30th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
-I present the following petition from 37 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens respectfully showeth:
That, in the light of the Fox reports, the Federal Government should immediately initiate a five-year moratorium on uranium mining. This moratorium is essential for public consideration and debate. It is also to allow time for the implementation of the other recommendations of the Fox report, particularly the development of a national energy policy, incorporating energy conservation and the development of benign alternate energy sources.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that your honourable House will take action to initiate the moratorium and to safeguard the democratic right of the people to make the decision on this issue.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 2 12 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned electors of the Divisions of Canberra and Fraser respectfully showeth:
That they strongly oppose the proposed residential development of an area generally known as Section 22 Yarralumla, which includes the undeveloped area between Yarralumla Bay and Hopetoun Circuit, for environmental reasons and because the open areas of the foreshore, which could be required for future recreation purposes, could be seriously depleted in an area already showing the need for increased provision of picnic grounds.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government proclaims that area bounded by Novar Street, Schlich Street, Hopetoun Circuit and the proposed Coronation Drive, Yarralumla, excluding that already developed, be proclaimed as a non-residential or non-building area set aside as an open space for recreational purposes.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 56 citizens of Australia:
To the President and Members of the Senate assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens (students, parents, teachers) of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decision by the Government to withdraw all forms of financial assistance to students of Non-State Tertiary Institutions is in total conflict with stated Government education policy.
The decision will result in a shortage of places for training secretarial and clerical students and an inordinate demand upon the State Government education systems.
At a time of severe economic disruption, this action must lead to a serious worsening of the current employment situation, particularly school leavers.
Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the Federal Government will act immediately to reverse its decision.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 15 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned students, parents, teachers and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the report of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations on Employment Prospects by Industry and Occupation, July 1977, p. 197, states that, in respect of Stenographers /Secretaries:
With the exception of new business college graduates the demand for less experienced and less skilled people in Sydney is in balance with the supply.
Business College graduates are exactly what the market wants and employers demand.
In one of the few fields of employment shown by the report to be under-supplied, the Government is effectively reducing the ability of business colleges to train enough sectretaries and stenographers for the positions which are available.
The sixteen technical colleges in the Metropolitan area of Sydney which accommodate 3,220 students in day secretarial studies do not have the capacity to accommodate more than six per cent of the 243S students at non-State business colleges in the same area who will be disadvantaged by the Government’s recent decision to withdraw fees subsidies and living allowances from the end of 1977. 1977 School leavers who wish to undertake a course in Secretarial Studies and thus ensure they obtain a worthwhile position of employment on graduation are being forced to pay fees of the order of $ 1 ,400 for the year and also to forgo TEAS living allowances.
The Government’s decision is unfair, unjust, discriminatory, unreasonable and capricious.
Your , petitioners, therefore, humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government will act immediately to undertake a thorough review of the position of non-State business colleges, guarantee interim funding forthwith and reverse its decision.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
As the petition exceeds 250 words in length I do not propose to ask that it be read.
– I present the following petition from 233 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate, in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth do humbly pray that the Commonwealth Government:
Recognise that the present situation regarding the approval of nursing home accommodation for the aged in the Sutherland Shire Area is at present totally inadequate.
Take steps to alleviate this position and make finance available for the building of nursing home accommodation in this Shire to provide beds when the necessity for one arises.
Look into the situation of hardship caused by the cost to pensioners and their families who have to meet the difference between fees charged by some nursing homes and the pensions and subsidies available to offset these.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate, assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That many pensioners who are holders of the Pensioners Health Benefit Card, have suffered undue hardship as inmates of Private Nursing Homes, because the Federal Government subsidy was insufficient to meet the charges as laid down.
Many pensioners whose spouse was an inmate of the Private Nursing Homes suffered poverty in an endeavour to sustain their partner while in the nursing home.
Only in rare cases was the statutory minimum patient contribution as laid down adhered to.
That the telephone was a matter of life and death to many pensioners, but because of the cost of installation of the telephone many are unable to alford the installation.
That those pensioners who have only their pension and very little else to live on and are forced to pay high rents, are in many cases living in extreme poverty.
The foregoing facts impel your petitioners to ask the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to-
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Mulvihill. Petition received.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Objection to the metric system and request the Government to restore the imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray, by Senator Rae. Petition received.
-I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer a question without notice. The Prime Minister in his policy speech of November 1 975 indicated that a growth rate of 6 to 7 per cent was quite feasible as a result of his Government’s economic strategy. As the actual growth rate in 1976-77 was only 1.3 per cent, compared with the 6 to 7 per cent promised by the Prime Minister, and in fact declined in the first half of 1977, do these figures mean that any predictions by Mr Fraser are simply wild guesses which can be ignored?
-No. Predictions by Mr Fraser are not wild guesses. They are taken responsibly and sensibly on the best data available at the time. Economic growth rates are difficult to predict. They depend upon overseas pricing, seasons and many other things. The honourable senator is entitled to put his question and I am entitled to seek a reliable answer for him, which I shall do.
-Does the Minister representing the Minister for Transport recall being asked about an alleged inquiry initiated by the Norwegian Parliament into the Omega navigation system, the suggestion being made that Omega was in fact a military device? Did the Minister promise to obtain information for the Senate and is he now in a position to supply that information?
– Honourable senators will recall that two senators, I believe Senators Primmer and 0 ‘Byrne, asked questions relating to an alleged inquiry into Omega initiated by the Norwegian Parliament. I have received advice in the following terms: In the early 1970s Captain Anders Hellebust prepared a thesis for his Master’s degree. In this thesis he raised the question of whether political leaders and parliamentarians of the Norwegian Government had received proper information concerning the establishment of the Loran C and Omega navigation systems on Norwegian territory before they were constructed.
In March 1975 a question concerning the thesis was asked in the Norwegian Parliament of the Norwegian Prime Minister, who decided in the light of the assertions that an independent committee ought to be set up to clarify the matter beyond all doubt. The Norwegian inquiry, which was known as the Schie inquiry, was asked to clarify all factual aspects concerning the establishment of the system on Norwegian territory. Specifically, it was asked to determine whether any official had acted improperly or in any way to justify criticism. I point out that the claim that Norway has had two inquiries into Loran C and Omega is not correct. The only inquiry held has been the Schei inquiry.
Because the Schei inquiry had of necessity to examine defence files, which of course were secret, in order to determine beyond all doubt that no officials had acted improperly, the inquiry’s report had to be classified secret. The Norwegian Government, however, made a point of ensuring that a precis of the report was published and that is freely available. The precis provides the following conclusions, as translated:
An additional point is that this secret report was leaked out by two members of parliament who belonged to the equivalent of our Communist Party- the Socialistik Valaglianse. I understand that the Norwegian Parliament considered the idea of impeaching the two members for releasing government secrets. My understanding is that no such action seems likely, however, since at the last election in September this year the public imposed its own punishment by not returning the two members to Parliament. In fact, their party was decimated, being reduced from 15 seats to two seats in the new Parliament.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. I refer the Attorney-General to the question that I directed to him on 19 October and also to the question asked by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack on 27 October relating to the challenge by the Queensland Government to the right of citizens in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory to have representatives in the Senate and to the challenge by the Western Australian Government to the right of the Territories to have full representation in the House of Representatives. Following the AttorneyGeneral’s remarks in the Senate on 27 October that he would make sure that the Chief Justice is aware of the situation, I ask: Has he performed that undertaking and is he now in a position to say when the High Court judgment is likely to be handed down?
-On the afternoon of 27 October, if that was the day on which Senator Sir Magnus Cormack asked me the question, I spoke to His Honour the Chief Justice. I assure the Senate that His Honour was quite aware of the urgency of the problem. He was aware of that of his own knowledge and understanding and did not really need my reminder about it. But I did pass on to him the concern that had been expressed by honourable senators in regard to this matter. He was not able to indicate to me then, nor has he been in touch with me to indicate since, when the High Court will be giving a decision. So I am afraid that I cannot give any further information on that matter.
– Has the Minister representing the Treasurer seen the report in this morning’s Australian relating to forecasts by the Treasury, the Reserve Bank and the Bureau of Statistics of increased economic growth for 1978 with a reduction in the inflation rate to 6 per cent to 8 per cent by the middle of next year? Does the Minister agree with those forecasts? Can he say whether they confirm the economic policy of the Government over the last two years?
-I read the report in the Australian as I was coming down from Sydney this morning. It seems to me to be a reliably based report. The input information is information that I would expect to be quite accurate. I have been a bit careful about predicting inflation rates until the last few weeks, but it now seems to me that a range between 6 per cent and 8 per cent by June next year is clearly discernible. All those things confirm the wisdom of the Government ‘s economic policy and the results that we will see.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and refers to questions I have raised previously about staff ceilings. The Minister will be aware, because of his attendance at Estimates committee meetings, that many departments are still suffering from the effect of the staff ceiling cutbacks. That is revealed also in the reports of various tribunals and authorities. I now ask: Have there been any further developments as a result of discussions by the Government and the Public Service Board with the Council of Australian Government Employee Organisation and other staff organisations which proposed that the present staff ceilings should be extended and that there should be a forward planning system in co-operation with the union movement? Although there has been some relaxation of staff ceilings in two departments, can the Minister advise what has been the result of those discussions?
– I am aware of the matters Senator Bishop has raised because they relate to evidence given to the Estimates committee meetings at which I was present, as was Senator Bishop. I am not aware of any further developments on this matter in the terms of the question. The Government is maintaining its policy in regard to the staff ceilings that have been fixed. However, the Government has always indicated a flexibility in regard to problems thrown up by staff ceilings in particular departments and a willingness to make changes in order to meet those problems. I am aware that Senator Bishop has raised the matter in general terms. In view of the broad question arising out of evidence given to the Estimates committees by several departmental officers, I will refer the question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and ascertain whether the Public Service Board has had any discussions with those officers since the Estimates committees met. I will endeavour to answer the question before the Senate rises.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health by saying that no doubt the Minister is well aware that of all the drugs humans consume in one form or another probably the most dangerous is alcohol and that the earlier in life one commences using alcohol the more likely it is that one will end up being an alcoholic. In view of those facts and in view of the recent report which detailed the danger of alcohol within this country, will the Minister ask the Minister for Health to require the percentage of alcohol to be printed on the label of alcoholic drinks sold in this Territory? If possible, will the Commonwealth take action to ask Ministers for Health in all States to agree to such a regulation so that people will have some idea of the strength of alcohol in any alcoholic liquor that they buy? Secondly, due to the danger of the high alcoholic content of beer, will the Minister ask the Treasurer to consider reducing the excise on a low percentage alcohol beer to provide some incentive to produce a beer with a lower percentage alcohol content?
– If I mav respond first to the matter raised for the consideration of the Minister for Health, I feel sure that the report of the committee to which the honourable senator referred has been placed before the Minister. I will seek his response to the specific question. As to the second question directed to my colleague the Treasurer, I will also see that that is drawn to his attention and seek a response from him.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer and refer him to an article in this morning’s Canberra Times headed ‘New loan of $179m “being discussed”.’ The article states that the Treasurer, Mr Lynch, announced that the Government had begun negotiations for a public bond issue on the New York market for the amount of $ 179m. In view of the publicity surrounding the transfer of profits of the Utah Development Co. and the Ford Motor Co. of Australia Ltd of approximately the same amount- that is approximately $170m of Australian money- ostensibly, to quote a Utah spokesman, for investment in other parts of the world, I ask the Minister: Is there no obligation on the part of the Department of the Treasury to persuade these companies which are ripping off the resources of the people of Australia to observe the adage that charity begins at home and that Australia has to borrow its money back from New York markets for the essential needs of this country?
– I have not seen the Canberra Times report, nor have I seen a report of a discussion or read any newspaper article regarding any potential new loan in New York. I am prepared to believe that we may be negotiating. We do this from time to time on overseas borrowing markets. Why should we not do so when the rates are so favourable? I think the comments about the Utah Development Co. and other companies are, to say the least, unfortunate. The activities which these companies have in Australia are generated, in the first place, by their bringing in large sums of capital. That is how it happens. From time to time they need to repatriate their dividends. To me that seems to be part of the normal operation in a scene like this. As I have said before, these matters are always under inspection and under management. In this case if there is anything in the honourable senator’s question which adds to the sum of human knowledge, that will go to the Treasurer.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Education. I am pleased to see that the Government is developing specific purpose programs within its plans for future education needs of the Australian community. Recalling the fact that the Minister has received many representations from the outback of Australia, particularly in regard to disadvantaged children, disadvantaged schools and disadvantaged country areas, is he in a position to indicate whether these specific purpose programs will be of benefit to these outback areas where isolation and economic pressures are causing considerable hardship?
