30th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I inform the Senate that the Treasurer, the Rt Hon. Phillip Lynch, left Australia last Saturday to attend the Commonwealth Finance Ministers meeting in Barbados and the annual meetings of the Board of Governors of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank Group in Washington. He is expected to return to Australia on 5 October. During his absence the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, the Hon. Eric Robinson, will act as Treasurer.
– I present the following petition from 403 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth that:
The Postal and Telecommunications Department have failed in their duty to adequately provide for the Citizen Band Radio Service.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should instruct the Minister for Post and Telecommunications to meet our following requests:
Request for return of all equipment confiscated in Darwin on 28 January 1977 from CB operators maintaining order on the frequence spectrum.
Request for immunity from prosecution until licences are granted.
Request that club call-signs be made official.
Request for the reason why specifications were not made public at the same time as they were given to the manufacturers.
Request for an explanation of the penalties in using the 27MHz band after 1982.
Request for the reason why CB operators have to pay $20 licence fee per set and the amateur operators only pay $ 1 2 licence for any number of sets.
Request for the approved method of obtaining the extra allowable frequencies in the 27MHz band.
Request for the Australian equivalent of the appropriate FCC rules applicable and that they should be printed and made available to the general public.
Request that the 32 kilometre limit be lifted to the Australian geographical limits.
Request that regulations be passed that all CB communications equipment which is approved, be branded by the manufacturers as ‘ P & T approved ‘.
- Request to know if section 6 of the Wireless Telegraphy Act is still in force.
Request that third party messages be allowed.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Mr President, as this petition exceeds 250 words in length I do not propose to ask that it be read.
– I present the following petition from 101 citizens of Australia:
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 it has come to our knowledge that Mrs Joan Kirner, a member of the Schools Commission, has been subjected to grossly unfair and unfounded criticism for carrying out her duties as a member of that Commission.
That this criticism has been aimed at forcing Mrs Kirner to remain silent when we believe it is her duty to speak out.
That Mrs Kirner has the complete confidence of the Australian Council of State School Organisations which body she represents, as well as that of your humble petitioners.
We therefore ask that the Government and the Minister for Education take notice of the splendid work done by Mrs Joan Kirner in her capacity as part-time member of the Schools Commission.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– A petition has been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the delays between the announcements of each quarterly movement in the Consumer Price Index and their application as a percentage increase in age and invalid pensions is excessive, unnecessary, discriminatory and a cause of economic distress.
That proposals to amend the Consumer Price Index by eliminating particular items from the Index could adversely affect the value of future increases in aged and invalid pensions and thus be a cause of additional economic hardship to pensioners.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Missen.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Did the Prime Minister, in a speech delivered on 29 November last year, claim that devaluation rather than overseas borrowings would be made because ‘the Government wanted a figure that would end that uncertainty’? Did the Prime Minister go on to say, ‘coupled with other policies, we believe this decision will lead to strengthening in our international trading position? Does the slump of $209m in Australia’s holding of gold and foreign exchange earnings and the proposal to borrow overseas once again indicate that the uncertainty has worsened in the eyes of the Government and that the Prime Minister was wrong since our trading position, in fact, has deteriorated?
-I cannot recollect the fine details of what the Prime Minister is alleged to have said on29 November last year, the date of my birthday.When people ask me to respond to auestions about rumoured capital flow, I remind tern that I will always answer questions that I am able to answer but I will not answer questions that speculate on currency positions.
– Can the Minister for Education inform the Senate whether there have been any recent incidents which limit the capacity of Australian citizens or others to express views freely in this country to audiences anxious to hear them? Will he set out on behalf of the Government what is meant in this country by the right of free speech? Can he comment on any dangers to our freedoms evident at the present time in some of our tertiary institutions?
-As I understand the question, Senator Baume is referring to several quite nasty incidents which occurred in Melbourne and Sydney universities in recent days arising out of an attempt by a visiting academic to deliver an address on a subject of his own choice following an invitation to do so. I also note from some Press cuttings this morning that Dr Frank Knopfelmacher has indicated some suggestion that he is under some physical threat because of some views that he has expressed. I think all honourable senators will agree that if there is one fundamental principle underlying the practices on university and college campuses it ought to be the total right of people to freedom of expression, whether their views are acceptable or totally odious. I stress that. The maintenance of freedom is not achieved when one believes the views of the other fellow but, as Disraeli said so much better than I long ago, it is preserved when one disagrees with him entirely and, in fact, finds his views objectionable. The fact that the person concerned was not allowed to express his views and that violence of a kind was used to obstruct and break up the meeting is to be deplored. It is a very serious breach of freedom. The same principle of freedom of speech should be observed everywhere in Australia, not only on campuses. It is as vital in a public hall or a street as it is on a campus.
– And in the media.
-It is vital in the media. The right of the public to expect and to get comprehensive and adequate programs in the media with balance and objectivity is real too. I believe that what has happened in recent days, although, thank God rare in Australia, must be a warning to Australians. I repeat that one must not judge all Australian university and college students or academic staffs by misbehaviour of a handful. It is a sad thing that some academic staff and students believe in violence and in the Maoist theory of revolution and violence. It is a sad thing that they give our institutions a bad name but it is now doubly important that those who walk on the campuses and those with authority on the campuses should insist that this freedom be observed. In the past the Government has invited the authorities on the campuses to uphold the rule of law and freedom of speech to ensure that there is no intimidation or threats of violence. I am utterly sure that following these incidents the vice-chancellors of the universities and the principals of the colleges will be doubly armed for the future to do so.
– My question follows the question asked of the Minister representing the Treasurer by my colleague, Senator Wriedt. In view of the fact that the Government has already borrowed $1.6 billion and intends to borrow a further $600m, has the Minister any idea of the Government’s estimate of the overseas borrowings that it will have to make in order to maintain the Australian dollar at the existing level?
– Once again, this is one of those questions which are designed to produce a speculative answer and to which I certainly cannot respond. All I suggest is that borrowing programs are related to the size of the deficit. The deficit has come down markedly from the time of the Labor Government. There is no problem in Australia’s borrowing overseas if it wants to do so. Its credit standing under this Government is one of the highest in the world. It is a matter of overall monetary management. I think that perhaps the honourable senator would understand that.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. I have previously inquired into the question of the likely fulfilment of the quota for the supply of Australian beef to the United States of America. As we are now drawing to the close of the selling year, can the Minister supply or obtain the latest possible figures of his expectations of the final likely quantity to be shipped?
