30th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator the Honourable Robert Cotton, leaves Australia today to attend the South Pacific Forum in Port Moresby. He is expected to return on 31 August. During his absence the Minister for Special Trade Negotiations, the Honourable John Howard, will act as Minister for Industry and Commerce. In addition to Senator Cotton being absent today Senator Webster, Minister for Science, is absent at the State funeral of the late Rex Connor. Senator Carrick, Minister for Education, is unable to attend the Senate this morning. Therefore, at question time I will take on notice questions addressed to those three Ministers or the departments that they represent.
– by leave- I would like to indicate on behalf of the Opposition that the absence of three Ministers will make question time extremely difficult today. Presumably, many honourable senators will wish to ask questions. I should like it on record that it will be difficult during question time today to direct certain questions to the Government. I accept the fact that the Leader of the Government (Senator Withers) will endeavour to answer questions put to him. For the record, I point out that it ought to be recognised that we are in short supply of Ministers to whom we can address questions.
– I present the following petition from 43 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many pensioners who are holders of the Pensioners Health Benefit Card have suffered undue hardship as inmates of private nursing homes, because the Federal Govrnment 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:
Make sure that subsidies paid to private nursing homes are such that each pensioner holding a Pensioners Health Benefit Card will pay the private nursing home no more than the statutory minimum patient contribution, which will allow six dollars per week to be retained by the pensioner patient for their personal use.
That a pensioner holding a Pensioner Health Card shall have a telephone installed free of charge, or at a very nominal charge.
That those pensioners who have only their pension and very little else to live on, shall receive a subsidy to assist them. The subsidy to be governed by a means test.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 20 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That where whole or part of a deceased estate passes to the surviving spouse it should be free from federal estate duty.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the President and Members of the Senate assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens (students, parents, teachers ) of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decision by the Government to withdraw all forms of financial assistance to students of Non-state Tertiary Institutions is in total conflict with stated Government education policy.
The decision will result in a shortage of places for training secretarial and clerical students and an inordinate demand upon the State Government education systems.
At a time of severe economic disruption, this action must lead to a serious worsening of the current employment situation, particularly school leavers.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the Federal Government will act immediately to reverse its decision.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Wriedt.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate, in the Parliament assembled, the humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the Charter of the United Nations clearly precludes it from interference in the domestic affairs of a country or from obstructing the free transmission of news and information between individuals and between nations.
That the United Nations, in apparent illegality, has imposed many restrictions and sanctions upon Rhodesia which has been remarkably free from bloodshed and turmoil of Northern and Central African lands, even to the extent now of actively encouraging armed conflict against the legally elected Government of Rhodesia.
Lord Graham as Minister of External Affairs and Defence has said: ‘International Communism is our enemy, all this talk of political advancement and majority rule is no more than a smokescreen in the early skirmishes of an assault upon the whole of Africa. … It is even difficult to see this enemy because it is not merely attacking us, but on a broad front is attacking the whole world order, its standards, its law and order, its moralities, its churches, its patriotisms, its philosophies and even much of its learning. . . . ‘
That Communist Chinese infiltration in much of Africa over many years and Cuban Communist troops reported to number 25,000 are dominating nearby Angola, and possess modern missiles et cetera.
It is urgent that Mozambique, now under Communist domination and which has a common border with Rhodesia, does not receive any further aid from the Commonwealth Government of Australia, which has benefited mainly, the terrorist guerilla movements that are responsible for the deaths of many Rhodesian people.
It is urgent for the Australian people to determine for themselves the actual facts of the Rhodesian struggles.
It is urgent that the Senate and the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled, will observe natural justice and proper humanity by inviting only authorised representatives of the present Rhodesian Parliament to Australia, to do what they have been deprived of doing previously, present their case fully and publicly so that this can be examined and tested, without interference, and so that the eventual impact on Australia’s own security and defence alliances can be gauged with better accuracy.
Your petitioners request urgent action to be taken immediately.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Jessop.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That although artistically the Red Army Choir may be a great choir, it is nonetheless a propaganda unit of the Red Army, the army which is the instrument of the Communist dictatorship, bent on world domination along with the destruction of the Christian faith.
Your petitioners humbly pray that entry into Australia shall be denied to the Red Army Choir.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Jessop.
Gambling Casino in Canberra
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the establishment of a gambling casino in Canberra would debase the national capital and increase crime in Canberra.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should seek to preserve the dignity of the national capital by disallowing any ordinance to authorise the establishment of a gambling casino in Canberra.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Jessop.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that senior Treasury and Australian Taxation Office officials met with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Primary Industry at 6 p.m. last night? Was the purpose of the meeting to sort out the confusion which exists about the application of the new tax scales to primary producers who elect to average their income? Does the Government still contend that all taxpayers will in fact be better off? If so, why is the Government attempting to devise further amendments to the proposals which apply to primary producers?
-As to whether or not the Prime Minister had a meeting with officials at 6 p.m., I do not know. I was elsewhere at the time. I think it is fair to say that over the last 10 days interpretations, assumptions and all sorts of interesting things have been made about the Treasurer’s Budget Speech. One thing which was quite clear in the Budget Speech was that the Treasurer said that under the new tax reforms nobody would suffer a detriment. That statement was correct then, it is correct now and it will be correct when the legislation comes into the Parliament.
– What the Treasurer says -
– The honourable senator ought to spend all his time shouting his head off at Governors-General outside the Parmelia. That is all he is fit for. If people want some real, definite and precise information it will be found in the legislation when it comes to the Parliament. I repeat that what the Treasurer said and what my colleague Senator Cotton said here on Tuesday night was correct then and it will be correct when the legislation comes in to the Parliament- no one will suffer a detriment.
– My question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, relates to the Women’s Advisory Body Working Party. I preface it by pointing out that the Working Party has received some 440 submissions from organisations and individuals in regard to its terms of reference which read:
To investigate and make recommendations on the role, representation and Function of a possible National Women’s Advisory Body.
A reading of the Working Party’s June newsletter seems to indicate that it has exceeded its terms of reference. I ask: Will the Government make provision for those organisations and individuals which abided by the terms of reference to make further submissions on issues they feel need attention? Will the Government ensure that the Working Party does not usurp the position of the proposed National Women’s Advisory Body?
-As I understand the present position, the Working Party has completed its task and has reported to the Government. That having been done, the report at the moment is being printed and will be tabled as soon as possible. The expectation is that after that the report will be open for public comment and debate before the Government takes any final decisions on it. It will be during that period I imagine that the people who have made representations to the honourable senator will have the opportunity to make further representations and perhaps submissions. I think that the people involved ought to await the report and the debate which follows. As to the part of the question about the Working Party usurping the position of the proposed National Women’s Advisory Body, I do not believe that to be the Government’s intention. I will pass that matter on to the Prime Minister and get a definitive reply on it for the honourable senator.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware that Dr L. Rassaby, a doctor with the Sydney Aboriginal Medical Service, has stated that some Aboriginal children will die in the Sydney area as a result of the Government’s refusal to fund a nutritional program which incidentally will cost only $60,000? In view of the fact that the health and lives of many babies are at stake, will the Government review the situation and supply the necessary funds?
– I will refer the question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, but I am sure that the position as stated is not entirely accurate. I would like a further explanation of the assertion that has been made in regard to the Government’s refusal to support a program that would prevent the deaths of Aboriginal children.
– I ask a supplementary question. The statement was made by a doctor. I believe the position to have been correctly stated. I ask the Minister: Will she treat this as a matter of urgency?
– I always treat questions as a matter of urgency and in particular this one will be treated as an urgent matter. But I think the assertion that was made in regard to the Government should have been more carefully worded.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. This morning a delegation of federal parliamentarians from the House of Representatives and the Senate delivered to the Ambassador for Indonesia a protest note signed by 80 members of Parliament from the Liberal-National Country Party and the Labor Party. The note was to protest against the refusal to date of the Government of the Republic of Indonesia to indicate whether or not visas will be issued to permit a delegation of members of the Parliament of Australia to visit East Timor on a fact finding mission. The Ambassador of Indonesia indicated that because Indonesia was now normalising the economic life of Timor permission would not be granted for this delegation at present. In view of the fact that the American Congress, the Australian media and officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs were permitted by Indonesia to visit Timor recently, will the Australian Government take the matter up with the Indonesian Government in Jakarta for visas to be issued at the earliest possible time so that elected members of Parliament, who represent many thousands of Australians interested in the present circumstances of Timor, may go on this mission?
-I can understand the reason the honourable senator has asked this question. He has had a continuing interest in this problem for a long time. I will pass this on to my colleague. May I just say that it is for the country concerned to decide who enters that county and who does not come in. Australia believes that it ought to have control in the matter of who comes into Australia and who ought not come into Australia. I often wonder whether the best way of conducting any son of relations, let alone international ones, is by the use of protests and demands.
– Whether one should make them?
– Well, I just wonder sometimes. I think that if we go about these things in a more conciliatory way we may get a little further. However, I will take up the matter with the Minister for Foreign Affairs and ascertain whether he will make representations to his colleague in Indonesia.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that Mr Eggleton, the Federal Director of the Liberal Party, has written to Government Ministers saying that the Federal Secretariat of the Liberal Party will become a major policy formulating body for the Government and that in pursuit of this objective it will require direct access to Government departments?
-Either I have not caught up with my mail or Mr Eggleton has not written to me. I do read my mail. I have no knowledge at all of such a letter. I will certainly check both in my office and with Mr Eggleton to ascertain whether what the honourable senator says is correct.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources. I refer to the statement by the Treasurer in the presentation of the 1977-78 Budget which says:
To finance increased coal research the Government will levy 5 cents a tonne on coal produced in Australia in the next three years; the levy will have effect from midnight tonight and is expected to provide $3. 4m this year.
Can the Minister inform the Senate of the details of the proposed allocation of these funds and the areas of coal research likely to be undertaken or expanded?
– The honourable senator was good enough to alert me to the fact that he was going to ask this question. I have an answer from the Deputy Prime Minister which will certainly be of interest to all honourable senators. It reads:
The question of the coal research levy was discussed at the Australian Minerals and Energy Council meeting in Adelaide last Friday. At that meeting Ministers were strongly of the view that there were compelling reasons to step up the existing level of coal research in Australia. This judgment was based on the recognition of Australia’s vast coal reserves: the certainty that without further major oil discoveries Australia will become increasingly dependent on imported oil; and the increasing attractiveness of coal both as a source of energy by itself and as a proven basis for the production of liquid fuels for the transport and petrochemical industries.
At the meeting with Stale Ministers, it was agreed that discussions will be held between the Commonwealth and the States to determine priorities and co-ordinating machinery. However, it was agreed that there is a need to pursue coal research in three basic areas.
The first area is the necessity for better definition of coal resources and improved mining techniques. With the demands that are expected to be made on our coal resources it is vital to maximise their utilisation. With current technology we face a situation where almost half of the coal in many cases is left in the ground- coal which is of the same high quality as that which is extracted. We simply must develop means to improve our exploitation of these resources.
The second main area of research is the conversion of coal to gas or liquids. Any realistic appraisal of Australia’s future fuel requirements indicates that the only likely alternative to increased quantities of imported crude is the production of oil from coal. Australia needs to establish a research capacity to provide for commercial development in the 1980s. This involves an examination of the various routes for converting coal to oil with particular emphasis on their suitability in regard to Australian coals and Australian mining conditions.
The third main thrust of coal research is in the area of combustion, particularly in respect of power generation. Much of Australia’s electricity generation is based on coal. There is an urgent need to develop more efficient ways of using our coal resources for this purpose.
The main emphasis of the coal research programs which evolve will be to co-ordinate effort to ensure that the limited funds available for coal research are used in the best possible way.
Details of the specific projects to be funded will be announced by the Minister for National Resources at a later date.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, by reminding her of three Press statements she issued on 14 July, 20 July and 29 July in which she denied rumours that a large amount of child care money was being withheld despite the many community based child care projects in urgent need of funds. I ask the Minister why, in view of her repeated statements that all of the $73m allocated for children’s services in the last financial year was totally committed, she has described the $73m allocated in this Budget as an increase of $6.2m over last year’s expenditure. If it is in fact an increase, is it not the case that the $6m shortfall in last year’s expenditure was returned to the Treasury unspent?
– The amount that was expended last year was stated in the statements attached to the Budget Papers. The amount that is to be spent this year is $73. 3m, which is an increase of some $6m on the expenditure of last year, as was stated. The funds for last year were fully committed but as some State governments did not draw on the funds committed to them for pre-school education and child care programs this money was not required in the last year. To talk in the way in which the honourable senator is talking is to misunderstand the way in which the accounting of government expenditure operates. The funds were there last year. They were committed for projects. The fact that those projects had not proceeded to an extent where the funds were actually required does not mean that the funds were withdrawn in any way. They were not required and they were not spent. This year, if we are able to spend the full amount allocated for these projects in the Budget we will be spending some $6m more than we spent last year.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer to the fear of prosecution on the part of citizen band radio operators who have paid their licence fees recently and who have received a receipt but not the actual licence. I understand that this is due to industrial bans by the relevant trade union on the issue of licences. Can the Minister assure such people that provided they can produce evidence of payment of the fee they will not suffer prosecution for not holding a licence?
-I have no direct authority to give the assurance which the honourable senator seeks, but as a matter of commonsense administration, as long as a person has a receipt and the licence has not been issued for reasons beyond the control of the applicant I would be very much surprised if the Minister authorised a prosecution.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Given the fact that under the new tax schedule operative from 1 February people on incomes between $6,600 and $7,600 will pay more taxation as from 1 July next than they would under the old schedule, why do so many Ministers in this Government continue to peddle the untruth that everyone will be better off?
-The honourable senator commenced his question with the words ‘given the fact’. It is really not a matter of fact; it is a matter of assumption.
– With a 10 per cent indexation factor, it is a fact.
– That is an assumption.
– What is your assumption?
-Mr President, I thought we were here to answer questions. The honourable senator trots in with a number of unsubstantiated assumptions and then complains that he does not get factual replies. All I can say to the honourable senator is wait until the legislation comes into the Parliament when all proposals will be spelt out in proper detail. During the Committee stage of the Bill he will have a proper opportunity to ask proper questions.
- Mr President, I have a supplementary question. What indexation factor is assumed by the Government to justify its assertion that every taxpayer will be better off? I assumed a 10 per cent indexation factor. I am asking the Minister what factor the Government assumes.
– It is not a matter of our taking this into account. The simple fact is that the new 3-step scale leads to a reduction of taxes and is the greatest taxation reform we have seen in this century in this country.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. I refer to a report in the Melbourne Age yesterday that the Commonwealth Commission of Inquiry into Poverty is now being hampered in its work through lack of funds. The report suggested that a number of research papers cannot be published, that there are staff shortages, that the Commission lacks adequate office space and is uncertain of its future. Can the Minister indicate whether this report is in fact correct? What is the current status of the Commission of Inquiry? What is the Government’s attitude to its work and further research activities?
– I am aware of the statement in the Age of yesterday. Many comments in the article have posed questions as far as I am concerned. The activities of the Commonwealth Commission of Inquiry into Poverty have been winding down as four of the five commissioners have completed the tasks that they undertook for the Government. The only remaining commissioner is Professor R. C. Gates, who has not yet submitted his report. The Commission is not broke as suggested by the article. All commissioners, with the exception of Professor Gates, were paid in full until the date they completed their work and to my knowledge there is no money owing from the Government. Professor Gates, because of the delays he was experiencing in completing his task, indicated in June 1976 that he would not be seeking any further remuneration from the Government for the extension of time he required to complete his report.
The publication and distribution of further reports are not in jeopardy. Eight research reports and one main report are still to be published and finance is available for this purpose. Seven of those reports are currently with the printer while the remaining research report and the main report are still to be received from Professor Gates. Support staff was originally provided to all five commissioners and for the main office of the poverty inquiry in Melbourne. With the progressive reporting of four commissioners support staff was no longer required and the offices provided were closed down as they were no longer required. The staff at the main office of the Commission in Melbourne was also progressively reduced as the workload declined and people’s continued presence could not be justified.
Following an assessment of the work load by my Department Mr Keith Stodden of the Department’s Melbourne office was made available on a part time basis to carry out the remaining administrative work. Mr Stodden will be made available for as long as he is required, and further resources can also be made available if necessary. It should be understood that the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty has been of several years duration. As Commissioners have reported and have fulfilled the tasks that they undertook for the Government, there has been a certain -
– What happened to the reports? They have not been published.
– A whole range of reports has been published.
– A whole range has not been published. That is correct, is it not?
– I think it might suit Senator Button’s requirements if I incorporated a document showing the numbers of reports which have been printed and the status of those which are yet to be finalised with the printers and to come to the Government. It will be seen from this that all reports have been published. I think that a great deal of valuable material is now available to those people who are interested in this area. It has become quite a basic document as far as social services and social security in this country are concerned. Mr President, I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard a list of the reports which have been printed and those which are still to be printed and to be circulated at a later date.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO POVERTY PUBLICATIONS AVAILABLE
Main Reports of the Commission:
F. Henderson, Poverty in Australia, Volume 1, First Main Report (AGPS, Canberra, 1975).
F. Henderson, Poverty in Australia, Volume 2, First Main Report (AGPS, Canberra, 1975).
F. Henderson, Poverty in Australia, an outline of the First Main Report (AGPS, Canberra, 1 975 ).
Sackville, Law and Poverty in Australia, Second Main Report (AGPS, Canberra, 1975).
S. Martin, Social/Medical Aspects of Poverty in Australia, Third Main Report (AGPS, Canberra, 1976).
T. Fitzgerald, Poverty and Education in Australia, Fifth Main Report (AGPS, Canberra, 1976).
Research Reports prepared under the Auspices of Professor Henderson:
W. Brown, R. Hirschfeld and D. Smith, Aboriginals and Islanders in Brisbane (AGPS, Canberra, 1974).
Department of Sociology, University of New England, Rural Poverty in Northern New South Wales (AGPS, Canberra, 1974).
Salmon, Resources for Poor Families: An Experimental Income Supplement Scheme (AGPS, Canberra, 1974).
Australian Council of Trade Unions, Survey of Young Workers (AGPS, Canberra, 1975).
F. Musgrave, P. A. Rickards and I. F. Whan, ‘Poverty among Farmers in New South Wales and Queensland’; D. P. Vincent, A. S. Watson and L. M. Barton, ‘Poverty among Farmers in Three Districts of Victoria’: in Financial Aspects of Rural Poverty (AGPS, Canberra, 1975).
T. Lewis, Values in Australian Income Security Policies (AGPS, Canberra, 1975).
Gale and J. Binnion. Poverty among Aboriginal Families in Adelaide (AGPS, Canberra, 1 975 ).
H. K. Payne and F. W. Clements, ‘Some Low Income Families in Sydney’; J. Pritchard and M. Burn, ‘Some Students in Melbourne’: in Food Consumption Patterns (AGPS, Canberra, 1975).
Benjamin and J. Morton, A Model for Welfare Service Planning and Delivery (AGPS. Canberra. 1 975 ).
Sach. ‘Accommodation for the Aged in Melbourne’: J. Brown, ‘Income and Poverty among Retired Presbyterian Ministers’: in The Aged (AGPS, Canberra, 1975).
Australian Red Cross Society, Victorian Division, ‘A Study of Thirty Country Families’; Australian Red Cross Society, New South Wales Division. ‘A Study of Thirty City Families’: in Chronic Poverty: City and Country Families (AGPS, Canberra, 1975).
Horowitz, A Study of Community Aid Centres in New South Wales (AG PS, Canberra, 1975)
Australian Council of Social Service, ‘Consumer Groups and Their Views on Welfare Services’; Fitzroy Ecumenical Centre, ‘Housing Commission Tenants in Fitzroy and Collingwood’; Fitzroy Ecumenical Centre, ‘Tenants in Privately Rented Accommodation in Fitzroy and Collingwood’: in Consumer Views on Welfare Services and Rented Housing (AGPS, Canberra, 1975).
Cox, ‘The Role of Ethnic Groups in Migrant Welfare’; J. I. Martin, ‘The Economic Condition of Migrants’: in Welfare of Migrants ( AGPS, Canberra, 1975).
Jordan, Long Term Unemployed People under Conditions of Full Employment (AGPS, Canberra, 1 975 ).
F. Hill, A Study of Aboriginal Poverty in Two Country Towns (AGPS, Canberra, 1975).
G. Duigan, A Study of the Hindmarsh (South Australia) Community (AGPS, Canberra, 1975 ).
Vinson, R. Homel and R. Bonney, ‘A Community Study: Newcastle’; R. Francis, ‘A Community Study: Fremantle’; A. Burbridge and J. Brown, ‘Welfare Services in Brisbane’; D. Adams and C. Tilse, ‘Accessibility of Services in Brisbane’: in Community Services: Four Studies (AGPS, Canberra, 1976).
Morgan, A Study of the Heidelberg (Victoria) Community (AGPS, Canberra, 1976).
Research Reports Prepared under the Auspices of Professor Sackville (Law and Poverty Series):
Sackville, Legal Aid in Australia (AGPS. Canberra, 1975).
Jakubowicz and B. Buckley, Migrants and the Legal System (AGPS, Canberra, 1975).
Armstrong, ‘Unconvicted Prisoners: the Problems of Bail’; M. J. Mossman and R. Sackville, ‘Issues in Law and Social Security’: in Essays on Law and Poverty: Bail and Social Security.
J. Bradbrook, Poverty and the Residential Landlord - Tenant Relationship (AGPS, Canberra, 1975).
Cass and R. Sackville, Legal Needs of the Poor (AGPS, Canberra, 1975).
Sackville, Homeless People and the Law (AGPS, Canberra, 1976).
St L. Kelly, Debt Recovery in Australia (AGPS, Canberra, 1977).
M. Fitzgerald, Poverty and the Legal Profession in Victoria (AGPS, Canberra, 1977).
Research Report Prepared under the Auspices of Dr Fitzgerald (Poverty and Education Series):
The Family Centre Project, Brotherhood of St Laurence, Never Had a Chance’, N. Haines, ‘Non-Participation in Continuing Education’; J. Dennison, ‘The Concept of the Community College’: in Lifelong Education and Poor People: Three Studies (AGPS, Canberra, 1 977 ).
Research Reports Prepared under the Auspices of Reverend Martin (Social/Medical Aspects of Poverty Series):
Mune, ‘Social Worker Referral of Clients to Family Planning Clinics’; W. Salter, T. Selwood and J. Leeton, Non-Attendance among Post-Natal Women at a Hospital Family Planning Clinic’; T. Murrell and J. Moss, ‘Health Care for Infants and Mothers’: in Family Planning and Health Care for Infants and Mothers (AGPS, Canberra, 1977).
Treloar, The Relationship Between Poverty and Disability in Australia (AGPS, Canberra, 1977).
C. Harper and S. Morey. ‘Glebe: Community Need and Service Organisation’; V. Douglas, ‘A Study of Health and Welfare Services in Melbourne’; P. Harlow. ‘Community Health Services: Literature Survey’: in Community Health Services.
J. Le Sueur, The Australian Government Rehabilitation Service.
AUSTRALIAN GOVERNMENT COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO POVERTY REPORTS TO BE PUBLISHED
Main Reports of the Commission:
C. Gates, Consumers and Clients: Aspects of Poverty in Australia, Fourth Main Report- Not yet received.
Research Reports Prepared under the Auspices of Reverend Martin (Social/Medical Aspects of Poverty Series):
Krupinski and A. Mackenzie, ‘A Study of the Effects of Psychiatric Hospitalisation Upon the Weil-Being of the Family’; A. D. Liddy and M. L. Basser, ‘A Survey of Conditions of Ex-Patients of a Psychiatric Hospital ‘; in Poverty and Mental Illness- With AGPS.
Killington, ‘Use of Health Services by Aboriginals’: S. Treloar, D. Petritsi-Jones and C. Kerr, ‘Use of Health Services by Greek Immigrants’; G. Rawson and I. Webster, Health Screening of Homeless Men in Sydney’; in Health Studies of Selected Disadvantaged Groups-Printed copies recently received from AGPS. To be made public on 26 August 1977.
Research Reports Prepared under the Auspices of Professor Gates (Consumers and Clients Series):
Podder, The Economic Circumstances of the PoorWith AGPS.
P. Harris, ‘Local Authorities and Social Welfare Services and Facilities’; H. J. Cunnington, ‘Communication Between Welfare Agencies and Clients’; in The Delivery of Welfare Services- With AGPS.
Western, S. Payne and L. Doube, ‘Consumer Behaviour of Low and Middle Income Families’; R. L. Cribb, H. J. Cunnington and R. C. Gates, ‘Consumer Protection and the Incidence of Consumer Problems ‘; in Consumer Protection and Poverty- Not yet received by Government.
Research Reports Prepared under the Auspices of Dr Fitzgerald (Poverty and Education Series):
Knight, ‘Factors Affecting School Leaving and Work Decisions for Girls’; B. McGaw, R. S. Warry, P. J. Varley and J. Alcorn, ‘Prospects for School Leavers’; in School Leavers: Choice and Opportunity- With AGPS.
Craft, ‘School Welfare Provision in Australia’; P. Toft, The Red Cross School Volunteer Project’; in Aspects of School Welfare Provision- With AGPS.
Behrens and L. Blazely, ‘Schooling and Work’, P. W. Musgrave and E. Wind, ‘School and Neighbourhood in Two Rural Towns’; in School, Community and Work: Urban and Rural Aspects- With AGPS.
Australian Council for Educational Research, ‘Poverty, Education and Adolescents’; R. Stroobant Disadvantage at School and Post-School Experience’; in Outcomes of Schooling: Aspects of Success and Failure- With AGPS.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. So that I will not be accused of making an assumption, I remind the Minister that in the Budget Speech the Treasurer said, in relation to the new tax proposals:
The biggest proportional gainers are those on the lower incomes at the bottom of the scale.
I ask: Is the Minister aware of the calculations produced by Mr Risstrom, Secretary of the Australian Taxpayers Association, which show that more than two million taxpayers whose income is between $4,800 and $7,400 will pay more tax in 1978-79? Does not this assessment- I remind the Minister that it is not an assumptioncontradict the Treasurer’s statement and, in fact, contradict his own answer previously given in the Senate?
-I understand that Mr Risstrom has issued some tables. I have not seen them. I was just checking with my colleagues to see whether they had seen them. I understand that he has issued some tables in which he makes this allegation. As far as I know they are being checked.
– He made an assessment, not an allegation.
-He alleges that the amount of tax will be that figure and the Government says it will be another figure. It is an allegation; he alleges it. I do not say that offensively. I understand that those tables are being put under study by the Treasurer and I have no further information.
– I draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the Gallery of a delegation from the Parliament of Sabah. On behalf of all honourable senators I welcome our visitors to Australia and trust that they find the visit both interesting and rewarding. We welcome you very warmly.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health. I have received an answer from the Minister to a question that I asked on 17 March last on painkilling tablets, indicating that the National Health and Medical Research Council had recently made recommendations which it was hoped would be incorporated in State and Territory legislation. Can the Minister advise whether this recommendation has gone forward to the States and Territories? If so, with what result? If not, when is it expected to go forward?
– I understand that the recommendations of the Council have since been considered by the Poisons Schedule Committee. Specific recommendations on the scheduling of analgesics were made by that Committee to give effect to the Council’s recommendations and these were adopted by the Executive Committee of Council during a meeting held by telephone hookup on 14 June 1977. The Council’s recommendations were considered by the Australian Health Ministers conference on 17 June. Dissention was expressed by the representatives from South Australia and Victoria. Subsequently, the conference issued a statement in which concern was indicated at the problems involved with analgesics. The Ministers advised that they intended, while giving general support to any action to lessen kidney disease in the community, to take individual action in the matter of introducing legislation to implement Council’s recommendations. The Public Health Advisory Committee of Council is to consider again the matter of the control of analgesics at its meeting in September 1977. 1 will see that if any further information comes out of that meeting the honourable senator is advised.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. The question refers to the proposed East Timorese family reunion operation. In answer to a quesiton last week the Minister indicated that negotiations were proceeding to allow a party of four officers from his Department and a medical officer to visit Timor some time later. A precise date could not be given. I now ask: Has the decision been taken not to send a number of Timorese people with the party, as was originally proposed and, if so, why was that decision taken? Will the Minister give consideration to arranging for a small party of members and senators to accompany the party at least for some of the time they plan to be in East Timor? In view of the reply given to senator Kilgariff, I should explain that I am seeking the Minister’s attitude to such a proposal.
– I have not any information on the matters that have been raised but I will direct them to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and see that an early answer is given to them.
– My question is directed to the Acting Attorney-General. Has the Minister seen a Press statement this morning regarding the first interim report to the New South Wales Parliament yesterday by the four special inspectors appointed by the New South Wales Corporate Affairs Commission to investigate the collapse of Cambridge Credit Corporation Ltd? The inspectors’ report severely criticises both the directors and auditors of the company and makes serious allegations as to irregular conduct on the part of the managing director of the company. Can the Minister say whether the present provisions of the uniform Companies Act are adequate to police the conduct of directors in this sort of situation, particularly where, as in this case, the crash has involved the general public in the loss of $78m? If the present provisions are inadequate, are there any on-going discussions with State Attorneys-General with a view to introducing uniform legislation to afford greater protection to the investing public?
– My attention has been drawn to the report tabled in the New South Wales Parliament by the New South Wales Attorney-General, Mr Frank Walker, concerning Cambridge Credit Corporation Ltd and the matters which Senator Tehan has raised. As to any Federal Government involvement, this matter is now within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs rather than the Attorney-General, but as I represent that Minister it is appropriate for me to deal with the question. Senator Tehan asked specifically whether there have been any discussions at standing committees of Attorneys-General on the particular question of the provisions of the uniform Companies Act. I am unable to say whether there have been such discussions in recent times. However, I wish to reaffirm the major discussions and negotiations that have been taking place under the leadership of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs in regard to a national corporations and securities industry -
– Not again. It is a continual repetition of the same sort of statement.
– I have not anything further to add. I have been asked whether there have been discussions. State Attorneys-General are represented at these discussions.
– What about a result?
– The honourable senator would know from a number of questions that I have been asked on these matters that a great deal of discussion has taken place, that a broad outline of principles has been agreed on with an approach to this matter on a national, uniform, co-operative basis, contrary to the approach taken by the previous Government, of which Senator Georges was a supporter, which was for a centralised, national control, largely to the exclusion of the States altogether and without regard to the constitutional limitations that there may well be on this Parliament to take the sort of action that I gather Senator Georges supports. The approach of this Government is an entirely different one. As I have said, I have reported on it a number of times. I am happy to reaffirm the fact that agreement has been reached on general principles and that the Government is moving forward in co-operation with the States to achieve legislation on this matter as early as possible.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate who is today Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. The Minister may recall that last year I raised the matter of rescheduling of radio news services and current affairs programs on the Australian Broadcasting Commission in Queensland while other eastern States operated under daylight saving time. Unfortunately, despite my representations, radio news programs from the Commission were still presented at unacceptable times for Queensland residents. Presuming that the same time difference will again occur in future months, I ask the Minister whether he can use his influence to see that Queensland residents are not disadvantaged and discriminated against this year as they were last year.
