provides for the guardianship of children who are admitted to Australia and have no other legal guardian or whose overseas adoption is ruled invalid under the legislation of the various States or Territories.
As a special measure to help overcome communication barriers which might significantly affect migrants’ welfare, the Department operates the Telephone Interpreter Service which provides an interpreting service over the telephone to assist nonEnglish speaking migrants and those having dealings with them who might require assistance to communicate. The Telephone Interpreter Service, which is operational in all mainland State capitals, also provides an information and counselling service over the telephone for non-English speakers. Each centre is operated by staff interpreters who are supported by members of the community with linguistic skills. The latter can be called upon to provide assistance over the telephone in cases where the staff operators do not possess the demand language or, in the case of emergencies or other urgent or pressing situations, be sent to render assistance in person if necessary.
The Department fully funds the administrative expenses of the Good Neighbour Movement which comprises voluntary autonomous Councils from each State and Territory. These Councils are devoted to generating and co-ordinating community effort towards the successful integration of migrants into the Australian community.
The Department is responsible also for a grantinaid scheme for migrant welfare activities, the purpose of which is the provision of grants to non-government social welfare agencies for the purpose of undertaking social welfare work to benefit migrants.
The Department also maintains contact with national group organisations for the purpose of facilitating the settlement of migrants. It has issued directories of ethnic organisations for each State and for the Australian Capital Territory which were distributed free of charge to persons and institutions involved in migrant affairs.
Other related activities include:
The Department also engages in research relating to the background and composition of the various ethnic groups in Australia as an aid to the implementation and improvement of departmental programs.
The Commonwealth Employment Service gives particular consideration to meeting the needs of nonEnglish speaking clients, especially in areas where large concentrations of migrants occur. To this end, the Service appoints appropriate bilingual officers to its offices in these areas. In addition, it has at its disposal bilingual and multilingual officers who staff its offices at migrant hostels. Moreover, a substantial proportion of experienced staff in the large migrantoriented offices of the Commonwealth Employment Service are either from migrant backgrounds or are migrants themselves. In consequence, a wide range of languages is spoken and utilised by these officers in the day-to-day operations of the Commonwealth Employment Service.
The Adult Migrant Education Program provides a range of English language learning opportunities including full-time courses, courses for migrants in industry, part-time courses and continuation courses, correspondence and radio lessons, classes for migrant women and home tutoring. In addition, a television course in basic English oral expression is presented over twelve commercial television stations.
At the school level, Commonwealth funds are provided through the Schools Commission’s General Recurrent Grants Program to State education systems for migrant and multicultural education. Allocation of the funds within the systems and the determination of priorities is the responsibility of the relevant education authority. Generally, education systems are using by far the greater part of the funds to pay the salaries of teachers of English as a second language. Such teachers may be employed to teach English to migrant children in special classes or, and increasingly, to work in co-operation with classroom teachers to provide consistent language support throughout the school.
As well as funds provided specifically for migrant and multicultural education, other funds provided under the General Recurrent Grants Program can be used to support activities in migrant and multicultural education according to priorities determined by the relevant education authority.
In addition, an Interdepartmental Working Party on Interpreters and Translators was established in March 1976 and reported to the Government in February 1977. Its recommendations include ways of increasing the availability of interpreters and translators for the community generally as well as suggesting improvements in the services provided by Commonwealth Departments and authorities. An announcement concerning the Working Party’s recommendations is expected shortly.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 3 1 May 1 977:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Some of these projects relate specifically to aboriginal nutrition particularly in children.
In addition $29,000 was made available in 1976/77 by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, on the recommendation of the National Health and Medical Research Council, for the following project:
Dr Peter Heywood is a Senior Lecturer in Nutrition in the Commonwealth Department of Health’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at the University of Sydney. He co-ordinates courses in dietetics. He and the nutrition staff of the Central Office of the Commonwealth Department of Health collate information for research activities in the field of nutrition.
Through its quarterly journal Food and Nutrition Notes and Reviews the Department of Health co-ordinates, publishes original papers from Australian researchers and disseminates local and overseas information on nutrition to research organisations, universities, colleges of advanced education, hospitals, infant welfare centres and schools.
It is the only journal in Australia devoted solely to nutrition. Copies of the four issues for Volume 33 ( 1 976 ) have been sent to the honourable senator.
Other publications of the Department also provide basis nutrition information needed for education in all sections of the community.
The Department of Health also maintains liaison with the Division of Human Nutrition of the C.S.I.R.O.
The Department of Health is encouraging greater emphasis on nutrition in school education programs. A new publication A Nutritional Guide for School Food Services places high priority on the wise selection of foods to be sold through school canteens and the greater role of canteens within the educational environment of school children.
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 2 June 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The CSIRO Central Information Library Editorial Service, CILES, is currently preparing an Australian Solar Energy Index. The Index will contain a listing of all material pertaining to solar energy research in Australia that has been published by CSIRO staff since 1952 and by research workers outside of CSIRO since 1972. It will list the name of the research worker, his institution and location, the title of the publication and notes on the subject matter. It is expected that the Index will be published by the end of this year and thereafter will be constantly updated at regular intervals. CSIRO cannot, however, provide details of all personnel engaged in solar energy research or their level of funding as this information is not readily available.
Lake Julius Scheme, Mount Isa Area
-On 27 April 1 977 (Hansard, page 986), Senator Wriedt asked me, as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs, a question, without notice concerning the Lake Julius scheme in the Mount Isa area. The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I am informed that the Hon. R. C. Katter and a delegation from the Mount Isa City Council met with a number of honourable senators and members including the Acting Minister for National Resources, the Hon. P. J. Nixon, and the Minister Assisting the Treasurer, the Hon. Ian Viner on 28 April 1977 to discuss the funding of the Julius Dam project. The Ministers informed the delegation that the Commonwealth would be reviewing the matter in the context of the 1977-78 Budget.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 August 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770823_senate_30_s74/>.