30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the financial guidelines given to the Australian Schools Commission have destroyed the independent nature of that Statutory Body and will, in the future, effectively prevent them from making recommendations to this and future governments on the oasis of the educational needs of children.
That these same guidelines represent improvements to private schools, particularly those categorised as Level 1 and Level 2, which are to be financed at the expense of the Government school system.
That the abandonment of cost supplementation to cover inflation in the buildings program and in the non-salary area of the recurrent program, will seriously undermine the future building programs of all state governments and must mean a drastic curtailment in the programs to up-date existing schools, many of which are neither an acceptable nor minimum standard in relation to the accommodation or sanitary conditions.
That equality of opportunity has long been an important social goal in Australia and this could be defined as equal access to schools of equal standards. The guidelines impede any progress towards this goal. Only by pursuing the target laid down by the Interim Committee of the Australian Schools Commission in 1973 will this important social and educational goal be reached.
That the Senate and the House of Representatives in the Parliament assembled need to re-examine the principles on which Federal funding for education are based and restore to the Australian Schools Commission its right to, under Section 1 3 (2) of the schools Commision Act 1973, report to the Minister on the needs of. . . schools in respect of buildings, equipment, staff and other facilities and the respective priorities to be given to the satisfying of those various needs . . .’
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Jessop. Petition received.
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, by Senator Baume. Petition received.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Will he confirm the admission made last night by Senator Chaney that the contents of his question yesterday relating to Waterside Workers Federation membership eligibility were grossly inaccurate? I think the Minister will agree that we have an obligation to defend people, whether they be the Queen’s representative, trade unions or their leaders.
– I rise to order, Mr President. Yesterday a telex was produced by the honourable senator who has just asked that question. I am in no position to concede, or to agree with, anything, whether it is in a telex or not. I raised an inquiry yesterday to which I am still awaiting an answer.
– You know I have you in a corner.
– I am awaiting an answer on that matter. My point of order is that the honourable senator has represented that I said something which I did not say.
– On the point of order, Mr President, it was quite evident last night that Senator Chaney was conceding, as much as he possibly could, that the imputations in his question yesterday had been proven wrong. That is the basis of the question.
– Order! There is no substance in the point of order, but should Senator Chaney desire to seek leave to make a statement in respect of misrepresentation that would be in order. I call the Attorney-General.
– In answering the question yesterday, I said that I would have inquiries made in order that the facts could be properly ascertained. From what has transpired since I was asked the question yesterday, it obviously has become even more urgent that the facts should be ascertained. I have not yet received advice from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations in regard to this matter. I will endeavour to seek that advice as a matter of urgency, in view of the situation that has occurred.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question. I think that the Minister missed the latter part of my question. I take it that he agrees there is a responsibility to defend the image of people, whether they be the Queen’s representative, a trade union or its leader?
-I certainly do agree, and I would be very concerned if anything had been said that misrepresented the position of the membership of the Waterside Workers Federation or any exclusions under it. That is why I will treat the matter as one of great urgency and endeavour to clarify it as soon as possible.
– I ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether the Chase Manhattan Bank, like other major overseas banks, has maintained a close interest in the state of the Australian economy. Is the Minister able to relate any recent views expressed in a publication or by executives of the Bank on the process of economic recovery, the growth of confidence, and the strength and progress now evident in Australia under the policies of the Fraser Government?
-I read a newspaper report of a statement under the name of the President of the Chase Manhattan Bank, David Rockefeller, some weeks ago. I do not have it with me but I will try to remember it as best I can. Before I refer to that let me say to the Senate that we all ought to acknowledge the interest that Chase Manhattan has taken in Australia for a very long time.
– How much has it put into your coffers?
-I think that that is a most offensive remark. I ask the honourable senator to please maintain his silence because I am trying to be helpful.
– Do not be patronising and sanctimonious.
– I am not trying to be patronising. I object to those sorts of remarks being made to me. I would prefer that they were not said.
– You are wasting your time.
-I am not wasting my time. May I please continue? In the 1950s Australia had a policy of trying to develop the country. At that time, throughout the 1950s, the Government was having balance of payments problems. It was developing Australia in an endeavour to build up a strong mineral export situation. In the 1960s Chase Manhattan in the
American scene was very helpful in encouraging American investment in Australia. That led to an expansion of Australian activity, to a very considerable growth in exports and to a strong balance of payments position. So the Bank has a long and sustained interest in this country and has a lot of knowledge about it. When I read that it had expressed confidence in Australia’s future, its opportunities and its economy I was greatly heartened, because it did not express that confidence at the time when the Australian Labor Party was in office.
– My question addressed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce is related to the one which he has just answered. I ask: Is it not a fact that on many occasions in this chamber he has denigrated quotations of authoritative sources in Australia about the position of the Australian economy and the prospect for the future? Is it not true that he asks consistently: Why single out one particular source of information and quote that’? Why does he see fit to accept the opinions of an overseas organisation when the Reserve Bank of Australia and other well established authorities in this country give a completely different point of view?
-It is perfectly true that I have said consistently that a wide range of opinions is offered about Australia both internally and externally. When one is asked to comment on an adverse opinion one naturally says: They are entitled to their opinion’. One is entitled, therefore, to comment on positive opinions. That is what I was doing when I commented on the Chase Manhattan remarks which appeared in a newspaper only a couple of weeks ago. I suggest that honourable senators read it It is an opinion that has merit for those who believe in their country’s future. Those people who permanently believe, as the Australian Labor Party does, that their country is going down the drain will, of course, have a different view.
– I ask a supplementary question of the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Does he believe that the Reserve Bank of Australia is in the category which he has just described?
-If the honourable senator reads the report of the Reserve Bank- and I commend it to him- he will find that it does not say that. If he reads the newspaper story of what purports to be a leak by the Bank he will find that it expresses uncertainty at the moment but says that the future appears to it to be developing quite satisfactorily. That is my interpretation of what was said in the newspaper comment. I do not have access to the leaked document.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer to an article appearing in the Age of 1 November 1977 claiming that the Aboriginal Legal Service is on the verge of running out of money and is about to close. Are these allegations accurate? If so, what does the Minister intend to do to ensure that there is continuing legal aid for Aborigines in Victoria?
– I have not seen the article referred to nor am I aware that the Aboriginal Legal Service is so short of funds that the service cannot be maintained. I shall refer the matter to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in order to obtain an up to date answer. This matter had considerable discussion at the Estimates Committee hearings. It was shown there that we had a policy to maintain the Aboriginal Legal Aid Service. Eligibility had to be established before legal aid could be advanced. I shall ascertain the up to date position in relation to this matter.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: Is it a fact that the Australian Government provided a specific purpose grant of $325,000 last year to the Queensland Government for the construction of the Lake Julius water scheme? Is it also a fact that in Mount Isa yesterday the Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, stated publicly that if the National Party candidate was not elected State and Commonwealth government funds for the Lake Julius water scheme would not be provided? Has the Premier of Queensland the right to determine the allocation of funds by the Commonwealth on the basis of whichever member is representing an electorate? Does the statement by the Queensland Premier represent Commonwealth Government policy?
-As I recall it, the Commonwealth Government did make a grant available- I cannot recall the figure but I accept what the honourable senator has said as being accurate- for this scheme. I have no knowledge or information about what the Queensland Premier said in Mount Isa yesterday. I do not think I ought to comment any further, except to say that the Commonwealth Government having given that money, it will be provided for that scheme.
-Mr Deputy President, I address a question to you. It may be a matter which needs to be referred to the Minister for the Capital Territory. I refer to the concrete blocks used as paving on the footpaths in front of Parliament House and adjacent to the bus stop. I have received several expressions of concern about the fact that several of the paving blocks are loose, that they are not level and that there are large gaps between them which results in some people, particularly elderly persons, finding it difficult to walk on the footpath. Only yesterday an elderly gentleman complained to me that he almost had what could have been a serious fall because of the state of the footpath. Because of this situation and because of the intensive use of this section of the footpath by the staff of Parliament House, others who work in this area and the large number of tourists, especially elderly persons who will be using the area in the coming months, will you investigate what can be done about the state of the footpath?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I shall refer the matter to the President and ask him to report to the Senate.
– I ask the Minister for Administrative Services whether it is a fact that an arithmetical miscalculation has been made in the number of electors in the Federal division of Berowra as set out on page nine of the report of the distribution commissioners for New South Wales as submitted to Parliament last week for approval. Does the error mean that this suburban electorate has, in fact, fewer electors in it than electorates of 5,000 square kilometres or more and that therefore the final redistribution arrangements for New South Wales as approved by the Parliament last week are in contravention of the February amendments to the Commonwealth Electoral Act? Does this mean that yet another amending Bill, to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act, will be rushed into Parliament before it adjourns? Is it a fact that considerable administrative difficulty exists for Commonwealth electoral officers in New South Wales in coping with the preparation of rolls for the elections being held next month?
-I think it would have been more interesting if the honourable senator had informed the Senate where he got his information. I know where he got it. I did not think he would use it in this form by way of a question.
– What was that? 2014 SENATE 3 November 1977 i Senator WITHERS-I understand that a Bill night for use today.
– I was not here last night.
-It was given to the Opposition, as I understand the position. An error in calculation was made by a divisional returning officer. In effect, he overcalculated by approximately 4,000 as a result of a numerical error which he had been carrying forward in his statistical returns. For 43 electorates this would mean approximately 96 people in each electorate so the quota for New South Wales was slightly out. The honourable senator is correct. Whereas Berowra should have had 71,000 now it will have 67,000. It means that as at the date the roll was struck, 24 June, Berowra would be outside the parameters of 5,000 square kilometres.
It should be noted also, and I think honourable senators will notice, that when the rolls close, it is expected that some city electorates will have less than some country electorates. As all honourable senators know, there are deaths, changes of address and people coming on to the roll. Approximately 30 per cent of the Commonwealth electoral roll is altered each year. There are 2Vi million alterations and about six million electors. If there was a habitation check for the period between 24 June, when the figures were struck, and now, it could be found that in some electorates up to 2,000 people have been taken off the roll. If honourable senators look at the figures when the rolls close for this coming election, it will be seen that they are different from what the Commissioners brought down as their expectations as at 24 June.
The effect that this error has had is minimal. As to the quota for New South Wales, I think the error is 96 per electorate. That is the sort of figure we are talking about. It makes Berowra distorted. The error is unfortunate but it is one of those human errors which occur. I do not blame the divisional returning officer personally; it is just one of those things that can happen to the best of us. To put the matter beyond all doubt, because of this small mathematical error a Bill will be introduced in the House of Representatives today to validate the redistributions. Berowra is the electorate that is out of balance. I am advised that if the mathematical error had not occurred, the difference it would have made to the redistribution would have been so minimal as not to be noticeable. If it were spread over the 43 electorates I think it would have been 96 per electorate.
Questions Without Notice
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. By way of preface, I point out to the Minister that I was in Sydney last night. I arrived back only at about S minutes to 10. 1 did not know that the Bill had been given to the Opposition in confidence. I have not as yet seen the Bill. I ask the Minister whether he will withdraw the imputation he made against me.
-I withdraw it gladly.
– Can the Minister for Education indicate the stage reached in the preparation of legislation for the Permanent Council for the Maritime College? Are the development and construction plans for the College proceeding with due expedition?
– The legislation to establish the Permanent Council is just about complete. I doubt, however, that it will be possible to put it before the Parliament this session. In no way will that inhibit progress because the Interim Council is extremely active and is making very great progress. I will ensure that if the legislation does not come before the Parliament this session it will be given early priority at the beginning of the next session. The Interim Council has made very considerable progress with its plans for construction. I am very pleased with the general progress being made.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Education. I preface my question by pointing out that the latest figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on unemployment shows a far greater incidence of unemployment amongst girls under 19 years of age than amongst boys of the same age. I remind the Minister of a recommendation made by the Prime Minister that women’s units should be set up in the relevant departments to deal with the special problems facing women. I ask the Minister why his Department so far has appointed only one officer to its women’s unit despite an agreement if reached with the Public Service Board that two officers are needed to made the unit effective. Will the Minister explain why there has been a delay of almost a year in the establishment of a women’s unit in his department?
– I am well aware that unemployment is more harsh upon young girls than upon males. As. the honourable senator should know, my Department in conjunction with the Department of Employment and Industrial
Relations is seeking to do some very significant things to ensure the re-employment of young girls. I commend to the honourable senator the various undertakings in that regard. For example, only last Friday at Footscray the Prime Minister and I saw some very useful classes for unemployed girls who themselves were great enthusiasts for the course, particularly in respect of typing, shorthand and clerical work. So, not only are we aware of the need for such courses but we are taking very practical steps. My own Department has been interested to establish, and has established, a women’s unit. I am not aware that the Public Service Board has laid down a schedule on this, but if it has I will seek the information and let the honourable senator have it.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry say whether horizontal scrub wood which is so prevalent in my State has been investigated with a view to mounting full scale production of the timber? Its propensity to bending rather than splitting under stress would seem to make it particularly suitable for many articles, for example, axe handles which are at present imported from Canada.
-I am not very strong on the horizontal scrub but there are one or two Tasmanians I would like to see fall through it. However, I have had some association with it and that association goes back many years. As we have plenty of time today I will tell the Senate about it. Very early in the war I was involved in special work in Melbourne in the field about which the honourable senator has spoken. One of the things we talked about then was the horizontal scrub in Tasmania. Its only virtue that we could ascertain was that in most cases one could walk across the top of it without falling to the ground. Beyond that, I cannot help the honourable senator. It has been said that various people have come out of the horizontal scrub into the Federal Parliament, but I will leave that matter to the judgment of honourable senators.
– Having just come out of the horizontal scrub I ask the Minister for Social Security a question about the welcome but belated announcement that the Government is to introduce a lone father’s benefit. Has the Minister had discussions with the State governments whose Budgets already have been introduced with a view to those States introducing a lone father’s benefit for the six months until the Commonwealth scheme comes into effect so that all Australian lone fathers will be treated equally? Will the Government consider, in the case of those State governments which cannot or will not introduce a lone father’s benefit in this first six months, introducing such a benefit in those States itself?
– In the announcement that I made last night about the introduction of an amending Bill to the Social Services Act, a Bill which is at present in the Parliament, I mentioned two States, Western Australia and South Australia, which already provide assistance to sole fathers and stated that those States would be relieved of this responsibility after the Commonwealth scheme had been in force for six months. I said also that we would discuss the benefit with all States in order to gain their acceptance of the proposal to pay the benefit to lone fathers on the same terms as the benefit is paid to supporting mothers. In the meantime, m those States in which State government acceptance will not be provided in the first six months of the Commonwealth scheme, a sole father will be eligible to claim a special benefit which is paid at the unemployment benefit rate and which is subject to the unemployment benefit income test. We believe that by making this benefit available in the period during which we will have negotiations with the States and in which they will be able to make decisions in regard to the inclusion of lone fathers in the State schemes on the same basis as supporting mothers, we will give access to a benefit that will be of great assistance to sole fathers. We will immediately be discussing this matter with State governments, and I am hopeful that there will no longer be the discrimination between supporting male parents and supporting mothers which exists at the present time.
-I ask the Minister for Social Security a supplementary question In view of the Minister’s answer that lone fathers will be able to apply for the special benefit in those States, is it not a fact that lone fathers can at present apply for the special benefit in those States? Does that mean that the Government will introduce some new guidelines as to the eligibility of lone fathers to apply for and get the special benefit which is paid in those States now?
– The DirectorGeneral of Social Services is reviewing the special benefit requirements in regard to this matter and, in accordance with the policy that I announced last night, during that six month’s waiting period the benefit will be available in the
States where presently there is no State government assistance.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I preface it by saying that from his many trips to Hobart over the last couple of years he will no doubt have recognised the tremendous disruption that the collapse of the Tasman bridge caused to the whole of Hobart. Whilst I am not a pessimist I must anticipate that at some stage that bridge will get knocked down again.
Honourable senators- Ha, ha!
-Well, mathematically it will. If honourable senators know anything about mathematics they will know that any bridge that has been up for 10 years and down for three years might get knocked down again.
– If you fly your aeroplane that will knock it down.
– All right; the honourable member can wait around and see.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Townley will ask his question.
– I ask the Minister. As the present bridge was up for 10 years and has been down for three years, does he agree that a second bridge is urgently required for Hobart? Is the Minister able to say what commitment the Federal Government has towards the construction of a second bridge? For how long will the temporary Bailey bridge be left at Hobart?
-It is true that all of us who from duty and, indeed, inclination make frequent visits to Hobart -
-A11 of us, excluding Senator McAuliffe and his colleagues, are aware of the extreme disruption that was caused by the collapse of the bridge over the Derwent River and, indeed, of the difficulties in travelling the circuitous route over the Bailey bridge. I make no comment on Senator Townley ‘s prediction other than to suggest that he is paralleling it with the accident proneness of the Labor Party because that in itself -
– That will be for only three years, too.
-As Senator Devitt, I think, says, that happens every three years. The Labor Party is extremely accident prone. I am not assessing whether the captain on the bridge in the Labor Party is to be held at fault all the time, but never mind. The Commonwealth
Government is committed to funding an investigation and design work which is presently being carried out by a joint committee on the second Hobart bridge. The committee is examining the effects of a permanent bridge at Dowsings Point in terms of traffic flow, environmental consequences and the implications for Hobart ‘s future development. An economic evaluation of the bridge is also under way. It is expected that the committee will report to the Commonwealth and Tasmanian governments on completion of its investigations early in 1978. I appreciate the significance of the question.
-I direct to the Minister representing the Treasurer a question which I have asked on a number of occasions in the past, I regret to say unsuccessfully, concerning the removal of sales tax on life saving and life preserving equipment used on small boats. I ask the Minister: Will he again take up with the Treasurer as a matter of urgency the question of the removal of sales tax on life saving and life preserving equipment used in small boats? A decision to remove sales tax on these items would have the universal approval, I am sure, of citizens, life saving and search and rescue bodies and all others concerned with the preservation of life on the water. Would the Minister not agree that the amount of tax involved is minimal when compared with the preservation of lives- the most important consideration- and the saving of the very substantial sums of public money involved in search and rescue operations? I point out that this question takes on a real significance at this time of the year, as honourable senators will realise, and that in many search and rescue operations other lives are put at hazard because of the conditions that prevail when these circumstances arise. Will an attempt be made to overcome the obvious attitude which seems to me to be an attitude of stubbornness on the part of the Treasury on this very important subject?
-It is true that the honourable senator has spoken to me about this matter previously and I have made the representations he has suggested. Other people have spoken to me about it, too. It is true that the cost of search and rescue operations on some of these occasions is very great. If the removal of the sales tax on life saving and life preserving equipment in some way would make it much less costly to conduct such operations because people perhaps would be able to save themselves more quickly or perhaps would be induced to take fewer risks or to be more sensible, this seems to me to be a productive way to look at the matter. We must accept the fact that there are people who do very stupid things at sea. I exclude totally the honourable senator and myself from that comment. The fact that people do not have the same interest in these matters as the honourable senator and I have may be due to the fact that we live by the sea whereas Canberra is entirely surrounded by land. However, I shall try again.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Minister seen reports that Sweden has banned beef imports from 27 abattoirs in all States of Australia? Can the Minister say whether these reports are correct? If they are, what volume and value of Australian beef is involved? What steps are being taken by the Government to avoid the loss of beef trade to Sweden?
-I saw the report in the newspapers yesterday as I was travelling to Sydney. I was very concerned about it. My inquiries have revealed that the matter is being taken seriously and being treated as one of urgency. Two sets of figures were given on the amount of possible loss of trade. They were about 10 times apart. One figure was 30 million and the other was 300 million, or perhaps the figures were 10 million and 100 million. I do not know the actual volume involved. I am of the view that it is a threatened position rather than an actual position. However, I know that the Minister and the veterinary authorities are looking very closely at the matter. I wonder whether it is an accurate position. A great deal of work has been done over recent years in upgrading both veterinary standards and abattoir standards in the inspection and killing areas in respect of export meat. I am rather of the view that it may be more a scare than an actual position. However, the matter is being looked at.
– In directing a question to the Minister representing the Minister for National Resources, I refer to the minute of the Department of Foreign Affairs, made public yesterday, of discussions held between Mr Justice Fox and Foreign Affairs officials on 29 September. In view of the two facts that Mr Justice Fox has reported, namely, that there is general opposition overseas to the United States and Canadian propositions that there could be no reprocessing of uranium supplied by those countries without the specific approval of supplier countries and that there is concern overseas that the International Atomic Energy Agency may not be able to administer nuclear safeguards satisfactorily, how does the Australian Government intend to maintain the fictional assurances given to the Australian people that Australian safeguards will be met completely by overseas takers of our uranium exports?
-I thought that the honourable senator would welcome the views of both the United States and Canadian governments on uranium reprocessing. I thought that the honourable senator would welcome and be particularly delighted with the last two sentences of that document which is alleged to be an accurate one. Mr Justice Fox is alleged to have said that ‘he believed that Australia had a responsibility to try to develop the concept’ and that ‘we were “clean skinned” and were now in a position to exert influence’. If anything totally supports what the Government has been saying, it is those last two sentences. Honourable senators may well recall the statement I put down in this House on behalf of the Prime Minister. The concluding sentence read:
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 . . .
I am delighted, if the document is accurate- we all expected it- because we are on all fours with Mr Justice Fox. I cannot understand the honourable senator’s concern. If that document was stolen, the thief has done the Government a service.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. I concur with most of what the Minister said but he did not answer my question. The matters raised by Mr Justice Fox indicate that there is general opposition to the concept that is being proposed by the Australian Government.
-Yes. That is the point at issue.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Senator Brown, I ask you to ask your question.
-Will the Minister be good enough to examine my question? It does raise an important point. It is not a question of disagreement on what the Government is doing or not doing. It is a question of implementation, assurances and guarantee.
-Either I cannot read or Senator Brown cannot read. Let me read the relevant sentence which provides:
Internationally there was recognition that the United States and Canadian nuclear policies had drawn attention to the particular dangers associated with re-processing and breeder reactors.
That is the sentence as I understand it. What is wrong with that? I cannot understand the point raised by the honourable senator suggesting that there is general opposition. I thought our position was quite clear. Australia will in no circumstances enter into any arrangements with any other country that is not prepared to abide by our safeguards, not necessarily the United States or Canadian safeguards, but Australia’s. Our safeguards policy is recognised to be the strictest and most rigid in the world. Again I invite the honourable senator’s attention to the last two sentences in that leaked document, if it is a true document. I repeat that the document, referring to Mr Justice Fox, states:
He believed that Australia had a responsibility to try to develop the concept We were clean skinned and were now in a position to exert influence.
I thought that statement was on all fours with the Government’s policy. In fact I cannot understand why the honourable senator should be upset that our safeguards are so stringent and rigid.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Is it a fact that all States and the Austraiian Capital Territory are represented on the National Consumer Affairs Advisory Council but the Northern Territory is not? If this is a fact, will the Minister tell us why the Northern Territory has been discriminated against in this way and whether steps will be taken in the near future to correct the anomaly?
– I am interested in the question raised by Senator Robertson. Certainly I will take up the matter with the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and endeavour to obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations noted a report in today’s Press that the United States has withdrawn from the International Labour Organisation? Is it a fact that the reason for the United State’s action is that the International Labour Organisation had in reality become a forum for communists or Third World political activities at the expense of its main and real work, namely, improving the conditions of workers around the world? Will the Minister inform the Senate what contributions are being made by the Commonwealth Government to that body and further what is the Commonwealth Government’s attitude towards the ILO’s misuse of its proper functions?
-I heard yesterday of the decision of the United States to withdraw from ILO. I have not had any briefing from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, whom I represent, on Australia’s reaction to that news, nor can I provide detailed information concerning our contributions to that organisation. I shall certainly refer the honourable senator’s questions to the Minister for a reply.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate whether the Governor-General will issue a statement explaining his reasons for prematurely dissolving the Parliament, in accordance with the precedent he established in 1975. If so, will such a statement reconcile the Governor-General’s action with the view he expressed in New Delhi in February 1975, namely, that he had to have good and sound reasons for calling an early election?
-I do not think I am ministerially responsible for the actions of the Governor-General.
– You hope not.
-I would not be ashamed if I were. I think the most I can do is send the honourable senator’s question to the Official Secretary and ascertain whether His Excellency is prepared to reply to it.
– Further to my question of 1 November concerning the removal of the Williamsburg Conference from University House at the Australian National University to the Lakeside Hotel, I ask the Minister for Education whether he can now provide the further information he then undertook to seek concerning the reasons for such transfer.
– The circumstances of the transfer of the Williamsburg Conference from a proposed venue at a university to a site off campus has continued to trouble me. As I informed the Senate, I contacted the Australian National University in writing on the day the question was posed, and sought information. The ViceChancellor of the University has been good enough to provide me with an answer, which he has consented to my making available to the Senate. It includes, incidentally, an attachment regarding participation in academic discussions in the University generally. I seek leave to have the letter and the attachment incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The documents read as follows-
Post Office Box 4, Canberra, ACT 2600 Telegrams & cables, NATUNIV Canberra Telephone062-49 5U1 2 November 1977
Senator the Honourable J. L. Carrick, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600 Dear Minister,
I read in The Canberra Times this morning the report of the comments made in the Senate last night on the movement of the Williamsburg Conference from University House to the Lakeside Hotel, and was about to write to you. I have since received your letter of yesterday’s date.
I think you may know that I have lately been overseas on university business. I was not present when the decision to move the Conference was discussed and taken, but I have consulted my colleagues and Sir Laurence Mclntyre himself about this.
Sir Laurence approached me in December last year about this Conference, and I indicated to him that we would be glad to provide such accommodation as we could for it.
During my absence, following a pointed newspaper article, Sir Laurence took steps to see the Assistant- ViceChancellor, and asked whether he had heard of any suggestions that attempts might be made to disrupt the Conference. On the University side there was at that stage nothing of this kind to report
There followed further newspaper articles in the Nation Review, The Canberra Times, in the student newspaper, and also information about a petition that was circulating. It was lain too that some university students were much exercised y the matter.
Sir Laurence held discussions with the Master of University House and together they called upon the Assistant ViceChancellor. There was evidence by that time that a locally based group, and some people from outside Canberra, were indicating that they would attempt to disrupt the Conference. Interest was obviously quickening, and it was clear to those directly involved that both the Conference and University House could be seriously affected. Sir Laurence then said he would take steps to have the conference committee in New York consider the position. Without further discussions with my senior colleagues, arrangements were made to hold the Conference at the Lakeside.
The question of the University’s position if the initial arrangements had been confirmed has not arisen. Since I returned a fortnight ago it would have been for me personally to handle the situation and I do not have to say that along with my colleagues I would have done so.
Since it might have affected this situation, though in the event it did not, you may like to see a copy of a University paper which was very carefully prepared two years ago on Participation in Academic Discussions in the University’. This was endorsed by both our Academic Boards and by the Council. I believe you will find it contains an important set of Guidelines for the University to follow. On one significant occasion since they were promulgated, this was in fact done, and to good effect.
Yours sincerely, D. A. Low
Participation in Academic Discussions in the University
The University is concerned with knowledge and the dissemination of knowledge. There is therefore a presumption in favour of the- widest possible participation in academic discussion in the University. This presumption must however allow that it is often on rational grounds necessary or desirable to limit participation in such discussions.
It is suggested that the following general guidelines apply to participation in academic discussions in the University-
When organized discussions with members of the Uni- versity are requested by outside bodies these should preferably be held off campus if large numbers of visitors would be involved. When held on campus such discussions should include as many as practicable of those members of the University who possess appropriate knowledge.
These seminars which are of fundamental importance to the intellectual life of the University are open to anyone in the University, staff or student, who wants to participate. This form of seminar would be expected to be the normal form of University seminar.
– Honourable senators will recall that the new venue was sought by Sir
Laurence Mclntyre, the Director of the Australian Institute of International Affairs, a very distinguished Australian who will be known to all honourable senators. I contacted Sir Laurence this morning- he had been supplied with a copy of the Vice-Chancellor’s letter- and he intimated, as one would expect, that he concurred with it. He went on to say that he had had a number of discussions with university authorities and, as a result, had recognised their concern at the possibility of serious disruption if University House were used; that he shared that concern and therefore had told the authorities that he would seek another venue. All Australians must be quite alarmed that apparently it is not possible in this country to hold meetings -
– Secret meetings.
– Clandestine meetings.
– The Labor Party and its limpet fish, the Communist Party, are the arch villains at holding secret and clandestine meetings. I think something occurred once involving 36 faceless men, did it not, yet honourable senators opposite have the gall to get up here and talk about this. The very elements of the Communist Party are leading this attack on so-called secret meetings today and its members throughout the length and breadth of this world are the arch architects of clandestine meetings. All that honourable members opposite do is cause their own case harm and weir limpet fish harm as they carry on with this. Let me talk to ordinary decent Australians through you, Mr Deputy President.
– You are facing the right way.
– Yes, I am facing the right way. I am facing the Deputy President. Let me say that this is an appalling situation when people who for whatever purposes- and lawful
Purposes they are- seek to hold meetings and to old them as private discussions are not able to do so because of the fear of physical violence and intimidation. This is quite outrageous. It offends every democratic principle in this country. It is utterly offensive that this should be so. The Labor Party has said that it is wrong to hold private conferences. I notice that friends of the Labor Party in a letter in the Canberra Times this morning have given that as the basis on which the meeting should be disrupted. I repeat that it will be a sad thing for Australia and for the democratic and parliamentary institution if people, whatever their views and however odious those views may be to others, do not have the right to meet, to express their views and to deliberate. It is a sad day that the Austraiian Institute of International Affairs- one of the most reputable bodies in Australia-and indeed, the Williamsburg Conference itself, cannot meet in Australia without the threat of disruption. I repeat what I said several days ago: To the rest of the world the reputation of Australia as a country which values and preserves freedom is imperilled if this is to continue. My own Government will not tolerate that kind of behaviour.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce or to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I am not sure who should deal with it. I refer to the statement made last week by the Government of its intention to inquire into the repatriation of very large sums of money by Utah Development Co. to the United States. I understand that the Government intends to make some inquiries into it. I ask the Minister: Is it intended that similar activities of the Ford Motor Co. of Australia are to be included in that inquiry?
-My understanding is that Mr Lynch has been looking into this whole matter following various comments made by members of the Opposition. I have a very long telex that was sent to me this morning by Sir Brian Inglis of Ford which takes considerable exception to those comments in regard to his own com- pany The telex is too long to read out. I am happy to make it available to Senator Wriedt if he would like to have it. All I can tell him at the moment is that naturally when one hears comments made about such people it sets in train a process of inquiring to see whether there is any truth or any falsity in the comments. That is what I understand is being done now.
-I desire to ask a supplementary question. I am not making any statements about the Ford Motor Co. of Australia. I am simply asking the Minister. Is the Ford Co. being investigated, as apparently the Utah Development Co. is? It is as simple as that. Surely he can give me that answer.
-I would not have thought that Senator Wriedt was as simple as he appears to be. I said to him that I had received a long telex from the Ford Motor Co. When I replied to him I said that these matters were being investigated. Now he is talking about Ford and Utah. Naturally all the comments about various companies will be looked at. Why does Senator Wriedt not make other comments in relation to other companies? Why does he not cover everybody? If he wants to smear, in effect, the whole of the Australian scene, he can proceed to do that.
– I ask the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs: Is it a fact that the increased funds now available to the States under the new federalism policy have allowed all States to cut taxation, particularly payroll tax and death duties? Will the forecast drop in the rate of inflation this year to some 7 per cent, compared with estimated increases in funds for the States of 10.9 per cent -
– Whose forecast is that?
-That is forecast by W. D. Scott and Co. Pty Ltd. I ask the Minister: Will that forecast drop greatly enhance the real potential of the States to extend works programs and to reduce further pay-roll and other taxes?
– What the honourable senator said is proven to be true by the fact that for two years now all of the six States have balanced or better than balanced their budgets and all States have substantially cut taxation. I shall look forward in the immediate weeks ahead to hearing the Labor Opposition back-up its derision by a reassertion of its uniform taxation policies. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. It seeks to deride the benefits of federalism and, therefore, presumably is saying to the Australian electors that if they vote for the Labor Party in a few weeks time they will be voting for a return to uniform taxation.
The electors will recall that the great architects of double and treble taxation in Australia are the Whitlam Labor Party and its State satellites. In the whole of its period of three years in government the Labor Party nearly trebled the Government’s take of personal income tax, doubled its take of sales tax, doubled its take of customs and excise duties and forced the States to put up their taxes and charges enormously. That is the Labor Party’s track record in uniform taxation, which it is now upholding. As I said, by contrast for two years now all the States have balanced their budgets, cut taxes and expanded programs.
Arising from the honourable senator’s question, he will know that as the level of inflation falls- it has fallen to somewhere below 10 per cent now- to somewhere between 6 per cent and 7 per cent hopefully in the middle of the year, the real value of the 1Vi per cent funds that have flowed to the States this year will increase and the States will be able to buy more and to do more. The fact is that, no matter what the Opposition says, the increase in tax sharing funds made available to the States this year, which is of the order of 17 1/2 per cent, means greater and greater real spending power in period of declining inflation and falling interest rates. This is reflected also in local government and is acknowledged to be a fact widely throughout Australia.
-I ask the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs: Will he deny that total payments to the States this year on Budget estimates will increase by 11.6 per cent and not the 17 per cent or 18 per cent about which he has just been talking? Will he agree that last year total payments to the States increased by 7 per cent, according to the Budget Papers and in the last year of the Labor Government those payments increased by 30 per cent? Also, will the Minister tell the Senate whether the Government has abandoned stage 2 of its federalism policy?
-Senator Wriedt ‘s track record of absolute inconsistency and inaccuracy in figures must be quite outstanding. He would even leave the winner of the Melbourne Cup breathless. He knows that last year the figure was not 7 per cent at all. He keeps failing to give the corrective figures. I therefore treat his question with total contempt in that regard. He always uses selective figures without going on to read the Budget’s explanations. Also, of course, he forgets to add that his own Government cut out the Regional Employment and Development scheme. He wants the best of both wor Ids. -He wanted to claim credit for it when it was established. He wants to ignore it now that the Labor Party has discontinued it. This is, of course, a happy wanderer’s journey. It is no wonder that the people of Australia will reject the Labor Party for this inconsistency.
asked whether the Government has abandoned Stage 2 of the tax sharing arrangements. The fact is that the Federal Government has made it clear that it will provide facilities for the States, if they so desire, to use the device of making rebates; that is, reducing personal income tax, as such, or surcharges if they so desire.
– It is difficult to handle in front of an election, is it not?
-I will tell Senator Wriedt how difficult it is to handle. We have reversed the double and treble taxation of the Whitlam Labor Government. Senator Wriedt loathes to hear the truth. He was a Minister in the Whitlam Government which brought in double and treble taxation and he now faces a government which has consistently reduced taxation, both in the Federal and State spheres. He acknowledges that this is so.
-I think Senator Wriedt ‘s interjection should be recorded. I think he said brilliant’. That is right, because for three years the Labor Government only increased taxation. Our device of tax sharing has enabled the States to reduce taxation progressively year by year. The Labor Party tried to suggest that tax sharing and federalism would cause double taxation. It has in fact caused the greatest abatement and relief of taxation in decades. There is no question at all that the honourable senator can pin that tail on this Government because the only government that has brought about high taxation was the Whitlam Labor Government. Yesterday I understand that his leader- I am not sure because he has not quite explained it- came out with a program for a further expenditure of some $900m. That can be done in only one of two ways- by inflation or by higher taxes. Let him and his proposed government tell us how they are going to get the extra revenue. They got it last time out of the hides of the taxpayers, both by direct and indirect taxation and by higher inflation. That is their policy.
-I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr Deputy President.
– I rise to order, Mr Deputy President. I seek your guidance. I may be incorrect, but is this the second or the first supplementary question?
-It is a supplementary question to my first question.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-It is the first supplementary question
-A11 the rhetoric by Senator Carrick does not hide the fact that he has not answered my question. Does the Government intend to proceed with the implementation of Stage 2 of federalism? That is all I ask. He should not be ashamed to say yes to that.
– No government with the remarkable track record of the Fraser Government in relation to reducing taxes can be ashamed of its federalism policy. Only a Whitlam government, with its uniform taxation and high taxation policies, should be ashamed- as it is. The Premiers Conference record shows that the Federal Government made the decisions with regard to federalism. If Senator Wriedt is referring to the question of Stage 2 -
– Actually I was. That is very good.