– The essential thrust of the Fraser Government’s education policy is towards overcoming disadvantage and underprivilege and the establishment, where possible, of equality of opportunity. Our policies have been directed, first through the much despised guidelines, towards new initiatives by way of extending the disadvantaged schools program to the country.
-And opposing the Commission’s recommendations.
– In that we had eminent precedent as the Whitlam Government did that repeatedly. Its score was 100 per cent. No doubt Senator Wriedt ‘s interjection is by way of commendation.
– You table a statement documentating that.
-If I may continue with the help and applause of the Australian Labor Party, we have guidelines. I take it that Senator Wriedt is objecting to guidelines which invite the Schools Commission to expand disadvantaged schools into country areas which will bring about a new education initiative for students in institutions, otherwise his interjection would have no relevance. Senator Kilgariff also points to a whole series of other initiatives. In particular the Federal Government has expanded its help through the isolated children’s schemes, both through the raising of allowances and, in particular, through the special boarding allowances. The Federal Government is very conscious of the fact that in remote areas isolated children suffer an extreme disadvantage, particularly because of the beef prices. We have endeavoured to help in a wide variety of ways with much success, and great commendation has been received from the organisations concerned. We will continue to look towards disadvantage wherever it may lie and we will help to overcome it.
-I invite the attention of the Minister for Education to statements made by the Minister in this Parliament yesterday. I ask this question again because of the manner in which the Minister loosely uses the truth about matters concerning the Schools Commission. Yesterday the Minister is reported as saying on page 2167 of Hansard.
It is proposed that $3m will be provided for capital development in non-government schools in new growth areas on the recommendation of the Schools Commission . . .
The Minister said that this was not in conflict with what the Schools Commission had said. I would also like again to quote from the report of the Schools Commission. Is the Minister aware that the Schools Commission said:
Although it acknowledges the severe shortage of capital funds for both government and non-government schools and is aware of the pressure to make non-government schooling available in newly developing areas, the Commission does not believe that the situation in 1978 warrants the transfer of $3m out of other programs to make this possible.
Will the Minister admit that he was not telling the precise story- I cannot use another term. Will he admit that he was not giving the correct information to the Senate yesterday?
-Senator Wriedt, of course, must know that the 1976-78 triennial report of the Schools Commission, which he selectively ignores, drew attention to the great disadvantage being suffered by non-government schools in new growth areas and drew attention to the priority of need for funds to be put into those areas. He will know that yesterday in an answer given after the one that he quoted I indicated that my reference was to the triennial report and not to the 1977 guidelines report. If there is any question of veracity, it is not I who lacks it.
Opposition senators interjecting-
– Honourable senators opposite well may laugh. However, I think that yesterday Senator Wriedt indicated I had referred to the Schools Commission with regard to level 1 and 2 schools. In fact, if he looks at Hansard he will find that the mote is in his own eye, not in mine.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Is the Minister aware that two members of the Unemployed Workers Movement were arrested and charged while handing out pamphlets at the Commonwealth Employment Service offices in Perth recently? The pamphlet is entitled ‘Rights and Legal Information if You’re Unemployed’ and contains advice of great importance to those people who find themselves without a job. Will the Minister advise who instigated the arrests and what charges have been laid? As already disadvantaged people can be even more seriously disadvantaged by not being aware of their legal rights, what action will be taken to incorporate the information contained in the document into official documents that would be readily available at all Commonwealth Employment Service and Department of Social Security offices?
-Senator Coleman has asked me a question about the arrest of two members of the Unemployed Workers Movement who were handing out pamphlets in Perth. It would appear that the question has nothing to do with the ministerial responsibility of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations or indeed my own responsibility as AttorneyGeneral for the Commonwealth of Australia. There appears to have been police action taken in Western Australia. The responsibility for that action rests with the State Government.
However, as Senator Coleman expressed concern about the material that was contained in the pamphlets which may be of some help to unemployed persons, I shall take the matter up with the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations to see whether he can ascertain the material contained in the pamphlets and whether there was anything of value in them which he may seek to provide to his officers as part of the assistance that his Department gives to the unemployed.
– I ask a supplementary question. As the Attorney-General is obviously loath to come right out and give me an answer, I will ask the question in this way: Will he say whether in actual fact officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service were the people who called the police to arrest the two members of the Unemployed Workers Movement, and what charges have been laid?
– I have no knowledge of the matter and if Senator Coleman had only asked her question a little more carefully and had been a little more specific in the first place I might have been able to assist her further. If she now asks whether officers of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations had anything to do with the arrest, I will pass that question on and endeavour to seek information from the Minister. However, the decision to make an arrest and the circumstances of the arrest are entirely matters within the province of the State Government of Western Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and I refer to a report in the Melbourne Sun on 28 October 1977 which quotes the Minister for Health as stating that there is no evidence of danger to humans in the use of chloroform in drugs and cosmetics. Is the Minister aware that, as a result of disclosures under the Freedom of Information Act in the United States of America, reports have revealed that there is a substantial danger of causing cancer in the use of chloroform in various forms? If the Minister for Health will not act to ban or curtail the use of chloroform will he at least reveal to the Parliament details of the known chloroform content of substances, including toothpaste, in order that the public can make its own judgment on the use of toothpaste taking into account the divergent views of medical authorities in the United States of America and elsewhere?
– I have some information from the Minister for Health supplied in response to the Press article mentioned by Senator Missen. The Minister states that he is aware of disclosures in the United States of America that chloroform when fed to mice and rats in very high doses resulted in increased kidney and liver tumours. He points out that the Food and Drug Administration did not regard these results as serious enough to warrant withdrawal of existing stocks from the market. The Minister is not aware of any evidence to indicate that the use of chloroform in human medicinal preparations and cosmetics, such as toothpaste, is dangerous to humans. Chronic toxicity studies in beagle dogs which were administered toothpaste containing large doses of chloroform for seven years showed no evidence of cancer. Beagles were used in these tests as the reaction of their metabolism to chloroform is similar to that of humans while that of mice and rats follows a different pathway.
Results of analyses of chloroform in toothpaste carried out for the Department of Health by the Australian Government Analytical
Laboratories were reported in the Melbourne Herald on 29 September 1977. Of the 41 samples of toothpaste tested ten were found to contain chloroform. Toothpastes containing chloroform and their levels of chloroform were Ipana White 0.2 per cent, Macleans Fluoride Mildmint 0.9 per cent, Macleans Fluoride Freshmint 0.9 per cent, Appeal-Green 0.7 per cent, Appeal-Red 0.7 per cent, Ultrabrite Coolmint 0.6 per cent, Fluoride Aquafresh 0.7 per cent, Macleans Spearmint 0.9 per cent, Macleans Fluoride Spearmint 0.9 per cent and Smokers Toothpaste 0.5 per cent. If teeth were cleaned twice a day and all toothpaste used was swallowed it would still amount to less than one thirtieth of that fed to the beagles.
– Is the Minister for Education aware whether there has been a decline in recent years in the number of students attending non-government schools? If there has been, what are the reasons for this decline? What impact does this situation have on the education system as a whole? What is the Government doing to rectify the matter?
– Freezing funds for education, including funds for non-government schools.
-Unlike Senator Wriedt ‘s government when it was in power, we are not widening the gap between government and nongovernment schools to the great disadvantage of the non-government schools, nor are we slowing progress to and beyond the Karmel targets. The reverse is true. In relation to government schools we have surpassed the Karmel and Schools Commission targets, to the great misery of those who hope that education will fail so that they can prove something.
– Look, they are laughing at you.
-Senator Wriedt is being helpful. During the years in which his Government was in power, there was a continuing decline in the number of students in nongovernment schools. Those students who did not go to non-government schools, of course, attended government schools, particularly those in the growth areas. The result was that whereas it costs the taxpayer of Australia about $400 a year in both State and Federal tax grants to maintain a student in a non-government school, it costs the taxpayer in excess of $1,000 a year to maintain a student in a government school. Of course, the forcing of this process denies freedom of choice. So for both economic reasons and reasons of principle, the trend was bad.
It is a fact that primarily the reason for this trend was the incapacity of the non-government sector to meet the ordinary demands of the families concerned, particularly in new growth areas. My Government has responded both to its observation and to the observation of the Schools Commission report for the 1976-78 triennium which was designed to show what ought to be the main trends in education policies. That report has dared to earmark a modest sum of $3m which Senator Ryan yesterday decided was to fund the elite schools in the non-government sector. I have looked up the phrases she used in Hansard and in the Canberra Times this morning.
– That is right.
– The fact is that the Australian Labor Party no doubt believes that the State Planning and Finance Committee of the Schools Commission, in allocating its priorities, gives priority to elite schools; otherwise Senator Ryan could not possibly use those phrases. The fact is that the amount of money we have allocated is to be allocated through the Planning and Finance Committee of the Schools Commission to the most needy schools as designated by the Commission. I am sorry that the Labor Party rejects these proposals. I am sorry that the Labor Party is aiming -
– The Schools Commission rejected this.
- Mr President, in every question and in every interjection in the last two years the Labor Party has made its stand on this matter perfectly clear. It has made it clear that it opposes this expenditure of money. Senator Wriedt says that we have created stagnation in the government school system. If exceeding beyond all promises the targets for government schools set by Professor Karmel and the Schools Commission is to stagnate, we are proud. If raising the total government schools standards in a number of States to at least level two, which is the second highest classification of standards, we are proud. If that is stagnation, let us hope we continue with that vigorous policy.
– My question is directed to the Minister presenting the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the entertainment entrepreneur, Mr Harry M. Miller, been appointed by the Government as a member of the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation?
Does Mr Miller have a property near Manilla in the New England district which is represented by the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, and is Mr Miller a member of Mr Sinclair’s campaign committee? Has Mr Miller also done promotional work for the National Country Party? Has the same Mr Miller also been appointed by this Government as a board member of Qantas Airways Ltd? Has the same Mr Miller also been appointed by the Government as chairman of the Silver Jublilee Appeal organisation? Will the Minister agree that it is practically impossible for anyone to perform competently his responsibilities in all these positions in addition to attending to his own business interests? Is this a blatant and glaring example of the Government providing a multiplicity of jobs for one of its boys?
-I understand that Mr Miller has received a number of appointments. I understand also that he is an extremely capable man. People who involve themselves with Qantas Airways Ltd tell me that he is one of the best directors they have had for quite a long time. I believe that he has interests in the northern part of New South Wales. I should imagine that he is entitled to be represented by a member of parliament; I should imagine that that is a right of all of us. I do not know about his activities in the National Country Party. I believe that his work in the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Appeal is extremely good. I understand also that he has the time to undertake these jobs, otherwise he would not take them on.
-Can the Minister for Education inform the Senate what progress has been made in the recruitment and training of Aboriginal teachers and teaching aides?
– A key feature of the Fraser Government’s policy for Aboriginal education has been to increase the emphasis on using Aborigines in education and on advancing their status and education, both as teachers and teaching aides. From memory, we now have more than 60 Aboriginal students at Batchelor undertaking a full course to become teachers. After completing that course they will be accepted by the Public Service Board and the Commonwealth Government as having full status as teachers, along with their nonAboriginal colleagues. We propose to increase this number because we believe that it is of great importance that the Aboriginal people should have the European forms of education in numeracy and literacy conveyed to them more and more, if possible, through the eyes, minds and feelings of those people who understand their full culture. So we are continuing with that program.
We have concentrated on teaching aides and we are in the process of developing in-service training for teaching aides, in both the north and the south. I am hopeful that in the complex at Ti Tree, to the north of Alice Springs we will be able to run a series of training schemes, including inservice training, particularly for the Centralians and for teaching aides. I believe that a great deal of improvement in Aboriginal training and education can be achieved if we allow those people who understand the Aboriginal culture and are able to interpret it to teach the education standards.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Heath taken note of the fact that large Victorian public hospitals are so short of funds that they are cutting back on drugs, reducing services, putting strict controls on the use of linen and are not putting on relief staff over the Christmas period? Is the Government concerned about the situation? What does it intend to do to alleviate the position?