-The honourable senator would understand that that question will need to go on notice if he wants to get an accurate answer. As the shipping year is coming towards its end, one would want to be quite precise about the figures. Of course the honourable senator will be aware that American cattle producers tend to take the view that nobody should have any meat at all admitted into the United States. Equally, imports of Australian meat into the United States are very important to that country because it produces a mix that allows people in that country to buy beef at a reasonable price. I therefore believe that we have a sustained market. The volume of it rests upon two factors- demand in the United States as determined by how the consumers are moving, and the state of supply in Australia and other supplying countries such as the Argentine.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Does the substantial outflow of speculative capital over the last two months indicate that overseas and other investors have no confidence in the Australian dollar and that a further substantial devaluation of the Australian dollar is imminent?
-That is the sort of question I do not answer.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to the Treasurer’s statement in the Budget Speech concerning tax avoidance legislation. When will the Government announce details of proposed changes to the income tax law envisaged by the statement?
-Law to handle this problem is currently under study. The honourable senator would be aware that governments have always had problems in framing laws to defeat the cheats in the tax system. Therefore it has to be done very carefully indeed. But legislation is currently being framed. I should imagine that when it is framed it will need a bit of inspection and check, but we are working towards the principle that we set out to achieve.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I am not calling on him to speculate but rather I am calling on his experience to give us the answers to these questions and to put at ease not only the Senate but also the Australian nation, although I have been told that one who speculates must accumulate. In view of the fact that Australia’s trade account has recorded a small surplus in the period since the November 1976 devaluation, and as there are currently no apparent cries for further devaluation coming from any of the major rural or manufacturing lobbies, can the Minister give any reason for the current growing speculation against the Australian dollar other than that the business community is expecting the Australian inflationary situation to worsen? If not, how does the Minister account for the statement by the Prime Minister on 18 September that the Australian inflation rate is now under control?
-There would be many people who have gone to a race course who would not agree with the honourable senator’s proposition that to speculate is to accumulate. I would say that many of them have ‘decumulated’ at race courses. So the argument is a poor one and does not stand up. Equally the proposition that the business community is talking about higher inflation does not stand up. There have been two recent comments about these things by people and organisations more highly qualified than Mr Hurford. One is W. D. Scott and Co. Pty Ltd, which said that it expected inflation to be at the rate of 6lA per cent by next June. The other is Mr Shrapnel, who was reported in the financial pages of, I think, this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald- & newspaper I commend to honourable senators opposite- as saying that he expected the rate of inflation to be VA per cent by next June. This is at some odds with the comments of that economic wizard- Mr Hurford. Taking all those things together, I think the honorable senator’s series of questions ought perhaps to go on notice. What I am really saying is that on the evidence of probably the most qualified people, including the Government, inflation is clearly on the way down. I think that the proposition that to speculate is to accumulate has been destroyed out of its own mouth. Thirdly, anybody who studies the Australian scene will always find that Australia is a country whose capital flow varies very much because the volume of money coming from exports is inconsistent throughout the calendar year and the imports flow is very varied. So it is subject to what I call ‘a very lumpy’ situation. That is one of the things that one needs to look at when one is looking at the capital flow. What honourable senators opposite ought to do, really, when they wake up in the morning is to calm down.
-Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has asked a question of me in four parts. He has asked me whether I am aware of the nature of the statutes establishing universities. I am very aware of that. Basically the universities and colleges are set up as independent statutory organisations primarily for the protection of their right to academic freedom and inherent in that is the right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Indeed, that is vital to the very institutions themselves. It is true that the Commonwealth Government funds these institutions totally. It is true that, whilst constitutionally the Commonwealth Government has no power, it has a money power. The Commonwealth Government, through myself as Minister for Education, has in fact discussed the matter of freedom of expression and freedom of action on campuses with vice-chancellors and principals. There is quite a clear understanding by those in authority of their absolute responsibility to see that the ordinary laws of the land are enforced. In general terms so they do. All universities have the capacity of any insutution to call upon the elements of law to assist them in this regard.
The honourable senator asks whether there is a total inability to control the events. The events in fact are lesser in number, however significant in their importance, than they have been over the many years. There is in fact a diminishing volume of violence or intimidation at universities and colleges. There is some growing professionalism and expertise and some growing evidence of capacity for finance for these kinds of shows. They are smaller, but often very effective and very formidable. I am bound to say that, in the great majority of universities and colleges, the authorities carry out their duties effectively, primarily because as in all communities the ability of authorities to carry out their duties to enforce the law depends upon the consensus of the communities, and the overwhelming concensus of university and college students is to observe the rule of law. The authorities have not abdicated their responsibilities. They are facing the kinds of challenges that from time to time democracy in itself faces. Democracy is very vulnerable to organised force. But I am an optimist. I believe that democracy in this as in other matters will win out.
– I direct a question to Senator Cotton in his capacity as Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is he aware that the Prime Minister in his weekly talk to his electorate last Sunday asserted that the rate of inflation as measured by what he described as the implicit price defector is now 9.2 per cent? Is the Minister aware that, as shown in table 2 on page 13 of the Budget Papers, there is not one but at least four different implicit price deflators and that none of these is currently running at an annual rate of less than 1 1.3 per cent? Why did the Prime Minister refer to the implicit price deflator when there are at least four of them? Why did the Prime Minister say that measurement shows inflation running at 9.2 per cent when in fact the lowest rate of the four of them is 11.4 per cent?
-I do not represent the Prime Minister; I am not a defector and neither is he. I did not hear the Prime Minister’s broadcast, but I will have a chance to read the actual script. That is always more reliable than what is purported to be a comment on what he said. I shall read it with great interest. Let me make a couple of comments about inflation. I made a comment earlier. We are of the view that there can be no doubt that inflation fell substantially and in line with Government objectives. The increase of just over 9 per cent as cited by the Prime Minister, as the increase in the price deflator, was compared to 1 6.2 per cent last year, June 1 976.
-What deflator? Which one?
– I wish honourable senators opposite would all stop shouting. It is bad for them. They will have heart attacks when they get a little older. We have a kind of screaming position. If Senator Walsh can ask me a question in moderate tones he will get an answer in moderate tones.
– We can never get an answer.
-Senator Keeffe knows nothing about most things, so what distinguishes him from the rest of us is that. A similar marked downward trend is confirmed by the other broad indicators of price change. The single exception being the all-group consumer index -
– I rise to take a point of order. I did not interject on the Minister. I want a withdrawal.
– I am very sorry, Senator. You were not referred to. I will be happy to refer to the honourable senator any time he likes. If he feels that I am going to refer to him offensively he is quite mistaken.
– Is the Leader of the Government aware that the relatively young Premier of Tasmania, Mr Neilson, has, a few minutes ago, announced his intention to resign from the State Parliament and to accept appointment as the Tasmanian Agent-General in London? Is this a further indication of the continuing fracture within the Australian Labor Party? Is it the direct result of the takeover of the ALP in Tasmania by the extremists of the left wing?