– The honourable senator will pardon me, because his questioning over the years has been so confused. Facilities will be made available to the States to enable them to embark upon both Stage 1 and Stage 2 of our federalism policy according to their own decisions. Under federalism they will be able to continue to reduce taxation, a luxury denied to them under the Labor government.
-My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government. Is he aware that a recent report from Conzinc Riotinto of Australia Ltd stated that the demand for uranium will depend on the rate of growth in nuclear power generating capacity and advances in nuclear technology; that m the United States of America there have been only four orders for new nuclear plants in 1 977, two for tentative preliminary contracts only; and that Howard Winterson, Vice-President of Combustion Engineering in America has said recently: ‘In about two years you will see this business disintegrate’? Will these facts be taken into account before $9m of the taxpayers money is made available to Conzinc Riotinto for its Mary Kathleen operation?
-I have no information on the facts alleged by the honourable senator. I suggest that she puts her question on notice.
-Can the AttorneyGeneral give the Senate any further information about the matter concerning the Waterside Workers Federation which I raised in Question Time yesterday?
-Since Senator Mulvihill asked a question earlier today about this matter I have been able to get information for the Senate about the rules of the Waterside Workers Federation. I advise the Senate that application was made to the Industrial Registrar in 1968 to alter the rules of the Waterside Workers Federation to exclude provisions relating to Asiatics. That application was granted on 6 July 1973 and the rules were changed accordingly to exclude the reference to Asiatics. However, a subsequent consolidation of the rule book prepared by the Registrar and dated 7 June 1977 carried forward the old rule inadvertently. Therefore, the information conveyed to Senator Chaney on which he asked this question would appear to have been based upon the mistaken rules contained in the registry which was available for inspection by the person who had done so.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Administrative Services. Was his Department responsible for the purchase of 308 hectares of land in South Gippsland for the purpose of siting an Omega station? If so, can he indicate from whom the land was purchased, the price paid for it and how that price compares with recent sales of similar land in that area?
– Another land scandal?
-Senator Button interjects ‘ another land scandal ‘.
– It was a question.
-That is an insulting remark and I ask him to withdraw it.
– What a sensitive -
– Very well. I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
– Running away from it.
- Mr Deputy President, I raise a point of order. I do not feel that honourable senators opposite ought to be able to impute improper motives either to me or to my officers concerning the purchase of land in Gippsland. Again I ask that Senator Button be instructed to withdraw the remark.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I did not hear the remark. I was attending to something. Would you repeat the remark?
– He interjected ‘another land scandal’.
– I am somewhat surprised, Mr Deputy President, at the reaction of Senator Withers to the question. There is no attempt to impute any improper practices on the part of his departmental officers.
– Not by you.
– No, but perhaps that might be interpreted as being implicit in the question. I asked the question on the basis of information that has been given to me. I am seeking clarification of it, as I properly should do. I am surprised that Senator Withers should seek a withdrawal by Senator Button of a remark which I think would be widely accepted around Australia at present in respect of anything happening in Victoria relating to the Victorian Liberal Party.
- Mr Deputy President, I did not use the words ‘another land scandal’ as
Senator Withers said. I said ‘What, another land scandal?’
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Do not argue around it. Senator Withers has asked for a withdrawal.
– That, of course, is a quite different matter, Mr Deputy President.
– It was a question.
– It was a question.
– I still ask that it be withdrawn.
– I will withdraw it, Mr Deputy President.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I point out that everything that is said in the Senate is not a subject for withdrawal.
Honourable senators interjecting-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Order! I do not want any conversations to take place between honourable senators when I am speaking from the Chair.
-In answer to Senator Wriedt’s question I say that the land was purchased. I cannot recall the exact name of the vendor. I think there were two or three vendors. From memory, it involved a family company owned by the same individuals. I cannot recall the price. I have the file in my office and I will provide the Leader of the Opposition with that information after Question Time.
-I seek the leave of the Senate to table an extract from a transcript of This Day Tonight interview on 26 October 1977 from which I quoted in the Senate last night. Last night Senator Wriedt asked me to table the document from which I had quoted and I tabled the transcript of another interview- that of a program on A Current Affair on 26 October 1976- from which I also had quoted. That is why I have sought leave now to table the document.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Yesterday, at Question Time, Senator Button asked me about proceedings under the Trade Practices Act concerning a caravan rental scheme known as Holiday City to which money had been lent by a finance company known as Eastrock Finance Pty Ltd, with which it was alleged the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Councillor Rockman, had an association. The specific point of Senator Button’s question to me was whether I would allay the ears of those people who had lost money in this scheme and who were seeking to recover it that they would be denied legal aid because of the association of the Lord Mayor of Melbourne with the company. Apparently there was some imputation that because of some alleged associations that he had with the Liberal Party of Australia- I do not know what they are- that in some way or other would affect any decision that was made in regard to an application for legal aid.
I had no knowledge of the matter yesterday. I have made inquiries since then and I have found that no applications for legal aid have been received by the Australian Legal Aid Office, which handles applications of this kind. Anybody who seeks to take proceedings under the Trade Practices Act has a right, under section 170 of that Act, to apply for legal aid to the Attorney-General or an officer of the Public Service authorised by him, and that it is granted provided the applicant can establish hardship and that it would be reasonable in all the circumstances to grant legal aid. If and when an application is made under that section to me or to the officers who are authorised to handle it, that application certainly will be considered on its merits and in the light of the powers under the section of the Trade Practices Act to which I have referred. I find it somewhat surprising that I should be asked to allay fears as to whether legal aid will be granted in these circumstances when in fact no applications have been made. Therefore, there would seem to be no reason at all why anybody should have had any fears as to legal aid being denied or the consideration of his entitlement to legal aid being delayed.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Department of Industry and Commerce for the year ended 30 June 1977. The report also includes some subsequent developments.
– Pursuant to section 1 6 of the Dairying Research Act 1 972I present the fifth annual report of the Dairying Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1977.
-by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 39 (4) of the Australian Shipping Commission Act 1956I present the annual report for 1977 of the Australian National Line.
REPORT ON ‘URBAN TRANSPORT: CAPITAL REQUIREMENTS 1977-78 to 1979-80’
Senator CARRICK (New South WalesMinister for Education)- For the information of honourable senators I present the report on Urban Transport: Capital Requirements 1977-78 to 1979-80’.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a study of the Port Pirie bogie exchange.
-by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 99 of the Telecommunications Act 1975 I present the annual report of the Australian Telecommunications Commission for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a review of the activities of the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to 30 June 1977.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the Temporary Assistance Authority annual report 1976-77.
– Pursuant to section 30 of the Science and Industry Research Act 1949, 1 present the annual report of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation for 1976-77. Copies of the report will be sent to all senators as soon as bulk supplies become available. In the meantime, copies of the report have been placed in the Parliamentary Library and the Senate Records Office.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Department of Science for 1976-77.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present an exchange of notes between Australia and Japan on the Japanese geostationary meteorological satellite project. I seek leave to make a statement on this matter.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-The Japanese GMS project involves the positioning and operation of a geostationary meteorological satellite over the equator to the north of Australia as part of the global atmospheric research program which is being promoted jointly by the World Meteorological Organisation and the International Council of Scientific Unions. The Japanese satellite is one of five to be placed in geostationary orbit at intervals around the equator by the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and a group of European countries as well as Japan.
The Japanese satellite was launched successfully from Cape Canaveral on 14 July and moved in stages to its final position 36,000 kilometres above West Irian from where it will be used to gather meteorological data and broadcast it to countries in the region every three hours. Under the agreement Australia will be provided with special observations at more frequent intervals when Australia is threatened by, or is under the direct influence of, severe weather conditions such as cyclones. The meteorological data from the satellite will be transmitted to a special receiving station being installed at the Bureau of Meteorology headquarters in Melbourne.
As its contribution to the satellite project Australia has provided a ground control station located at Orroral Valley in the Australian Capital Territory to help maintain the satellite in its correct position throughout its operational lifetime. The control station is operated by the Department of Science.
Testing of the satellite is proceeding satisfactorily and the first test transmissions were received in Tokyo on 8 September. Copies of the pictures taken on that day have been sent to the Bureau of Meteorology in Melbourne for study. Regular transmissions from the satellite are scheduled to commence early in 1978.
The agreement represents a further important development of co-operation between Australia and Japan in the scientific field and the data gathered by the satellite should result in a significant improvement in both general forecasting and the monitoring of tropical cyclones in Australia.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
With the consent of the Opposition, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
The main purpose of this Bill is to authorise the payment to Queensland of $24.8m in 1977-78 as a special grant. The payment of this amount is in accordance with the recommendations of the Commonwealth Grants Commission contained in its forty-fourth report on special assistance for the States which was tabled recently. The Bill also seeks authority for payment of advances to Queensland in the early months of 1978-79, pending receipt of the Commission’s recommendations for that year and enactment of any necessary legislation to provide for any special grant that may be paid to the State in that year.
The Commonwealth Government from time to time on the recommendation of the Grants Commission, following applications by States, makes special grants to the less populous States to compensate them for such factors as lower capacity to raise revenue from their own resources and higher costs in providing government services of a standard comparable to that provided by the financially stronger States. When such special grants were first paid they constituted the only regular form of general revenue assistance paid to the financially less strong States for this purpose.
However, for many years now, the main way in which special compensatory assistance has been provided to these States has been through the payment of higher per capita amounts of other general revenue funds. This situation is reflected today in the fact that personal income tax sharing entitlements paid to Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania are higher, in per capita terms, than similar entitlements paid to New South Wales and Victoria.
Under the personal income tax sharing arrangements, the less populous States continue to be free to apply for special financial assistance on the recommendation of the Grants Commission. This is one of the explicit understandings between governments in relation to the tax sharing arrangements. Any such special grants should be regarded as supplementing a State’s entitlement under the tax sharing arrangements in the same way as they formerly supplemented the financial assistance grants. Currently Queensland is the only State applying for special revenue assistance under the Grants Commission arrangements.
Queensland’s estimated entitlement in respect of 1977-78 under the personal income tax sharing arrangements is $776.2m, representing $361 per head of population compared with an average of $264 per head for New South Wales and Victoria. Accordingly, the assistance provided by way of the special grant should be seen as supplementing the special compensatory assistance of $97 per head, or $2 10m, provided to Queensland by way of the tax sharing entitlement. Local authorities also, of course, participate in the tax sharing arrangements and this year Queensland received $27.9m for distribution to local authorities in the State. This is $3.7m more than last year and more than double the general purpose assistance provided to local authorities in Queensland in 1975-76.
The Commonwealth Grants Commission, in arriving at its recommendations in relation to claims for special assistance, makes an assessment of the ‘financial needs’ of a claimant State. In making such assessments, the Commission compares in detail the finances of the claimant State with those of New South Wales and Victoria, taking into account differences in revenueraising capacity and differences in the cost of providing comparable services.
The payments of special grants recommended by the Commission consist of two parts. One part is based on a preliminary estimate of the claimant State’s financial need in the current financial year, and is treated as an advance payment subject to adjustment two years later when the Commission has compared in detail the finances of the claimant and standard States for that year. The other part represents the final adjustment to the advance payment made two years earlier and is known as the completion payment. This adjustment may be positive or negative and therefore may result in the final grant in respect of a year being higher or lower than the advance payment for that year.
The payment to Queensland in 1977-78 of $24.8m provided for by this Bill comprises an advance payment of $14m in respect of 1977-78, and a completion payment of $ 10.8m in respect of 1975-76. The completion payment in respect of 1975-76, when added to the $25m advance grant paid to Queensland in that year, brings the final grant in respect of 1975-76 to $35.8m, which is $ 11.8m more than the corresponding figure for 1974-75. The advance grant for 1977-78 will, in accordance with normal practice, be subject to adjustment in two years’ time. The Commission’s recommendations in relation to the special grants arrangements have been adopted by the Parliament each year since the Commission’s inception and the Government considers that they should be accepted on this occasion. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
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 Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
Honourable senators will be aware that the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) and the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) announced on IS August 1977 the Government’s decision to provide financial assistance to Tasmania to assist the continuation of operations of the Mt Lyell mine operated by the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company Limited. The purpose of this Bill is to seek Parliament’s approval to the implementation of the Government’s decision, by authorising the execution of an agreement or agreements between the Commonwealth and Tasmania for the provision of assistance to Tasmania.
Honourable senators will know that the operations of the Mount Lyell mine are important to the people in the Queenstown region- indeed, the mine employs about half the workforce of the region- and that the mine has been incurring substantial losses principally due to the low world copper price. The company has indicated to the Government it could not continue to absorb the large operating losses without assistance and, in view of the mine’s regional significance, the Tasmanian and Commonwealth Governments announced their agreement to meet the cash deficit on the mine’s operation. The two Governments proposed to share the cost of the assistance on a dollar for dollar basis.
The Commonwealth’s assistance to be provided to Tasmania relates to the mine’s operation from 15 August 1977 until the Government announces its decision on the Industries Assistance Commission’s report on the copper industry. Accordingly, the Bill seeks approval for the provision of assistance to Tasmania of amounts up to one-half of the payments made by Tasmania to the company for the mine’s operations and provides that the Commonwealth assistance be for the continuation of those operations from 15 August up to a date not later than 30 June 1978. The Bill thus provides for the contingency that some interim extension of the present assistance might be warranted following the Government’s consideration of the Industries Assistance Commission’s interim report on the copper industry, and having regard to the company’s developing cash flow situation.
Honourable senators will appreciate that the agreement being negotiated with Tasmania is necessarily complex, not least because of the need for precise definition of the detailed accounting concepts to which the assistance must be related. Broadly, the agreement will provide, in accord with the Government’s decision, that the assistance to Tasmania would be repayable to the Commonwealth should the mine return to a position where it generates positive cash flow. Should the mine be unable to achieve that position, the Commonwealth’s advances to Tasmania would not be repayable. In any event, the assistance would be provided on an interest free basis. As honourable senators would understand, the provisions of the Commonwealth’s agreement with Tasmania would be broadly reflected in a separate agreement between Tasmania and the company.
While it is not practicable at this stage to calculate precisely the cost of this assistance, I can give the Senate an indication of the order of magnitude. Thus it is estimated that, for a period of continued operation of the mine from 15 August 1977 to 2 November 1977, the cost of the Commonwealth’s contribution would be approximately $lm. I believe the Government’s action in this matter has again shown its concern for the welfare of the Australian communities suffering adverse effects from international economic conditions. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Withers) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
Last July, the Government took a major initiative in the international trade sphere with the appointment of a Minister for Special Trade Negotiations to be responsible for high level trade negotiations with the European Economic Community. The new arrangements envisaged that the Minister would lead a small negotiating team, consisting primarily of officers seconded from other departments. However, the requirements of section 64 of the Constitution and of the Public Service Act are such that it was necessary to formally create a Department of the Special Trade Negotiator and a position of Secretary to that Department. In recognition of the special relationship between the new Department and the Department of Overseas Trade, the Secretary of the latter Department, Mr D. H. McKay, O.B.E., has been also acting as Secretary to the Department of the Special Trade Negotiator.
After the selection procedures in section 54a of the Public Service Act had been followed, it was determined that Mr McKay- who is an ‘established candidate’ in relation to the vacancy, within the meaning of section 54 of the Public Service Act- should be permanently appointed to the new office in addition to continuing to hold office as Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade. It is considered desirable that there should be express legislative backing for this course of action, in order that the legal position is beyond doubt.
The Bill provides that the person for the time being holding the office of Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade may also hold or act in the office of Secretary to the Department of the Special Trade Negotiator, and for a person acting in the office of Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade to also act in the offi ce of the Secretary to the Department of the Special Trade Negotiator. Provision is also made that, while a person is holding or acting in both offices, no remuneration will be payable in respect of the second office, and that if a person who holds both offices ceases to hold the first office, that person also ceases to hold the second office. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of the Coal Research Assistance Bill 1977, the Excise Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1 977 and the States Grants (Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave) Amendment Bill 1977 being put in one motion at each stage and the consideration of such Bills together in the Committee of the Whole.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Withers) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speeches read as follows-
Coal Research Assistance Bill 1977
The purpose of this Bill is to establish a Coal Research Trust Account for the receipt and disbursement of funds for coal research. This follows the announcement by the Treasurer in his Budget Speech of 16 August 1977 of the Government’s decision to finance increased coal research by a levy of 5 cents per tonne on coal produced in Australia.
The primary sources of funds for the Trust Account will be amounts received by increasing from 10 to 15 cents per tonne the existing excise on non-State owned black coal production in Australia together with amounts received from States in respect of brown coal and State-owned black coal not covered by the existing excise.
In addition to identifying the source of funds the Bill describes the area of research to be covered and the method of disbursement. The Bill provides for the establishment of research advisory committees to provide advice and recommendations on appropriate research programs to be funded from the Trust Account.
The importance the Government places on this area of activity is reflected in the contribution which the Government makes directly through the valuable coal research activities of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. More recently the Government decided to fund, in partnership with interested State Governments and the Government of the Federal Republic of Germany a study, which will look at the economic and technical feasibility of a plant to convert Australian coal to synthetic liquids.
As the major technological effort in this field is undertaken overseas, it is vital that Australia should pursue opportunities for international cooperation in coal research. In this context an agency to agency agreement on coal research 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, which have recently been subsumed with the new United States Department of Energy, 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.
Expenditure on coal research and development in Australia has been extremely modest. In 1972-73 it totalled $5m rising to $9.5m in 1976-77. The measures now being introduced are expected to increase this figure by approximately $4m.
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 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 a proven basis for the production of liquid fuels for the transport and petrochemical industries. The States Ministers agreed that there was need to pursue coal research and investigate feasibility in respect of better definition of coal resources, improved mining techniques, conversion of coal to gas or liquids and improved combustion of coal.
This Bill and associated measures I am about to introduce represent an important step towards achieving these objectives.
I commend this BUI.
Excise Tariff Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977
The purpose of this Bill is to increase the existing excise on coal from 10 to 15c per tonne for the purpose of financing coal research. The existing excise of 10c per tonne is used to finance the Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave Fund. The additional 5c per tonne will be used for coal research. This follows the Treasurer’s statement in his Budget Speech on 16 August 1977 that the Government would levy 5c per tonne on coal produced in Australia, to which I referred in introducing the Bill to establish a Coal Research Trust Account.
I commend the Bill.
States Grants (Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave) Amendment Bill 1977
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the States Grants (Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave) Act 1949 to provide for two-thirds of the amounts raised as duties of excise on coal to be paid into the Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave Fund.
At the present time this Act provides for all amounts raised as excise on coal to be paid into the Fund. However, following the Treasurer’s announcement in the Budget Speech of the introduction of a levy of 5c per tonne on coal produced in Australia to finance increased coal research, the excise on coal is being increased from 10c per tonne to 15c per tonne for this purpose. The effect of this amendment is to provide for two-thirds of the amount raised as duties of excise on coal after 2.00 a.m. on 17 August 1977 to be paid into the Coal Mining Industry Long Service Leave Fund. The remaining one-third will be paid into Consolidated Revenue Fund for appropriation to the Coal Research Trust Account. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1 November on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition does not oppose the Judiciary (Diplomatic Representation) Bill. The simply stated purpose of the Bill is to provide certain machinery circumstances in relation to Mr Justice Fox and his appointment as AmbassadoratLarge for the Australian Government in relation to matters concerning nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear safeguards, and to provide for continuity of service in a judicial capacity for Mr Justice Fox during the time he occupies the position of Ambassador-at-Large. The Bill will also preserve certain pension rights which His Honour has as Judge of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. Yesterday in the Senate Senator Knight asked the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) a question about the situation of the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. Perhaps I did not understand the answer as well as I should have. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on 6 October this year made this statement:
The Government also proposes to introduce legislation to increase the number of Judges of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court from three to four to allow the Court to operate as necessary at its present strength during the period of Mr Justice Fox’s appointment as Ambassador-at-Large.
I do not know whether it is the Government’s intention to introduce legislation of that kind as suggested on 6 October or whether the AttorneyGeneral was saying yesterday that there was no need to do that. One of the consequences of the activities of Mr Justice Fox in the past few months has been a substantial crisis situation for the Supreme Court of the Australian Capital Territory. There have been serious delays in processing matters before the Court, including considerable delays for people who have been kept in custody awaiting trial. I hope it follows from the implications of this Bill and from what the Prime Minister said on 6 October- that is, that it would be necessary to introduce legislation to deal with the matter- that the appointments will be made as quickly as possible m order to alleviate that situation. I hope the matter will not be solved by the appointment on a temporary basis of judges who, for reasons of distinction and age, perhaps do not have the capacity to discharge the duties which a judge of the Supreme Court should carry out.
Apart from that comment, the Opposition has no objection to the Bill. Perhaps this is an opportune time to draw attention to the document which has already been discussed in the Senate this morning during Question Time in relation to Mr Justice Fox’s views of the international situation regarding nuclear safeguards and proliferation. Apparently he explained those views to officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs. We point out that as a result of the sorts of comments which His Honour made he will probably be overseas for much longer than one might have thought. If there is to be any solution to the problems which Mr Justice Fox suggests, in the statement made to the officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs, exists, we can only hope that he is successful in finding those solutions. The legislation which is now before the Senate will perhaps assist him in feeling secure in indulging m those discussions in the foreseeable future.
– I do not want to be misunderstood in relation to the Judiciary (Diplomatic Representation) Bill. I have the highest regard for His Honour Mr Justice Fox. I have the greatest expectation that his services as Ambassador-at-Large will be fruitful and important to the country. I rise only because I believe that this Bill is the wrong way to achieve our purpose. A judge discharges the duties of his office except when on leave. If he resigns he is entitled neither to salary nor pension except such as accrues by way of pension on resigning. Clause 3 (b) provides that during his appointment he is to receive the salary and allowances of a person who holds both the office of Chief Judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court and the office of Judge of the Federal Court of Australia. If that salary and allowance were expressed in money as part of the emoluments of Ambassador-at-Large, that would be all right. But I do not see that a judge who resigns should be entitled to salary qua the office from which he has resigned.
This clause provides that whether or not he resigns as Chief Judge he shall continue to receive salary and allowances payable from time to time to a person who holds the office both of the Chief Judge and a Judge of the Federal Court. But I have more objection to clause 4 which pro.vides that if he resigns from the office of Chief Judge- that is, death or resignation from his other judicial office- then he shall be entitled to a pension which is given only to a Chief Judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court. In my opinion that is monkeying with judicial remuneration which is entirely wrong ‘in relation to the independence of the judiciary. We have not been told the term of appointment of Ambassador-at-Large. It may be five months, 15 months or 15 years. We have not been told in what way salary and remuneration qua diplomat is to be related to salary and remuneration qua judge.
I simply wish to be on record as saying that I am not in agreement, in any sense, with providing that a judicial salary should continue after a judge’s resignation as is provided in clause 3 (b). Nor do I think that a judge’s pension should accrue to the person who has resigned from a judgeship which he does not hold at the time of the accrual of the pension. I think that if this matter is to be dealt with on a proper basis a decision has to be made by His Honour whether his continuance as Chief Judge is compatible with his appointment as a diplomat. If it is, he should ask to be given leave. If it is not, and if he thinks his duty requires him to resign, then salary and pension both accrue to him only when the office which he continues to hold ceases. That office would be as a Judge of the Federal Court. I think we have created a most undesirable precedent.
– in reply- I thank the Senate for its support of this measure. This is a small but most important Bill. It is designed to enable the appointment of Mr Justice Fox as Ambassador-at-Large, to represent Australia in its endeavours to secure a strengthened nuclear non-proliferation regime, without this appointment impinging on his rights as a judge. Therefore, because of the importance of the office of Ambassador-at-Large upon the duties of which Mr Justice Fox already has embarked, this Bill which puts at rest any doubt that this appointment can be made is a most important measure.
Senator Button took the opportunity of the second reading debate to raise the question of the Government’s intentions in relation to the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court. I am sorry if I did not make myself clear enough in answer to Senator Knight’s question yesterday, and I am glad to have another opportunity to make the Government’s position clear. In the negotiations for the appointment of Mr Justice Fox as Ambassador-at-Large the question of what ought to be done to replace him during the time that he would be absent from the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court was given very close consideration. As Senator Button said, in the last two years or more while he has been engaged on the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry the work which he normally would have performed as Chief Judge of the Australian
Capital Territory Supreme Court could be performed only by making certain ad hoc arrangements and getting assistance from other Federal judges whose prime duty was to other courts. As a result of his period of prolonged absence the delay in the hearing of cases in the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court has increased. So the decision referred to by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was a decision to appoint another judge to the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court rather than to continue with the ad hoc way in which relief judges had been provided during the previous two years.
What I was trying to say yesterday was that it was never the intention of the Government to appoint more than one judge to the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court. As a result of the statement made by the Prime Minister there had been some doubt as to whether the Government intended to appoint two judges.
– Do you mean additional judges?
-Two additional judges. That was the matter which I was endeavouring to clear up yesterday. Whether the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court legislation had to be amended to increase the number of judges depended on the nature of the resignation of Mr Justice Fox and that was the only reason for the reference to increasing the size of the Court. However, when it was clear that Mr Justice Fox did not wish to remain a judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court but wished simply to remain a judge of the Federal Court, it then was not necessary to amend the Act because his resignation provides a vacancy for one additional judge whom it was intended to appoint anyway. The passage of this Bill through the Senate will enable the resignation of Mr Justice Fox as Chief Judge and as a judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court to take effect and the Government then will be in a position to proceed with the appointment of his replacement on that Court. The Government certainly is aware that it would not be reasonable for the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court to have to proceed as it has done in the past by obtaining judges to work only part time m that Court.
Senator Wright has criticised the way in which the salary and pension of Mr Justice Fox are dealt with in this legislation. I simply say that in the Government’s view Mr Justice Fox is making a considerable sacrifice in resigning as Chief Judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court in order to undertake this important task not only in Australia’s national interest but also in the international interest. The question of his continuing appointment as a judge and his continuing to receive salary as a judge during his appointment as Ambassador-at-Large has very distinguished precedents which I mentioned in the second reading speech. Sir John Latham was appointed Ambassador to Japan in the late 1930s and Sir Owen Dixon was appointed Ambassador to the United States of America during the war years. So there are clear precedents for the provision that is contained in clause 3 (a) of the Bill, namely, that service as AmbassadoratLarge counts as continuation of judicial service and attracts the continuation of the salary rights of a judge. Also, during the period that he is Ambassador-at-Large he will be entitled to receive salary at a rate equivalent to that paid to the Chief Judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court. Then, when he ceases to be Ambassador-at-Large and there is no -
-For how long?
– I cannot put a time on it. We do not know how long he will be engaged on this work. It is estimated that it will be at least 12 months, but it may well be longer. When he finishes that work and returns to his ordinary judicial work he will return as a judge of the Federal Court of Australia and he will receive the salary which that office attracts.
The other matter raised by Senator Wright concerned pension rights. Certainly the Bill provides that on the retirement of Mr Justice Fox from judicial office his pension under the Judges Pensions Act will be calculated on the basis of the salary he would have received if at that time he had been Chief Judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court in addition to being a judge of the Federal Court. Justification can be given for that provision. It is a statutory provision. It is not a matter that can be criticised as being some side arrangement made with a judge without statutory force. Certainly the Government believes that this is a matter which should be provided for by statute. That is an important principle which Senator Wright raised in the Senate and which the Government accepts. The justification for that action is that Mr Justice Fox, as Chief Judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court and a judge of the Federal Court of Australia, would have expected, in the ordinary course of events, to have continued in that office receiving the emoluments and status of that office as Chief Judge for the rest of his working life and in the exercise of his judicial functions for that time. Therefore, by undertaking this work on behalf of the nation, resulting in the need for him to resign as Chief Judge of the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court, he has made a considerable sacrifice. Therefore, it is unreasonable that when he retires, at a time when he would be relying on his pension, he should suffer as a result of the sacrifice that he had made on behalf of the nation in accepting this appointment and performing the work as Ambassador-at-large.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I acknowledge the merit to which the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) referred of this matter coming before the Parliament in the form of a statute. However, that does not answer the question I raised, that it makes Mr Justice Fox’s emoluments ambulatory, in particular in respect of clause 3 (b) of the Bill which refers to salary and allowances of the office of Chief Justice continuing during his appointment as Ambassadoratlarge. However, if the appointment expires in a year or two years, and if his honour has resigned from the position of Chief Judge, he reverts to holding one position only, that of Judge of the Federal Court. I do not know the differential in salary. But let us assume that it is some $3,000. It may be in the range of about $3,000.
-It is $ 1 ,000.
– It is only $1,000. So for the remainder of his tenure of office as a federal judge, he suffers a reduction in salary of $1,000 a year. That proves the strength of my point in relation to clause 4 of the Bill that his pension should be not paid as if he continued in office as Chief Judge but should be paid in respect of the office that he actually holds as a judge. I do not wish to pursue this point, but I desire to be on record as maintaining, as I do, the essential necessity that judges’ salaries should be fixed in relation to the office that they actually hold. If this is a temporary appointment, the proposed appointee must decide whether the appointment is consistent with the retention of the office of Chief Justice. If it is not consistent and the proposed appointee resigns from the office of Chief Justice, then the lawful consequences should take place without exceptional provision.
I conclude by observing that, if my recollection is right, Sir John Latham was Chief Justice of the High Court and did not resign. The arrangements that I suggested as proper in the case of a temporary appointment for a year or two would be for the proposed appointee to retain his office and for another judge to act in that office. At the time of the appointment of Mr Justice Dixon, he was not Chief Justice and he retained his office. Therefore no question arose as to terminating his judicial salary or his pension, or altering either. I am willing to accept the application of the precedents in the cases I have mentioned to this appointment, having regard to the importance of nuclear development. The appointments of Sir John Latham and Mr Justice Dixon were of tremendous importance having regard to the gathering war clouds in Japan. When Sir John Latham took up his duties and when Mr Justice Dixon went to the United States of America this country was in the darkest throes of one of the greatest struggles in history. I am prepared to accept the propriety of a judge accepting an appointment as a diplomatic AmbassadoratLarge on a matter so important as nuclear energy. However, I hope that this does not set a precedent for other diplomatic duties being accepted temporarily by judges in other areas. All I am insisting upon is that if it is not consistent with the acceptance of that appointment as a diplomat to retain a judicial appointment or to retain one of two judicial appointments, the consequences of resignation should be direct and complete. Salary should cease on resignation and pension benefits should never be revived as if the resignation had not been made.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 1 November on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Opposition opposes the Governor-General Amendment Bill which provides for an increase in the future salary of the Governor-General to $37,000 per annum, the current salary of a Governor-General being $30,000 per annum. In each case I think it is important to remember that the salary to which I have referred is a tax free amount. The salary of the office of GovernorGeneral was last determined in 1974 when Kerr was appointed to that office. As I understand it, it was thought by the Government at the time that a salary of $30,000 tax free would be an appropriate salary for the Governor-General of Australia for a period of approximately 10 years. Unfortunately, the term of office of the -
– Was it stated anywhere that it was anticipated the salary would apply for 10 years?
– I understand that it was a matter of discussion at the time. Be that as it may, the rate of inflation may not have declined and perhaps he deserves anincrease in salary in 1977 of the order of $7,000. Unfortunately, the present incumbent of the office was appointed or a term of five years which has been shortened, as it were, by his premature retirement.
– There is no fixed term; you know that. It is at the Queen ‘s pleasure.
-That may be so.
– Then why do you state in the Parliament that it was for a term if it is not a fact?
-Senator Wright -
– It is a serious matter to make a misstatement like that in the Parliament.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! The honourable senator should be allowed to make his own speech.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I will come back to that question if you would like me to, Senator Wright, as soon as I can obtain a document relating to it, because whether or not the word ‘term’ is correct, there was an understanding about it. The GovernorGeneral has now indicated his intention of retiring- as I understand it, on a full pension.
The question which concerns the Opposition is simply this: Whether there is justification at this time for an increase in salary of $7,000 tax free per annum in the view of the functions of the office and the tasks that a Governor-General has to perform; also, in view of such other factors as the general decline in the increase in the rate of income of most members of the community. In the circumstances, one must ask what singles out the Governor-General for particular attention of this kind. He is to be the recipient of a very significant increase.
If one examines the office from the point of view of cost-benefit to Australian society, a number of questions, which are of concern to many, do arise. In addition to the GovernorGeneral’s salary, the cost of maintaining his establishment is of the order of $1,078,000. That figure can be extrapolated from the Estimates of the Senate in this way: It includes the salaries of the Governor-General’s official staff, travel costs, office requisites, stationery, printing, et cetera; maintenance of the official residences at Government House, Admiralty House, the Lodge and Kirribilli, as well as all the services that go with those establishments. Therefore, in addition to the salary of $37,000 tax free, the office of the Governor-General costs the taxpayers something over $lm a year. In terms of cost-benefit one must ask whether that expenditure is justified. I do not myself know what a Governor-General does. I realise, from my experience in this Parliament, that from time to time he attends meetings of the Executive Council and sometimes signs documents at those meetings.
-What would a president do? Do you think a president would do something more impressive?
-I have not come to that yet, Senator.
– What do Opposition senators do? Maybe they are overpaid, too.
-I do not know why Senator Withers is so peculiarly sensitive about the office of the Governor-General. He is generally sensitive at the moment, but I do not know why he should feel the need to leap into the battle on behalf of the institution of Governor-General. Perhaps we ought to have a serious debate about it at some stage and doubtless Senator Withers would be able to make a highly intelligent contribution to that.
My point is that it is a very large sum of money to pay for a figurehead when I, speaking as one member of the the Senate, do not really know what he does. In addition to attending meetings of the Executive Council, according to the column ‘Top of the Town’ in the Sydney Morning Herald he also attends odd functions from time to time, presents Melbourne Cups and so on. It does not seem to be the sort of office which justifies a salary of the kind that is described in this legislation. Perhaps the incoming Governor-General is to be paid what might be called, in industrial relations, an attraction rate. Perhaps the Government had to pay $37,000 tax free to get the new GovernorGeneral. Perhaps nobody was prepared to accept at the lower salary. It may be an attraction rate but, in terms of cost-benefit consideration, a great deal of the taxpayers’ money is being expended to maintain the institution. It is not so much, Senator Chaney, that a president might do better, as that a president might be cheaper and work harder. That is the argument: It is somewhat of a figurehead institution.
It is a matter of genuine concern, that an institution such as this should, like the Parliament, be seen to be one which behaves with dignity and justifies its existence in terms of what it produces. This is a concern expressed not just by Opposition supporters, but by many in the community generally. We never examine these questions; we simply have legislation which alters the salary of the office.
When one discusses the institution of the Governor-General one can recommend for the lighter reading over the holidays of people such as Senator Chaney who, I know- as distinct from Senator Withers- does read books, and for Senator Hall, who will doubtless be unemployed after 10 December, a number of works on the subject. The institution of the Governor-General has in the last year or two attracted a tremendous amount of writing. One is surprised to note that there has been no writing concerning it in Government circles, except of course a Bill to increase the salary of the incumbent.
– There have been a lot of words written, but not much writing.
-You of course, by your own admission, would not know. You never read books.
– Not left wing garbage.
– It is only left wing garbage now? I know the honourable senator does not read newspapers. I would not have thought that on the whole they were left wing garbage, but if that is his description of Australian newspapers so be it. I commend to Senator Chaney, who takes a keen delight in these matters, Donald Home’s satire, His Excellency’s Pleasure. The book represents an interesting extrapolation of the constitutional powers which the Governor-General enjoys, and will I hope draw some critical attention to the sort of function which he performs, or ought to performwhich, of course, is a more important matter than is his salary. I do not believe that I should be lured into answering, on behalf of the Opposition, Senator Chaney ‘s question about the desirability of having a president or a republic. I do not want to be drawn into that. I just think that it is better for conservatives of impeccable authority, such as Senator Withers, to think in a critical way about some of the institutions which they persistently try to prop up. That is the point I seek to make. I think we should be looking a little wider in relation to the Governor-General than just to the question of his salary. I think we should be looking also at the nature of the institution, the constitutional function which a Governor-General has, whether those constitutional functions are appropriate in 1977, as they were deemed to be in the Victorian era -
– Orin 1972.
-Yes, or in 1972. I know that the institution is very dear to the hearts of honourable senators opposite because we have seen in recent years that a Liberal Party, with the aid of the Governor-General, can choose an election at any time, whether the Liberal Party be in opposition or in government. That is a very important faculty for a political party to have.
-Like Mr Dunstan. He called an election 7 months early.