– I am not aware of the matters to which the honourable senator has referred. I shall refer them to the Minister for Health. I draw attention to the hospital cost sharing arrangements which the Commonwealth Government has with State governments. If the honourable senator has instances of specific difficulties in Victorian hospitals which she can give to me I shall pass them on to the Minister for Health to ensure that the hospital cost sharing arrangements are working effectively for patients in public hospitals.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science and refers to an item on the Australian Broadcasting Commission news this morning about a new insecticide being developed by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Because of the serious threat presented to the Australian cereal grain industry by the rapid buildup of stored grain pests which are resistant to the commonly used insecticides, particularly malathion, can the Mister indicate to the Senate how effective the new insecticide will be for the control of stored grain pests? Can the Minister tell the Senate also whether the new insecticide could control fruit fly and codlin moth which at the moment prevent the export of Australian fruit to Japan?
– I cannot adequately answer the questions raised by the honourable senator. I take it that his interest is created by an announcement of the- Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research organisation within the past day or so in relation to an advance which as been made by scientists in the Division of Applied Organic Chemistry in Melbourne. It is said that they have synthetised a new group of potent bio-degradable insecticides called ‘insecticidal esters’ which appear to be harmless to mammals. CSIRO is now seeking companies interested in collaborating on developing and testing the insecticides to the commercial stage. These developments will take some time. I understand that it may be as late as 1981 before these tests are properly carried out. On the basis of the preliminary tests, the new compounds are amongst the most potent insecticides known to science. Yet massive doses of one of them injected into laboratory mice apparently produced no ill effects.
The honourable senator’s question referred to weevils. The announcement made indicated that in early tests the new compounds have shown activity against a very wide range of insect pests including the housefly, bushfly Queensland fruit fly, mosquito, hide beetles, cluster catepillar and granary weevil. That was the core of the honourable senator’s question. In summary, the results to date show that the best of the compounds- I understand there are 18 of them- are amongst the best insecticides that have been produced. It is considered that the compounds will probably have a very high potential as an insecticide for grain storage but it will perhaps be five years before this is resolved.
-I ask the Minister for Science about the Sirotherm project which is being conducted by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. Is he aware that this research involves certain particles containing iron oxide? Is he aware that the particles having been made magnetic flocculate strongly? When agitated they disperse and react rapidly. When agitation stops they flocculate once more. Will the Minister explain what that means? What is the prospect for this project?
-It is very attractive to me that some Opposition honourable senators, particularly the Leader of the Opposition, are showing some interest in scientific advancement in Australia. This can do nothing but good. I believe that the honourable senator is correct in the comments he has made about the Sirotherm project. Sirotherm is one of the most important advances that has been made by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. We have undertaken with ICI Australia Limited the development of a unit in South Australia which is now working well and will be of great importance. Sirotherm is based on a principle of brackish or impure water being pressed through resin beads. The honourable senator used some other terms. The impurities are left on those resin beads.
The honourable senator referred to flocculation. I shall need to check on exactly what happens in the various reactions. The simple explanation is that, when impure water is pressed through the beads, they attract the waste. This can be flushed off very quickly with warm water and the resin beads can be used again. This is a major advance. Other countries, including Japan, are now taking on these patents. This will be a major achievement for CSIRO and the wonderful Australian scientists associated with it.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Education. It relates to student allowances. What are the Government’s plans for Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowances for next year? I ask whether in view of rising costs increases are planned. If so, what is to be the degree of increase, and the degree of consistency compared with allowances of previous years?
-It is expected that next year Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme allowances will be available to some 107,000 tertiary students, compared with approximately 100,000 this year and some 95,800 last year. Thus, over a period of two years there will have been an increase of the order of 1 1 per cent to 12 per cent in the provision of assistance by way of increasing the number of allowances. Honourable senators will recall that when the Fraser Government came to office it found that student allowances of all kinds- TEAS, secondary, Aboriginal- had been frozen; that, indeed, the TEAS allowances had been frozen as at June 1974 prices. Therefore, in October 1976 the Fraser Goverment made substantial increases in the whole range of allowances, including TEAS allowances, amounting to up to 40 per cent and, in fact, exceeding the trend of inflation over the period since they had been frozen by the Whitlam Government. Thus, this year, there has been a significant improvement in TEAS allowances.
It is proposed next year to increase the dependent student away-from-home allowance, which is currently $1,976 a year or $38 a week, to $2,075 a year or $39.90 a week. The allowance for independent students, now standing at $2,236 a year or $43 a week, will be increased to $2,348 of $45.15 a week. The dependent spouse allowance, which is now $ 1 ,508 or $29 a week, in itself a substantially higher figure than the Whitlam rate, is to be increased to $1,623.80 or $31.40 a week. The basic means test has been liberalised, the aim being to put the thrust of our benefits where they can do the most good.
– My question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate relates to a question asked yesterday by Senator Douglas McClelland concerning the brochure entitled Uranium- Australia’s Decision’. I ask whether the Government actually imposed a charge on the Liberal Party for copies of the brochure on uranium, which the Liberal Party in New South Wales is distributing free of charge, but for which the Government charges $1 per copy at the Australian Government Printing Service? If no charge has been imposed, would the Minister agree that this is a blatant misuse of taxpayers’ funds for party political purposes?
-Those uranium kits were produced for members of the Parliament, not members of the Liberal Party. As I said yesterday, honourable members and senators may have as many copies as they wish. If they will send me names and addresses and where they want them delivered, I will have that done.
– I ask a supplementary question: Can the Minister tell me why the AGPS is still charging one dollar a copy?
– A charge is being made to members of the public, but members of the Parliament may have as many copies as they wish free of charge.
– How many?
-If you want 10,000 kits, tell me where you want them delivered and I will have them sent to you. The information is so good honourable senators should distribute it to their electors.
– I ask you, Mr President, whether you have heard it stated that many of the staff of the parliamentary dining room yesterday refused to serve at the parliamentary luncheon for His Excellency the Governor-General and his wife? Is it not a fact that all members of the dining room staff, with the exception of one person who was sick, attended yesterday, served and did an excellent job, as they always do? Will you, Sir, refute these rumours which so badly malign the loyalty of the parliamentary staff?
– To the best of my knowledge we were fully staffed yesterday. There may have been one staff member away sick but otherwise there was a full complement of staff available and, as the honourable senator said, they all did an excellent job.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Education. Is it likely that there will be increased competition for university places in Australia due to a combination of such factors as high youth unemployment, increased retention rates in upper secondary schools and, as outlined in the Government’s guidelines to the Tertiary Education Commission, no growth in new enrolments? Due to any such increase in competition, does the Minister expect fewer university places to be offered to special entry groups, such as nonmatriculants, adult matriculants and Aborigines?
-I think Senator Colston has failed to appreciate the main trends in university education. Over recent years members of the general public have decided, by their own decision-making, that universities are not necessarily preferable to either colleges or technical and further education institutions for the students in their families. There has been some alteration of the priorities of preference of families and therefore a voluntary reduction in the number of applications to universities. That is one trend. Equally, of course, the slowing down of the population trend is having its effect.
Secondly, Senator Colston should know that there is a surplus of teachers and, therefore, of teacher trainees in Australia. Some 8.3 per cent, I think, of the student population of universities are teacher trainees. The percentage probably would be higher than that if those in the faculties of arts who do an end on degree by choice afterwards were added. A voluntary choice is operating here. People realise that there will not be as many opportunities. So they are moving away from this field. There will be ample opportunities within the total tertiary education systemuniversities, colleges and technical and further education institutions- for all who are qualified and for all who seek to come forward.
As to the question of non-matriculation, a number of universities and colleges are now looking to specialise in this area. I have no evidence at all that there will be any impact on them from any pressures. To the extent that it can, the Government is encouraging those who are unemployed to undertake additional training because it believes that this is the best way for them to equip themselves for employment.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that Mr Khemlani of the loans affairs reputedly stayed at the Gateway Motel in Adelaide from 22 to 30 October this year? As Mr Khemlani is reported to have made telephone calls to Canberra, does the Minister believe that there is any possibility that he could be involved in planning the Australian Labor Party’s financial policy prior to the election campaign?
– You have great candidates if you have one who asks questions like that.
-I thank the future honourable member for Hawker for asking that question. It is well known that Mr Khemlani had two ministerial contacts in this country during the period of office of the previous Government. One was the late Mr Connor and the other was the honourable member for Hindmarsh, Mr Clyde Cameron. I think they were the two gentlemen in the Ministry of that Government who were most closely in contact with Mr Khemlani. If Mr Khemlani came back to Australia I should therefore imagine that, as Mr Connor has departed this life, he would most probably go back to his other old contact. That would not be surprising as I do not know anybody else overseas who would trust the Labor Party enough to lend it money. It would have to go off to old potato chips and monkey nuts to be able to do any dealings.
– Do you think they are having fund-raising breakfasts?
– I do not know whether the Labor Party is getting out any Iraqis to have breakfast at Blues Point Towers. I can hardly imagine Senator Mulvihill going to an Iraqi breakfast. Perhaps Senator Keeffe would not mind, but I do not know. Whom is it having out to breakfast to get some funds? I think it just goes to show that the Labor Party is in such disarray that it does not even know with whom to have lunch or dinner.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development and relates to conservation grants. On the assumption that the Australian Heritage Commission has broken up and reduced aggregate sums, can the Minister indicate whether the Australian Conservation Foundation and other organisations have been given a percentage of the $300,000? Just what is the position at the moment?
– I am not aware whether the Commission has divided the amount of money available to it or, if it has done so, what allocations have been made. My memory is that in past years- certainly it has been the practice of our Government- money has been allocated to the ACF and I imagine that it will continue to be so allocated. However, I will seek the information and let Senator Mulvihill have it.
– I ask the Minister for Education: What is the method of allocating capital funds for school buildings in the nongovernment sector? Is it possible for the so-called elite schools to receive those funds?
– That depends upon one’s definition of ‘elite’. The allocation of capital funds made available by way of direct grant from the Federal Government through the Schools Commission is done by the planning and finance committees set up in each State. They operate entirely freely and without any government or ministerial interference. They are widely representative of the community and their job is to study applications from the non-government sector in terms of merit, in terms of priority, and above all in terms of need. They then make recommendations to the Schools Commission, which examines those recommendations and then recommends them to the Minister. The allocation of capital funds is entirely on the basis of greatest need. There is no way in the world that the elite schools could get them. I can only regret that the Labor Party has rejected the concept of the $3m to go to the area of greatest need.
-Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware that on 1 April 1976 the Treasurer, when establishing the Foreign Investment Review Board, announced that the Board would advise the Government on the need for and scope of a foreign investment review Act, and consider the desirability of maintaining a register of foreign investment proposals? Is the Minister further aware that the Board in its first annual report tabled on 2 October failed to indicate that any progress had been made on those two matters, despite the fact that it is now 20 months since the Treasurer promised such action? Can we take it that after 20 months the Board is unable to advise on the need for and scope of a foreign investment review Act, or has the Board recommended against the need for such legislation?
-That question will have to go on notice. I have no information at the moment that I can provide.
– I ask the Minister for Education: Is it a fact that the recent decision of the Government to assist non-government schools in categories 1 and 2 by increasing grants to approximately 12 per cent of per capita government schools costs still does not approach the level of IS per cent for similar aid to those schools provided by the South Australian State Labor Government? Can the Minister explain why the Federal Labor Party has opposed the recent moves whilst the South Australian Labor Party apparently strongly supports such aid?
Senator Georges- Mr President, I rise to order. I have been patient this morning. I took some good advice which was given yesterday, which was to refrain from interjecting on the Minister. I find it very difficult to sit here and see a sort of pavlovian exercise. Somebody rings the bell and the Minister gets up and drools. We are getting to a position where the Minister is using a device to make rather lengthy statements on government policy. Mr President, I say to you that this is a serious misuse of Question Time. I know that we do not have to suffer this situation much longer- for a couple more minutes today and perhaps for another hour tomorrow.
– For another three years.
– I shall not respond to the interjection which the Leader of the Government in the Senate has made. Surely we must have some advice as to how we will proceed tomorrow. We will not need any more advice after 10 December. Mr President, I direct your attention to the fact that today the Minister has misused Question Time most shamefully.
– I cannot sustain the point of order. Information is being sought and is being given. I say again that replies, as with questions, should be as brief as possible and to the point.
-It is not surprising that there should be a conditioned reflex as between question and answer in regard to education because results have been so good that a pattern has now been established. If there is any inference by Senator Georges that the question asked of me by Senator Messner was prearranged, I invite Senator Messner to inform the Senate that the question was entirely spontaneous and was not, in fact, a contrived device. Therefore the question is fully eligible to be asked and answered. I invite the Senate and the community to understand why Senator Georges does not want this question answered. It exposes the fact that the Federal Labor Party alone of all Labor parties and political parties in Australia is implacably opposed to any assistance being given to non-government schools in general but particularly to schools at levels 1 and 2.