– Order! Questions must be asked in areas wherein a Minister has responsibility.
– May I answer the question then, Mr President?
– No. The question has been asked. You may ask a supplementary question if you wish. I call on the Leader of the Government but I say to honourable senators that questions directed to Ministers must be within their ministerial responsibility.
- Mr President, I take a point of order. I was hoping that you would rule Senator Rae’s question out of order. I ask you to indicate in what manner the question is related to the ministerial responsibilities of the Leader of the Government.
– The question is not related to the ministerial responsibilities of the Leader of the Government. I ask Senator Rae to re-phrase his question.
– Yes, Mr President. I ask the Minister: Will the fact of the retirement by the Premier of Tasmania, Mr Neilson, to take up appointment as Agent-General in London for the State of Tasmania as a result of the takeover of the Australian Labor Party in Tasmania by the extremists in the left wing affect in any way the Government’s relationships at the Premiers council in relation to the loan fund?
- Mr President, I have to ask you to rule that question out of order, too. I thought Senator Rae might be faster on his feet but I am afraid he is not.
– I call on the Leader of the Government to answer the question if he feels it is in any way connected with his responsibilities.
-Mr President, I suppose I could try to hang it on the external affairs power, seeing that the honourable gentleman mentioned is alleged to be going to London. I did not know that the Premier of Tasmania had resigned to take up an appointment overseas. That is his business. He must have reasons why he has resigned which he has not yet told me or anybody else. Without trying to be political at all, which I have no desire to be, I must confess it is somewhat of a surprise because, as I understand it, Mr Neilson took his party to an election not very long ago.
– And won.
– Yes. It was not very long ago. I am trying to recall when.
-In December last year. I thought he went to the people on the basts that he was the leader of the party and intended to stay as leader of the party and as Premier. I should have thought that having gone to the people less than 12 months ago, at least he would have stayed on-
- Mr President, I take a point of order. Senator Rae has tried to get across a pretty puerile political point. I must take this opportunity of enlarging upon what Senator Withers has just said. Yes, the Liberal Party did get thrashed at the last election. Its campaign was organised by the same Senator Rae who asked the question. I am sorry that we have got into this particular area because one ought to consider any other factors that pertain to the decision by any politician or public figure to retire or whatever other decision he might take. With great respect to Senator Withers, he would not know all about the facts. I think it is quite wrong that he should canvass the reasons why any person should resign. The implication is that Mr Neilson should have stayed on. I think it is quite out of order.
– I call Senator Mulvihill.
– My question, which is addressed to the Attorney-General, is also on law and order, but of a different kind. I seek information on any legal teeth in the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act which the Government claims will protect Kakadu National Park from the 3,000 people in the proposed Ranger mining town within the park. I ask the Minister: Is he aware that over 100 years ago when the same situation occurred in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the United States Government had to send in Phil Sheridan with his cavalry to protect the Indians’ land from the mining companies? I now ask: Are there any powers in the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act under which the Ranger mining company directors could be gaoled if there is any defilement of the environment in the park? Finally, will such power be under the control of the chief scientist, who I imagine is supposed to have the same power as General Sheridan had?
– I was not aware of these fascinating details of the history of South Dakota, or of the United States for that matter, until Senator Mulvihill was good enough to send me advance notice of the question- perhaps Senator Georges ought to take note of that fact. I am grateful to have information on such a colourful side of American history. Unfortunately, we have disbanded the Light Horse and I am afraid we will not be able to take the sort of action that General Sheridan was able to take 100 years ago. Nevertheless, in answer to Senator Mulvihill, in modern terms there are some teeth in the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act passed by this Parliament in 1975. Regulations may be made under that Act. They have not yet been made, but undoubtedly regulations will be made to deal with the management of the park and the enforcement of the rules of management of the park. The Act provides fines of up to $5,000, or fines of $1,000 for each day on which there are breaches of the regulations. The sort of regulations that would be contemplated in areas like this no doubt would deal with questions of camping in the park, polluting the waters in the area, the use of weapons, firearms, traps and that sort of thing. Those are matters which are yet to be actually included in the regulations, but I give by way of example the sort of things I would expect to be included. As far as the matter of teeth is concerned, I repeat that the Act lays down very substantial fines for breaches of regulations.
Another section of the Act confers upon a warden the power of arrest without warrant- no doubt General Sheridan did not have any warrants, so perhaps there is a similarity- where the warden reasonably believes that a person has committed an offence against the Act. The Government has also announced its intention to amend the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act to enable the Director of National Parks and Wildlife to enforce environment protection provisions by way of injunction. That legislation, along with other legislation arising out of the Government’s announcements on these matters will be coming forward during this session.
As far as the supervising scientist is concerned, again legislation will be introduced governing his role. However, as my colleague Mr Newman announced, his position will be more that of a supervisor. He will perform a supervisory and integrating role over research and monitoring programs and giving advice rather than being an executive officer. The executive officers under the regulations will be the Director of National Parks and Wildlife and his wardens.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. I appreciate all the information that I have been given, but will the Minister indicate whether, in consultation with the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development and the Minister for the
Northern Territory, who are primarily responsible, he will give consideration to requiring that it will be the chairman of the board of directors and not the site engineer who will face gaol for any breach of the regulations?
-That is a matter of who in fact is responsible for any breach of the regulations. I will certainly pass on to my colleague the point Senator Mulvihill has made and we will take those matters into consideration when the regulations are being drafted.
– My question, directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, concerns youth employment. All independent government bodies such as the Commonwealth Banking Corporation each year budget for an intake of school leavers as trainees. Ultimately those bodies account to the Government for their profits. For example, to 30 June 1975 the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, after allowing for contingencies and tax, made a profit of $ 15.75m. Last year its profit was $35.9m. It is anticipated this will be increased very substantially by 30 June 1977. 1 ask: Is the Minister prepared to request independent government bodies to budget for a substantial increase in their intake of trainees for 1978 to help keep down the numbers of unemployed school leavers?
– I have been asked a number of questions about the Government’s policy on trainees. I think Senator Bishop has asked a number of such questions.They have been concerned primarily with the Public Service. The answers I have given have been in relation to policies of the Public Service Board. I do not need to repeat them. This question deals with a wider area of government employment. I will pass this question on to the Minister whom I represent and endeavour to obtain an up-to-date reply from him as to the Government’s policy on this matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I remind the Minister of the announcement made by the Prime Minister on the Government’s decision on uranium mining. My question follows very closely on the question that was asked by Senator Martin last Wednesday. The Prime Minister said:
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.