-I do not think that he needed the particular aid of his upper House or his Governor to do that. Why do honourable senators opposite think I am here to defend everything which happens in South Australia or in some remote corner of Australia? The other day Senator Withers seemed to get extreme delight from my saying in this place that the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, could speak for himself about something. I should have thought that was an impeccable proposition in this Parliament. If honourable senators opposite want to march like a team of marching gins in drag behind their leader on every occasion, in total step and totally uncritical, and finally end up like a set of lemmings going over the cliff in that marching process, then good luck to them. But they should not be under the misapprehension that I am here to defend everything that is supposed to be towards the Left in this society and that I have an obligation to do that. I will not discharge such an obligation and I do not want to disappoint honourable senators opposite.
I think that, as a result of the presentation of this legislation which gives a handout to the office of Governor-General, honourable senators opposite who are so sensitive about decadent institutions in this country, including the office of Governor-General, should think a little more seriously about the nature of that institution, about the constitutional functions which are imposed upon the Governor-General and about the way in which he in fact discharges those functions.
- Senator, you must not reflect on the manner in which Her Majesty’s representative might act in his capacity as Her Majesty’s representative.
-Yes, Mr President, I understand. I did not apprehend that I had done that in any way. I was suggesting that there should be a critical analysis of some of these things and perhaps we can come back to them at a later stage. The Opposition opposes the Bill. We consider the salary increase provided in the Bill to be unnecessary. We consider, as I have said, that the salary increase is to be used as an attraction so that somebody can be found for the job of Governor-General when Kerr retires. We think that the increase is totally unnecessary in the current economic climate and having regard to the functions actually performed for this salary.
– I wish to say a few words on the Governor-General Amendment Bill 1977, now before the chamber. As we all know, the only time that a Bill to increase the salary of the Governor-General can be introduced is either when the present incumbent is going out of office or before the new incumbent takes office. An increase in salary cannot be made to apply to the present incumbent. We are now faced with a situation in which this Government is proposing to increase the salary of the incoming GovernorGeneral by $7,000 a year. Yet we are told daily in this Parliament that the present Government sticks rigidly to its wage indexation guidelines. It appears to me that this Bill goes completely outside the wage indexation guidelines. I think the present salary is about $30,000 a year tax free and it does not need to be used by the GovernorGeneral in carrying out his duties. Yet we find that this salary is to be increased by $7,000 a year.
Recently when the coal miners and the people who work in the Victorian State Electricity Commission in the Latrobe Valley asked for an increase of, I think, $40 a week- $2,000 a yearthose people were castigated and were said to be holding the country to ransom. All sorts of terrible things were said against them. Now we have the Government introducing this Bill, which will increase a person’s salary by $7,000 a year, quite apart from all the other perks that go with that office. In this chamber I have criticised the incumbent of the office of Governor-General for wasteful expenditure of taxpayers’ money in the way VIP aircraft are used. Earlier this year I asked that a copy of the manifest for VIP flights be tabled in this Parliament so that the matter could be considered again during the debate on the Estimates. As yet this document has not been tabled and we will not be able to examine it now before the Parliament rises so the taxpayers at large will not know the extra costs pertaining to the office of Governor-General.
In the second reading debate on this Bill in the other place my colleague, the shadow AttorneyGeneral, the honourable member for KingsfordSmith (Mr Lionel Bowen), made some comments to which I should like to refer. He drew the attention of the Parliament to the fact that the Constitution provides that the incumbent of the office of Governor-General can intervene and can suggest amendments to any Bill. So here we have the Government proposing this increase in salary for a person who in the office of GovernorGeneral can override- the present incumbent has done so- the wishes of the residents of this country. When those people elected a Government they found that that Government was sacked at a moment’s notice at the behest of the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). We witnessed an upheaval in respect of the Constitution; as a matter of fact, we witnessed the breaking of the Constitution. I happened to be in the other place when a motion of no confidence in the caretaker Prime Minister was passed, and when the Speaker of the House went to Government House to advise the Governor-General of what had happened the Governor-General would not receive him. So we are paying a salary to a person who will not even carry out the duties allocated to him. I am talking about the present incumbent of the office.
– Order! The honourable senator should not make reflections or imputations.
– That was not a reflection, Mr President. I am stating the facts. If any honourable senator likes to read Hansard he will see that in the other place a division was called for and, because at the time the Labor Party had the numbers, a motion of no confidence in the caretaker Prime Minister, who had been installed by the present incumbent of the office of Governor-General, was passed. What should have happened was that, as has been done in the past when a motion of no confidence is passed in a government and its Prime Minister, the Governor-General should have immediately called for the Leader of the Opposition and asked him whether he could form a government. Of course, Mr Whitlam could have done so.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. I debated the constitutional procedures on another occasion. They are irrelevant to this occasion. But if any honourable senator is permitted to enter into this irrelevant discussion, the logical consequence is that other honourable senators will feel impelled to do so too. I ask that the debate be confined to the matter of the salary of the incoming Governor-General.
– That is quite correct. The matter immediately before the chamber relates to an increase in salary for the incoming Governor-General. Please make your remarks relevant to that matter, Senator McLaren.
– May I speak to the point of order, Mr President?
– No, I have ruled on the point of order, Senator Georges.
– Then may I speak to your ruling, Mr President?
– Are you moving dissent?
– I am not moving dissent. I would like some explanation.
– No. That point of order is closed. Do you wish to raise another point of order, Senator Georges?
– No, Mr President. Perhaps I could have some clarification of your ruling. You are saying that in debating this Bill we are restricted to the terms of the increase in salary of the incoming Governor-General. How is it possible to make a correct assessment of this increase without referring to the situation which existed in the past? How is it possible, without in some way discussing the value obtained from the payment of the Governor-General’s salary in the past, to assess whether we should be paying $7,000 a year more to the incoming Governor-General? I cannot see how we can possibly be restricted in the way your ruling suggests.
– Relevancy must be maintained to matters before the chamber. The reference to relevancy made by Senator Wright is quite correct. The provisions of this Bill are very clear. In debating the increase in salary for the incoming Governor-General, only matters which are immediately relevant may be referred to.
- Mr President, would it be in order when we are discussing salaries to discuss the value of the office in conjunction with the salary?
– I shall listen to speeches as they are made and determine then whether the matter is relevant to the Bill.
-That is the very thing I was doing. I was trying to point out that the Opposition, which is opposing this Bill, does not see any legitimate argument for increasing the salary of the Governor-General in view of the wage indexation guidelines that have been laid down. The Governor-General is presently in receipt of a salary of $30,000. 1 went on to say that I did not see why the incoming Governor-General- this is no reflection on him; he has nothing to do with it- should receive an extra $7,000. 1 was trying to explain that the taxpayers of this country have to foot the bill for the salary of the GovernorGeneral and the further increase. I was going on to say what the present incumbent of the office did for the salary he was receiving. That is the very argument which Senator Button proposed. I then went on to say how he breached the constitution by not carrying out the wishes of the other place.
-Order! No. The remark he breached the Constitution’ is a direct reflection.
– That is a personal opinion.
– No. It is a direct statement that the Governor-General breached the Constitution. The Chair will not allow such statements. I am endeavouring to allow Senator McLaren to speak as broadly as possible, provided that what he says is relevant to the matter. Senator McLaren, please be sure not to contravene Standing Order 417.
– I will frame my remarks in another way. I will say: In my opinion, he breached the conventions- that is a similar statement, but it is expressed in different words- and also he departed from the recognised practice. When a motion of no confidence in a Prime Minister and a government is carried in the other place it has been usual in the past for the Governor-General to call on the Leader of the Opposition and ask him whether he has the numbers to form a government. A motion of no confidence in the caretaker Prime Minister and his Government was passed in the other place on 11 November 1975. As was the usual practice, the Speaker of the House of Representatives journeyed to Yarralumla to advise the GovernorGeneral of what had happened in the Parliament. The Governor-General of the day would not receive him, to find out what had happened, until after his Secretary had come to Parliament House and nailed a notice on the door stating that the Parliament had been prorogued. That is what I am objecting to.
The taxpayers of this country are paying a massive amount of $30,000 at present for the salary of the Governor-General which is tax free. We are now going to increase that by $7,000. As
Senator Button pointed out, it also costs a massive amount of money to maintain the GovernorGeneral’s establishment. That comes out of the taxpayer’s pocket. If the incumbents of the office are going to depart from the recognised conventions, of course we have every right to object. I see nothing wrong with my saying that. It is fact. It is on record for everybody to see.
I come back to the duplicity or the double standards of this Government, which repeatedly has refused to allow the working class people of this country to ask for increased benefits to offset the cost of living increases. The Government says: ‘We have set the wage indexation guidelines. You cannot go outside them’. Because of this, people in the Latrobe Valley of Victoria went without pay for 10 weeks. There were very strong objections from honourable senators opposite who castigated these people when they asked for a miserably small increase in their rates of pay. Now the Government proposes in this Bill a salary increase of $7,000 which is right outside the wage indexation guidelines. If the Government were consistent, this Bill would have been framed within the wage indexation guidelines which it so proudly portrays to everybody in the community. Having said those few words, I have put on the record my objection to the way the present incumbent of this office has carried out his duties, and -
-Order! That is a disrespectful remark to the incumbent of the office. Withdraw that.
-Mr President, I have pointed out why I made the remark that he reached the conventions.
-Order! No. I shall read Standing Order 4 1 7. It states:
No Senator shall use the name of Her Majesty or of Her representative in this Commonwealth disrespectfully in Debate . . .
The remark you made, Senator McLaren, is disrespectful to the person holding the office. You must withdraw, my friend. Will you please withdraw that?
-Mr President, I feel that I cannot withdraw, because I am of the firm opinion, as are thousands of Australians, that the conventions were breached. I pointed out why. The usual practices were not followed by the present incumbent of the office when he refused to receive the Speaker of the other House when a motion of no confidence was passed in the Prime Minister and caretaker Government which he had installed.
– I cannot but insist that you withdraw, Senator McLaren.
– What have we done here? Have we named anyone? Have we taken any action? Are we to be prevented from speaking to this point?
– Order! I have asked Senator McLaren to withdraw. I do so again.
-Mr President -
– Order! I have a matter before me at the moment, Senator Georges.
– Are we to have no expression of opinion on the action which is to be taken? Is this the point we have reached?
– Order! I call Senator McLaren.
- Mr President, it was not my intention to put you in this position, as you would well know. I have stated my firm beliefs. Because I have a firm belief I feel that I am unable to withdraw my opinion that the present incumbent of the office of Governor-General breached conventions. I used the word ‘conventions’ instead of the word ‘Constitution’. It is my firm opinion that he did that. I refuse to withdraw.
– I have ruled that the words must be withdrawn. They are in contravention of the standing order that is relevant to this matter. I insist on that.
-I move: That the ruling of the President be dissented from.
Senator Georges having submitted his motion in writing-
– I move:
That this matter requires immediate determination.
– Do I have a right to speak to my motion?
– Yes, afterwards.
– I wish to speak briefly to the motion.
– The honourable senator should speak to his motion- not to my motion.
-Is Senator Georges’ motion seconded?
-I have moved my motion because, as Senator Georges will see if he looks at Standing Order 430, unless I do so his motion of dissent cannot come on for debate until tomorrow. I imagine that he wants it determined forthwith. I have just moved that motion to enable his motion to come before the chamber forthwith. If my motion is carried he will be able to give the reasons for moving his motion.
– Order! The immediate question is: That the motion of dissent requires immediate determination. Those of that opinion say ‘aye’; to the contrary ‘no’. I think the ‘ayes’ have it. The question now is that the motion moved by Senator Georges, which is that the President’s ruling be dissented from in regard to his direction to Senator McLaren to withdraw, be agreed to.
-Mr President, I think you can appreciate my feelings and my deep reluctance about having to move such a motion, but it seemed to me in the circumstances to be the only way in which I could put to you a case concerning your direction to Senator McLaren to withdraw certain remarks. I think it is an extreme motion to put to the Senate. I believe that there must be some way in the future whereby we can come to some sort of debate or discussion on a direction to an honourable senator to withdraw without having to move a motion of dissent from a ruling. However, having done so, I must persist with it. I refer to Standing Order 417, which reads:
No Senator shall use the name of Her Majesty or of Her representative in this Commonwealth disrespectfully in Debate, nor for the purpose of influencing the Senate in its deliberations.
I should think that Standing Order 4 1 7 is built on the word ‘disrespectfully’. I would say that Senator McLaren put a proposition, and made a statement and expressed an opinion without disrespect. He was putting a case in a debate that is relevant to the office of Governor-General. It is difficult in a debate such as this one to make a case without referring to the institution of Governor-General and the person who holds the position of Governor-General. I make the point, Mr President, that your rulings in regard to the institution of Governor-General in this place have been so severe that they have placed this Parliament and this House in a secondary position to the Governor-General himself or the institution of Governor-General. Surely that is not your intention and should not have been your intention. But your ruling today does that and that exactly. It limits gravely the ability of an honourable senator to express an opinion about the institution of Governor-General and the Governor-General himself.
I should have thought that what Senator McLaren said was not disrespectful. Perhaps he could have corrected his position by saying: With respect, I give yon this opinion . . .’. Would that have corrected the situation? If that is the case, all he needed to have said was: ‘With respect to the institution of Governor-General, I wish to make this point . . .’. I cannot for the life of me see how we can continue to operate in this Parliament if we are going to be faced with a ruling on or interpretation of Standing Order 417 which prevents anyone in this place from making criticism of the Governor-General or the institution of Governor-General. Supposing we were to enter into a debate in this chamber on whether we should have a republic. As far as I am concerned it is immaterial whether we have a President or a Governor-General. In a debate on that issue we would have to make certain criticism which, by the nature of your very ruling on this occasion and other occasions, would be deemed to be disrespectful under Standing Order 417.
Mr President, I merely ask you to consider that the Senate’s position in relation to the institution of Governor-General must be protected. We should have the right to make respectful criticism in this Chamber of the Governor-General, of any action of the Governor-General or of any action of the household of Governor-General without suddenly being brought to a halt. On a number of occasions we have been brought to a halt by your rulings. I am suggesting in this case that you ought to reconsider the matter. I believe that your request to Senator McLaren is one that contains too severe an interpretation of Standing Order 4 17.
– I indicate that the Government will oppose the motion of dissent moved by Senator Georges. If Senator McLaren, Senator Walsh, with whom we had some trouble yesterday about a similar matter, or Senator Georges wishes to debate the office of Governor-General or the various other aspects, I put it to the Senate that that ought to be done by way of a substantive motion directed to that matter. I submit to the Senate that your ruling was a correct ruling, Mr President. The subject matter before the Chair is a Bill to increase the salary of the incoming Governor-General. I think it is fair enough to do as Senator Button did, that is, to canvass the position as long as one stays within the bounds. Senator Button was careful to do that. I think it is fair enough to say that Senator Button was not disrespectful at any stage. We are talking about the language which Senator McLaren used and which you, Mr President, asked him to withdraw.
-What was the language? Was it disrespectful because it was about the way in which he carried out bis position?
-Senator McLaren did not say that Senator Cavanagh. That could come up at a later stage if Mr President’s ruling is upheld and he takes further action. We could then have a debate on that. I say on behalf of the Government that I support your ruling, Mr President. I must say for myself that I am amazed at your patience and tolerance in this matter. I think that what you asked Senator McLaren to do ought not to have been difficult to do. It has been the practice in this chamber when one has been asked to withdraw for one to do so immediately. I always try to do it gracefully and to do it with an apology to the Chair, to the honourable senator concerned and to the chamber. I think that is one practice that we ought to abide by. Senator McLaren may think that he has some right no to do so. That is a judgment for him to make. I am trying to be very careful not to debate what might be the subject matter of a subsequent motion. That is why I am picking my words with care.
– Why should you do so?
-I think that in fairness one should not anticipate a motion that may never arise and one should not debate subjects before they do arise. I suppose that is really why trouble has occurred with the debate on this Bill to date. Instead of debating the Bill we have wanted to debate past events, past attitudes, past dislikes, present dislikes, personal attitudes and so on. After all, Mr President, you gave at least one ruling on relevance. You asked the honourable senator a couple of times to be careful about the language he was using. The Government senators will support your ruling, Mr President.
– I am speaking to Senator Georges’ motion partly to try to indicate the facts as I understand them. I think it is important that there be an understanding of the facts. One of the facts simply is that the question of the relevance of what Senator McLaren was saying was not in issue at the time that you asked him to withdraw, Mr President, and it is not to the point of the argument for Senator Withers to say that the question of relevance was in issue. It was not. What was in issue, as I understand it, was Senator McLaren’s statement that the Governor-General had breached convention. He said that in the context of making the observation that on 1 1 November 1975 the Governor-General refused to receive the Speaker of the House of Representatives who wished to convey to him the fact that a no confidence motion in the Government had been carried by a majority of the House of Representatives. That was the context in which Senator McLaren used the words: ‘He breached convention’.
With respect, Mr President, your ruling asking him to withdraw on the basis of that remark was based, as I understand it, on Standing Order 417 which states:
No Senator shall use the name of Her Majesty or of Her representative in thu Commonwealth disrespectfully in Debate . . .
With the greatest of respect, Mr President, although I did not fully apprehend the full purport of Senator George’s motion of dissent when he moved it, whatever can be said about Senator McLaren’s remarks, they are not in themselves disrespectful. I thought that Senator McLaren was indicating a proposition which, as I understand it, is of great historical antiquity. If the Governor-General of Australia or a Head of State anywhere departs from that proposition he can be described as having breached a convention. Whatever one thinks about the conventionwhether it is right or wrong- is of course a matter of opinion. But with respect, it does not fall within the description of being disrespectful.
Plenty of allegations have been made or suggested in the context of the debate. I thought that Senator Withers was terribly kind to me in relation to what I said earlier. I do not think the words which Senator McLaren used can be regarded as being disrespectful. It seems to me that we are dealing with a matter of fact about which we are all a little less informed than we might be. But I thought we would all be informed to the extent of being able to say that there was a convention that the Head of State received the Speaker in circumstances such as those that existed on 11 November 1975. 1 believe that any contrary view could not necessarily be described as being in any way disrespectful.
- Mr President, I wish to enter very briefly into the debate on your rulings. I draw the attention of the Senate to page 152 of the latest edition of Australian Senate Practice which I think bears out the arguments that were put before the Senate by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Withers. In the fourth paragraph under the heading ‘Courtesies of Debate’- which I think is a particularly apt heading because matters of courtesy in respect of this subject seem to have gone by the boardafter reference to the use of the name of the sovereign, members of the Royal Family and the Governor-General, the following statement is made:
No reflection on the conduct of the Governor-General may be cast unless based upon a substantive motion and not by way of amendment.
It seems to me that this is an area in which numerous attempts have been made to make references when no substantive motion is before the chamber. I think that your ruling, Mr President, is most timely. I think that aspect of what is reported in Australian Senate Practice is most appropriate.
– I intervene briefly in this debate. I think it is appreciated, Mr President, that your position and the Standing Orders under which you operate virtually stem from the Westminster system. I think the whole bone of contention about the utterances that have been made today can be related to the situation in the House of Commons. If we look at the Hansards of the House of Commons from about 1900 to 1910 we find that Irish nationalist members transgressed to a far greater extent than what has been implied in this place. However, in the last five years in the House of Commons, a Scotsman named Willie Hamilton has got away with much more direct and hurtful things about the reigning monarch, things to which I and other members of the Opposition would not subscribe. I make the point, Mr President, that this place functions on precedent and if the House of Commons allows a great deal more latitude in respect of remarks relating to the monarchy generally I sincerely believe this place should adopt the same practice. We have come a long way from the Mahon case in which a Western Australian was probably wrongly impeached in the 1920s. I believe that a passing reference made in the Senate in 1977 in no way comes near to what Willie Hamilton gets away with in the House of Commons. It is on that point that I respectfully support Senator Georges.
– I want to make only a few brief remarks on this matter because I doubt whether we know what we are doing or where we are going. I agree with Senator Georges that a motion of dissent from the President’s ruling is a rather serious matter. No one would like to offend you, Mr President. I think we have the greatest respect for you. Therefore I ask you not to take personally my comment that even a President can err at times. To determine whether you did err we have to ascertain whether your ruling is correct. Standing Order 4 1 7 states:
No Senator shall use the name of Her Majesty or of Her representative in this Commonwealth disrespectfully in Debate . . .
You have ruled that Senator McLaren referred to the Governor-General in a disrespectful manner. For the Senate to make a judgment on whether you were correct in saying the remark was disrespectful, we have to know what the remark was. That is the first essential thing we have to determine.
I think the remark that the Governor-General had breached the Constitution was made some time earlier. A previous objection was taken in respect of Senator McLaren’s remark that the Governor-General had broken the Constitution. Senator McLaren clarified what he said by saying that the Governor-General had broken a convention. I understood Senator McLaren to say finally that he placed on record his opposition to an increase being made to the salary of the Governor-General because of the way in which the present Governor-General had carried out his duties. I believe that was the remark that you, Mr President, found to be disrespectful.
The question we now have to decide, without engaging in personalities, is whether it is disrespectful for a senator to express opposition to the way in which the Governor-General has carried out his duties. If we are not allowed to express an opinion on the way in which the GovernorGeneral has carried out his duties, complete freedom and the right of justice is taken away from every senator in this chamber. If we do not agree with the way in which the Governor-General has carried out his duties we are only expressing an opinion. If we are not able to say we are dissatisfied with the way someone has carried out his duties, surely we are not able to say we are happy with the way he carried out his duties. I trunk we must ask the question: Do we know the exact words to which objection is taken and, if so, is the President correct in ruling that they are disrespectful?
I think it is very unfortunate that the debate has reached this stage. Senator McLaren has made strong criticism of the way in which the Governor-General has carried out his duties. I think he has a right to put his criticism in the manner he did. I think that every senator has a right to express an opinion as to how someone has carried out his duty. A senator is not necessarily being disrespectful in putting that opinion. I think that the Governor-General believes he has upheld the dignity of his office and carried out’ his duty in accordance with the highest tradition of his office. Therefore two conflicting opinions can be expressed. I do not think it can be said that an honourable senator is disrespectful if he expresses one of those opinions. I believe we should be able to express an opinion on the way in which the Governor-General has carried out his duties. I do not know whether necessarily we have to go to a vote. Could this not be resolved by Senator McLaren saying that he did not want to speak disrespectfully of the Governor-General but simply to express his opinion on the way the Governor-General carried out his duties and have it on record?
-The motion before the Chair is a motion of dissent from your ruling, Mr President. It is the right of any senator to move such a motion. He has the right under the Standing Orders, he has the right under convention, and it is one of the fundamental bases of democracy that he should be able to do so. But in moving such a motion an honourable senator is not showing any disrespect towards you in your rulings. I make that point because disrespect can be interpreted as meaning disparagement or a lack of deference. There are many ways to describe disrespect. The matter that we are debating has been discussed throughout the country for two years. Every lawyer in Australia, including Senator Withers, Senator Chaney and other legal people, has discussed this matter and seminars have been conducted in very high places. The subject matter to which Senator McLaren referred has been openly and thoroughly debated and is now part of history. However, the only place in Australia where the matter cannot be discussed is in this -Senate, in this Parliament, according to the ruling that has been made.
– Only on the basis of a substantive motion.
– I make the point that during the course of a debate on the mundane matter of the salary of the representative of Her Majesty, if anything other than support for the measure is put forward it can be taken as being critical or disrespectful or in some way derogatory towards the representative of Her Majesty. Because this subject has been so controversial and is such a fundamental issue affecting the Parliament itself, the Westminster system, and the history of Australia, in my view it is taking a rather narrow view to forbid any reference to it in this place. This is the first time that a substantive motion has been moved under which we could discuss the question whether the Parliament is entitled to refer to a tremendously important historic period and an historic act of the
Governor-General. I believe that that is of very great importance, and I am sure that when Senator McLaren referred to it he felt that he was exercising his democratic right to have an equal opportunity with anyone else in the community who wishes to refer to it. There are differing opinions on the decision that was made. Therefore, Mr President, although you have ruled according to the letter of the Standing Orders that Senator McLaren is unable to make such a reference, in my view it is a special matter in which you should exercise that extra discretion that should be available to the Presiding Officer to give a senator the same rights as anyone else in the community.
– I am quite sure that it is not right to say that in this chamber it is not possible to discuss the events of 1975 or any other period. Those things have been done constantly in this chamber, and perhaps tediously, in the last few years. That is not the basis of the objection this morning. The objection this morning is on the basis of a statement that a public officer, whether he be the Governor-General or somebody else, has breached conventions and has done something that he should not do in relation to his duty.
-What does Willie Hamilton say about the Royal Family?
– I am not interested in Willie Hamilton or Joe Blow or the man who jumped over the moon. Surely we must be concerned with our own duties under our own Standing Orders. If somebody criticises the duties of an important officer of state and the way in which he performs those duties, that is a breach of respect which the Standing Orders certainly cover. It is not a matter of preventing history or issues being discussed here that are being discussed in the community. What Senator O “Byrne said was not relevant to the point. The point is a simple one, Mr President, and that is that your ruling is correct and within the Standing Orders and must be upheld.
-That contribution by Senator Missen was probably the worst that has been heard in the discussion that has taken place in the last half hour or so. I have not the slightest doubt that neither Senator McLaren nor anyone else in this place wishes to cast a personal reflection on the Governor-General. However, as we all know, half the Australian population would agree that the Governor-General broke with convention in 1975. Half the Australian population would also agree that he has not earned out his duties in the way that they think he should. That is a matter of opinion, but that is not the issue before us. The fact that we differ in this chamber on what we think of the person concerned is no reason that a senator cannot draw attention to a factual position. That factual position is that convention is in grave doubt and can be resolved only in the minds of individuals. Senator Cavanagh raised a point of order under Standing Order 417 and dealt with it in a most astute manner. The Standing Order states:
No Senator shall use the name of Her Majesty or of Her representative in this Commonwealth disrespectfully in Debate . . .
If we look at Standing Order 418 we find exactly the same intent in relation to persons of other Houses of Parliament. Yet in this Parliament, and in this very House, over the past week or two we have heard nothing but a continuous series of deliberate scurrilous misrepresentations against the man who was Prime Minister when Sir John Ken was alleged to have broken convention. Standing Order 418 has exactly the same intent as Standing Order 4 1 7. Mr Whitlam has as much right to be protected as Sir John Kerr, and our Standing Orders provide for it. I have been tempted on more than one occasion to take points of order about the scurrilous way in which he has been misrepresented in this Parliament over the last few days. The Leader of the Government (Senator Withers) is on record in Hansard as accusing Mr Whitlam of being a liar, of not telling the truth.
– I did not say that.
-That is a fair interpretation of what you said, and the Dorothy Dix questions that have been thrown up have contained the same imputation We accept that as part of the game of politics, and if anybody in political of public life chooses to involve himself in the affairs of this nation, then I believe that he should be subject to equal treatment, whether in this Parliament or outside it. If he cannot take it, that is his misfortune. He should not be there. It appals me to think that we are on the verge, it seems, of throwing a senator out of this place because he is alleged to have said something about one person when those very people who will throw him out have been more guilty of attacking somebody else, and they are not entitled to do that under the Standing Orders. If this matter proceeds in the manner in which I feel it is going to proceed, it will be a sad day for this Senate.
- Mr President, I want to echo the suggestions made earlier by Senator Cavanagh.
In supporting Senator Georges’ remarks, Senator Cavanagh has respectfully suggested to you that the matter that has been raised today, and the ruling you have made in the course of a debate on a particular Bill, might well be subject to further consideration by all parties. I heard what Senator McLaren said, and in my opinionalthough not yours, I agree- it was a purely political observation- As Senator O ‘Byrne has made very clear, that political observation has been made in every part of the media in Australia. At different times different forces of experts, including lawyers and professors of constitutional law, have said what Senator McLaren said in a revised version of his opinion. To me, that seems to be a necessary part of debate in the Parliament. Mr President, I put it to you that it would be sad if honourable senators or members of the Parliament were not allowed to express in the Parliament opinions which, while not being disrespectful, were critical of a constitutional action which a high personage might take. What has been canvassed by Senator McLaren is now an historical situation. I think that any comments which the honourable senator has made might well be considered in that light.
It seems to me to be totally unreal that in the Parliament members are to be restricted in a discussion of an important feature which already has been canvassed and talked about freely in the community, where there has been no action or suggestion that that should not be done. I do not want to see- as I am sure you do not, Mr President- a Senate which cannot, in a lively fashion, debate and consider the important political issues in the community. We should not be constrained or restricted in expressing our attitude. I base my views on some worthy sentiments which were voiced, Mr President, by one of your predecessors, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. More than once he pointed out in the Senate in general observations- that is the context in which I make this point- that the Parliament and the Senate, after all, are only a reflection of the community. Within the Parliament and the Senate we get a number of different types of people. We hope that because they are different they accurately and democratically reflect the community of Australia, our country. In that respect it seems to me to be preferable for the Parliament to have a discretionary situation rather than a tight one.
It seems to me that, if this matter proceeds in any way in which it might go, that will not help anybody. Mr President, on the argument which Senator Cavanagh and I have put I hope that you might reconsider the words when you see the text. Senator McLaren was simply making an observation which I might make m the Senate. I might get up and say; ‘In my opinion . . .’. To me, that is only a political consideration. We on the Opposition side have defended publicly the position of the Australian Labor Party and ex-Prime Minister Whitlam because of what people outside have said. As Senator Wriedt, has put to you, Mr President, and as you well know, we in the Parliament have had to take a number of very scurrilous attacks on our leaders, as I have often said. I have no complaint, because that is the game of politics. In politics everybody is forced to play a rough game. If one plays football one has to play the game roughly or get off the field. In politics, too, that is the situation.
– But there are still rules.
-Yes, I know that there are rules, but they are sensibly adjusted not only by the players but also by the trainers and the referees. That is the way life should go on. Mr President, for the reasons I have expressed I hope that consideration will be given to the merits of the proposition which has been advanced not only by Senator Georges but also by Senator Cavanagh and myself.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-Mr President, prior to the suspension of sitting we were debating the motion which had been moved by my colleague, Senator Georges, that your ruling be dissented from. You had given a direction that Senator McLaren should withdraw certain remarks. During the suspension of the sitting I looked at a copy of Senator McLaren’s speech and I believe that Senator McLaren was acting with good intent and certainly in my opinion was not in breach of Standing Order 417 which, as you know, reads:
No Senator shall use the name of Her Majesty or of Her representative in this Commonwealth disrespectfully in debate, nor for the purpose of influencing the Senate in its deliberations.
At one stage Senator McLaren said:
I then went on to say how he breached the Constitution by not carrying out the wishes of the other place.
He then set out to depict the political and factual circumstances as they existed at that time. What Senator McLaren was doing, I suggest, by using the language he did was merely summing up the circumstances and events as they took place in another place on 11 November 1975. Subsequent to that remark and after there had been some conversation, Senator McLaren said:
I have put on the record my objections to the way the present incumbent of this office has carried out his duties.
Mr President, that is what was regarded by you as being a disrespectful remark to the incumbent of the office. Since 1 1 November 1975 practically every member, if not every member, of the Australian Labor Party has placed on record either inside or outside the Parliament his objection to the way in which the present incumbent of the office of Governor-General carried out his duties on 11 November 1975. What we have said has not been said in disrespect to the GovernorGeneral. It has been said m disrespect to the way in which the Labor Government was dismissed from office and the circumstances surrounding that dismissal. Senator McLaren has not gone on record as saying that the Governor-General is a crook or that he is deceitful or that he is a liar. I have heard all those things said by honourable senators opposite against a member or members of this political party and those things which are constantly being said by them are in breach of Standing Order 418. Senator McLaren has not made those sorts of remarks about the GovernorGeneral. All he said was:
I have put on the record my objections to the way the present incumbent of this office has carried out his duties.
If he went outside the Parliament and said the same thing a lot of people would clap. No action would be taken against him for defamation or libel because he expressed an honest opinion. Mr President, if your ruling is upheld by the Senate we will be in a situation where members of Parliament can say outside the Parliament what they cannot say inside the Parliament. That would be an intolerable situation. I therefore suggest that what Senator McLaren has said was not said in defiance of Standing Order 417. Although I would not suggest for one moment that I was speaking for Senator McLaren, probably he would be prepared to say that what he said was not intended to be in defiance of Standing Order 417. 1 think that there should be on your part a reflection on your ruling, especially having regard to the comments made by Senator McLaren which I have read out. They were:
I have put on the record my objections to the way the present incumbent of this office has carried out his duties.
Those are the words that have been held by you to be disrespectful. They are the words that have been held by you to be in breach of Standing Order 4 1 7, and I suggest that on reflection on the circumstances you might be prepared to retract your ruling. Failing that the Opposition must support the motion moved by Senator Georges.
– Earlier it was put clearly on the record by Senator Chaney that it is possible for members of this Senate to comment upon the actions of the Governor-General if it is done by way of substantive motion. This has not been done, and any claim that the rights of the Senate are being abridged in any way does not stand up. Honourable senators have this right and this has been clearly stated. The argument has ranged very wide, but in essence it is whether your ruling should be dissented from. Senator Douglas McClelland, I think, has contributed quite significantly to the debate in the speech that he has just made. He has said that it is his view that Senator McLaren did not mean certain things. It is his view that Senator McLaren was speaking in a way which made it possible for a different interpretation to be placed on what he said.
Moving away from semantics it would seem to me that there is a way of clearing up the present problem and it rests entirely with Senator McLaren. It is very simple. If Senator McLaren was willing to rise in his place, as Senator Douglas McClelland thought he might do, and assure you, Mr President, that when he spoke he meant no disrespect to the Governor-General I think it would meet the situation. However, if Senator McLaren was not willing to take the opportunity to assure the Senate that he meant no disrespect to the Governor-General we would be entitled to assume that he did mean disrespect. I believe that the solution is there and hope that we can invite Senator McLaren now to take some affirmative action to assist the Senate to resolve this matter.
– During the debate on the salary increase to be granted to the incoming Governor-General I asked you, Mr President, whether work value should be taken in consideration. You said that you would listen to the debate as it proceeded and then make a judgment. Naturally, if one is discussing work and work value one must talk about duties and responsibilities. Senator McLaren made it quite clear that he was vague about the work, the work value and the duties and responsibilities of the Governor-General. He cited a few examples in which he felt that certain things were the duty and responsibility of the Governor-General. He thought of one occasion when in his opinion, when a vote of no confidence was taken in the House of Representatives, the Une the Governor-General had taken was the wrong line. He used the words ‘in his opinion’. He stressed that it was his opinion that the Governor-General fell down in his responsibilities there.
For the life of me, I cannot see that there was anything disrespectful, especially when we are discussing the work and the work value of the Governor-General which must incorporate his duties and responsibilities. If Senator McLaren or any other honourable senator feels that on one occasion or two occasions the Governor-General is not living up to those responsibilities,’ especially when a rise in salary is being considered, it is fair enough to say that in his opinion the Governor-General was not living up to those duties and responsibilities. If another honourable senator feels that the Governor-General was living up to those duties and responsibilities, he has the opportunity to correct what Senator McLaren had to say. For the life of me I cannot see that there was anything disrespectful. In the Senate we are rather supersensitive about the position of the Governor-General. We must take this into account as well. I feel that there was nothing disrespectful in what Senator McLaren said. We must bear in mind when we are making a judgment on this, that we are talking about salary rises and work value. Duties and responsibilities must come into the matter when we are making such a decision.
– I have been invited by Senator Baume to make some further remarks on the subject under discussion. This is a motion of dissent moved by Senator Georges against the ruling of the President. I will repeat in more detail the reasons I made the remarks I made. I wish to quote from the House of Representatives Hansard of 11 November 1975. 1 nave already stated the events that occurred then from memory. I now have the record and I will quote exactly from it. But before I do so, I want to quote again the words which have been quoted by my Deputy Leader, Senator Douglas McClelland, and the words which you, Mr President, have asked me to withdraw. I will quote my own words. After giving the reason I have given for making those remarks I said:
I have on the record my objections to the way in which the present incumbent has carried out his duties.