I am asked whether it is a fact that the $2m allocated to restore, over a period of some three or four years, the 20 per cent per capita grants system which the Australian Labor Party Government destroyed is achieving a level less than the South Australian Government maintains. The answer is yes, that is true. But the answer is that all other five State governments maintain 20 per cent per capita grants without means test at all. The Labor Party when in government maintained in both the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory 20 per cent per capita grants without means test. Now, no doubt by the strength of its criticism of this principle, the Labor Party is indicating quite clearly that if it is elected to government it will not continue to maintain 20 per cent per capita grants without means test in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. The electors ought to take note of that fact.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, by referring to a reply given by the Minister on 27 October 1977 to a question on notice by Senator Kilgariff. It concerns the establishment of a social welfare unit for Aborigines in the Northern Territory. I ask the Minister whether the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will extend the activities of the unit to cover Queensland, particularly north Queensland?
– I will give consideration to that question and discuss it with the Director-General to see whether there is reason why this sort of unit could not be extended to the northern part of Queensland.
– I have an answer for Senator Georges in respect of the Australian Wool Corporation. Senator Georges expressed concern last week about the rumours he had heard about the sale of 220,000 bales of wool with potential losses of great magnitude. I undertook to obtain information for him as soon as I could. I have the following information which I think will interest him. The Australian Wool Corporation has sold only 693 bales from its stocks located in Flushing during the two weeks ended 4 November 1977 with all sales being made in the first week of that period. The total value of sales was $247,700. These sales were made at Australian market levels, plus a charge to cover all carrying costs, prices thus being on a basis of c.i.f. Europe. Prices are never less than minimum reserve prices and include an appropriate market premium over this level. All sales made by the Corporation from its European stocks are made on this basis. Since the prices are on c.i.f. Europe basis, the other parts of the question do not really apply.
My information is that the Corporation has continued to support the Australian auction through its reserve price operation, and regards auction as the principal method of disposal of Australian production. The policy of establishing stocks of wool in overseas countries has been maintained to meet the urgent demands of textile processors for particular types of wool, thus meeting a demand which might otherwise result in a shift to other fibres.
-Earlier during Question Time today Senator Coleman asked me a question about the arrest of certain members of the Unemployed Workers Movement in Perth yesterday or the day before- I do not quite know which day it was. I have had inquiries made from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and I have to advise the Senate that officers of the Commonwealth Employment Service played no role at all in the arrest of representatives of the Unemployed Workers Movement.
The arrests arose because the persons involved were distributing pamphlets in the foyer of a building owned by the Colonial Mutual Life Assurance Society Ltd. The arrests were a result of a complaint lodged by the manager of the building and this led to the police attending and finally making the arrests after they had escorted persons from the building to which they had returned. In fact the officers of the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations suggested to the police they should drop the charges but we understand that the police are actually proceeding with the charges. As to the question of information for unemployed persons, I am advised that the rights of unemployed persons in relation to the unemployment benefit are set out in advice and documents available to unemployed persons at offices of the Department.
– I ask Senator Cotton whether he can give me immediately the answer that he has just given to the Senate because it is at variance with the information I have.
-I would be happy to accede to the request. The letter which forms the basis of my answer was made available to Hansard. However, the letter has been returned and I will have a photocopy of it made for the honourable senator.
– Last Wednesday, Senator Georges made a critical comment about the type of music that is played over the sound reinforcement system in Parliament House and asked that the standard be improved. As I am sure the honourable senator will acknowledge, tastes in music vary widely and any selection of programs for a large audience must of necessity involve some compromise. However, I have made inquiries into the procedure being followed in choosing programs and I can say that action has now been taken to provide a wider range of music than has hitherto been played.
-I seek leave to make a short comment.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I thank you, Mr President, for that information. I know that steps have been taken to improve the quality of music that is played over the sound reinforcement system. In fact, this morning we heard for the first time Beethoven’s Eroica symphony but unfortunately the sound was distorted because the tape was run at a slow speed. In fact the music was distorted to the pr>int where it was most disconcerting and certainly not pleasurable. However I was so upset about the quality of the recording that I saw the technician. It appears to me that in spite of the fact that there is a variety of music available and that we are to have both symphonic music as well as the other kind of music, to satisfy most tastes, we may as well have no music at all if the quality of the tapes is not improved.
– Stick to rock and roll.
-Even rock and roll has to be played at the right speed. One cannot play rock and roll at a slow speed because if one does the reproduction would become completely distorted. I bring to the attention of the Senate that there is a problem in respect of music being played over the system.
-I shall take note of the matter and see whether an improvement can be made.
– At Question Time on Thursday last, 3 November, Senator Knight drew attention to the broken and uneven state of the footpath at the front of Parliament House and asked whether some repair work could be undertaken to render it safe for the many persons who use it.
The area that the honourable senator referred to is a public footpath and its maintenance is not the responsibility of the parliamentary departments. However, I am advised that a survey of the work required is being made by officers of the National Capital Development Commission and that the Commission is hopeful that the necessary repair work will be completed before opening of the new Parliament occurs in 1 978.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Commonwealth Electoral Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977. Commonwealth Electoral (Redistribution) Bill 1977.
– Pursuant to clause 11 of the Sugar Agreement 1975, I present the annual report of the Fruit Industry Sugar Concession Committee for the year ended 30 June 1977. 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.
-by leave- I move:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 18 of the Dried Fruits Research Act 1971, I present the annual report of the Dried Fruits 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 at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 35 of the Law Reform Commission Act 1973, 1 present the annual report of the Law Reform Commission for the year ended 30 June 1 977.
– Pursuant to section 17 of the Australian Capital Territory Consumer Affairs Ordinance 1973, 1 present the annual report of the operations of the Consumer Affairs Council and Consumer Affairs Bureau of the Australian Capital Territory for the year ended 30 June 1977 in substitution for the paper tabled on 27 October 1977.
-I present a progress report from the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment on its science policy reference. The progress report gives an outline of some policy matters for science and technology in the area of the physical sciences.
Ordered that the report be printed. Senator JESSOP-by leave-I move:
That the Senate take note of the report.
The Senate on 7 April 1976 referred to the Committee, for report from time to time, the following matter.
At the time, the Committee was engaged in an inquiry into the impact on the Australian environment of the woodchip industry. It was not until May this year that the Committee found itself in a position to begin a public inquiry into the science policy reference. I announced to the Senate on 27 May that because of the wide scope of the reference, the inquiry would, in the first instance, be restricted to matters related to industrial research and development. This inquiry is now well advanced. To date the Committee has received 133 written submissions and has held public hearings in Sydney and Canberra. The Committee expects to conduct further hearings in other capital cities early next year. In the course of its inquiry into industrial research and development, the Committee has accumulated and examined a considerable amount of material relevant to the first part of the science policy reference, most of it relating to the physical sciences. The Minister for Science (Senator Webster) last week invited the Committee to present its views on any policy matters for the forthcoming years which it believes are in the interest of Australian science. This prompted the Committee to prepare the progress report now before the chamber, covering the first part of the science policy reference.
The Committee wishes to emphasise that the report is limited to a general overview of information and material acquired by the Committee in the course of its work. The Committee has not yet launched a public inquiry specifically into Australian science policy, thus the report should in no sense be regarded as presenting a comprehensive survey of the topic. It aims to do no more than report progress made by the Committee in some areas, and suggest areas which have come to the Committee’s notice as being relevant to an Australian science policy. The Committee hopes, in due course to examine some of these in greater detail. In preparing the report, the Committee felt that any science and technology policy for Australia needed to take into account matters such as national advantages, strengths and weaknesses, special problems and existing international responsibilities. It is also necessary to give due thought to Australia’s geographic position; its size and the distribution of its relatively small population; its climate and its mineral resources; its trade and industrial potential; as well as various social factors.
A national science and technology policy also needs to consider the separate and special characteristics of science and technology themselves, at the same time trying to bridge the gap which the Committee believes exists between them. This need has been put rather aptly by Professor G. M. Badger, now Chairman of the Australian Science and Technology Council. Professor Badger wrote in an article in 1975:
The marriage of science and industry can be very fruitful and produce abundant progeny. The trouble is that it is an uneasy marriage: the partners are often reluctant and we have to keep pushing them together.
Before concluding I would like to highlight two areas of the report, one covering procedures necessary for policy formulation, the other the need for improved scientific and technical liaison. The Committee has not yet been able to conduct a detailed study of methods needed to formulate and apply a national science and technology policy. Nevertheless, it has been struck by the practicality of the procedures adopted in Norway. These procedures were brought to the Committee’s attention in a submission from the Department of Science to the inquiry into industrial research and development. They are described in pages 18 to 21 of the progress report. Norway and Australia are similar in a number of respects relevant to science and technology. It is accordingly likely that procedures found suitable and successful there may serve as a useful model for adaptation here.
It is stated in the report that weaknesses appear to exist in present arrangements for liaison between the government and various sectors of the community interested in the results of government research. Again, as in Professor Badger’s statement, ‘the partners are reluctant and we have to keep pushing them together’. Perhaps rather than trying to force them together, a better result might be obtained by endeavouring to develop their inherent good intentions, bringing about a closer relationship through a marriage guidance counsellor. For this the Committee visualises the establishment of an office of scientific and technological liaison, possibly within the Department of Science, which would help to maintain effective communication between the partners. The directory of research currently under preparation by the Department of Science could be regarded as a helpful first step in this direction. I commend the report to honourable senators.
– In speaking to this motion I shall take
Senator Jessop ‘s remarks a little further. He referred to the marriage between science and industry but I hope that when the report of the Standing Committee on Science and the Environment is finalised we will not have a shot gun marriage between some of the elements involved in the industrial scene. The Scandinavian system of government and private enterprise operations has a lot to commend it. Australia and to a lesser or even the same degree Latin America have had big overseas corporations operating within their countries and there will need to be sufficient probing to ensure that the results of scientific research and discoveries are pooled for Australia’s advancement. At this stage it would be wrong to pre-judge any of the witnesses who gave evidence on the extent to which Australia’s interests are on an even break with the interests of overseas corporations. I know of two giant corporations, which I will not name, one of which has been a contributor of research funds and the other has not. It might well be that in the light of subsequent testimony before the Committee we will get an opportunity to see whether all corporations are prepared to play their part in full.
One of the difficulties in presenting reports, as the Chairman of the Committee outlined, is the time which elapses between the presentation of the report and when the Government acts on it. The Chairman and members of this Committee are in a happy position because our report on wood chips did give the Government a nudge to accelerate research into forest products and forests generally. So I think it can be said that this report also is something for the Government to latch on to.
I refer now to the spread of desert acreages. Simpsons Gap not so long ago was used extensively for cattle operations but over the last three or four years has been resurrected and now is a virtual laboratory of Australian plant life. This indicates that lessons already have been learnt without findings having first been made by a committee. The CSIRO research publication 3 issues ago sounded a warning bell in relation to the over-stocking of the Northern Territory and I hope that the National Country Party senator from the Northern Territory listened to that warning. People who believe in continuous production without looking at its effects upon the environment are in for a rude awakening.
This report is only the beginning. There are signposts in it and I hope that the Government, without waiting for the Committee ‘s final recommendations, will, through the CSIRO and its other agencies, maintain a fairly high tempo of research. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-I present the third and final report of the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Commerce on its inquiry into the effects of currency alterations and changes to manufacturing industry protection on employment and inflation, including its effects on the prices of manufactured goods.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Motion (by Senator Ryan) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to repeal the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) Act 1977.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Ryan) proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Ryan moving in respect of the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) (Repeal) Bill 1977: That this Bill be now read a second time.
– The question is that the motion be agreed to. Those of that opinion say aye’ to the contrary ‘no’. I think that the noes have it.
- Mr President, can I speak in support of the motion?
– No, it has been lost.
– Has a division been called for?
- Mr President, before we move to take the division, I wish to ask what is the objection to Senator Ryan moving on this matter?
– Standard practice seems to be imposed here because Senator Ryan may not have been aware that she should have proceeded immediately. Is that the position, Mr President? Under the Standing Orders she should have been allowed to speak to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– The situation now is that there is a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders before the Chair.
- Mr President, as I understand the position, you called whether the ayes had it or the noes had it and determined that the noes had it. The next procedure open to the Senate is to divide on whether your determination was correct. That is the only course open to the Senate.
- Mr President, I would have liked to speak to the motion. I was on my feet.
- Mr President, it is not a matter of what people would like. Senator Ryan moved that under Standing Order 448 so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent her from making a second reading speech. She moved her motion, you called whether the ayes had it or whether the noes had it and you stated that the noes had it. All that is open now is to call for a division on that motion.