-I well recall the honourable senator asking a series of questions, I think, on this matter last year. I can understand his concern. It is a matter, I suppose, of whether the Australian Broadcasting Commission should fall into line with Queensland or whether Queensland should fall into line with Australia. I suppose the latter is a bit hard to expect. Perhaps the former is easier. I will certainly pass on his representation and his suggestion to my colleague the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I think it is a reasonable suggestion. As the honourable senator would well know, the Australian Broadcasting Commission is an independent statutory authority and is not subject to the direction of the Minister. The most he can do is to make representations to it.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, by saying that perhaps he has heard that the wreck of an aircraft which crashed in 1937 near Waratah in Tasmania- I think it was a Hawker Demon A 18, which was reputedly one of the world’s best fighter planes of the 1930s- was lifted out of the bush and taken to Hobart, will be flown or may already have been flown to Melbourne for restoration and is then destined, I believe, for a Royal Australian Air Force museum at Point Cook. As the aircraft was resident in Tasmania for some 40 years and was obviously quite content in Tasmanian bush until disturbed, could the Minister ask the Minister for Defence to have the aircraft, once restored, returned to Tasmania and exhibited either in Hobart Airport or Launceston Airport instead of being isolated at Point Cook?
-I understand that the aircraft belonged to the Royal Australian Air Force. The Air Force went into the bush, dug it up, carried it out and flew it away. The Air Force will restore it.
– It was in Tasmanian bush.
– It was in Tasmanian bush, was it? I do not know what relationship the aircraft has with Tasmania. I do not know whether the fact that a person crashed in Tasmania 40 years ago necessarily makes one a Tasmanian. I will pass on the honourable senator’s suggestion to the Minister for Defence. I imagine it will be a long time before the aircraft is restored. The exercise is an interesting one which demonstrates what the Air Force can do in cooperation with the Army in looking after some of Australia ‘s great relics.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Does the Minister for Foreign Affairs propose to make a statement of the proceedings of the conference held this week in Lagos on apartheid in South Africa?
-Apartheid or antiapartheid I appreciate Senator Sheil’s sensitivity on this matter. Will the Minister for Foreign Affairs make a statement on the proceedings of the conference, the decisions made by the conference and the minimum requirements expected of South Africa in order that it can satisfy the participants in the conference? To what extent does the Government of Australia feel itself bound by any decisions taken by the conference?
– I will certainly pass on the suggestion to my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs and see whether he is prepared to make a statement as suggested by the honourable senator.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health, relates to fluoridation of water supplies which has now been proven to be effective in the prevention of dental caries, especially in young Australians. Since it is likely to be highly cost effective in public health terms I feel it should be available to all Australians. I ask the Minister: Approximately what percentage of the potable water supplies in Australia are now fluoridated, either naturally or artificially, to levels considered satisfactory for prevention of dental caries?
– I understand that approximately 60 per cent of Australia’s water supplies are fluoridated to a level that would prevent dental decay. This 60 per cent includes those that are naturally fluoridated and also those that are artificially fluoridated. If the honourable senator would like details of the distribution of fluoridation in Australia, the Minister for Health could make that available to him. I would be happy to facilitate such action.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Science. I ask the Minister whether he will indicate to the Parliament the real level of energy research currently being carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. What is the total level of federal funding that has been allocated to CSIRO for energy research for the current financial year 1977-78? Can he also advise what energy research programs are being undertaken by CSIRO? Who is involved in the research? What level of funding is each project to receive?
-I do not have a brief from my colleague about this matter, or about feral cats or the Derrieus Rotor. I will refer the honourable senator’s question to my colleague and will ask him to expedite an answer. I remind the honourable senator that in the week after next the Estimates Committees will be meeting. That will be a good opportunity for the honourable senator to ask this question when the appropriations for CSIRO are being examined by an Estimates Committee.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, follows a question that was asked yesterday by Senator Archer in relation to the dispute involving the port of Burnie. As the Tasmanian Minister for Labour and Industry has not succeeded in his appeal for the Australian Council of Trade Unions to intervene in the present demarcation dispute between the Transport Workers Union and the Waterside Workers Federation tying up the whole of the northern coast of Tasmania, can the Minister suggest any action the Commonwealth Government can take to help to bring this dispute to an end? The dispute, if allowed to continue next week, will result in food shortages in Launceston. Already it has resulted in two large companies, the Australian Pulp and Paper Mills and Tioxide Australia Pty Ltd threatening closure with the resultant laying off of thousands of employees. Many other businessmen have also threatened closure.
– I rise to a point of order. Senator Walters is not asking a question, she is making a statement. Statements should not be made at question time. The honourable senator has already asked her question.
– Order! Information is not to be given at question time, Senator Walters. Information is sought at question time. I ask you to continue your qestion with that in mind.
– I ask the Minister to answer the question that I have already posed.
– As Senator Walters said, Senator Archer asked me a question yesterday about this problem. I had not been aware of the fact that the pleas made by the Tasmanian Minister for Labour and Industry have been ignored by the unions concerned and even, I gather, by the ACTU. I was not aware of that fact. I indicated yesterday that the ACTU has a very real responsibility under its rules to have regard to the particular problems suffered by Tasmania in this type of dispute. As I indicated yesterday the officers of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations are keeping this matter under very close observation. I will pass on the matters referred to by Senator Walters in her question as a matter of urgency to the Department I represent to see what can be done to alleviate this serious problem which has occurred and is developing even further in Tasmania.
– My question is directed to Senator Guilfoyle both in her capacity as Minister for Social Security and as Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs because the matter falls within the responsibility of both portfolios. Can the Minister inform the Senate of any measures that the two departments have taken to facilitate the settlement of and to ease the hardships of those Lebanese migrants who came to Australia to escape the civil war in the Lebanon and who are still in Australia?
– There is liaison between the Department of Social Security and the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs with regard to refugees who come into this country. My own Department is responsible for the post-arrival services that assist people in this category. The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs also provides services for them. We facilitate the provision of benefits that are available to the refugees and in all ways attempt to make their settlement in this country as comfortable and as secure as possible. If the honourable senator wishes, I can give her a list of the services that are provided. I think she will find that it is a very comprehensive list. I believe that at some time in the past I made the list available to the Senate. I will see that the honourable senator is advised.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources. I refer to the following statement made by the Treasurer in the Budget:
The Government believes that not all the additional profits resulting from these decisions should remain with the producers and that the community should obtain a return from the exploitation of these resources which adequately reflects their value.
We are talking about the oil resources. If that is the case, the three main oil producers will earn an extra $ 1 50m- this is not an assumption, it is a calculation- in windfall profits in 1977-78 from the Government’s decision. In view of the Treasurer’s statement, what steps is the Government taking to ensure that the community obtains a return from the windfall profits?
-I suggest that the honourable senator should await the introduction of the legislation which will spell out the matters in detail.
– I ask a question of you, Mr President. Will you cause to have an investigation carried out to assess the possibilities of using the existing office speaker system to provide honourable senators with the Australian Broadcasting Commission news at 12.30 p.m. and 7 p.m. daily while Parliament is in session and at which times the Senate is not sitting?
– I shall be happy to have an investigation carried out.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I refer to a Press conference given by Mr Street, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, following the passing by the Senate of the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Bill last Friday. Referring to the question of what constituted industrial action, the Minister is reported as saying that the criteria for dismissal under the legislation would be an employee’s continual history of industrial action and that once an employee was suspended that history would be looked at to determine the case for dismissal. I ask the Minister: Who will conduct that inquiry under the provisions of the legislation? Insofar as the comment of the Minister is concerned, is it intended that the legislation should be interpreted retrospectively in determining a history of industrial action?
– I have not seen the Press statement to which Senator Button refers. I do not know therefore the actual details of what the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has said on this question. Therefore, I will certainly refer the question to the Minister whom I represent and obtain his comments on it and on the Press report of what apparently he said after the Bill passed the Parliament last week. I add that the Government, in its approach to this legislation and in the statements which it has made in regard to it, has always emphasised the fact that the ultimate sanctions of this legislation would be used only as a last resort and that the
Government hoped that it would not be necessary that it would have to actually use the legislation at all.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Leader would be aware that for many months there have been disagreements between the Federal and Queensland governments and the Brisbane City Council over funding for the 1982 Commonwealth Games in Brisbane. The Leader will also be aware that the Federal Government has refused to determine its contribution until an announcement on accommodation arrangements for the games athletes is made. Given that the Brisbane Lord Mayor announced yesterday that tenders had been let for a $6m 585-room Commonwealth games centre, will the Leader take urgent action to ensure that the Federal Government’s contribution to the 1982 Commonwealth Games is made known to the Brisbane City Council?
-I have always understood that the only reason the Commonwealth had not moved in this area was the nonfulfilment of some conditions which the Commonwealth had imposed as preconditions. I imagine that once those preconditions have been met the Commonwealth will immediately announce its proposition.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. I remind the Minister that there are many youngsters now at school who are in their last school vacation and that the problem that we faced last year and asked so many questions about is likely to arise again. In view of the recent High Court decision on school leavers and the fact that there is now a new Director-General in the Department of Social Security, will the Minister publish guidelines to assist school leavers to be registered promptly so as to ensure that if necessary- I underline the words ‘if necessary’- they will receive immediately the unemployment benefit according to the conditions laid down for each member of the community who is seeking work?
– The matter of the unemployment benefit for school leavers is under consideration. I will undertake to make an early announcement to advise those people who would be leaving school this year of the conditions laid down and the steps which the
Government requires to be taken before a person can become eligible for the benefit. I hope to be making an early announcement about this. I understand the concern the honourable senator has expressed in regard to any misunderstandings that young people in their final term at school could have if an early announcement were delayed.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. The question may relate to her capacity as the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. During a recent visit to several pastoral properties in the Central Australian area I was told by Aboriginal people that the unemployment benefit was not available to them because the manager of the property did not believe such payments should be made. Discussion with several managers confirmed their comment. I appreciate that staff shortages make it very difficult for officers to visit properties and process claims, but I ask the Minister what machinery exists for the payment of benefits when the manager of the property is opposed to the concept. The Minister will understand that the station office serves as a post office and the station store is usually the only place where cheques can be cashed.
– I am not aware of the particular areas referred to by the honourable senator in his question, but I have been advised in regard to the payment of the unemployment benefit in the Northern Territory in a more general way. In recent weeks I have had advice from my Department that a senior officer of the South Australian administration office visited the Northern Territory shortly after publication in a newspaper of an article on Papunya. Because of conflicting information he received we asked that the officer’s report be discussed with officers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. This was done in June and it was confirmed that a weekly per capita payment of $3 had been made in Papunya regardless of any other income received from the Department of Social Security. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs states that that payment is made because there is little or no unemployment benefit in the Papunya district.
These matters have had some consideration. From time to time we have made available officers of our own Department to go into areas to facilitate registration for employment and applications for unemployment benefit. This is a matter that has also had the consideration of the
Department of Employment and Industrial Relations and the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I might say that there are Aboriginal communities in certain areas who refuse unemployment benefit for the members of their own communities. These matters are subject to investigation also. I think that to make a general statement of the situation would be to overlook the different attitudes of the Aborigines themselves and the different districts. I shall see whether I am able to make any more definitive statement than I have made today on how we are dealing with this matter in the various regions in Australia.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question. I understand the situation in Papunya and the communities but I wonder whether the Minister would undertake to look at the particular situation of the pastoral property as opposed to the mission or settlement situation.
– I undertake to look at that matter in regard to the owners of pastoral properties to see whether any other way of dealing with the matter can be achieved, bearing in mind the attitudes of the Aborigines themselves to this benefit, the needs of the communities and also our own objective to try to provide employment wherever possible.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Defence aware of the statement made by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development that the Army should have a greater commitment in the State of Tasmania? Is he also aware of the concern by the organisers of the Tasmanian Military Tattoo that they are not receiving the commitment that is desired by them for a successful 1 978 Tattoo? Can the Minister please advise the Senate what commitment the Army is prepared to make to the success of the Tasmanian Military Tattoo 1978?
-I shall have to seek that information from my colleague and I undertake to do so for the honourable senator.
-Mr President, I direct a question to you. Why was it necessary on Monday of this week for members of the armed forces to inspect the precincts of this Parliament? Was the visit with your knowledge and could we have a statement from you concerning this inspection?
– I have no knowledge at all of the inspection to which the honourable senator referred.
– Will you investigate whether my information is correct?
– Yes, I shall make inquiries in respect of the matter.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Administrative Services. I draw the Minister’s attention to the Ministerial Document Service Bulletin released on 29 July 1977 containing Press statements released on 28 July by Ministers and Opposition Leaders. Is the Minister aware that 2 Press statements in the bulletin for that date, under the heading ‘Press Release by the Minister for the Northern Territory’ were in fact statements by a back bench senator and a back bench member of the House of Representatives on the one hand and by another back bench member of the House of Representatives on the other? Will the Minister advise whether the issue of these two Press releases in the Ministerial Document Service by National Country Party members will be a precedent to be followed in the future?
-I shall have to look at the particular issue but I can assure the honourable senator that the service is there for Press releases and speeches of Ministers and Opposition office bearers.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations advise the Senate whether any discussions have taken place between the Government and the Western Mining Corporation Ltd regarding impending retrenchments at Kambalda in Western Australia? Will the Minister confirm or deny the rumours that 300 to 400 people were to be retrenched?
– I heard the news of some retrenchments being proposed by Western Mining at Kambalda just before I came into the Senate. I understand that the retrenchments are the result of some problems with the international nickel market. However, I really have not got any details on the matter and I should not say anything more about it. I certainly would not expect that the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations has been involved in the matter at this stage, but it will assist where there are retrenchments of that magnitude in small places. For instance, I know that when the same problem occurred in Kalgoorlie the Minister was very concerned about it and special officers were sent there to assist with obtaining other employment, granting relocation assistance and so on. I assure the Senate that the officers of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations do stand ready to assist in situations that present themselves in this way. I will certainly draw the attention of the Minister whom I represent to this situation if he has not already taken any action in regard to it.
-Mr President, I am certainly making a day of it today in asking questions, but you would understand that most Opposition members and some Government senators are at Rex Connor’s funeral today. For that reason those of us who are here take advantage of the time to ask several questions to improve our record in this place. I ask a question of the Minister for Administrative Services. I take it that the electoral redistributions in all States have been completed. Can the Minister advise the Senate what the next procedures are and how long they will take? Will the Government be able to keep to its program of calling an election on 1 0 December this year?
– The honourable senator would know that the new electoral maps, having been publicly displayed are open to objection for a period of 30 days. As the maps came out on varying dates between 15 August- in Tasmania it was even earlier than that- and this week, those 30 day periods will expire at different times. It will then be up to the three Distribution Commissioners to deliberate on the objections. I have no knowledge of how long they will take, nor do I have any control over how long they will take. There is no statutory period of limitation or otherwise as to when they shall report. Eventually they will report to me and it will be up to both Houses of Parliament either to accept or to reject the recommendations.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. Earlier this year in reply to a question the Minister indicated that consideration was being given to the payment of the unemployment benefit directly to Aboriginal village councils rather than to individuals. In answer to my previous question the Minister referred to this situation. Can she please advise the Senate whether a firm decision has been reached on this matter and, if so, whether payments have been made to councils? She might care to indicate to which councils the payments are being made.
– I am unable to give the information that is required, but I will have an answer prepared for the honourable senator giving him whatever advice is available at this stage with regard to payments to Aboriginal councils. As I mentioned in answer to an earlier question, he would be aware of the programs that have been developed between the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations. I will incorporate that sort of information also in the answer that I provide.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government, who today is representing the Minister for Science. I do not doubt that his answer will be much shorter than the answers we normally receive from the Minister for Science. I preface my question by reminding the Leader of the many and continued promises by his Government that it would greatly increase the budget for energy research and development in Australia. Is it true that the Solar Energy Research Unit of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has received only an additional- the figure is so small 1 will have to look at it again- $1 12,839 this financial year? The figure is not even in the millions of dollars; it is well down in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Does the Minister not agree that this sum is only a pittance and will do nothing to stimulate solar energy research? Is the suggestion true that the Australian National University is likely to receive and accept money from an Arab source- a questionable source, we have been reminded- to carry out its solar energy research?
-I do not know about that. I do not know whether the Chancellor or the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University has interesting breakfasts with gentlemen from the Middle East, which I understand is one method of obtaining moneys from the Middle East. As I understand it- my understanding is not very great- the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation allocates money according to its own priorities. I think I am correct in that statement.
– We will find out at Estimates time.
-I think I am basically correct in saying that the CSIRO, to a large extent, is almost a one line appropriation. The council of management of the CSIRO allocates in the way it wishes what might be called Consolidated Revenue Fund moneys. The CSIRO receives an enormous amount of its moneys from various trust funds, especially in the primary industry area, and those moneys are used for wool research or research into meat or chickens or anything else. Moneys from such trust funds are deliberately committed to that type of research. I invite the honourable senator to ask questions about this matter during the hearings of the Estimates committees when departmental officers will be present.
– I lay on the table of the Senate a corrigendum to the report of the Interdepartmental Working Party on Interpreters and Translators, tabled in the Senate on 22 February 1977. 1 seek leave to have the correction inserted in the original tabled paper. Copies of the corrigendum have been distributed to honourable senators.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table of the Senate the explanatory notes of departments and authorities prepared for the Estimates committees’ consideration of the particulars of proposed expenditure for the year 1977-78.
– For the information of honourable senators I present on behalf of Senator Webster the report of the inquiry into the public electricity supply, Northern Territory.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 59 of the States Grants (Schools) Act 1973,I present on behalf of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) the report of the Schools Commission on financial assistance granted to each State in 1976.
– For the information of honourable senators I present on behalf of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) the report of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal on self-regulation for broadcasters.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the interim report of the operations of the Australian Housing Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1 976 together with a statement relating to the report.
– On behalf of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and for the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on the production of gold.
– On behalf of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and pursuant to section 58 of the Trade Union Training Authority Act 1 975 I present the first annual report of the Trade Union Training Authority for 1975-76.
Senator ROBERTSON (Northern Territory) by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Report of Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce
– I present the second report of the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce on its inquiry into the effects of currency alterations and changes to manufacturing industry protection upon employment and inflation.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– Business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 1 standing in the name of Senator Wood and relating to the disallowance of certain regulations made under the Public Service Act- is this formal or not formal?
– Not formal, and I ask for leave to make a statement in relation to this notice of motion.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– This notice of motion relates to certain Public Service (Salaries) Regulations which increased the salaries of certain academic staff in Service colleges, with retrospectivity of some nine months. The notice of motion was given on the last available day and the Regulations and Ordinances Committee had not received a reply to its request for an explanation of the delay in making the regulations. The Committee has now received from the Public Service Board an explanation of the delay and has resolved to take no further action in relation to the regulations. I therefore withdraw Business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 1 , standing in my name.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That, unless otherwise ordered, after 8 p.m. this day, intervening General Business be postponed until after consideration of Notice of Motion No. 2 standing in the name of Senator Mulvihill relating to the proposal to transfer certain Commonwealth Government owned land to the New South Wales Government, Notice of Motion No. 1 standing in the name of Senator Keeffe relating to the proposed establishment of a royal commission into relationships between Aboriginal communities and police and Order of the Day No. 1 for resumption of debate on the motion to take note of the report by the Standing Committee on Science and the Environment.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That unless otherwise ordered the Senate at its rising adjourn until Tuesday, 6 September 1 977, at half past 2 p.m. or such other day and hour as may be advised by the President or, in the event of the President being unavailable owing to illness or other cause, by the Chairman of Committees and that the day and hour of meeting so determined shall be notified to each senator by telegram or letter.
Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveagreed to:
1 ) That the Particulars of Proposed Expenditure for the service of the year ending on 30 June 1978 and the Particulars of Certain Proposed Expenditure in respect of the year ending on 30 June 1978 be referred herewith to Estimates committees for examination and report.
That the committees deal with departmental estimates in the same groupings as agreed to on 21 April 1977, and that Estimates Committee B deal with the estimates for the Department of the Special Trade Negotiator.
That the committees report to the Senate on or before Tuesday, 1 1 October 1977.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Government in the Senate indicating that Senators Maunsell and Bonner wish to be discharged from service on Estimates committees, and nominating Senator Drake-Brockman to be a member of Estimates Committee B and Senator Walters to be a member of Estimates Committee D.
Motion (by Senator Withers)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Maunsell and Senator Bonner be discharged from service on Estimates Committees and that Senator Drake-Brockman and Senator Walters, having been duly nominated in accordance with Standing Order 36AB, be appointed to Estimates Committee B and Estimates Committee D respectively.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
The Convention on International Civil Aviation drawn at Chicago in 1944 provides for the establishment of the International Civil Aviation Organisation- ICAO- which came into being in 1947. It is a specialised agency of the United Nations. The permanent governing body of ICAO is the Council, which has contributed in a very important way to the development and adoption of international standards and recommended practices for civil aviation. These assist considerably towards making international air travel a safe and reliable mode of transport. Members of the Council are elected by the Assembly of the Organisation, at which all contracting states are entitled to be present. The Council, of which Australia has been an elected member since ICAO came into being, meets in almost continuous session throughout each year.
The size of the Council was increased from 2 1 to 27 members in 1962 and from 27 to 30 members in 1971. The twenty-first Session of the Assembly held at Montreal in 1974 adopted a Protocol amending Article 50(a) of the Convention to increase the number of members of the Council from 30 to 33. This amendment requires ratification by 86 contracting states before it comes into force. Fifty-two ratifications had been received from States at 1 July 1977. More ratifications from other States are expected before the twenty-second Assembly convenes in Montreal on 13 September 1977.
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain parliamentary approval for Australia to ratify the Protocol. Parliament approved the ratification of the Chicago Convention in 1947 by an amendment to the Air Navigation Act 1920, and authorised the making of regulations for carrying out and giving effect to the Convention. Subsequent Protocols amending the original Chicago Convention were approved in amendments to the Air Navigation Act in 1960, 1961, 1963 and 1971.
This BUI continues the practice and proposes the insertion of the Protocol as the ninth schedule to the Air Navigation Act 1920. An increase of three in the size of Council is appropriate. Total membership of ICAO grew from 84 States in 1961 to 129 member States in October 1974 and now 140 States. Proportionate increases have been made over the years in the size of the executive bodies of other specialised agencies of the United Nations. It was the clear wish of the majority of member states at the last Session of the Assembly that Council membership should be increased to 33 members. The Australian delegation to that Assembly supported the proposal. The increase in the ICAO Council is expected to add little, if any, to the secretarial costs of the organisation. Any costs for such services should be absorbed in the normal provisions of this service and would be offset by the rentals which would be paid by the new members for the use of delegation office space in the ICAO headquarters building. The present Australian Government contribution to the International Civil Aviation Organisation would only be fractionally increased, if at all, by the addition of three members to the Council. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
The purposes of this Bill are twofold. One is to amend the Wool Industry Act 1972 to give effect to the Government’s decision to continue to contribute in conjunction with the wool industry to programs of wool research and promotion. It also contains provisions designed to enable the Australian Wool Corporation to act more effectively in the negotiation of freight rates for the carriage of wool overseas. Honourable senators will recall that in introducing the Wool Industry Amendment Bill 1977 on 30 May last, I stated the intention of the Government to introduce this further amending legislation during the Budget session. The Industries Assistance Commission has reported on the results of its inquiries into the funding of rural research and rural promotion and its reports and recommendations have been published. These have been taken fully into account in deciding on future government funding arrangements for wool research and for wool promotion.
The Government has accepted the recommendation of the Industries Assistance Commission that some 60 per cent of the programs of continuing wool research now supported in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation and the Bureau of Agricultural Economics by expenditure from the Wool Research Trust Fund be funded in future from Consolidated Revenue. There are sound reasons for direct and complete government funding of this core research, which has potential benefits for many industries, including some outside the rural sphere.
The intention is that this transition take place during this financial year. Government contributions to wool research, totalling $1 1.5m, will be appropriated in part to the Wool Research Trust Fund and in part will increase the appropriations for CSIRO and BAE to meet the cost of certain projects previously supported from the Wool Research Trust Fund. Total funding of wool promotion will continue to be shared by wool growers and the Government. In a period where inflationary tendencies have been rampant the old triennial funding arrangement has proved unsatisfactory. Future Government financing of wool promotion will be reviewed annually. The review will decide on the level of support for the following financial year and, to assist in the forward planning of promotional programs, will provide an indicative level of support for the following two years. Clauses 3, 5, 6 and 7 of the Bill I am now presenting provide for the new arrangements for the funding of wool research and promotion. The actual amounts of government grant for wool research and promotion will in future be provided by annual parliamentary appropriation. Honourable senators will recall that the Budget provides $3 1.4m as the Government’s contribution for the current fiscal year for wool research and promotion. This is an increase of some $10m over 1976-77. Latest estimates are that the component of the tax on shorn wool representing wool growers’ contributions for research and promotion will bring in a similar sum to that provided by the Government.
I should point out that the program of wool research and promotion which the new arrangements will fund will continue to be subject to close consultation between the various research organisations, the International Wool Secretariat and the Australian Wool Corporation. As in the past, there will continue to be consultation between the Australian Wool Industry Conference and the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) on the detailed annual funding arrangements.
Clause 4 of the Bill gives the Corporation authority to set conditions for the carriage and handling of wool for export by sea. The powers are designed to improve the Corporation’s strength in the negotiation of freight rates and to promote commercial economies in the movement of Australia ‘s wool exports.
The Government is determined to achieve close co-ordination over a range of cargoes in the negotiation of freight rates so that Australia may maintain the best possible bargaining position. To this end, and in consultation with the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon), the Minister for Primary Industry will be informing the Australian Wool Corporation of the principles and policies which the Government regards as appropriate to be applied and followed in any freight negotiations the Corporation undertakes. These will be designed to ensure that marine freight rates and services for all commodities are determined to the best advantage of Australia’s rural industries and, of course, Australia’s producers.
There is no need for any concern in the trade that the use of the Corporation’s powers might upset existing Conference arrangements without offsetting advantages emerging. Let me assure honourable senators that arrangements established between the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Primary Industry will ensure that the new powers being given to the Wool Corporation are exercised in a manner which will be to the advantage of the Australian wool trade and to exporters generally. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 23 August on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
-The Opposition is not opposing these Bills but I just want to make one or two comments concerning them. The Bills give effect to the Budget policy which provides for an increase in Australian crude oil prices. The increases appear to be insignificant. Perhaps they are insignificant. The increased tax represents an increase of only 1.13c a gallon on diesel fuel and 0.56c a gallon on liquefied petroleum gas. Even these insignificant rises have some cost consequences to those who live in provincial and remote areas. We have argued that these moves associated with oil and oil prices are revenue raising measures- these are, anyhow- rather than conservation measures, and that they should be viewed in that light. They will result in increased prices for consumer goods especially in the country areas of Queensland where transport costs are already high. The increased cost of commodities will further depress those areas. One would have to understand that there is a general depression in country and remote areas which has resulted from a continuing trend over many years of people moving from the country into city areas- a trend which I believe should be arrested as soon as possible for a variety of reasons, including social reasons. The accumulation of population in the major cities on the eastern strip of Australia tends to increase our social problems, not decrease them. In my own mind this movement certainly decreases the quality of life that we expect in this country. It certainly has decreased the quality of life in country areas and that is the reason, I believe, that people have chosen to move to the cities, to their disadvantage. We should do everything to reverse this trend. One way to do so is to ensure that costs in country areas are reduced rather than increased.
If it is taken from what I am saying that I support equalisation, yes I do support the equalisation of prices as this will mean that increased costs do not have to be met by people in remote areas. I am not saying that we should go to extremes and allow further development or redevelopment of extremely remote or fringe areas, but a large proportion of our country is not in the extreme fringe or desert area. The areas which are suffering from deprivation of population are largely producing areas. We should do our best to ensure that people stay within these areas and do not move into the cities. An increase in the price of diesel by just one fraction, as is done in this legislation by 1.13c per gallon, does not affect just those who use diesel. It is passed on to the cost of electricity. I recall that the removal of the subsidy on fuel was to our cost in support for the Australian Labor Party in country areas. I do not think it was properly realised at the time that the removal of the subsidy would lead to increased costs for those who did not actually use fuel or diesel. For instance, the city of Barcaldine found that on the removal of the subsidy the cost of electricity went up by 10 per cent. So many people who did not even use a car or a tractor were suddenly faced with an escalation of costs.
I can see the difficulty which the Government faces in order to bring the price of Australian crude up to world parity. What will happen of course is that these increased prices will be inflationary. I do not think anyone will doubt that the increased cost, small though it is in this legislation, will be inflationary. One may have to accept the proposition that Australia has been sheltered from the heavy inflation which occurred overseas following the increase in the price of Middle East oil. Australia was sheltered from that because we had cheap Australian oil available. We now have to face the reality that we are going to increase the price of oil. This will mean that we will now suffer the inflationary effects that other countries suffered so severely. I do not know whether the Government has taken that into account. My view is that we are in for a tough time. Each measure of this sort ought to be considered very carefully even though the increase to be applied under this legislation is very small.
Another concern that arises- and I can express it this way in the context of these Bills- is that the Government has decided to argue that increased prices such as this should be deleted from consideration by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission in wage determinations. I consider this to be unfair. The Government may argue that it has to do this in order to prevent the inflationary pressures that I have mentioned, but I do believe that an increase is a cost to the basic wage earner whose take home pay at the present time is not exceptionally high. We may talk about take home pays of $1 10 and $120. Most of the people I know of in the areas in which I operate receive a take home pay of about this level. They are well below the average general wage. It would be unfair to them if the Arbitration Commission were not to consider in wage determinations a rise in oil prices, yet I believe that the Government intends to argue in this way. I asked a question yesterday about the effects of the oil price increases on the consumer price index and from the answer I was given it seemed obvious, despite the fact that the Minister did not seem to know much about it, that the Government does intend to argue before the Commission that increases in oil prices should not be taken into consideration in its determinations.
Given the Budget assumption of a discounting that would flow from the oil price increase into the consumer price index, Australian consumers will lose substantially. Again I argue that that cuts consumer demand and leads to a further decline in real wages. I also asked a question today during that relatively lengthy Question Time. When there are four people on this side asking questions and there is still an hour to go it seems that Question Time has been lengthened to 2 hours, whereas normally one feels that it passes too quickly. I suggest that those who are missing today would have had a great opportunity to improve their record, but as I said before they were absent for very good reasons and it enabled us to improve our tally. The question I asked today was on the windfall profits of $150m which will flow to the three producer consortiums. I asked what was going to be done about passing some of these profits back to the Australian consumer.