I ask the Minister Is it not true, as stated by the recent United States congressional inquiry on nuclear energy costs, that in the United States alone over 7 1 million gallons of high level radioactive waste is currently being temporarily stored in two localities in the United States and that thousands of tons of other radioactive waste has also accumulated over the last 30 years? Further, did not the Director of the Energy Research and Development Administration’s energy and minerals division state:
No permanent safe storage method has yet been built to contain the waste.
Does not this information recently announced in the United States make a mockery of the assumptions this Government made of waste disposal when it announced its decision on uranium? In the light of this startling new evidence, is the Goverment likely to reconsider its decision? If not, does this indicate that the Government does not care about such matters and it is only after the revenue from Australian uranium projects?
-I do not know whether the Hansard of the Estimates Committee’s hearings are out yet but I think it was Estimates Committee A which last Thursday dealt with the estimates for the Department of National Resources. A couple of the honourable senator’s colleagues asked questions of members of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission at that inquiry. I would commend not only to Senator Coleman but also to all honourable senators that they should read those questions and answers as they are set out in the Estimates Hansard. I have forgotten the names of the two gentlemen who were at the hearing but they are experts in their own field.
- Dr Miles was one.
-That is so. Basically what he was saying is that anybody who is worried about the storage of nuclear wastes- people whom I describe in this place as ‘flat eathers and luddites’- should not worry. He was specifically asked questions -
– By me.
-Yes, and it was interesting that you gave up questioning him after a while because he was making such a goat of you. It was marvellous to see. The particular question arising out of what was alleged to be in the United States congressional report was put to the witnesses by one of the members of the Committee and they said that they would go away, study the report and let the Committee have a considered answer.
– What about the-
-Do not get excited. From what I recall, the gentlemen were saying that in fact there is a safe method of storage of nuclear waste. In fact the vitrification, if that is the correct word and I am quoting it correctly, is known. It has been known for a long time. It is totally safe.
– It has not been used.
-It has been used.
– It is known that 71 million gallons of high level radioactive waste-
-This is one of the things that fascinates me about the whole uranium debate. Everybody seems to get into the act except those who have some expertise in the nuclear area.
– What are you running away from?
-It is like the position in respect of education. Everybody claims to be an expert on education just because he went to school. I suppose that everybody is an expert on nuclear energy because he has a luminous dial on his watch. That is about the standard of debate that we are getting in the community. As I recall what the witnesses said before the Committee, it was that to date it had been uneconomic to carry out this process in a full scale program. But the technology is known. It is safe. It has been proven. There is no doubt about that.
– It is not.
-If the honourable senator would rather put her views above those of people who are expert in this area, she is quite entitled to do so. I would prefer to take the views of people who have had years of experience in this subject. They spend the time they can afford consulting their colleagues around the world who work in the same area. If I want to know something about an illness that I have, I go to a doctor. I do not go to a politician.
– Or a vet.
-Veterinarians are all right. They are used to dealing with people. The key to the question seems to be the honourable senators excitement about all these millions or thousands of gallons of nuclear waste. I suggest that the honourable senator should wait until I get an answer from the Atomic Energy Commission. It will be a scientific answer and not a political one.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health say what proportion of all pharmaceutical prescriptions was for sedatives and what proportion was for tranquilisers? Has the percentage in each instance increased or decreased?
– I understand from the Minister for Health that for the year 1976-77 pharmaceutical benefit prescriptions for the tranquiliser group of drugs represented 4.9 per cent of total prescriptions and that the sedative and hypnotic group represented 3.3 per cent of total prescriptions. This showed a decrease over the figures for 1975-76 when the percentages for these groups were 5.7 per cent and 4.1 per cent respectively.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, refers to the arrangement that the Minister’s Department had with the Public Service Board that staff ceiling levels are reviewed each three months. Is it a fact, as reported in the Press on the weekend, that the Public Service Board or the interdepartmental committee on staff ceilings considerably pruned the staff numbers requested by the Minister before submitting them to the Prime Minister? If so, can she tell us why this was done?
– I am not able to say from my own knowledge what advice was given by the Public Service Board to the Prime Minister. It is a fact that throughout the past year my Department has been working closely with the Public Service Board requesting staff to do some of the additional work that needed to be done in the Department and to maintain services in it. But I am unable to state what information was given by the Public Service Board to the Prime Minister.
-Mr President, I wish to direct a supplementary question to the Minister for Social Security. Is the Minister telling the Senate that in fact she does not know what the Public Service Board recommended to the Prime Minister for her Department’s staff ceilings after she had requested that the staff ceilings be increased?
– As I recall the question posed to me by Senator Grimes, it asked me for what reason the Public Service Board had not advised the Prime Minister of the staff requested by me. If that is not the purport of the question asked of me, that is the way in which I responded to it. I am aware of the staff that was given to us as a result of the recommendations of the Public Service Board to the Prime Minister, but I am not aware of any background information that might have been given by the Board to the Prime Minister. If that is not the way in which the question was asked I respond by saying that the Department received additional staff throughout the year on the recommendation of the interdepartmental committee through the Public Service Board and the Prime Minister. As it is a continuing process of requesting staff for varying duties that are to be done, there are still requests before the Board. The review of the Department which will enable it to put forward its present needs has now commenced.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources. The Minister will be aware of a statement by Mr Bob Hawke at the conclusion of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Congress last week which included, among other matters, a threat to block exports under existing uranium contracts if the Government refuses the request of the ACTU for a referendum on the issue of the mining and export of uranium. The Minister will be aware also that there are inconsistencies between the policies of the ACTU, as announced by Mr Hawke, and the policies of the Australian Labor Party, also announced by Mr Hawke, following the Australian Labor Party Conference in Perth earlier this year. Can the Minister say what effect the blocking of exports under existing contracts would have on Australia’s credibility as a trading nation and on her capacity to honour commitments under existing commercial contracts?
– What about Fraser Island?
-From his interjection it is evident that Senator Walsh does not agree with the Government’s decision on Fraser Island. In answer to Senator Tehan, I think it is fair to say that the consequences of Australia’s failure to honour this contract would be obvious. We are talking about Australia’s contracts. Any nation’s reputation and success as a trading nation must be built on reliability and dependability. Our customers must know that when we enter into a contract we will honour that contract. In the case of uranium, the contracts in question were approved by the former Liberal Country Party Government and supported by the Whitlam Government when it was in office. In fact, the Whitlam Government gave the strongest assurances to other countries that Australia would supply them with uranium. The only countries I know of which take the view that international undertakings and commitments of one government need not be honoured by the next are the communist countries where power has been seized by revolution. Yet that is the sort of attitude that some people in the Labor Party in Australia are taking on uranium contracts. While we are on the subject of uranium I have had brought to my attention the answer given to an earlier question asked by Senator Coleman. I commend to Senator Coleman and honourable senators page 487 of the Hansard record of Senate Estimates Committees A, C and D of Thursday, 15 September.