– Do honourable senators require a division to be called?
Opposition senators- Yes.
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Ryan moving in respect of the Commonwealth Employees (Employment Provisions) (Repeal) Bill 1 977: That this Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative. Motion (by Senator Ryan) agreed to:
That the second reading be made an order to the day for the next day of sitting.
That unless otherwise ordered, the Senate at its rising adjourn till tomorrow at 10 a.m. and that, unless otherwise ordered, the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate have effect at 4.30 p.m.
I advise honourable senators that I hope we will all be departing from this place at about 4.30 p.m. tomorrow- that we will be leaving not later than 4.30 p.m.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Cotton) 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 Brigalow Lands Agreement Amendment Bill 1977 and the Beef Industry (Incentive Payments) 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 Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
I understand that the Opposition will agree to the second reading speeches being incorporated in Hansard. Therefore, I seek leave to have them incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speeches read as follows-
Brigalow Lands Agreement Amendment Bill
The purpose of this Bill is to obtain the approval of Parliament for the Government to enter into an agreement with the Queensland Government to amend the existing Brigalow Lands Agreement Act 1962. Under this Act, which was first enacted in 1962, and subsequently amended in 1965 and 1967, the State is obligated to repay loans, together with interest, made to the State by the Commonwealth for the purchase and development of the brigalow lands. The period of the loan extends over a 20-year period with interest at concessional rates. In a similar manner, the settlers in these areas are required to repay loans made to them by the State.
In recent years, the settlers have found themselves in financial difficulties. These difficulties have arisen through causes outside their own control and have largely resulted from the disastrous financial situation in the beef industry generally. To assist these needy settlers, the Commonwealth is willing to grant concessions to the State Government, in respect of repayments to the Commonwealth, on the condition that similar concessions are made available by the State to the settlers in the brigalow areas. It is proposed that a 12 month moratorium on repayments by the State will apply. Principal repayments will be deferred and spread over following years and interest which would normally accrue over the period would be waived. The concession is being provided by the Commonwealth on the condition that the State Government agrees to extend a similar concession to settlers, according to need, for an average two-year period.
The period over which the repayments are made, at present, is 20 years. The Commonwealth has agreed to extend this period to 27 years, in relation to the State’s commitment to the Commonwealth, on the condition that the State similarly extends the repayment period applying to the settlers. The Government believes that this concession, together with other means of assistance available to beef producers will be of material assistance to those needy settlers in the brigalow areas of Queensland. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Beef Industry (Incentive Payments) Bill 1977
The purpose of the Bill is to provide for incentive payments to be made to beef producers who carry out certain recognised animal health and husbandry procedures. The provisions of the Bill will help to alleviate the very serious cash flow position of beef producers, while serving the national interest by maintaining essential animal health activity. The period during which the scheme will operate is related to the performance of procedures between 23 September 1977 and 22 September 1978. The Bill provides for a basic eligibility criterion, which is the ownership of 50 or more cattle kept for beef production on 30 June 1977. Eligible persons may be paid $10 per head, to a maximum of $2,000, in respect of recognised procedures which include dipping and other treatments for external parasites, drenching and other treatments for internal parasites, tuberculin testing and blood sampling and vaccination for brucellosis and spaying of female cattle less than two years of age.
Provision is made for the Minister to accept other disease control measures as recognised procedures. This will enable approval of procedures not specifically mentioned but which fall within the spirit of the Bill. The Bill provides that partnerships, companies and trusts will qualify for payments as if they were individual owners. In order to expedite payments and achieve administrative economies, claims will only be accepted in a form approved by the Minister. Claim forms will be printed and distributed as soon as possible. It is intended that claims will be lodged with the Department of Primary Industry, Canberra. The completed claim will include a declaration by the owner. Provision is also made for supporting declarations in respect of eligibility and, when appropriate, in respect of performance of the procedures themselves. The Bill provides penalties for false declarations. There is also provision for appropriation of the revenue. 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 Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave of the Senate to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to provide the legislative framework for the establishment of an Australian Rural Bank, in fulfilment of LiberalNational Country Party policy. As mentioned in the primary industry policy statement which we issued in 1975, access to capital on suitable terms and conditions has been an increasingly serious problem for the farm owner-operator. We considered longer term loans essential and undertook to establish a national rural bank in conjunction with the trading banks and other lenders in the rural sector to provide credit for investment in land, machinery and plant and for various other purposes to which I will refer later in this speech.
Before outlining the purposes and provisions of the Bill in detail, I wish to pay tribute, on behalf of the Government, to the work undertaken over many months in the development of this measure by my colleagues, the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in his capacity as Minister Assisting the Treasurer. We have also had the benefit of valuable advice provided by the Government Members Rural Committee. This Bill is the product of the most extensive processes of investigation and consultation.
The Australian Rural Bank will be unique in a number of respects. It will be the first financial institution of its kind set up under the aegis of Commonwealth legislation for the sole and specific purpose of facilitating the provision of finance to primary producers. It will be unique also in the way that the Commonwealth Government will be working in close partnership with private sector financial institutions in the establishment, operations and policy decisions of the Bank. I will explain later the ways in which this will be achieved.
The Government’s primary consideration in providing for the establishment of this new facility has been to devise a way of enabling credit to be made available to primary producers, including fishermen, for significantly longer terms than has generally been available up to the present. Many farming, forestry and fishing enterprises involve expenditures which yield returns over extended periods. The cash flows from these investments frequently take some years to reach their potential, but then have life expectancies of many years. Under these circumstances producers can be discouraged from embarking on many worthwhile development projects by the relatively short repayment terms often required by traditional lending sources. Thus, our purpose in proposing this measure is to increase the availability of loan funds for primary production by facilitating the provision of longer term loans to primary producers than would otherwise be practicable.
It is not the Government’s wish to restrict the purposes for which refinance loans by the Australian Rural Bank may be made available. The primary consideration will be the financial viability of any particular proposal and this will remain a matter for negotiation between borrowers and lenders and be based on normal commercial consideration. We have in mind, however, that funds will be available for the refinancing of loans for such purposes as the purchase of land, fixed and structural improvements, machinery, stock, farm equipment, fishing vessels and facilities and for the expansion of existing farm development and fishing projects as well as the reconstruction of existing debts. While loans are envisaged for periods from 10 to 30 years, it would not be realistic to extend repayment periods beyond the expected life of the secured assets. For such purposes as machinery and livestock purchases, therefore, loans with shorter repayment periods would often be more appropriate.
The purposes which I have outlined will be achieved without the creation of a large, and therefore expensive, new direct lending institution. The Bank will operate as a re-financing institution, meaning that it will borrow funds for lending to other existing financial institutions who will in turn on-lend the funds to individual primary producers. Thus, the new Bank will work through and with existing institutions, and not in competition with them.
The Bill makes provision for the use of the refinance facilities by banks and other lenders. In accordance with the Schedule, the precise range and types of lenders to be granted access will be a matter for consideration. It is the Government’s aim, however, that there be wide participation; in particular it is envisaged that the Commonwealth Development Bank will be able to re-finance loans to primary producers through this new facility. It is expected that on the basis I have outlined the new Bank will be able to operate with only a relatively small staff and administrative apparatus. Its main role will be to raise funds, for ultimate use in the rural sector, generally for longer terms than are available to the trading banks.
I turn now to outline the main provisions in the Bill. Clause 4 gives the Governor-General power to grant a banking authority to a company with the name Australian Rural Bank Limited. The banks have indicated their willingness to cooperate in this venture. Under clause 5, however, the power to grant a banking authority shall only be exercised if the company’s Memorandum and Articles of Association conform to the provisions set out in the Schedule to the Act. This will ensure that the Bank’s general objectives are consistent with those which the Government has in mind and to which I have already referred. It will also ensure the Government’s right to participate in the Bank as a share-holder, as well as providing for some directors to be designated by the Treasurer on behalf of the Government. The Treasurer will designate a person to be chairman, the Government’s intention being that the Chairman will be a person of independent standing. The Treasurer will also designate a person to represent the interests of the Commonwealth and two persons to represent the interests of primary producers. Conditions may be attached to the granting of the banking authority and this will be a further means by which the Government will be able to influence the policies of the Bank if and to the extent considered necessary to achieve the Government’s objectives.
Clause 7 of the Bill provides that the Treasurer may make grants or loans to the Bank on terms and conditions determined by him. This provision may be used to enable loans to primary producers to be made on terms more favourable than would otherwise be practicable. The precise ways in which this provision will be used can only be determined after consultation with the Bank when it is established and in the light of prevailing circumstances in the economy and in financial markets and of course in the light of budgetary circumstances. The Senate may be assured, however, that our general aim will be to keep interest rates to primary producers as low as practicable consistent with all the relevant considerations.
Under clause 8 any funds provided by the Commonwealth to the Bank may be provided from moneys appropriated by Parliament or, in the case of loans to the Bank, from amounts held in the income equalisation deposits trust account. Use of the latter source will, however, be subject to regulations. Clause 9 of the Bill provides for the Treasurer to be kept informed of the Bank’s policies and proposed policies and also requires the Bank to consult with the Treasurer at his request. Under clause 10, the Treasurer will be required to table in Parliament copies of the Bank’s annual report together with a separate report on action taken under this part of the legislation. This will ensure that Parliament is kept fully informed of developments under the legislation. Clause 1 1 provides for the making of regulations, including for the purpose of obtaining and publication of statistical and other information.
The remaining clauses in the Bill provide for appropriate amendments to the Banking Act so as to give the new institution full bank status and to place upon it the obligations and privileges attaching to that status. The amendments closely follow those made in 1967 in relation to the Australian Resources Development Bank. The Bank will, of course, be subject to general banking and monetary policies as appropriate. Honourable senators will observe that, although the new Bank will be working very much in cooperation with existing banking and other financial institutions, the legislation provides a number of means through which the Government will be able to take necessary action to ensure that the operations of the Bank meet the Government’s objectives. I refer in particular to:
I appreciate, Mr President, that honourable senators will be interested to know when the new Bank will be established and begin operations. Work will commence immediately in conjunction with the banks with a view to establishment of the new institution at the earliest practicable time consistent with the obvious requirements in relation to incorporation, staffing, location of premises and so on. The Senate will be kept informed on these matters. The Government, in proposing this measure, is convinced that it will make a significant contribution to improving the credit facilities available to primary producers, and that it will do so in an efficient and economical manner. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 7 November on motion by Senator Carrick:
That these Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Cotton) proposed:
That the Bills be now read a first time.
– I rise at this stage to speak on the first reading of these Bills to raise matters that are of some concern to the electors in Victoria in particular. I refer to matters which have come out of the inquiry into land deals in Victoria and, in particular, to what might appear to be the role of the Treasurer, Mr Lynch, in some of these land deals in or near his electorate of Flinders. Inquiries have been based on evidence which has been given before the inquiry into the Victorian Housing Commission about land purchases by one Mr Peter Leake. In a letter to the Leader of the Opposition, Mr E. G. Whitlam, dated 25 October, the Treasurer confirmed that Mr Leake was Chairman of the Liberal Flinders Electorate Committee from 6 October 1972 to 12 September 1974. Previously Mr Leake was Chairman of the Westernport Regional Planning Authority. At that time he had been employed by the speculative Colortone company group controlled by a Mr Rene Lipton, who engaged in manipulative land dealings and developments. After surrendering chairmanship of the Westernport Regional Planning Authority, Mr Leake set up Nandina Investments Pty Ltd, a land development company. Mr Leake gave evidence before the inquiry on 26 October about his involvement with Stumpy Gully Estates- rather a cute name. He said:
We purchased allotments, I think this is Nandina, we purchased about 60 allotments and I am very vague on it, but I think it was around 1973 or late 1972.
When he was asked whether any other person was involved Mr Leake answered:
We sought a financier in that venture. I am trying to think of the company’s name. I believe it was Grosvenor Nominees, which was a company associated with a firm of accountants.
When asked what persons were involved with that finance company he answered:
It was my understanding it was the family of one, I think, perhaps the wife or a trust organisation of Mr Phillip Lynch.
According to a report in the Australian Financial Review of 3 November, the directors of Grosvenor Nominees are the partners of the accounting firm Irish, Young and Outhwaite. One of them, Mr Gary Andrews, was quoted as saying that Grosvenor acted merely as a nominee company and that if people were uncomfortable about their names appearing in a share register they could use Grosvenor to register their holdings. Thus the Treasurer appears to have been involved in a speculative land deal with his political associate Mr Leake. The Treasurer appears to have used the legal devices of nominee companies and family trusts to screen his involvement. Treasurers of Australia should not be operating on the fringe of the market place using legal devices to disguise their real identity. As the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has said, it is not only what is done but also the way that it is done that is important. The Australian people can only wonder at the motives of the Treasurer in failing to reveal his real interests. Treasurers should not be involved in putting up fronts to disguise their interests in land gambles.