– They will pay tax- 64c in the dollar.
– I would imagine that would not be sufficient in a situation where the profit is a windfall. It is a substantial windfall and it will increase as the years go by and we approach world parity. Even the United States which we are so often inclined to denigrate took the measures necessary to ensure that windfall profits flowed back to the consumer, flowed back to the society rather than to the companies concerned. The windfall is tremendous. Honourable senators can see just how tremendous a windfall can be. Senator Wright argued the other day that the Esso-BHP company had subsidised Australian motorists by many, many thousands of millions of dollars. Not so. It is Australian oil. It is an Australian commodity and the Australian people have a right to benefit from these riches, but without taking away the right of the companies to gain some reasonable profit on their investment and for the risk that they may take. Windfall profits have to be considered as an exceptional situation which is to be met with exceptional measures. We ought not to depend upon the company taxes which these companies will pay. It is surprising how many of the transnational companies- and there are many which are now part of the Australian scene- can diminish their profits by some pricing arrangement with the parent company, subsidiary or other associated company overseas. Their profit in Australia is reduced so substantially that very little company tax is received from many major companies. I remember asking a question some years ago about the profits of the Comalco operation in Queensland. The Commissioner of Taxation replied that this was a private matter; a corporation had to be treated as an individual is treated and matters of taxation were confidential between the Commissioner of Taxation and the client. My argument has been that as far as corporations and companies are concerned, tax payments should be revealed in the interests of the whole community.
To get back to windfall profits and what is to be done about them, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) said today that the legislation would provide. I eagerly await the legislation which will be brought down to see what is to be done about windfall profits. I have a series of figures- I do not think time will permit me to cite them to the Senate- which indicate what the windfall will be from the various fields- Gippsland in Victoria, Moonie- Alton in Queensland and Barrow Island in Western Australia. Perhaps I should leave them until we debate the legislation when it comes forward.
In my opening remarks I said that we did not oppose the Bills. We believe them to be an income producing exercise. The amounts involved are small, but small though they be they will affect remote and provincial areas. I caution the Government to look in the best interests of the nation as a whole very carefully at its energy policies, especially those concerning fuel, both diesel and petrol. It should see that some equilibrium is brought into the industry to prevent the distortions that have been caused by the removal of resale price maintenance which has had some astonishing effects and the heavy discounting that has occurred in the market place. The distribution of fuel has led to the breakdown of conditions in the market place, as I have mentioned before. In my view, it is necessary for the Government to look very closely at what is happening. The producing companies are now restricting their retailing operations. They are almost moving back to a refining- wholesale operation at the expense of those who distribute the petrol in the various localities. The heavy discounting that has taken place, assisted by the companies themselves to the disadvantage of their own dealers, has wrecked the ability of the industry to pay the conditions and to provide the services that are necessary.
– They are introducing selfservice which is against the interests of employing labour.
-Yes, that is one of the trends that is occurring. They are introducing a self-service operation. There is now one operator on the driveway whereas previously there were four operators. It might be thought that four operators were unnecessary but one recalls that with that number on the driveway a motorist could expect a reasonable and balanced service. He now receives the minimum of service and although he may obtain a price reduction in the short term, in the long term he will receive, shall we say, a discounted service.
– Is that only ACTU-Solo or does it apply to all companies?
-They are all doing it now. On the Brisbane scene there are about half a dozen jobbers. In the scramble for volume, prices have been reduced to ridiculous levels. I know, for instance, of service stations which sell petrol at 15c per litre and which are buying that petrol at 15.08c per litre. These prices may have changed over the last two days. In other words, for every litre of petrol they sell they lose 0.08c. It is a great way to go out of business. It places them completely at the mercy of the supplying companies which assist them by way of rebate. It is a matter of what rebate one arranges with the oil company. Some oil companies provide to one group of service stations a 6c rebate, others provide a 3c or 2.5c rebate, while others still would provide an 8c rebate. It is a rough market. We certainly should not be operating in this way because when we do conditions are broken down. Seniors are sacked and juniors are put on; then juniors are sacked and you operate on a selfservice basis. If we are not going to have a regulated distribution industry, we are going to get all sorts of social disorders. That is what we are getting at present.
I spoke about the youth employment scheme that the Government had and I talked about its being cheap labour for failing industries. This is one failing industry in which that sort of cheap labour is being used. Young lads who have not been employed for some 6 months are now being employed on some of these driveways at a cost of $ i 1 to the operator and some $60-odd to the Government. They are receiving very little training and the conditions under which they work are pretty dismal. Really it is in the interests of all parties to see that that sort of practice does not continue. We can go from petrol distribution to alcohol distribution- the sale of beer and spirits- to furniture distribution and a whole variety of goods and it will be found that heavy discounting will break down the conditions of those who work within the distribution industry. It will also break down the conditions of those who work to produce the article. I say that we will finish up being a nation of shoddy dealers dealing in shoddy goods. I commend the Bills. I got away from the point of the Bills themselves but I took advantage of the time.
– in reply- I thank the Opposition for its support of these Bills. I am pleased that Senator Georges recognises that many of the matters he raised in his interesting speech were not actually relevant to these Bills. I am sure he does not expect me to be able to answer, certainly in any detail, a lot of the matters he raised, because most of the major matters he raised affect the Treasurer (Mr Lynch), or the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony). I am endeavouring to get these Bills through the Senate on behalf of the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife). As far as the Minister whom I represent is concerned, it is a machinery measure. As the Senate would appreciate, the Bills refer specifically to only a very small aspect of the Government’s new petroleum policies which were set out in the Budget and which will no doubt be the subject of continuing debate in regard to the Budget and elsewhere.
I shall mention two things in regard to Senator Georges’ speech. First, he asked specifically whether the Government had taken into account the inflationary effects of these new policies. Of course the answer is yes; the Government certainly is aware of that aspect and the problem that it presents. In a statement in supplementation of the Budget on Budget night the Minister for National Resources referred to this and said that the likely effects on prices, company profits and government revenues had been mentioned in the Budget Speech. The Government is staging the major impact of these new policies. It is not introducing them in one year. So the Government has been very conscious of this problem. However, it is conscious of another fundamental problem, and that is the need to conserve our energy use, the need to encourage further oil exploration and greater economies in this area, and the need to encourage a search for alternatives to oil. So all these other major considerations have to be taken into account and have been taken into account by the Government. It has been estimated that the overall impact of present measures in the current year will amount to about 2.5c a litre on the regular price of petrol. I would like to refer to some of the comparative prices of petrol in other parts of the world which dramatically reveal the benefits that Australia has had and is still continuing to have from the successful exploration and development of our petroleum resources and emphasise the importance to Australia of encouraging further discoveries and development of those resources.
– Would the petroleum industry not be one of the most profitable in the world? Why has it got to be given incentives?
– I will just give the Senate these figures. Compared to the new likely price of 19c a litre in Sydney which will result from all the measures, not just those in these Bills, the French motorist is now paying 39c a litre, the Japanese motorist 38c a litre, and the German, Swedish and British motorists over 30c a litre. In New Zealand the price is 25c a litre. One can see that even with the increases in the price of petrol very great advantages are still being obtained by the Australian motorist.
– Is it the Government’s intention to reach the top of that peak?
– The Government’s intentions are set out clearly in the Budget Speech and the statement of Mr Anthony to which I have just referred. The approach is to avoid large, abrupt and destabilising increases in prices, and that is why the increases are being staged over a period of years.
– Are you suggesting we should get to the top of the international price market?
– I am not suggesting any more than I have already read out as being the policy of the Government which I have no doubt Senator Gietzelt has also read. If he has not I commend it to him to read. Senator Georges raised the question of windfall profits. He has already been referred, and he acknowledges it, to a statement by Mr Anthony to the effect that it is recognised that the new arrangements will result in substantial increases in profits of each of the producers. For this reason the Government is considering the application of a resources tax to these profits and will be seeking early discussions with the oil producing companies on these matters. Furthermore I would refer to the increase in the crude oil levy from $2 a barrel to $3 a barrel. This levy will be deducted from the price of import parity oil and added to the price of below import parity oil. In effect therefore producers will pay the levy on import parity oil and consumers will pay it on below import parity oil. But by that increase and by that policy the producers also will be bearing an additional cost in that levy. Mr President, as I said, I am pleased to know the Opposition is supporting these Bills. I hope they can now have a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills together read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 12.57 to 2.15 p.m.
– by leave- Mr President, I will read three statements on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) and the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Sinclair). Whilst the personal pronoun is used in the statements, honourable senators will understand that I am reading the statements on behalf of those Ministers. Firstly, I present the statement of the Prime Minister on Australia ‘s Uranium Policy.
Since the tabling of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry’s first report on 11 November 1976, there has been a wide-ranging debate inside the Parliament and in the public arena. During this time, the Government has given painstaking consideration to the Ranger Inquiry’s valuable and constructive reports and to all other information available to it on uranium mining and export. This exhaustive consideration of the issues and evidence has led the Government to decide that there should be further development of uranium under strictly controlled conditions.
This decision has been motivated by a high sense of moral responsibility to all Australians and to the community of nations. It has flowed from four fundamental considerations: the need to reduce the risk of nuclear proliferation; the need to supply essential sources of energy to an energy deficient world; the need to protect effectively the environment in which mining development will take place; the need to ensure that proper provision is made for the welfare and interests of the Aboriginal people in the Alligator Rivers Region and of all other people living in the Region and working on the development projects.
Before proceeding, I wish to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the presiding Commissioner of the Ranger Inquiry, Mr Justice Fox, and to his fellow Commissioners, Mr G. G.
Kelleher and Professor C. B. Kerr. They have had to make recommendations on a complex set of problems on which there are diverse and strongly help opinions in the community. They have discharged their commission with wisdom and sensitivity.
Since then I have appointed Mr Justice Fox as adviser to the Government on nuclear nonproliferation and safeguards matters. He is overseas and doing invaluable work.
The Ranger Inquiry was, of course, established by the previous Government. It looked at both the world-wide and the local regional environmental issues associated with the mining and export of uranium: the issues of nuclear weapons proliferation and nuclear safeguards; the contribution of nuclear power to world energy requirements; the economic implications of uranium export for Australia.
The Government has examined every recommendation in the Inquiry’s reports. Only in a few cases have the Government’s decisions varied from the Inquiry’s recommendations. Ministers will explain the reasons for every variation. The Government believes that every variation meets the Inquiry’s request that it should ‘just as satisfactorily achieve the same purposes and satisfy the same principles’ as the Inquiry’s proposal.
The Government’s decision was taken on the basis of the Inquiry’s principal findings and recommendations.
On uranium mining, the Inquiry concluded:
The hazards of mining and milling uranium, if those activities are properly regulated and controlled, are not such as to justify a decision not to develop Australian uranium mines.
The Government is now satisfied that the environmental control and industrial health measures proposed by the Inquiry and accepted by the Government, will provide proper regulation and control.
On nuclear power reactors, the Inquiry concluded:
The hazards involved in the ordinary operations of nuclear power reactors, if those operations are properly regulated and controlled, are not such as to justify a decision not to mine and sell Australian uranium.
This is in accordance with the Government’s own view.
On waste disposal from nuclear power stations, the Inquiry concluded:
While we do not think that the waste situation is at present such as to justify Australia wholly refusing to export uranium, it is plain that the situation demands careful watching, and depending on developments, regular and frequent reassessment.
The Government is satisfied that the technology exists for the safe management and ultimate disposal of highly radioactive waste. International developments will continue to be closely reviewed and Australia will continue to participate in international studies directed to improve standards for waste disposal.
On the possiblity of nuclear terrorism, the Inquiry concluded:
In our view, the possibility of nuclear terrorism merits energetic consideration and action at the international level. We do not believe that this risk alone constitutes a sufficient reason for Australia declining to supply uranium. It does, however, provide a further reason why the export of our uranium, including what is proposed to be done with it, and where, are matters which the Government should keep under constant scrutiny and control.
The Government is satisfied that the specification of standards of physical security by the International Atomic Energy Agency constitutes the basis upon which national governments can provide strong protection against nuclear terrorism.
On Australia’s international obligations, the Inquiry concluded:
A total refusal to supply would place Australia in clear breach of Article IV of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and could adversely affect its relation to countries which are parties to the NPT.
Article IV of the Treaty obliges Australia to cooperate in the production and usage of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. The export by Australia of uranium under stringent safeguards would give effect to our obligations under Articles III and IV of the Treaty.
I would remind the House that Australia became a party to the Treaty and accepted the obligations it imposed, in January 1973, when the Treaty was ratified by the then Labor Government.
Overall, the Inquiry concluded that the total renunciation of any intention to supply uranium was undesirable and most unlikely to produce any worthwhile outcome. On the basis of this conclusion, the Inquiry submitted that ‘the options were either to proceed to supply as soon as practicable, or to delay making a decision about supplying for a period of several years ‘.
The Inquiry stated that the choice between these two options ‘depended largely on what was deemed to be the best strategy in relation to the matter of proliferation. ‘ The proliferation of nuclear weapons was, in the Inquiry’s view, the most serious hazard associated with the nuclear power industry.
Responding to this danger within the context of international demands for energy has been the fundamental basis of the Government’s decision.
The Government, having considered the Inquiry’s report and all the other evidence before it, has decided that the goals of limiting the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and alleviating the world’s energy problems are best served by Australia agreeing now to the export of uranium.
The Government well appreciates the concern some people feel about nuclear energy. Sir MacFarlane Burnet summarised these concerns well when he wrote recently:
As a biologist I should have preferred that there had never been developed the military and industrial exploitation of nuclear power.
But we cannot absolve ourselves from the necessity of making decisions on nuclear energy by wishing that it had never been developed.
As Sir MacFarlane went on to say:
I believe that a majority of thoughtful people accept the inevitability for at least an interim period, of large scale use of nuclear energy in most parts of the world.
Things being as they are, nuclear power generators will be needed for the next twenty, or perhaps fifty years, in most of the developed countries, with Japan and Sweden in particular need.
The Government has taken its decision with a deep sense of international responsibility. I venture to say that were it not for that sense of responsibility, were it not for our wish to strengthen Australia’s voice in the moves against the proliferation of nuclear weapons, were it not for our obligation to provide energy to an energy deficient world, we would not have decided to export uranium. Commercial considerations were not the dominant motive in our decision. In themselves they would not have been sufficient.
The oil crisis of 1973 precipitated the fundamental recognition that the world was facing an energy crisis.
While Australia has been insulated from the effects of the oil crisis by a plentiful supply of energy resources, the dwindling supply of petroleum has meant that many countries must change over to other sources of energy. The energy-deficient countries are aiming to conserve energy, to use existing resources such as coal more effectively, and to develop new energy sources- including solar, wind, tidal and others. But these sources will not realistically provide energy on a sufficiently large scale this century. Nuclear energy is the only readily available alternative most countries have to meet their essential need for electrical energy in the wake of the oil crisis.
One hundred and eighty-four nuclear power units are in operation in 20 countries, with a capacity of 88 thousand megawatts of electricityfour times Australia’s total electrical capacity. Many more nuclear power units are under construction or on order. Very substantial quantities of uranium are required to fuel them.
It is manifest that: there is a need for nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in a number of countries poorly endowed with fossil fuels; there is a world wide growth of the nuclear industry; there is a widespread concern about whether uranium will be available to satisfy these needs.
Because of their concern about uranium supplies, some countries are turning to those nuclear technologies involving reprocessing and the fast breeder reactor which would achieve the more effective use of available uranium but which would increase the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.
Australia possesses 20 per cent of the Western world’s known reserves of low cost uranium. In this situation we are in a special position of influence and have a corresponding moral responsibility to maximise protection against nuclear weapons proliferation by responding to the needs of many countries for adequate assurances of uranium supplies.
Australia has an obligation to the rest of the world to provide the energy resources- the coal, gas and uranium- that will be required to overcome the energy crisis.
By taking the decision to export uranium, Australia can supply: energy that will provide jobs; energy that will heat homes; energy that will protect standards of living and enable them to be improved.
By taking the decision to export uranium, Austalia can slow the movement towards the use of plutonium as a nuclear fuel and lessen the attendant increased risks of nuclear weapons proliferation.
By taking the decision to export uranium, Australia’s ability to support more effective safeguards and minimise proliferation risks will be strengthened.
There is a mounting international impetus to strengthen barriers to nuclear weapons proliferation. Increasing international consultation and discussion is taking place.
At the London Economic Summit in May, President Carter proposed the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation to examine and find the best solutions to problems with the nuclear fuel cycle. President Carter’s proposal was accepted. International studies will soon commence.
Australia has been invited to participate in the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation and has accepted.
Australia’s ability to influence these developments will depend to a great extent on whether or not it is a major supplier of uranium. Only as a producer and supplier of uranium can Australia be an effective force in achieving improved international safeguards and controls.
The Government’s policy on nuclear safeguards- announced in the Parliament on 24 May 1977- which in some instances goes beyond the Inquiry’s recommendations, is directed at reducing the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation. This policy is stricter and more rigorous than that adopted to date by any nuclear supplier country. It encompasses the requirements the Leader of the Opposition (Mr E. G. Whitlam) laid down in the House of Representatives on 29 March 1977 and indeed it goes beyond them in many respects.
The policy is based on an objective assessment of the conditions necessary to ensure that the uranium we supply to others for peaceful purposes is not misused and that our unqualified commitment to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons is put into effect.
We urge the universal adoption of safeguards standards of similarly high quality. We will vigilantly monitor developments and continue to work internationally, and with other major suppliers to increase the effectiveness of international controls and safeguards.
By exporting uranium and standing with the United States and Canada on the crucial issue of adequate safeguards Australia is contributing to the application of effective nuclear safeguards and to the avoidance of the misuse of nuclear materials. We would hope that South Africa, the other major exporter in the southern hemisphere, can see its way clear to join in this endeavour.
The joint efforts of Australia, Canada and the United States on the safeguards issue should not be misunderstood. There is no intention or desire to form a cartel for the supply of uranium. We want no part of a uranium organisation similar to the Organisation for Petroleum Exporting Countries. Our aim is to minimise the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation.
The Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Sinclair) will be following me with a detailed statement on the international implications, including safeguards, of the Government’s decision.
The issue of the safe and responsible management of the plutonium and the highly radioactive waste arising from the reprocessing of the spent fuel is also a matter of concern.
The spent fuel rods leaving the nuclear power reactors now in commercial operation are highly radioactive but this spent fuel can be, and is being, safely stored. This is not the key problem. The problems arise when the spent fuel is reprocessed, and the plutonium is separated from the highly radioactive fission products.
This poses two difficulties; the safe storage and protection of the plutonium which is now in a form that lends itself more readily to theft and diversion to nuclear weapons, and the highly radioactive liquid wastes which have to be carefully managed before solidification and ultimate safe and permanent disposal.
The technology for the handling, solidification and safe storage of the high level radioactive liquids exists. It is now being developed to a commercial scale. This technology has not hitherto been put into full scale use as the quantity of commercially produced waste has not warranted a fully commercial process.
Because plutonium is a material suitable for nuclear explosives and because of the desire to minimise proliferation, the United States Government has placed a moratorium on spent fuel reprocessing and the Australian Government has reserved its position on reprocessing.
For this reason, the Government’s announced safeguards policy requires prior Australian consent before the spent fuel derived from Australian uranium may be reprocessed. Some of our major potential customers would have preferred a more permissive Australian policy on reprocessing. But we have reserved Australia’s position to ensure that, in relation to the uranium we supply, the potential problems associated with reprocessing are dealt with. We shall need to be satisfied, for example:
That there is a need to reprocess for legitimate energy purposes; that international controls and safeguards are intensified to ensure an adequate and effective defence against diversion of plutonium to non-peaceful purposes; that there is not excessive stock-piling of plutonium in a way that could pose future proliferation dangers.
We shall be seeking constructive answers on these questions in the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation, in which Australia shall be participating, and in discussions with other countries.
Although Australia as a major exporter of uranium will be involved closely in international studies concerned with reprocessing and the nuclear fuel cycle there is no intention of Australia storing other countries’ radioactive wastes.
In addition to the compelling nonproliferation and energy considerations on which the Government’s decision is based, it should also be noted that the mining and export of uranium will enhance Australia’s reputation as a stable and reliable supplier of resources, and bring Australia tangible economic benefits.
Mr President, the Government has faced up to the many complex and sensitive international issues raised by the worldwide use of uranium. The Government is convinced that uranium mining and export should proceed. To do otherwise, would be to:
Deny Australia an effective voice in strengthening safeguards and nonproliferation measures; accelerate moves to the plutonium economy with its proliferation risks; abandon the world’s energy poor countries, amongst whom are numbered our major trading partners; deny Australia significant economic benefits.
I now turn to domestic considerations and the conditions on which particular projects will be permitted to proceed.
The Inquiry’s Second Report dealt specifically with the Ranger Project, in the context of the single ecosystem of the Alligator Rivers Region in which the project is located. As the Jabiluka and Koongarra deposits are also located in the Region, the Inquiry considered them in relationship to the Region as a whole.
The Government’s decision will clear the way for decisions on the development of other uranium deposits throughout the Commonwealth, as well as those in the Alligator Rivers Region.
The Government has decided, that uranium development projects will be permitted to proceed only if they satisfy certain conditions: the mining operations must conform with a mandatory ‘code of practice’ which the Government shall progressively prescribe; the requirements of the Environmental Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 must be complied with; the Government must be satisfied as to the acceptability of the development on the environment and on the Aboriginal peoplethe total level of activity will be taken into account in this regard; the sale contracts for the uranium produced must conform with the Government’s safeguards policy.
With respect to the Alligator Rivers Region, the Inquiry envisaged a planned sequence of development of uranium deposits.
The Government has decided that in view of the complexity of the further development of each of the projects, it would be impossible properly to specify the sequence of mining, either as to order or timing. The Government notes, however, that the requirements it has set down and the processes of negotiation which must be carried on between the mining companies and Aboriginal land owners will in fact lead to any development being of a sequential nature.
The Inquiry was not concerned to examine uranium development outside the Region. The Government sees no reason at this time to specify the sequence of uranium projects elsewhere in Australia. But it would consider any advice on this aspect given to it by the Uranium Advisory Council and other appropriate bodies.
The Government has decided to accept all the Inquiry’s recommendations and findings, relating to the mining and milling of uranium.
There shall be a uniform Australian code covering the mining and milling of uranium. The code will be mandatory and implemented progressively by legislation together with the States and Territories, commencing with the ‘Code of Practice on Radiation Protection in the Mining and Milling of Radioactive Ores’ which has already been prepared and published by the Department of Health. The code of practice will be prescribed by Commonwealth legislation, but where State or Territory legislation has an equal or more stringent code, the Commonwealth legislation will be held in reserve and the administration of the code will be left entirely in the hands of that State or Territory.
This decision, in fact, goes beyond the recommendation of the Inquiry and indicates the Government’s concern for adequate and effective control and regulation of uranium operations.
I now turn to the specific recommendations of the Inquiry with regard to the Alligator Rivers Region.
The Government has decided to adopt the recommendations of the Inquiry relating to environmental controls in the Region.
In making any decision on specific projects in the Alligator Rivers Region, the Government will be highly conscious of the need to ensure that the total level of activity in the Region is taken into account.
The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman) will elaborate shortly on the means we shall adopt to ensure proper environmental supervision and coordination in the region.
The Inquiry made various recommendations concerning a National Park. The Government has decided to accept the recommendation of the Inquiry that a major National Park should be established in the Region to protect and preserve the natural features, the flora and fauna, the Aboriginal sacred sites and cave paintings.
The Inquiry recommended that the full extent of the Park should be declared at one time but acknowledged that the Park might be declared in progressive stages, and indicated what the first stage might be.
The Government has decided to declare the National Park in stages. The area which will be declared first is substantially greater than that gazetted in 1 975 for the Kakadu National Park, and greater than the first stage suggested by the Inquiry. It includes all the land subject to Aboriginal land claims recommended by the Inquiry.
The full area recommended by the Inquiry for inclusion in the National Park, other than that covered by the initial declaration, will be brought immediately under special control. This control will be exercised, initially, through the Departments of Aboriginal Affairs, Environment, Housing and Community Development, National Resources, and the Northern Territory with the Department of National Resources having the principal role in relation to exploration and mining. Special arrangements will be established to ensure proper co-ordination of the activities of the four Departments in exercising such controls.
There will be no exploration, development or mining, at least for the time being, within the area initially declared as a National Park.
There will be no exploration, development or mining within the remaining area, except with the express approval of the Commonwealth authorities involved.
The Government accepts the recommendation of the Inquiry that the town should be included in the National Park but should not be Aboriginal land.
The Government has decided to accept the Inquiry’s recommendation that the Ranger and Pancontinental lease areas should be excluded from the National Park. On the same basis, the Government has decided that the Noranda lease area should be excluded. The Government has made these exclusions without commitment to order or timing of any development.
Because of the Government’s requirement that it be satisfied as to the acceptability of the impact of each development on the environment, a considerable amount of planning and investigation into the environmental effects of any development of Noranda ‘s deposit at Koongarra will have to be undertaken. That deposit has particular environmental problems because of the sensitivity and fragility of the environment of the area and the location of the deposit upstream of a major wetlands area.
With regard to the Aboriginal people, the Government has decided to accept all of the Inquiry’s recommendations for the enhancement of their welfare.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will have general responsibility for the oversight of the impact of development on the Aboriginal population and co-ordination of measures to moderate that impact.
All the recommendations of the Inquiry on the granting of land to Aboriginals and the legislative changes to enable Aboriginal land to become pan of a National Park have been accepted.
The Mudginberri and Munmarlary pastoral leases will be purchased from the present lessees to create an opportunity for Aboriginal land claims to be made and determined as recommended by the Inquiry.
Aboriginals will have new opportunities to control the use of their traditional lands and to protect their interests. The Government will adopt special measures designed to advance the wellbeing of Aboriginals and Aboriginal interests in the Region. Special efforts will be made to train them to be rangers in the National Park so that they may care for their land- the land of their ancestors and so be responsible for the protection of their sacred sites.
Revenues from Mining
Substantial revenue from royalties on uranium mined in the region will be applied to the welfare of Aboriginals in the Northern Territory generally and not solely to those in local communities affected by the mining operation or to individuals.
Part of the increased revenues which the Government will derive from uranium development will be used in substantial additional funding of solar energy research as part of our National Energy Program. The Deputy Prime Minister will speak further on this subject shortly in his statement.
With respect to the Ranger project itself, the Government is most conscious that the Memorandum of Understanding between the Commonwealth and the Ranger partners entered into in October 1975 more than three months after the Ranger Inquiry had been established, would not have been the Government’s preferred approach to mineral development. However, the Government would not wish to disturb arrangements entered into in good faith by the companies with the previous Government. We believe, as a matter of principle, that the repudiation by one Government of contracts entered into by a previous Government would be quite wrong.
The Government has therefore decided to continue arrangements existing under the Memorandum of Understanding. As a consequence, the Government has had to vary the recommendation of the Inquiry on the exclusion of the Ranger Special Mineral Lease Area from the National Park. It will be necessary to exclude the entire Ranger Project Area of some 83 square kilometres from the park subject to the adjustment of the southern boundary to move it further from Aboriginal sacred sites at Mount Brockman, as recommended by the Inquiry.
For the same reason, the Government is unable to accept the recommendation of the Inquiry that the Atomic Energy Act not be used for the granting of an authority to Ranger to mine uranium. The Government notes that the Inquiry stated that its concerns about the use of the Atomic Energy Act would be lessened if the proposed Uranium Advisory Council were established. The Government has decided to establish the Uranium Advisory Council with the roles recommended by the Inquiry, and within the portfolio responsibility of the Minister for National Resources.
It should not be thought that the Commonwealth’s participation in the Memorandum of Understanding will give Ranger an advantage over other mining companies. We will ensure that Government participation in the Ranger development will not accord specific marketing advantage to this project.
The Government agrees in principle with the Inquiry that there should be a uranium marketing authority which will ensure that the Government has proper knowledge and oversight of the commercial arrangements for the sale and export of uranium.
The Deputy Prime Minister will elaborate further on this matter in his statement.
The Government endorses the Inquiry’s view, that the Alligator Rivers Region should be managed in its totality in conformity with a land use plan.
We look forward to the time when the management of the region, with its various planned uses, produces an harmonious relationship between the various activities: Mining, tourism, park management and environmental protection.
It is our strong desire that the management of the region should become not a national but a world-wide model of how forethought and planning, good management and goodwill can lead to natural resources being obtained with a minimum of interference to a region’s inhabitants and its environment.
I wish to make the Government’s position quite plain.
Uranium mining may now proceed, but only in ways which will not destroy or spoil the national heritage of the region with its magnificent scenery and unique ecosystems and which will not harm those specific areas of the region considered sacred or of deep significance by the Aboriginal people.
The export of Australian uranium will decrease the risks of further proliferation of nuclear weapons and will support and strengthen the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It will help to make a safer world.
The advent of Australia as a major supplier of uranium will make certain that Australia’s voice on this most vital problem of international affairs- nuclear weapons proliferation- will be heard.
– by leave- The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has announced the Government’s decision to proceed with further expansion and development of Australia’s uranium industry. In this statement I shall explain the details of our decisions on development and the background to them.
Australia is presently a uranium producer. Australia has had a long history of mining and export of uranium. Uranium mining and milling began at Rum Jungle and in the Alligator Rivers Region in the Northern Territory, at Mary Kathleen in Queensland, and at Radium Hill in South Australia in the 1950s. Production at these sites was exported to the United States and the United Kingdom both for defence purposes and for electric power generation. The total amount exported was 7,860 short tons of uranium oxide. Although uranium mining at Radium Hill did not commence until 1954, mining for radium commenced there early this century.
Mining at Rum Jungle ceased in 1963, but treatment operations continued until 1971 and the output of about 2,250 short tons of uranium oxide was stockpiled by the Government.
Following improved market conditions for uranium early in the 1970s and the discoveries of substantial new Australian deposits, export contracts were obtained by Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd, Peko/EZ and Queensland Mines Limited amounting to 1 1,757 short tons of uranium oxide for delivery over the period 1976 to 1986. The contracts were approved by the then Government and negotiations with Peko/EZ, Queensland Mines and Noranda Australia for development of the Ranger, Nabarlek and
Koongarra deposits were in progress at the time the Whitlam Government took office on 2 December 1972. The Whitlam Government gave undertakings that the export contracts would be honoured and it subsequently made arrangements for the re-commissioning of Mary Kathleen and for the development of the Peko/EZ project at Ranger and for subsequent development of other mines in the Alligator Rivers Region.