– My question is directed to Senator Withers. Is it not a fact that in his statement to the Parliament some weeks ago the Prime Minister said that an Australian Government would reserve the right to cease the export of uranium in future if it saw fit to do so? I ask the Minister: Does that include any contractual arrangements Australia might enter into in future?
-If Australia enters into an arrangement to export uranium subject to certain safeguards and conditions and those conditions are not met, it is the other country which has put an end to the contract. I should have thought that anybody would know that is the simplest form of breaking a contract, where the purchaser and not the vendor breaks the contract. The Australian Labor Party is proposing that without any wrongful action at all by the purchaser, the vendor has the right to put an end to a contract at any time the vendor sees fit. I think that is deplorable.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Science. I refer to studies undertaken, as reported in the Natural Resources Journal of January 1977, which conclude that the utilisation of Antarctic icebergs as a fresh water source is a technical and economic proposition and is environmentally acceptable. In view of the tremendous productivity that could result from the use of such vast amounts of fresh water in arid and semi-arid regions of Australia, are any studies or projects being considered to utilise Antarctic waters in Australia?
– I am not familiar with the article which the honourable senator has mentioned, although there have been a number of articles and Press statements over recent years relating to the towing and delivering of icebergs.
My recollection is that there were two reports in 1973 relating to proposals for the delivery of icebergs to various countries. In May 1976 the Academy of Science produced quite a comprehensive report which indicated that, following a great deal of investigation, it would be possible to make use of the resource. Usually it is the mineral reserves or fish or some other marine life in the Antarctic that are discussed, but the honourable senator has raised a question which undoubtedly will be significant in future years. It may be interesting for honourable senators to note that true icebergs are basically fresh water. Although they may have floated in the sea for some time, they are basically fractured sections of the ice shelf in the Antarctic.
– We learnt that in fourth grade at school. This happens to be the Senateyou know, the national Parliament.
-Senator Wriedt again comes in. It annoys him greatly that he does not seem to be able to grasp some of these matters a little above the level of fourth grade. I fully understand that that is quite likely. This matter is interesting because the great volume that exists in icebergs makes it possible, even with the loss from towing them through warmer waters, for an enormous volume still to be delivered. It is of interest that the report of the Australian Academy of Science indicated that there are probably only three countries that would be able to utilise fresh water from icebergs. They are South America, Africa and Australia. It is important that Australia has a potential to be the user of this type of resource. The Senate will be interested to know- I know that Senator Wriedt probably knows this and I am sorry to mention it- that there came onto my desk today information that there is a proposal for an international conference on this matter. It is to be the first international conference on iceberg utilisation. It will be held between 2 and 6 October 1977. The Department of Science has been requested to send a man who is probably one of the world’s greatest glaciologists, an Australian- Dr Buddwho is a part of the Antarctic Division under the Department of Science. I am hoping that one of the gentlemen from that Division will be able to attend this conference. So, in response to the honourable senator’s question, we will have much greater information in the future.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. I refer to the actions of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic
Affairs against certain Chinese. Did the police raid public places and arrest a substantial number of people? Did the police subsequently interrogate these people and detain a small number for breaches of the Immigration Act? Does the Government condone such dragnet operations which catch the innocent as well as the guilty? Will the Minister accept that this method is totally unacceptable in an Australian community and cannot be justified because only an ethnic community is involved?
– I understand from the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs that on the night of 18 September officers of the Department of Immigration, in co-operation with officers of the Commonwealth Police, visited the premises of the Tak Lee Club and the Fook Lee Club in Melbourne. As a consequence of these visits 10 people, comprising nine males and one female, have been taken into custody as prohibited immigrants. They had entered Australia as visitors and remained illegally beyond the period of their authorised stay. Reports on these people will be submitted to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs shortly to enable him to decide whether they should be deported.
There is cause for some concern at the present time that people associated with the Triads Society’s activities may have entered Australia. The Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has developed expertise in this difficult area and continues to collate information on the subject both from within Australia and from immigration services overseas. There is the closest co-operation with the Australian police forces which, of course, have the primary task of dealing with any offences which may be committed by Triads members in this country. I understand that the Acting Commissioner of the Commonwealth Police has reported on this matter and has stated that on 18 September officers of the Commonwealth Police and immigration officers in possession of search warrants under the Migration Act visited the clubs which I mentioned earlier and that 45 suspected prohibited immigrants were taken to Commonwealth Police headquarters, of whom 34 were released and 1 1 were lodged at the immigration detention centre. The question of further action in respect of these persons is under consideration by the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Inquiries are being conducted by the Commonwealth Police to assess the nature and extent of any criminal activities that may be involved in this particular case and the recent case in Sydney. I have no comments to make on the other two questions that were raised with regard to these raids. I will refer those questions to the Ministers concerned and see whether any further information is to be given in response to them.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. On AM yesterday- 19 September- Mr Chris Hurford, the Australian Labor Party’s spokesman on economic affairs claimed that the calculation of the present rate of inflation at 9.2 per cent distorts the fact that the rate of inflation is upward at the present time and also it is just completely misrepresenting the situation to suggest that the first aim of the Government, namely, to reduce inflation, has been successfully tackled. In view of the fact that it appears that the rate of inflation has been almost halved in less than two years, I ask: What is the present situation in regard to the rate of inflation as seen by the Government?
-I think that I suggested in responding to a number of earlier questions that in my view Mr Hurford was wrong. The figures given by me indicated that the comparative figure on the same basis was running at, I think, 16.2 per cent for the 1976 calendar year whereas it is now down to 9 per cent for the 1 976 calendar year, using what is called the implicit price deflator. A number of people are acting as soothsayers in the world of inflationary trends. I have maintained for some time in this place that the general inflationary trend is down. I have suggested that it is better to get more accurate figures established and to measure the situation more adequately through time. I do not respond to what I call ‘speculative comment’ on inflation and have never done so. But there are a number of people who are regarded as competent and who are observing that the inflation rate is down. I mentioned some of them earlier. W. G. Scott and Co. Pty Ltd has said that it believes that the rate will be about 6Vi per cent by June of next year, which I think is a forecast that is on the optimistic side. It was noted by Mr Shrapnel that he believed that the rate would be 7Vi per cent. They are at some variance with Mr Hurford. I suggest that honourable senators consider carefully whether Mr Hurford knows what he is talking about.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I ask: Is it not a fact that much of the confusion at the present time about the rate of inflation is caused by the Government itself not clearly defining the means by which it determines the rate of inflation? Is there more than one implicit price deflator? If there is, will he tell us what it is? Will he also tell us how it differs from the consumer price index method and which of the two methods the Government will observe in future for obtaining the rate of inflation?