The Treasurer, who was absent from Question Time in another place on 3 November, must frankly and promptly reveal the full nature and extent of his dealings in land on the Mornington Peninsula and, in particular, his financial relationships, personal and political, with Mr Leake, whose relations with Ministers in the Hamer Government in securing development permits and raising election funds have been exposed before the inquiry in recent weeks. I emphasise the need for the Treasurer to give a frank and prompt explanation. It was he who, with the present Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), recommended Mr Fancher to the Premier of Queensland on the eve of the last Federal elections. We know now that Mr Fancher was then already financially unsound. He has now been made bankrupt on the petition of the Australian Telecommunications Commission, which he bilked of $17,063.06 for overseas telephone calls made at the Government’s instigation in November and December 1975 and January 1976. We know too that the Treasurer has taken four to seven weeks to answer questions on that scandal. He can no longer cover up this scandal and the Prime Minister should not abet him -in covering it up.
It is already seven weeks since Mr Whitlam put a question on notice to the Treasurer about his relations with Mr John Bracey, the sinister character mentioned by Mr Richard Todd in his notarised statement incorporated in the House of Representatives Hansard on 19 May 1976. Mr Bracey stated that, in the run-up to the last election, the honourable member for Flinders fronted up with his secretary, Andrew Hay, to Mr Bracey ‘s Sydney office and spent three hours with him. It is noted also that early in the campaign in 1975, one Mr Cooke held a cocktail party for Phillip Lynch at the Manyung Gallery, Frankston. It raised about $2,000. These funds were made available to Mr Lynch for campaign purposes. The function was never approved by the Flinders Area Finance Committee and was thus an instance of direct fund raising for Mr Lynch by Mr Cooke. No one seems to be quite sure what happened to the money.
Finally, I ask these questions: Is it a fact that Stumpy Gully Estates, the land in which the Treasurer or his family company had a financial interest, was zoned for conservation or as an area of special significance by the Westernport Regional Planning Authority prior to Mr Peter Leake taking up his position as chairman of Mr Lynch ‘s electorate committee on 6 October 1972? Was the zoning of the land in question altered in any way after 6 October 1 972? Was the original zoning of the land altered in the 12 months prior to 6 October 1972? Is it a fact that the use of the land in question was at all times a matter for the discretion of the Westernport Regional Planning Authority of which Mr Peter Leake was Chairman prior to his association with the Treasurer?
-On the first reading of this Bill I return to the question of the Australian Union of Students Student Travel. I still have concern about the viability of the moratorium which is being constructed by AUS Student Travel in order to try to trade out of its difficulties. I remind the Senate that, for this moratorium to be successful, it needs to generate enough revenue to cover the expenses of the travel service, to make a profit and to repay the unsecured creditors such as the Australian Union of Students which recently put in another $50,000 as an unsecured loan. It must repay also the moratorium instalments which in the first six months will be $317,000 and which next year will amount to $635, 100 if I have been able to read and analyse the documents correctly. I believe I have. A very significant amount of money is required to make this moratorium work.
I have a continued interest in AUS Student Travel. I am not convinced that it is viable. I am concerned about the students who travel with the service and that they should be properly protected. I have looked at the AUS feasibility study which it produced after it went into liquidation in which it proposed the means by which it could trade out of its difficulties. The AUS feasibility study assumes questionable practices which are not in accord with the regulations applying to the travel industry in this country and which would not be allowed if the rules were being properly enforced. My interest is to try to identify the amount of income which could be available to AUS Student Travel to achieve its aim of generating enough income to get itself out of its present financial difficulties. Firstly, I remind the Senate that the AUS Student Travel feasibility study assumed a 40 per cent loss in its market. That is its own assumption of the effect of going into liquidation as it did. We are looking at a contracted market over the one it traditionally had. We need to examine what the market itself is. The feasibility study helps here. It assumes a revenue base of $2.2m on the basis of a number of elements. The first is commissions earned in Asia on scheduled services, but there is some doubt whether this is a viable source of income. The feasibility study states:
The Orient Airlines Association Committee are endeavouring to regulate pricing in Asia. Malaysia is a particular area (also Singapore, Bangkok). It is not expected that they will be successful, however the position should be watched.
Commission earnings in Asia are dependent upon the nations themselves being unsuccessful in regulating their own markets. In the same way the AUS feasibility study looks to income from the United Kingdom. Here again, the situation is far from rosy for AUS Student Travel. I quote again from the feasibility study. It states:
This area is under present pressure from the Board of Airlines BARUK They are supported by the Board of Trade and have appointed an IATA inspector to police the market. Already AUS have had difficulties and if the Board decides they really could close AUS down. The revenue into AUS of $200,000 commissions could slide plus the flow of students to charter flights in Asia.
There are two sources of income which immediately are on very shaky ground. There are other sources of income. There are a few sources associated with the sale of accommodation plus travel. That source of income remains available to AUS. There is also the sale of Eurail tickets.
These are very small sources of income and certainly not enough to generate $600,000 a year in moratorium repayments. Without’ those repayments coming in on schedule every quarter, this travel service cannot succeed in trading out of its difficulties.
It is relevant to examine the potential sources of legal income, derived within the regulations, available to AUS Student Travel inside Australia. AUS is looking to the commission on scheduled services- the people who travel by scheduled airlines. AUS Student Travel in its own assessment of the situation notes that its revenue from scheduled flights will be about $3,500,000 in a normal year. Most of the passengers on scheduled flights are travelling to and from the charter gateways. In other words, they are chartered passengers getting to or from the point of departure or the eventual destination of the charter. Secondly, AUS Student Travel has looked to commissions on charters. It set its charter income for the year at about $6m. The interesting point is that it is not certain that AUS Student Travel is legally entitled to any income from either of these two sources.
The oral evidence given to Senate Estimates Committee C and written answers subsequently indicate that it is highly unlikely that there is any legitimate source of income available to AUS Student Travel either from scheduled flights or from charters. If this is so, there must be real doubt that this travel service has a capacity to generate the income to trade out if it works within the rules. The evidence received by Estimates Committee C shows firstly that AUS Student Travel is not a travel agent accredited to the International Air Transport Association. Because it is not an IATA accredited travel agent or an IATA bonded travel agent, it misses out on certain obligations. But it also misses out on all the privileges which accrue to proper travel agents. It is not entitled to commission from the airlines at any time for any work that it does.’ That should be understood. AUS Student Travel has no entitlement to any commission from any airline inside Australia for work that it does. It is not entitled to the commission payable to IATA agents. For example, if scheduled flight tickets are issued AUS Student Travel cannot claim any kind of commission for doing this. It is not entitled to commission for the work it does for Trans-Australia Airlines. I know that is true. A written answer from TAA to the Parliament stated:
No commission was paid by TAA to AUSST . . .
We know there is no commission coming from TAA. Always assuming that the relationship between TAA and AUS Student Travel is exactly what it seems to be, it is in fact a most remarkable relationship. Here is a situation where a travel service is not entitled to any commission yet gives all its business to one airline, thereby creating a monopoly position. But, there it is. That is the information given to the Parliament, so whatever its source of income, it cannot be TAA. Regardless of all the work it did for TAA, and all the debts it left TAA holding, no commission was payable in that situation.
– Where do they say the $6m commission comes from that they expect to get on scheduled flights?
- Senator Wright asks a very pertinent question. They actually say that they expect $6m revenue. The next question is: How much commission? As I will demonstrate, they are entitled to no commission. Commission can go to IATA bonded agents only. I will further demonstrate that commission splitting is highly irregular and forbidden, so it is hard to see where, operating legally, this travel service is to obtain its income.
The whole relationship with TAA is a subject to which I could return on another day, but it is incredible that that airline, in its explanations to this Parliament, should claim that it has a commercial relationship with AUS Student Travel and for that reason offers its special arrangements. In fact, it is not a commercial relationship. AUS Student Travel is a travel agent, registered as such, and should be treated by TAA as it treats other travel agents. The work that it has done for TAA is no different from that done by other agents when they write tickets. Of course TAA has said, ‘A limited amount of free-of-charge travel for AUSST employees travelling for business purposes was made available by TAA’. I would like to know how much free-of-charge travel was provided.
– They call it a contra arrangement.
– Enough to make it a good proposition to give all its travel business in Australia to the one airline? How much is a limited amount? We can return to that another day because it is extraneous to what we are discussing now.
AUS Student Travel might say it is going to draw its income from commission on chartered flights, and it does do a lot of charter work. It apparently expects to retain a privileged position on charters because its feasibility study under the heading ‘ Charter Program ‘ reads:
The total chaner program is dependent on the maintaining of the dispensation of the affinity 50,000 rule. This allows AUS to sell to all university students in Australia, not campus by campus.
So now we know it depends for its continued existence upon the very privileged position it has had for some years. The study continues:
Clarification should be sought prior to a decision to trade.
It then discusses the charter position. From the first evidence we received, we understood that AUS was entitled to 5 per cent commission on charter flights, but it appears that that commission is payable only to an IATA bonded agent and we know that AUS Student Travel does not enjoy that status.
– I call this nit-picking.
- Senator Georges finds this difficult to accept. Perhaps he will be interested to hear the answers that were given to the Estimates Committees by Qantas. Qantas said:
Qantas does not pay commission to AUS Student Travel Pty Ltd. However, in the case of charters, if arrangements are made through an IATA outlet, for example World Travel Services . . .
Interesting, is it not, Senator Georges, that Qantas mentions that particular IATA outlet-
So now we discover that the only people who can get the commission on charter flights are the IATA bonded agents. Thus, AUS Student Travel can look to no income from the 5 per cent commission payable on charters. It certainly cannot if the system is operating properly and legally, under adequate supervision and security We understand that AUS has placed great store on its income from charters.
Let me return for a moment to the subject of World Travel Services. Qantas, in its answer, chose to mention that organisation as an IATA outlet. I also directed attention in the Estimates Committee to a possible tie-up between World Travel Services and AUS Student Travel, and recall that it attracted points of order from certain honourable senators who felt that my questions were without relevance; but the following statement was made to the Department of Transport by AUS Student Travel:
Mr Heifitz of World Travel Service Holdings is a co-opted member of the Travel Board of AUS, but is not a director of AUS Student Travel Pty Ltd.
So there is a tie-up between an IATA outlet and AUS Student Travel. I understand that most AUS charters with Qantas are made through this IATA agent, which then picks up the 5 per cent commission but that does not explain where AUS Student Travel can look to raise the more than $600,000 it needs each year over and above expenses in order to pay off the moratorium on the debt which it ran up. This is what I want answered.
It does not end there. One is actually not allowed to profit from charters, Mr Deputy President. Charter flights are supposed to be on a kind of co-operative or mutual basis, to help share expenses. Actually, IATA rules forbid charging for charters in order to make a profit. Because I know that some honourable senators are interested, I will quote from IATA resolution 045 (4) (vii) as follows: the aggregate of amount paid for the air transportation by the group or members of the party to be transported does not exceed the amount charged by carrier for the charter except that reasonable incidental expenses will be allowed, but not to provide a profit for any person concerned with the charter, and provided that any amount collected for such expenses, not used for such expenses, shall be refunded.
In fact, it is not permissible to load the cost of one’s charters for profit purposes. It is certainly quite outside the rules laid down by IATA as representing proper behaviour. The question then arises: Where does that leave AUS Student Travel, in seeking revenue? There are the minor areas of activity such as selling a few Eurail tickets, and arranging certain accommodation and tours. That leaves the area of the SATA tickets, which are really central to the whole issue of what is going on. It becomes clear that they play a major part in the plans of AUS Student Travel. If I may quote once more from the feasibility study which AUS produced, under the heading ‘SATA tickets’, it reads as follows:
The use of SATA tickets should continue as otherwise airlines have to use IATA tickets and indicate published fares. If SATA agreement was in danger AUS would have problems.
Of course, it is a problem. Firstly, it seems that a very large part of the debt owing to Qantas Airways Ltd by AUS Student Travel may have been in the form of these strange SATA tickets because after AUS ran into insolvency Qantas continued to honour some pre-written tickets. They were obviously tickets that had not been paid for because the information given to the Senate by Qantas stated that after the failure of AUS Student Travel on 10 August, Qantas honoured tickets issued by AUS Student Travel for travel on its scheduled services to the amount of $646,858. Over $640,000 worth of tickets had been written but had not been paid for. There is no IATA travel agent around who could get that kind of deal or who could get away with that kind of operation.