A feature of the uranium development policy of the Whitlam Government was direct Commonwealth participation. The Whitlam Government obtained a 42 per cent shareholding in Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd. On the basis of these arrangements re-commissioning of the mine began in 1974, and production commenced early in 1976. Production and export of uranium is continuing at Mary Kathleen and to date 690 short tons of uranium oxide have been exported for electric power generation in Japan, the United States and West Germany.
Following its decision on the Mary Kathleen project the Whitlam Government tabled in the Parliament on 31 October 1974 a statement announcing a program of large scale uranium development in the Nothern Territory of Australia commencing with exploitation of the Ranger deposit to be followed by development of the Nabarlek, Jabiluka and Koongarra deposits.
Together with the Whitlam Government statement on 31 October 1974 there was also tabled in the Parliament an agreement with Peko/EZ for joint development of the Ranger deposit by the Commonwealth and those companies. The agreement was signed by the then Prime Minister (Mr E. G. Whitlam), the then Deputy Prime Minister (Dr Cairns) and the then Minister for Minerals and Energy (the late Mr Connor) and by the Chairman of Peko Mines Limited (Mr Proud) and the Managing Director of the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited (Mr Mackay). That Agreement was elaborated further in a Memorandum of Understanding dated 28 October 1975 also tabled in the Parliament. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the then Prime Minister (Mr E. G. Whitlam) and Mr Proud and Mr Mackay of Peko/EZ.
The Whitlam Government also announced in its uranium development policy statement of 3 1 October 1974 that the Government stockpile of uranium remaining from the earlier operations at Rum Jungle would be available to Peko/EZ and
Queensland Mines Limited to allow early deliveries to be made under the approved export contracts of those companies prior to the mines at Ranger and Nabarlek coming into production.
It should be recalled that central considerations in the Whitlam Government’s policy of uranium development were the economic benefits to Australia which would accrue and the responsibility Australia has as an energy rich nation in meeting the energy needs of other countries.
The Whitlam Government’s statement on uranium development which I have already referred to and which was tabled in the Parliament on 31 October 1974 opened with the following words: . . this statement is to outline the Government ‘s program for the rational development of uranium resources in the Northern Territory; a program which will return substantial economic benefits to Australia from our supply of this vital energy resource to our overseas trading partners who face such grave difficulties in securing their energy requirements . . .
The Whitlam Government’s commitment of Australia, and Australian companies, to meeting the uranium requirements of our trading partners continued and reached the very substantial amount of 100,000 tonnes of uranium. The then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Les Johnson) said on 16 October 1975 in the second reading speech on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill that:
International assurances have been provided by Ministers that Australia will meet the uranium requirements of our major trading partners, which could amount to a total of about 100,000 tonnes of uranium by 1990.
Very clearly the Whitlam Government recognised- and responded most positively to - the urgent and legitimate energy requirements of other countries. Like our Government, the Whitlam Government recognised the interdependence between Australia and other countries and our responsibilities as a nation rich in energy resources to supply these resources to others.
The world energy crisis has meant that adjustment must be made to other sources of energy in the wake of dwindling world supplies of petroleum. The reality has been accepted by all countries- developed and developing alike. This adjustment to other sources of energy is a profound economic and social hardship for many countries. It is difficult for many Australians, living in a nation rich in resources, to understand the vital need of others for energy resources. Many of our trading partners, both developed and less developed, have little in the way of natural resources. Their only resources are the skill and ingenuity of their people and the capital they have available. Naturally, they see resource rich countries like Australia as vital to their own economic future and stability.
Nuclear energy is the only viable alternative most countries have available to meet their essential need for electrical energy in the wake of the oil crisis. At the present time 184 nuclear power units are in operation in 20 countries with a capacity of 88,000 megawatts of electricityfour times Australia’s total electricity generating capacity. There are 214 nuclear power units now under construction in 27 countries. An additional 102 units are on firm order in 18 countries. This means 500 nuclear power units, with a total generating capacity of 381,000 megawatts, are either in operation, under construction or on firm order in 34 countries around the world. Nearly 300 more units are in the planning stages. This is a total of about 800. Installed nuclear capacity is now projected to increase to at least one million megawatts and perhaps 1.9 million megawatts by the year 2000.
The commitment to nuclear power is not confined to developed countries. There are five nuclear power units in operation in developing countries, 20 under construction, six on order and 60 planned.
Nuclear energy is not illusory. It is a fact of life. It is the only viable option for electricity generation that many countries now have.
Very substantial quantities of uranium are required to fuel the nuclear reactors in operation and in prospect. The Western world’s low cost uranium reserves are estimated to total about 1.9 million short tons, of which Australia’s reserves amount to 376,000 short tons- that is 20 per cent of the Western world ‘s known low cost reserves.
Annual uranium requirements necessary to satisfy the projected growth in nuclear power are about 90,000 short tons of uranium oxide in 1985, 140,000 short tons in 1990 and 200,000 tons in the year 2000.
The estimated production capacity in the Western world in 1976 was about 30,000 short tons. Clearly there has to be a substantial expansion in uranium production in the world if the requirements for nuclear fuel and energy are to be met.
The fact that nuclear energy usage for electric power generation has proceeded in other ountries without access to Australian uranium, id will continue, in no way relieves Australia of s responsibilities as an energy rich nation. It simply highlights the futility of leaving our uranium in the ground.
The Alligator Rivers Region is the world ‘s largest uncommitted uranium province. Effective exploration in the Region to date has been largely restricted to that portion of the main prospective formation which is amenable to airborne radiometric survey and which is only about 15 per cent of the prospective area. The overall uranium resources of the Region could be as much as five to ten times the resources identified to date. On this basis the energy content is of the same order as the presently known oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. Can it be seriously suggested that Australia should deny these vast energy resources to a world seriously in need of secure, alternative sources of energy?
Australia has a clear international responsibility to develop further its uranium resources. The Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry report stated that total renunciation of intention to supply Australian uranium was not justified and was undesirable. Successive Australian governments, including the Whitlam Government, have recognised this. Our Government recognises its responsibility to ensure that Australia’s uranium resources are further developed and we will proceed to do so on the basis recommended by the Ranger Inquiry.
In accepting the responsibility of further uranium development we will ensure that that development will be very strictly controlled, with the fullest and most effective protection for the environment and the welfare of the Aboriginal people as recommended by the Ranger Inquiry.
The vast uranium reserves of the Alligator Rivers Region are located in an area of environmental and Aboriginal significance. The Ranger Inquiry was commissioned by the Whitlam Government having regard to these factors. Our Government agreed that the report of this Inquiry must be available before decisions would be taken regarding development in the Region.
The report recommends most stringent measures of control and regulation over uranium development and the Ranger project. This is accepted by the Government. We accept the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry with only minor exceptions in cases where we believe the objectives can be met in a more appropriate fashion. In some respects we have decided to go beyond the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry in the direction of securing more stringent measures of control and regulation. My statement, and those of other Ministers, will explain any departures from the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry. Other than in these cases, the recommendations of the Inquiry have been accepted by the Government.
Let me give an illustration of what will not happen in future. I previously mentioned Rum Jungle. That mining operation was carried out with inadequate concern for the environment. It was an operation which reflected environmental attitudes of 25 years ago which Australians would not tolerate today.
I make it clear that there will be no more projects like Rum Jungle. We will embark on a clean up operation at Rum Jungle. As a first step $300,000 has been provided in the 1977-78 Budget estimates of the Department of the Northern Territory for clearance and rehabilitation of the mining area. The Department of the Northern Territory will co-ordinate a study of a comprehensive program of rehabilitation of the whole area. The Government will take further decisions when that study is completed.
The Government will be allowing further uranium development only where it is satisfied that strict regulation and control can properly protect the environment. The Ranger project will proceed subject to the full range of environmental controls recommended by the Inquiry.
I will deal now with the administrative structure for control and regulation of uranium development. In summary:
We will appoint a Supervising Scientist and establish a Co-ordinating Committee and Research Institute.
We will use the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act.
We will have specific arrangements to ensure Aboriginal welfare.
We will establish a Uranium Marketing Authority or similar marketing arrangements to achieve the objective of orderly development.
We will establish a Uranium Advisory Council.
We will establish a uniform code of practice for the uranium mining and milling industry.
Specific administrative arrangements were recommended by the Inquiry covering these matters. We have accepted the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendations with the addition of a uniform code of practice which goes beyond the Inquiry’s recommendations. There is a need for adequate administrative arrangements to secure proper overall control and regulation of this industry.
The extensive interlocking administrative arrangements recommended by the Ranger Inquiry are to be commended and the Government has accepted them as a proper basis to proceed with development.
The Ranger Inquiry’s recommendations regarding the appointment of a Supervising Scientist, establishment of a Co-ordinating Committee and a Research Institute have been adopted. The Supervising Scientist, who will exercise a supervisory and integrating role, will be responsible to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development.
The second major element of the machinery for regulation and control is the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act. We will establish a major National Park in the Region. The Director of National Parks and Wildlife, a statutory officer responsible to the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, will have extensive powers over the Region as a whole.
The third element in the machinery for regulation and control is the special responsibilities of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs described fully in the separate statement by that Minister.
The fourth element of administrative machinery is the establishment of a Uranium Marketing Authority. The Ranger Inquiry recommended the establishment of such an Authority. The Government accepts the thrust of that recommendation. However, we will not take a final decision on marketing arrangements for Australian uranium until the legal implications of foreign anti-trust laws have been fully examined by the Government. Should we proceed to confirm our preliminary thinking that a Marketing Authority be established, the Authority would be responsible to the Minister for National Resources. It would ensure that the Government at all times has proper knowledge, oversight and control of the commercial arrangements under which Australian uranium was exported.
The Government attaches the greatest importance to orderly development of our uranium resources. We will want to see our uranium industry develop as a stable and secure long term supplier of energy to other countries on fair and reasonable terms. We will not allow the development of our uranium industry to be dictated by volatile events in markets abroad. Furthermore, we will ensure that our marketing arrangements accord no marketing advantage to Ranger resulting specifically from Government participation in that project.
The Ranger Inquiry suggested that a Marketing Authority could also administer nuclear safeguards. The Government’s view is that commercial and safeguards matters are separate issues and we would not want any suggestion that one can be traded-off against the other. We therefore do no consider it appropriate that a Marketing Authority whose task would be commercial should control nuclear safeguards.
The application and administration of nuclear safeguards on the import, export and handling of nuclear material in Australia will remain the responsibility of the Minister for National Resources and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Minister for National Resources will retain the powers he presently exercises over the control and administration of commercial and nuclear safeguards aspects of development. The Government will therefore always be in a position to move immediately to terminate uranium development, permanently, indefinitely or for a specified period as recommended by the Ranger Inquiry.
The fifth element in the administrative arrangements the Government will put in place is the recommendation of the Ranger Inquiry to establish a Uranium Advisory Council, responsible to the Minister for National Resources. This body will fulfil the recommendation of the Ranger Inquiry for the establishment of a body with adequate representation of the people to advise the Government and with a duty to report annually to the Parliament with regard to the export and use of Australian uranium.
The final element in the administrative arrangements is that the Government will move to establish by legislation, together with the States, a uniform code of practice to apply to all uranium mining and milling in Australia. As a first step the Government will establish the existing ‘Code of Practice on Radiation Protection in the Mining and Milling of Radioactive Ores’ completed in 1975 after extensive consultation with industry, trade unions and Government instrumentalities, both Federal and State. The Government’s decision to establish a code of practice goes beyond the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry and commends itself as a desirable policy to bring system and conformity into the industry throughout Australia.
The administrative machinery I have described will be the foundation on which further development of the industry will proceed. It is completely in accord with the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry and will provide a proper and adequate basis on which uranium development will proceed so as to harmonise the interests of development, environmental protection, National Park values and Aboriginal welfare.
The Government has decided that the Ranger Project will proceed on the basis of the Memorandum of Understanding concluded between the Whitlam Government and Peko/EZ. Those companies entered into these arrangements with the former Government in good faith and the arrangements will be honoured by our Government. The Memorandum of Understanding provides for the Commonwealth, through the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, to engage in a joint venture with Peko/EZ for the mining of uranium at Ranger, beginning with the establishment of a mine of 3,300 short tons capacity. The capital is to be provided in the proportions 7216 per cent by the Commonwealth and 2716 per cent by Peko/EZ, with Peko/EZ receiving the net proceeds of sale of 50 per cent of the uranium produced.
The direct financial participation of the Commonwealth in a mining project is, of course, contrary to the political philosophy of our Government, but we are prepared to honour the agreement with Peko/EZ which we have inherited from the Whitlam Government.
The southern boundary of the Ranger Project Area will be adjusted as recommended by the Inquiry to relocate operations away from Aboriginal sacred sites at Mount Brockman. The Ranger Inquiry recommends overall a smaller area for the Ranger development than that specified in the Memorandum of Understanding. Apart from the relocation of the southern boundary, the Government is prepared to agree that the Ranger Project Area and other elements of the Memorandum of Understanding will remain undisturbed. In coming to this conclusion, the Government is satisfied that the comprehensive and interlocking administrative arrangements I have already described, which will govern development, will provide the necessary protection of environmental, Aboriginal and National Park values in the course of development and operation of Ranger.
The Government’s decision to retain the Memorandum of Understanding will mean that the Ranger Project will therefore be developed under the Atomic Energy Act as envisaged by the Whitlam Government. The Ranger Inquiry recommended against the use of the Atomic Energy Act on the grounds that this legislation was enacted largely with defence considerations in mind. Having reviewed this matter the Government nevertheless considered that the Atomic Energy Act provides an appropriate basis for mining operations at Ranger in accordance with the agreements concluded between the companies and the Commonwealth in 1974 and 1975.
In coming to this conclusion, the Government had regard to the view of the Ranger Inquiry that its concern over the appropriateness of the Atomic Energy Act would have less force if the Uranium Advisory Council recommendation of the Inquiry were adopted. As I have already stated, the Government will adopt that recommendation of the Ranger Inquiry and establish a Uranium Advisory Council.
Subject to satisfactory completion of the necessary environmental requirements and conclusion of arrangements with the Aboriginal people, the Government will take a decision on development of the Nabarlek deposit by Queensland Mines Limited.
Decisions on the development of the Jabiluka and Koongarra deposits will be taken following the completion of the abovementioned requirements. In the case of Koongarra, it was made clear by the Ranger Inquiry that there would be a considerable amount of planning and investigation to be completed particularly having in mind the fragility of the environment which could be affected by development at Koongarra.
The Ranger Inquiry recommended that there be sequential development of the mines in the Alligator Rivers Region at appropriate intervals. The existing deposits are at different stages of investigation and there will of course be different environmental and other requirements necessary in each case. This will result, in practice, in mines coming into production at different times. The Government therefore sees it as unnecessary to set down a specific timetable of sequential development and it is satisfied that completion of the requirements, which will be a prerequisite for any development in each case, will result in the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendations regarding development being satisfied.
Subject to satisfactory completion of the necessary environmental requirements, the Government will also take decisions on the development of projects in the States.
In coming to these general conclusions on Nabarlek, Jabiluka, Koongarra, on development in the States and on the question of sequential development, the Government is conscious that particular decisions must await the outcome of environmental procedures. The Government believes it is not appropriate at this stage to come to decisions which could pre-empt environmental consideration or foreclose the Government’s intention to take decisions in full knowledge of facts that may arise at a later stage, including the careful monitoring we will maintain of the overall impact of activity on the Region.
I have already referred to the potential of the Alligator Rivers Region as an energy resource and to our international responsibility to countries which require stable and continuing sources of energy for their wellbeing and prosperity. Consistent with this, and having in mind the very long lead times between successful exploration and bringing resources to the production stage, exploration may proceed in the Region, but only under strictly controlled conditions. No exploration will be permitted for the time being in the area declared as the first stage of the proposed National Park and future exploration will be carefully controlled in accordance with the Park Plan of Management. In that area to be declared in the subsequent stage of the National Park, exploration will be permitted in the meantime under strictly controlled conditions to be supervised by the Departments of National Resources, Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Territory and Environment, Housing and Community Development.
The decision to proceed with further uranium development will bring with it significant economic benefits for the Australian community. The Ranger Inquiry made forecasts of these potential benefits, as have other bodies. Forecasts are of course subject to the usual qualifications, and inherent in them are a variety of assumptions. Nevertheless, they point to significant export income, employment and other economic benefits which would be derived from development.
The Ranger Inquiry assumed that production and sales would begin in 1981-82 at a rate of 2,000 short tons of uranium oxide increasing to 10,000 short tons in 1985-86. These estimates are broadly in line with the Government’s assessment of the world market situation in the first half of the 1980s. After 1985, the likely exports that Australia could make would increase substantially. Although actual sales prospects will not be known until Australia actively seeks long term contracts in the market on the basis of actual production, the forecasts presently available provide a basis on which carefully regulated development can proceed.
The Ranger Inquiry’s forecasts of economic benefits concluded that, at a price level of SUS30 per lb, the addition to our national income resulting from further development of an Australian uranium industry could account for more than 1.3 per cent of” projected levels of national income in the mid 1990s. The Ranger Inquiry concluded that, should the higher prices assumed in its analysis be achieved, namely a price of SUS30 per lb, the export earnings of the uranium industry would eventually exceed the earnings in recent years of any of our other major export industries. Some other economic benefits estimated by the Inquiry were: gross revenue to the year 2000 could exceed $20,000m in present money values net national benefits discounted to present worth terms could be $3,255m.
The Ranger Inquiry’s forecasts also indicate that development of a national uranium industry will result in the creation of considerable direct employment opportunities. Based on the assumption that construction of the first project would commence in 1977-78, with production and sales commencing in 1981-82 at an average rate of around 2,000 short tons uranium oxide, increasing at about that rate until 1994-95 when total output would reach 27,300 short tons, the Ranger Inquiry forecast that a total workforce of between 2,000 and 2,500 would probably be directly employed in the industry. Additionally, the Inquiry forecast that construction activities associated with any such development could provide direct employment for up to 1,500 workers at any one time.
The employment opportunities created by development of our uranium industry will not, of course, end at the mine site. Australian manufacturers supplying materials and equipment to the projects will need to employ workers as will transport, retail service and many other industries.
The employment prospects would, of course be further enhanced should Australia at some future stage decide to upgrade and enrich uranium prior to export. The Government does, as a matter of policy, wish to see the maximum processing of Australian raw materials prior to export. Consistent with this attitude we will study the feasibility of upgrading and enrichment of uranium in Australia, and preserve Australia’s options in this regard. The joint uranium enrichment feasibility study between Australian and Japan, initiated by the Whitlam Government, will continue. We will be prepared to enter into similar feasibility studies with other countries.
The Ranger Inquiry did not forecast possible levels of employment that could result from a fully integrated uranium industry in Australia, but a recent authoritative study by the South Australian Government, which I have previously tabled in this House, did so. That study by the South Australian Government suggests that the build-up of new direct employment possibilities could conservatively amount to 20,000 persons. The further economic benefits and effects of an industry of this scale are discussed, and the report comes to the remarkable conclusion that:
Employment opportunities, on the statistical data for the already established North American uranium industry, would be such that a fully developed uranium industry in Australia could support directly and indirectly about 500,000 persons starting with a mining workforce of about 5000.
The economic benefits of uranium mining for the Northern Territory will be particularly significant The Ranger Inquiry estimated that uranium mining operations would add between $65m and $ 105m to incomes in the Territory- an increase of between 16 per cent and 26 per cent. The Ranger Inquiry estimated that direct employment opportunities for 1,250 to 1,500 workers, which is about 3 per cent to 3.5 per cent of the present labour force in the Territory, could arise. The Ranger Inquiry concluded that: a regional uranium industry producing up to 12,500 tonnes of uranium per year would substantially enlarge the Northern Territory ‘s economy and could provide the stimulus for a much faster rate of economic growth in the area than would otherwise occur.
Clearly the information available at this stage points to substantial economic benefits. The Government will wish to consider the accrual of an appropriate share of uranium profits to the public sector. The Government will therefore initiate discussions with the industry on a possible framework for a secondary or resource-based tax on future earnings from uranium development.
I turn finally to the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendations concerning energy policy in Australia. The Inquiry recommended that a National Energy Policy should be developed and reviewed regularly; that steps should be taken to institute full and energetic research programs into liquid fuels and energy sources other than fossil fuels and nuclear fission; and that a program of energy conservation be instituted nationally.
The Government accepts these recommendations. Steps have already been taken in this direction. As I advised the House in my statement on crude oil policy on 16 August 1977, I am currently preparing a statement on Australia’s energy policy which will deal comprehensively with all forms of energy. That statement will be presented to the House as soon as practicable.
The formulation and continuing review of a national energy policy is, however, a complex subject requiring detailed and expert analysis and is a task which the Government cannot and will not undertake in isolation.
It is for this reason that I announced on 10 February 1977 the establishment of a National Energy Advisory Committee as foreshadowed in the Coalition Parties ‘Statement on Minerals and Energy Policy issued prior to the last elections.
The Government is looking to this committee for advice on Australia’s energy reserves and on factors likely to influence the pattern of energy supply and demand, and future costs in Australia; the assessment of and development of our resources, and the economy and use of energy.
The Committee will also offer advice on the balance of resources for research relating to the development of energy sources in Australia and on developments both here and overseas in respect of methods and technology associated with the production and distribution of energy.
The Committee is advising the Government progressively on these matters and the Government will take full account of the Committee’s advice in framing an integrated energy policy for Australia.
In view of the responsibility and control which State governments exercise over much of the production and consumption of Australian energy materials, it is important that the Federal Government maintain close liaison with the State governments on energy matters. For this reason the Federal and State governments have established the Australian Minerals and Energy Council to serve as a forum for consultation between the relevant Commonwealth and State Ministers on the nation’s energy needs, resources and policies.
I should make clear that the Government does not see a detailed national energy policy as a rigid blueprint for the development of Australia’s energy resources and the meeting of Australia’s energy needs. It must be a flexible instrument of policy planning which can be adapted to changing circumstances and will continue to give the public and private sectors an adequate basis for decision-making. It must be, and will be, kept up to date, and accordingly, we will keep our policy under regular review.
The Government has already taken steps to increase the level of energy research and development activity in Australia. The recently announced levy for coal research purposes will provide increased funds for research on coal mining and combustion, and on the production of liquid fuels from coal.
An agency-to-agency agreement on coal cooperation was recently signed by the Department of National Resources and the National Coal Board of the United Kingdom. Similar agreements with the United States Energy Research and Development Administration and with the United States Bureau of Mines are at an advanced stage of negotiation. Part of the funds raised by the coal research levy will be set aside to stimulate research co-operation under each of these agreements.
The Commonwealth Government has also decided to join with interested States in considering an offer from the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany and German private companies to share the cost of a $3m study of the economic and technical feasibility of a plant to convert coal to 10 per cent liquefied petroleum gas, 45 per cent motor spirit and 45 per cent diesel oil. In a joint statement issued at the conclusion of the Australian Minerals and Energy Council meeting in Adelaide on Friday 19 August 1977, the Victorian Minister for Mines, Fuel and Power, the New South Wales Minister for Mines and Energy and I announced that, assuming that a number of outstanding questions which remain to be clarified can be resolved satisfactorily, then the Commonwealth and the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria would be prepared to finance the other half of the cost of a feasibility study on an equitable basis, with an upper limit of $ 1.5m. Queensland also expressed interest in joining in such a study, on these terms, and will examine the FRG proposal as a matter of urgency.
The Government has also decided that, as resources flow from the further development of uranium, additional funds will be provided to increase substantially our national effort on solar energy research.
Energy research and development is a matter to which I have asked the National Energy Advisory Committee to pay particular attention, and I expect to receive advice on this matter from the Committee in the near future. At the request of the Prime Minister, the Australian Science and Technology Council is also preparing advice for the Government on energy research and development in Australia.
The formulation of an energy research and development policy which will make the most effective use of the nation’s research resources cannot take place without detailed knowledge of the existing research effort. Accordingly, the Department of National Resources is currently undertaking a national survey of energy research and development in Australia. The survey of Commonwealth Government departments and instrumentalities has already commenced, and State governments, universities and private companies will be approached in due course.
The need for an expanded energy research and development effort has been recognised by Ministers with energy responsibilities from each of the major Australian political parties. At the 19 August 1977 meeting of the Australian Minerals and Energy Council, the Council expressed the unanimous view that there is a need for an active and co-ordinated national energy research and development effort. The Council is to consider at its next meeting a report from officials on the establishment of a national energy research and development program, and the means by which such a program might appropriately be organised and financed. This will enable the Commonwealth to frame an energy research and development policy which takes full account of the advice of the National Energy Advisory Committee and the Australian Science and Technology Council and of the activities and priorities of the State governments.
Regarding energy conservation, the Government has already taken a vitally important step in moving to raise the price of indigenous crude oil to appropriate levels.
The National Energy Advisory Committee has provided me with a preliminary statement on a program of energy conservation for Australia and is at present developing a program of conservation measures for consideration by the Government.
I have outlined in this statement the detailed basis on which further development of Australia’s uranium industry will proceed. The recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry have received our careful study and it will be seen that we have accepted them with very little amendment in detail and no amendment in substance. The Government is satisfied that the recommendations of this far-reaching and comprehensive public inquiry set out a basis on which mining and export can proceed in harmony with, and with full protection for, the environment, national park and Aboriginal values.
We believe it is a basis on which Australia can confidently proceed, having the fullest regard for our national interest and the individual interests of all our people.
– by leave- The following is a statement put down in the other place by the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Sinclair). This statement relates to the international implications of the Government’s decision to develop new uranium deposits for export.
The Government has no doubt that the decision it has taken on uranium represents the only responsible course in terms of Australia’s international relations and the objective of nonproliferation. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) have already emphasised the danger of retreating from our responsibilites as a reliable and secure source of supply of vital energy resources, the severe strains this would impose on some of our most important bilateral relations with other countries and the dangers of international tension, friction and instability that would result if energy rich countries, like Australia, deny resources to those less well endowed.
Important though these considerations are in foreign policy terms, I wish now to concentrate on the relationship between uranium export and the problem of nuclear weapons proliferation.
This problem was a paramount concern to the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. Clearly we must regard most seriously the Inquiry’s findings that ‘the nuclear power industry is unintentionally contributing to an increased risk of nuclear war’ and that ‘this is the most serious hazard associated with the industry’. We must also be concerned with the Ranger Inquiry’s warning that ‘existing safeguards may provide only an illusion of protection ‘.
The Government has given close attention to these problems. We have taken our lead from the Ranger Inquiry’s view that they do not ‘render valueless the concept of international safeguards’. The Ranger Inquiry said, and the Government agrees, that ‘it is both essential and possible to make safeguards arrangements more effective’. The Government’s comprehensive nuclear safeguards policy announced by the Prime Minister on 24 May is designed to do just that. It takes full account of the Inquiry’s conclusions and in some respects, goes beyond the Ranger
Inquiry’s recommendations. The requirement under our policy for International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards to be applied to any nuclear material supplied by Australia in the existing nuclear weapons countries, as well as in non.nunclear weapon states, is additional to these recommendations. So are the requirements for prior Australian consent to high enrichment and reprocessing of nuclear material supplied by Australia and the requirement that adequate physical security be maintained on the nuclear industries of uranium importing countries. This is true also of the requirement for a clause in commercial contracts noting that transactions are subject to the safeguards incorporated in bilateral agreements between the Australian Government and the importing country.
Now that the Government has decided to proceed with uranium export the task will be to press ahead and implement our safeguards policy.
I propose in this statement to discuss in turn the four cornerstones of our policy:
The Non-Proliferation Treaty- NPT-
The International Atomic Energy AgencyIAEA safeguards;
Bilateral agreements between Australia and uranium importing countries; and
Australian participation in multilateral efforts to strenghten safeguards and the nonproliferation regime.
I will also examine the policing and enforcement of safeguards requirements.
The most important international nonproliferation instrument, on which, in our view, any safeguards policy must be based, is the NPT. Under Article II of the Treaty, non-nuclear weapon states undertake not to manufacture or acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices. Under Article III they undertake to accept safeguards, applied by the IAEA, covering all nuclear material in their peaceful nuclear industries. Under Article IV all the parties to the Treaty undertake to facilitate, and have the right to participate in, the fullest possible exchange of nuclear equipment, materials and scientific and technological information for peaceful uses. Australia, as a party to the Treaty, has accepted these obligations.
Australia’s obligations under the NPT do not preclude export to non-NPT countries. But in the case of non-nuclear weapon countries, Australia’s own safeguards policy does restrict uranium exports to those which are themselves parties to the Treaty. This affords Australia two significant assurances that the uranium we supply to such countries for peaceful purposes will not be misused for nuclear weapons. First, it means that all the nuclear material in those countries will be subject to IAEA safeguards irrespective of whether it is of Australian or any other origin. Second, there is the political commitment to renounce nuclear weapons which such countries enter into when they adhere to the Treaty This undertaking is not a unilateral declaration of intent: It is a binding commitment to all the other countries which are parties to the Treaty. No country could breach this commitment without the most serious damage to its international standing. It would also have to expect strong international reaction if it breached the NPT or denounced it. There would be grave political and material consequences for a country which took this course.
There are now over 100 parties to the NPT. Our goal is universal adherence. Our safeguards policy for uranium exports is designed to further that goal. The policy offers a tangible rewardnamely, access to Australian uranium- for those countries which do not have nuclear weapons and which have been prepared to renounce nuclear weapons by becoming parties to the Treaty. Equally, the policy offers a tangible incentive to adhere to the Treaty to countries not at present party to it.
The Ranger Inquiry correctly observed that ‘it is part of the spirit as well as the letter of the NPT that we should assist peaceful nuclear programs’. It noted also that ‘the NPT only became possible because of the assurances in Article IV concerning the provision of nuclear equipment, materials and information for peaceful purposes’. It is not realistic to ask countries to renounce nuclear weapons and accept stringent safeguards while denying them the means to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
It would, therefore, be a fundamental error to suppose that uranium export and the objective of non-proliferation are incompatible. On the contrary, as the NPTshows, and as the United States has pointed out in recent times, an effective nonproliferation regime must combine a body of complementary elements. Along with controls and efforts to restrain the spread of sensitive nuclear technologies, these must include incentivesincluding assured supplies of natural and low enriched uranium.
This is doubly important at the present time, because inadequacy of such supplies would reinforce the trend towards the use of technologies based on plutonium.
The second cornerstone of the Government’s policy is the safeguards applied by the IAEA. The purpose of IAEA safeguards is to detect diversion of nuclear material before it can be converted to a nuclear weapon. The threat of this prompt detection acts as a deterrent to diversion.