In making those remarks I do not feel that I was in breach of the provisions of Standing Order 417. If I did breach the Standing Order, it was not my special intention to do so. Senator Wriedt, in his remarks, also went on to quote Standing Order 418. It appears to me now that this debate has developed that it is quite in order for honourable senators opposite to make disrespectful remarks about members of the Parliamentary Labor Party which come within the provisions of Standing Order 4 1 8 and nothing is said about that Honourable senators opposite are able to get away with that. I want to quote some of the remarks that have been made in this chamber. In a substantive motion which was moved in 1975- it is only one of many such motions moved during 1975; it was an amendment to Appropriation Bills Nos 1 and 2- Senator Cotton moved the motion which contained these words to which I object:
In my opinion, those words are in complete breach of Standing Order 418. But let me take the matter further. I have raised this matter in the Parliament before. When the votes were taken on that amendment you yourself, Mr President, voted for the amendment, so you acquiesced with your Party at that time in the use of those words on more than one occasion against the members of the Parliamentary Labor Party and in particular against the Prime Minister of the day, Mr Whitlam, and his Ministers. Several votes were taken that day. Mr President, the Hansard record shows that on three occasions, you voted in respect of the amendment. The question was put on the matter and then the amendment was carried. I notice also from the Hansard record that Senator Missen who rose to speak in this debate today also voted for the amendment. Senator Carrick- I will refer to him in a moment- also voted for the amendment. Senator Chaney has read from Australian Senate Practice written by Mr Odgers, the Clerk of the Senate. It is stated that such words can be used in a substantive motion and not be disrespectful, but they are disrespectful if used in a debate. I point out that one of the esteemed colleagues of honourable senators opposite has used such words in a debate. I will quote the words in a few moments. I wish to draw attention to what is recorded on page 1450 of the Senate Hansard of 23 October 1975 where certain words are used in a substantive motion. If honourable senators look at the vote that was taken on that question, which is recorded at page 1461 of the Senate Hansard of 23 October 1975, they will see what happened. When the Appropriation Bills were before the Senate on 22 October- the day before- these most offensive words were used by honourable senators opposite. Yet, they are trying to find something offensive in my words. I maintain that there was nothing in my words which could be said to be in breach of Standing Order 417. Let us look at what was said by Senator Carrick. He is recorded on page 1342 of Senate Hansard, when speaking on the Appropriation Bills, in this way:
The Commonwealth Constitution specifically and deliberately provides the means whereby a dishonest, corrupt and disastrously inefficient government . . .
Did any honourable senator opposite who objected to my words today rise in his place and object to those words used by Senator Carrick? His words were most defamatory and unparliamentary. He further went on the say:
The power exists, and because this Government is the worst government since Federation, because it is dishonest . . .
Those were the words used by Senator Carrick. Yet he is a member of the Party which is now trying to put itself on a pedestal because I used the words which I have put on the record. I objected to the way in which the present incumbent of the office of Governor-General has carried out his duties. Of course, I have detailed why I did this and I will detail it word for word from the House of Representatives Hansard record shortly. Senator Carrick further went on to say, as recorded on page 1343 of Senate Hansard:
Now we are talking about corruption, dishonesty and disastrous inefficiency.
They are the words that were used in the Senate chamber. Not one honourable senator opposite took objection to those words.
– You could not.
– Why could not objection be taken to them? I draw Senator Missen ‘s attention to Standing Order 418 which states:
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of the Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against any statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
I ask you, Mr President: Were not those words highly disorderly and offensive to the Prime Minister of the day, to the Deputy Prime Minister and to all the other Ministers both in the other chamber and in this chamber? Of course, they were highly disorderly. As I have said before, honourable senators opposite will object to one thing when it suits them and will agree to that same thing when it suits them on the next occasion. I shall return to deal with the crux of the matter for which I was hauled over the coals. I want to quote from page 2928 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 1 1 November 1975. When the Parliament resumed after the luncheon adjournment the business heading ‘Formation of Government’ appears in the record. The Hansard record reads as follows:
-I call the honourable member for Wannon.
Mr MALCOLM FRASER, Mr Speaker, this afternoon the Governor General commissioned me to form a government until elections can be held;
He went on to make some further remarks. A division was called and carried by the Government Party of the day by a majority of ten votes. Then a motion was moved by Mr Daly for the suspension of Standing Orders. The record reads as follows:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the honourable member for Werriwa -
That was Mr Whitlam- moving a motion forthwith without notice.
-Is the motion seconded?
Mr Enderby; I second the motion.
Mr SINCLAIR [New England] (2.49); Mr Speaker, I do not believe that in the climate that prevails
Motion ( by Mr Daly) put:
That the question be now put.
The House divided and the question was carried by a majority of ten. At the conclusion of that division, Mr Speaker had this to say:
The result of the division is ayes 64, noes 54. The question is resolved by an absolute majority in the affirmative.
This next quotation contains the whole crux of what I will record in the Senate Hansard of the events that took place. It is what prompted me to make those remarks which I made today in the debate on this Bill. Under the headings of Fraser Caretaker Government- Want of Confidence Motion’, Mr Whitlam the honourable member for Werriwa moved this motion at 3 p.m.
That this House expresses its want of confidence in the Prime Minister and requests Mr Speaker forthwith to advise His Excellency the Governor-General to call the honourable member for Werriwa to form a government
The Governor-General’s views have been read at sufficient length to show that the circumstances upon which he relied no longer apply. There is no longer a deadlock on the Budget between the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Budget Bills have been passed. Accordingly the Government which twice has been elected by the people is able to govern. Furthermore, as has been demonstrated this afternoon, the parties which the Prime Minister leads do not have a majority in the House of Representatives. The party I lead has a majority in the House of Representatives. It has never been defeated in the year and a half since the last election and in those circumstances it is appropriate I believe, that you, Mr Speaker, should forthwith advise the GovernorGeneral waiting upon him forthwith to advise him- that the party I lead has the confidence of the House of Representatives, and you should appraise his Excellency of the view of the House that I have the confidence of. the House and should be called to form his Excellency’s Government.
Mr Daly; I second the motion.
The motion “That the question be now put’ was then moved by Mr Daly and, on the division, was carried by 10 votes. I quote further from Hansard:
-The question now is:
That this House expresses its want or confidence in the Prime Minister and requests the Speaker to immediately advise his Excellency, the Governor-General, to call the honourable member for Werriwa to form a government.
The question is that the motion be agreed to. Those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
Honourable members- The noes have it.
-The House will divide. Ring the bells. (The bells being rung)
Mr Sinclair; Mr Speaker, the terminology used in the expression between the GovernorGeneral and the chief adviser and head of the government is not ‘Prime Minister’. I suggest that the form of the present resolution is out of order.
-The motion has been accepted as in order. It expresses the terms. There is no term in the Constitution.
The House divided and again the question was carried by a majority of 10, for the Australian Labor Party, in the other place. Mr Speaker had this to say after the division:
It would be my intention to convey the message of the House to His Excellency at the first opportunity.
That is, in detail, what took place in the other chamber. I shall link that up now with my earlier statement that when the Speaker sent a message to Government House to advise the GovernorGeneral of the day of what had transpired he was refused an audience until such time as the Governor-General’s Secretary had arrived in King ‘s Hall and nailed upon the front door of the Parliament a notice that the Parliament was prorogued. That was what led me to make the remarks that I made: I have put on record my objections to the way the present incumbent has carried out his duties.
During the course of my remarks I said that he had breached the conventions because he had failed to do what other Governors-General had done, that is, receive the Speaker of the House when the Speaker sought to advise him that the present incumbent of the office of Prime Minister no longer had the numbers. Of course, the incumbent at that time was Fraser, who had been installed as the caretaker Prime Minister. As I said, a vote of no confidence in him was taken and carried. He was no longer, in the eyes of the duly-elected members of the House of Representatives, the Prime Minister of this country.
According to the conventions as they should be observed, it was the duty of the Speaker, as instructed by the vote that had been taken, to go to Government House and advise the GovernorGeneral of this. The Governor-General refused an audience to the Speaker of the day, Mr Scholes. We know what happened after that. I will repeat it in case some may not be aware of it. He refused to see the Speaker, Mr Scholes, until such time as he had prorogued the Parliament by nailing a notice to the front door of the Parliament and to the door of each chamber thereof.
As I have said, as 1 say again and as I will keep on saying, I have put on record my objections to the way the present incumbent has carried out his duties. In my view, there is no way in which it could be said that I am in breach of Standing Order 417 by using the name of Her Majesty^ representative in this Commonwealth disrespectfully. What I have said is absolute fact and I am not prepared to withdraw that motion because in my opinion, irrespective of what my penalty is going to be, I am correct in what I have said. There was no disrespect there, no breach of Standing Order 4 17.
– And none intended.
– And none intended. All I was doing was placing on record the exact sequence of events as they occurred.
– I wish to speak very briefly to the motion. I find it a matter of great irony that it should have been moved by Senator Georges. I think Senator McLaren, in an attempt to justify what he did, in fact vindicated your ruling, Mr President, and the stand that the Government has taken. What he has said, in the whole of the tirade that we have just listened to, is not that the GovernorGeneral did not do his duty but that he did not do the will of the Australian Labor Party when it imagined itself to be in government and tried to govern without Parliament. Senator McLaren himself referred to the Australian Parliamentary Labor Party, its actions and its numbers in the other place, as a vindication of what was done.
It is a matter of irony that Senator McLaren should invoke Standing Order 418 to support what Senator Georges has done. Senator Georges has been wont to stand up here, when Standing Order 418 has been invoked in regard to offensive words used against State Houses of Parliament, and to quote from the Hansard of those parliaments to show that they do not accord the same respect in return. It is a matter of opinion whether those parliaments should or should not do so, but I suggest that Standing Order 418, in terms of all the opinions that Senator Georges has ever put on record in relation to it, is just not relevant in this case.
– It does not apply to governments, in any event.
-Indeed it does not. All that Senator McLaren referred to were some criticisms that were made of governments in this and the other place. People say things about governments, whether they are Australian Labor Party, Liberal Party or National Country Party governments, that are accepted under our Standing Orders, and certainly not precluded under Standing Orders 4 1 7 and 4 1 8.
Senator McLaren compounded his sin by suggesting that the Governor-General did something wrong in not seeing the Speaker before Parliament was dissolved. That is a very old debate which has been gone over many times in this chamber. It was suggested by earlier speakers that legal opinion supported the point of view of the Australian Labor Party on this and it is a fact that some legal opinion does do so. However, the overwhelming majority of legal opinion does not. That does not finally prove anything. All that it proves is that there is an ongoing political debate in which some legal people are involved as to the actual exercise of certain powers which are apparently, under the Constitution, available to the Governor-General.
We are accustomed in debates in this place on the powers under the Constitution, and the actions of the Governor-General whoever he or she may be, in the exercise of that power, but it is another thing to suggest as Senator McLaren has suggested, that the Governor-General has not done his duty. The only justification he has offered is that the Governor-General did not do what in the political opinion of the honourable senator and his parliamentary colleagues he should have done. Senator McLaren’s conduct under those circumstances was such that it should call attention to the Standing Orders.
Mr President, since you have occupied the Chair you have been very tolerant in regard to certain things that have happened here, and in particular during this debate. You have recognised that there are political implications in a debate relating to the Governor-General and have allowed a political debate to take place so long as it was not a personal debate directed to the conduct of the Governor-General and as to whether he had done his duty. Whether other things were being proposed, should he be agreeable, is something else again and as a member of the Government I rise to support your ruling in regard to the motion of Senator Georges.
– I have listened to the remarks of all honourable senators who have spoken and do appreciate the points they have made. Senator McLaren, as I understand it, said that he did not intend any contravention of Standing Order 417. 1 accept that assurance. In all the circumstances, I will not pursue the matter of withdrawal. At the same time, I would remind the Senate of the general rule that no reflection may be cast on the conduct of the GovernorGeneral unless it is based on a substantive motion.
– On the motion of dissent from your ruling, in view of your comments I believe the reasonable thing for me to do is to withdraw the motion. I now seek leave to do so.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion- by leave- withdrawn.
– I was drawing my remarks on this Bill to a conclusion. As we have strayed so far from the Bill which is before the Senate, I reaffirm my support for the Opposition’s stand on this Bill in opposing an increase of $7,000 a year in the salary of the Governor-General.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
– I present the second report of the Joint Standing Committee on the New and Permanent Parliament House, together with minutes of the Committee’s proceedings. The Committee’s first report, which, was presented on 3 May this year, indicated that the Committee had agreed to a program which would enable a fully functioning stage one par.liament house to be constructed and occupied by 26 January 1988, the 200th anniversary of European settlement in Australia. The purpose of this second report is to inform the Parliament of the progress which the Committee has made in preparing a design brief for the new parliament house. The report also recommends that a similar committee be appointed early in the life of the next Parliament so that the program of work leading to the construction of a new building will not be delayed. The Committee reiterates that it remains feasible and practicable to achieve occupation of the first stage of a new building by 26 January 1988.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 2 November on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– It has been agreed that all these Bills be dealt with together because they all relate to the same matter. If I may indulge in a mild understatement, the history of the stevedoring industry in this country has been a chequered one. In the past few years a number of discussions and inquiries have been held in relation to the future of that industry and particularly in relation to the future of the body established by statute, namely the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. In the course of those inquiries the names of a number of prominent judges have appeared. Mr Justice Woodward, Mr Justice Northrop and others have taken part in inquiries relating to problems in the stevedoring industry. There have been problems associated with the employment of labour, a number of industrial problems associated with conditions of employment and problems associated with the profits of stevedoring companies. In all this the Stevedoring Industry Authority has had a difficult role to play. It certainly has been resented, in part, by the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia and, one suspects, by the stevedores themselves from time to time.
I think that effectively this is the fourth time that legislation relating to this matter has come before the Parliament. On previous occasions the legislation has been delaying legislation to put off the introduction of final legislation to deal with the matter. That final legislation is now before the Senate. I suppose that a number of solutions to the structural problems of the industry could have been adopted if one accepts the view that the involvement of the Stevedonng Industry Authority is undesirable. One of those possible solutions eventually has been decided upon by the Government and the Opposition does not oppose that solution, which is to get rid of the Authority and, as it were, to contract out of government involvement in the day to day administration of the industry. If I might express a personal view, it is a decision about which I have some concern for the future. I think it is perhaps fair that the situation which is foreshadowed in this legislation should be given a trial period. Of course, one must have regard to the wishes of the parties involved in the stevedoring industry.
One of the other solutions which might have been adopted was the nationalisation of the stevedoring industry. I do not want to get into any debate about that subject; I merely say that it is a solution which was and is available to the Australian Government and which certainly would have the effect of getting rid of some of the problems which have existed in the industry in the past. But I certainly would not necessarily offer it as a panacea solution. It is a solution which ought to have been considered and ought to be considered continually in the consideration of the long history of the stevedoring industry and of the manifest need and desire to make that industry more efficient and more productive than it has been in the past. A second solution was to retain a body such as the Stevedoring Industry Authority to fulfil a supervisory role. But that role was becoming increasingly resented by the parties on the waterfront. Whether the solution was to get rid of the Authority altogether or to make some adjustment to the relevant legislation certainly is difficult to say. Certainly Mr Justice Northrop, when he considered this matter, seemed to come down with no very definite view on this question; rather, he posed the alternatives as, in a sense, I am doing again now.
If I have any personal fears about the course which has been adopted by the Government, I suppose they relate to the fact that the stevedoring industry is a very volatile industry, an industry which in the Australian context is probably now a fairly high wage industry and, on the employer side, an industry which is a very high profit industry. I should not like to think that necessarily that combination is always the best in the public interest. I think that is a matter about which we must be concerned. I do not wish to say anything more than to record those fears in the hope that, if the Parliament has occasion to reexamine this matter after the legislation which is before us now has come into operation, some further consideration will be given to those matters. The Opposition does not oppose the Bills, for the reasons I have indicated and for one reason in particular. That is the long and protracted history of the legislation itself and the circumstances in which it now comes before the Parliament at the end of a session. We think it should be given a trial. We hope it is successful although we have some doubts and qualifications about it.
– It gives me great pleasure to support the package of stevedoring Bills before the chamber today. I, like Senator Button, hold great hope that this legislation will answer the past problems this country has witnessed on the waterfront. We are all well aware of the difficulties which the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) has faced in forming this legislation. I too do not view this legislation with the confidence I should like to express. I realise that to bring about a perfect result on the waterfront would be nigh impossible. The history of the stevedoring industry shows that the disruption, abuses, blackmail and special privileges which the waterside workers have had conferred on them have not accomplished the long term improvement of the conditions of the waterside workers. In fact, they have achieved the opposite. The waterside workers seem to have worked themselves out of a job. There was a total of 221,000 men on the waterfront in 1966. That total is now just over 10,000 men.
The cost has been too great and the productivity too low to maintain the old type of cargo handling vessels. The industry has increasingly turned to the bulk cargo carriers and the roll-on roll-oft” ferries. The fact that to load a case of apples in the port of Hobart is the most expensive handling in the world has only resulted in apple ships not calling at that port. There would not be a waterside worker or even a resident of Hobart who would not long for the days of a few years ago when Hobart was, perhaps, one of the busiest ports in Australia during the apple season. It is now just a ghost port where ships come to be tied up while they are lying idle. It has the cheapest berths available. Space is no longer a problem. Hobart has empty wharves day in and day out. Occasionally fishing vessels come in to replenish supplies. There is also the weekly roll-on roll-off ferry. That is about all we see.
Much of our traditional cargo has been turned to bulk handling. In fact, 70 per cent of all Australian cargo is now covered by bulk handling. The majority of this is handled outside the labour force of the waterside workers. This division will be maintained in the new Bill. It will remain outside Division 4 of Part III of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The industrial relations history of bulk handling has been one of considerable peace on the waterfront. The Government believes that this peace should be maintained for the sake of the industry, the employers, the employees, the trade and the economy of Australia generally. The AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) who represents the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations stated in his second reading speech that the Government has decided to withdraw to a large extent from its responsibilities on the. waterfront. It has decided to return the waterfront to a more direct employer-employee relationship. However, it has stipulated certain guidelines in line with the recommendations of the National Stevedoring Industry Conference report handed to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations in April this year.
That Conference comprised the stevedoring employers, the Waterside Workers’ Federation, the Austraiian Coastal Shipping Commission, the Broken Hill Pty Company Limited and the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations, as well as all other interested organisations which were invited to make submissions to that Conference. A tremendous amount of agreement has come out of the conference. Several councils and committees have been established through which the Government will maintain some interest in the waterfront. An example of these are the co-ordinating committees which have been established in each port to supervise the efficient and productive use of labour and to reduce the turn-around time of vessels in port. These committees are made up of representatives of relevant employers, members of the Waterside Workers’ Federation and other interested bodies, for example, the port authorities. It is essential that the port authorities be represented on these committees as they protect the interests of the smaller ports. This is an essential aspect. The committees will supervise the new arrangements regarding the labour force which have been agreed on by the National Stevedoring Industry Conference.
Perhaps the biggest problem regarding industrial action on the waterfront is the lack of job conciliators, people who could whip in as soon as there is any industrial upheaval and sort the matter out. There has been provision for such people on the waterfront but agreement as to who they should be has never been reached. The National Stevedoring Industry Conference agreed that where parties could not agree as to the persons who should be appointed, the appointments should come from the Conciliation and Arbitration Commissioner. However, an agreement has already been reached on the nominees and appointments will be made as soon as this legislation becomes law. A further committee called the Stevedoring Industry Consultative Council, comprising representatives of the major industry parties and other significant interest groups concerned with industry, overseas trade and cargo handling has been set up for consultation between the Government and the industry. I believe that consultation is always an essential area. If we have no consultation all sorts of problems develop that otherwise could be avoided.
I referred earlier to a reduction in the work force on the waterfront. Part of this reduction was of a voluntary nature but it was at considerable cost to the industry and, because costs are passed on, at considerable cost to the exporters of our goods. This has resulted in a large deficit which now has to be paid. Future long service entitlements also have to be met. As a result the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee has been set up, chaired by a government appointee, to supervise all the levies to be paid. There are man-hour levies to cover the large deficit to which I referred. It is proposed that this levy will operate for a limited period of six years. It is to be hoped that the deficit will be dealt with in that time. There is also a levy to be paid for each tonne of cargo. This is to ensure that funds are collected for future long service leave of waterside workers. Other special levies are imposed on employers for all the other benefits associated with waterside workers. The only other area in which the Government has taken a hand is that of collecting statistics for the waterfront. This will be carried out by the Department of Transport which will overcome the duplication that exists in the area. I am pleased that the Opposition is supporting these Bills. I believe that with the assistance of conciliators and the areas in which the Government has still shown interest the stevedoring industry will be able to overcome the problems it has had in the past.
– I join with Senator Button in stating that the Opposition does not oppose this legislation but I find it necessary to correct some of the philosophy that was expounded by Senator Walters. Firstly, I think Senator Walters must admit that people who work in rather slippery and dirty conditions must face a higher degree of industrial hazards than those who do not. In fact, there would be a very small percentage of members of the Waterside Workers Federation who, by the time they reach 50 years of age, do not have a maimed finger, a splayed toe or something like that. So, when Senator Walters talks about there being stoppages, she should get away from the idea that these men work in an air-conditioned office or under conditions like those in this chamber.
The second point I want to make concerns Senator Walters’ comments about phasing out people from the industry. I wonder what the Government would have said if the Federation had argued for the ‘bull system’ and trolleys in lieu of fork lifts. It would have been a Luddite attitude. Knowing the views of Charlie Fitzgibbon, the National Secretary of the Federation, I know that that was not on and that he always looks forward. But he had an obligation to get the best conditions for his members commensurate with industrial viability. While I am discussing that subject, I should deal with the argument raised by Senator Walters about whether the union gets the right leaders. The Waterside Workers Federation is probably one of the few unions in Australia that has a ballot on a set day which emulates Federal and State elections. So, when it comes to industrial democracy, I think that the WWF is a pacesetter in that regard.
I want to deal now with one or two other matters. I have a broad concept of what is visualised, but I am interested in the conditions pertaining at the various ports to the people who operate lifting appliances, which are largely overhead cranes of various types. I think I am correct in saying that at some ports those people are not members of the WWF. I think that in the port of Sydney one would find some areas where they are employees of the Maritime Services Board and members of the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen’s Association. I think that the situation at Gove is different, although my information is not necessarily up to date. Because of the fact that it is largely dealing with bauxite, which is an area in which the Federated Ironworkers Association has members, I think it is deemed to be a port where the FIA provides the crane operatives. There may be even a very rare case in some small area where the Australian Workers Union has coverage. Perhaps I should take as an example what I deem to be a hypothetical case, although I think that it applies m relation to the Parramatta River in New South Wales. I do not know whether it applies to the Yarra River in Victoria. I know that there are areas of the Parramatta River where members of the Storemen and Packers Union operate certain lifting appliances.
The point I am trying to develop for the benefit of the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) is that I understand the picture concerning the WWF and the stevedoring companies, but I want to know whether the status quo will prevail outside those two elements of the industry. Will it apply as far as the crane drivers employed by other port authorities are concerned? How are the rights of such workers at Gove, which is more of an industrial concept, being preserved? Will they remain as they are? I say that for a particular reason. Like Senator Walters, I am looking to industrial harmony in the future. If and when Gove becomes less reliant on bauxite and more of a general industrial and town complex, I should assume that at that stage the WWF would rightly claim to be the major union to provide waterfront labour. That may be something in the distant future, but I would like answers on that aspect.
The next point I wish to raise concerns safety issues. I say again to Senator Walters that if she cares to drive along the roads in the port of Sydney area on a rainy night she will see workers in oilskins, and crane drivers with massive containers slung up that they have to manoeuvre in bad visibility. Considerable responsibility and tension are involved. If Senator Walters and Senator Wright, if he does not already do so, were to read every month’s issue of the Maritime Worker they would find out that some accidents of this nature have occurred. They occurred on a West German freighter because the derrick cranes being used were overloaded. I have hammered this theme during meetings of the appropriate Estimates committee but I have not yet had an answer. I understood that we were writing to a West German firm in Hamburg about the design of those derrick cranes.
I have been given the picture that the broad idea is that the two parties will do their own thing. I have always had reservations about that. I believe that the state has a role to play. Honourable senators would know that, as a trade unionist, I have had no compunction about using the state wherever possible to discipline an employer who did not meet his social responsibilities to the trade union movement. Senator Wright would know that I am referring to safety. What I am getting at is that I do not want another repetition of that container mishap. I think Senator Wright and Senator Walters would know that the trend is towards bigger and bigger containers. Therefore the crane operators will have added responsibilities and be m greater danger of accidents.
On the positive side, I had the honour recently, as I think Senator Bishop has had, of visiting a school in Melbourne where people are taught the rudiments as to the proper slings to use and of crane operations. That is all to the good. It does give the lie to what I think was in Senator Walters ‘s mind, that is, that very little skill and judgment are needed. It was pointed out recently that some of the new types of cranes do not have proper escape ladders. Despite all the highfalutin talk about eliminating industrial hazards, they are still occurring. What I am trying to get from the Minister in his reply are his thoughts on the question of crane operation coverage and how effective the safety appliances will be.
Let us look at the matter of disputations. If a ship that is arriving from Europe has some new lifting appliances will we know m advance about them? Let me take that matter a little further. If there is an accident, who is going to do the inspecting? It would not be the first time that that has happened and there has been a big whitewash and the names of the guilty people have never been disclosed. My colleague Senator Mcintosh would have greater knowledge of the strains and stresses of metal than I would. He would know that some of these things fail only too often in practical tests. I think he would agree with me that a lot of these situations arise. I do not want the members of the Waterside Workers’ Federation to be guinea pigs when particular methods are being tried out. I study overseas newspapers fairly regularly in the Parliamentary Library. I know that the docks of London, Hamburg, Rijeka and such places have their share of industrial accidents. Senator Walters told us about the hazards sometimes of walking on wet floors in hospitals. I appreciate that. But I can assure her that it is even more difficult to work in the dark on a cold, wet pier on a winter’s night.
The only other point I want to make concerns what I call the other effects. I understand that the Australian Government funded a sort of industrial canteen complex. I am just wondering about the future of the people in that area. I assume that canteen facilities will be still provided in the port of Sydney. I think that the workers in these canteens are members of the Liquor and Allied
Trades Union. I am wondering about the job security situation. Are those canteen facilities still to apply and will the present job opportunities remain? Senator Wright has tasted the food at the Commonwealth Centre canteen. I am looking at cause and effect. Redundancy in the other waterfront canteens in the port of Sydney could jeopardise the position of the work force in the canteen at the Commonwealth Centre. I roll up those questions to the Attorney-General, who is in charge of this Bill.
-This debate concerns an industry of the utmost importance to this island continent which depends upon this industry for its sea-borne trade. The agency that has control of that trade has very great control indeed. The question whether it exercises it in the interests of Australia or some foreign ideology is very important? The cost involved in this industry is so uniquely excessive that the direct effect of that upon Australia’s trade and freights is important. But the indirect effects of that, being the factor which allows some industries to survive and determines that other industries are destroyed, is a factor which adds to the importance of this industry. This legislation is now before the Parliament after 10 tentative years of stuttering and spluttering on the part of governments from both sides of the Parliament. A tentative scheme was agreed to in 1967. Although the scheme was to be reviewed, it has not been reviewed until now. It is now proposed that this legislation is a solution. It was announced by the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) who fathered this scheme- or who adopted it, I should say, because the father of it is Mr Justice Kirby-
– Is he the midwife?
-A midwife, maybe. The Minister said that he will keep the matter under review and he anticipates that he will review it within 12 months. Up to date the Parliament has required that it shall review the legislation every two years. But, of course, that arrangement seems to have gone by the board and apathy seems to allow that it is sufficient for the Minister to carry out the review
Every member of the Australian Labor Party Opposition who has spoken on the legislation has said that he accepts it. The actual reason for this is not because of any pressure of time upon Senator Button to require him to turn to other matters; the reason why Labor is accepting the Bill is that one of its members in the lower House, because of his inexperience and incaution, made certain comments in one of his first speeches in the Parliament. I refer to Mr West who has had practical participation in the stevedoring industry. After making a left hand remark about the Government having taken a whole year to get Mr Justice Kirby to process the waterside workers’ proposals this gentleman said:
We found that the original proposals of the Waterside Workers Federation are almost without exception the same proposals as this Bill implements.
That is why the Opposition adopts the Bill. Of course, Mr Justice Kirby, having great experience in the arbitration field, has scoffed at the idea, every time it was put up by a Liberal Minister, that the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission should have regard for economic interests. He laughed at this proposal as if it is the most ridiculous proposition ever. I wish someone would tell me how to settle industrial disputes while keeping economic interests in mind. Then, having been given most favourable treatment on retirement in the form of a double serve of long service leave by Mr Whitlam ‘s personal decision- we were told here in answer to one of my questions that Mr Justice Kirby received a handshake of $62,000 when he quit the judicial bench- he immediately proceeded to organise the house for Labor in Canberra. With those antecedents I say that Mr Justice Kirby ‘s structure of the foundation of this Bill gives me no confidence at all. I shall come to one or two matters which make my confidence disappear altogether.
Up till 1967 the waterside industry was composed of casual employees. In that state of affairs the wartime Labor Government and the succeeding Menzies Government endeavoured to get some sort of efficiency in the industry. This was a matter of great perplexity and many commissions were set up. One commission was set up during wartime and a Labor Government had to reform it radically in 1 947. Because of the intransigence of Mr Healy and Mr Roach, who were both communists and members of the commission, the commission had to be stripped of its arbitral power. But it still continued to operate in an administrative capacity. After a lot of lathering and dithering the Menzies Government, in 1956, reached the stage where it introduced legislation to create the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. The Authority was given the power to tax the industry in order to supply amenities and benefits for waterside workers. Amenities and benefits far in advance of those in any other industry in this country, and far in advance of those in any stevedoring industry in the world, have been achieved.
– Have you never heard of Harry Bridges and what he did for the West Coast longshoremen?
-Of course I have heard of Harry Bridges and the destruction and havoc he has wrought from time to time. I ask the honourable senator not to interrupt a serious speech. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority also had the function of regulating the waterfront. It had jurisdiction over discipline and conformity with the rules of the awards and the performance of work. But the ohe thing that was a source of great grievance by 1967 was that the two preserving provisions of the 1956 Act were still operating. As a result traders found it was enormously more effective to build up bulk loading mechanisms and so avoid the intrusion of the Waterside Workers Federation. As one senator who spoke in this debate has pointed out, by 1967 the number of waterside workers who were required for the work was being reduced year by year. During that decade the number fell from about 30,000 to about 21,000. There was a crisis in 1967 and Mr McMahon- he is now Sir William McMahon- took some very resolute action. The Woodward conference was established to try to solve the difficulties. In line with my point of view at the time, and in line with the points of view of other people who had studied this matter, it was thought that the provision of a stable basis for employment on the waterfrontnot simply casual employment, in shifts, but employment based upon weekly regular employment by an identified employer- would go some way towards contributing to the solution.
It is interesting to observe that the Woodward Committee recommended that in general there should be weekly luring of labour. If the port numbers were too great at any time the surplus, those who were redundant, could be asked to leave by means of a notice graduated according to the length of service. For instance, the standard notice was two weeks notice. The Woodward Committee also recommended the very beneficial and equitable provision that notice should increase by Ite weeks for every completed year of service. The maximum notice was to be 25 weeks. Those who sat in conference with me in Melbourne some three years ago, when we were discussing this matter, will recall that I said that a weekly hiring, with a period of notice of dismissal, if you like, of three weeks, three months or six months, was equitable so far as I was concerned. But the ink was not dry on the Woodward conference agreement before there was disruption, agitation and departure from the fundamental provisions of that agreement. The employers had stood out in the conference and insisted that, if the manpower on the waterfront had to be adjusted downwards according to the decrease in trade, the ASIA, at the request of the employers, would have the right to dismiss, retrench or make redundant the surplus employees, giving them two weeks notice with the adjusted length of time that I have mentioned.
The pressure from the Waterside Workers Federation became so great in 1972 that although there was a surplus of labour on the waterfront the employers were afraid to dismiss the surplus employees. The agreement that was made in 1972 between the employers and the Federation was that for the two years following that agreement the employers would not exercise their right to reduce the number of men on the waterfront. Then Labor came into office, and when the agreement came up for renewal in 1974 there was no hope of getting rid of the demand of the waterside workers that they should leave the industry only by their own voluntary decision. I am saa to have to say that, despite a change of government in December 1975, quietly and almost unnoticed the employers and the Federation were allowed to renew the agreement with that provision in it, namely, that there would be no redundancy on the waterfront except such as was voluntarily applied for by the Federation.
The consequence of that has been that in the last three or four years a huge surplus of employees who cannot be dismissed has built up.. They are eating their heads off on idle time, with provision for their remuneration being made through taxation ofthe industry, paid for by the traders. The situation was well described by a persistent writer on this subject, namely, Mr Ramsden, who in the Australian Financial Review in March 1 976 said:
As a result of that inquiry which lasted until 1967 … the Woodward scheme of permanent employment -
That phrase has come to be wholly misunderstood; it refers to stable employment on weekly hiring, with certain rights of dismissal- was adopted from the end of 1967 and which now provides for all regular waterside workers at the major ports to be employed on weekly hiring.
He went on to say: . . the agreement for compulsory retrenchment has been abandoned and other concessions like port-wide equalisation of earnings and idle time, separate rosters for Sunday work and placement of labour under an arrangement known as ‘ rotation of hatches ‘-all of which were condemned by the employers in 1 96 7- are all back in operation.
Taking one or two random quotations, Mr Ramsden also said that complete immunity from liability to compulsory retrenchment was one of the main obstacles besetting any improvement in the industry. In an article a little later in the same year Mr Ramsden gave the result of that, and I will refer to it briefly. I am not at all embarrassed by taking a little time. The speeches on this legislation in the House of Representatives were scanty in the extreme, and the consideration that the Opposition has given to the Bill in this place has been about one-third of the time that it gave to the point of order before lunch. Mr Ramsden pointed out in his article that there had been an inordinate rise in wharf handling and stacking charges, illustrating that consequent upon the disorder in the industry wages and costs had mounted in a way that was quite out of line with all other costs, both here and abroad. He pointed out that the wharf charges in Sydney grew by about 250 per cent between July 1974 and March 1976.I have a very small schedule and I ask for leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- I take it that the document is quite capable of being reproduced in Hansard.
-I said that it was a quite small schedule.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The schedule read as follows:
-That schedule shows that in May 1 972 the charge per ton was $6.37 and by February 1976 it was $ 18-odd. That indicates the way in which charges increase. The submission of the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd on this matter reminds us that BHP has port facilities and ships to take its product from Port Kembla to Brisbane and other ports. Now the cost of shipping is so great that it is cheaper for BHP to use the railways and to leave unused all its shipping. One huge bulk ship lies idle in the Hobart harbour, although it is not specifically related to that trade. BHP points out that, whereas there had been an increase in a specified period, say, 80 per cent, in rail freights, the corresponding increase in shipping costs had been of the order of 150 percent.
To illustrate the reason why that has happened, I refer to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority report of 1 976.I am surprised that the report has not been quoted by the Minister or by anybody else who has spoken in the Parliament. Indeed, I am surprised that the Minister has given us no costs at all, and I will suggest in a moment that that omission is one of the imperfections of the Minister’s presentation of this Bill to us. The 1975-76 report is the latest annual report available to Parliament, even though June 1977 has passed by four months and this legislation is here. I have been trying to get the annual report for 1977 without avail. The report reveals that total man-hours worked fell by 22.8 per cent from 17.82 million man-hours to 13.76 man-hours in the course of the year. Notwithstanding that, the gross payments credited to waterside workers excluding long service leave and redundancy payments, two terrific items that year, increased by 10.6 per cent to about $ 123m, despite a decline of 1 1.2 per cent in the work force. Put another way, the average hours worked per week on the waterfront decreased from -
– We have lost it. Go back to square one. You have confused me now with those figures.
-During the year the average hours worked on the waterfront per week decreased from 29.7 to 23.3 although average earnings increased during the same period from $162.89 to $189.59 per week. In addition to wage costs, redundancy payments totalling $8.9m were made during that year whereas the previous highest figure for redundancy payments in a year was $2m and in the year immediately before 1975-76 amounted to $900,000. 1 come to another item, idle time, which more than doubled what it was the previous year. It increased from $8.3m in the previous year to $17.6m.
– What does that work out to per week?
-To have a meaningful figure we would need to calculate it on an hourly basis because of the difficulty created by such things as annual leave. Let me put this figure to the Senate. The average number of men now on idle time is 2,347 -
-Is that not why the redundancy scheme is coming in?
-Excuse me, senator, but do not interrupt. That number is almost equal to one-third of the men at work on average. All this idle time and all this costly redundancy is due to the surplus labour that we cannot get rid of because the power of the Waterwide Workers Federation is unique in that the Federation could prevent the employers seeking compulsory redundancy. The employers agreed to this arrangement for the sake of peace in the peacefully prospective days of March 1976. We were to have a Bill to solve the matter by June 1976. We almost got it by June 1977 but it failed, and even though we got it eight weeks ago for study it has been processing Now we have it.
– But your own parliamentary industrial committee approved of it.