The bank settlement plan which governs the behaviour of IATA bonded agents would have it close its doors if those tickets were not paid for within two weeks. But the best part of two-thirds of a million dollars worth of tickets were floating around, which Qantas honoured. It appears that these SATA tickets are not paid for when they are issued. No price appears on the front of them. Goodness knows what arrangements exist or what prices exist. Qantas could end the speculation by telling us the prices which are charged for SATA tickets. Any time it wants to do so it can end the speculation. AUS Student Travel could tell us. The student concerned goes on his trip. The ticket is redeemed. It goes through a central office in, I believe, Amsterdam. At that stage the documentation is completed and a charge is made. Here we have the student travel service using SATA tickets. Goodness knows what financial arrangements exist for the cost of the tickets.
It is on that basis that AUS Student Travel is basing its hopes of earning very significant amounts of money. On that alone, with all the uncertainties as to the validity and continuance of SATA tickets, will AUS Student Travel continue to trade. Goodness knows what commission it is getting. Qantas Airways Ltd said in the most recent issue of the Bulletin words to the effect that no special arrangements existed or no special conditions existed for AUS Student Travel. It is quite clear that that is an unsustainable statement. Show me any other travel agency for which Qantas would honour $646,000 worth of pre-written unpaid tickets. Show me the kind of credit arrangements given to this student travel service that are available to any IATA bonded group. Qantas can say what it likes, but it does not add up.
I return to the question of where the revenue will come from to turn this into a viable moratorium. The document given to the Supreme Court in Victoria set out ways in which AUS Student Travel could get its money. But it is clear now that to the extent that it depended on scheduled or charter flights it may well have mis-stated the real situation. It may have been written to make the moratorium attractive. There can be no profit to AUS Student Travel from scheduled flights because that commission has to go to an IATA agency-probably the World Travel Service in most cases. There may be no profits from the involvement by AUS Student Travel in scheduled flights in other countries if the United Kingdom and the Asian countries are successful in tightening up the operation of their own regulations. There can be no profit to AUS Student Travel on charters. The 5 per cent commission must go to an IATA agent and to no one else. It appears that the statement in the feasibility study by AUS Student Travel that- generally AUS Student Travel charges much more than 50 per cent of the economy fare and therefore the actual earning is higher’ may be an action which is contrary to the IATA provision covering profits for charter flights. There can be no profit to AUS Student Travel from Trans-Australia Airlines because TAA has told us that no commission is paid.
Unless some kind of commission splitting is going on with an IATA bonded agent who is receiving the legal commissions for the work, it is hard to see from where the revenue comes. I would hope that there is no commission splitting. I remind the Senate that the AUS Student Travel feasibility study, which set out its marketing strategy, did assume income from each of the sources from which I have now pointed out it is not possible to get income properly. Unless there is commission splitting the money cannot go through to it. Honourable senators would know that commission splitting is highly improper. It is not allowed. Sub-paragraphs 9 to 12 of paragraph (i) of IATA resolution 8 10a clearly set out the position in relation to the splitting of income. In summary they say that it is not allowed in our part of the world with the exception of Japan, where sub-agents can receive some commission. It is specifically stated in that IATA resolution that in our area, which is area three of the world, income splitting between an IATA bonded agent and a sub-agent is not permitted, except in Japan, and that if any IATA agent is carrying it out he is in breach of this IATA regulation.
There are other matters in relation to AUS Student Travel. Of course, there are. The whole unsatisfactory affair continues. There were unsatisfactory features in the replies that TAA gave to the Senate. Simple arithmetic shows that TAA’s statement about 90-day credit will not stand up because when AUS Student Travel went into liquidation early in August the April account had not yet been cleared. There are inconsistencies in fact in some of the answers that Qantas has given to us. For example, Qantas may care to examine the answer that it gave us on the employment of Mr Bruce Gregory and the contents of a letter that Mr Bruce Gregory has written to me stating his position in terms of his employment. It will find that the two do not match. So the matter goes on. But today I am interested only in the viability of the moratorium and it leaves open the question of how AUS Student Travel, which has a requirement to trade profitably, to cover its expenses and to pay back $600,000 a year on its moratorium, can obtain the revenue operating legally.
It cannot get it from scheduled services in this country. It cannot get it from TAA. It cannot get it from the commission on charter flights. It cannot get it from anywhere, unless it operates outside the rules. Senator Georges was kind enough to indicate in an adjournment debate the other night that that may be happening. Even then there is great doubt that it can generate sufficient revenue to achieve the levels of income it requires. Again I urge that the Department examine with the utmost closeness the operations of AUS Student Travel in relation to the Air Navigation Regulations and that it examine the operations of the IATA bonded agencies in relation to the IATA regulations. I repeat my call for a public inquiry to be held into the affairs of AUS Student Travel, into the circumstances surrounding its collapse and, in particular, into the reality or non-reality and the viability or otherwise of the moratorium which it has managed to mount and which I believe cannot be carried through to successful completion.
- Senator Baume fears that the moratorium to assist AUS Student Travel and some airlines to trade out of their difficulties will fail. If anything is bound to make it fail it is Senator Baume ‘s attacks because they put a very sensitive operation in difficulty. If he continues in this way then he will achieve what he fears- the failure of the moratorium, the failure of AUS Student Travel, and a substantial loss to Qantas Airways Ltd. I advise Senator Baume to reconsider his motives which, to me, still appear to be directed at AUS Student Travel and, through AUS Student Travel, to the Australian Union of Students. I suggest to Senator Baume that if he has a complaint to make about the Australian Union of Students he should separate it from the commercial enterprise that is endeavouring to survive. He can make whatever comments he likes about the Australian Union of Students; he can enter into that highly political area, but if he has the interests of AUS Student Travel at heart he should separate his comments from the commercial enterprise and allow it to sort out its differences and survive in the market place.
Great stress has been placed on certain international rules and regulations, but that seems to me to run contrary to the philosophy of Senator Baume and his party on the ability to trade, the ability to come to an arrangement and, in the case of AUS Student Travel, the ability to serve its membership as effectively as it can. Essentially, AUS Student Travel is supposed to be a non-profit organisation making arrangements on behalf of students for lower travel rates so that they can move about, communicate and perhaps add to their knowledge. It was never intended to be a profit-making organisation. If by some arrangement with Trans-Australia Airlines it has been able to gain cheaper travel in Australia through group arrangements on behalf of its students then perhaps it expected no profit from TAA and perhaps TAA was to make only some contra arrangement in return. Contra arrangements are common in the market place. From time to time appreciation is shown even of the work of certain officials of this Parliament, and certainly air travel is given to them in recognition of their services. It might be argued that a sense of corruption is implicit in that, but a contra arrangement, provided it is open and above board, may be beneficial and acceptable.
At this stage I should like to read into the record an answer given to me by the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Senator Cotton), who is in charge of the Department that has some concern for this area. The Senate will recall that when we debated this matter previously I incorporated a letter I had sent to the Minister seeking assistance for AUS Student Travel to come to an arrangement with Qantas and other airlines so that it could trade out of its difficulties and a worthwhile enterprise would be enabled to survive. On 7 November I received the following reply from Senator Robert Cotton:
You wrote to me on 18 August 1977 seeking my assistance in resolving the problems then facing AUS Student Travel Pty Ltd. On 13 September you again raised this matter with me in a Question Without Notice.
I appreciate the concern you have shown in this matter and I am sure you are as relieved as I am to see that the company is continuing to trade without causing any real financial hardship to student clients as it first appeared likely.
That was the response from the Minister. I believe that the Minister has entered into the spirit of assistance in the same way as I have. This organisation has done a lot of good in assisting students to move about, both within and outside Australia, and it ought to be supported and not put under constant attack. If Senator Baume continues in the way that he has he will be subjected to the comment that he is doing it on behalf of certain travel agencies in this country that want a slice of AUS business; nothing more nor less than that. Senator Baume is entitled to do what he is doing, but the Opposition will point out to him that if he persists his motives will be exposed. I do not put that harshly at this time, I merely say that if he continues to attack AUS Student Travel he will bring about its collapse. If he brings about its collapse, he will have to accept the responsibility.
In concluding my remarks, I should like to refer to an article that appeared in the Bulletin of 5 November 1977 in the section on aviation. Under the heading ‘AUS still embarrassing Qantas ‘ the article refers to the debate that took place here and states in part:
But the real damage to both AUSST and Qantas was done in the debate by Senator Georges (Queensland, ALP) speaking in their defence.
– That is absolutely true.
-I am not saying that it was an unfair comment. I am saying that it was a reasonable comment to make in the circumstances of what I had to say. I was frank enough to say that perhaps certain arrangements were being made in the market place by airlines and travel agencies that compromised the rules of the International Air Transport Association. I am not getting away from that. I am saying that it has happened, probably is happening, and will continue to happen even after AUS Student Travel fails, if that is Senator Baume ‘s intention. That is the market place and that is the way it operates. It has certain rules and regulations that are being worn down gradually by overseas decisions and overseas operations. I think that the Labor operation will cut right across the IATA regulations, which have kept air travel costs throughout the world at an artificially high level. Because they have done that it has been necessary for certain organisations, in the interests of their clients, to slip around the arrangements, and they will continue to do so. In fact, the regulations imposed upon our companies in Australia ought to be examined by the Trade Practices Commission. Surely arrangements exist here that falsely fix a price above its market level? If one believes in that sort of system then one ought to accept that in some way it operates in spite of the rules and regulations.
I am saying that AUS Student Travel, Qantas and the other airlines can pull out of their difficulties. I was not speaking previously in defence of Qantas, I was merely making a few remarks that I thought were pertinent. If those remarks were taken to be damaging to Qantas and Qantas was embarrassed, perhaps other organisations than Qantas were embarrassed by the revelation of what goes on in general trading. Since the introduction in this House by Senator
Greenwood of resale price maintenance legislationI remind Senator Baume that it was his Government that introduced legislation outlawing resale price maintenance- complete corruption, denigration and degradation has been occurring in the market place. Unless we have orderly marketing, unless all people abide by the rules, we must expect that all people will endeavour to break the rules. Besides, if honourable senators remember correctly, during the Estimates Committee hearing when this matter was under scrutiny it was admitted by rather stony silence that it is practically impossible to impose these regulations on the industry. I repeat that I think that the airlines and the various travel agencies have come to separate arrangements. Senator Baume protests about that. I am saying that that is the only way that they can commercially survive in the industry today. The Department of Transport will have to fix minimum and maximum prices. The industry will have to determine that there shall be no service given below or above a certain price. That is orderly marketing. That, to a certain extent, is price fixing. Honourable senators opposite object to that situation. If they object to price fixing at both a minimum and higher level they can expect shady operations in defiance of the rules which are set down. We are going through the last two days of the present Parliament and through what I think is called a catharsis or cleaning process. I think we all try to get matters out of our system. But, Mr President, through you I say to Senator Baume: Rethink the damage you are doing in a situation where a worthwhile organisation and two fine airlines are trying to get themselves out of financial difficulties.
– I shall take up some of the time of the Senate to bring to the attention of honourable senators an article which appeared in the Age of today’s date. It is headed:
Aboriginals encouraged to enrol for election: BjelkePetersen.
That headline is followed by large black headlines which state:
Trachoma scheme blocked
Professor ‘stunned ‘ by decision
I shall take up the time of the Senate by reading practically all the article into Hansard, as well as a statement put out by the Minister for Health, the Honourable Ralph Hunt. The article states:
Canberra- The Queensland Premier Mr Bjelke-Petersen, has successfully blocked the Federal Government’s trachoma program to eliminate blindness amongst Aborigines.
Those words, for a start, give me as a senator representing Queensland a great deal of grave concern because the matter affects many of my constituents. It also gives me a great deal of grave concern because, as a member of the Aboriginal race, the article is referring to members of my race. Therefore I wish to say something about the matter. The article goes on:
The Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, and the Health Minister, Mr Hunt, agreed to the Premier’s request to stop the program in Queensland. It will be stopped at least until after the Federal election and possibly indefinitely.
Mr Bjelke-Petersen complained that two Aboriginal liaison officers with the team, Mr Mick Miller and Mr Clarry Grogan, had a background of political activism. The Premier said they had encouraged Aborigines to enrol for the State election.