The safeguards are applied under an agreement between the safeguarded country and the IAEA. The agreement sets out the obligations of the safeguarded country and the IAEA and covers such matters as: The aim of the safeguards; their extent; the requirement for cooperation with the IAEA; provision of information to the IAEA; acceptance of IAEA inspections; and arrangements to apply in the event of disagreements. Details of the obligations and the procedures for discharging them are set out in Subsidiary Arrangements concluded pursuant to the main agreement. These details include: Material accounting procedures; requirements for records and reports; the frequency of, and arrangements for, inspections; procedures for taking physical inventories, including samplying; the rights of inspectors; and arrangements for measures of containment and surveillance of nuclear material to supplement the IAEA auditing.
IAEA safeguards require a country to make periodic reports of quantities, composition and usage of the nuclear material it possesses. Given this data, independent IAEA inspectors devise an inspection strategy for each nuclear facility. Inspection frequencies are set to take account of the amounts of material involved and the time required to convert material into an explosive device. At a nuclear facility inspectors check the correctness and consistency of records. They inspect nuclear material holdings, verifying amounts and composition of material against records. They employ non-destructive analytical methods and may further supplement these techniques by taking samples for destructive analysis, which is done subsequently at a laboratory chosen by and accredited to the IAEA. Inspectors make every endeavour to verify facility records while present at the facility. If a particular item remains unresolved, the inspector may postpone further action till the next routine inspection, or may require a further special inspection at a time which the IAEA will decide, the aim being the prompt resolution of the outstanding item. Differences discovered by the inspectors are considered to be diversions unless the country in question is able to explain them, for example, by demonstrating them as bona fide operating losses, mathematical errors or shipments, the notification for which had not yet reached the IAEA.
In short, the safeguards administered by the IAEA are a thorough, technically sophisticated, impartial and international means of verifying that nuclear material in a country’s peaceful nuclear industry is not diverted to nuclear weapons.
Australia’s safeguards policy requires, as a condition of uranium supply, the application of IAEA safeguards in all customer countries. This means, for example, that France or the United States or the United Kingdom will not be eligible to purchase Australian uranium unless they accept IAEA safeguards on the material supplied by Australia and give an assurance that it will not be diverted to military or explosive purposes.
Like the Ranger Inquiry, the Government believes that the NPT and IAEA safeguards- vital though they are- should be supplemented by other measures. As a necessary supplement, Australia’s safeguards policy requires the prior conclusion of a bilateral agreement with any country wishing to import Australian uranium. These agreements will provide Australia with direct and binding assurances- having the same status as any international treaty, in relation to the use and control of uranium supplied by Australia.
The fundamental undertakings we will require from customer countries in such agreements are that nuclear material supplied by Australia for peaceful purposes will not be diverted to military or explosive purposes, and that IAEA safeguards will apply to verify compliance with this. This, of course, duplicates to a certain extent undertakings which non-nuclear weapon states enter into as parties to the NPT, but the Government has considered it important that these undertakings be included in the bilateral agreements, irrespective of any future change in a country’s NPT status. The bilateral agreements will also include provision for fall-back safeguards. The purpose of these contingency arrangements is to ensure continued international safeguarding of material already present in an importing country if safeguards under the NPT should at some stage cease to apply. They also permit Australia to make alternative arrangements should international safeguards as such cease to operate.
There will be requirements for prior Australian consent to the enrichment of supplied uranium beyond 20 per cent U235 and for the reprocessing of spent fuel derived from Australian uranium. This is partly so that we can be satisfied that controls in relation to any high enrichment or reprocessing are adequate. It is also a means of guarding against excessive accumulation of weapons usable nuclear material which might enable a country to attain a nuclear weapons capability and therefore pose a potential proliferation risk. To prevent theft of nuclear material by groups or individuals the bilateral agreements will require that adequate physical security be maintained on the nuclear industries of importing countries. The benchmark will be the international standards recommended by the IAEA. Finally, the bilateral agreements will stipulate prior Australian consent to any transfer of supplied nuclear material to a third party so that Australia can satisfy itself that the whole package of safeguards requirements will continue to be met by the third party.
We do not start from the assumption that countries will seek to breach their solemn treaty obligations with us, or with the IAEA, or under the NPT. But we do recognise that, amongst the factors any country would assess before considering breaching its safeguards undertakings, would be the response this would draw from the other party to the agreement and from the international community in general. Enforcement of safeguards requirements is through disincentives, in the form of sanctions against breaches.
The sanctions which Australia could resort to unilaterally or bilaterally in the event of the breach by another country of a safeguards agreement would be at least as strong as those available to it in the event of the breach of any other bilateral treaty to which it is a party. In addition it could have recourse to institutionalised procedures in the IAEA and United Nations. Moreover it would have the opportunity to marshal international opinion and to enlist the support of individual third States to bring direct pressure to bear on the government concerned.
As I have said, the fundamental undertakings which uranium importing countries will give Australia is that uranium supplied for peaceful purposes will not be diverted to non-peaceful or explosive purposes and that IAEA safeguards will apply to verify compliance with this undertaking. There are procedures defined in the IAEA Statute for such a diversion to be reported to the Board of Governors of the IAEA, to all members of the IAEA and to the United Nations Security Council and General Assembly. Moreover, the Statute provides that, in such circumstances, the Board of Governors shall call on the country concerned to remedy the breach forthwith and, if fully corrective action is not taken in reasonable, time, it may respond with sanctions. These include cutting off IAEA assistance to the country, calling for the return of supplied nuclear materials and equipment and suspending the country from the IAEA.
To supplement these IAEA procedures, as the Prime Minister said on 24 May 1977, Australia will be arranging regular consultations with uranium importing countries to satisfy ourselves of the implementation of the provisions of bilateral agreement. These consultations could be used if, for example, the Government had grounds for doubt that its safeguards requirements were being met.
The Prime Minister has said Australia would retain the right to cease supply of uranium to any country which breached safeguards undertakings. This can be done unilaterally and immediately through the Government’s export control powers. For those who might dismiss refusal to supply as a case of ‘locking the stable door after the horse has bolted’ let me point to practical considerations. No country will incur the heavy investment involved in nuclear power unless it needs the electric generating capacity involved for its industries and other uses. Having incurred this heavy expense and come to rely on the generating plant, it will place high value on reliability of supplies of nuclear fuel.
Australia believes that refusal to supply and other measures would have maximum impact if taken by supplier countries acting in concert. The view ought to be that a breach against one is a breach against all. As the Prime Minister said on 24 May Australia will be exploring with other countries a common approach towards sanctions.
The fourth cornerstone of our policy is close involvement by Australia with international efforts to strengthen safeguards and the nonproliferation regime.
Through the Prime Minister’s recent visit to Europe and the United States, his correspondence on the subject with the Heads of Government of the United States and Canada which has been tabled in the House, the Deputy Prime Minister’s visit to those countries earlier this year, and numerous detailed discussions Australian officials have had in North America, Europe and Japan over the past year the Government has impressed on others its commitment to non-proliferation and to stringent safeguards. We will continue to pursue the widest possible consensus amongst both nuclear supplier countries and nuclear importing countries on the controls to apply to the world nuclear industry. There is no doubt that our full participation in multilateral activities, as a major uranium exporter, is welcome to and desired by the major Western countries and others concerned with developing the most effective possible non-proliferation strategy.
We look forward, in particular, to participating with other countries in the proposed International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation. This will be a wide ranging technical study of the means by which nuclear power can help to meet the world’s energy needs without compromising non-proliferation objectives. It will cover questions relating to nuclear fuel availability, availability of enrichment services, assurances of long term supply of nuclear fuel in the interests of non-proliferation, reprocessing and questions associated with plutonium, fast breeder reactors, spent fuel storage and waste disposal, and alternative fuel cycle concepts. I wish to underline that aspect of the study program concerned with the linkage between assurances of nuclear fuel supply and the containment of nuclear proliferation. This linkage demonstrates the point I made earlier that uranium export under stringent safeguards will not erode, but will positively support, non-proliferation.
The INFCE initiative was first proposed by President Carter in April of this year and subsequently taken up by the meeting in London of the Heads of Government of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Italy, Japan and Canada. To date two meetings have been held of a preparatory group of these seven countries. We hope that terms of reference and an organisational framework for the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation will soon be decided and the study program launched in the Northern autumn. We have already advised the United States and other countries that Australia wishes to take part in the study.
The Government’s intended participation in this study, will not, of course, be the sum total of Australia’s international involvement in the area of safeguards and non-proliferation.
We will now be proceeding to negotiate bilateral safeguards agreements with countries interested in importing Australian uranium in accordance with the Government’s policy of 24 May.
We will be setting in hand the study foreshadowed by the Prime Minister in his statement of 24 May of means for Australia to assist the International Atomic Energy Agency to apply increasingly effective safeguards.
We are already giving detailed consideration to the terms of an Australian contribution to the formulation of a new international convention on physical security in the nuclear field.
I said at the outset that the Ranger Inquiry identified a number of defects in existing safeguards arrangements. We have sought to overcome these in our safeguards policy by introducing measures going beyond existing arrangements.
The Ranger Inquiry pointed to ‘the failure of many states to become parties to the NPT’. Our policy provides the incentive of uranium supply to encourage others to join.
The Ranger Inquiry noted that ‘many nuclear facilities are covered by no safeguards’. Under our policy the only non-nuclear weapons countries eligible to import Australian uranium will be those in which IAEA safeguards cover their entire peaceful nuclear industry as a consequence of their NPT obligations. Nuclear weapon states will have to give assurances that Australian supplied material will not be diverted to military or explosive purposes and will be covered by IAEA safeguards.
The Ranger Inquiry believed there were ‘a number of loopholes in safeguards agreements regarding their application to peaceful nuclear explosions, to materials intended for nonexplosive military uses, and to the retransfer of materials to a third state’. Our bilateral agreements with uranium importing countries will be designed to close any such loopholes: They will proscribe diversion of nuclear material to any explosive or military purpose and will require prior Australian consent to retransfers to third parties.
The Ranger Inquiry pointed to ‘the absence, in practice, of safeguards for source materials ‘. The background to this is that source material is of very low strategic significance; it needs elaborate upgrading and processing before it is in a form which can be used for weapons.
Recognising this, the IAEA Committee decided that notification of movements of yellowcake would be adequate on the basis that the material would attract the full measure of IAEA safeguards at a later stage in the fuel cycle, that is when a measure of upgrading had been carried out. Nevertheless, the Australian Government wishes to make sure that by the time Australian uranium leaves Australian ownership IAEA safeguards in their full intensity will apply. The Prime Minister announced this as part of Australia’s safeguards policy in his statement on 24 May 1977. In practice this means that Australia will retain ownership of Australian uranium at least to the point where it has been upgraded to uranium hexafluoride. From this point on in the fuel cycle full IAEA safeguards will apply to the material.
The Ranger Inquiry was concerned about the ease with which states can withdraw from the NPT and from most non-NPT safeguards agreements’. A principle in Australia’s policy is that, irrespective of any withdrawal from the NPT or other contingencies, safeguards should continue to apply in countries importing Australian uranium. Although a country can withdraw from the NPT on three months notice, this would be a very serious step and has never happened. However, if a country did withdraw it would not then be subject to IAEA safeguards under the NPT. Nevertheless, its bilateral agreement with Australia would still remain in force and there would be the provision in the agreement that IAEA safeguards must continue to apply. Withdrawal from the NPT is a prime example of a contingency in which fallback safeguards, provided for in Australia ‘s policy, are relevant.
The Ranger Inquiry also referred to ‘the absence of reliable sanctions to deter diversion of safeguarded material. ‘ I have pointed to sanctions provided for in the IAEA Statute and said that we have reserved the right to refuse supply in the case of a breach of safeguards. As I have indicated, there are other steps Australia could take. I have also stated that Australia wishes to explore with other countries the development of a collective approach to sanctions, particularly by nuclear supplier countries acting in concert.
Finally, in relation to the effectiveness of IAEA safeguards, the Government’s view is that we can expect IAEA safeguards to give a sufficiently high probability of timely detection of any significant diversion that they constitute a real deterrent to any country contemplating developing an illicit weapons program in this way. While the IAEA can only perform as well as the best available measurement and other techniques permit, the effectiveness of IAEA safeguards can be maximised through the continuing refinement of safeguards techniques and ensuring the human and technological resources necessary. The Government has said it will investigate if there are specific areas in which Australia could usefully assist the IAEA’s capacity to apply increasingly effective safeguards.
The Ranger Inquiry concluded that decisions on Australian uranium export should be determined above all by the assessment of what would be the best strategy from the view-point of our international non-proliferation objectives. For the Government too, a most important facet of the uranium issue has been the need to translate Australia’s objective of restraining proliferation of nuclear weapons into a detailed policy for the marketing of uranium. If Australia is to be able to give effect to its stringent safeguards policy, to see the innovations embodied in that policy actually incorporated in new international arrangements, and to be able to exert influence for the wider adoption by other countries of similarly rigorous policies, we must be able to speak from a position of strength. We must be seen as a country which has legitimate and direct interests and which is able to offer a tangible benefit in return for acceptance by others of these stringent controls. Far from hindering the cause of nonproliferation, uranium export, subject to the fullest and most effective safeguards, will place Australia in a position to help the development of an increasingly effective non-proliferation regime.
– by leave- I make the following statement on behalf of Mr Viner, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Where the first person personal pronoun is used, it relates to the Minister.
When it took its decision to proceed with uranium mining under the stringent safeguards already announced, the Government gave the most careful consideration to the views of Aboriginal leaders as recorded in the Second Report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry and to the Inquiry’s recommendations on Aboriginal interests. As a result, the Government took a number of decisions relating to Aboriginal interests about which I now wish to inform the Senate in some detail.
At the outset, let me emphasise the Government’s intention to work closely with Aboriginals in relation to the measures recommended in the Ranger Inquiry’s report and other measures which may be agreed upon. I intend to set the process of consultation in train personally at a special meeting with the Executive of the Northern Land Council, and with people from the Region, at Oenpelli in Arnhem Land this Saturday, 27 August. The Northern Land Council was established under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 with the functions of ascertaining and expressing the wishes and opinion of Aboriginals living in its area, of protecting their interests and consulting with and negotiating on behalf of traditional owners. The Northern Land Council has been in existence for some four years and is in a position to perform the functions required of it by the Act.
According to the Ranger Inquiry’s report ‘the principal threat to the welfare of the Aboriginal people, and the one they most fear, is constituted by the large numbers of people who can be expected to enter the area’. The Aboriginal concern was put before the Ranger Inquiry by the Chairman of the Northern Land Council, Mr Silas Ngulati Roberts, in the following terms:
We are very worried that the results of this Inquiry will open the doors to other companies who want to dig up uranium on our sacred land . . . We think if they all get in there and start digging we’ll have towns all over the place and we’ll be pushed into the sea. We want a fair go to develop. We are human beings, we want to live properly and grow strong.
The Ranger Inquiry concluded that Aboriginal opposition to mining should not prevail but the submission from Aboriginals led the Inquiry to make recommendations which, as the report puts it, are ‘designed to minimise the risk constituted by the large numbers of people entering the area’. Particular recommendations are made for the strict limitation on the size of the mining town and the use of the area by tourists. But the effect of other recommendations will also contribute towards minimising the risks.
Moreover, the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendations have been made on the basis that the Government’s recognition of Aboriginal land rights, through the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, is, in the Inquiry’s words, ‘a uniquely favourable factor’.
The main recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry relating to the interests of Aboriginals in the Alligator Rivers Region were that:
Other recommendations were made for the amendment of legislation in relation to mining on Aboriginal land, the possible employment of a qualified liaison officer to inform newcomers to the Region about Aboriginal customs and traditions and for legislation to enable the Northern Land Council and the Director of National Parks and Wildlife to enforce environment protection provisions in the Region.
The Government’s decision to accept all these recommendations will ensure that Aboriginals themselves can exercise effective control over matters affecting their interests and the Government will also adopt, in consultation with the Aboriginal people, measures to protect and advance their well-being.
The grant of Aboriginal land claims in the Alligator Rivers Region means that Aboriginals- and in particular the traditional owners- will have an effective voice through the
Northern Land Council in the management of development in the Region.
The decision to grant title to the large areas of vacant Crown land recommended by the Ranger Inquiry in its Second Report represents the first recognition in Australia of a traditional claim to land outside Aboriginal reserves. It follows the enactment last year of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act, which was amended in order to provide that a finding by the Ranger Inquiry in relation to traditional Aboriginal land claims to vacant Crown land would have the same standing as a recommendation by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner.
The Ranger Inquiry gave most careful and thorough consideration to the evidence presented by the Northern Land Council in support of Aboriginal claims to land in the Region and submitted to me a report on their Findings and Recommendations.
In this context, I draw attention to the observations of the Joint Select Committee on Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory in its report tabled in this House last week on the methods used by the Northern Land Council in preparing and presenting evidence on the land claims to the Ranger Inquiry and to the Committee’s recommendation that the procedures followed in this case should be followed in later cases.
The Second Report of the Ranger Inquiry examines in detail the evidence for traditional Aboriginal ownership of the areas claimed. In respect of one clan area it was found that all members had died and succession of another group to traditional responsibility for the area was not proved. Accordingly, it was not recommended that any part of that land become Aboriginal land. Elsewhere within the areas claimed it was found that there were traditional owners in terms of the Land Rights Act.
The Ranger Inquiry considered and reported on other matters which the Aboriginal Land Commissioner is required to have regard to or comment on when reporting on traditional claims- the strength of traditional attachment to the land, the numbers of Aboriginals with traditional ties who would be advantaged by the grant of the claims, the possible detriment to others and the effect on existing or proposed patterns of land use which might result from the grant of the claims. Having weighed all these considerations, the Ranger Inquiry recommended that the unalienated areas, excluding the proposed town site but including both the Ranger and Koongarra uranium deposits, be granted to a Land Trust. The Jabiluka area is on alienated land.
Rather than proceeding to recommend the grant of title as would normally be the procedure on acceptance of a recommendation by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner, it has been decided to adopt the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendation that the areas with more regular boundaries, presenting no problem of survey and delineation, be granted by means of an amendment to the Land Rights Act. The areas are those shown outlined in blue in Map 16 in the Inquiry’s Second Report, excluding areas of leasehold land and the town site.
The Act will be amended to provide for the inclusion of the areas in the Schedule of lands, title to which is to be vested in Land Trusts.
The Northern Land Council will have a vital role to play in representing Aboriginal interests, and especially the interests of the traditional owners of the areas which may be affected by development, both in negotiations for the creation of the National Park and in the negotiation of agreement on terms and conditions of mining projects.
The incorporation into the National Park of areas of Aboriginal land was suggested by the Aboriginals to the Ranger Inquiry and recommended by the Inquiry. The Government has accepted this recommendation and negotiations can begin at once between the Northern Land Council and the Director of National Parks and Wildlife on an agreement about the basis on which land might be leased by the Aboriginal Land Trusts for the National Park. In such negotiations, Aboriginals will retain the important rights and powers, such as control of entry to their lands, which derive from the Aboriginal Land Rights Act.
As the Ranger Inquiry recommended, the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act will be amended to allow Aboriginal land to become part of a National Park.
The exclusion of the town site area from the grant of Aboriginal land was in accordance with the recommendation of the Ranger Inquiry. Since the town site is to be included in the National Park, it will be planned and managed in harmony with the Park plan of management which will be prepared in consultation with Aboriginals. The Government, by ensuring that Aboriginals are involved in the planning of the town from the beginning, intends to ensure that the mistakes of the past, which have led to Aboriginals living as fringe dwellers in towns in their own traditional land, are not repeated here.
Arrangements will be made for Aboriginals to participate in the planning and management of the whole National Park and not only those areas which are to be granted as Aboriginal land. Aboriginals will be employed and trained to work as Rangers and in other capacities in the Park. There will be continuing close consultation on management of the Park and the plan of management will provide for the protection of Aboriginal interests, including the preservation and protection of the great number of important art sites and sites of religious significance in the Region and the restriction of entry to Aboriginal land.
The grant of Aboriginal land claims means that Aboriginals will benefit financially from the development of the Ranger deposit just as they benefit from mining in the Aboriginal reserves which by the Land Rights Act become Aboriginal land. The equivalent of a royalty of at least 2’/i per cent will be payable by the Commonwealth Government to the Aboriginals Benefit Trust Account for mining within the Ranger area and 30 per cent of these payments will go to the local Aboriginal communities affected by mining development in the Region. Another 30 per cent will be available for advancing the general wellbeing of Aboriginals throughout the Northern Territory on the advice of an all-Aboriginal advisory committee. Forty per cent is to be used to meet the administrative costs of Land Councils, with money not needed for that purpose being available for distribution to Aboriginal communities.
Royalties will be used to promote the economic and social development and well-being of Aboriginal communities as provided in the Land Rights Act. The Government will be giving particular attention to the use of royalty money and I am having a study made, as a matter of urgency, on the impact of royalty payments on Aboriginal communities and their use in supporting the general economic and social development of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. Changes are being made in the organisation of my Department in order that closer attention can be given to matters of land and mining in the Northern Territory, following the enactment of the land rights legislation and the Government’s consideration of the Ranger Inquiry’s report. The amount of royalties is likely to be substantial. I stress that, since this money will be spent in the Northern Territory, it will benefit the Territory community as a whole and not only the Aboriginal citizens of the Territory.
As I have said, the Government has accepted the Inquiry’s recommendation that the southern boundary of the Ranger area should be moved north, farther from sacred sites at Mount Brockman. This decision should ensure that Aboriginals will have, in the words of the Inquiry’s report, ‘a comfortable satisfaction that Mount Brockman and the sacred sites on or near it are safe and secure’. I will introduce an appropriate amendment to the Land Rights Act as soon as possible.
The decision to negotiate the purchase of the two pastoral leases means that these areas will become available to form part of the National Park and that the traditional land claims to these areas can be heard in accordance with provisions of the Land Rights Act and recommendations submitted by the Aboriginal Land Commissioner, Mr Justice Toohey. If, on the basis of the Commissioner’s findings and recommendation, title is granted under the Land Rights Act to an area including the Jabiluka uranium deposits, Aboriginals will stand to benefit financially from royalties if a decision is made to allow the development of those deposits. It will also be necessary for the mining company to negotiate terms and conditions with the Aboriginals, just as terms and conditions will have to be negotiated in the case of the Ranger development, even though development of those deposits does not require Aboriginal consent since the mineral leases had been applied for before the introduction of the Land Rights Act.
Subject to the satisfaction of environmental requirements and negotiation of an agreement between the company concerned and the Aboriginals, the Government will take a decision on development of the Nabarlek deposit in Arnhem Land. Negotiation of an agreement between the Northern Land Council and the company is already well advanced, having begun some years ago and then been suspended pending the Report of the Ranger Inquiry.
Any future mining or exploration in the areas to be granted as Aboriginal land, as well as being subject to the National Park plan of management, will be subject to the requirement of the
Land Rights Act for Aboriginal consent, except where mining is exempt from the consent provisions, as in the case of the Jabiluka lease area which was applied for before the date of introduction of the land rights legislation into this House.
The Government will allow mining of the Jabiluka and Koongarra deposits only if it is satisfied that the impact on the environment and on Aboriginals is acceptable, taking into account the total level of activity in the Region as a whole.
Measures for Aboriginal Health and Well-being
The Government has accepted in principle the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry for a positive scheme for the welfare of the Aboriginals in the region, which are to some extent based on the submissions of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to the Ranger Inquiry. Implementation of these and other supplementary measures will begin at once, in consultation with the Aboriginal people of the region and the Northern Land Council.
I see the Northern Land Council’s participation in these consultations as crucial. Implementation of protective and other measures will begin at once in consultation with the Land Council and the Aboriginal people of the Region.
As Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, I shall have general responsibility for the co-ordination of these measures and for the oversight of the impact of development on the 800 Aboriginals in the Region.
Particular attention will be given to programs suggested by the Ranger Inquiry designed to reduce dependence on alcohol and to establish special control measures in the Region. The Aboriginal people themselves are sufficiently aware of the very destructive effects of alcohol on their lives to be anxious about the future.
The Ranger Inquiry noted the extent to which alcohol dependence is already a major problem for Aboriginals in the region and the serious risk that development could aggravate the problem. It emphasised the need for positive measures ‘to restore the confidence and morale of Aboriginals living within the region’ and referred in this context to its recommendations for the granting of Aboriginal title to land, for the creation of a national park which could act as a buffer between Aboriginals and other people, and to the positive benefits of mining (in creating employment opportunities and more particularly in providing income to Aboriginal communities) and other activities in the area. The Ranger Inquiry proposed that the individual health, education, employment and accommodation needs of Aboriginals should be ascertained and recorded, in collaboration with the Aboriginal people, as a basis for ‘more satisfactory and more selective programs in their betterment’. The Government has accepted in principle all these proposals- indeed they fit in very well with the procedures for ascertaining the wishes of Aboriginal communities that have already been established to provide a basis for my Department’s programs next year.
In addition, the Ranger Inquiry proposed a number of specific control measures which might be used as a guide or starting point in the development of a scheme of control to be worked out in consultation with the Aboriginal people. These proposals will need to be discussed with Aboriginal communities and considered carefully by the responsible local authorities and others affected, such as the mining companies, in relation to arrangements for liquor sales in construction camps and the township. Where the specific proposals are found to be unacceptable to Aboriginals or impracticable for immediate implementation, alternative measures may need to be devised.
In implementing control measures in relation to alcohol we will take due account of the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs interim report of last year on alcohol problems in the Northern Territory. Special measures adopted in this Region may provide a lead for the introduction of similar measures elsewhere.
The Government’s decision to allow mining of uranium in the Alligator Rivers region will certainly have a profound effect on the lives of the Aboriginal people living in the region. Let there be no doubt about this. The Ranger Inquiry recognised that development must inevitably increase the pressures already leading to rapid social change and stress in the Aboriginal communities.
The Government’s decisions to adopt fully the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendations relating to Aboriginals will allow them, as owners of the land, to follow their own lifestyle on their own land to the extent they choose, to influence the course of development, and to take advantage of the full range of opportunities which development may open up to them.
The Commonwealth Government recognises a continuing obligation to watch the impact of development on the Aboriginal people of the
Region, to work closely in conjunction with them, and to ensure that the total level of activity in the region is controlled in their interests.
– by leave- I make the following statement on behalf of the Hon. Kevin Newman, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Where the first person personal pronoun is used, it relates to the Minister.
The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has announced the Government’s decision on uranium mining and export. I now want to announce the decisions which the Government has taken to ensure protection of the Australian public, preservation of the environment and establishment of a major National Park in the Alligator Rivers region. I will also outline some of the major environmental issues considered by the Government in taking its decisions. In describing these measures the vital concern of this Government for the environment will become crystal clear.
In taking its decision on uranium mining, the National Park, and Aboriginal land rights, the Government has been guided by the two reports of the Ranger Environmental Inquiry commissioned under the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act.
As I stated in the House of Representatives on 2 June 1977, ‘the two reports taken together represent a major contribution not only to Australia but also to international understanding of the environmental consequences of the uranium industry in the broadest terms as it affects mankind ‘.
The Ranger Inquiry sat for over 120 days and heard over 300 witnesses. The Commissioners have examined the issues thoroughly and the Government thanks them for the very comprehensive way in which they tackled their job.
The first report of the Ranger Inquiry suggests, and the second report repeats, that the total renunciation of the intention to supply uranium was not justified.
In relation to environment protection, the Ranger Inquiry has made a number of recommendations. I want there to be no doubt about the Government’s position on these recommendations. We have accepted the vast majority of them. And where our decisions do depart from the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry, the
Government believes that it has adopted alternatives that will achieve the objectives of the Inquiry and satisfy the same principles.
Principally because of the wide-ranging nature of the Ranger Inquiry, I have decided that the environmental impact of a number of the matters considered by the Government and announced today have been adequately examined and taken into account. Accordingly I have granted an exemption under the procedures of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act. The exemption which has been made in the public interest covers the general issues that have now been decided by the Government as well as those relating specifically to the Ranger operation. It does not cover other specific mining proposals yet to be examined.
The Ranger Inquiry has identified the major environmental issues and has made recommendations accordingly. The Government has decided:
To establish a major National Park to include the town-site, in the Alligator Rivers Region.
To appoint a Supervising Scientist to coordinate environment protection in the Region.
To set up a Research Institute to provide a centre where research and monitoring staff can work together.
To establish a Co-ordinating Committee which will include representatives of all agencies involved in research and monitoring activities, the mining industry and other relevant bodies.
To develop a uniform national Code of Practice to apply to uranium mining and milling in Australia. The Code will be made mandatory by appropriate legislation.
To adopt strict environmental controls and standards in relation to uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region.
I will demonstrate today how we have met the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry. In so doing I will show our commitment to the use of the best pollution control technology available in the world and to the adoption of stringent standards to protect people and their environment.
The Ranger Inquiry found that a decision on uranium mining in Australia must be based first and foremost on the adoption of a strategy which will achieve the best results in regard to proliferation. The Government is firmly of the view that the non-proliferation objective identified by the
Ranger Inquiry will be advanced by a decision now to export Australian uranium.
The first report of the Ranger Inquiry recommended that uranium exports be subject to the fullest and most effective safeguards to ensure that nuclear materials are not misused. The Inquiry recognised that effective nuclear safeguards are an essential element in the regulation and control of the nuclear industry. The Prime Minister announced the Government’s comprehensive safeguards policy on 24 May. My colleague the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs has made a further statement today on the Government’s safeguards policy, which provides the basis for the Government’s decision to allow uranium exports to proceed. For my part, I believe that the policy we have developed in this area is second to none and goes beyond the recommendations of Mr Justice Fox and his colleagues.
In the first finding of the Ranger Inquiry the Commissioners took the view that the environmental effects of uranium mining could be adequately regulated and controlled. The Government is confident that decisions it has taken will provide the level of control necessary to ensure protection of the environment, and I will return to this aspect later.
The second finding of the Ranger Inquiry was that the hazards involved in the ordinary operations of nuclear power reactors, if properly controlled and regulated, are not such as to justify a decision not to mine and sell Australian uranium. There can be no doubt that this finding clearly supports the Government’s decision in favour of allowing uranium exports to proceed.
The disposal of nuclear waste and the potential environmental problems which this could pose have been matters of public concern. The responsibility for disposing, in an environmentally responsible manner, of waste arising from nuclear power generation in countries abroad, is a matter for those countries which generate electricity by nuclear means. There is no intention of Australia storing other countries’ radioactive waste.
The Government will continue to seek expert advice and to follow with interest work on this matter now in progress in a number of countries, and has indicated its willingness to participate in the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation. I will be asking the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council to analyse developments in the different aspects of spent reactor fuel management, reprocessing and waste disposal.