-I think it would be useful to have some clear definition of this matter. Therefore the question should go on notice.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, refers to the recent attack on the military attache at the Indian High Commission. The Minister may remember that some months ago I asked a question relating to protection given to the Indian High Commissioner and his officers as a result of previous harassment of members of the Indian diplomatic staff in Canberra. What protection was given to officers of the Indian High Commission prior to the recent attack on the Indian military attache? What protection is now given?
-The alleged attack on Colonel Singh last week indicates that protection was obviously inadequate, but steps are being taken to make certain that in future it will be adequate.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to the latest Bureau of Statistics quarterly estimates of national income and expenditure which indicate that the percentage upward change in rent from the June quarter 1976 to the June quarter 1977 has been a mammoth 19.4 per cent, more than 5 per cent higher than the increase for total non-durables. Does the Government view this figure as reflecting increases in council rates following the failure of the Fraser Government to maintain Federal Government expenditure to local government at least as high in real terms as the last Whitlam Budget, or does the Government believe that it reflects the failure of its housing policies? In view of the express changes of economic policy by Mr Fraser, will the Government make available to the Parliament its estimation of the number of those unemployed who could be gainfully re-employed under an increased public spending program?
-I do not know to which particular set of figures the honourable senator is referring. All I have before me at the moment are the national account figures issued seasonally adjusted on 8 September 1977. They are much too extensive to try to comment on here. The significant factors as I read them were expressed in these words:
In 1976 as a whole real GNP of all OECD countries is estimated to have increased by 5.2 per cent over 1975. For Australia the increase was 4.2 per cent.
From that I draw the simple conclusion that economic growth had returned in 1976 and it was declining in 1975.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Administrative Services and remind him that this week is National Library Week. Is the Minister aware of the recommendation of the Committee of Inquiry into Public Libraries that $19m be allocated last year to bring libraries throughout Australia, particularly those run by local government, to a reasonable standard? Is it a fact that no money was set aside either last financial year or this financial year for this purpose? When can the Australian people expect action by the Government to improve library services throughout Australia?
-As I have informed a great number of honourable senators and honourable members in the other place, the Government as yet has not made a decision on the Horton Committee of Inquiry’s report. When the Government makes a decision I will announce it.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer by reminding him that in answer to a question I asked last Thursday, 15 September, he stated:
I think that the latest inflation rate that has been established is about 10.2 per cent per annum.
The Budget Papers, I think, set it as 10.5 per cent per annum. Did the Prime Minister state on Sunday, 18 September, that the current inflation rate is now 9.2 per cent- a dramatic reduction of one per cent in three days? As this is impossible, will the Minister indicate which is the correct inflation rate figure? Who advised the Minister to say on 1 5 September 1977 that the inflation rate was 10.2 per cent? Who advised the Prime Minister to say on 18 September 1976, three days later, that the inflation rate was 9.2 per cent? Can the Minister say whether the Department of Defence does in fact work on an inflation rate of 24 per cent on delayed orders? Will the Minister undertake to obtain the correct inflation figures and pass on the details to the Parliament?
– If I remember correctly, I undertook to ask for the answer to Senator Keeffe ‘s supposition about the Department of Defence assumptions. The 10.2 per cent rate was one I assumed out of my state of knowledge at the time. It demonstrates how very conservative and honest I am in not over-estimating figures.
-I draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the gallery of a delegation from the Justice Committee of the Swedish Parliament, led by the Chairman, Mrs Astrid Kristensson. On behalf of honourable senators, I extend to members of the delegation a warm welcome and hope that their visit to Australia will be a very pleasant one indeed.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
– In accordance with the provisions of the Comonwealth Banks Act 1959, I lay on the table the annual reports and financial statements of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, the Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia, the Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia and the Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia, together with the AuditorGeneral’s reports thereon for the year ended 30 June 1977.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 18 of the Wheat Research Act 1957, 1 present the annual report on the operations of that Act during the year ended 31 December 1976.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the text of a statement by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications on the Government’s decision to accept Telecom’s recommendation in respect of new generation local telephone switching equipment.
– Pursuant to section S3 of the Overseas Telecommunications Act 1946 I present the annual report of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission for the year ended 31 March 1977.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Tertiary Education Commission- Recommendations for 1978.I seek leave to make a brief statement relating to this report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Tertiary Education Commission has made this report in response to the Government’s guidelines for the rolling triennium 1978-80 which I announced on 3 June 1977. The report sets out the Commission’s recommendations for grants to universities, colleges of advanced education and technical and further education institutions for 1978 totalling $ 1,169.7m, expressed in December 1976 cost levels. In preparing its recommendations, the Commission has taken into account the advice received from the Universities Council, the Advanced Education Council and the Technical and Further Education Council. The advice given by each of the Councils is incorporated in the report.
The total program of $1,1 69.7m is compared with the 1977 program of $1, 158.5m in a table, which, with the approval of the Senate, I will have incorporatedin Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
Honourable senators will recall from my statement of 3 June 1977 that the principal elements of the guidelines for the base programs for 1978 were the maintenance in real terms of the 1977 level of expenditure for universities and colleges, plus an additional $3.1m to cover increased responsibilities for recurrent support of certain non-government teachers colleges and an increase of 10 per cent in real terms in the base program for technical and further education. The table reflects the Commission’s acceptance of the recommendations of its councils except for small adjustments to capital expenditure for each sector. This transfer arises from the Commission’s review of capital projects required by the guidelines and represents its estimate of likely cashflow for the building program in the advanced education sector in 1978. In making this adjustment, the Commission has departed from the advice of the Advanced Education Council by providing for a lesser rate of expenditure on capital projects in 1978 by $5m, but has not varied the list of projects recommended by the Council. It has also increased the estimated expenditure on university capital projects by $2m to provide a building for student and staff facilities and administration at Deakin University, and has added $3m for technical college buildings in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
The grants recommended for 1978 for universities and colleges provide for some 308,000 students in total, an increase of 9,000 or 3 per cent over 1977. In accordance with the guidelines, proposed intakes are being stabilised but total student numbers will continue to increase due to the effect of the substantial growth in intakes in earlier years. Total enrolments in technical and further education institutions are estimated to increase by 9.2 per cent in 1978. However, for these institutions, the Commission’s recommendations do not relate to a precise level of enrolments. These institutions are mainly funded by the States and the Commission comments that it sees its role, in supporting them, as enabling a more rapid provision of the necessary physical resources and improvement of the quality and efficiency of teaching.