-I am criticising the presentation of this Bill and its formulation and shall show that this Bill should not be passed but should be referred to a select committee because one of the geniuses of Mr Justice Kirby was to shy-off from this elephant in the path- the factor that had given rise to this surplus labour, idle time and redundancy. What was the Minister’s solution? It was to go onto the wharves with bags full of taxpayers’ money and buy them out, almost 1,200 workers, and make inordinate redundancy payments so that he could get the figures down. He has the imprudence and lack of experience in this area to think that this situation will remain stable. This scheme has only one hope and that is to prevent the hitherto fluctuating shipping trade on the waterfront from having variables in it; otherwise we will have to have a work force that can be graduated to the varying demands ofthe time.
So Mr Street sent his emissaries into the market and by telegram informed me that the total amount paid out in redundancy payments in a special redundancy campaign since 1 July 1976 was $ 1 1 .9m plus $2.2m in long service leave payments. The number of recipients of such payments was 820 up till that date, followed by enhancement later on, and the largest individual payment was $30,455 by way of redundancy payment and $5,324 by way of long service leave payment The average redundancy payment was 14,555 and the average long service leave payment was $2,960. Those figures increase proportionately. The payments were made to 820 workers and the total who succeeded in getting out was of the order of 1,200.
– Is that the Maritime Worker you have in your hand?
-Do not accuse me of not reading the Maritime Worker. I wish parliamentarians would read it. One thing of which I will not accuse the communist waterfront federation is reticience or suppression- it will lead with candour all the time, as I will show in a minute. Mr Justice Kirby accepted it and did not deter his colleagues from endorsing it. In February 1977 the Maritime Worker aid:
Under the early retirement agreement reached in December 1976 560 waterside workers aged 60 and over in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Newcastle retired from the industry on January 16. The 560 received a special early retirement payment equal to 70 per cent of the base wage they would have earned had they continued in work in the industry until age 65. The early retirement payments of the 560 averaged $17,000 per man. In addition to the average payment of more than $ 17,000, the retiring 560 received all accumulated payments for long service leave, sick leave, annual leave and their Retirement Pension Fund entitlements.
This provided a total special payment varying between $47,500 for a man exactly 60, down to a payment of about $10,000 for a man almost 65.
To sweeten it a little and to show that I have a little concern for these gentlemen, I shall read what they were advised in their journal. It stated that only 5 per cent ofthe total amount drawn on retirement is taxable. What was not mentioned in that journal but what I am authoritatively informed- officially informed- is that they were advised to put the cheque immediately into a current account, not a savings bank account, so that the following week they would then be in a position to say that they had no income and would be entitled to draw unemployment benefit immediately. That was the means adopted preparatory to Mr Justice Kirby ‘s conference, whereas the only proper approach to this problem should have been to try to get agreement upon those matters, solving them on ordinary decent principles consistent with general conditions in industry.
However, when Mr Justice Kirby came on the scene- he has been described as a pragmatic personhe said: ‘Do not meet difficulties half way. Do not bedevil the prospect of agreement at this stage. Leave it until the lion wakes up and bites’. Therefore it was quite acceptable to him, and subsequently to the Minister, to construct a scheme in replacement for the old weekly hiring “scheme put forward by Mr Justice Woodward which had been bedevilled by the absence of capacity to retrench or get rid of surplus employment. Therefore, it involved a huge problem of redundancy and idle time. It was a scheme about which the waterside workers said quite candidly and bluntly:
The Waterside Workers’ Federation reserves its right to seek the continuation of the relevant terms of the industry agreement. It maintains that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has no jurisdiction to determine the matter of prospective retrenchments and it will not agree that any of its members on any port register established pursuant to this agreement will be compulsorily retrenched.
That stands as the scheme which has been translated into the agreement and which, if this Bill passes into law, is identified and approved by it in exactly those terms. That means that until next May the parties are bound by an agreement whereby the employers have no right compulsorily to retrench. The preliminary terms of the agreement to which the parties have agreed state that if there is a surplus of labour the employers will notify the Waterside Workers’ Federation which will ascertain from its numbers whether any members in the port concerned will apply voluntarily for retirement. If they will not apply voluntarily, the Waterside Workers’ Federation has said clearly it insists that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has no jurisdiction to deal with the matter. It can be resolved by law. However, the important thing is that the Waterside Workers ‘ Federation then goes on to say:
It will not agree . . .
I interpolate to say now or at any timethat any one of its members will be compulsorily retrenched.
If the Minister is right in saying that he has a static number of waterside workers that will never vary and that no more or no fewer will be needed, that may become immaterial. I submit that anyone who believes that this is practical judgment upon which to base a scheme for this industry to become efficient has no experience whatever in the matter and little common sense.
As my colleague Senator Walters said, the results of this agreement have been a strong impact on Austraiian pons, peculiar incidents at Tasmanian ports and on air traffic between the various islands that are supported from Tasmania. For instance, in about October 1976 the daily rate of loading apples in Hobart was 15,000 bushels. In Nelson, New Zealand, the daily rate was 50,000 bushels. In South Africa it was 90,000 bushels. The loading rate in Hobart decreased to 296 bushels per hourly gang labour day. The rate in other ports of Tasmania was 400 bushels. As I have shown, other ports have three times that loading rate. South Africa has six times that rate. The cost of moving a case of apples from the wharf shed to the ship is $1.08 per bushel. The total amount guaranteed to the apple grower over and above his costs is $2 a bushel. However the total charges- a lot of them concealed, not from the authorities but from us- to lift a case of apples from the wharf shed to the ship is $1.06. Tasmania had the worst loading rate of any fruit port in the world. The consequence was that the number of waterside workers employed was reduced from about 1,200 men 12 years ago to about 300 men today. Only one ship came into the port of Hobart in 1977 to take on a cargo of apples due to the decline in performance and the paralysis caused by befuddled policies of governments of the day. That paralysis is destroying the apple industry and other export industries in Tasmania. I could not be expected to allow this imposition in the form of this scheme in which the power of the waterside workers is the bon in the path. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority has proved unequal to the task of withstanding the demands of the waterside workers. Since 1967 after the expiry of the 2 year period in which to find a solution, none could be found. Why? It was because governments go into the market place appeasing in a special effort, as I explained earlier this year, with money galore. The highest individual payment was $30,455. 1 am taking the Minister’s figure. According to the waterside workers it was much in excess of that. What is wanted, before any scheme will succeed, is resolute Government action to support those who want performance on the waterfront, giving proper benefits and proper wages but demanding performance in abetter fashion than we have had displayed there.
Let me read to my colleagues in the Senate from the Australian of 9 July 1976:
Prices cripple exports. Man-hour costs on the waterfront have increased by 170 per cent in less than two years. The Shippers’ Council warns that shipping freights rates are rising by almost 20 per cent a year. The rises are jeopardising
Australia ‘s position in export markets. Charges by container terminals are being investigated by the Prices Justification Tribunal. ‘The basic rate for handling a 20-foot container from ship to vehicle or vice-versa at Sydney is from $ 1 52 to S 1 54 ‘, said Mr Webb, the Executive Director of the Council. This compares with $69 in New York, $66 in Hong Kong, $60 in London, $56 in Rotterdam and $53 in San Francisco’.
I simply feel demented and disappointed, Mr President, in the extreme at the lack of interest taken in this terrific challenge to our trade, from the point of view of movement of trade and of controlling trade by the ideology of the Waterside Workers Federation.
But why does it astound me so greatly: As long ago as 1956 the Liberal Government conceded for the sake of peace a monopoly for Federation members in stevedoring, the first time that, I believe, a union had acquired it anywhere in the British-speaking world. That I regard in this area as having been settled 21 years ago. I am not concerned to raise it now, but it simply makes laughable arguments that I have heard in recent weeks in this place, supposedly Government policy, providing for non-unionists the right to work. Forget that. Although Mr Fitzgibbon is not a communist- someone said in the House below that he was -
– It was besmirching his character and you know it. Charlie Fitzgibbon has a lifetime record in the Australian Labor Party.
-Exactly; I acknowledge it, and the fact that he has, I would judge, wielded his personal authority with a sense of responsibility. Although he is not, as was erroneously alleged elsewhere for a time, a communist, in fact the Communist Party has greater influence in the Waterside Workers Federation than in any other union. The Federation is more susceptible to communist influence, as is illustrated by the embargo on wheat transit to Chile and the prohibition against shipments to Indonesia.
-The IFTU supported that action. You would not call that a left-wing organisation.
-The communists were defeated in Indonesia and I would say that is why the embargo has been imposed. I am both demented and disappointed to think that this union can be given the powers that it is being given by this legislation. There is no dispute concerning its arrogant claim for voluntary redundancy, but rather an implicit recognition of it- a recognition that, thank God, is no longer printed in the Bill. However, there it is in the agreement. I expect the idea was that few would ask for the agreement, that few would see it. I have asked for it and I have read it, and there it is: The waterside workers state their claim: They will not agree that any of their members will be compulsorily retrenched.
It is said that we are withdrawing from the industry. I will deal with this package of Bills in summary fashion because I have been tedious enough already. To analyse the Bills I would have to trespass on the patience of honourable senators in the Committee stage- if the Senate does not accept my motion for a select committee. Dealing with the eight Bills in summary, what they do is transfer to the Arbitration Commission the authority that hitherto resided in the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority to fix the number of men required at any port, that is to say, the quota. They then transfer to the Arbitration Commission the decision as to the circumstances in which waterside workers will be employed to assist in the performance of the companies’ work, by reason of the fact that the number of such workers regularly employed at the port is insufficient; also, matters relating to recruitment and attendance money.
It may be that the Arbitration Commission will have the contact with the industry and the resolution to determine those matters, but honourable senators know the long processes that take place. I think it will be delaying and dilatory. I hope it is effective, but I have little confidence that it will be. Having done that, the scheme says, ‘You can dispense with the ASIA’. The ASIA has been rendered completely impotent since 1967 from the point of view of having a disciplinary purpose, so now we are told by Mr West in the other House that when the question arose there was not one waterside worker who did not vote for its abolition. Why? Because it did attempt to enforce some discipline and incurred displeasure. It was then left embalmed for 10 years and is now to be buried.
But, having got rid of the disciplinary functions of the ASIA and transferred them, so far as I have mentioned, to the Commission, we still retain in the industry our position of a statutory corporation. By one of those ironies of draftsmanship in this place, and with a full sense of history on the files, we remembered that we had called the organisation a commission up till 1947, had called it a board from 1947 to 1956, and from 1956 until the present time had called it an authority. Having run out of names we are to call this one a committee; but it is still a corporation, and the chairman of the committee is a Government appointee. The Committee is required to report to the Minister. The Committee is required to make an annual report and the Minister is required to lay that report before the Parliament. The Committee is there to manage the finances that come in from the levies which are referred to in the other Bill. I notice that this year, for a period of, I think, seven months, the levies are estimated to total Slim; so the levies which will come in in future will total, it appears to me, about $ 1 8m a year.
Also, the Committee is to enter into arrangements with the employers with respect to the provision of services and administrative costs and is to make payments of those costs to the employers. The Committee is to use its moneys for expenditure in discharging a relevant award obligation. The term ‘relevant award obligation’ is a mystical term until one reads right through the clause in which it appears. The relevant award obligation is one which is approved by the Minister and described as such m an award of the Commission. We do not know what ‘a relevant award obligation’ means.
Another thing which is most intriguing and which I think should electrify every honourable senator in the chamber- a few more than usual, but very few- is that the Committee is to use its funds for the provision of services and amenities for waterside workers. If that is unclear and might not provide sufficient kitchens, bathrooms and other amenities, clause 12 provides that the Committee is to apply its funds for the provision of benefits for waterside workers. Apart from discharging the relevant award obligations, the only two things for which the Committee is to use its funds are benefits and services and amenities for waterside workers. We are to impose a tax to obtain the funds for that and the tax is in a mystical form.
We will retain the man-hour levy, but it will be at the rate of $1 a tonne. The rate at present is about $4 a tonne; so there will be a reduction. But honourable senators should remember that under the new arrangements all payments for idle time, redundancy and long service leave will be the employers’ obligation and the details of those payments will not be publicised. So, the tax is to provide funds for other things, such as the man-hour levy of $1 a tonne, except in the outer ports where the levy is $4.85. 1 have not had time to check the arithmetic; but, accepting the assurance of the Minister and his officers, that will achieve an equalisation of expenditure in the smaller and the larger ports- the permanent and the non-permanent ports.
Then there is an added tonnage levy on the trade to recover the arrears- a deficit of between $22m and $25m in the Authority’s accounts which has arisen because the Authority had to employ the money it raised and received for the purpose of long service leave payments in paying for redundancy and idle time. Instead ofthe employers paying this as they had an obligation to do, we will be taxing the tonnage of the countrywith the exception of the real bulk cargoes- to recover that deficit.
– Some of the bulk cargoes will be taxed, will they not?
-Yes. If I understand the position aright, the bulk cargoes which, pursuant to the present scheme, are handled by waterside workers will sustain that tonnage tax for the purpose of recovering the deficiency. In those circumstances, I am dismayed that we regard this measure as even a contribution towards a solution of the industry’s problems. At the conclusion of my speech I propose to move a motion to refer this legislation to a select committee, instead of the Bills being read a second time, in order that that committee may consider the question of the revenue we are proposing to raise by way of taxing the industry; the question of government participation in the industry continuing for the purpose of taxation but not for the purpose of discipline; and the question of how we will deal with redundancy. I ask the Clerk to distribute copies of the notice of that motion for me.
In conclusion, I say that the reason why no solution has been found to this industry’s problems is that up to the present time the power of the monopolistic union, predominantly communist controlled, has prevailed against any challenge from government. I mean a challenge which requires performance in this industry on an effective basis, with a decent relationship with the economy of other industries and the trades which we have to carry on. It is abundantly clear from what I have said that three alternatives were offered as the means of remodelling the industry. They were enunciated by Mr Justice Northrop, as he later became, but he did not advance a view as to which he preferred. One alternative was to nationalise the industry; the second was to create a government corporation which would be the exclusive employer in the industry; and the third was to do what this legislation pretends to do, namely, to relegate the industry to the ordinary relationship of employer and employee. This legislation does nothing of the sort. But solace is found in the industry in some committees other than the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee.
– Your time is running out.
-Does my time expire? I might be cut short, but if I were given an extension I would not take five minutes -
-Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I move:
That Senator Wright be granted an extension of time.
– If Senator Wright is prepared to limit himself to speaking for a further five minutes, I shall be happy to agree to an extension of five minutes. I suggest that the motion might be amended accordingly.
– That is a very liberal way to deal with a colleague!
-Senator Wright said that he wanted five minutes more.
-That is right.
- Senator Wood, would you be agreeable to adding to your motion the words ‘ of five minutes “?
-I do not think that Senator Wright should be limited to five minutes.
– Yes, agree.
-A11 right; I move:
That Senator Wright be granted an extension of time of five minutes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I wanted to point out only a few matters in respect of committees upon which reliance is placed as a great advantage. The committees are set up. They are port conciliation committees. Their function is not to determine anything. They are conciliators. Their function as described in the Bill is to assist the parties to come to an agreement on matters arising from day to day in the port, such as whether hides stink too much or whether there is too much acid in a bag. Previously, when the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission was operating in this sphere, a board of inquiry went down to the job and made a decision on the spot but these conciliators- this is modern stuff- assist the parties to agree. What does that mean? Of course, the waterside workers will insist up on their view prevailing. I refer to the proposed new section 85a of the Act.
There is to be a federal co-ordinating com- mittee into which outside interests are to come. I do not know how many. Mr President I am sorry to draw your attention to the function of this committee. I think we all should rise in admiration of the way we govern! The function of the committee is to encourage agreement between waterside workers and employers. We have been doing that all through my parliamentary career. We should have a system whereby someone will have the power on the spot, after hearing both sides, to say: ‘I shall order another sixpence for that’ or ‘This should not be loaded by this ship’ so that we can be reasonably assured that the service will be provided. There is not one provision in the whole scheme that does not give the final say to the Waterside Workers Federation, except in relation to matters within the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Honourable senators know how difficult it has been to get that Commission to operate in this field. It was only because of the nonperformance of the Commission in this field that other agencies, commissions, boards and authorities were set up. I should modify that statement. These authorities were set up as wartime authorities in 1941 and 1942 and were continued after the War.
– They could not continue with the Bull system.
-We moved out of that era 25 years ago. Not a word I said suggests that we should go back to it All I am suggesting is that we should have a system whereby proper rates of pay, provision for long service leave and all other benefits are given equality with those for other industries and not given so much in excess that the waterside workers can dislocate the stevedoring industry and cause huge costs to the shipping industry which have great detriment to our trade. I move:
Leave out all words after “That”, insert- “( 1 ) These Bills be referred to a Select Committee of the Senate for inquiry and report.
That provisions relating to membership, powers and proceedings of the Committee be contained in a subsequent Resolution”.
– I second the motion.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (4.18)- I do not propose to support the amendment moved by Senator Wright when it comes to the vote. I think the Senate should understand what it is debating. I think it is reasonable that the Parliament should understand what it is being asked to accept. I have listened to debates about the stevedoring industry for a quarter of a century. As chairman of a committee of this chamber I have investigated, for example, the introduction of the container service system into Australia. I rise therefore only to provide some additional information which the enate may take into consideration when it is debating and voting on this matter.
One ofthe most extraordinary things about the stevedoring industry is that it has gone through the process of a quasi-nationalised industry and it has finally come back to another concept under which the employer side and the employee side are supposedly brought together. I do not know whether anyone has brought forward the question of who owns this industry. I would say in clear and unequivocal terms for those honourable senators who will sit in this place after I have left that we have reverted to a situation under the collective Bills now before us in which the industry is partly owned by employees on the one hand and almost totally owned, on the other hand, not by Australian employers but by transnational operators. I refer to shipping companies. The result of these Bills is to put into the hands of a monopoly comprised of the Waterside Workers Federation and the overseas shipowners the means by which they can press their thumb on the jugular vein of Australian commerce and export trade. That is what the Senate is being asked to vote on. It does not matter twopennyworth of beer drips what the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission says or what the industrial tribunals or courts determine from time to time. We are passing the cost factor into the hands of two groups of people who are a form of management of the industrial strength of Australia. Every producer in Australia involved in the export market will have to pay the price that these two oligarchies will claim from the Australian community. That is an assertion. Therefore, the Senate is entitled to some evidence in relation to it. I shall illustrate what is involved in these Bills by stating who owns the forwarding and stevedoring employing agencies of Australia. I asked a friend of mine to provide the information for me. He has done so. Last week he wrote to me and said:
Seatainer Terminals Ltd: owned SO per cent by Overseas Containers Ltd and SO per cent by Bulkships Ltd.
Glebe Island Terminals: Columbus 25 per cent, Farrell Lines 25 per cent, Liner Services 25 per cent and Patricks 25 per cent; Freight Bases: ANL 3316 per cent, ACT (UK) 66% per cent; Terminal Properties: ANL 33W per cent, ACT (UK.) 66% per cent; Liner Services: wholly owned by Wilhelmsen
That is a Norwegian company-
Transatlantic and Farrell Lines; Brisbane Wharves and Wool Dumping: Wholly owned by P and O Conventional Shipping:
Patricks (by far the biggest conventional stevedore) owned 6 1 per cent by Patrick Investments and 39 per cent by nominee interests-
The letter points out that beneficial ownership of the latter- that is, Patricks- is not known. Containers Australia is owned 50 per cent by Australport, which is a P and O subsidiary, and 50 per cent by Consolidated.
I suggest that a most villainous oligarchy or oligopoly is being erected under statute by which the capacity of the Australian trader to export general cargo and the capacity of Australia to finance itself as a trading nation pass totally into the hands ofthe Waterside Workers Federation and the organisations whose names I have just cited. Allegedly their interests are in conflict, but in reality their interests are not in conflict. Their interests are mutual. So they will go through the procedure of complaining that industrial disputes are a matter of mutual disinterest, but the moment their ships are held up the owners of the ships will concede. The next stage will then take place in which the overseas rates for Australian trade will be subsidised by an agreement made by the necessary echelon of government in Australia. There will be an approval of an increase in freight rates. The curious paradox in this regard is that the lower the prices ofthe Australian product go on the world market, the higher the increase in freight rates. That is what honourable senators are being invited to support.
The most frightening aspect of this matter is that we have in this Parliament today- here and in the other place- groups of honourable members and honourable senators who do not know what they are being invited to support. I was so concerned about this matter that I made some investigations of it. My memory is a long one. It is pre-genesis 1972, when abounding light suddenly came across the parliamentary scene in Australia and the Australian Labor Party followed its custom of setting up a whole series of broomstick cupboard committees in this Parliament. The light that descended on this place was a rather frightening phenomenon. It led me to go to the National Library. I asked the Library to produce for me information on something which I well recollected. Young as I was, I was at least intelligent. The information I sought was about a speech that was made in a far country- in Rome.
– Do you mean a speech made in Italy?
-It was made in Italy. I have struck a trigger mechanism in Senator Button.
– You said that the speech was made in a far country- in Rome.
-The honourable senator said the name of the far country, indicating that he was aware of it. It was the introduction of syndicalism; it was the introduction of the corporate state. The speech was made by a man called Benito Mussolini. It was a speech that he made to the Chamber of Deputies. I am not going to pretend that I am standing on a balcony in the Piazza Venezia or in the Chamber of Deputies in Rome. I recommend to all honourable senators a speech made by that peculiar man who finally ended on a butcher’s hook in northern Italy in 1945. Introducing a resolution drafted by the head of the Italian Government and read by him on 13 November 1 933 before the Assembly of the National Council of Corporations, which is the genesis of the fascist state, he said:
The applause with which the reading of my resolution was received yesterday evening, made me wonder this morning whether it was worth while to make a speech in order to illustrate a document which had gone straight to your intelligence, had interpreted your own convictions, and had appealed to your revolutionary spirit.
I might well address myself in the same terms to the honourable senators in the chamber at present. Without a single shadow of doubt we have embarked upon one of the greatest conspiracies that has ever affected the Australian economy- a marrying and a merging of an interest of people who have no real interest in the Australian economy and no real interest in the Australian people, except to plunder that which is available to them under the seven Bills before the Senate. I rest my case on that.
-I wish to say a few words about this legislation and I will be very brief. It causes me concern, too. It seems to me that, arising from a conference, we have the makings of a sweetheart deal between the employers, on the one hand, and not just the employees on the other hand, but in fact a monopoly union representing the employees. This deal is being supported by legislation being passed through this Parliament. The matter that causes me concern is in what way are we looking after the interests of people who are not parties to the proposed agreement. It is a simple question. I pose that question to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack). I would be grateful if he would indicate to the Senate the way in which the interests of the people of Australia will be protected against the sorts of things raised by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. After all, it is very easy for a union representing employee interests to make applications to an employer for all sorts of added benefits and for that employer to find reasons to place before the Prices Justification Tribunal for increasing charges to cover the advantages that it is necessary to provide for the employees. I ask the Attorney-General: In what way will we be looking after the interests of the people of Australia?
-I think Senator Wright is to be congratulated on the very long and interesting speech that he made in regard to these pieces of legislation. These Bills are of immense importance to the industry and commerce of this country. Because of that they should really excite a great deal more participation and interest by parliamentarians. Over the years the Waterside Workers Federation, as has been pointed out, has been an instrumentality that has contained quite a lot of the communist element. My memory goes back a very long way in relation to the Waterside Workers Federation. As a young chap I was a paymaster for a shipping company in Mackay, north Queensland. From that area came Jim Healy who afterwards became the General Secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia. Jim Healy was an avowed communist. I well remember money being raised in the city of Mackay to send him to Russia to study communism. That was the genesis of the movement forward of this organisation to a communist outlook.
In view of the importance of this field to industry generally in Australia I feel that Senator Wright’s amendment, which provides that these Bills be looked at by a committee of the Senate, is a very wise and good one. If there are doubts about legislation such as this, surely we should know more about it. Senator Wright gave illustrations of the terrific cost incurred by people shipping produce because of what has gone on in this industry and the associated aspects from governments of previous days until now. I think they are striking illustrations of the terrific costs being imposed upon industry because of what has gone on. Therefore, surely we, as parliamentarians, should want to know more about what is going on and what effect these Bills will be likely to have upon industries affected by the maritime situation m Australia.
Senator Wright pointed out many aspects. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack also brought forward some very interesting aspects. Now an interesting aspect has been brought forward by Senator Lewis. Is there any need to rush this legislation through the Parliament? Is there any indication that we must conform immediately with whatever some sections of this industry should want? This legislation deserves the closest examination. I think that an examination by a committee of this Senate would be a very wise thing and a very good thing. It is in the interests of this country to have the best legislation in a field in which the level of cost very often can destroy a worthy industry. For those reasons I have much pleasure in seconding the amendment moved by Senator Wright.
– Perhaps on my third try I might manage to get on my feet for more than a second before another honourable senator rises to speak.
– I thought it was your Bill.
-I was under that impression- in fact I still am. The Senate this afternoon is considering a package of Bills designed to make root and branch reforms of the stevedoring industry. The reason for this package of legislation is the fact that the historic method of regulating the industry through the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority has proved to be unsatisfactory and inept, particularly in view of the great changes that have occurred on the waterfront in recent years. One must bear in mind that the Authority was established more than 30 years ago. It was set up at a time when the nature of the provision of labour on the waterfront was entirely different from what it is today.
The need for the changes proposed in the Bills has been seen for a large number of years. I suppose the need for this legislation goes back to the recommendations of the Woodward conference in the middle of the 1960s, or more particularly to a more immediate investigation of the whole problem by Mr Northrop Q.C., as he then was, which began in 197S. These Bills arise out of discussions which have been going on ever since Mr Northrop was appointed in 1975 and there also have been discussions in relation to his report. Very lengthy, protracted, detailed, technical and complicated discussions have been going on all this time.
The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street), who received the Northrop report in 1976, has been closely involved, on behalf of the Government, in discussions with the parties concerned. In the course of those discussions other people have been asked to do special jobs to help a solution to the problem. One was Mr Justice Robinson who looked at the subject of accelerating redundancy. Another was Sir Richard Kirby who was asked to convene a conference of all parties which in the end resulted in this package of legislation. I only mention this to the Senate to make clear the extensive nature of the discussions that have taken place over a long period of time and they were taken into account when these Bills were being prepared. These Bills are a package and are the result of the discussions and negotiations. Finally the parties involved determined that this is the way in which the problems that everybody concedes exist could be resolved.
Some honourable senators have proposed that the matter be thrown open again for further discussion. But this is not a matter that can be resolved by the Parliament. It can only be resolved by continuing or re-opening those discussions with the parties involved. We would have to get the parties together again and negotiate with them. In other words, the solution of this problem, although in the end it has to be the subject of legislation, involves very considerable executive activity.
I am sure the Senate is indebted to Senator Wright for the very detailed excursus he has given on the waterfront industry and the stevedoring industry, and the problems and dangers which face the nation in this area. Other honourable senators also expressed concern along the same lines. I think one must come down to two major considerations. First, as I have said, the existing arrangements have proved unsatisfactory and have been unsatisfactory for a considerable period of time. It has been apparent to everyone- it has been made most apparent by Senator Wright and Senator Sir Magnus Cormack in what they said- that the existing arrangements certainly are unsatisfactory. This is probably due to the major change in the nature of loading operations on the waterfront in recent years. The whole operation has become much more mechanised. The waterfront industry now is not the labour intensive industry that it has been historically. This has been the case since the development of bulk loading operations. The nature ofthe industry has changed to such an extent that the existing arrangements are no longer satisfactory and need to be changed.
The second consideration is that I think the Government has been presented with a major dilemma. Mr Northrop made his recommendations after discussions with the industry. What emerged from his report was the existence of a sharp division between those who propose that the Government should take a more direct role in the industry and those who believe that the Government should withdraw from the regulatory role it has been maintaining by means of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. That role, everybody agreed, no longer was satisfactory. The problem with which the Government was presented was this: Should it come in and take a stronger role- in effect, should the Government take over the stevedoring industry and nationalise it- or should it withdraw from the regulatory role as far as possible? I should have thought, listening this afternoon to Senator Wright, that what he really was advocating was that the Government should take a much stronger role than it has taken hitherto under the Stevedoring Industry Authority. According to the report of Mr Justice Northrop, as he now is, that would mean virtually that the Government would need to come in and nationalise the stevedoring industry. If it is to deal with the problems of the industry in the way in which Senator Wright believes it ought to deal with them, it does seem that that would be the only way in which the Government could exercise the authority suggested by Senator Wright, and apparently suggested by others to Mr Justice Northrop.
That was the choice before the Government, and its decision, which has been supported by both the employers and the employees in the industry, was that it should seek to withdraw from control of the industry through the Stevedoring Industry Authority. I point out to honourable senators who are dissatisfied with the way in which the Government proposes to solve the problem that, if they accept that the present administration and control of the industry are unsatisfactory and need reform, then the only other solution is for the Government to come in and take an even stronger role. That probably would involve the nationalisation of the industry. I do not know whether that is what honourable senators on this side of the chamber want- they have not said so- but they have not indicated an alternative solution for the Government to adopt. Indeed, Mr Justice Northrop made it quite clear that the choice was between a more direct role for the Government and a withdrawal, as far as possible, by the Government. The solution achieved by the Government has been withdrawal from the present method of control as far as possible. That solution is completely consistent with the policies of the Government. I think it should be a matter of satisfaction that it is one upon which a large measure of agreement has been reached within the industry. These Bills are a package to give effect to that policy and to the successful negotiation of the agreements.
The question now is: What are the benefits that have been and can be obtained as a result of these Bills, of the negotiations that have been going on and of the policies that have been pursued? First and foremost, of course, the agreements and the legislation enable the Government to get rid of what everybody considers to be an unsatisfactory method of controlling and regulating the waterfront. That is the first major improvement that has been achieved. Another major improvement resulting from the policies that have been pursued is that the numbers on the waterfront have been reduced dramatically. In 1966, 21,000 people were employed on the waterfront. That number now has been reduced to 10,000. It is believed that the employees on the waterfront have now been reduced to a number which can be usefully and gainfully employed in the light of the present demand for labour.
Senator Wright has said that there may still be too many; that, as time goes on, as a result of further mechanisation and improved methods of handling this will prove to be too many and the numbers will have to be reduced further. I do not know whether that is correct. I do not think Senator Wright was saying that that would be the case. He simply raised the question that that problem may arise in the future. But the fact is that it is now believed that the numbers have been reduced to a figure that is appropriate to the work that needs to be done. That result has been achieved through the policies pursued by this Government, and in recent months through the negotiations that have gone on under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Robinson. In the space of a few months a further 900 waterside workers have retired. They have received the benefits to which Senator Wright has referred, but in the long run it is far better to achieve those redundancies and to buy out people with capital sums than to keep on paying wages for idle time. So, in the long run the cost certainly has been reduced by the policies the Government has pursued. Furthermore, under the new scheme the levies that are being struck will raise about half the amount that was raised in the past through levies. That has been achieved by reducing the numbers to the extent I have indicated and by the assumption by employers instead of by a government authority of responsibility for the payments relating to a wide area of industrial conditions.
We have achieved a reinstatement of normal employer-employee relationships on the waterfront, and that in itself is probably the third major achievement of this legislation. Historically, one of the problems of the waterfront has been the absence of normal employer-employee relationships. In future, those relationships will be quite clear and untrammelled by the existence of an authority playing a role over and above the employer and employee. We have returned to a situation where employer-employee relationships will be controlled by the ordinary conciliation and arbitration machinery, and that machinery has quite appropriate methods for dealing with the problems that arise on the waterfront.
-Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has asked about sweetheart deals. They are not unique to the waterfront. The problem of sweetheart deals can arise in any industry and between any employers and employees. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act already provides that if there are such deals and if the public interest is affected in a major way by them, there is power for the Minister to intervene. I refer the Senate, particularly Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, to the provisions of section 28 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act which places a duty on a commissioner who is asked to certify an agreement. The duty is that he should not certify that agreement if he is of the opinion that it is not in the public interest. If there were a deal of a kind which is concerning honourable senators, under other provisions of the Act the Minister has the power to intervene and to place before the Commission the way in which the Government sees the conflict of that agreement with the public interest.
-They back off.
-Senator Wood says that they will back off. That depends upon the resolution and competence of the Minister and Government of the day . That is the responsibility of government and it is one which government accepts. I am sure many honourable senators will be urging the Government to discharge that responsibility. I come back to the question: What is the alternative to these arrangements. I think it is perfectly clear that the only alternative to these arrangements is to introduce a system of control of the waterfront which is anathema to the policies of a Liberal and Country Party Government, which is anathema to the basic principles of industrial relations in this country and which I think is anathema to honourable senators on this side of the chamber who have expressed various concerns about this arrangement. The concern is that we would have introduced into the industrial relations of the stevedoring industry some form of government control which will virtually amount to the nationalisation of the industry and which will virtually preclude the ordinary relations between employer and employee being maintained by those who are engaged in the industry.
That was the choice before the Government and it is the choice before the Parliament when Parliament is asked to approve these arrangements. The Government is opposed to the motion that the Bills be referred to a select committee of the Senate because, as I have said, the provisions in the Bills have been the subject of major negotiations. These are not Bills which can be amended in any detail, and that perhaps would be the normal purpose in referring a Bill to a committee. The Senate cannot itself negotiate a new arrangement. As I have said, the Government is quite satisfied that if these Bills are not passed it will be necessary to negotiate arrangements again or simply to leave matters as they stand. Nobody who has spoken believes that matters ought to be left as they stand. I have not really heard in the Senate any proposals or suggestions as to how else the matter can be resolved. The Government does not see how the matter, which has already been the subject of lengthy discussions and negotiations going back to 1975, can be resolved any further. The Government believes that any further consideration cannot resolve the problem any better than these Bills resolve it.
asked me about a few small points. The first question related to safety. The Bills make no difference to the way in which safety is controlled in regard to safety on board ships. The Commonwealth Department of Transport controls that aspect and it will continue to control it. On shore safety continues to be the responsibility of State government departments. As far as any extension of coverage is concerned by the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, the whole purpose of the Bills and the amendments which have recently been made to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act is to maintain the status quo in relation to coverage. That seems to have been accepted by the parties. Finally the honourable senator asks about canteens on the waterfront. Those canteens which are being operated by the Stevedoring Industry Authority will in future be operated by Commonwealth Hostels Ltd under agreement with the employers. I hope that these Bills will receive the assent of the Senate and that the Senate will not agree to any further delay by referring them to a select committee.
- Mr President, I ask that my vote and the vote of any other honourable senator who voted for the motion be recorded.
-I ask that my vote be recorded, too.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time.
Stevedoring Industry Acts (Termination) Bill 1977
-Clause 14 of the Bill provides that all rights and property that immediately before the expiration of the transitional period were vested in the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority are, by force of this section, vested in the Committee. The Committee is the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee, that is, the statutory body, the substitute for the Stevedoring Industry Authority. All property which remains with the Authority at the final termination of the Authority vests in the succeeding Government corporation, called the Finance Committee.
Bill agreed to.
Stevedoring Industry Charge (Termination) Bill 1977
Bill agreed to.
Stevedoring Industry Levy Bill 1977
– I wish to refer to clauses 5 and 6 of the Bill. You will notice, Mr Temporary Chairman, that the rate of levy is specified for division A waterside workers at $ 1 per man-hour of employment or such other amount per man-hour of employment as is prescribed. The reason for the reduction of the present rate of man-hour levy from $4 to $1 is that idle time now will become the direct responsibility of the employers and redundancy is thought to have been abolished. It is thought that in the dreamy days ahead there will be no redundancy. I have had prepared and checked a list showing the expenditure on this item by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority for the last three years. It reveals that in 1973-74 the amount expended was about $ 17m, in 1974-75 it was about $25m and in 1975-76 it was about $40m. I do not have the figures for 1976-77 because the report for that year is not out but I do have figures that have been supplied to me which show the expenditure for 1976-77 as about $5 1 ,9m, or $52m taking it to the nearest million. I seek leave to incorporate this table in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
The table read as follows-
Expenditure by Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority on selected items- financial years ended 30 June 1974, 30 June 1975 and 30 June 1976.
-The figure in the table for 1975- 76 is $40.6m. The actual expenditure for 1976- 77 is $5 1.9m. The point of raising these figures here is that all items other than idle time, long service leave and redundancy, according to my understanding, are to be financed by these levies. I would be very much obliged if the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) would check me if I am in error in that respect. It will be seen that very substantial items are to disappear from what is to be financed by this levy.