As the Prime Minister has said, the issue of nuclear waste disposal has been examined by a number of eminent independent authorities including the British Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, the Ford Foundation and the Ranger Inquiry. The Government has had the benefit of this expert advice in taking its decisions. None of these authorities has concluded that the use of nuclear energy should be abandoned because of problems associated with waste disposal.
The Ford Foundation report said:
We are convinced that nuclear wastes and plutonium can be disposed of permanently in a safe manner. If properly buried deep underground in geologically stable formations, there is little chance that these materials will re-enter the environment in dangerous quantities. Even if materials were somehow to escape eventually in larger quantities than seems possible, it would not constitute a major catastrophe, or even a major health risk, for future civilisations.
The Ranger Inquiry made it clear that it did not consider the present nuclear waste situation was such as to justify Australia wholly refusing to export uranium.
Processes have already been developed to solidify nuclear wastes into a glass-like material. These processes have been proved to be technically feasible at pilot plants at Hanford in the United States of America and Marcoule in France. Studies are in progress in North America and Europe to locate suitable deep underground stable rock formations in which to dispose of the solidified waste.
The Government has taken a number of decisions to ensure nationwide protection of Australians and their environment. In doing so it has followed closely the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry.
The Ranger Inquiry expressed concern that nuclear activities should be properly regulated and controlled. The Government has responded to this concern by deciding to establish, with the States, by appropriate legislation, a uniform national Code of Practice which will apply to all uranium activities in Australia.
The aim of this Code will be to protect the health and safety of citizens of this country by ensuring protection of their environment. One important element of the Code relating to radiation protection in the mining and milling of radioactive ores has already been prepared by the Commonwealth Department of Health in consultation with other Commonwealth and State authorities, with industry and trade unions. This element of the Government’s proposed uniform Code has received wide acceptance.
Further elements will be developed, using similar consultative procedures. These elements will be based, where possible, on existing international and overseas codes, and will assist in making environmental protection practices and procedures developed overseas more widely known in Australia. Expert advice will be obtained from bodies such as the Australian Ionising Radiation Advisory Council, the Australian Radiation Laboratory and the National Health and Medical Research Council. The Code will be developed in such a way as to provide adequate transition periods for industry and mine operators.
In this regard I must stress that the Government’s concern extends beyond the recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry. Environmental standards, procedures and practices will be specified in the uniform Code.
The development of this mandatory Code will involve many interests at Commonwealth and State level. I have asked my Department to set in hand work on elements of the Code through a consultative process involving the establishment of a Commonwealth interdepartmental committee and the development of new consultative arrangements with the States.
The Ranger Inquiry has noted the environmental problems that resulted from uranium mining at Rum Jungle. I recognise that environment protection measures at Rum Jungle could not be considered adequate by today’s standards. We are determined that this experience will not be repeated.
The Government is confident that the measures which I have announced today will ensure that current and future uranium mining undertaken anywhere in Australia will be subject to adequate environment protection controls.
I now come to the Alligator Rivers Region. The establishment of a National Park in this Region is central to the findings of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. This was seen as a means to minimise adverse social and environmental impacts which might occur with the development of mining. The Government has accepted all the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendations in this regard with a few minor variations which I will deal with later.
A major national park will be established in the Northern Territory embracing the full area recommended by the Ranger Inquiry. This positive decision is the culmination of proposals going back as far as 1965. The park we have decided to declare covers a far larger area than previously contemplated, being about 12,500 square kilometres or 5,000 square miles in size.
Our action reflects the concern and dedication of this Government to protect Australia’s unique natural heritage, not only for Australians but in the interests of international conservation.
The Kakadu National Park will compare favourably with the great national parks of the world. From my personal knowledge, I know that its magnificent scenery provides a stimulating experience which visitors readily appreciate. The landscape with the dominant sandstone escarpment some 300 metres high, over which waterfalls tumble to the alluvial plains below, contains panoramas rivalling the attractions of the Grand Canyon and Yosemite national parks in the United States of America.
The archaeological sites and Aboriginal cave paintings are unequalled elsewhere in Australia and have been rated with the great Palaeolithic art sites of France and Spain and the Bushmen paintings of Africa.
The diversity of habitats has resulted in a remarkable richness of plant and animal life. The congregations of native water birds in the dry season provide a spectacular display. Apart from a wealth of more common tropical plants and animals, the park is known to be a critical refuge for a variety of rare and endangered species.
The area is important in relation to obligations and responsibilites deriving from Australia’s commitment to international agreements especially with regard to migratory birds, wetlands, endangered species and the protection of the world cultural and natural heritage.
Representations from eminent international conservation bodies such as the World Wildlife Fund and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources have stressed the global significance of the park.
In accord with the recommendations of the Commissioners, the park will be established under Section 7 (2) (a) of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act 1975. We will amend the Act as suggested in the second report to dispense with the normal declaration procedures, having in mind the public investigation by the Commissioners and the long history of proposals for a national park.
Similarly we accept the recommendation that the Act be amended to enable Aboriginal land to become part of a national park.
Consideration will be given to the need to amend the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 so that effect can be given to the proposal by the Northern Land Council, that Aboriginal Land should become part of the national park by leasing to the Director of National Parks and Wildlife.
The Government accepts the recommendations that consideration be given to providing, by regulations, that mining companies and their contractors answer promptly any request for relevant information respecting their operations made by the Director of National Parks and Wildlife and for him to have appropriate rights of inspection. As recommended, legislative action will be taken to enable the Director to enforce environment protection provisions, particularly by way of injunction to restrain or compel action, and to give the Supreme Court a wide discretion as to the exercise of its jurisdiction in such cases.
Because of the different categories of land tenure and our desire to proceed as rapidly as possible in establishing the national park, we have decided to declare the park progressively. The area declared initially will exceed considerably that indicated by the Commissioners when they considered the possibility of staging.
No further mineral exploration will take place in the declared area for the time being. In future such activities will be permitted in the National Park only after very careful consideration and then under careful control in accordance with a formally developed plan of management as recommended by the Ranger Inquiry.
The first area declared will be about 6,500 square kilometres or 2,500 square miles and consists essentially of the eastern half of the total area proposed for the national park by the Ranger Inquiry.
It consists of the land within the boundary in which the Ranger Inquiry recommended Aboriginal land title should be given, plus a small area to the south of that boundary that was included in the gazettal notice of 13 May 1975, plus the Woolwonga Aboriginal Reserve and Wildlife Sanctuary.
We will proceed to develop the rest of the park as quickly as possible; in the meantime its protection will be ensured through special control exercised jointly by the Departments of Environment, Housing and Community Development, National Resources, Northern Territory and Aboriginal Affairs.
The Commissioners attached great importance to a plan of management prepared by the
Director of National Parks and Wildlife as a means of controlling activities associated with mining, regulating tourism, protecting Aboriginal sites and safeguarding other Aboriginal interests, controlling commercial fishing and buffaloes and ensuring the town is so planned and managed as to be attractive to live in.
In view of the difficulties in preparing a management plan for such a large and diverse area and because of the task of reconciling different interests such as conservation, mining and tourism in an integrated plan, the Government will ensure that the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service is able to carry out its functions and meet its responsibilities effectively and fully.
In line with the Ranger Inquiry recommendations five areas, associated with Ranger, Jabiluka, Koongarra, Opitz ‘Cooinda’ Enterprises Pty Ltd and the Roper Bar Trading Company, will be excluded from the park to accommodate mining and commercial activities. They comprise about one per cent of the park. Before any mining proceeds we need to be assured that any social and environmental effects are acceptable, having in mind the overall impact of development in the region.
Mining will be permitted on the basis that financial arrangements will be made to ensure that once mining ceases the site will be rehabilitated. The site will then be included in the national park.
The Government has, in accordance with the Ranger Inquiry’s report, decided that the town, a closed mining town with a population not exceeding 3,500, will be within the national park and subject to the plan of management prepared by the Director of National Parks and Wildlife. Design, construction and management of the town will be the responsibility of the Department of the Northern Territory and the mining companies under principles and standards established by the Director.
The Ranger Inquiry recommendations about the park and the decision of this Government to implement virtually all of the recommendations represents a new and challenging concept in national park management. The Commissioners rightly pointed out the compatibility between Aboriginal and park interests. This relationship is a matter of special satisfaction to me. I look forward enthusiastically to the development of training programs for Aboriginals, to their employment as park rangers, and to working with them in managing what will probably become the most significant national park in Australia.
The Second Report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry recommended that environment protection of the Alligator Rivers Region could be accomplished in two ways, of which the establishment of a major national park was the first.
The second element recommended by the Ranger Inquiry was the development of specific arrangements to protect the natural and historic features of the Alligator Rivers environment, to protect the Aboriginal people who have lived there for centuries and to protect the mine workers and their families who will take up residence there.
The Ranger Inquiry recommended that the total level of activity in the region should be limited to minimise the impact on both the natural environment and on the lifestyle of the Aboriginal residents. The Government will take this recommendation into account in its decisions on mine development and related matters.
The Government has accepted the recommendations of chapters 17 and 18 of the Second Ranger Report.
These recommendations relate to environmental supervision, research, and the establishment of standards, monitoring and administrative arrangements. I now announce some key elements of the Government’s decisions on these recommendations.
The Government has decided to appoint an officer, to be known as the Supervising Scientist, to exercise a supervisory and integrating role over all research and monitoring programs associated with environmental protection from the hazards of uranium development in the Alligator Rivers Region and to advise on the specific environmental requirements for the Ranger project. He or she will be empowered to seek information from mining companies and monitoring and research agencies, to inspect sites and operations and to make a public report annually. Legislation to provide the Supervising Scientist with these powers is now in preparation. As recommended by the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry the Supervising Scientist will be responsible to myself as Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development and I hope to announce an appointment in the near future. (Recommendation 6, Chapter 1 7.)
The Government has decided to establish a Research Institute headed by the Supervising Scientist. The purpose of this body will be to provide the Supervising Scientist with a small number of highly qualified research staff to assist in the development and management of the multi-disciplinary integrated research programs that will be necessary for environmental protection of the region. (Recommendation 7, Chapter 17.)
Because of the number of Government agencies involved in the research and monitoring program and the interest of mining companies, the Australian National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Northern Land Council, the Government has seen considerable merit in the Ranger Inquiry’s recommendation to establish a body, to be known as the Co-ordinating Committee, to be chaired by the Supervising Scientist. (Recommendation 3, Chapter 17.)
This Committee will co-ordinate the formulation of standards and procedures and control measures for environmental protection in the Region. I will be consulting with other Ministers with a view to establishing the Committee as a matter of urgency. (Recommendation 9, Chapter 17.)
The Government has accepted the specific recommendations of the Ranger Inquiry relating to the operation of the Ranger mine. The responsibility for these details will rest with the Supervising Scientist. (Recommendations, Chapters 6 and 7.)
The Government has decided, on the basis of present knowledge to accept the recommendation that tailings from the mining operation should be returned to the mine pits. (Recommendation 2, Chapter 7.)
The Government has confirmed that any proposals to develop further mines in the Region should be subject to the requirements of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act before any government decisions on these mines are taken. Before such decisions are taken the Government will need to be satisfied about the acceptability of the environmental impact on the Region of the development of the mine concerned. The application of the Act to other mining proposals in the Region will ensure that the Government will have all the facts on the environmental implications of these proposals when decisions on them are required. This will provide the opportunity for further public participation in this matter.
In conclusion let me restate my remarks to the House of Representatives on 2 June 1977. As the national Minister concerned with the environment I believe the thrust of the many recommendations of the Inquiry to be entirely consonant with proper environmental protection, and it will be clear from my statement today that the Government takes a similar view. I am confident that the decisions announced by the Prime Minister which I have elaborated today will ensure effective regulation and control of all uranium activities in Australia. We will thereby ensure the protection of the Australian public including the Aboriginal people and our environment, and will in so doing protect the Alligator Rivers Region with its rich archaeological sites, abundant wildlife, diverse and interesting vegetation, and exciting and beautiful scenery.
– by leave- On behalf of the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) I make a statement on the health aspects of uranium development, made by the Minister today. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has already announced the Government’s decision on uranium mining in Australia. My colleague, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development (Mr Newman), has in addition outlined the environmental controls to be adopted by the Government and he briefly referred to some of the health aspects of these. I now propose to give in some more detail the measures that will be taken to protect the health of those involved in uranium mining and milling and those people living within the proximity of mines who could be exposed to possible hazards.
My Department, in particular its Australian Radiation Laboratory, has for many years been aware of possible health hazards in uranium mining. It must be remembered that my Department was involved in monitoring the health of those involved in uranium mining which commenced at Rum Jungle early in the 1950s and lasted until the 1960s. Since that time, of course, a great deal of new information has become available on the effects on health and any new information which becomes available will be used to update the control measures that should be implemented.
Effective safety practices for employees involved in mining or members of the public in the neighbourhood of that activity must be founded on a number of points. These include soundly based radiation protection standards and properly drawn-up working rules; well instructed and supervised employees; effective protective facilities, equipment and procedures to minimise radiation exposure; regular and frequent monitoring and assessment of radiation exposures and contamination levels by suitably experienced and qualified staff; comprehensive health surveillance of employees in the activity; acceptance and implementation of the principle that radiation exposures be kept to the lowest practical level; and responsible and disciplined approaches by both management and employees, so that no person causes unnecessary radiation exposure to himself or to others.
With these aspects in mind, my Department set out to develop a code of practice that would contain provisions to comply with these criteria. On the recommendation of an interdepartmental committee convened by my Department, a Code of Practice on Radiation Protection in the Mining and Milling of Radioactive Ores was prepared. This Code deals with radiation protection aspects only and is not concerned with the other potential hazards or with the broader environmental issues already elaborated on by my colleage, the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. The draft Code was circulated for comment to 94 recipients made up of appropriate Australian and State government departments and authorities, uranium mining and exploration companies and mining associations, and relevant trade unions and trade union councils.
The Code was accepted by both this and the previous Government and was submitted in the evidence my Department gave to the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. The Inquiry in both its first and second reports acknowledged the Code, now titled ‘Code of Practice on Radiation Protection in the Mining and Milling of Radioactive Ores, 1975’, to be an authoritative document and one which should be included in legislation. The Government has accepted and indeed gone further than this recommendation of the Ranger Inquiry and, as already indicated by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, the Code will be included in the Uniform National Code of Practice which will be established by the Commonwealth, with the States, by appropriate legislation. It is considered that the consistent and rigorous application of the Code of Practice will ensure radiation safety for employees engaged in mining and milling operations and for members of the community in the neighbourhood of the mines or mills. My Department will co-operate in a continuing monitoring of radioactivity, air, water and effluent to ensure that standards are met. This on-going surveillance program will involve co-operation of the various responsible departments, allow critical evaluation of the operation and ensure updating as more scientific data becomes available.
Provisions of the Code relate to the management of all radioactive materials produced as waste and effluent in the mining and milling operations. The requirements of the Code are intended to be applied in conjunction with other safety requirements for mining and milling operations and with relevant legislation. While the Code does not deal with the broad environmental issues of mining and milling of radioactive ores, its provisions are to be applied by operators of mines or mills in the context of comprehensive environmental studies made with respect to any proposal to mine or mill radioactive ores. The Code takes full account of the most recent scientific and technical information. In particular, the working panel which proposed it, drew on a code of practice prepared by the International Labour Organisation and the International Atomic Energy Agency. It took account of recommendations of the International Commission on Radiological Protection and discussions in expert panels convened by the International Atomic Energy Agency. It studied papers presented to, and discussions at, an international symposium on radiation protection in mining and milling of uranium and thorium arranged by the World Health Organisation, the International Labour Organisation and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Account was also taken of current radiation protection standards and practices in the mining and milling of radioactive ores in other countries, notably Canada, France, South Africa and the United States of America. The working panel was aware that the International Atomic Energy Agency has in preparation a manual, with explanatory guidelines, on the management of radioactively contaminated wastes and effluents arising in the mining and milling of radioactive ores. It was also aware that the International Commission on Radiological Protection was likely, in the future, to make specific recommendations with respect to the control of radiation hazards in the mining and milling of radioactive ores. It is intended that the Code of Practice be reviewed from time to time to take account of all such further relevant scientific and technical information.
I have so far dealt with the possible effect on health of radiation but there are other factors that will need to be considered in respect of uranium mining in the Alligator Rivers Region. Any development of the Region involving migration of people has a potential to affect the health of those people. Expansion of health services to the area will provide for adequate care of people moving to any new and expanding population area. Drinking water is to be taken from ground water supplies. Suitable methods of control are listed in the Code of Practice and continuing analyses of water samples will be undertaken. Monitoring of effluent is already undertaken in all populated areas in the Northern Territory. A continuing monitoring program will be similarly followed in the region.
The National Health and Medical Research Council has set national emission standards for air pollutants, and for atmospheric contaminants. The Northern Territory Division will adhere to these. The area is receptive for malaria, and the possible reintroduction of this disease poses the biggest single public health risk to a developing population in the region. The identification and appropriate treatment of people entering the area who may be carriers of the malaria parasite will be a difficult but necessary task not only to the mining site and town centre but also to the national park. Entry points for the area will be restricted and a screening system as operating at Gove, and Weipa in Queensland, will be introduced.
A total occupational health program, provided by the Department of Health, in conjunction with the mining companies, unions and other relevant agencies will be carried out. The program includes health supervision of workers; occupational hygiene; hygiene of sanitary facilities; supervision of occupational first aid services; medical records; first aid and medical emergency treatment at work, and social and preventive health programs. It is planned to develop health services to a standard similar to those provided elsewhere in the Northern Territory. The region described falls within my Department’s Jabiru rural health district of its northern region. The headquarters for the district will be in the proposed regional centre township. My Department intends to provide an integrated health service complex in the new town. The health complex will provide the core of the district health service catering for the rural population, the town population and the mining population at Ranger and future mining sites. Whilst largely self-sufficient, it will be augmented by the two major Darwin hospitals which will provide specialist services and treatment for the seriously ill. The services provided are for all people in the district including permanent residents and transients such as miners and tourists.
Another important aspect of development in the region will be its effect on the health of Aboriginals. This was a matter of particular concern to the Ranger Inquiry and my Department in the Northern Territory will extend its health services to Aboriginals in the region. At present 3 1 Aboriginal health workers are employed in the Northern Territory and a further 144 are in training. As recommended by the Inquiry suitable Aboriginals will be trained to work in conjunction with the health teams in the Ranger area. In addition, the Government will look for appropriate advice from the National Health and Medical Research Council, which as the foremost health body in the country has advised it since 1937 on all aspects of public health. The Senate may be interested to know that the National Health and Medical Research Council has already produced about twenty codes or recommendations on radiation. The Ranger Inquiry also recommended that legislation to control the use of radioactive substances be introduced in the Northern Territory. The Government has accepted that recommendation. A first draft of an ordinance has been produced and this will be discussed with the Majority Leader in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly with the aim it be passed as an Ordinance. I believe that by following the program that I have outlined, my Department will ensure that the mining and milling of uranium can be undertaken in Australia in such a way that the health of the public, including those actually employed in the mines, will be protected.
- Mr President, for the information of honourable senators I now table the six statements on Australia’s uranium decision together with related documents, and I seek leave to move a motion to take note of the papers.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Debate (on motion by Senator Mulvihill) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 23 August.
– The Committee will recall that whilst we were dealing with this Bill the other evening Senator Cavanagh asked why sub-section (a) of section 1 in Article 3 of the Schedule on page 3 of the Bill reads:
Membership of the Fund shall be open to any State member of the United Nations or of any of its specialized agencies-
The words he particularly queried were: or of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
My advisers at that stage were unable to advise me why those words were included. None of us seemed to know why they ought to be there. Next day I obtained from the Department of Foreign Affairs 3 pages of information which I passed on to Senator Cavanagh. I ask for leave to have them incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The document read as follows-
EXPLANATION OF ARTICLE 3
Senator Cavanagh has asked why it was necessary for the International Atomic Energy Agency to be expressly included in paragraph (a) of Article 3 of the Agreement Establishing the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
The explanation which follows is an elaboration of the advice given last night during the debate, namely that the paragraph is a standard UN formulation designed to provide as wide as possible definition of States eligible for membership of the new organization.
First, the Agreement is a United Nations Agreement which has been included as a schedule to the Bill in accordance with legal precedents, such as for example, the International Development Association Act 1960 and the Asian Development Bank Act 1966.
Secondly, the wording represents a standard United Nations formulation which has been used in a number of agreements establishing United Nations bodies; and which is incorporated in numerous resolutions of the UN General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council of the UN relating to constituent units of the UN system.
Senator Cavanagh might be interested to learn of the reason for specifically mentioning the International Atomic Energy Agency in this formulation.
The International Atomic Energy Agency ( IAEA ) is an intergovernmental organization and was established in Vienna, Austria, on 29 July 1957. Its main objectives are ‘to seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world ‘ and to ‘ensure so far as it is able, that assistance provided by it or at its request or under its supervision or control is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose’. The organizations associated with the United Nations in its system or ‘family’ can generally be classified as UN organs (if established by one of the principal organs and not by independent legal treaty) or as a specialised agency if established by inter-governmental agreements. (This would be the case with IFAD). Although the International Atomic Energy Agency is now a fully accepted member of the UN system, it cannot be considered as falling within either of these two categories. Formally the IAEA occupies a unique position within the UN system; and it is always, therefore, mentioned by name. Other bodies such as FAO, ICAO, WHO and UNDP come under one or other of these categories and there is no need to single them out
The intent of the Article 3 (a) of the IFAD Agreement is to provide that any State which is a member of the UN or the UN system is eligible for membership of IFAD. In legal terms it is necessary to spell out the definition of the UN system.
If it is necessary to provide further explanation of the IAEA’s special or unique status which necessitates it being singled out, you might draw on the attached note.
We appreciate that this is a technical explanation. What is involved is a fine point of UN legal detail which has no implications beyond requirement to define membership of the UN system.
THE LAW AND PRACTICES OF THE INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC ENERGY AGENCY
Legal Series No. 7
As soon as serious consideration was given to the establishment of an atomic energy agency to be charged with the distribution and control of materials potentially usable in nuclear weapons, it was recognised that such an organization would differ substantially from the specialized agencies, whose concerns, while important, fall squarely within the purview of ECOSOC. The new agency’s tasks, while also significant for the field of economics, might become preeminently political and as such would impinge on the special domain of the Security Council: the maintenance of peace and security, which equally constitutes a vital interest of the General Assembly. In the light of these proposed tasks a special relationship to the principal UN organs was indicated, and though views differed as to the significance of these differences and the desirability of emphasizing them, ultimately they resulted in the assignment to the new Organization of a unique if somewhat ill-defined status in the UN system. ‘
-I understand that as a result of reading the explanation from the Department of Foreign Affairs Senator Cavanagh is now satisfied or, if he is not satisfied, he understands the explanation.
– I would add that apart from being satisfied, I am bewildered as to why the International Atomic Energy Agency is included in the Agreement. Apparently, as the document states, it is a formulation of the United Nations. The International Atomic Energy Agency, because of its functions, cannot be accepted as an agency of the United Nations. I think that is the gist of it. It is not that it has anything to do with agriculture. It is just that by including the International Atomic Energy Agency, coverage can be extended to some countries which otherwise would not be involved.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Withers) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 18 August on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Senate is dealing with the Family Law Amendment Bill, which the Opposition does not oppose. There are only a couple of points in the Bill that I want to mention. This Bill follows from the referendum on the Constitution in May this year relating to the retiring age of judges. This was assented to in July of this year and empowered the Commonwealth to fix a retiring age for judges. This is being done in relation to the Family Court. I add only that this was a matter which was the subject of some discussion by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs when it was dealing with the Family Law Bill a couple of years ago. I think it is true to say that it was the unanimous view of the Committee at that time that because of the social implications and the age groups of people involved in the dissolution of marriage, it was desirable that there should be on the Family Court of Australia, if possible, younger judges whose views may be considered to be more in touch with the views of the generation most affected by marriage break-up. I think the Committee at that time expressed that view quite clearly in its report. Subsequently, the same Committee, in dealing with the question of the retiring age of judges last year, again commented on the desirability of a fixed retiring age for judges and a reduced age forjudges in the Family Court of Australia. This legislation is consistent with the referendum proposal and with the two reports of that Senate Committee. It has the full approval of the Opposition for the reasons which I have indicated, and the Opposition wishes it a speedy passage through the Senate.
– I wish to say something about this Bill which, of course, amends one particular aspect of this legislation, the Family Law Act. It is the opportunity which the Parliament now has under the Constitution to fix a retiring age of 65 years for Family Court judges. This was recommended by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs three years ago, and it was applied and put into force with respect to the establishment of State family courts. One State court has been established in Western Australia and operates with these provisions.
As a result of the constitutional amendment of May 1977, this is something which can be done so far is the Federal Family Court is concerned. I believe it will be a desirable amendment, and it will, of course, be applicable only to new judges. It is in accordance with opinions expressed some years ago when the Family Law Act was passed and views which have been expressed since. There are important social questions involved and such is the need forjudges in this specialist court to be completely familiar and up to date with current needs, that there ought to be this provision. I welcome the Bill and hope that it will receive a speedy passage.
It seems to me that one should say a few things about some other aspects of the administration and current state of the Family Court in Australia while a Bill of this type is being discussed. I realise that this is not the last word and that there will be opportunities for others considerations to be expressed.
There is now a Family Law Council which is in a position to make recommendations to the Parliament. One would expect that the operation of a court which is now quite extensive and which covers a very wide field of jurisdiction will require alterations from time to time. In March of this year I made a speech on the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Amendment Bill, which I am sure my friends from Tasmania regarded as an imposition. During the first reading stage of that Bill I made a speech about family law administration. It appears at page 453 of Hansard of 23 March 1977. In that speech I endeavoured to say something about the situation at that time concerning the operations of the Family Court. I produced certain material which had come mainly from the operations of the court in Victoria and which suggested that there were grave deficiencies and delays that were greatly lessening the effectiveness of the court. With Mr Phillip Ruddock, M.P., I also went to see the operation of the Court in Parramatta. It was a relatively new Court and one which was operating, as I saw it then, very much more in accordance with our expectations when this Bill was passed.
At that time the court in Parramatta was operating very successfully, with very little delay and with the achievement of early court action which very often stopped domestic disputes from becoming complicated affairs and prevented hardship and injustice which develop when there is delay and justice is not done. Unfortunately, I find that since that time- even in a matter of a few months- that delays have accumulated in the Parramatta court as well. I have had the opportunity of speaking recently to the family law practitioners in New South Wales, particularly those who are associated with the Parramatta court. What has happened is that the great delays which are occurring in the courts have spread to Parramatta. People throughout Sydney are putting their cases down for hearing at the Parramatta court. The result is that there are now something like 900 applications not yet dealt with in the court. Its period of delay in dealing with cases has lengthened in the last few months. I suggest that there is a serious situation at the present time.
As I have said, I had the opportunity of talking recently to the family law practitioners in New South Wales and of obtaining detailed information. I do not propose to go into that detailed material this afternoon because I know it is desired that this Bill should have early passage. Also, I want to check the situation in Melbourne next week. I want to find out from practitioners and judges in Melbourne just what the situation is there. I believe it is also a pretty alarming situation in Victoria. In Sydney alone there are, in the defended list, which has hardly moved for many months, something like 1,100 defended cases waiting for hearing. It is estimated that defended matters, in which custody applications are often involved, may take two years to be determined. Of course, this runs completely contrary to what the Family Law Act was intended to achieve. One of the important things which it was intended to achieve was a speedier form of justice and an informal and less legalistic method.
I was told in Sydney of one application that has already been before the courts eight times because the judges do not have the time to deal with it. They deal briefly with the matter and put it aside. Another application has been before the courts five times. One Sydney lawyer put it to me that delay begets delay in this jurisdiction. I think honourable senators will see that that is so. If there is a delay in a matter in which custody is an issue there will be application after application over such matters as access or because perhaps one party threatens to take the child interstate. There will be additional litigation before the court due partly to the delay in dealing with the whole matter.
I have here two letters, one dated 9 February 1977 from the Family Law Practitioners Association of New South Wales to the AttorneyGeneral, the Hon. R. J. Ellicott, and a reply of 1 8 May 1977 by Mr Ellicott to Mr Broun, the President of that Association. Those two letters set out the problem particularly in New South Wales. I seek leave to incorporate the two letters in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The letters read as follows-
THE FAMILY LAW PRACTITIONERS ASSOCIATION OF NEW SOUTH WALES
9 February 1977
The Hon. R. J. Ellicott Q.C., M.H.R., Attorney-General for the Commonwealth, King and Macquarie Streets, Sydney, NSW 2000
Dear Mr Attorney,
Delays in the Family Court of Australia
We write to place on record the very serious problems that are becoming apparent in the Family Court of Australia by reason of the inadequate number of judges.
Over the last few days and the next few days call-overs are occurring in which each judge is fixing dates for the hearing of matters which were filed up to about August 1976, and which are defended. Some of these matters being called over were filed in January or February 1976 and a few were filed in October 1976 to January 1977 and had been expedited.
Mr Justice Pawley’s callover was held on 4 February 1977. There were 96 matters in his honor’s list. He fixed dates only to the end of June 1977, which got through his list up to number 50. The remaining 46 matters were stood over to the next call-over on 30 June 1977. By that time many of the dates between then and the end of the year will already have been taken by matters part heard from the first half of the year. It would seem unlikely that his honor will be able to fix dates before the end of the year for all 46 matters left over from the call-over of 4 February 1977 by 30 June 1977. He will, however, have added about another 100 matters to his call-over list. We estimate that figure of 100 on the basis that the 96 his honor had accumulated by 4 February came from a period of about 6 months filings, and matters filed mainly between August 1976 and February 1977 will come before his honor between now and the end of June 1977. The list he will have for call-over by 30 June 1977 will therefore represent about 18 months work. His honor was left with no free dates between now and the end of June for urgent matters or to complete part heard matters.
On the morning of 7 February 1977 Mr Justice Goldstein held the first half of his call-over. He called over 66 matters and gave dates to all, filling his list to the end of July except for one date. His honor has a further call-over of a slightly smaller list on 28 February 1977 but has indicated all of those not settled will be stood over to his next call-over on 2 August. Goldstein J, has begun on 7 and 8 February to stand defended matters to his call-over on 2 August 1977. By 2 August 1977 his honor will have about 18-24 months work to call-over.
On the afternoon of 7 February 1977 Mr Justice RossJones held his call-over. The list was 104 matters. His honor filled his list to the end of July. That advanced him to number 30 in his list, although a few from lower down in the list had also been fixed because they were part heard or had been expedited. Approximately 70 were stood over to his honor’s next call-over on 1 1 July 1 977. It seems clear there is no hope that all those matters can be fixed for dates before the end of the year. The matters filed up to now, which will come before his honor for the first time between now and June, will presumably hope for dates in 1978. In the course of his honor’s call-over his honor declined to fix more than 3 days for a case, even though in practice a ‘day’ in the Family Court means only 2 hours to 2Vi hours, and most defended custody matters would take 10 to 15 hours of hearing, and frequently more.