In making firm recommendations for the year 1978 only, the Tertiary Education Commission has deferred recommendations about certain matters in the guidelines until it presents a further report early in 1978. This report will constitute Volume I of the Commission’s report for the 1 979-8 1 triennium and will contain advice on the funds required for tertiary education for those three years. Within the context of advice on the co-ordination and development of tertiary education over that period, the Commission intends to comment on a number of matters, including supply and demand for teachers, the completion of the review of advanced education building projects, the Australian Maritime College, the review of capital contribution for nongovernment teachers colleges and forward trends in the provision of opportunities for tertiary education. As I have previously indicated to the Senate, I accept that this is an appropriate course for the Commission to follow and I see the next report from the Commission as a significant contribution to the consideration the Government will give to the formulation of fresh guidelines for the rolling triennium to commence in 1979.
The report of the Tertiary Education Commission, which has just become available in its printed form, is being passed to the States for their consideration. The Government will consider the report in detail and announce its decision as soon as possible.
That is, the levels of 1 977- as a result of the changes to cost supplementation arrangements in 1978.
Paragraph 2.8 of the report reads:
Since Commonwealth expenditure on technical and further education is relatively small, the net effect has been to restrain total spending on tertiary education to a lower figure than had been originally indicated in the ‘Guidelines for 1 977-79 Rolling Triennium ‘.
So we see two examples of the Commission in fact saying that the Government has brought down guidelines under which there will obviously be a reduction in real terms in spending in the tertiary sector. In paragraph 2.10 the Commission states:
Universities and colleges will therefore be under significant pressure to achieve economies in order to maintain their activities within their constrained finances.
Again we have evolving a picture of another section of education under very significant restraint by the present Government. This Government has been following the practice of previous Liberal governments of cutting expenditure on public capital works. In this case the cuts have been more extreme than cuts by any other government since the war. We are all familiar now with the disastrous effects on the building and construction industry throughout the whole of this country. In addition, opportunities to develop the necessary public works have been lost. In the field of education opportunities to provide much needed buildings are being passed by. In paragraph 2.12 on page 12 of the report the Commission refers to this when it says:
Thus the impact of the elimination of growth in spending for universities and colleges of advanced education has fallen on building programs.
In paragraph 2.16 the Commission follows this up by saying:
In accordance with the requirements under the Guidelines, the Commission has been carrying out a review of the advanced education building program. This has inevitably meant some delay in the commencement of certain projects.
The result is that certain essential programs in both universities and colleges will be further delayed as a result of Government policy. It is no wonder that people in these areas are expressing alarm. As the Commission points out, there are certain priority building projects which would be highly desirable to start in 1978 but they cannot be started because of the lack of funds. The effect of this is that the buildings which could have been built comparatively more cheaply in 1978 will now be more expensive when they are eventually constructed. It is quite clear that the tertiary sector has been placed in a straightjacket.
I will not quote many more of these paragraphs because we will, of course, have a further opportunity to debate the report but in view of the statement that the Minister for Education has put down I think it is important that we consider just these few essential points. The Tertiary Education Commission states in paragraph 2.27 of its report:
The Commission believes that the time has come for consolidation in this sector and will be reluctant to approve new courses for 1978 unless there is a strong case for them and they can be mounted without requiring additional financial resources.
Is not it clear that the Commission, this new body which has been given the task of an overall view of tertiary education in Australia, is expressing its great concern about what this will mean to the tertiary sector of education? If we combine this report with the report that we received from the Schools Commission only a fortnight ago, we can now see from two impartial bodies the extent to which this Government is prepared to cut education spending in this country to the detriment of all children whether they attend government schools or non-government schools or are students at tertiary institutions.
I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that we in the Opposition have roundly condemned the Government for its approach to education. We will continue to do so whilst it continues these cuts in education. I might mention also, just as a final comment, that it is interesting to note what the Minister said in the last paragraph of his statement. He says:
The report of the Tertiary Education Commission, which has just become available in its printed form, is being passed to the States for their consideration. The Government will consider the report in detail and announce its decisions as soon as possible.
I find that an amusing statement for the Minister to make. The States know full well from the conference of State Education Ministers that took place in June of this year what they are in for in respect of tertiary education, namely, that they will be required to finance a very sizeable proportion of the total tertiary education spending in this country in the years ahead. I am quite sure, as the Minister himself knows, that he will not have any State on his side- whether it be a Labor State or a Liberal State. It means, in effect, that the Government intends to press on to depress the standards of tertiary education in Australia simply to force on the States its socalled new federalism policy. Mr President, I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 40 of the Industrial Research and Development Incentives Act 1976, 1 present the annual report of the Australian Industrial Research and Development Incentives Board for 1976-77 together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Productivity.
-by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the papers.
Mr President, I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to :
That the sitting of the Senate be suspended until a quarter past ten p.m. or such other time as the President may take the chair to enable the Estimates Committees C, E and F to meet.
– The sitting of the Senate is suspended until a quarter past ten p.m. or such other time as the President may take the chair to allow Senate Estimates Committees C, E and F to meet. Senate Estimates Committee C will meet in the Senate chamber, Senate Estimates Committee E will meet in the Senate committee room
No. 1 and Senate Estimates Committee F will meet in Senate committee room No. 5. The bells will be rung for 3 minutes prior to the sittings of the committees.
Sitting suspended from 3.55 to 10.15 p.m.
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 Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
If the Senate is agreeable, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment of capital grants to the States in 1977-78 totalling $477,933,000. This amount represents the grant component of the Loan Council program for State governments in 1977-78, and is one-third of the total program of $l,433.8m agreed at the 1 July 1977 Loan Council meeting. The Bill also provides for the payment of capital grants in the first six months of 1 978-79 up to an amount equal to one-half of the 1977-78 amount, pending passage of legislation to authorise grants in 1978-79. Payments authorised under this Bill may be made from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or from the Loan Fund, and appropriate borrowing authority is included. This is consistent with past practice.
These grants represent a continuation of arrangements initiated by the Liberal-Country Party Government in June 1970, which provided that portion of the State governments’ Loan Council programs should take the form of interest-free non-repayable grants in lieu of what would otherwise be interest-bearing borrowings by the States. The effect of the grants is to relieve the States of debt charges which they would otherwise have to pay, and the grants accordingly have a substantial beneficial effect on the States’ financial positions. The grants were introduced to help the States finance works such as schools, police buildings and the like from which debt charges are not normally recovered. The States are, however, entirely free to apply these grants as they choose and no terms or conditions are attached to them.