The levy that was imposed in 1956 was sixpence per man-hour and it had risen to $4 per man-hour by the time we had got around to remodelling it. The danger is that the levy Bill before us authorises the rate to be altered by way of regulation, and I ask the Senate to consider whether that is a proper use of regulation. The Bill states:
I think that taxation of that sort should be the subject of parliamentary enforcement specifically. I know that each House has power to disallow a regulation but the reasons for making a regulation do not come before the chamber for debate and are not explained. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee has no charter to supervise regulations from the point of view of the amount or policy contained in them but has a much more restricted charter. I think that this is an inappropriate use of regulations.
In respect of the employment of division B waterside workers the man-hour levy is to be $4.85. 1 do not wish to interrupt the Minister who is talking with his adviser but there is a specific matter to which I wish to direct his attention. I mentioned it in the course of my speech at the second reading stage. He will know that one of my concerns has been for the non-permanent points which are, I believe, the main employers of class B waterside workers and therefore will be the places where the larger levy of $4.85 per man-hour is paid. I want to be assured that it has been checked right through that those ports will not be costed on any basis that will put them at a disadvantage with the major ports.
The third thing I want to say is that I protest against the use of these taxing powers for the purpose of maintaining these operations which are supposed to be on an ordinary employer and employee basis. The last matter to which I call attention is clause 6 where the rate of man-hour levy on a tonnage basis is worked out at 35c per bulk handling man-hour. I ask the Minister: Is my understanding correct that we have abandoned any tonnage basis and that the whole of the levies in this Bill up to this stage are on a man-hour basis? I understand that clause 7 deals with the impost for the deficit, that is to say, 75 per cent of the amount per tonne payable in respect of overseas cargo. I do not wish to raise the question of whether that is an excise. It is not 75c per tonne as I had thought but 75 per cent of the man-hour levy payable on the nonpermanent ports. Clause 8 deals with the levy of 1 8c per tonne.
I regret that I have not presented my position as clearly as I would have liked but I point out that the man-hour levy reduction is due to the elimination of the main items of long service leave, redundancy and idle time. If I am not correct in that belief I wish to be corrected. I believe that the levy of $4.85 per man-hour is an outrageously excessive levy to be paid in addition to present wages. I would like to be informed in respect of clauses 6, 7 and 8 where provision is made for the tonnage levy which is supposed to raise the $22m or $23m deficit over six years.
– Perhaps when the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) replies he could explain the reasons for the peculiarity of prescribing regulations under clause 12 of the Bill. That is quite contrary to what we normally find in the power of the Government to prescribe regulations. Clause 12(1) states:
The Governor-General may make regulations prescribing rates of levy for the purposes of this Act.
One would expect that in any Bill. But sub-clause 2 states:
Before making a regulation under sub-section (1) prescribing the rate of any levy, the Governor-General snail take into consideration any recommendations with respect to the rate of that levy that have been made to the Minister by the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee established by the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee Act 1977.
One visualises a situation in which regulations are drawn up by the Minister or his Department and presented to the Governor-General for assent. The Governor-General simply signs the regulations. I do not know who makes the recommendation for the particular levy in this case.
– That comes under the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee Bill.
-The power of the Governor-General to consider the Committee’s recommendations to the Minister suggests to me that the Minister may draw up the regulation or suggest a different amount from that set by the Finance Committee. If this is so, are we giving the Governor-General the executive power to decide what the levy will be against two sets of figures which apparently come from different sources and which are recommended to him? This suggests to me that he would make regulations in accordance with the prepared regulations. But he does not make such regulations unless he considers the recommendations made to the Minister. It immediately suggests to me that the Governor-General has a right to agree to a different figure from the one suggested to him by the Minister and that the Governor-General’s decision is the deciding factor in respect of the levy in this industry.
– Firstly, I shall deal with the points raised by Senator Wright. The document that he wishes to have incorporated in Hansard shows the expenditure by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority in the three years 1973-74, 1974-75 and 1975-76. The items in that document that he has left untickednamely idle time, long service leave and redundancyare the items on which there will not.be expenditure in the future. That is quite right. A levy for the deficit in relation to long service leave liability will continue for the next few years. Although no specific expenditure will be incurred, it is still necessary to provide for the deficit which has arisen as a result of some of these payments not being met from past revenue. Somebody asked me what benefits will be achieved by this legislation and these new proposals for the waterfront. The expenditure on those items in 1975-76 totalled nearly $30m. Subject to the repayment of the deficit, this expenditure will be saved in future as a result of this legislation.
Senator Wright raised the question whether all the levies are based on man hours. I think he pointed out quite correctly that, in fact, there will be some levies on cargo on a per tonne basis. The other question raised by Senator Wright related to the propriety of levies being raised by regulation. Certainly that is the provision in this legislation. All of the clauses of the Bill dealing with the imposition of levies provide for a specific levy, but that that may be varied by regulation. That is not by any means a revolutionary provision. Senator Wright recognises that the regulations may be disallowed. Of course, the same opportunity for debate arises. As a result of any move to disallow a regulation, the Government is still required to provide the same information to the Parliament and to justify the imposition as it would if it were introducing legislation. The purpose of this is one of convenience. These levies can be varied quickly as required. I think that the time of the Parliament should not be employed in varying matters which in some cases may involve quite small amounts.
Senator Cavanagh queried a provision contamed in clause 12 (2) which states that before a regulation is made prescribing a levy the Governor-General must take into account a levy recommendation made to the Minister by the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee. The Finance Committee will be set up in this package of legislation. We have not actually dealt with that Bill yet. The Finance Committee will keep an eye on the financial requirements of the whole scheme and will work out what levies are needed to meet the obligations of the Finance Committee itself and of the central funding arrangements under this scheme. Therefore, the Government certainly would want to have, and should take note of, the recommendations of that Committee before it presents the levy proposal to the Governor-General for approval. Of course, it would be quite inappropriate for any legislation to provide that the Governor-General must adopt any recommendation of the Finance Committee or anybody else. It is always provided in legislation that the Governor-General, meaning the Governor-General acting on the advice of the Executive Council and, indeed, the Cabinet, shall have a discretion. So the purpose of this provision is simply that the Government must take note of the recommendations of the Finance Committee before it makes regulations. I do not know that Senator Wright raised any other points.
– I wish to take note of one observation made by the Attorney-General (Senator Durack). He has confirmed that I am correct in thinking that the three items of idle time, long service leave and redundancy no longer will be financed by these levies. I wish to say that he is in error in suggesting that therefore the industry will be relieved of the equivalent cost of those three items, which in 1975-76 amounted to about $29m. It is quite obvious that idle time simply will go into the private accounts of the employers. The cost of redundancy will depend upon whether redundant workers are paid, and that will depend upon whether there is surplus labour and whether it is kept on and paid as idle time.’ The cost of long service leave will be excluded because it is provided for in a fund agreement involving contributions by the employees and employers. In the last year shown in the document I have, 1975-76, the cost of long service leave totalled $5.1m. Attention should be drawn to the fact that in the report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority it was estimated by the actuaries ofthe fund, in respect ofthe employers agreement in March 1976, that obligations entered into would cost $ 10.6m in 1976-77 compared with $4.2m in 1975-76-an increase of $6.4m, notwithstanding the reduction between 1 July 1975 and 1 July 1976 of some 1,470 in the number of registered waterside workers. So I think the Minister will concede that it would be erroneous to conclude that just because these items will no longer be part of the public financing of the industry they will not be imposed on the industry generally. They will be part of the costs to the employers who will, of course, charge them, with the appropriate oncosts, to the industry.
– I intended not to imply that there would be an actual saving of $30m, but rather that there would be savings of very large sums of up to $30m, less long service leave payments, by employers, as a result of being able to get rid of, hopefully, idle time and redundancy payments. I accept broadly what Senator Wright has said.
Bill agreed to.
Stevedoring Industry Levy Collection Bill 1977
– I wish to draw attention to clause 3 of the Bill where waterside worker’ is defined. This is the Bill that sets out the machinery for collecting the levy. The definition of waterside worker is expressed to include:
Each of those two expressions is important, registered person’- a registered waterside worker- that is to say, one who has been admitted to the register that is to be kept by the finance committee, which we will discuss on the next Bill; and who is ‘employed by a participating party’, that is to say, an employer who participates in the finance Bill arrangement. It says that the ‘waterside worker’ includes that person and adds, ‘being a person included in any of the following classes of persons’: Of these, (v) and (vi) are important:
I wish to be assured by the Minister that that definition is consistant with the exclusion of loose bulk handling cargoes from the monopoly ofthe waterfront and the imposition of these levies. As I understand it, paragraph (v) has been included in that form because the people who are employed on loose bulk cargo by means of equipment based on the shore are those who were operating in that field before 1956 and therefore were at all times under the scheme of the ASIA Act. It includes those people who by agreement, in 1 1 or 12 isolated cases since, have been employed as waterside workers in connection with loose bulk cargo.
I want to be assured that if that is the intent of this inclusion, as I believe it to be, it is not in any way capable of weakening the exclusion of bulk handling operations from the monopoly of the Waterside Workers Federation, and exclusion which I hope is achieved by the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill that we have before us, in conjunction with Conciliation and Arbitration Bill (No. 3) which was passed some 13 days ago.
-Senator Wright would not, of course, expect me to give an absolute assurance that the High Court of Australia would interpret any legislation in the way that he has suggested, but that certainly is the Government’s intention. The reason he has given is correct: That this inclusion in the definition of waterside worker’ is necessary because historically some members of the Waterside Workers Federation have been engaged in bulk cargo operations.
As to the question of coverage generally, as I said during the second reading it is the intention that the coverage by the Waterside Workers Federation of people engaged in bulk handling operations would not be extended. That has been the basis on which all discussions and negotiations have taken place. The Government believes that is achieved by the provisions of one of the Bills in the package which amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
However, it does not literally provide that members of the Waterside Workers Federation cannot be covered. It does provide that it is the intention that the existing arrangements should continue, and the amendment to Conciliation and Arbitration Act (No. 3), passed by the Senate on 21 October, has incorporated in it a provision whereby any attempt on the part of waterside workers to obtain extensions of cover within this area can be resisted.
Bill agreed to.
Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee Bill 1977
-There are several things in this Bill to which I wish to draw attention, and I will do so as briefly as I can. First, taking up Senator Cavanagh ‘s point as to the levy Bill, I would indicate that clause 6 (b) provides that one of the functions of the committee is to make recommendations to the Minister as to any change it considers should be made to the rate of levy. For the particular attention of the Minister and my colleagues in the chamber, I draw attention to sub-clause (c), which states that the committee may make recommendations to the Minister as to any additional levies- not merely as to varying the levies that are in the Bill, but as to making recommendations for additional levies. Then we see the payments which the Committee is to make. I direct the attention of honourable senators to clause 8 of the Bill, which states:
Where the Committee is satisfied that the Association or employer has, on or after the date of commencement of this Act, incurred expenditure in discharging a relevant award obligation. The Committee shall pay to the Association … an amount equal to the amount of that expenditure.
To find out what a ‘relevant award obligation’ is, one looks to sub-clause (4) of clause 8, which states that a ‘relevant award obligation’ is an obligation which has been paid under an award which has been approved by the Minister and is described in the award or order as being a relevant award or obligation. So no description is given in the Bill, and I have not had explained to me the sort of award obligation that this Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee is to
PaY. Certainly it would not be wages. Wages ave never been paid by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. The rate of wages is fixed by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. But what relevant award obligation, approved by the Minister and described in the award as such, is the Committee to pay? During the second reading debate on this Bill I mentioned clause 10, which states:
The Committee may make payments to the Association or to an employer . . . to meet the cost of the provision of services and amenities . . . of a prescribed kind.
Clause 11 provides that the Committee may make payments to the Association for administrative costs and clause 12 provides that it may make payments to the Association for the provision of benefits of a prescribed kind. I think the Senate is entitled to an indication from the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) as to whether any services or amenities have yet been suggested to come within those clauses. I personally think that up to’ date the services and amenities of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia have had no need of supplementation. I shall content myself with those observations on this matter, with a postscript reference to clause 25, in which I notice the following appears:
A member of the Committee shall be paid such remuneration as is determined by the Remuneration Tribunal . . .
That seems to indicate that members of this Committee are to be of some order of importance. They are to be part time members. Can the Minister indicate to me the order of remuneration which will be paid to members of the Committee from the levy?
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (5.38)- I wish to speak on this matter because the matter which Senator Wright has raised has concerned this Senate from time to time over the 20 years or so that I have been a senator in this place. The honourable senator, who has just resumed his seat, will recollect that in the deliberations of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances the matter of, for example, pay for the armed forces was the subject of discussion. Subsequently, that matter was fought out on the floor of the Senate. It was argued that simply because the Lord Commissioners of the Admiralty in London increased the rates of pay for the Royal Navy it should not follow that the rate of pay in the Royal Australian Navy should be increased commensurately, having regard to the different problems and conditions under which each of the services operated, and that the Treasurer of the day should approve the alteration of rates of pay without reference to Parliament. I know that this is a matter of ordinary annual services to government.
That is not the constitutional problem. The constitutional problem relates to the question whether Parliament should be committed to charges without those charges being referred to Parliament. As I see it, the argument which the honourable senator who has just resumed his seat is advancing relates to the fact that once a determination in the context of this industry is made by a Minister the House of Representatives will subsequently introduce endorsing legislation to appropriate money from Consolidated Revenue. That appropriation becomes an appropriation for ordinary annual services of the government and the Senate, therefore, is in the situation of having mandatorily to pass that legislation. The foundation and authority of the Parliament is based upon the matter of money. What stage are we reaching as a Parliament when, outside the ambit of the Parliament, a Minister can determine what is to be done and what is not to be done in the context of levies of one sort or another- call it what we will, levies, appropriations, or whatever?
Here we have a curious onslaught on the ability of the Parliament to control the money which the Parliament appropriates for the ordinary annual services of government. All this will be done by regulation- by a determination of a Minister. It will be done by the AttorneyGeneral, as a member of the Executive Council, recommending to the Governor-General that he should send a message to the Parliament recommending the appropriation of money to confirm a determination taken by a Minister on the basis of a recommendation by an outside agency. I think it is time that Parliament started to look at this issue. We were able to repeal this sort of determination by regulation some 20 years ago and now it is being re-introduced. It seems to me that the Crown never abandons its attempts to circumvent the processes of the Constitution and the legislative processes. Parliament and the financial powers of Parliament are under attack. Once the financial powers of the Parliament are abdicated by the refusal of the constituents of the Parliament to know and understand what is happening, the Parliament becomes reduced to an enigma and a cypher in the constitutional functions of government and the power of the Executive becomes overwhelming.
Who is this Minister that he shall make these determinations? Who is this Minister who will seek this back door approach to obtain an appropriation of money from the Parliament on the basis that he makes a determination and then comes to the Parliament, as a pro forma device, to obtain the succour for the determination which he has made? I should like the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack) to address himself to this matter, not just to answer the simple questions raised during the committee stage of this Bill, but to determine whether in fact he acknowledges the philosophy that the Crown is paramount and the Parliament is the servant and the prisoner ofthe Crown?
– I shall deal firstly with the point raised by Senator Wright concerning the term ‘relevant award obligations’ referred to in sub-clause (4) of clause 8 of the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee Bill. The reason for the inclusion of this provision in the Bill is that under the scheme the employers in the smaller ports are to be relieved of a number of ordinary industrial obligations under awards, but in the larger ports the employers are going to meet those obligations directly. That is the purpose of this central funding arrangement. Some of the award obligations which will be met out of the central fund of the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee for those waterside workers employed in the smaller ports- that is, Division B waterside workers- are guaranteed wage, attendance money, annual leave pay and statutory holiday pay.
– I asked you to indicate the services, amenities or benefits.
– In particular there is a medical fund and there are canteens. It is not intended that there should be any extension of existing amenities. The point raised by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack really arises from the Stevedoring Industry Levy Bill whereby the levy can be struck by regulation although clause 16 of the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee Bill refers to the appropriation of the moneys raised under the Stevedoring Industry Levy Act. It provides that the moneys raised under that Act shall be paid to the Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee out of Consolidated Revenue which is appropriated accordingly. I have already dealt with the argument that the levy should not be varied by regulation. I have stated the reasons the Government felt that was justified. With regard to the appropriation of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, this legislation follows many other precedents which provide for a special appropriation. Under a scheme such as this in which obligations are incurred which have to be maintained by the Finance Committee, it seems to me to be reasonable that the levies which are imposed to pay for these obligations should be paid directly to the Committee in this way and not have to await an annual appropriation by Parliament.
– I have referred to the financial provisions in this Bill. I now refer specifically to the oddity of the Bill. The Stevedoring Industry Finance Committee Bill establishes a committee which consists predominantly of employers. Under clause 14 it is to maintain in relation to each port a register to be known as the Register of Waterside Workers. Clause 14 (2) states:
The Committee shall, in accordance with relevant stevedoring agreement provisions, include the names of persons in registers established under this section.
The effect of that is that it is the agreement that prescribes the people who are entitled to be registered and the Finance Committee is simply directed to register them if they are in accordance with the agreement. Clause 14(3) states:
The Committee shall not remove the name of a person from a register established under this section except in accordance with relevant stevedoring agreement provisions.
It is impotent to remove from the register anybody who is not provided for in the agreement. That is where the genius of Mr Justice Kerr comes in for not revealing the full content of the gap in the agreement. The agreement to be approved which is referred to in sub-clause (4) is a document of 27 typed pages. The last paragraph on page 25 contains the provision which I emphasised in my speech on the second reading of these Bills. It demands a great deal of assiduity to trace it. The waterside workers quite candidly and fairly say that they will not accept compulsory redundancy. The document states:
The WWF reserves its right to seek a continuation of the relevant terms of the present industry agreement. It maintains that the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission has no jurisdiction to determine a matter of prospective retrenchments and it will not agree that any of its members on any port register established pursuant to clause 1.1 (ii) hereof will be compulsorily retrenched.
I protest at the fact that this register is the product solely of agreement. Without agreement there cannot be recruitment to it or removal from it. Who makes the agreement? It is the Waterside Workers’ Federation. The right not to agree is the right to maintain a static situation. The whole situation with regard to recruitment to and removal from the register has been handed over, not to management participation but to management simpliciter by the Waterside Workers’ Federation as to who shall go on the register and whether anybody shall be removed from it. It is a preposterous proposition.
– The question is that the Bill stand as printed.
– Will the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) respond to Senator Wright in this context?
- Senator Wright did not ask me a question. He was registering his protest to a particular clause. He has a fundamental objection to the whole scheme of the legislation. I have already replied to that. I do not think that we want another second reading debate at this stage.
Bill agreed to.
Conciliation and Arbitration (Amendment) Bill (No. 2) 1977
-This is a very important Bill. I do not seek to detain the Committee on it. It will be noticed that I did not enlarge upon it in my speech at the second reading stage. This is the main area I wish to have referred to a select. committee together with the area of compulsory retrenchment. I refer to the detailed provisions of this Bill, particularly the proposed new section 81a, the new heading which is given to Division 4, Part III of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and the definitions that are given of ‘waterside worker’ for the purposes of this Bill which do not include persons employed in loading or unloading into or from ships of loose bulk cargo by means of equipment based on shore other than those who have been employed in such a capacity before 1956. This is of the utmost importance, as Senator Walters has said. The bulk handling trade represents 70 per cent of the country’s total inward and outward trade. It has been built up on huge capital expenditure and it depends for its stability upon work being carried out by unions other than the Waterside Workers Federation. It is of the highest importance that this trade be not disturbed. I rose simply to state that point of view. I think the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) said in his reply to the second reading debate that that was the intention of the Government. He went further than the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) whom he represents who used language that I thought was not quite appropriate to a government in such a situation. In his speech in another place, recorded on page 2252 of Hansard, after referring to that situation, the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations said:
The industries within which the bulk handling operations take place are of enormous significance to the Australian economy. These operations now account for 70 per cent of all Australian cargoes.
The Minister went on to say:
The Government believes it would be undesirable to alter the factual situation now obtaining.
I would have liked him to have said that the Government will use all the powers within its possession to prevent a disturbance of the present situation. The Minister went on, in equally weak language, to say:
The Government wants these operations to proceed free from the fear of industrial disruption and in the most efficient manner possible.
All he said was that the Government wants that to happen. That brings to mind the following line by Tennyson: . . as moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wine.
The Minister went on to say:
It will therefore maintain the closest surveillance of the working operations of these industries to ensure that their efficiency is not impeded.
I hope that we will be able to have a firmer affirmation that the present segregation of the bulk handling operations from the control of the Waterside Workers Federation will be maintained.
– I ask the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) to look at another aspect during the suspension of the sitting. I cannot pace Senator Wright in quoting poetry, but I can do so on the realism of industrial relations. The AttorneyGeneral would know that a very delicate situation arose in the port of Sydney when the Transport Workers Union of Australia had certain industrial rights in an area in which the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia also had certain industrial rights. I am sure that Senator Wright has read Mr Justice Moore’s various reports on this subject. At that time the TWU operated under a State award and the WWF operated in another industrial jurisdiction. I take it that, no matter what is contained in this legislation, it will not rule out what Sir John Moore suggested, namely, that there be consultation between the State and Federal tribunals whenever industrial impasses of that nature occur- and they will occur. I take the matter a little further. Situations have arisen in which the Australian Council of Trade Unions has had to fulfil a role with its affiliated bodies. In that context, I would like the Attorney-General, when he responds to Senator Wright’s remarks, to comment on the point of view I have put forward about the obstacles with which the industry has to live.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting Senator Mulvihill raised some matters about consultation in relation to demarcation disputes. I want to assure him and the Senate that there is nothing in the proposed arrangements which inhibits the processes of consultation in any way. That fact has been recognised by Sir John Moore. Really it is basic to the whole system of conciliation and arbitration that there should be consultation. Sir
John Moore has emphasised that fact and certainly it is recognised as a desirable way of trying to resolve disputes of this sort. It does not always succeed because unfortunately there are too many such disputes. But there is nothing in this legislation which would inhibit the process of consultation and facilities exist for it. The Government would hope that the Australian Council of Trade Unions would exercise leadership in these matters and there is nothing which would prevent that from happening.
Senator Wright raised a matter in relation to bulk handling operations. I have dealt with the policy of this legislation in relation to coverage in bulk handling operations and I do not know that there is anything further I can say. However, as this matter has been raised again, and as it is very important, I simply want to re-emphasise the fact that the clear intention of this package of Bills is that there should not be an extension of coverage in this area of bulk handling operations beyond that which exists, and has existed historically, in the stevedoring industry. That point is implicit in the Conciliation and Arbitration Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977 which we are considering at the moment and it runs throughout this package of legislation. It is taken up also in recent amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. As I mentioned earlier, that legislation, which was passed by the Senate on 21 October, I think, gives employers the power to resist unwarranted intrusions in this area. There is quite extended power in that legislation by means of which employers can resist what they consider to be unwarranted intrusions into these matters. The final decision, however, is left with the arbitration authorities which in the Government’s view are the proper authorities to decide questions of this kind.
Bill agreed to
Port Statistics Bill 1977
The Bill. Bill agreed to.
Bills reported without amendment or requests; report adopted.
Bills (on motion by Senator Durack) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 2 November on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
-The Senate has before it a series of Bills which I assume the Government wishes the Senate to debate cognately and on that assumption I shall proceed.
– Most of these income tax Bills have been grouped so that they can be debated cognately. However, the Income Tax (Individuals) BUI 1977 has been separated because it was the subject of a first reading debate yesterday. I would imagine that it would suit the convenience of both the Opposition and the Government if we had a second reading debate on all these Bills.
-Yes, I think that is the logical thing to do. The Opposition will not be opposing the legislation. However, I wish to move an amendment which embraces all the Bills we are dealing with. I move:
At end of motion, add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that the Income Tax (Rates) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977-
1 ) Contains changes to the personal tax system which are regressive in nature and which will have little effect in stimulating economic activity;
Repudiates the Government’s commitment to full tax indexation;
Fails to take measures to alleviate the increase in family tax burdens which have arisen as a result of the Government’s failure to index family allowances, and
Contains insufficient measures to counter tax avoidance practices’.
It was clear from the very beginning that the proposals put forward by the Government were dreamed up in a rather extraordinary fashion. They do not appear to have been properly considered, nor are they well balanced. I do not have to remind the Senate of the events that took place in this chamber immediately after the Budget was brought down. For quite some time it seemed that the Government did not really understand what it had done, particularly in respect of tax indexation. The Government was unable to provide what seemed to be a reliable accurate statement on how the new three-tier tax system would work. Honourable senators will recall that in the first instance it appeared that the Treasurer (Mr Lynch) and, of course, as a consequence, Senator Cotton, who is his representative in this chamber, were not clear as to how indexation would apply. Certain tables were circulated that were subsequently replaced by another table, which I understand emanated from the office of the Treasurer, and then there appeared to be a third table that emanated from the office of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). So it would be safe to say that there was a considerable amount of confusion on the issue of tax indexation. It appeared that the indexation arrangements, in terms of the promises made by the Liberal and National Country Parties, were to apply to the entirety of the 1977-78 year. But after some extensive questioning by the Opposition, and I think with some research being clone on both sides of the chamber by various staff, it was subsequently determined that the Government did not understand accurately and could not explain accurately what the full indexation proposals were about.
The second event occurred over tax averaging. The Treasurer, presumably without thinking, and supported by the Prime Minister, without knowing, claimed that under the new threetiered tax scale all people would be better off. It was not until more research was done in this area, particularly by the Opposition, that we came to realise that the calculations did not have the effect that they were claimed to have. It seems that the $80m which had applied under the previous system was suddenly to disappear into Consolidated Revenue to help the Government finance the deficit. When we look at the taxation figures as a whole for this financial year we find that net pay-as-you-earn collections during 1977-78 are to increase by $1.4 billion, that is, from $8.5 billion to $9.9 billion, which represents an increase of 17 per cent. Additionally, the Government is increasing company tax, and presumably it expects the taxation increases to continue throughout this financial year.
There have been some anomalies, of course. The Australian Taxpayers Association has demonstrated that those presently on incomes between $5,200 and $6,200 will be worse off in 1978-79 under the new scales and half indexation than they would have been under the continuation of the pre-Budget scales and indexation according to the legislation already on the statute book. A larger group- those people presently in the income bracket between $4,800 and $7,200- will probably pay a greater percentage of income tax in 1978-79 than they will this financial year. Those estimates were done by the Australian Taxpayers Association, and the calculations show that one million wage and salary earners could be adversely affected in that manner.
I suspect that the Government will argue that the new system will provide additional incentive to the community, but the people in the very high income class- I am talking now of people whose income is in excess of $25,000- will have their average tax burden lightened by something like 5 per cent to 7 per cent. It is true that one would assume there would be a greater incentive as a result of that policy but, as I have said, that group of people is relatively small and, because of their high incomes, they may well have access to accounting and other devices which we see so much of in our community. In that way they will be able to take advantage of tax avoidance schemes and thus reduce their taxable incomes. I do not suggest that that is a reflection on this Government, of course. Everybody in the community accepts that if it is possible to get around the taxation scales and laws people will do so. No matter which government is in power, the Treasury will always attempt to crack down on those practices. Many other measures are involved in the Bills and I do not propose to canvass them all. Alterations are to be made in relation to trust assessments under sections 98, 99 and 99a of the Act. As I mentioned earlier, changes will also be made to company tax.
I do not think there is any desire to discourage investment and incentive, especially in the rural industries, but the Opposition is concerned that the new arrangements for tax averaging are capable of being used by people outside primary industry. That matter is being raised not for the first time in this Parliament. We know that there are many people in that category whose sole interest in becoming involved in primary industry is to minimise their tax burden. It is a very difficult problem to overcome and it is very difficult to propose a system that would be equitable under any form of legislation. But at an administrative level it appears that there should be some discrimination against those people who take up the new arrangements solely for the purpose of reducing their tax burden. That sort of thing does not aid people in the primary industry sector who, as we know, are hard pressed at the present time, and many of them do not have taxable incomes.
There are some advantages in the proposals put by the Government, but it could be argued that they are not truly equitable and will not encourage the sort of recovery that we expect or for which we hope for people engaged in the rural industry. It is pertinent to note that the threetiered personal tax scheme will not commence until 1 February. By that time inflation and cost increases in such things as petrol will have removed the prospect of increased take-home pay for many taxpayers. It is highly likely that, with the disadvantages at the lower levels of income, the average taxpayer will be worse off in real terms under this scheme.
I wish to refer again to some comments I made last night concerning the income tax benefits that will accrue under these proposals. I would not purport to argue that there have not been taxation benefits at the federal level. It would be idle to deny that but, as I said last night, it should be borne in mind that any taxation concessions given at the federal level must be considered in the light of the Government’s new federalism policy. Today I asked the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), who is the Minister responsible in the Senate, this simple question: Does the Government intend to proceed with stage two of federalism? The importance of the question was quite obvious to anyone who follows this subject, and certainly it was obvious to Senator Carrick because he did not want to answer it. He knows that by admitting that the Government intends to proceed with stage two, it is obvious that the States will introduce their own income taxes. The benefits gained at the federal level by the taxpayer will therefore be lost in the income tax imposed by the various State governments. We ought not to run away with the idea that the benefits applying under this legislation will be net benefits. They will not be net benefits after 1978-79, or as soon as the federalism policy comes into effect. It is idle for the Government to suggest that this is a matter of individual choice by the States. It will not be. The Commonwealth will not force the States into it by law or by telling them that they will have to implement such legislation. It will force the States into it through sheer economic strangulation. In that way the States will be compelled to bring in legislation to make stage two effective and thus they will be compelled to introduce income tax at the State level. We will be hearing a lot more of that in the future, I am sure. For the moment, having moved my amendment, I indicate that the Opposition does not actually oppose the legislation.
-I wish to refer to two or three items which Senator Wriedt mentioned during his speech in regard to various aspects of the taxation law, and one or two problems that he foresaw in the Budget brought down last August. For instance, he mentioned that the Government’s income tax take this financial year will rise by some 17 per cent. He employs the typical trick of misreading the figures. To determine that figure of 1 7 per cent he took the net figure after allowing for income tax refunds but he did not take into account the fact that the rise in income tax this financial year by way of pay-as-you-earn deductions from salaries will be of the order of only 8 per cent or something in Une with the rate of inflation. This is precisely the result which the Government sought when it introduced personal tax indexation. That decision is a major plus for the Government and for the people of Australia.
Refunds of taxation this financial year will fall from $ 1 ,300m to around $640m. This follows the introduction of the Hayden tax scales in 1975 which calculated tax liability closer to the actual situation than had been done before. This reduces the amount which individuals We receive by way of refund. This result has been delayed because of subsequent changes through indexation of the income tax system and which only now, two years later, have had their real effect in the Budget. So it is idle for the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) to declare that income tax is going to rise by some 17 per cent this financial year. The true figure and the one which concerns the people in terms of what hits their pockets W111 be of the order of 8 per cent, roughly in Une with the expected rate of inflation this financial year.
I would like to scan over two or three other areas of this legislation which are of general interest to the community. I mention particularly the very progressive move taken by the Government to exempt income derived from the sale of mining rights. It is a form of income which, prior to the advent of the Labor Government in 1 973, was exempt from income tax but a decision of the Whitlam Government following the Coombs Task Force report resulted in that form of income being taxed. This caused genuine hardship to the bona fide prospector who had control of mining rights over areas of land. It led to the wrong assessment being made of those items for taxation purposes, and to the situation where there was less incentive for the development of mining properties. It was one of the reasons for the downturn of the mining industry in the period of the previous Government.
Another relatively small item concerns the tax on royalties from films and television programs which originate overseas and are distributed in Australia. I am informed that while the rate of 10 per cent is to be applied to the gross rental attaching to these items, that is considerably less than the rate which generally applies overseas. For instance, in the United States of America a comparable rate would be of the order of 30 per cent. In Canada I believe the rate is about 25 per cent and even in our sister dominion across the Tasman, New Zealand, the rate would be about 13 per cent. So 10 per cent seems quite a reasonable rate in the present circumstances.
I applaud the Government on amending a most unusual section in the income tax law as it affects the health insurance levy. Trust estates of deceased persons have been subject to the health insurance levy since the introduction of the new Medibank arrangements last year. The Government has taken a most forward and welcome step in eliminating what appeared to be an almost ludicrous situation.
I turn now to the area of this legislation in which I have had a particular interest. Over the last few years there has been a substantial rise in the number of trusts being used in Australia as means of operating one’s business or of owning investments which in turn own operating businesses. The reason for this is to take account of the personal rates of income tax as an alternative to being taxed at high company rates. There are certainly disadvantages in handling one’s affairs via a trust. Although it is a legitimate way of. conducting one’s affairs various abuses have crept in. I am pleased to see that the Government has taken a stand in regard to the almost ghoulish practice that has grown up in respect of some will trusts. Section 99 of the Income Tax Assessment Act provides there where a person dies and provides for certain beneficiaries after his death, the income which is earned by the estate can be accumulated for the benefit of some future beneficiary. What has been happening is that people quite unrelated to the affairs of the beneficiary have become testators by putting their names to a will. In other words, a person is granting a legacy in favour of somebody he does not even know. This is one practice which is well and truly picked up in this legislation and, I believe, for the better.
Whether or not people should be allowed to conduct their affairs via trusts under sections 98 and 99 of the existing legislation is something that was recognised by the Government in its election promise back in 1975 that individual taxpayers would have the alternatives of paying taxation either as a company or opting to be taxed as partners. The trust is a device, if one can term it as such in this situation, which allows people to do that without there needing to be any change to the present legislation. I applaud the Government’s decision which is right in line with statements of government policy made before the 1975 election. There are one or two other amendments in respect of trusts which I believe are reasonable in the circumstances. For instance, the maximum penalty rate of tax applicable under section 99a where trusts, other than will trusts, which accumulate income are assessed at a maximum rate of 60 per cent rather than the previous rate of 50 per cent recognises a practical situation which exists and the gradually climbing rates of income tax which have applied since that rate was first set back in 1964. It is also interesting to note that the legislation covers the situation of provisional tax being applied to assessments under section 99a which would not otherwise have been made. That is totally reasonable in the light of the present situation.
The Leader of the Opposition made one or two rather outrageous statements about the effect of the introduction of the new system of standard rate personal income tax. Without taking that issue too far, I believe that it is totally improper for him to rely upon statements made by Mr Eric Risstrom of the Taxpayers Association which took into account purely arbitrary and undetermined figures without having any regard to what may be the effect of the factor for inflation which he plucked out of the air. One is led to think that is probably a figure which is about twice as high as is now indicated for the current financial year. In fact, if one discounts the calculations for that sort of factor, one finds that Senator Wriedt ‘s comments are totally unreasonable.
I note that in the amendment Senator Wriedt asserts that the changes to the personal income tax system are in fact regressive in nature. That assertion indicates that he considers that the personal tax changes will impose higher taxation on those at the lower end of the scale. Nothing could be further from the truth. We know that all those people who have incomes of less than $3,750 a year will be free of income tax altogether; they will not pay any tax at all. We also know that, because of the introduction of the 32 per cent tax rate, people applying that rate of tax to their incomes, even if they are earning in the order of $16,000 a year, will incur no more than a 24te per cent flat rate of tax on their incomes. I believe that the first item in the amendment is totally out of court and certainly should be discarded.
The second point in the amendment asserts that the legislation repudiates the Government’s commitment to full tax indexation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whilst it was stated in the Budget Papers that in the year 1978-79 a 50 per cent rate of indexation would apply, in fact the Government has committed itself to full tax indexation thereafter. It is perfectly reasonable that the Government should have a 50 per cent indexation rate in the light of the major changes that have occurred in the personal tax system this year. When we are changing from a system which is outdated and which is affected dramatically by changes in the rate of inflation, we should index that system. Certainly, the Government has undertaken to do that for the first half of the year, that is, for the period that will be covered by that system. But, bearing in mind that the new system will apply for the second half of the year, it is reasonable that that system be given a fair chance to survive and that the full rate of indexation not apply until 1 July 1979.
The third point that is made in the amendment is that the Government has failed to index family allowances. If ever there was a little hypocritical cant it must be that statement which emanates from the Opposition. In fact, the Opposition has denied entirely that the family allowance system is of any value to the community. It is a most worthy advance introduced by the Government in the Budget of 1976 and it has led to greater benefits for families generally and particularly for the wives in families throughout the community. I cannot see that members of the Opposition can claim in any way that the Government has failed in introducing such a significant reform as that introduced in the 1976 Budget.