Mr Justice Hogan and Mr Justice Dovey are each having call-overs within the next week, and their lists are even longer. Mr Justice Hogan only has about 30 hearing dates left between now and the end of July by reason of expedited or part heard matters, so it is unlikely he will be able to fix many more than about 25 matters.
There is a rumour widely circulating that the government is considering appointing 3 more judges of the Family Court for NSW within the next few weeks. While we must welcome that, if it is true, we must point out that the number will be totally inadequate. It seems to us that if 3 new judges were appointed today then allowing for 6 weeks leave and 2 weeks on the Full Court per judge, and assuming an average time of I Vi days per case, (which may be optimistic since cases of 6 days or longer are common and cases of less than 2 hours hearing time are rare) the 3 new judges would probably be able to hear by the end of 1977 the cases left over from the call-overs going on now.
That would free the existing 5 judges in the second half of the year to hear some of the cases that will come on for mention in the next few months, i.e. cases filed in 1 976, but still cases commenced early in 1 977 could not hope for a hearing until 1 978 which is just too long.
The Family Court of Australia started with a clean slate in January 1976. The present enormous backlog has been accumulated in just one year during almost half of which (i.e. till 3 1 May 1 976 ) about 45 per cent of the new matters were still being filed in the Supreme Court. We understand that in Victoria where from January 1976 less than 5 per cent of the new matters were filed in the Supreme Court, the backlog now accumulated is much worse even than in NSW.
We would submit for your urgent consideration that the number of judges for the Family Court sitting in New South Wales needs to be increased to 20 immediately. But we would like to say that we think 20 would be inadequate to cover the city, Parramatta and do proper country circuits so as to do the cases within a reasonable time of their being ready for hearing. We think however it may be difficult for various practical reasons to appoint more than another 13 judges in a short space of time, and there may be justification for watching developments to the end of this year before taking the appointments beyond 20.
Malcolm D. BROUN President
Attorney-General Parliament House Canberra, A.C.T. 2600 18 May 1977
Dear Mr Broun,
I refer to your letter of 9 February 1977 on behalf of the family Law Practitioners Association of New South Wales concerning delays in the hearing of cases in the Sydney Registry of the Family Court of Australia.
I share your concern at the amount of work with which the Family Court in Sydney is confronted and the resultant time people have to wait for their cases to be heard. The workload of the Court, to date, has been far in excess of the level expected, with the result that, as you know, considerable stress has been placed on the Judges and staff of the Court, the legal profession and the general public. This is so despite the fact that a total of 30 Judges have been appointed to the Family Court so far, including Mr Justice Cook and Mr Justice Yuill to the Sydney and Parramatta Registries since the date of your letter.
Because of my concern at the delays, I have recently completed a review of the judicial workload of the Family Court, with a view to expediting the disposal of matters before the Court. As a result, the Family Law (Judges) Regulations have just been amended to allow the appointment of up to 6 more Judges, who I expect would be appointed in the next 6 to 1 2 months. You will realise that, having regard to its policy of containing public expenditure, the Government could not consider the appointment of the additional number suggested by you.
However, I am not convinced that the problem of the delays will be cured by the appointment of Judges alone. Accordingly, action is currently being taken to recruit further court counsellors and legal officers to the major Family Court registries. The additional legal officers will share the work of the Registrar in conducting conferences with parties to attempt to reach a settlement under regulation 96 of the Family Law Regulations, and in conducting financial inquiries under regulation 99. As you would be aware, the use of both counselling and regulation 96 conferences at an early stage of proceedings has already proved successful in reducing the number of defended cases that have to be dealt with in court.
Another possibility I am examining to expedite the disposal of proceedings is dispensing with the attendance of the parties and their legal representatives at the determination of divorce applications that are undefended. I have recently received a report on the matter from the Family Law Council, and have asked my Department to prepare for my consideration amendments to the Family Law Regulations that would enable the courts to dispose of cases in this way.
Yours sincerely, R.J. ELLICOTT, Q.C., Attorney-General
Mr M. D. Broun, President,
Family Law Practitioners Association, c/0 Mr P. 1. Rose, 174 Phillip Street, Sydney, N.S.W. 2000
– I particularly draw attention to the fact that practitioners in New South Wales have suggested that there is a need, not for the six judges that there are in Sydney at the moment but for 20 judges. I understand from talking to them since then that they claim that there is a need for even more judges than that today.
The number of judges that can be appointed to the Family Court has been increased from 30 to 36. The extra judges have not yet been appointed but no doubt they will be appointed after this Bill is passed, and they will, of course, be subject to the age limit. The fact that in one city something like 12 or 13 judges are needed to deal with the current situation must suggest that there is a need for a greater number of judges than is proposed at the present time. Those figures sound extraordinarily high but one must realise that, before we had a Family Law Act, in New South Wales there was the Family Law Division of the Supreme Court with five or six judges and magistrates were doing much more substantial family law work throughout the State and now they are doing much less. In Victoria before the Act came into force there were something like 20 judges or magistrates working on family law matters on any one day. There were magistrates and also the supreme court judges who were hearing divorces, defended matters and practice matters. A lot of domestic matters also went, by way of appeal, to the County Court in Victoria. Whereas there had been perhaps 20 people dealing with family law matters now there are nine judges in Victoria at the present time handling or trying to handle this work. Obviously there is a considerable need for appointing more judges.
In the letter which I have incorporated the Attorney-General points out that it is not just a matter of appointment of judges. Ancillary staff such as deputy registrars- useful if they are wellqualified people- could hear preliminary applications. To have more court counsellors, welfare officers and legal officers could greatly improve the facility and the ability of the court to operate as an effective unit. The Attorney-General recognises that fact and I know that efforts are being made to find qualified staff for this purpose. The two things go together.
Unquestionably there is a difficult situation- I hope that in a future debate shortly we will be able to expand on this- in which the delays in the courts and the hardship which people suffer at the moment can be examined and they certainly require more judges and more ancillary staff. We cannot be satisfied if this does not come to pass.
In passing I draw to the attention of the Senate the fact that on page 29 of the Budget Paper No. 2, Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) 1977-78, reference is made to two matters that I think should be mentioned. There is, of course, an increase in the Family Court expenditure but there is another aspect which I think is somewhat regrettable. Reference is made to the Family Law Council which in 1976-77 had a Budget appropriation of $25,000, of which only $5,949 was spent. This year the appropriation has been reduced to $15,000. The Family Law Council is an important body. It is a somewhat limited body in its present composition. It does not cover all the extremities of views of organisations that are connected with an interested in family law but it is a body which is important. I regret to see a decline in its appropriation and a failure last year to spend more than about one-quarter of its appropriation. Likewise, the Institute of Family Studies is a professional body, designed to look at the statistics and at the situation of family life in Australia and to try to assist not only the Family Law Council but also, I presume, the Government in the administration of this Act. That body had an appropriation for last year of $80,000 of which it actually spent $4,879. That is about onetwentieth of its appropriation. This year the appropriation is reduced to $50,000. One would have thought that that body ought to be expanding and ought not to be receiving a lower appropriation. There may be explanations for this situation but I suggest that, at a period when there is quite a considerable crisis in the family law situation in Australia, it is regrettable to see reductions of that sort.
There is one other aspect I want to raise at this stage in this preliminary debate about the family law situation. It has been drawn to my attention by Sydney practitioners that there have been some mistakes in the original formulation of the costs regulations which are prescribed for practitioners under the Act. Some redrafting was accepted as being necessary. The position is that people who practise in the family law jurisdiction do not know what their situation is at the present time, what their entitlements are, and their clients do not know what are the amounts that should be charged. I understand that those redrafts were carried out. They were to be gazetted, the Sydney practitioners believed, in December of last year. I understand that they have not been gazetted. I have not seen them. I hope that I am wrong in saying that. But I wonder why this matter has not been given the clarification which is needed by the people who practise, and who are specialists in the family law jurisdiction.
The position at the moment is pretty bad. The position in regard to cases that are defended, such as custody cases, is pretty serious. We have seen examples of people taking the law into their own hands, of husbands seizing children and taking them overseas. These things happen more readily in a situation in which they cannot see justice done, where they are told that they may have to wait a year or two, because they know that if children are in the hands of the wife for two years this must have a considerable influence on the decision of the Court. The Court cannot help taking into account the fact that there is a stabilised situation, even though justice has not been done, because the situation has been allowed to continue for some period. This occurs particularly in that area and in the area where the enforcement of maintenance orders has broken down very considerably, where the State courts are not willing to act in an enforcement action and where there is inadequate money to carry out that enforcement. In many cases money could be saved by the Commonwealth if the enforcement took place, but it does not happen. So orders are made by the Court. They are flouted. That cannot be a good situation. It does not increase the status of the Family Court. It is not a help to society; it is certainly not even a help to the finances of the Federal Government.
I believe we have a good Act. The Family Law Act is, I think, standing up well under very considerable pressure. I think it is pointing and achieving results in the right direction. It is however, a very disappointing Act to this stage because of the great delay in the hearing of cases, the inadequate number of judges and staff and the inability to achieve the potential which it has and the potential which should be achieved by those organisations, the Family Law Council and the Institute of Family Studies, of which I have spoken. I propose to take up this matter at a further stage. I support this amending Bill. I believe it is a sensible amendment which will improve the law. Many other things in connection with the Family Law Act shall need very close attention.
– in reply- I thank the Senate for its support of this Bill. It must be a matter of pride and great satisfaction to those honourable senators who served on the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs that one of the important recommendations of that Committee resulted not only in legislation being passed through the Senate and hopefully through the Parliament but also in an amendment to the Constitution. Honourable senators and honourable members often complain about how they feel frustrated when they do not see results of their labours. This legislation is a notable example of how effective members of Parliament and senators can be.
Senator Missen raised a number of important matters concerning the administration of the Family Law Act. This Bill which provides for the retirement at 65 years of age of judges of the Family Court will facilitate the appointment of new judges. The Government has been awaiting the legal power to issue to judges commissions providing that they retire at 65 years of age. The regulations have been amended to allow for the appointment of six new judges, as Senator Missen said. As soon as this Bill has been passed the Attorney-General (Mr Ellicott) can proceed with the appointment of more judges. In addition to those appointments, other appointments to increase the number of Court staff, counsellors, legal advisers, et cetera will be necessary. I think Senator Missen recognised that fact in his speech. Funds have been provided in the present Budget to enable an expansion of staff as well as judges. A new Deputy-Registrar has been appointed in Melbourne. I think that has occurred since the time about which Senator Missen spoke. Another Deputy-Registrar is to be appointed in Melbourne.
Senator Missen referred to some problems in Sydney. New listing procedures have been drawn up to try to avoid a situation in which large numbers of cases are part heard and adjourned. The new listing arrangements are designed to enable cases to be disposed of. Certainly I would agree that it is a most frustrating experience for litigants as well as for their legal advisers to have cases part heard, further heard at a later date and adjourned again. This sort of frustration would lead to actions by dissatisfied litigants in which they might decide in those circumstances to take the law into their own hands. That is to be regretted. I am also advised that applications to the Court show some signs now of levelling out during the course of this year. I think the great flood of applications has been a surprise to everybody, as has the fact that they have maintained such a high level.
– It surely was a case of a thirsty pup. The law needed changing for many years.
– It was anticipated that there would be a large number of cases. I think the very high level and the maintenance of that level until well into this year was a surprise although I agree it was to be expected that there would be a great increase because of the new provisions of the Family Law Act. Senator Missen also raised the question of the regulations concerning costs. I understand that the matter of costs will be incorporated in new regulations dealing with other matters which have a bearing on costs and may perhaps result in a saving of costs. It is hoped that these will be gazetted probably in October this year.
New arrangements have been entered into with the New South Wales State courts whereby clerks of courts are now providing greater assistance to people in the enforcement of orders. All in all, the Government is concerned about these matters of delays, inadequate premises and inadequate staffing, which have been raised by Senator Missen and other honourable senators. The Attorney-General is keeping these matters under constant observation. As I said, it is most pleasing to reaffirm the fact that additional funds have been provided in this year’s Budget to go some way towards improving these matters that were mentioned by Senator Missen in his speech. It is most pleasing that the Senate is supporting this measure, and I trust it will have a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 24 August on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Senate take note or the papers.
Upon which Senator Wriedt had moved by way of an amendment:
At end of motion add ‘ , but the Senate is of the opinion that the Budget:
will intensify and prolong the recession;
b ) will increase unemployment;
will have little impact on inflation;
) will make regressive changes in the tax system; and
will reduce living standards’.
– If one has to resume one’s speech one becomes a victim of circumstances at times. I spoke for 1 7 minutes last evening in this debate. The debate has been resumed late this afternoon. General Business takes precedence of Government Business at 8 p.m. There is still sufficient time for my speech to take up the remainder of the sitting this afternoon, and I could continue when the debate is resumed the week after next. Therefore my speech on the Budget would be spread over three days and over three weeks. I do not want that to happen. I will be as brief as possible. I will not give my analysis of the Budget, which I would like to do. I think everyone else has given his interpretation. There are some differences of opinion in regard to figures. I shall content myself with bringing up only two matters which I think are important.
We could say that my speech is in three chapters. Last night I devoted my remarks to Senator Jessop. This afternoon I want to refer to immigration and Aboriginal housing. I should like to deal firstly with immigration and the restrictions which are now placed on migrants coming to Australia and the refusal of this Government to re-admit migrants who have been admitted previously as residents. They may return to their country of origin for some reason and may not be allowed back in Australia, despite the fact that they may have relatives here. The Government has told us that it wants to see family units settled in Australia.
I question whether politics are involved in the operation of immigration policy. The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar) made a statement about the Vietnamese refugees who landed in Australia. It is peculiar because it appears that people who find it necessary to leave their own country at a time when their country is being taken over by a communist government or a socialist government receive a welcome reception when they arrive in Australia. People who find themselves in those situations and who take risks and migrate to Australia find a ready welcome here. I wonder whether the position would be reversed if it happened in a country that had been taken over by a fascist regime. At one stage we would not take Spaniards as refugees because those who could not live under Franco were thought not to be any good to Australia. They had been in the throes of a revolution at some time. In a Press statement about the Vietnamese refugees on 29 June, Mr MacKellar said: . . seven of the Vietnamese have been diagnosed as having active tuberculosis. Three have contagious conditions, such as scabies and head lice, among members of the group.
Despite the state of their health we accepted them as refugees. I know the questions of humanity and sympathy are involved. The Vietnamese refugees came a long way in an open boat. If we are so free in granting entry permits to such immigrants, surely we should be equally as free in granting entry permits to those we have accepted as residents in the past and who, although they have left Australia, wish to return. In yesterday’s Adelaide Advertiser I was surprised to note an article stating that permission had been given to Mr and Mrs Sowter from Great Britain to return to Adelaide to be united with the parents of Mr Sowter. His parents live at Normanville in Adelaide. The younger Mr Sowter and his wife, after a 12-month struggle to come to Adelaide, finally have been granted permission. The reason they were not granted a permit earlier was the claim that Mrs Sowter took epileptic fits. That may have been a good reason to stop her migrating to Australia. A campaign has been going on in South Australia in support of this woman for some time. Some people believe that she should be reunited with her family. Representations were made by Mr Becker, a Liberal member of the House of Assembly in South Australia. His representations have been made at a time when he is having a hard fight- his electorate is a touch and go electorate- in the South Australian elections. As a result of his request Mr and Mrs Sowter are now eligible to come to Australia. Their entry has been permitted.
The other case to which I wish to refer is that of Mr and Mrs Smythe who come from South Australia. They are migrants from India who came to Australia with their two daughters. Mr Smythe was an auditor in a Delhi bank. He was an accountant and, on retirement, he migrated to Australia. He had property in India and, due to the illness of one of his relatives who had dealings with the property, he and his wife returned to India for the purpose of settling property rights. They left their three children in Australia. They now seek to come back to Australia but have found that they cannot come back because they do not have the trade skills required in Australia. Therefore, they are not eligible according to the categories used by the department. I wrote to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on 26 July this year. My letter stated:
Mr Ivan Carlyle Smythe and his wife Thelma Grace Smythe from Calcutta, India, were granted a permanent residence permit and were resident in Australia, with their two daughters from 2 October 1971 to 5 July 1972.
Due to the illness and subsequent death of members of their family in India, the couple returned to their native land. The aged relatives have since passed on and the couple now seek to return to Australia under the same conditions as their permitted entry in 1972.
A letter dated 2 1 December 1 976, from your Department in Adelaide, informed the daughter of Mr and Mrs Smythe that the application for re-entry of her parents would be sent overseas for enquiry. A letter received under the date of 8 July 1977, from the Australian High Commissioner in New Delhi, stated that the application was not one for approval. This rejection seems hard to understand as their application was approved in 1 97 1 , and they resided in Australia until illness of relatives in India made it necessary for their return home.
The position now is that there are only three near relatives, these being three daughters, two of whom reside in Australia and one in England. One would have thought that on the basis of reuniting a family group a residential permit would have been made available, particularly as one daughter agrees to go guarantor for fares, accommodation and living costs in Adelaide.
I therefore ask that you give the matter further consideration.
On 27 July I again wrote to the Minister to explain that some false information was contained in the documents. My letter stated:
Yesterday I wrote to you re the migrating to Australia of a Mr and Mrs Smythe from India.
Her daughter has now telephoned me to say that information received from your Office in Adelaide would suggest the reason for refusal of migration to Australia was that on the application by Mrs Robertson, daughter of the two applicants, it was stated that they were dependent persons. This was stated on a misunderstanding of a suggestion from your Department that hopes of admission would meet more response if the persons were dependent relations, but apparently this is a reason for rejection.
The facts are that the applicants are receiving a small pension from the Central Bank of Delhi, where Mr Symthe worked as Chief Auditor. He has not reached the Australian retiring age. He has acted as a competent accountant and could and would be prepared to accept employment in Australia.
Mrs Smythe is a qualified dressmaker and could seek employment in Australia also, either in industry or a self established dressmaking business.
I ask you to take this into consideration.
So far the Minister has not replied.
I use this case as a lead up to the more serious one concerning Mr and Mrs Seed. Mr and Mrs Seed and their son arrived from England in 1970. The Seeds have two sons. One remained in England and the other came to Australia at the age of 19 years with his parents and worked in Australia from 1970 to 1972. He saved his money with the intention to get home to his mates and his football team. When he returned to England his mother was concerned and fretted for him. She was receiving treatment from a Dr Barker. She was admitted in a depressed state to a psychiatric hospital in South Australia on seven occasions. She was admitted to the hospital five times in one year. Mr Ian Wilson, the honourable member for Sturt, wrote to the Minister in October of last year informing him of the state of the wife and her desire for her son to return. The son had married and had made an application to return to Australia but it was rejected. His parents in Australia lost their only granddaughter. She was burnt to death in a fire in England in the intervening period. These things were pointed out to the Minister by Mr Wilson. The reply was that the lad did not meet the requirements of the employment conditions in South Australia. Mr Seed then took up the matter with Mr Martin Nicholls, the honourable member for Bonython, who wrote to the Minister in July last enclosing a certificate from Dr Barker. The letter from Mr Nicholls states:
My assistance has been sought by Mr A. Seed of 29 Cavanagh Street, Elizabeth Downs, South Australia 5 1 13, in the matter of his son’s Alan’s application to migrate to Australia.
Alan is Mr Seed’s only son and Mr Seed has no relative in Australia at all. Mrs Seed is a very sick woman being treated currently at the Hillcrest Psychiatric Hospital near Adelaide. Mr Seed is very anxious to have his son nearby as he needs family support to help him cope with the strain of caring for his wife Lily. I am enclosing a letter from Dr Barker of 16 Palmer Place, North Adelaide, which will substantiate that there is a very strong compassionate case for allowing Alan to come to his father.
Alan came to Australia with his parents in 1970 when he was 19 and he worked in South Australia and New South Wales until he went to England in 1973. He married and now has one child.
I would be very grateful if the Minister could give this application urgent and sympathetic consideration in the light of the facts as set out above, and inform my office accordingly.
The letter from Dr Barker reads:
I have enclosed the Certificate for your Member of Parliament as requested by telephone today.
The certificate reads:
This certificate is to confirm that I have treated Mrs L. Seed of 29 Cavanagh Street, Elizabeth Downs, for a nervous disorder since 9.2.73. She is still under treatment for this recurrent anxiety depressive state.
I consider that it would help her greatly if her son and his family could be reunited with her and her husband. I consider that this would help to restore their family unity and it would certainly help Mrs Seed to build up her general selfconfidence which she needs to do.
The letter from Mr Nicholls was under the date of 6 July. While awaiting the Minister’s reply, Mrs Seed became so depressed that she took an overdose of sleeping tablets and never came out of a coma. She committed suicide. The husband is depressed and bereaved. Someone from Mr Nicholls’ office rang the Minister’s office to inform him that the woman had committed suicide as a result of her depressed state and of her being deprived of her son’s company. Despite all that the Minister, under date of 4 August, replied:
I am writing in reply to your representations on behalf of Mr A. Seed of 29 Cavanagh Street, Elizabeth Downs, South Australia 5 1 13, concerning his son and daughter-in-law, Mr and Mrs Alan Seed, who wish to migrate to Australia from the United Kingdom.
Mr and Mrs Seed do not qualify for entry under the family reunion policy, which provides only for the entry of spouses, dependent children and parents of persons already resident here.
Applicants who do not qualify under the family reunion policy may be considered for entry only if they are in occupations for which there is an unfilled demand within Australia. Mr Seed, as a storeman, and Mrs Seed, as a clerical and factory worker, do not have the skills or qualifications which would enable them to meet the occupational requirements.
I have carefully and sympathetically considered the application in the light of your representations and the tragic circumstances of the death of Mrs Seed Snr. I must, however, consider the prospects of Mr and Mrs Seed after arrival. In the present economic situation, I can only come to the conclusion that the possibility of attaining the economic viability which would enable the family, as an independent unit, to live at an acceptable standard without recourse to government assistance can only be rated as poor. Consequently, I cannot see my way clear to waiving normal immigration requirements to permit them to settle in Australia at the present time.
I am sorry to inform you that I confirm my previous decision that the application for the entry of Mr and Mrs Alan Seed and their child is not one for approval.
Despite the fact that the woman’s life could possibly have been saved if she had been reunited with her son, the son does not meet the trade requirements. Are we so lacking in compassion in Australia that, even if there were a possibility of the son being unemployed and having to receive social service benefits, we cannot afford to give some assistance to a woman who is in a suicidal state as a result of the action of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs? He has the power to act in this instance. There is no difference between this case and the case of Mr and Mrs Sowter reported in yesterday’s Advertiser. That case has been going on for 12 months. No change has been made in the Minister’s rules or administrative directions in regard to work qualifications. It is not that he could let them in today but could not let them in 12 months ago. In this case the son is not allowed into Australia. The father told me that his wife had every reason to live. Contrary to Mr Nicholls ‘s letter, she had two sons in England. One came to Australia and returned. Mr and Mrs Seed were a loving and attached couple. The husband had a good job and they had their own house and car. The woman suffered a depressed state in a strange land. She idolised her children. One was not allowed to come and see her.
Mr Seed came to see me to ask me whether I would take the ashes of his wife to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs as he holds him responsible for her death. I said: ‘No, I will not be a part of any such demonstration’. He said that the Minister would certainly get a wreath from him every 12 months on the anniversary of his wife’s death. It is a worry for this individual who is now totally alone. My office has telephoned Mr MacKellar and the reply has been that despite the unfortunate happening he will not let this man’s son come into Australia. Is this a humane way of administering the question of migration to Australia?
I bring up these cases in the hope that at least there will be some reconsideration of them if the relevant Minister in this place reports to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs on the points that I have made. They are now on record in the Hansard in the hope that the Government will know of the anguish that is being suffered by migrants we have permitted to come into Australia. This man’s son who was here from 1971, 1 think, to 1973 worked all the time he was here although he did not have the trade skills which Australia requires migrants to have to enter Australia. He could get a job with various organisations. He was not a burden on society. If he had not desired to go back to England he would have been here today. He is someone whom we have accepted in our community and we should honour the undertaking that we gave when he was first accepted.
I want to deal with the most serious problem of Aboriginal housing in South Australia. Questions have been raised about whether this year there will be an increased allocation for Aboriginal housing. I do not think this matter has been resolved yet. I refer to a Press release of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) issued on 17 August 1977- since the Budget- which states:
Expenditure on Aboriginal programs in 1977-78 would rise by $ 1 5m or 9 per cent to $ 1 76m, the Minister Tor Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Ian Viner, said today. This was in addition to the normal social service and other benefits available to the community at large.
Mr Viner expressed his satisfaction at the substantial increases in expenditure on health programs (up by $5m- 25 per cent- to $23m) and education programs (up by $6.8m- 1 8 per cent-to $43 ).
Mr Viner said the Hay inquiry into the effectiveness of the delivery of services to Aboriginals, conducted last year, emphasised the need for a community-based approach to funding. The broad aim of this approach was to the meet the needs of communities in a co-ordinated way rather than responding in a piecemeal fashion to requests for aid.
The figures illustrated the progressive increasing share going to grants-in-aid for health, welfare, employment and housing directly to Aboriginal communities and organisations in keeping with the concept of self-help and selfmanagement.
Pausing there, honourable senators will notice that Mr Viner said expenditure this year would increase by 9 per cent. Last year there was a terrific reduction of some $33m. An amount of $2 5m was restored to the allocation. There was a reduction last year on the previous year’s expenditure. We are now comparing proposed expenditure this year with reduced expenditure on Aboriginal affairs last year. Under the Whitlam Government there was an increase in the allocation for Aboriginal programs every year and it got up to about $190m. We now find that this year there is a 9 per cent increase on last year’s reduced expenditure but this increase does not make up for the inflation over the last 1 2 months. So the allocation this year is in actual money terms a reduction on last year’s expenditure. I shall read Mr Viner’s statement on the Hay committee report which said we should have Aboriginal community-based funding because he has distorted the intention of Mr Hay to encourage activities by Aboriginal groups for the purpose of reducing housing applications through the most efficient housing agencies for Aboriginal housing, the State Housing Commissions. The Press statement by the Minister went on to say:
Referring to housing, Mr Viner said that the total figure of $35m, though down on last year by $5.6m, -
In housing alone there is a reduction of $5. 6m this year compared with last year- constituted a rationalisation at a time when the Government was re-ordering priorities overall. Aboriginal housing, however, still remains the largest of the special aid programs within the responsibility of his Department.
Within the total amount, priority had been given to grants-in-aid to Aboriginal Housing Associations which were up by $0.5m to $ 1 3.74m.
The State housing commissions were the most effective agencies for building or acquiring houses for the Aboriginal community. Last year they received $ 12,847,943. This year they will receive $11,780,690 which is a reduction of $ 1.672m on last year’s expenditure. Although there has been a reduction in the housing allocation we find in the Estimates that the allocation for architects’ fees this year rises by $1,570,000. The estimated expenditure this year is $5,300,000 compared with $3,730,000 last year. The estimated expenditure this year on architectural supervision, which is necessary because the emphasis is on Aboriginals going through Aboriginal housing associations and not State housing commissions, is up by $ 1.5m.
I think a dangerous point has been reached in the South Australian Housing Trust. When I was the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in 1973 we set up the Aboriginal Housing Board of South Australia which worked with the South Australian Housing Trust. The Board, composed of Aboriginals, got the federal grant for Aboriginal housing and arranged through the Trust for the building of the houses, the letting of the houses and the collection of the rent. It was all controlled by a group of Aboriginals known as the Aboriginal Housing Board of South Australia. Mr Nayda, the Chairman of the Board, in desperation has written to me saying that the list of applicants for houses is growing every year. Despite what we say about Aboriginals, there is a trend within the younger generation to shift to the city areas. Despite the building of houses by the Trust, there are still more applicants on the waiting list now than previously, and those applicants are in a younger age group.
Aboriginals have a peculiarity. It is not that they want to overcrowd their houses but their whole culture is one of friendship, sharing and protecting. There is no Aboriginal without a roof over his head. An Aboriginal family will always take him in. In Adelaide and possibly in many other towns there are Aboriginals living in garages or under trees in backyards. Their circumstances make them despondent and they turn to drink. The conditions under which they live are the cause of their ill health. The children are unable to learn at school and they cannot do their homework in private like any European child. There may be up to seven people living in one room. This makes cleanliness and tidiness impossible. When the sewerage is overtaxed, the bathroom cannot be used. Neighbours regard the Aboriginals as undesirable and do not want them in their street. We were overcoming this problem in South Australia. Under the Hayden Budget, the South Australian Housing Trust received $3.1m for the building of houses. Under the Lynch Budget for 1976-77, it got $2.9m-a reduction. This year it received an allocation of $ 1.6m- a further reduction. The Trust was able to house 136 families in the houses built last year and the year before. This year, with a larger number of applicants, the Trust can build only some 57 housing units. So the situation is becoming impossible.
The Government is determined to cut down on spending for Aboriginal affairs. I ask: Are the Government’s priorities correct? We see expenditure going to health and education on a community basis. We heard only today of the Government’s decision to allow the mining of uranium at Ranger in the Alligator Rivers area in Arnhem Land which will bring about an increased population in the area because of the people attracted to the mining towns. The Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, read a statement on behalf of the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) about health provisions. There will be an increased health problem in the area, but the Department of Health is making provisions for mining companies. The allocation for health is being spent for the protection of mining companies in the north. Illness amongst Aboriginal communities will increase because of the establishment of towns for mining companies in the north.
When I was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, I received a delegation of doctors from New South Wales who were treating Aboriginals. They said to me: ‘Now look, Senator, we can give them medical attention as good as they will get anywhere in the world but we cannot cure illnesses in the Aboriginal community because of the housing conditions under which they are forced to live’. If we are to improve the health of Aboriginal people, including the children, we have to get them off the ground and into houses. That is essential to Aboriginal health, yet the allocation for Aboriginal housing is being reduced. Something which is less essential, though not insignificant I think it is important- is that we will be able to cure their illnesses. But by throwing money away in other directions, we are taking away their opportunities for housing.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business at 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That General Business Notice of Motion No. 1 be postponed until the next day of sitting.