Turning to the details of the Bill, clause 3 authorises the payment of grants to the States totalling $477,933,000 in 1977-78 and clause 4 authorises the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) to make advance payments in the first six months of 1978-79 at the same annual rate as in the current financial year. The amounts payable to each State are set out in the Schedule to the Bill. Clause 5 of the Bill provides for payments to be made either from Consolidated Revenue Fund or Loan Fund and clause 9 provides for the necessary appropriation of these funds. The extent to which the payments will be met from Loan Fund will depend in part on the level of government borrowings during the year, and this cannot be precisely estimated at this point. Finally, on the details of the Bill, clauses 6 and 7 authorize the Treasurer to borrow funds in the period from the commencement of the Act to the end of December 1978, up to the total of the amounts of the grants payable in 1977-78 and in the first six months of 1978-79. This borrowing authority will be reduced by the amount of any borrowings made before the enactment of this Bill, under the authority of the States Grants (Capital Assistance) Act (No. 2) 1976, which may have been used to finance grants made in the first six months of 1977-78.
I turn now to the general context in which this Bill is being introduced. The grants which are the subject of this Bill are, as I said, part of the State governments’ Loan Council programs and these programs are in aggregate to increase by 5.7 per cent in 1977-78. Those who choose to ignore the overall context might criticise this rate of increase as being low. A proper assessment, however, would take into account the overall level of untied funds provided to the States and their authorities from the Commonwealth Budget.
Total general purpose payments to the States together with the State government Loan Council programs are estimated to increase by no less than $685. lm or 14 per cent in 1977-78. Local government authorities’ share of personal income tax collections will be $ 165.3m in 1977-78, 18.1 per cent more than last year.
It is also relevant that the Loan Council program for the States’ semi-government authorities has been increased by $204m or 2 1 .3 per cent in 1977-78. 1 commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wriedt) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.17 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circula
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 3 May 1 977:
Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the statement by the President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, contained in his Annual Report for the year ended 13 August 1976, that achievements in the publication of Commonwealth Arbitration reports are threatened by shortages of staff and equipment; if so,
I ) what are the extent and nature of these shortages,
what effect are they having on the publication of the reports concerned,
whose responsibility is it that these shortages have occurred, and
what action is being taken, if any, to remedy the situation.
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am aware of a statement by the President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission contained in the Twentieth Annual Report for the year ended 13 August 1976 to the effect that achievements in the field of Commission publications were threatened by shortages of staff and equipment.
The cautionary note sounded by the President is appreciated. However, the staffing and equipment requirements of the Commission have been subject to continuous review and, if shortages in either respect were to threaten the Commission’s operations, immediate action would be taken to meet such threats.
Inter-Country Friendship Associations: Membership by Service Officers (Question No. 1066)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 1 June 1977:
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 17 August 1977:
Has the Australian Bureau of Statistics found it necessary to re-calculate population statistics for all Australian local government areas after checks showed an error of nearly 3 per cent in figures based on the 1976 Census; if so, how did the error occur in the original calculation.
-The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
At the 1976 Census the amount of under-enumeration revealed by a post-enumeration survey was found to be greater than in previous censuses, and it was decided that it was large enough to justify the enumerated census figures being adjusted. Under-enumeration is common to all censuses, both in Australia and overseas. The degree of understatement in 1976 was not high by international standards; for Australia as a whole it was 2.7 per cent, compared with, for example, 2.5 per cent in the United States census of 1970. The decision to adjust the census figure was made in order to provide the best available measure of population. Appropriate adjustments are being made to population figures for local government areas.
Medibank: Inquiries in Mossman Area (Question No. 1128)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Helmeted Honey-eater: Preservation of Habitat (Question No. 1135)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The land listed in the schedule to this Agreement represents the sole remaining habitat of the helmeted honeyeater and following acquisition the land will be classified as a State faunal reserve.
The financial assistance provided to Victoria under the agreement is an amount that is not less than two thirds of the amount expended by the State upon the acquisition of the land, or $ 1 , 250,000, whichever is the lesser.
New South Wales-
Violet Hill, Myall Lakes
Limebumers Creek Nature Reserve
Mallacoota Inlet National Park
Mt Richmond National Park
Yellingbo Faunal Reserve
Eubenangee Swamp National Park
Crows Nest Falls National Park
Lamington National Park
Murray ‘s Lagoon
Pike River Gurra Gurra Lakes
Coffin Bay Peninsula
Yalgorup National Park
Cape Le Grande National Park
Nambung National Park
Lavinia Nature Reserve (King Island)
Labillardiere Peninsula and Partridge Island
Three Hummock Island
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 16 August 1977:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Marijuana: Possession and Sale in the Australian Capital Territory (Question No. 1249)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, upon notice, on 24 August 1977:
How many persons in the Australian Capital Territory have, in each of the last five years, been charged with (a) possession of, and (b) sale of or trafficking in, marijuana.
– The Minister for the Capital Territory has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 8 September 1977:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Women’s Advisory Body Working Party
-On 25 August 1977 (Hansard, page 513) Senator Thomas asked Senator Withers, as Minister representing the Prime Minister, a question without notice concerning the role of the Women’s Advisory Body Working Party. The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Women’s Affairs has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Women’s Advisory Body Working Parry was established to draw up recommendations for the Government to set up a national women’s advisory body. In the Press release issued by the Prime Minister on 12 December 1976, this task was described as being ‘. . . . responsible for presenting recommendations on the size, role, representation and functions of a national advisory body . . . and will consult as widely as possible with women’s groups around Australia’.
During the subsequent consultations, women and organisations were invited to raise any aspect considered by them to be relevant to the establishment or operation of such an advisory body. In the discussions of role and functions, through submissions and at consultation meetings, many issues were raised both as indications of the functions of the advisory body and as individual cases. These were referred through the Office of Women’s Affairs to the relevant authorities.
The Working Party explained in the June Newsletter that information on issues has been valuable in building up a picture of the scope of work with which an advisory body would have to deal*. All such information has been catalogued by the Working Party and retained for the advisory body to consider when it is established. In no way has the Working Party usurped the position of the proposed advisory body.
The report of the Working Party, which has now completed its task, will be available for public comment.
Citizen Band Radio Licences
- Senator Messner asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications the following question without notice on 25 August 1977:
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.
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes, any person who has lodged an acceptable application to my Department for such a licence, accompanied by the prescribed fee, and would, but for the industrial action, have been granted a licence, will be treated as if he were in possession of the licence sought.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 September 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19770920_senate_30_s74/>.