The fourth point made in this amendment speaks of insufficient measures being taken to counter tax avoidance practices. The Minister stated on behalf of the Government, in his second reading speech, that further legislation wil be introduced in this regard. But we see in this legislation that already certain moves have been made in respect of the abuses I mentioned earner and in respect of will trusts, which are most significant and which I believe are terribly important They certainly are getting at the core of significant abuses in that respect. Previously the Government has introduced legislation in respect of abuse in taxation matters. For example, I refer to the amendments to section 3 1C of the Income Tax Assessment Act which deals with the values of stocks. That amendment was introduced by way of the trading stock valuation adjustment Bill earlier in the year. The Government has foreshadowed other antiavoidance measures. I am confident that those measures will come forward in the next few months. Certainly, I am looking forward to seeing them.
It only remains for me to say that I congratulate the Government on introducing such farsighted measures as are contained in this legislation. I congratulate it on introducing the standard tax system, ensuring that certain tax avoidance abuses in respect of trusts have been closed off and making other substantial changes to the income tax law which will lead to long term benefits for the community. I reject out of hand the amendment which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) has moved, and I support the Bills.
– I have been looking at the Notice Paper before us. As far as I can ascertain, 36 items under the heading of Government Business are still to be dealt with, although I imagine that we will not need to deal with many of them. More items are still to come to us from the House of Representatives. From what we understand to be our position, the Senate has about three days left on which to meet. We still have the appropriation measures to go through. We are still discussing in some detail the area covered by Estimates Committee A, without having moved on to discuss the areas covered by the other Estimates committees. We have not yet disposed of the Budget.
Having regard to the questions raised by Senator Wriedt and the very effective answers given by Senator Messner, it seems to me that I do not need to take a great amount of time in discussing those matters. The Opposition will not vote against the measures. In effect, it will support them, but it has moved an amendment which, one finds when one goes through it, does not contain much of real value. I think Senator Wriedt made the comment that the three-tier system of taxation will not come into effect until 1 February and by that time inflation will have cancelled out the benefits. It was a rather strange argument. I thought that, if anything, it was slightly unreal. I thought that he might have acknowledged the simplification and the benefits to the Australian taxpayers; indeed, that he might have acknowledged that inflation demonstrably is beginning to come down in Australia. Be that as it may, that is a matter for his judgment. I thought that Senator Messner covered the technical aspects of that matter extremely well and I commend him for his knowledge of this subject, which is very involved.
Senator Wriedt, in the first part of the amendment, criticised the tax reductions that are to be enjoyed by high income earners. The fact remains that over the whole system some 225,000 former taxpayers will become nontaxable. In fact, the biggest proportionate gainers will be those taxpayers who are on lower incomes, at the bottom end of the tax scale. He also mentioned that many taxpayers would be worse off in 1978-79 under the new tax rates scale than if the existing rates were to be indexed fully. The Treasurer (Mr Lynch) made a statement on 25 August 1977 in which he stated clearly that the Government would ensure that no taxpayer would be worse off in 1978-79 than if the current scale were fully indexed.
The Treasurer has said also that some examples had been advanced by commentators to show that the gain for some taxpayers under the new arrangement to operate next year might fall short of the gain that would have applied under the pre-Budget arrangements and that misleading conclusions had been drawn from these hypothetical exercises. One such exercise compared the 1977-78 composite rates scale7/12ths of the present scale and 5/12ths of the new scale- with the new rates scale indexed by 5 per cent. By adopting the composite 1977-78 scale as a basis of comparison, instead of the p resent pre-Budget scale, the exercise in this case as become forward with a distorted analysis. This kind of exercise also overlooks the fact that income tax paid in 1978-79 would be subject to any decisions on taxation taken in the 1978-79 Budget.
Senator Wriedt was concerned also in his amendment that the Government had repudiated its commitment on tax indexation. This is not the case. The new scale which operates from 1 February 1978 will provide substantial reductions at all income levels. It will have been in operation for less than 6 months on 1 July 1978 and will then be indexed to at least half the extent the old scale would have been indexed. As the Treasurer has already said, the Government will ensure that no taxpayer will be worse off in 1978-79 than if the pre-Budget scale were fully indexed. There is therefore no substance in the honourable senator’s criticism.
The Government remains committed to indexation. This is indicated by the fact that dependant rebates will be full indexed by the factor arising from the annual indexation rules and by the fact that in 1979-80 and subsequent years the steps in the new rates scale are also to be fully indexed by that factor.
The honourable senator mentions, in the third part of his proposed amendment, the question of family allowances. The answer to that proposition is that the new arrangements for assisting families were introduced by the Government in order to direct more support to families in most need, namely those with insufficient taxable income and therefore insufficient gross tax liabilities to take full advantage ofthe former tax rebates for dependants. It is estimated that 300,000 families were in this situation and benefited from the change.
The net cost to the 1976-77 Budget ofthe new arrangements was $100m and all this additional expenditure has been directed to the benefit of those families in most need. The latest Budget has meant a reduction in tax at all levels of income. Families as well as other taxpayers will benefit from this tax reduction. Family allowances are paid outside the taxation area. The honourable senator knows that. Any move to index these allowances should be done directly and not in an indirect fashion.
The question of tax avoidance has, I think, concerned many honourable senators on both sides for quite a long time. The Bills before the Senate contain provision to prevent tax avoidance by private companies adopting highly artificial arrangements to obtain public company status. The Bills also contain a number of measures directed against the use of trusts for tax avoidance purposes.
The Treasurer’s second reading speech on the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977 makes it clear that the Government has examined a number of tax avoidance schemes and has decided to introduce remedial legislation. That legislation is being prepared but is necessarily complex and must be drafted very carefully. As I think we all understand, to give a foretaste of such legislation might merely encourage tax avoidance people to generate schemes to set it to one side. As has been indicated, it will be introduced at the earliest opportunity. As Senator Messner said, earlier legislation was also aimed at overcoming this problem. We would all, I imagine, be wanting to do more in this area. One, of course, welcomes constructive suggestions aimed at overcoming the problem where this can sensibly be done.
Senator Wriedt spoke a little also about the primary producer’s problem and special circumstances. I think the most appropriate thing for me to do is to repeat the reference made to this matter and the tax measures we are discussing, by the Treasurer in his second reading speech. He said:
In its review of the personal tax system, the Government has paid particular attention to the special circumstances of primary producers. This Bill introduces the new system of averaging for primary producers that we have formulated and announced. Previously, the averaging system provided some moderation of tax liability when incomes were rising, but increased tax above normal levels when incomes were on the decline. Under the new system, the first of these features will be continued, but the second will not. Previously, there was a limit of $16,000 on the income that could qualify for the benefits of averaging, but under the new system there will be no such limit
In short, the new averaging system will mean that, when taxable income of a primary producer is higher than his or her average income, the tax on taxable income will be calculated at the rate obtained by dividing tax on average income- ascertained by applying the new rate structure- by the amount of average income. Where taxable income is lower than average income, averaging would be to the detriment of the taxpayer and will not be applied. As will be the case for taxpayers generally, the tax payable by primary producers for 1 977-78 will be seven-twelfths of the tax under pre-Budget averaging system. Another Bill- the Income Tax Assessment Amendment Bill- makes some associated amendments to the averaging provisions of the income tax law.
That, I think, covers the matters that have been raised by Senator Wriedt. As I have mentioned, we have a lot more business yet to dispose of in the Senate. As stated, Opposition supporters do not oppose the legislation but seek to amend it by the addition of the words in question. However, as I have indicated, the Government does not accept the amendments.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a second time, and passed through their remaining stages without amendment, requests or debate.
Debate resumed from 2 November on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time. Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without requests or debate.
APPROPRIATION BILL (No. 1) 1977-78 In Committee
Consideration resumed from 2 November. Second Schedule.
Department of Administrative Services
Proposed expenditure, $273,583,000.
Proposed expenditure, $34, 100,000.
Acquisition of Sites and Buildings (Defence)
Proposed expenditure, $6,410,000.
Furniture and Fittings (Defence)
Proposed expenditure, $5,600,000.
Proposed expenditure, $ 14,922,000.
Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet
Proposed expenditure, $93,308,000.
Department of National Resources
Proposed expenditure, $52,01 1,000.
Department of Foreign Affairs
Proposed expenditure, $463,874,000.
Department of Defence
Proposed expenditure, $ 1 ,985,09 1 ,000.
And on motion by Senator Sim:
That the Committee, having considered the Report of Estimates Committee A-
1 ) Requests the Government to give an undertaking to table departmental Explanatory Notes on the day immediately following the presentation of the Budget Papers or Appropriation Bills to the Parliament.
Recommends that the Department of Finance, after reviewing Reports of Estimates Committees over recent years, submit to a meeting of Estimates Committee Chairmen a style of Explanatory Notes, embracing both form and content, to be used as a model by all departments and statutory authorities.
– I thought I might impose upon the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) to clarify the present situation in respect of the voting rights of the 35 countries which constitute the Commonwealth of Nations. I have received several responses on this matter from the Minister already. I think the most recent response indicated that we were getting under way the preparation of a considerable number of illustrations on how people go about having their names placed on the electoral roll, voting and that sort of thing.
However, I did receive one minor citicism We know that this is a difficult task, with 35 nations involved. But some Cypriots argue that not enough emphasis has been given to this matter. In addition to the information provided by the Minister, the Commonwealth Electoral Officer visited me and Senator Douglas
McClelland and gave us some further information concerning this matter. But I wonder whether the Minister believes that the blueprint, shall we call it, which the Minister visualises will be operational in the period leading up to the general election day.
– If I might respond immediately to the honourable senator, as I indicated, in the brief time we have available to us we are doing our utmost to run what might be called a crash program with not only migrant groups but also with Aboriginal groups. I think the honourable senator has seen some of the poster material we have prepared. There was a feeling that some of the original material was not sufficiently eye-catching, if I might put it in those terms; it looked too much like something prepared by the Public Service. We are enormously anxious that people know not only about their enrolment rights but also their voting obligations once they have enrolled.
I can assure the honourable senator that between now and polling day the Australian Electoral Office will be doing all it can, taking into account, of course, that all the divisional returning officers naturally are terribly busy with the normal problems of running an election, for example, employing some 10,000 people to work on polling day, hiring polling booths the problems of nominations, printing of ballot papers and distributing them around the electorates. Taking into account all those problems, there is still a very great desire on behalf of the Electoral Office to do as much as it can to help in the intervening period before polling day.
I appreciate the very great interest the honourable senator has in this matter. If he feels that in some respect we could be doing better or if he has an idea which could help, I should be enormously grateful if he would advise me, the Australian Electoral Officer in Sydney, or even the Chief Austraiian Electoral Officer in Canberra. We would welcome suggestions and ideas because I think this is a matter on which all parties agee that all persons who have an entitlement to enrol ought to be encouraged and assisted to do so and, having enrolled, they ought to be given the greatest possible help in casting valid votes.
– I have a suggestion which I shall make very quickly on the run. This might have been attended to already. As I said, 35 countries constitute the Commonwealth of Nations. As the Cypriots would constitute a fairly sizable group of the people concerned, the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) might inquire whether between now and the time of the closure of the electoral rolls some of the Greek newspapers which have a Cypriot clientelle as well might carry advertisements concerning enrolment and voting. That is the only suggestion I have.
– I certainly shall put that suggestion to the Australian Electoral Office and ask whether it will be possible for it to carry out the suggestion.
– I wish to make some brief remarks about the estimates for the Department of Foreign Affairs. Firstly, I wish to reply to the comment by the Minister for Administrative Services, Senator Withers, who said when we were discussing the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services that the Commonwealth Electoral Act was up to date and, in his opinion, did not need changing. I still submit that the $200 deposit is farcical. If salaries such as that of the GovernorGeneral need updating- I do not disagree with that- I believe that the $200 which is required as a deposit to nominate for the Senate is still too low.
There are two other matters concerning the Department of Administrative Services to which I wish to refer briefly. During the hearings of Estimates Committee A I asked what the Commonwealth Police gained from speech processing research. The reply I received was that it was unique research. I was not told how the police were gaining from it. I have been informed recently that research at the University of New South Wales has cast serious doubts upon the validity of this type of research. The only other matter I raise concerning the Department of Administrative Services I think was raised by Senator Douglas McClelland also. When I asked whether something could be done about the shortage of relief electoral secretaries the Minister replied that he would look into the problem. I should like to know the current position in respect of that matter.
We saw cuts in the estimates for the Department of Foreign Affairs. We saw the imposition of staff ceilings which I believe to be damaging. Officers in that Department certainly indicated that they would not be able to operate efficiently if there were any further cuts in staff ceilings. If we examined the estimates for that Department in detail we saw that Australia was becoming heavily involved with other nations in conferences. It certainly is important that we exchange views at these sorts of conferences. We saw improved cultural exchanges with a number of countries. We saw scientific co-operation between the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Australia. I believe that this should be continued and should be encouraged. It is mutually advantageous to do so. We saw improved cultural ties with the Asian region. I was interested to note the increased number of international bodies to which Australia is affiliated as a signatory. They are mostly United Nations bodies. We saw an increased Australian contribution to Cyprus. I think all these things in the estimates were good.
Some constructive suggestions were made about an Australian presence in the Middle East. In response to a question I asked the Minister about an Australian presence in Zimbabwe if we were asked to send forces there, I have recently been advised that the Government certainly would look at sending a peace-keeping force to that area. As I said, I believe that all these things are constructive. But if one looked further into the estimates for the Department one saw that insufficient diplomatic couriers were available to provide a proper service. We saw the closure of missions which, of course, resulted in less expenditure. What I question is the priorities in the closure of missions. Recently at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence we had our Ambassador to Sweden, Mr Barnard, before us. He pointed out that in his duties he had to look after not only Sweden but also Norway and Finland. I believe that as each of these three countries has a mission in Australia there would probably be a very good case for our opening missions in Norway and Finland. Yet we find that at this stage we apparently are going ahead with closing down missions.
In examining the estimates for this Department I noted also that the Australian Institute of International Affairs was refused its request for an increase in its allocation this financial year. I believe that this is absurd and I said so at the time the estimates were considered by the Committee. That Institute now receives less money in real terms than it received in 1974-75, 1975-76 and 1976-77. One of the other things in the estimates of the Department which took my attention was the refusal by this Government to gram additional funds to the United Nations fund for drug abuse control. The Government did not grant the additional $25,000 which was requested. I believe that at a time when royal commissions into drug trafficking and drug abuse are being held at both a national level and at a State level in New South Wales it is wrong for this Government to refuse to pay the additional funds which were requested. In conclusion, I think the Government s priorities in the Department of Foreign Affairs were misguided and that they should be reversed. I have pointed out just some of the areas in which the priorities are wrong.
– For the convenience of honourable senators I shall reply immediately to the honourable senator. I hope I did not really leave the impression that I had said that the Commonwealth Electoral Act did not need updating because I did not intend to do so. I understand that the Commonwealth Electoral Act is basically the same document as was produced back in 19 1 8. 1 think it would be very foolish of me to say that what was established 60 years ago is still relevant today. I hope that next year there will be a total rewrite of the Electoral Act. A lot of the language is archaic. What might have been thought to be good expressions in 1918 are no longer relevant expressions in 1977.
The problem of deposits has been before the Parliament in recent times. There is always the problem of trying to strike a nice balance. I have no doubt that if one updated for the change in money values from 1900-1 imagine that the deposit in those days was £5 or £10; it could have been more- the deposits would be higher today in our present money values. From memory, they were moved up in about 1958. 1 think I am correct but I am calling on memory. Because of changed money values one could sustain the argument for moving up deposits from that period. As against that, there is always the problem of whether one should make it more difficult for any citizen who wants to run for Parliament. It is a matter about which I must confess I am always in a dilemma. It is easy for those of us who belong to the major parties to talk about the fringe nuisances and all the rest, but there are still citizens and they have the right to attempt to get into Parliament if they can convince sufficient numbers of their fellow citizens to vote for them. We have had instances in this place in recent years where independents have run for Parliament on a range of different issues and have been able to get in.
I appreciate that there is a possibility of working a few lurks. For instance, if under the old tax scheme a person was on a 67 per cent marginal rate of tax it would have paid him to stand for the House of Representatives and lose the $100 deposit, but for that he would gain a $1,000 tax deduction.
– It is $500 for them.
-Let us say the deposit is $200 for the Senate. If one claims a tax deduction of $1,000 and saves $670, theoretically one is $470 in front. I think there needs to be a balance so that there is no financial gain from standing for Parliament. If one does one’s mathematics reasonably carefully, it is well worth spending $200 to be able to claim a $1,000 tax deduction. These are areas to which the Parliament must turn its attention next year.
There is also the possibility of bribery under the Act. As I understand it, the way the Act reads at the moment it is more than likely that all the people who are standing for the next election have committed a breach of the Electoral Act because they have bought somebody meat or drink 90 days before the issue of the writ. That is the period in which one cannot indulge in trying to buy votes. But who amongst us ever knows 90 days before the writ is issued that there will be an election. This is a ridiculous area. Having no knowledge that an election was coming one could have done something which the issue of the writ had made unlawful, and one could be prosecuted for attempting to influence voters by the supply of meat and drink
-Or a T-shirt.
-Or a T-shirt. It is ridiculous. I believe that the provisions ought to apply after the issue of a writ if there are to be such provisions. Then there is the necessity to make a return of the expenditure one has incurred in the campaign. All senators and members are stuck with this terrible dilemma. Does one make a false declaration or does one not put in a return? Since 1901 nobody has ever been prosecuted for not putting in a return. Very few senators, members or candidates ever do. My late colleague, Senator Ivor Greenwood, had a formula whereby he could strike out two or three words and in his belief- I must say that I disagreed with him- he could skirt round the Act. One should either put in a proper return and be sensible about it or say that there ought to be no returns.
I did some research on this a number of years ago. Of the six States in the Commonwealth only New South Wales- I think I am still correctdoes not require candidates to put in returns as to the expenditure incurred. I do not know whether anybody would say that because of that elections in New South Wales have been more corrupt than in the Commonwealth or the other five
States. I do not think anybody could produce evidence to prove that. On the New South Wales experience there is a case to be mounted for the abolition of returns by members of parliament.
– What about Queensland? It would have been the most corrupt, would it not?
– I would not know. I do not intend to pass judgments on places. All I am saying is that New South Wales has never had this requirement from the time it first had elections well over 100 years ago. I do not think anybody could produce any evidence to show that the elections in New South Wales have been more corruptly conducted than the elections in the other five States of the Commonwealth. That would tend to indicate that the provision in the present Act is perhaps a great nothing. There is the argument as to whether the capacity to have a postal vote for any reason should not be allowed. Should one be allowed an absentee vote anywhere in Australia on polling day? I am throwing around views about possibilities.
In Tasmania one can cast an absentee vote anywhere in the State, but if a Victorian is in Tasmania he must cast a postal vote. In my own State of Western Australia which would encompass, I guess, the area of Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria put together one can cast an absentee vote anywhere in the State. Why should boundaries decide whether one has a postal vote or an absentee vote? One could mount a respectable argument that anybody anywhere in Austrafia on polling day should have an absentee vote. If somebody from Melbourne is in your area on the Gold Coast, Mr Deputy Chairman, enjoying himself and spending his money freely to keep the Queenslanders rich, why should he have to cast a postal vote before polling day? Why should he not have an absentee vote on polling day? I think I am correct in saying that Melbourne is closer to Brisbane than Brisbane is to Cairns. There are a lot of oddities in the Act. I think there is a great argument for a rewrite of the Electoral Act to bring it into modern terms.
– You cannot offer anyone meat or drink under the existing Act.
-I was just saying that the provision is back-dated to 90 days before the issue of the writ. I hope the honourable senator did not buy me a drink yesterday or I will have him prosecuted. These are some of the nonsenses still in the Act. I would not be surprised if it is not still an offence to supply fodder or lodging for a horse or something like that. 1 am keen to have a total rewrite of the Act next year to bring it into line with modern terms.
– You will not be there.
-I shall be doing it all right. The honourable senator need have no fear. Senator Sibraa also asked about speech research. I shall read a note which I have had from my advisers which in some ways agrees with what the honourable senator said. Speech processing research has indicated so far that certain early claims for the technique cannot be substantiated. I think that is basically what the honourable senator was saying. One commercially marketed process has been shown to have no value. The technique has considerable relevance to the validation of tape recordings. This aspect alone warrants its pursual. I think all honourable senators would know that there are techniques, some crude and some sophisticated, of splicing tapes together and distorting what people have said. If, by this research, we can take away any capacity for people to fiddle with the tapes of speeches, I think we will be making very great progress in this area.
I have the matter of the provision of electorate relief secretaries under consideration at the moment. The system is good in theory, but I do not think it is working out terribly well in practice. I have had quite a number of complaints, particularly from members of the Parliament who represent country areas, to the effect that it is more difficult for those in the country areas to get relief secretaries than for those who have offices in the capital cities. I should imagine- I am not trying to be political; I am simply trying to call the names of electorates to mind- that the honourable member for Sydney would be likely to have a greater capacity to get a relief secretary than, say, the honourable member for Darling, whose headquarters are located at Broken Hill, because the ‘girls next door’ are 500, 600 or 700 miles away.
At the moment my Department is looking at ways and means whereby there can be an even spread and an evenness in the provision of relief electorate secretaries. I think the present scheme is an enormous improvement upon the situation in the past, but the present situation is still most unsatisfactory. There are too many peaks and troughs. I trunk that quite a number of honourable senators and members of the other place have legitimate complaints when they express their feeling that occasionally there are elements of unfairness in the present system. I would like to remove those elements of unfairness.
The honourable senator also raised matters about the Department of Foreign Affairs. Staff ceilings do apply in that Department, but I point out to him that whenever the Government embarks upon new policy areas, such as being involved in new international conferences and things of that nature, the fact that the staff ceilings are at a certain level is always taken into consideration as part of the normal process of government and, if it is felt that the decisionmaking process requires more staff to be provided for work on new policies on which the Government will make determinations and which the Government believes will need more staff, then more staff is provided. As to the fall in the grant for drug abuse and control, I can remember that matter being discussed but I cannot remember the contents of that discussion. If the honourable senator is prepared to wait a day or so, I will seek the exact reasons for that from my colleague in the other place.
– I have just discovered that there have been few elections in which I have not been in breach of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. I realise that 1 will save some money in the future now that I know that I have to try to be law abiding. Last night I asked certain questions and Senator Cotton, who was deputising for the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers), was in the process of replying to them but had not finished doing so when the debate was interrupted. I expected a continuation from that point tonight. Among the questions I asked was one about the cost of overseas trips for Ministers. I was trying to ascertain what those trips are costing the taxpayers. I have found it impossible to do that because of the way in which the appropriations are set out. I want to know whether the appropriation for this item this year applies to all of the people who accompany a Minister on an overseas trip or only to the Minister and his personal advisers. I also want to know why there is included in the items that seem to make up last year’s expenditure reference to moneys spent by the Prime Minister in 1973, 1975 and 1976. I do not know why those references appear there. I do not want to have to repeat it all again. Perhaps the Minister could find out what I asked about and give me a reply that would enable me to understand the figures. That would be very helpful to me.
Leaving the estimates for the Department of Administrative Services and going to the estimates for other departments in Group A, I am very interested in an item of expenditure under the estimates for the Department of Defence. I refer to division 255, which relates to the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. Last year $3.47m was appropriated for expenditure under this item and only $2.8m was expended. The appropriation this year is $7.879m. I believe that the Darwin Reconstruction Commission has been practically wound up.
– To which item is the honourable senator referring? I am trying to pick it up.
– I am referring to division 255, which appears on page 48 of the Bill. It would be interesting to know what expenditure has not been completed by the Department of Defence in relation to the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. I turn now to the estimates for the Department of National Resources, which appear on page 86 of the Bill. I refer to subdivision 2 of division 430, which relates to administrative expenses. I refer in particular to the item concerning payments under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act. It has always intrigued me how an appropriation can be made for expenditure under the Compensation (Commonwealth Government Employees) Act, as to do so would seem to me to be making an assessment of what injuries will occur in the following year. I do not know whether there is a commitment to make recurring payments; but last year $88,000 was appropriated and $83,000 was spent, whereas this year the appropriation has been reduced to $20,000. Is that because the Commonwealth is not committed to any recurring expenses, or is it in anticipation of something happening that will reduce the number of accidents occurring in the Department of National Resources?
The next item to which I wish to refer is the item in subdivision 3 of division 430 concerning act of grace payments to companies in relation to Fraser Island exports. The sum of $3.6m was appropriated last year, but only $63,850 was paid out. We seem to be making up for that by appropriating $2.8m this year. I know that there is in existence an agreement to pay some compensation to the companies concerned as a result of the Government withdrawing their export rights for the minerals extracted from the sands of Fraser Island. I have raised this matter because I am continually getting correspondence from the Maryborough council and district condemning the Government for not paying compensation to those people who had a job in this mining operation on Fraser Island and who would still have a job but for the closing down of the mining operation. Those people are now on unemployment relief.
No redundancy payment has been made to the workers who lost their jobs and who have been unable to get another job simply because of the action of a government in closing down the mining operations on Fraser Island. It is continually being put to me in correspondence that the employees who lost their jobs as a result of the Government’s action and who have been unable to find another job should get a compensation payment that is equivalent to the wages that they would have received over six months. I do not think it is unreasonable to seek such compensation; nor do I think it is unreasonable to pay a quantitative amount for a period of six months. I think the Government should give some consideration to that matter.
I refer now to item 05 of subdivision 3 of division 430, which relates to costs associated with guarantee agreements with Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd concerning the borrowing of uranium. The appropriation last year was $352,500. This year $107,000 is being appropriated. Obviously this cost is associated with the borrowing of more uranium. I would like to know the basis of the cost and whether any information can be given on how the cost of borrowing uranium is arrived at. I want to know whether we have to pay this cost and if so, whether we get a return. Another Une in item 05 refers to a ‘Loan to Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd’. According to the estimates the Commonwealth provided a loan of $1,800,000 to that company last year. I do not know what the conditions of the loan were or whether there was some agreement to repay it but I do know that according to last reports it seemed this company would be in a hopeless position unless it could get more Commonwealth financial assistance. Could the Minister tell the Committee whether the Government is considering further moves to assist Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd to get out of its financial difficulties. I think that this is an appropriate time, as we are considering the Estimates, to ask whether the amount shown is the final payment that the company will ask for or will additional and possibly separate appropriations be made at a later date?
I now turn to division 500 on page 103 of Budget Paper No. 2 which relates to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. I draw the attention of the Senate to subdivision 3.01 which is entitled: ‘Former Governors-General or their dependants- Annual allowances’. I would be interested to know what annual allowances we pay to former Governors-General and their dependants. Last year we appropriated $57,100 for this item but we spent only $54,62 1 . This year we are appropriating $52,300. I am concerned about this item because it is reported in the Press that the Government intends to pay the cost of a one-way air ticket to Great Britain for the present Governor-General and his wife when he retires. The Government will also pay the cost of any stopovers they may wish to make. Is this a general payment that is made to former officers of the Commonwealth? Does the Commonwealth have a responsiblity to pay for the cost of such a trip on the retirement of the present Governor-General? It is a premature retirement but I do not know whether any pressure was put on him. I thought the fact that the Government is paying for a one-way ticket suggested: ‘Well, that has got rid of you .
As you know, Mr Chairman, there have been many upsets in the Senate over the GovernorGeneral during the last two days. An article written by Ron Saw in today’s Sydney Sun pointed out that the Governor-General will live with the memory that he still is not generally accepted by many people in our community. Some people who do not agree with his past actions will not accept his company at the present time. I have been invited to a luncheon at Parliament House next Monday to mark the retirement of the Governor-General. I believe that aU politicians have been invited. I have an inclination that senators such as Senator Walsh and perhaps Senator McLaren wil not accept the invitation to attend that function for the Governor-General and his wife.
– It is a free country.
-It is a free country. As 400 guests have been invited to attend the luncheon, I want to know whether the dining and bar facilities of Parliament House will be available to members of this Parliament who, because of some objection, decide not to attend the luncheon. I think those facilities should be made available to members of Parliament. I think that members of Parliament should have first right to the use of these faculties. I do not know what will happen if some members decline to attend the luncheon and the facilities ate denied them. What are they supposed to do?
I think the Committee deserves an answer to the following questions: Firstly, what justification is there for the Commonwealth paying the cost of a trip to England for a retired GovernorGeneral and his wife; and secondly, is there an attempt to deprive members of their facilities on Monday? The Liberal Party decided yesterday to make the facilities of members available for a farewell luncheon for the Governor-General.
– We will bring you out a sandwich.
-I am saying that the facilities of Parliament are for members. If the catering is such that only sandwiches are available I suggest that it should be the strangers who should sit on the front lawns and eat the sandwiches, not the members. I am not opposed to the kitchen staff taking sandwiches to members of the Liberal Party and their guests on the lawns outside Parliament House. I do not think they have the right to invade this place and take away the facilities that have been provided for members of this Parliament. I hope that the Minister can give me some answers.
– Perhaps I can work through Senator Cavanagh ‘s questions. I hope that I can answer them. The first question related to the possibility of Senator Cavanagh being in breach of the Electoral Act. I suppose from now on the honourable senator will be known as ‘the whisper, the man who never shouts’. The honourable senator also asked a question about the cost of overseas visits. I assume that the honourable senator has read the Hansard report of Estimates Committee A. If he has he will know that his colleague Senator McLaren asked a large number of very detailed questions on this subject.
– I read Hansard as often as you read newspapers.
– Well, Senator, you are about as misinformed as I am. However, as I understand the burden of the honourable senator’s complaint, he asked why accounts are showing up for previous Prime Ministers and previous Ministers. Is that right?
– Yes, under the heading Appropriation 1977-78’.
-They are accounts which are outstanding. They were not paid in the previous financial year. They are still coming in. As I understand it that is not the fault of anybody. It is just that the people to whom the money is owed sometimes are quite slow and lax in sending in their accounts. Expenditure could well be incurred in one year and not paid until another.
The honourable senator inquired about the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. The only information I can give the honourable senator is information contained on page 143 of the explanatory notes of the Department of Defence. According to the explanatory notes the purpose of the item is to provide for Service works required as part of the Darwin reconstruction program. The estimate is supported by a works program which is summarised as follows: Works in progress at 1 July 1977 amounted to $4.02m; new works programs in 1977-78 amounted to $5.017m. The total program was $9.046m. The summary also indicated that the expenditure for works in progress at 1 July 1977 was $3.9m; for new works it was $3.9m. The total for the program was $7. 879m. The authorisation of $9.046m represents the balance of works to be carried out by the Darwin Reconstruction Commission for the Department of Defence before the Commission ceases its program.
Senator Cavanagh also queried an amount of $20,000 for compensation. I am informed by my advisers that this is the provision for on-going payments. Unexpected accidents are covered in the additional estimates. They are picked up in the additional Estimates. This is a provision for on-going payment. The honourable senator also raised a matter concerning Fraser Island.
– I am seeking compensation for workmen.
-Yes, I realise that. I do not have the figures but I shall obtain them from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) for the honourable senator. I think I ought to do that because I recall the figures being given. I think the number of people who were working on Fraser Island and who now have no other work is approximately 12. The balance of those people nave either come under the scheme whereby people are assisted to move from one town to another- that is the Relocation Assistance Scheme- or they have found employment which they have sought in other industries. I shall get those figures for the honourable senator. I shall obtain from the Minister for National Resources (Mr Anthony) exactly how this money is being spread from major to minor contractors and now far it has floated down the scheme.
– What is he prepared to do for the 12 persons?
-That figure of 12 was the position two or three months ago. Maybe there are none at the moment.
– I think you are optimistic.
-Optimistic? The best thing I can do -
– There are more affected than that. I have had visitors from Bundaberg.
-Of those who were working on Fraser Island, I think the figure I was given was 12. It might have been higher. I am calling on memory. I shall seek the exact information for honourable senators. I shall also have to get the information about the Mary Kathleen Uranium Ltd loan. As to the payments to former Governors-General under the appropriation for the Department ofthe Prime Minister and Cabinet, Senator McLaren asked for that information during the hearings of the Estimates Committee. I agreed that I would supply that information to him privately because I thought there were some people in the community who ought not to be hurt.
– And you did.
-I think Senator McLaren was satisfied that the payments were not outrageous or improper. If Senator Cavanagh would like that information on the same basis I shall supply it, but I think some people are entitled to some privacy in life. I would not like to hurt former colleagues. As to the problem of the luncheon which is to occur here next Monday, I understand that the host is the Prime Minister and the Government. On what conditions the rooms are made available to the Government is a matter for the presiding officers and, I assume, the House Committee.
– On what conditions what rooms are made available?
-The honourable senator asked on what conditions the parliamentary dining room was made available to the Prime Minister to have a luncheon. After all, I understand that the dining room and its facilities are not government facilities. They are parliamentary facilities under the control of the Presiding Officers. I have no knowledge as to what arrangements they have made with the Prime Minister.
– Surely the Government represents the people and it is inviting its chief dignitary to a luncheon.
– Yes, but the honourable senator was asking me some questions about facilities which would be available to honourable senators who did not go to the luncheon. All I say is that that is not a matter which is within the responsibility of myself or of any other Minister. I suggest it is a matter about which the honourable senator will have to ask the President tomorrow at Question Time.
– I thank the Minister for Administrative
Services (Senator Withers) for the answers he has given so far to the question I asked his colleague the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton) when he was in charge of the Appropriation Bill last night, that is, about electoral secretaries and relieving staff. I suppose the Minister has read the Hansard and has seen the reply, which I quoted and which came from the Minister’s office. I place on record my thanks and gratitude to the staff of the Department of Administrative Services who look after members secretaries. I have never had any problem with the Department when I have wanted to engage a relief secretary in my office which is in the country. The Department has always allowed me latitude. I hope that it will allow that latitude to other members so that we can engage a local person who has a knowledge ofthe local surroundings, a person whom we engage each year when our staff goes on annual leave. I think by doing that there is a saving to the Government. If the Department sent out a relief secretary from the metropolitan area it would have to pay the fares and accommodation while that person was working in my office. If an honourable member or honourable senator can engage somebody locally, those costs are not incurred.
I had no complaint about that matter yesterday when I spoke. A matter which I raised, which I raised again last night and which I raised during the Estimates Committee hearing, was about relief staff for our electorate secretaries when they come to Canberra. The Minister said that he would look into the matter. Then I received the reply that no relief staff would be provided for members when they brought their electorate staff to Canberra. From memory, Senator Cotton in reply said that we were entitled to a staff of two. But one member of my staff is purely a research officer and would not have much idea, without some training, ofthe needs and problems of constituents. It is my view that to have that person in the office I would have to take him away from research work which he does for me. He would not be able to cope with the day to day problems. He does not know the contacts in all departments. These are known by my electorate secretary and the person I engage when my secretary goes on leave. I engage that person on practically a semi-permanent basis. I get the same person each time my secretary goes on leave.
When the Minister is looking at that matter, as he said he would, I hope he will take those aspects into consideration. Another matter I wanted to raise- the Minister mentioned that I raised it during the Estimates Committee-was about the cost of the Governor-General’s office. I got some answer. I do not know whether the Minister understood the question which Senator Cavanagh put. I do not know whether he was asking for some explanation about payments to ex-Governors-General or whether he was directing his remarks to the payments which will be made to the present Governor-General for air fares after he retires from office. I might have misunderstood Senator Cavanagh but I thought he was asking the latter question.
-That was one of the questions.
– That is not to be found in these estimates. It will be covered in the supplementary estimates.
-We will get that information from the supplementary estimates. We will find out then. I asked many questions about the Governor-General’s Office during the Estimates Committee hearing. Unfortunately I have not been able to get an answer as to a breakdown of the cost of the various establishments. Each time I ask this question during the Estimates Committee hearing I am told by the Minister that he is following precedent and that that information is never given. I have pointed out to him on quite a few occasions that the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was able to dissect the cost of these establishments for political purposes when he gave an answer to a Dorothy Dix question which was asked in the other place by the honourable member for Barker a couple of years ago when he wanted to have a political shot at the ex-Prime Minister. So Mr Fraser was able to get out those figures for that purpose. But for some reason we cannot get them now when we want to know what it costs the taxpayer overall to maintain the establishments of the present incumbent.
I wanted to pursue another matter. I do not blame the Minister for Administrative Services for this because it is the Minister for Defence (Mr Killen) who is responsible. The manifests of VIP flights have not yet been tabled, so I cannot see what the cost has been to the taxpayer. Another matter I want to raise relates to a statement put down in the other place by the Prime Minister on 25 October in relation to the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security. He stated:
The funding of ASIS has in the past been secret but will in future be the subject of a one-line appropriation like ASIO.
He goes on to state:
The Government will therefore adhere strictly to the practice of refusing to provide details of ASIS’s activities nor will it be prepared to enter into any discussion on the Service.