This will not be a long recital, but it is one of those situations where we are searching for the truth and it is often difficult to find. Seven or eight years ago I tried to ascertain what was the final vision splendid for the Sydney Harbour foreshore park, which in turn was related to several other land swaps, as I might term them. The Holsworthy Army complex was involved, as well as the Moore Park engineers’ depot, and I had some difficulty with a series of governments, including my own. Because of the construction of Federal ministeries, in the earlier period I was dealing with the three Service Ministers, the then Minister for the Interior, the New South Wales Lands Minister and the Premier. Going back through memory lane, I dealt with people like the then Premier, Sir Robert Askin, followed by Mr Tom Lewis, then Sir Eric Willis and now Premier Wran. In the meantime, in the Federal field originally we had Mr Killen, then other Service Ministers, followed by the consolidation of the Service portfolios under Mr Barnard, a series of Ministers for the Interior, including Mr Nixon and Mr Hunt, and then the Minister for the Australian Capital Territory, Mr Gordon Bryant. To complicate the matter further, Senator Withers as Minister for Administrative Services has now assumed the role which Mr Daly had under the Whitlam Government.
My files disclose that over a period of time there has been a pattern of the various ministers using the words: ‘There will be a gradual exodus of Service personnel from the Moore Park engineers’ depot.’ At another level, a Lands Minister in New South Wales, irrespective of party, would complain that the Federal Government was trying to use the surrender of harbour foreshore lands as a lever in lieu of a reasonable price for the Holsworthy complex. I can recall that over seven years ago, with the aid of Eastern Command, I had a helicopter at my disposal to fly over these areas. At the time it seemed that it would be only a matter of time before the whole thing was achieved. I appreciate that some land, and this applies to the whole of the continent, unless it is under Service control would be ravaged by developers. I am not arguing on that point, but unless there is a proper understanding it could be that a future Australian Government might decide to take back some of the land. On the other hand, there could be a situation, as occurred on one occasion when some land was released, that a State government would have a tendency to give half of the land back to the developers.
My purpose in seeking to have a Senate committee set up is that I believe that until we get the appropriate heads of departments to testify such a committee would do a useful exercise on Federal and State relations. I have been in a position to talk to Federal public servants and I know that at the State level, under two different State Lands Ministers, there has been a tendency for transfers of land not to be on a government to government basis. After all it is the taxpayers who provide the revenue if any monetary adjustments have to be made. It is the people’s land, and the State Lands Minister and the Federal Minister for the Interior are only custodians of the land.
– You would agree that the present New South Wales Minister is a highly competent Minister?
– The Hon. W. Crabtree is one of the most dedicated men ever to have assumed to role of Lands Minister in New South Wales, and I know that he is feeling frustrated about the difficulties there.
– He was a member of the same union.
– That is right, he was a fellow trade unionist with me. We came up in a hard school, and both of us as administrators in our various fields expect speed. I see a smile on Senator Carrick ‘s face. He will recall the difficult situation in relation to the acquisition of Towra Point, an area which Senator Douglas McClelland knows well. The difficulty is to sort out the multitude of departments. I recall that the Lewis Government questioned the grant from the Whitlam Government, and the matter of possible litigation arose. Senator Carrick, in answer to a question I asked, said: ‘I know that there is a new Government, but we are not sure whether that court action has actually been jettisoned’. Two or three months passed before we found out and we were in limbo in relation to where the various departments were going.
I suppose it is just as difficult to get unity of purpose in the various Federal ministries as it is in the State ministries, but it has been very bad for this project. From time to time there in an undignified slanging match between a Premier and a Federal Minister about who is being a Shylock. I emphasise again how slowly we get answers. I am indebted to Senator Douglas McClelland ‘s interjection for reminding me that when Mr Crabtree assumed the role of Lands Minister he did write and suggest an early conference. As far as open government is concerned, I would be the last to suggest that if we were dealing with an artillery battery or a navigation aid for submarines we should necessarily have a full dress Senate committee. However, I have found that to obtain some of this information all sorts of devious methods have to be used to get a State Lands Department report, for instance, or a government gazette, or do a lot of things which should be made public. I know that the United States Senate has very competent committees which from time to time examine transfers of land from, say, an Indian reservation to a forestry reserve or even to a national park. On those occasions it seems that people are able to give evidence on oath. Without naming the person, I was at a military gymkhana- one of my interests has always been tug-of-war events- watching a tug-of-war and at the same time a senior army officer from Eastern Command was questioning me about what we were likely to do to some Army establishments, and I will not use the Army colloquialism he used.
The time has long passed when we could take evidence on oath. In fairness to my own party, the then Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, who is now our Ambassador to the Scandinavian countries, in a declaration used the words ‘in a reasonable time’. I am not a lawyer, but that would have been before 1975, and after almost two years I think it would be fascinating if I could get some of my legal colleagues on both sides of the chamber to define ‘a reasonable time’.
– I agree with Senator Jessop that it would be difficult to define. I can imagine Senator Carrick saying that the Senate has Estimates committees to deal with this sort of thing. I could float this at a committee meeting which was dealing with Mr Staley ‘s department because he is involved in such committee hearings at times either as a Minister or as an Acting Minister. Then I would have to go to the appropriate Estimates Committee at which Senator
Withers is appearing. As Ministers do sometimes, he might say: ‘It is on a Prime Minister to Premier basis’. I can remember one occasion when a minister, not Senator Withers, said: Senator, you ought to know that letters between Prime Ministers and Premiers are private. They are not matters for this Senate to look at’. I say respectfully that a Senate committee might subpoena all such correspondence. We would then get the truth and the falsehood. We would find out who was holding things up. The people want these land transfers effected.
I pitch my next remark largely to New South Wales senators. We in New South Wales are particularly envious of Victoria’s sports grounds. Victoria got a legacy from the 1956 Olympic Games. It got the Olympic Park sports stadiumquite apart from other sports grounds built on the initiative of officials in the various sporting codes. I know that the Sydney Cricket Ground No. 1 is hallowed in memories, and I am not questioning its suitability for test cricket, in spite of Mr Packer. But I believe that Sydney Cricket Ground No. 2 and the Sydney Sports Ground could be amalgamated with the vital segment of Army property at the Moore Park engineers’ depot. We would then have more of a rectangular football stadium that would be an integral part of any future Olympic or Commonwealth games.
I emphasise again and again that it is impossible on Service estimates to get anything clear. I think that Senator Withers acts the role of the honest broker. He is the man who finally has to deal with these land transfers. I repeat that we get these ex parte statements about what one Minister is doing. The transfers are very important. While the land to a large degree has been kept for park purposes, if there is to be a master plan there has to be a degree of long range certainty.
I have spoken to the personnel of Eastern Command about Holsworthy. I think the general idea was that the Army was to expand its Singleton base. That was the general idea of things as I knew them. There is nothing worse than people getting despondent and losing heart in governments because of the way things are dragged out. From time to time at both the State and Federal levels there may be a change of ministers. I am sure that if my colleague the Minister for Lands in New South Wales, Mr Crabtree, were here he would say ‘amen’ to the appeal that I am making for the creation of this committee.
– Are you going to give Ukerebaugh Island back to the Aborigines?
– I can assure Senator Bonner that I feel and I think that he does too that some of that land is rich in the history of the early days of Captain Phillip. Like Senator Bonner, I think that if it is kept for the common good and what Aboriginals believe in well and good. In fact we might even enlist the support of the Aboriginals for a particular reason. There is a big conflict in Auckland at the moment. The Maoris surrendered some land to the white man on a promontory. Years have gone by since. Recently the Muldoon Government has repudiated earlier undertakings. It is splitting the land in half. The Maoris have marched in their hundreds and they are having a sit down demonstration. They are holding fast for land reform. If we could enlist Senator Bonner in a bipartisan role he could bring a few battalions of Aborigines down to the shores of Port Jackson, and with Senator Douglas McClelland I think we could marshal people for an effective demonstration.
- Senator Wright might join us.
-I do not think so. I think Senator Wright would be a bit diffident about that sort of unity ticket, but one never knows. When I look around the Senate I know that most honourable senators are fairly busy with their multitude of committee duties. There are two options. Just on the burst, as it were, I have a very excellent idea. If Senator Carrick does not feel that it is the right time to have a Senate committee he could still wrap up this matter within six weeks. He might do something that I remember a famous senator doing here. He was a future Prime Minister. Senator John Grey Gorton came into the chamber on one occasion when my colleagues were talking about VIP flight manifests, looked up, muttered to himself and within a few hours brought a manifest into the chamber, tossed it down and we were told everything. Maybe if Senator Carrick could come in here in a couple of days time and give us the whole file and have it photocopied it would streamline things. The other option is to give us the committee, on which I feel that non-New South Welshmen like Senator Bonner would play a very effective role. With such a committee we could get somewhere.
I repeat that the people like to be up to date on negotiations. I do not think it is the desire or the intention of either the Federal Government or the New South Wales Government to make a profit on the land. Probably in the first decade of this country when Australia was a fledgeling nation it needed this land for the creation of its navy and other defence forces. Having said that, my case rests. I believe my plea is valid. I hope we get a committee unless, as I repeat, Senator Carrick takes up the other option.
Debate (on motion by Senator Carrick) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 3 June 1976 on motion by Senator Jessop:
That the Senate take not of the report.
– The Senate will know that one of the responsibilities of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment is to exert a continuing oversight of the problems of pollution in Australia. On 3 June last year, on behalf of the Committee I presented a review of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution. Honourable senators will be reminded that the Select Committee on Air Pollution made some very significant comments. I know that the President was interested in that Committee and I believe that Senator Georges also was a member of it. It provided a lot of useful information and suggestions to the government of the day. I remind the Senate that that Committee concluded:
That the Commonwealth Government should take an active interest in air pollution matters by-
Senator Mulvihill, who is Deputy Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment, will be interested in the question of noise pollution. I believe that noise is a very important source of pollution that our Committee could well take up in the future. The Committee, in keeping with its responsibility to exert this continuing oversight of air pollution, has considered the recommendations in the report of the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution that was presented in 1969. Recommendation No. 1 urges that the Commonwealth enact immediately legislation for the control of air pollution within its territories. Development to date is that an ordinance to control emissions from stationary sources in the Australian Capital Territory has been drafted and presented to the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly for comment. I understand that some amendments may flow from its consideration and that, ultimately, we will be presented with a Bill in the Parliament dealing with this important question. The ordinance resulted from recommendations made by a sub-committee of an interdepartmental committee established to examine ways of protecting the quality of the environment in the Australian Capital Territory.
Recommendation No. 2 suggested that a Commonwealth-State conference be called by the Commonwealth to discuss the establishment of a Commonwealth-State bureau of air pollution to co-ordinate research into and establishment of standards to be applied to air pollution. No such bureau has been established since the time of the Select Committee’s report. Steps have been taken to give effect to the spirit of this recommendation. For example, annual conferences of the relevant air pollution offices of the Commonwealth, the States and New Zealand are held to discuss problems faced individually and in common by air pollution control authorities. Two Commonwealth bodies have been established which also assist in implementing the spirit of this recommendation. The first is the Air Pollution Control Sub-Committee of the National Health and Medical Research Council established in 1971 for the purpose of recommending standards to be applied by Australian air pollution control authorities. In November 1972 the Sub-Committee proposed a comprehensive set of standards for emissions. The second, the Australian Environment Council, was established in 1971 with the aim of promoting common standards on environmental matters throughout Australia. The Council is composed of the environment Ministers from the Commonwealth and the States. It conducts activities through working groups of Commonwealth and State representatives. One of the current responsibilities of the Council is the National Air Monitoring Program, which is discussed later in the Committee’s report.
Recommendation No. 3 states that a division to study air pollution should be established in the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. No such division has yet been established in the CSIRO for the sole purpose of studying air pollution problems. Existing divisions of the CSIRO, such as the Division of Atmospheric Physics or the Division of Environmental Mechanics, are active in the study of the influence of air pollution. Recommendation No. 4 recommends that the Bureau of Meteorology be charged with establishing air pollution monitoring stations with the eventual aim of establishing an air pollution hazard prediction service. No such network has been established by the Bureau itself. The Commonwealth Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development, on behalf of the Australian Environment Council, instituted a national air monitoring program early in 1976 to develop a uniform air pollution monitoring program in Australia. The program has as its aims the introduction of Commonwealth legislation aimed at assisting the States financially in the monitoring of air pollution, as the States Grants (Water Resources Measurement) Acts have operated to assist the States to monitor water pollution.
It also recommends the setting up of a data centre in Canberra which will store information collected by the program and the introduction to Australia of a standard code identifying levels of air pollution. This code will be based on recognised international standards and will eventually facilitate recognition of hazards in areas subject to severe local pollution. The Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development purchased three mobile air pollution monitoring caravans. These caravans will be loaned initially to the States to study areas of air pollution. The results of this study will assist the States in planning the installation of permanent monitoring stations. The program also envisages the construction of what is known as a base line air monitoring station in a remote area of Tasmania. This monitoring station, together with 10 or 12 stations in other remote parts of the world, will enable measurement of air content and quality in those areas. The measurements so recorded will provide air samples from areas unpolluted by man.
Recommendation No. 5 suggests that urgent consideration be given at both Commonwealth and State levels to ways and means of abating and controlling motor vehicle emissions. It is clear from extensive physical measurements and research carried out since 1969 that motor vehicle emissions, primarily of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and oxidants of lead, constitute the major sources of air pollution in Australia. The danger of serious air pollution from photochemical smog in Australia’s, urban areas appears greater than was anticipated by the Select Committee. Due to concern at the increasing level of air pollution from motor vehicles, the Committee on Motor Vehicle Emissions was established within the Australian Transport Advisory Council. This body, ATAC, advises Commonwealth and State Ministers on uniform legislation governing vehicle safety. The committee on motor vehicle emissions in turn advises ATAC on the standards to be applied to motor vehicle emissions, a role closely concerned with the establishment and maintaining of air quality. Long term improvement in air quality should result from the introduction of these controls on emissions. Similar controls of emissions from diesel vehicles have also been introduced to Australia on the recommendation of the committee on motor vehicle emissions. Growing concern is being expressed at the high content of particulate emissions from motor vehicles. In particular, the hazard from particulate lead has caused the National Health and Medical Research Council and the Australian Environment Council to call for controls on the lead content of petrol.
Recommendation No. 6 suggests that appropriate financial relief by way of taxation concessions be granted to industry and others investing in air pollution control equipment. No special concessional taxation deductions are allowed by the Income Tax Assessment Act for air pollution control equipment. The chapter headed ‘Conclusions and Recommendations’ outlines some, but not all, of the developments which have taken place in the control of air pollution in Australia since the time of the Select Committee’s report. Much remains to be done with respect to emission abatement and control of all sources. The Committee still views the motor vehicle as a source of particular concern as their numbers continue to increase. There are two aggravating factors. Firstly, Australia is a highly urbanised nation where the use of the private motor car in everyday life is virtually universal. Secondly, the greater part of our population and secondary industry is concentrated in large urban areas in the south-east and south-west of the continent. The adoption of a co-ordinated Commonwealth-State approach to the setting and enforcement of stricter emission standards, as described in chapter two of the report, is welcomed.
Further measures should be introduced without delay to reduce the number and concentration of air pollution sources. Such measures might include improved public transport systems with added incentive for their greater use, decentralisation of commercial and industrial activities with attendant planning controls to minimise local pollution, and improved urban traffic flow achieved through careful evaluation of improved secondary road systems and traffic control. The apparent effectiveness of measures already taken to control industrial sources of harmful emissions is encouraging. The development and introduction of an agreed national standard for the design of such systems is a matter for further consideration by Australian air pollution authorities. The Committee particularly notes the imminent establishment of a national air pollution data centre and recommends that the information collated by the centre be readily accessible to interested members of the public.
I think that this highlights what the Committee believes to be a lack of concern. It is perhaps not a lack of concern, because Senator Mulvihill will recall that during the course of our woodchip inquiry we felt that there was a lack of interest in collating data on very significant matters concerned with that particular inquiry. This is another aspect of concern relating to air pollution that we believe needs further consideration and urgent action. The old maxim that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure has particular force for air pollution problems. Close co-ordination by State bodies associated with urban development, environment planning and pollution control is also vital. A notable and encouraging move in this direction was the recent creation of the New South Wales Planning and Environmental Commission.
A new air pollution problem has recently been recognised, namely, the possible threat from two sources to the ozone content of the upper atmosphere. The first source is the fluorocarbon propellant content of the common aerosol can. Some scientific opinion suggests that these substances may rise to the ozone layer of the upper atmosphere which shields the earth from excessive solar ultraviolet radiation. The fluorocarbons may then react chemically with the ozone thus weakening its crucial shielding effect. I noticed earlier this year that the State of Oregon in the United States of America has banned spray cans.
I believe that this ought to be the subject of serious attention by the Federal Government.
The second source is the exhaust emission of high flying supersonic aircraft. This problem is currently under expert study in the United States and Britain. It is the possible effect of continued fluorocarbon emission that generates most concern because if this continues over a number of years it can give serious long term problems to the world. The Committee is of the opinion that the severe potential threat posed to all life from depletion of the ozone layer necessitates continued research to determine the true magnitude of this hazard. The Committee feels that Australia should make a contribution to such international research.
The foregoing discussion highlights some of the environmental effects that can accompany technological change. A multitude of new chemical substances is created each year for use in industry, agriculture and the home, with little thought or testing applied to any possible deleterious effects on the environment. Careful planning within the framework of a soundly based national policy for science should present a valuable safeguard. Further safeguards would be represented by increased and continuing Australian participation in international programs of research, monitoring and exchange of information.
All States as well as the Commonwealth are demonstrating a much greater awareness than was the case in the 1960s. In the area of air pollution evidence is available of a planned and concerted drive by all governments in Australia to minimise pollution. Clean air laws are either in force or in the course of drafting in some form throughout the Commonwealth. Of the measures so far enacted the control of exhaust emission from motor vehicles is of major importance. The passing into law of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974-75 has helped greatly in providing a basis for formalising environmental assessment requirements into statutory power. Section 3 of this Act defines ‘environment’ to include ‘all aspects of the surroundings of man, whether affecting him as an individual or in his social groupings’.
The Standing Committee has received welcome comment upon its review of the 1 969 Select Committee’s report. Such comments are very helpful to a standing committee as they are a means of informing its members. Several new developments in the monitoring and control of air pollution have been pointed out to the Committee, of which it was not aware. In a letter dated 14 September 1976 to the Senate Select Committee on Air Pollution from the Victorian Environment Protection Authority the Acting Chairman stated:
In reviewing this report it is apparent that the Committee cannot have been receiving the Authority’s publications or keeping aware of developments in Victoria.
The following comments are provided with a view to the Committee reconsidering its report and correcting any inaccuracy:
Page 4, recommendation 6- The continuous measurement of air pollutants has already been initiated by the Victorian State authorities as the information is required on a daily basis for their operation. The desirable assistance that this State requires from the Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology is in the area of micrometeorological studies, and to date we have been unable to obtain this assistance although a number of requests have been made to the Bureau.
Page 6, 2.2- Development. The annual conference of air pollution control officers does not constitute a step taken by the Commonwealth to give effect to a recommendation of the Senate Select Committee in 1969. The Commonwealth is a guest at these conferences, which were initiated by New South Wales and Victoria in the early 1 960s.
Pages 8, 2.4- Development. It is understood by the authority that the national air monitoring program is not on behalf of the Australian Environment Council as yet and the national air monitoring program has only been concerned with funding State programs to this stage.
Page 9, (c)- The first paragraph is confusing and we are not aware of any work by the Australian Environment Council towards this end. In the second paragraph it is believed that two monitoring caravans, as from the draft itinerary of the national air monitoring program, will initially be lent to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation rather than the State authorities.
I think that that is worthy of some comment but 1 believe that it is important to register and record the comments that have been brought forward by the Environment Protection Authority of Victoria. Its comments go on as follows:
Page 10, 2.5- Development. In the reference to motor vehicle emission in paragraph 1 the word ‘oxidants’ should not be used. Oxidants are not emitted but are formed due to reactions in the atmosphere. The correct emission description is ‘ nitrogen oxides ‘.
I do not want to start any argument on terminology, but I thought I should make that comment for the benefit of that Authority.
I would like to mention several active bodies in air pollution control in addition to the Victorian Environmental Protection Authority. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation through its Process Technology Division is carrying out research into air pollution. I have examined the environmental impact statement for the third northern power station in South Australia to be built by the Electricity Trust of South Australia at the head of Spencer Gulf, south of the city of Port Augusta. A period of seven to eight years was required to choose the site, design and build another power station. The station is to be fuelled with Leigh Creek coal. Over 80 separate aspects of the effect of the establishment were examined by the State committee which comprised four private citizens, representative of community interests, conservation groups et cetera, and two senior officials from the Electricity Trust of South Australia. They were required to consider the inter-related social environmental, economic and technical aspects of the project.
The matter of chimney emission was treated with special consideration. Their knowledge of past trouble at the northern power stations was of great assistance in their consideration. The State Government recently installed in the A station at the Sir Thomas Playford power station near Port Augusta a device for the electrostatic precipitation of the pollution that emanates from that chimney. I attended its commissioning on 20 May. It has made a remarkable difference to levels of pollution from that source. An examination of the potential threat to the environment by emissions from conventional power stations is rather interesting. Every one in Australia requires over a twelve-month period one kilowatt year of power in order to provide us with energy. This power can be provided by burning three tonnes of coal. This in itself means that no less than five tonnes of carbon dioxide and many kilograms of oxides of nitrogen and sulphur are being emitted into the environment.
Carbon dioxide, although relatively innocent in its effect on the human body, has the effect of increasing the earth’s temperature to a degree where over a protracted period it could mean, will mean and is meaning that the earth’s temperature is increasing. A lot of scientific concern is being expressed about that type of pollution. In the long term, if the earth’s temperature increases we could expect an ice slide of some sort and an increase in the water level. We may have to look around for a Noah’s Ark or something similar in the future. People must bear that in mind. The oxides of sulphur and nitrogen go into the upper atmosphere and can have an additional effect on the ozone layer that is so important as an environmental shield to the earth.
I believe that the Select Committee on Science and the Environment has had an opportunity to study the report of the Select Committee on Air Pollution. It has examined in detail what has happened since that report was presented. I have been encouraged by the fact that some governments- Commonwealth and State- have taken action in some areas that concerned the Committee. I believe that it is vital for Australia to plot the course that it is to take in the field of energy- that is, type, quantity, conservation and technology required. We must make a very careful assessment of the future impact on the environment. A lot has yet to be done. The Commonwealth Government has taken the action which I described earlier. I would like to see that action stepped up in the interests of the future protection of the air environment in Australia. It is so important to the future health of our community.
– As Senator Carrick has indicated that officers from the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development will be present at hearings of Estimates committees the week after next, I will reserve until a future date my comment on this review. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-I present the fourteenth report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter for the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) requesting that Senator Maunsell be discharged from the service of the Standing Committee on National Resources and nominating Senator Scott to be a member in his place.
Motion (by Senator Carrick)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Maunsell be discharged from service on the Standing Committee on National Resources and that Senator Scott, having been duly nominated in accordance with Standing Order 36aa, be appointed to the Committee.
– I have to inform honourable senators that the Assistant Principal Parliamentary Reporter, Mr George Fraser, retires from the parliamentary service today. Mr Fraser worked as a journalist in Sydney for 20 years before coming to Canberra as a Hansard reporter in 1948. Since then he has progressed through all editorial positions up to the one from which he now retires. I am sure I speak for all honourable senators when I say that the Parliament is grateful to Mr Fraser for his long and loyal service and extends to him its best wishes for a happy retirement. Hansard staff changes, consequent upon Mr Fraser’s retirement, include the appointment of Mr John Kerr as Assistant Principal Parliamentary Reporter and the promotion of Mr James Dulihanty to Staff Leader.
- Mr President, I seek the indulgence of the Senate to make some comments on the matter that you have raised.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Government, and I am sure the whole Senate, would want to join with you, Mr President, in acknowledging the services of Mr George Fraser in his very long and very valued contribution to this Parliament. All of us wish him a very happy, very long and healthy retirement. In acknowledging his service which has, as you have described it, been a very lengthy and a very valuable one, may I also pay tribute to Hansard itself because all too often in the institution of Parliament we forget the extraordinarily valuable efforts of those who service us day by day and who have not responded to Oliver Cromwell’s request: ‘Paint me, warts and all’ but who have from time to time- certainly with me- removed the warts when we deserved them left on. I think that all honourable senators would agree that the artistic talents of Hansard are more flattering to most of us than we deserve. We acknowledge the service that the Assistant Principal Parliamentary Reporter, Mr Fraser, has given to the Parliament and we wish him well in his retirement. In paying tribute to Mr Fraser we also pay tribute to Hansard as a whole.
– by leave- I should like to support the remarks made by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) about Mr Fraser I am sure all honourable senators would endorse his remarks about the work that Hansard does. An interesting scenario has arisen because of the names involved in this case. A Mr Fraser on his retirement is being replaced by a John Kerr. In other circumstances that might have promoted an entirely different debate and one which I am sure would have been welcomed by some people, anyway. Nevertheless, I support the remarks of Senator Carrick. On behalf of the Opposition, I wish Mr Fraser well in his retirement.
– Last Thursday, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) asked me a question without notice concerning the use on Tuesday evening of last week of a portion of the members’ dining room in the parliamentary refreshment rooms to supplement guest room accommodation. At various times during the year, a situation arises in the refreshment rooms where the table bookings sought by senators and members in the guest room are considerably higher than this room can accommodate. On these occasions, the overflow from the guest room is accommodated in the private dining room, if this room is not already taken by members for private functions. However, even this practice often does not provide the number of seats that are required, and in this event the members’ dining room has been partitioned by mobile timber screens and the excess accommodated in the part that adjoins the guest room. On the occasion that Senator Wriedt has mentioned, 278 bookings were made for dinner and of these 96 were accommodated in the guest room and 56 in the private dining room. The remaining 126 were provided with seating in the members’ dining room.
I have discussed this matter with my colleague, Mr Speaker. The difficulty arises on major days- for example, the opening of Parliament, the day the Budget is introduced and during school holidays. We are of the opinion that the convenience and comfort of senators and members in their own dining room is of paramount importance and in future it will be ensured that no unreasonable intrusion will be made into the members’ dining room area. However it must be realised that to do so will involve limitation on the number of guests who can be accommodated at those times. In this matter, regard will of course always be given to ensuring satisfactory working conditions for the dining room staff.
– During the debate on the adjournment of the Senate on 18 August, statements were made by Senators McLaren and Melzer in which the powers and functions of the Joint House Committee were questioned and in which complaints were made about the frequency of its meetings and other related matters.
The Joint House Committee has no powers specifically conferred on it. Nevertheless it has long been the practice for a large variety of such matters as the replacement of major services in the building, for example, division bells, boilers and clock systems, the financial accounts of the refreshment rooms, the provision of services and amenities for members and staffs, and a range of matters related to the operations of the refreshment rooms, to be referred to it. In almost all cases the views of the Committee as reflected in its resolutions have been given effect to by the Presiding Officers, in whom resides the responsibility for the administration of the Joint House Department.
The honourable senators also expressed concern at the irregularity of Committee meetings and the lack of time available to permit general discussion. Every effort is made to arrange a meeting of the Committee during each group of three or four sitting weeks. However, this is not always achieved because of unavoidable circumstances. The records show that eight meetings were held in 1975, six in 1976 and four to date this year. I assure the honourable senators concerned that the comments made by them in this connection have been noted and that endeavours will be made to see whether a regular pattern of meetings can be achieved.
Senator Melzer made reference to a female hairdresser, who she said had left, and to the use of the sauna room by ladies. The male hairdresser is continuing to be in attendance each Tuesday and he is competent to attend to ladies’ as well as men’s hairdressing requirements. If there are any problems preventing the use of the sauna room by lady senators efforts will be made to overcome them.
The Joint House Committee has performed a useful function for the Parliament over a long period of time despite its lack of any executive authority. As President of the Senate I recognise that it is a valuable aid in providing Mr Speaker and myself with viewpoints on the matters placed before it and which are of considerable assistance in the day to day administration of this building.
-by leave- I move:
This is an important statement which involves the responsibilities and powers of the Joint House Committee. We may not have properly understood the powers of that Committee. For that reason, I think it is necessary to have the opportunity to debate the statement. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 8.57 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources, upon notice, on 24 May 1977:
– The Minister for National Resources has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Statutory Authorities responsible to the Attorney-General (Question No. 884)
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 25 May 1977:
Are there any statutory authorities responsible to the Minister; if so, (a) what are they, (b) who are the bankers for each authority and (c) which, if any. of the authorities may be termed ‘statutory authorities of a business nature ‘.
– The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (a)-
I am informed their banks are as follows:
None of the authorities are ‘statutory authorities of a business nature’.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 25 May 1977:
– The Attorney-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters, upon notice, on 24 May 1 977:
– The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Public Service Matters has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
How many officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs have attended courses at the Central Intelligence Agency Headquarters at Langley, Virginia, United States of America, in the past 10 years?
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is not the practice of the Government to provide information either by way of confirmation or denial on matters relating to security and intelligence.
United States Central Intelligence Agency: Attendance of Officers of Department of Defence at Courses (Question No. 1046)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 30 May 1977:
How many officers of the Department of Defence have attended courses at the Central Intelligence Agency’s headquarters at Langley, Virginia, United States of America, in the past ten years.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I stand by the practice of neither confirming nor denying speculation or assertion about matters of this kind.
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is contained in the reply to Question No. 895 in the House of Representatives Daily Hansard of 16 August 1977, page 300.
-On 29 March 1977 (Hansard, page 557) Senator Wriedt asked me a question, without notice, concerning the level of solar energy research in universities. In my answer I undertook to make inquiries and to provide him with further information.
I am advised by the Tertiary Education Commission that there are substantial methodological problems involved in collecting information on solar energy research activities being undertaken in universities. These relate particularly to the problem of identifying projects which are concerned exclusively or substantially with research in solar energy as distinct from more fundamental scientific research, and the difficulty of measuring staff time and salary expenditure which can be directly attributed to solar energy research. However, the following information was provided by the universities in response to inquiries earlier this year by the former Universities Commission.
Fourteen of Australia’s 19 universities have indicated that they are involved in some form of research related to solar energy. Of these, the University of Sydney, the University of New South Wales, the University of Queensland, Flinders University and the Australian National University have major commitments to solar energy research.
Information provided by the universities indicates that in 1976 some 83 academic staff were engaged on a full or part-time basis in research which they identified as being related to solar energy. In 1977 the number of academic staff involved has increased to 90. It has not been possible to isolate the salaries of these academic staff members and their support staff and the costs of associated incidental overheads. However identifiable expenditure on the projects from university and outside sources in 1976 was of the order of $495,000. It is estimated that this amount would be at least doubled by the inclusion of the non-identifiable costs.
It is expected that further information on solar energy research activities in universities will become available as a result of a proposed nationwide survey of energy research and development (including the activities of government departments, universities and private companies) to be conducted by the Department of National Resources. The Tertiary Education Commission will be co-operating fully with the Department of National Resources in those aspects of the survey which relate to research in universities and other tertiary institutions.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 August 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770825_senate_30_s74/>.