I want to know where we can find in these Appropriation Bills the provisions of funds to run the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. Does it come under the line of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation about which I have also asked question? The Minister will recall that I have always expressed surprise at the fact that that agency is able to appropriate a certain amount each year and to expend exactly that amount each year, with no details given. A couple of years ago I asked whether a trust account existed to make up any deficiencies if that agency overspent its appropriation. During all the time that I have been a member of Estimates Committee A, never has ASIS overspent. It seems to be able to appropriate a certain amount and when considering the Appropriation Bills each year we find that it has spent exactly the amount of the appropriation. I am sure that if any government, whatever its political colour may be, were as methodical in handling its monetary matters and could appropriate a certain amount of money each year and spend exactly that amount, we would have a very good government. The Minister may be able to tell me where in this document I can find the appropriation to fund the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.
In Division 515, the Auditor-General’s Office, an appropriation of $9,491,000 is being sought. Will the Auditor-General’s Office oversee the Australian Secret Intelligence Service? Will it oversee the expenditure of the Austraiian Security Intelligence Organisation, even though we do not get a report on it. I would like to know whether the Auditor-General is going to oversee both those organisations.
– In relation to the matter of electorate secretaries, I thank the honourable senator for his comments concerning my departmental officers. I am certain that they will read those with some contentment. As to official establishments, there is a long-standing policy but Senator McLaren has asked and asked and asked. I will again ask the Prime Minister whether he is prepared to make a dissection as requested by the honourable senator. Beyond that I cannot go. The honourable senator asked where the appropriation for the Australian Secret Intelligence Service appeared. I would not know. All I know is that it is not in the vote for the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. As to where else it could be, I would not know. In relation to the role of the Auditor-General in oversighting both ASIS and ASIO, at this stage I ought not to go beyond saying that we will have to await what may or may not be in the legislative program in the new Parliament, when we will see just what the role of the Auditor-General is.
– In view of the fact that the Minister has now said that he does not know where the appropriation to fund ASIS appears, I ask whether the funding of that agency will be unconstitutional. We are well aware that the Parliament has to approve all appropriations sought to run any organisation under the jurisdiction of the Australian Government. If such an appropriation is not shown anywhere, could it be assumed that at some time it might be found that money is being appropriated unconstitutionally?
– I will have to seek the advice of the AttorneyGeneral on that matter. I will do that for the honourable senator.
– I wish to thank the Minister for Administrative Services because I think that he has tried to give all the information possible. I do not know the story behind the payments to former Governors-General and their dependants. I have always thought that the public had a right to know about government expenditure. If some embarrassment to a former colleague is involved, I do not know that I would talk about it, but I do not accept the explanation.
– If they are the recipients of public expenditure, that expenditure should be publicised. The people are entitled to know where they get their money.
-Senator Wright and I have never been closer in our opinions than we are now. I praise him for his good sense, his honesty and his statesmanship. I hold the same beliefs. Senator Withers has suggested that an answer to this matter would be unfair to an old colleague. Having the same beliefs as Senator Wright, I would not accept the information under those conditions. All I can say is that $52,300 has been appropriated for payment to two former Governors-General and their dependants and I have been unable to get information on who it is to be paid to and for what purpose. However, I do not think the payment covers a policy to enable a former GovernorGeneral, as he will be, and his wife to go overseas. If it is to get rid of them by giving them a one-way ticket, perhaps a report should be made to the Parliament. However, the Minister has said that the amount does not appear in these Estimates but will be included in the Supplementary Estimates. I point out that the Supplementary Estimates will not be available until next year after the expenditure has been made. Whilst one accepts that certain known payments can be made out of the Treasurer’s Advance, I think that this is such a rare innovation that approval should be sought from the Parliament before the expenditure is made. I therefore believe that a report and the necessary legislation to cover such expenditure should be introduced before any undertaking is given to pay the fares of an exemployee and his wife to go overseas. If this sort of thing is allowed to go through under the authority of the Government or of the Minister, there is no knowing where it might end, and the credibility involved in such a matter is something that has to be considered.
As to the other point that I made, I acknowledge that the dining facilities in the Parliament are under the jurisdiction of the Speaker and the President, and I hope that the necessary question will be directed to them tomorrow. Nevertheless, we are discussing the expenditure for the Parliament and we want to know how the faculties are run, whether they are run for the benefit of members, or even whether some members have been deprived of their faculties. The answer to that question may have an influence on whether members of this chamber vote for the appropriations or reject them.
– They will be honest.
– I think that there is enough honesty on your side if a case is made out. Just consider the united front I evidenced tonight with an honourable senator on the Government side. There are some honest members on that side of the House, and I believe that if a case is made out they will vote on the principle of honesty and justice. Numbers will not count in that case.
– I wish to interpose a few comments in deference to what has fallen from members ofthe Committee. I am appalled. I pity the level of debate that brings into the compass of the Committee discussions relief secretaries, a matter that Senator McLaren raised. I think that lower still is the idea that we would have jaundice lest we not be provided with a meal in the parliamentary dining room when the majority of the Parliament, representing the majority of the people, is privileged to offer a luncheon to the Queen’s representative on the discharge of an epochmaking career, in the discharge of his office. I think with great respect, Mr Chairman,, that the Senate would ennoble itself a little by getting on to the affairs of the country.
Motion (Senator Sim’s) agreed to.
Proposed expenditures agreed to.
Department of Industry and Commerce
Proposed expenditure, $23,944,000.
Department of Overseas Trade
Proposed expenditure, $65,60 1,000.
Department of the Special Trade Negotiator
Proposed expenditure, $100,000.
Department of the Treasury
Proposed expenditure, $241,1 18,000.
Advance to the Treasurer
Proposed expenditure, $1 18,000,000.
Department of Finance
Proposed expenditure, $23,592,000.
Department of Primary Industry
Proposed expenditure, $85,458,000.
– Having waited three days to move this motion, it is with great pleasure that I move:
That the Committee, having considered the report of Estimates Committee B, recommends that the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations: The continuing review of expenditure by departments in the following areas, having in mind the related cost-benefit:
1 ) Increased expenditure on computer use, without any resultant savings;
Hire of pot plants where less costly alternatives, such as the provision of room dividers, may have achieved the desired result; and
The purchase by Departments of newspapers and periodicals.
-Where is that referred to in the report of Estimates Committee B?
-It is referred to on page 2 of the report.
-I think that these expenditures deserve a little comment, but I will not detain the Senate for long or exhaust your patience, Mr Temporary Chairman. I rise simply in deference to the interest in the matter displayed by Senator Messner representing his Committee. This concerns the public’s interest in expenditure. The first item referred to in the motion relates to computers. I was Chairman of Estimates Committee E which also has offered the Senate a report on computers. I believe that two years ago the Government promised a comprehensive inquiry into and a critical analysis of the expenditure on computers, but all we on our Committee were told was that an interdepartmental committee was examining the matter and its report was not available yet for discussion. So the merits of this expenditure are concealed from the Parliament.
I want to say something provocative in the hope that it will assist us to get a little enthusiasm for the first proposition contained in Senator Messner’s motion concerning the growing use of computers. I, for one, am so old stage that computers not only baffle me but also dismay me from the point of view of their benefit. There is an apparent benefit on cost, but where they eliminate the employment of officers I have yet to understand what merit they have in the mutual exercise of human resources against mechanised computerisation. I guarantee that not 0.001 per cent of the population understands either the input or the output. It is claimed that 1 per cent does, but the outputters say that if the inputters put in garbage they should expect garbage.
Mr Temporary Chairman, I hope that I am not incurring your displeasure. I am intervening because this chamber is dealing now with the public’s interest and all this expenditure on computers is not assessed anywhere from year to year or in any forward-looking five-year program. It ought to be assessed and we really ought to defer this vote and allow the Government one month in which to put before us a 10-foolscap-page summary of the cost benefits of computers and their cost disadvantages in terms of employment. If it is thought that by the employment of this new-fangled idea we are making progress, I ask: Progress to what? I think it is progress to intolerable human dissatisfaction.
Having begun by declaring my ignorancethat is to say, not real ignorance but lack of expert knowledge- I come to the second branch of the motion; which deals with the amount of money spent on the hire of pot plants. Now we come down to the reality of the domestic hearth and the window box, because this is a matter which even the ordinary man can comprehend with a little fervency. It might shrivel up the pot plants and flowers if enough heat is generated in this place. Those who work at their desks might one day give the response which was given by my old time friend who used to sit where he could look out over that lovely blue harbour in Hobart. As he sat there with his back to that view, I touched him on the shoulder one day, after he had given 22 yean of service, and said: What a lovely outlook you have, Edgar’. He replied: ‘Ah, Mr Wright, so it is. I have not had time to look at it in 22 years’. So, perhaps there should be fewer pot plants and a little more work, irrespective of whether the work is leaked to our adversaries.
I come then to the purchase of newspapers and periodicals. It is an area in which great economies could occur, and if we were a little more demanding as consumers we might gel a little more veritable and worthy news. So I just rise to speak in support of the motion in the hope that the members of the Estimates Committee who took part in this discussion might afford the Committee of the Whole a few of the details. I have a general knowledge of each of these three items. I am a great believer, Mr Temporary Chairman, if you do not mind me addressing my remarks to the Committee through you- but always engaged intensely by the honour of addressing my remarks to you- that if we take simple matters such as potplants and newspapers as a beginning and persevere, we might succeed in saving thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. But the impact that that will make on the items that represent an expenditure of millions will be proportionately immense.
– Yes, millions. I began to contend the attitude to millions 20 years ago. The value of our money has been depreciated to the extent that the earnings of the working man and the farming man are now gauged in millions whereas they should be assessed in thousands. I say that only in deference to the interjection and not in resentment to it.
I rise to speak to this motion because I think it deserves the immediate concern of the Government. Mr Temporary Chairman, it would be a great compliment to this chamber if you would take out of the Committee of the Whole an understanding that we desire on behalf of the people an assessment of the computer costs and their merits. These costs have been concealed over the last eight or nine years by departments,, the officers of which have not got together and made a unified assessment from a government point of view. The same matter arose during the considerations of Senate Estimates Committee E. It has been reported to the Committee of the Whole. I think that matter involved millions. But in respect of potplants and newspapers when we can deal in thousands- and, therefore, some of us of more limited understanding can understand the matter commensurately in greater simplicity- I say in all seriousness that we should apply the words of the old proverb which states that if you save the pence the pounds will look after themselves. If we economise on the newspapers and the potplants the growth of Parkinson’s law will be arrested.
- Mr Temporary Chairman, I hope that I may be allowed to take pan in this debate. I found the matter most interesting when, during the hearings of the Senate Estimates Committee, we were looking at this whole area together. I had intended before Senator Wright rose to say something on the matter, but I sat down in deference to him. I refer the report of Estimates Committee B to the Committee of the Whole and I think that we should look at item 4 in that report. The Committee states:
During the Committee’s examination of the proposed expenditure some areas appeared to offer doubtful benefit for the high commitment of expenditure.
The Committee suggested that an inability existed to obtain a cost-benefit analysis for some of the areas of expenditure. The Committee talked about the three areas that Senator Wright has mentioned and which I will mention. The Committee suggested that in some of these areas a continuing review by the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations might well be useful. I saw merit in that suggestion.
I wish to turn to the specific matters that we dealt with in Estimates Committee B. I think we dealt with them very sensibly and very helpfully. We talked about the growing use of computers. The Commitee directed its attention, as many other committees have done, to this new development in the mechanisation of recording and providing information.1 think it is perfectly true, as Senator Wright said, that while one had an understanding of what this new facility is, one does not have an expert knowledge of it. I have always had a slight unease that we were moving into a world of new expertise in which those who were the expert practitioners were tending to take charge of affairs. I felt that we really did not know as much about this as we might usefully know. Therefore, I do not have any concern in my mind about further analysis of this computer world by people like ourselves attempting to bring it down to a world of practical reality. When we begin to examine it, we tend to get the impression that the people who are the practitioners are saying to us: ‘It is all too hard for you. It is very complex and most expensive. Why do not you just rest quietly and leave it all to us’. When I hear those words I always begin to have some concern in any area in which they are used. That is the first point I make on this matter, only to try to be helpful, because I have the same sort of interest in this matter that the Committee has expressed.
Then we have the next situation. It is the new world of mechanisation; it is the new world of expertise. Everybody seems to want a computer. Even the smallest business now seems to want a computer. One has reservations about whether this is justified in every case. Within the government area we find that everybody is getting anxious about computers. Apparently, computers are a sort of status symbol. If you have one, you are regarded as being someone of merit. If you do not have one, perhaps you are down the scale of importance. I do not know. I would like to feel that an adequate examination is made of the total capacity available, whether that capacity is excessive or is deficient, and whether the capacity is wisely and adequately utilised. What is the total capital investment? Is it necessarily all called for? Are we producing masses of information nobody can use or want? Is the matter over complicated? Could it be simplified? Therefore, I thought that Committee members very wisely commented on those matters and asked questions on them of officers from all the departments concerned. I offer these comments in the sense that this is an area where I believe there is a necessity on behalf of the whole of the Australian community to come to deeper understanding of what this is all about. It is a very complicated and extremely expensive new facility.
Many businesses today are finding that it is paying them to go back to simpler systems than those they have become accustomed to using. All sorts of things are happening which people will not believe. I was approached during the last six months by a person who said to me: ‘Do you know, Bob, it has paid us to go back to hand writing invoices in carbon books instead of using typewriters’. Somebody has to get to the bottom of this matter. It would be well for it to be done. I turn to deal with the question of the hire of potplants. When we began to deal with this matter it sounded like lighthearted matter. But as the Committee proceeded through it, it was found that quite a lot of money was involved in the hire of potplants. In fact, in a lighthearted moment it was observed that we might form a new company called Messner, Archer, Cotton and Co. to engage in the growing and hiring of potplants in the Australian Capital Territory. That seemed to us to have more attraction than what we were doing at the time. There was a case for looking at that matter and for wondering whether the facility was one we needed.
The defence mechanism was that with the open floor space offices, wide partitioning was needed. We were told that these plants could be moved around instead of people being shut off in boxes. Now all the people could work on the one floor, separated by rubber plants, frangipani and various plants of that kind. This is the kind of argument that is advanced for the hire of potplants. We are told that they separate people in the areas in which they are working. There are two views on that matter. There are some people I should love to look at all day. But I would not mind having a wall between myself and other people I know. It is just a matter of individual choice.
When I talk about potplants I am reminded of a chap I met in England many years ago. He was an old sailor who served in the battle of Jutland. He took me to his house to afternoon tea. We went out into the garden and he said to me, ‘See that oak tree?’. I said, ‘Yes’. He said, ‘That was grown on the bridge of the battleship when I was a midshipman. It was watered with old tea leaves and gin and tonic people did not want to drink’. I wonder what happens to the pot plants in some of these departments. Are they fed the remains of afternoon tea? But the matter bears further examination because the total amount of money involved in the departments we looked at was, I think, quite large.
On the question of departments’ libraries, newspapers and periodicals, everybody who was asked about this, as honourable senators will agree, spoke of the need for certain newspapers and periodicals, and, frequently, a library. Most of us were perhaps not quite sure whether there was not an area here that warranted further examination. The Committee would be better judges of that. I was reminded of my early days in Broken Hill when my father and I went down to see the bank manager and he said: ‘I can’t see you this morning. My job is to read the morning papers. See you after lunch’.
Item 5 deals with something which has been mentioned previously. It had not really been, in my view, thoroughly dealt with then and was deserving of comment. Because of an alteration in the structure of government some departments were in effect disbanded: Some new departments were created; some were amalgamated. It was very hard for the committees to analyse the relative expenditures because of the changes in structure that had taken place. There was a need for some form of analysis that would enable a proper comparison to be made. I think that was fair comment. I also thought that the comment made by Estimates Committees A and F and adverted to by this Committee also, that there should be some standardisation of presentation, had a great deal of merit. This would produce uniformity of presentation and explanation.
I rose, really, to say to the Committee members that, just as they were good enough to say kind things about myself and the officers of the Department, we too appreciated the way they dealt with the matters under review and the courtesy with which we were asked questions about particular matters. We found the exercise very helpful.
– One thing we can be certain of is that we will miss Senator Wright when he has gone from the Senate if only because of the delightful sequence of comment that occasionally he produces.
– Oh, not occasionallyfrequently.
– We often disagree with the honourable senator but not with his manner or method of delivery, and tonight has been no exception. Of course, I do not agree, generally speaking, with what he has said. Let us examine what the Committee has done. After investigating a substantial area of expenditure it has come forward with three recommendations which, I would imagine, do not stand up to scrutiny. The criticism ofthe growing use of computers, where there is no apparent decrease in the number of persons employed, seems to me to call for chalenge I thought the reason we were introducing computers and improved technology into the work situation was to ease the burden on man and not to increase it.
– Did not the Luddites have the same general idea?
-We have been accused of being Luddites for opposing the extensive use of uranium and the development of certain technology in that direction, so I am on rather flimsy ground if I tend to agree with the honourable senator too greatly on that. Nevertheless, I submit that the proper use of advanced technology is to ease the burden of human kind, not to throw people on to the unemployment market. We need to change our society radically and the conditions under which we labour before we begin saying: ‘There does not seem to be any apparent decrease in the number of persons employed, therefore computers should be used less rather than more’.
I would agree that in this country computer systems have been oversold, in many cases having been bought after they become obsolete overseas. Some of our departments have gone too quickly into the use of computers without first investigating advances in that particular technology. But I would resist the criticism of the growing use of the computers where there is no apparent decrease in the number of persons employed.
I am prepared to be cantankerous also about the next recommendation. Surely, the environment in which people work is one that we should improve, that we should be concerned about. If it is found necessary to place paintings on a wall, to hire paintings, to lease paintings or rotate them within a work place, that is well and good as far as I am concerned. If pot plants are necessary and we cannot afford to buy them and look after them, if it is cheaper to hire them, we should do so. It does not seem to be reasonable that in view of the vast expenditure upon this group of de- partments we should be over-critical about the beautification of the work place. Senator Wright would agree with that. He said that if we look after the pennies the pounds will look after themselves. My father used to tell me that exactly. There has been such inflation under this Governmentforget about the previous one- that even the kids are saying now ‘Keep the change’. They have gone away from our philosophy of looking after the pence and the pounds will look after themselves. I am reminded of the shopkeeper who used to collect bits of string and tie them together. He showed extreme caution in the use of his material, and perhaps in due course prospered.
– Can the honourable senator link this to the motion that is before the Chair?
– I am linking my remarks to a comment that was made. I think the thrust of my remarks is that we ought not to take a mortician’s view of these estimates and then cut them up into tiny little pieces. I remember that once Senator Wright was accused by one clever witness we examined before a committee of adopting a mortician’s approach, and that he was very upset about it. This Committee has looked at these estimates in that particular way and has come up with some minor complaints. If this is all the Committee could find wrong with the estimates of these departments I would say that they are doing quite well.
Might I commend the Minister on apparently having only two advisors. His predecessor had about 42. I do not know whether he is more capable of answering queries than was the previous Minister but the larger staff must have represented a waste of the time of officers from considerable numbers of departments. In view of the spirit that has been engendered in this date by the contribution of Senator Wright, I will say no more.
– I believe Senator Georges has become a little overliteral in regard to what has been said by the Committee, and its intentions in saying it. I think I can join the Committee in stating that there is no doubt that the departments with which we dealt made their presentations extraordinarily well; that we were well satisfied with the material that they brought forward.
Already we have found, in checking upon the results of the comments we made, that one department has drawn up a list of cancellations of subscriptions to newspapers and the like. As with computers, libraries are becoming one of the basic necessities of life. From what I have heard during the hearing of various committees with which I have been associated, it seems that libraries are very much the growing art. Before we know where we are, once a department or ari office collects four or five newspapers a day it needs a librarian to tabulate and to file them.
– What is wrong with that when we have high unemployment?
-I just believe that to perform useful work is one of the prerequisites. The same applies with the beautification of the work place. I certainly go along with beautification of the work place, but I am not prepared to admit that in many instances it is not better to have a nice movable screen with flowers painted on it rather than space being taken up with screens and pot plants which, on the admission of departmental officers, occasionally get destroyed. At the frivolous times of the year people might up-end a glass of beer on to one of the expensive palm trees or something like that.
On the matter of computers, again it was not the question of labour which concerned members of the Committee, as I recall. It is purely and simply a technical matter. It is a matter of the use of and the need for equipment, of the justification for its installation in a place and of the extent to which computerisation is to be undertaken. It is very much a field for technocrats. When people come to make a decision as to what type of equipment is necessary, just who does know the answer? I believe that it might well be that somewhere within the organisation we should have a panel or an expert who is able either to lay down specifications or at least to look at the specifications for what the various departments have in mind.
Since the hearing of the Estimates Committee I have taken the trouble to ask questions of computer operators in various departments and even of computer firms. I found that every department and every firm had different ideas. In hardly any of the cases are decisions made by people from within the department. It is all a matter of which salesman can put up a proposition that suits the circumstances of the time. I regret that in most cases there is no question of considering compatibility of equipment, equipment that could be transferred from one department to another or even used for a different purpose within a department. There seems to be a great shortage of sources of proper advice other than from computer firms. Naturally, the computer firms are trying to induce departments to purchase or to lease their equipment, as the case may be. There is great confusion as to exactly what is necessary.
I found that the question of whether to lease or whether to buy comes into this quite a lot. I believe that in many cases decisions are made according to the actual amount of money’ which the section of the department believes it can extract in the Estimates. They can always justify their decisions by saying: ‘The price is going up so we bought it’, or ‘the model is likely to change in a year or two so we leased it’. I found the answers I obtained and the answers obtained in the Committee hearings concerning the decision made were quite unsatisfactory. I believe that some firm decision should be made that we should not obtain equipment that is likely to go out of date; that we should try to get equipment that is compatible, and so on. I have many friends in the computet industry and have had long talks with some of them. They are practical people. I believe that somewhere along the line we need to engage somebody to set up some criteria with which departments should have to comply before purchasing or leasing this type of equipment.
– I want to relate my remarks particularly to Division 494 of the Estimates for the Department of Primary Industry, which relates to the Bureau of Animal Health, including the export inspection services for meat. The inspection of meat has been a matter of some concern to me for a long time. In the first instance, I have been very concerned that in Australia we retain meat inspection at both the State and Federal levels. This is an imposition on the producing community <n particular, the people who ultimately pay for meat inspection. I know that for a long time discussions in relation to this matter have been going on between the Commonwealth and the
State governments and that it is hoped that one day we might get around to having a single inspection service.
It seems that because of inbuilt problems, because of the intractability of state governments I might be wrong in saying that, but certainly because of the intractability of some people in the system somewhere- we are not reaching quickly enough the stage where a single meat inspection suffices in this country. It seems to me to be totally wrong that this country requires State inspection of meat for domestic consumption and Federal inspection of meat for overseas sales. Surely to goodness, an animal is an animal is an animal. Either the animal has problems or it does not have problems when it is slaughtered and a qualified meat inspector, be he employed by a State government or by a Federal government, should be able to put his finger on the problem. Why this anomaly continues I will never know because, as I have said, it ultimately places a great burden on the producer of meat. At present salaries and payments in the nature of salaries, administrative expenses and other services in this field cost the taxpayer in the Commonwealth Budget some $3 1 m.
– Over what period?
– Over 12 months. I might have broadened that to include a little more than meat inspection, but if honourable senators look at page 100 of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1977-78 they will see that the total appropriation under Division 494 is $31m. Certainly some other matters come into that, but meat inspection is very expensive. As I have said twice before, it is ultimately paid for by the consumer or by the producer of beef or sheep meats in this country. Another great problem which is besetting the meat industry at present is the argument between the Australian Meat Industry Employees Union, and primary producers on the matter of live sheep exports, in particular to the Middle East. I suppose hope springs eternal in the human breast. I have with me the minutes of a meeting held in Melbourne on 2 August this year between the Australian Council of Trade Unions and rural organisations. The meeting was sponsored by the President of the ACTU, Mr R. J. Hawke. Present were representatives of nine unions concerned with meat processing or meat exports and 9 producer organisations.
For the record, as I see it, there is on the horizon at least some hope that the unions and the rural organisations are likely- albeit belatedly- to get together. We have had a situation in this country in which primary producers and the trade union movement have stood aloof from each other. The primary producers have been saying of the trade union movement that all of its members are communist led, that they are a pack of commos and that they would not work in an iron lung. The trade union movement has been saying of the primary producers that they all drive around in Rolls Royce or Mercedes Benz cars, that they belong to the squattocracy and that the trade union movement therefore should remain aloof. As I have said, thank goodness that belatedly these groups have got together. I should like to read into the record a few excerpts from the meeting which, as I have said, was held on 2 August in the ACTU boardroom in Melbourne.
-Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Chairman do now leave the chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The Chairman having reported accordingly-
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– This morning at Question Time my colleague from Queensland, Senator McAuliffe, raised a very serious matter. When he asked his question he spoke of what I consider to be an outrageous statement by the Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen. In his question this morning, Senator McAuliffe could not canvass all the facts surrounding this matter. Therefore, I wish to take some of the time of the Senate tonight to outline what the Premier of Queensland said in Mount Isa. The Premier was at Mount Isa yesterday. He was speaking of the finance for the Lake Julius dam project. He is reported to have said that finance would not be available for the Mount Isa City Council if the National Party candidate in the forthcoming State election was not returned. This is quite a serious matter. It is virtually a threat to the people of Mount Isa that if they do not return the National Party candidate they will have no water for their town. I shall return to this matter shortly.
This is not the first time in the current campaign that the Premier of Queensland has made such statements. Recently he visited the islands in the Torres Strait, where he is reported to have made a similar statement. In the Courier-Mail of 25 October Peter Trundle, who is a well known and respected journalist for the Courier-Mail, reported:
Mr Bjelke-Petersen ‘s main message, apart from his work on the border issue, was in effect:
Put Eric Deeral in, or you 11 have an Opposition Member who will get next to nothing’.
- Mr President, could Senator Colston indicate which Minister he advised of this matter, so that we can make sure that he is in the chamber to respond.
– I believe that the Minister was advised.
– We are trying to find out.
– It is very difficult to pin down responsibility in this matter. I would say that the Minister in charge of the Senate at present would be capable of answering.
– I am grateful for the honourable senator’s compliment. I shall do the best I can.
-Earlier tonight, when I made arrangements to speak on the adjournment, I said that I did not think this was necessarily a matter that had to be replied to by a Minister. I wanted to use this forum to outline what occurred at Mount Isa. I have just quoted from the Courier-Mail which reported the Premier’s comments about Eric Deeral. For those who do not know the current political situation in Queensland, I point out that he is a National Party member. Even in the Torres Strait a couple of weeks ago Mr Bjelke-Petersen was making these sorts of comments about National Party candidates. In both cases he was referring to current National Party members.
Let me return to the Premier’s now infamous outburst at Mount Isa yesterday. It was reported in the Courier-Mail this morning. I shall read the whole article because certain of my later comments will require that all the article be read. The article is headed ‘Burns Says Joh Using Blackmail on Hustings’. It states:
The Premier (Mr Bjelke-Petersen) said yesterday that State aid for Lake Julius Dam would not necessarily continue if Mount Isa electors threw out National M.L.A. (Mr Bertoni).
He was immediately accused of outrageous blackmail tactics by the Opposition Leader (Mr Burns) who said he was stunned by the statement.
He has said that if the people don’t vote for his man they won ‘t get money for the dam, Mr Burns said.
Today his staff would check the Electoral Act to see whether the Premier breached the rules.
Mr Bjelke-Petersen made the remark at a press conference in Mount Isa to discuss the long disputed issue of dam finance.
The State has committed $1 1,600,000 to the project.
The people of Mount Isa have not had to pay one cent in interest or redemption payments,’ he said.
We’ve played our pan and we will aga q give it top priority while Mr Bertoni is in. ‘
Asked whether the situation would change if any other candidate won the election, Mr Bjelke-Petersen said: ‘You can read it that way if you like.
While I’ve got a worker for my party here in Mount Isa, we will always play our part.
Any other candidate will have no access to me at all. ‘
The ALP candidate in Mount Isa for the November 12 election is Mr A. Pavusa whose party thinks he can beat Mr Bertoni.
Mr Burns said the Premier, having suppressed freedom of expression, was now trying to stop freedom of choice as far as a vote was concerned.
He is telling electors that if they don’t vote for Mr Bertoni they will get nothing. This is standover tactics.
He has gone too far, just as I have always feared and warned that he would . This is an extremist attitude
Someone has to put a brake on him. The Liberals and his own party have to make it clear that this sort of thing is not acceptable’.
Perhaps the most important part of that article is two paragraphs. I shall repeat them. They state:
While I’ve got a worker for my party here in Mount Isa, we will always play our part.
Any other candidate will have no access to me at all. ‘
That is a clear indication that the Premier was saying to the people of Mount Isa that the money for their water supply was virtually doomed if they returned anyone but Mr Bertoni. Unlike Mr Burns, I was not stunned. I know Mr BjelkePetersen only too well. I have seen him on the campaign trail before. I know the sort of outlandish statements he makes. This time he has really gone too far.
Mr Burns in his statement, as reported in the Courier-Mail this morning, called on Liberals and National Party members to disown the statements that Mr Bjelke-Petersen had made. The only response so far has been from Mrs McComb, the President of the Liberal Party in Queensland. Perhaps there is a reason why Mr Knox has not replied. Some of us know that unfortunately Mr Knox was injured fairly seriously in an accident.
-Yesterday, I believe. That might be the reason why he has not replied. Mrs McComb replied in the Brisbane Telegraph tonight. That newspaper carried an article entitled ‘Top Lib. Blasts Joh’. In part it read as follows:
A threat by Premier Mr Bjelke-Petersen to withdraw finance from an electorate if it was wo’n by Labor was criticised by Liberal Party President Mrs Yvonne McComb today.
Mrs McComb said, ‘I am very unhappy about this sort of thing.
It is a very disturbing element in politics if the reports are correct’, she said. ‘We strongly acknowledge the role and rights of the Opposition.’
Mrs McComb said that everyone should get value for their tax money regardless of how they voted.
How succinctly and how well Mrs McComb put it. I think what she was saying reflected the thoughts of many members other party. I would hope that she was reflecting also the thoughts of many members of the National Party throughout Queensland. Mr Burns, like my colleagues and I, considers the Premier’s actions to be very serious indeed. The very basis of democracy is threatened if we have the threat of reprimand hanging over us for the way in which we vote at an election.
Mr Burns has decided to take this matter further. I want to outline to the Senate tonight the sorts of actions that he has taken. I shall commence by reading a statement that he has issued to the Press and follow it up with a letter that he has sent to one of the Munsters in Queensland. The reason why I read earlier the whole of the article in the Courier-Mail is that Mr Burns’ letter refers to part of it. The statement issued today by Mr Burns reads:
The Opposition Leader (Mr Burns) today lodged a complaint with the Justice Minister (Mr Lickiss) concerning yesterday’s election campaign statement in Mount Isa by the Premier (Mr Bjelke-Petersen).
He claimed reports indicated Mr Bjelke-Petersen was threatening Mount Isa voters with a government withdrawal of funds if they did not vote for the National Party member. According to reports the Premier at a Press conference threatened to remove government assistance to the Julius Dam project unless the National Party member was returned.’
This is a clear example of political intimidation and blackmail aimed at denying Queenslanders their democratic right of election choice ‘, Mr Burns said.
He said legal advice indicated in such circumstances Mr Bjelke-Petersen had breached section 102 of the Criminal Code in relation to detriment against voters.
Mr Bjelke-Petersen demands constantly that there is no favouritism for anyone under law so there is no reason why it should not apply equally to himself. ‘
Only recently his Government prosecuted a trade union official for allegedly threatening a detriment to an employer.’
I cannot imagine in the case of Mount Isa any greater threat or detriment than removing the source of the city’s water supply from its people and industries. ‘
It is distressing in this election when the National-Liberal parties are prepared to resort to this type of fear on electors to conceal their own economic mismanagement’, Mr Burns said.
Mr Burns wrote a letter to the Attorney-General in Queensland. The letter reads:
Leader of the Opposition, Parliament House, Brisbane, 4000.
I write seeking an investigation of a statement by the Premier reported in Mount Isa in the North- West Star on Wednesday, 2 November 1977, and in the Courier-Mail, page 3 of 3 November 1977. 1 attach hereto a copy of the Press report.
I understand since then it has been reported that the Premier has denied the statement.
I also understand that the reporter who wrote the story has said that he stands by the story and that he has witnesses who endorse his report.
If this report is true, the Premier is threatening the electors of Mount Isa with a withdrawal of funds if they do not vote for the National Party member.
I believe that under these circumstances the Premier would be in conflict with section 102 of the Criminal Code which states: 102. Undue Influence. Any person who (1) uses or threatens to use any force or restraint, or does or threatens to do any temporal or spiritual injury, or causes or threatens to cause any detriment of any kind, to an elector in order to induce him to vote or refrain from voting at an election, or on account of his having voted or retrained from voting at an election, or (2) by force or fraud prevents or obstructs the free exercise of the franchise by an elector, or by any such means compels or induces an elector to vote or refrain from voting at an election is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment with hard labour for one year, or to a fine of two hundred pounds.
I also draw your attention to section 359 which states: 359. Threats. Any person who threatens to do any injury, or cause any detriment, of any kind to another with intent to prevent or hinder that other person from doing any act which he is lawfully entitled to do, or with intent to compel him to do any act which he is lawfully entitled to abstain from doing, is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for one year or to a fine of four hundred dollars.
If the abovementioned report is correct, the Premier has threatened a detriment to the voters of the Mount Isa electorate.
I ask for an urgent investigation of the matter reminding you that it is your responsibility as the Attorney-General to enforce the law impartially and to take the necessary steps to see that people who break the law are taken before the courts and charged.
Your assistance in this regard would be appreciated.
With best wishes,
Yours sincerely, Tom Burns.
I also regard the matter as a very serious one indeed. In politics, especially in political campaigns, we all expect some rough and tumble and we all take a little bit of what we give, but sometimes people do go too far. I believe that in this instance Mr Bjelke-Petersen has gone too far. I look forward to Mr Lickiss looking at the matter that Tom Burns has reported to him. I look forward to him looking at it in detail. If the reports are correct- the journalist has stated that they are and he says he has witnesses to back up his claims- the excesses of Mr Bjelke-Petersen must be stopped.
– I am really unable to do anything more than note the comments because I am not familiar with the Queensland scene. One cannot vouch for the accuracy or otherwise of the remarks, but, from what the honourable senator has said, the matter has been directed to the proper place for analysis and solution. I am afraid that I will have to leave the matter at that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.48 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 25 August 1977:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) None.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 12 October 1977:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
National Employment and Training Scheme: Pre-apprenticeship Allowance (Question No. 1448)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 12 October 1977:
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs, upon notice, on 13 October 1977:
Will the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs examine the current advertising campaign of the Uranium Producers’ Forum in relation to solidification of nuclear waste into glass and the permanent disposal of waste by burial, with a view to determining whether or not such advertisements are misleading to the Australian public.
– The Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As the question of the alleged misleading nature of the advertisements by the Uranium Producers’ Forum is currently before the Federal Court of Australia, it is not appropriate to comment on the matters raised.
Exchange of Personnel between Australia and Jordan
-On 12 October 1977 Senator Thomas asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the following question without notice:
I direct my question to the Minister for Industry and Commerce or perhaps the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to a report this morning which announced a proposed exchange of personnel between Australia and Jordan to assist Jordan in agricultural industry and science. Is the Minister able to give more details on the matter to the Senate?
The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
An agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was signed in Sydney on 2 1 October. The Minister for Foreign Affairs signed the agreement on behalf of the Australian Government, while Dr Abdul Sala ‘am Majali the Jordanian Minister of Education and Minister of State for the Prime Minister’s Office signed on behalf of Jordan.
The agreement is essentially an umbrella agreement establishing the principle of co-operation, and covering exchanges of personnel for agricultural, technical and industrial co-operation and scientific and cultural exchanges between Australia and Jordan. Detailed arrangements for specific projects will be negotiated in each case as supplementary arrangements. The agreement will also facilitate the efforts of State authorities and private enterprise to conclude these supplementary arrangements.
The agreement will enter into force on the date that the Government of Australia receives official notification from the Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan that the Jordanian requirements for the entry into force of the agreement have been fulfilled. The agreement shall then remain in force for five years and continue in force for successive periods of one year, subject to termination by either party.
I have arranged for a copy of the agreement to be forwarded to the honourable senator.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 November 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19771103_senate_30_s75/>.