In the opinion of the Premier of Queensland that makes those men political activists. They are asking Aborigines to enrol on State rolls for the State election. In that case I suppose I would be the greatest political activist in the whole country. Long before I came to the Parliament I advocated that Aborigines should enrol on both State and Federal rolls. Also, I encouraged them wherever I possibly could to involve themselves in all tiers of government and in all areas where I believed Aborigines could make a contribution. I return to the article which continues:
The program, sponsored by the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists, has uncovered the world’s highest blindness rate among outback Aborigines.
That is worth repeating. It states: has uncovered the world’s highest blindness rate among outback Aborigines.
The report continues:
It is listed in a Liberal Party election pamphlet as one of the Fraser Government’s major achievements -
That is referring to the trachoma scheme-
Mr Hunt said the college had accepted the Government’s advice to close down the program from tomorrow. Staff would be given one week’s pay in lieu of notice. The assistant director of the program, Mr Gordon Briscoe -
An Aborigine- said last night the decision was a scandal. ‘Less than a quarter of Queensland’s Aborigines have so far been screened by the team ‘, he said. ‘ Hundreds have already been listed for medical treatment and they will now be left in the lurch.’
If the program is abandoned most of this fantastic effort will have been in vain and a final report on the eye health of Aborigines will be impossible. ‘
The leader of the Trachoma team, Professor Fred Hollows, was told of the Government’s decision in Brisbane yesterday. Speaking by telephone Professor Hollows said last night he was still too stunned to make any statement. They have accused two of our team of political activism but they are the two best field workers we have ever had,’ he said. ‘The eye health problems of Aborigines here are so horrific that these men have been too busy working their - backsides- off to help save sight to have time to get into polities’, he said.
– There is a different word in the article.
-Yes, there is a different word used. The article continues:
Last week the president of the college, Professor James Rogers, flew to Thursday Island to discuss the Queensland complaints with Professor Hollows. Professor Hollows said the team could not function efficiently without the two men. In June this year the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, gave an assurance to the National Press Club that the Trachoma program would not be wound down until it had completed its task.
Mr Fraser said he agreed too little had been done too late for Aboriginal health. The Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Mr Viner, said last night it was a health matter and reporters should seek comment from Mr Hunt.
I do not vouch for the accuracy of the article because it was written by a journalist. I believe it was written Mr David Broadbent. I cannot vouch for its authenticity or its accuracy. I am not the journalist. If that article does not give thinking concerned Australians something to think about and if they do not want to do something about the matter, I have certainly misjudged the Australian people. In the first instance I believe that this Government or any Federal government has a grave responsibility in relation to the indigenous people of this country. That responsibility was given to the Parliament by the people of Australia in an overwhelming vote at the 1967 referendum when this Parliament was given the power to make special laws for the Aboriginal people of this country. I have a copy of a Press release which was given by the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt). It states:
The Minister for Health, Mr Ralph Hunt, has advised the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists that some employees of the field teams of the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program (at present working in Queensland) are unacceptable to Queensland authorities.
Perhaps I could take that paragraph first and then refer to the newspaper article. It would appear from all accounts that the unacceptability of these people has been based on the grounds that they are political activists. It has not anything to do with their work. It has nothing to do with how hard they work or how much they have done to assist people working in the trachoma scheme to achieve successful results in order to alleviate this dreadful problem that is facing Aboriginal people not only in parts of Queensland but also in many other States.
The only objection that the authorities in Queensland- and I take that to be the Queensland Government, the Queensland Premier, the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement and such like- have to these two men is that they are political activists. According to the Press article the claim that they are political activists stems from the fact that they have encouraged Aborigines to have their names placed on the electoral roll. I do not believe that is reason enough in the first place to cause the withdrawal of people from a scheme such as this. Most of all I do not think it is sufficient ground on which to defer a program that can mean so much to children who would otherwise be blind early in their lives as a result of this terrible disease.
The Press statement of the Minister for Health in part, states:
So far, there have been excellent results from the Program and the Government is most grateful to the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists for their efforts and for the very good work done by Professor Hollows.
The Government is conscious of the work that is being done by Professor Hollows and his team which includes the two Aborigines. The Federal Government is happy with what they have been doing but it will not be guided by what Professor Hollows, the leader of the team, says. The Press article, stated:
The leader of the Trachoma team, Professor Fred Hollows, was told of the Government’s decision in Brisbane yesterday.
Speaking by telephone Professor Hollows said last night he was still too stunned to make any statement.
They have accused two of our team of political activism but they are the best two field workers we have ever had ‘ he said.
– Who are they? Are they Clarry Grogan and Mick Miller?
– The two persons concerned are Mick Miller and Clarry Grogan. I have known Mick Miller for years. I have known him since he was a tiny tot. He grew up with my children on Palm Island. I know his family. I know the whole background. If one wants to call someone who supports a political party and who is not afraid to go out and sell that party, in the same manner as I have not been ashamed or backward in selling the party to which I belong, a political activist, it is true that Mick Miller is a political activist and in that case so am I. If the Premier of Queensland says that Bonner is a political activist because he tells people to enrol and speaks on street corners during an election campaign asking the people to vote for the Liberal Party, is the Premier going to ask the Federal Government to withdraw me from the Senate because I am a political activist? According to this line of reasoning, this would be the sort to action the Premier would take.
– You would not be here if he could get you out.
– He might withdraw you to Queensland next week.
– I suppose that one can smile at some of these comments. However, I believe frivolity in this instance is out of order because we are talking about people. I was motivated to come to this place through my desire to do what I could for people. In this case, I happen to be concerned about the attitude that the Premier of Queensland has to some of my constituents who are people from the race to which I belong.
Having brought this matter to the attention of the Senate I hope that the Government in its wisdom will not bow to the pressure of the Premier of Queensland and stop the good work that has been carried out by this scheme which has been in operation for some considerable time. I hope that the Government, instead of bowing to the wishes of the Premier of Queensland, will go the opposite way and give every support it possibly can to the scheme so that sufferers from trachoma will get the relief to which they as human beings are entitled. I hope that the Government will not stop the scheme from proceeding. I believe that possibly there are times when the Premier of Queensland can be given credit for his Canberra bashing but in this case I believe he is completely wrong and is showing a streak of inhumanity.
– I appreciate the position Senator Bonner is in. However, I just want to comment on a couple of points he raised. First, apparently he has some doubt about the accuracy of the newspaper article to which he referred. He felt that he could not vouch for the accuracy. Let me tell him that the article is totally accurate. Secondly, I point out that the trachoma team had a good relationship with all of the Queensland Government departments. In fact, nothing went wrong until the Premier stepped in.
Yesterday I asked the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) who represents the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs ( Mr Viner) in this place a question about the national trachoma and eye health program. I asked the Minister whether she was aware that the Premier of Queensland was interferring in the operation of the trachoma team and was about to cause it to cease operations in that State unless two Aboriginal members of the team were sacked for alleged political activities. I then passed what I suppose could be termed for want of a better description a cynical remark, when I asked the Minister:
Will the Minister take immediate action to prevent political interference by the Premier who, incidentally, has a long history of political and racist interference in Aboriginal Affairs?
The Minister in reply said that she would ignore some parts of the question. It would appear from reading between the lines of the Minister’s answer that the Minister either did not know the campaign was to be closed down or was suppressing the information. I am not saying she was doing that for any other reason than to indicate that at the moment this country, and particularly Queensland, is in a delicate situation because of the two election campaigns that are taking place. However, the Minister in her reply to me stated:
I can only say to him that the Minister had been made aware of the concern felt in certain quarters over the possible political activities of some people employed by the teams under the control of the Director of the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program, Professor Hollows, in north Queensland.
The Minister has also had raised with him the fact that the schedule of the team visits coincides with the election campaign; indeed, it is due to be finalised on the actual day of the election.
Might I pass a remark at this point. The inference, of course, is that something might happen to the campaign. But nothing happens in relation to treatment of ill people in hospitals or in the field anywhere in Queensland or in Australia, even though the fact they may be dying or suffering from some grievous disability happens to coincide with the day of the State or Federal election. However, in this case the Government has taken drastic action.
I want to make some brief remarks about Professor Hollows, a dedicated man whom I have known for a number of years. I have never heard any complaints from people who have worked with Professor Hollows except that he makes them work very hard. He does not ask them their religion before they go to work for him. He does not ask them their politics but he is meticulous about their ability to do a job. This is fair enough. Since this program started I have bumped into members of the team at Alice Springs when they were working in the area. I saw them at Amata when they were on their way up to the north west reserve, at Puta Puta which is one of the little outstations in the same area of Pitjantjatjara country, and recently on my way through to Tuesday Island and the Torres Strait I saw a couple of members of the team at Cairns. They were pleased with what was happening and hopeful of completing their program this year.
I was not happy with the answer which the Minister gave me yesterday. In the final paragraph of her reply she said to me:
I will refer the other matters that were raised by the honourable senator to the Minister to see whether he wishes to offer any further information with regard to them. The latter part of the question concerning the Premier of Queensland I totally ignore.
I then asked this supplementary question:
I take it from what the Minister said that she approves of the cessation of the team’s operations in Queensland, for political reasons.
In reply she said:
I said no such thing. If Senator Keeffe takes it in that way, it is something that he chooses to do, not something that I said or implied.
That was where the case rested yesterday morning at the cessation of Question Time and I am amazed that it did not go further than that. Obviously the Minister now approves of the closing down of the scheme because there has been no contradiction of the proposal. In fact, the stony silence of both the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is stunning. A joint Press statement issued by the Minister for Health and the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists was released yesterday. Senator Bonner quoted one paragraph from it and I would like to quote two or three paragraphs because they are relevant. They read:
The Minister for Health, Mr Ralph Hunt, has advised the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists that some employees of the field teams of the National Trachoma and Eye Health Program are unacceptable to Queensland authorities.
Because of the importance of this medical program obtaining complete co-operation from both Commonwealth and State Governments the College has accepted the advice of the Federal Government that the screening and diagnosis program be deferred. Accordingly, the field team workers are to cease work from Wednesday November 9.
The field Director, Professor Fred Hollows, is to discuss the timing of resumption of the Program with the Executive Committee of the College.
Last week the College President, Dr James Rogers . . went to Thursday Island . . .
That is where the team was operating in the Torres Strait - to explore alternatives to deferring the Program with Professor Hollows. However, Professor Hollows considered that the field teams could not function efficiently with other than the present arrangements.
The trachoma program is conducted by the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists and is funded by the Commonwealth Government. The Commonwealth Government has responsibility for obtaining the co-operation of the State authorities.
In this case there was total co-operation until there was political interference and the Queensland Premier decided to apply pressure.
Then the screws really went on. The statement continues:
So far, there have been excellent results from the Program and the Government is most grateful to the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists for their efforts and for the very good work done by Professor Hollows.
I will not quote the rest of it. Already 60,000 persons have been examined and some 16,000 of these come from Queensland. Mass treatment for trachoma is still being arranged for 9,000 persons in the Pilbara and Kimberley regions of Western Australia. These were the points which were made in the joint statement.
As I said last night the closing down of the trachoma campaign whether till 11 or 12 December or indefinitely is a tragedy for all the people involved in Queensland and the Torres Strait Islands. The whole team will be sacked as from tomorrow and will get one week’s pay in lieu of notice. But what happens then? Another group of people will be thrown on to the unemployment market. Some of these people are highly qualified and it is possible that they will be forced to accept alternative employment. The team will never get back together again in the manner in which it is now operating. One of the problems is that if some of them leave the team because they have been sacked they will fear going back to operate in Queensland unless a happy situation eventuates and the BjelkePetersen regime ceases its operations as from this Saturday.
In the five weeks the team has operated it has seen 16,000 patients over a vast area of country ranging from Saiba Island in the Torres Strait, close to the Papua-New Guinea mainland, to Cairns and from Camooweal to the coast. The team has worked magnificently and every member of it has given freely of his time. It has not been a case of collecting overtime. They have worked, outside normal hours and at weekends and the field officers were amongst the most active members of the team. The trachoma unit has always employed Aboriginal liaison or field officers. This has proved to be the most effective way of making sure that a job is properly done. One of these individuals has a knowledge of several of the local dialects and languages. I understand that the individual who was the cause of the problem, so far as Mr Bjelke-Petersen was concerned, is also quite well qualified to talk with more than one Aboriginal group. If the allegation is correct that these two people enrolled somebody on the electoral roll there should not have been any panic about it. Mr BjelkePetersen was the only one concerned, but the State rolls closed weeks ago. It is true that the
Federal rolls will be open for a few days yet but I cannot imagine that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) would be worried about half a dozen enrolments in a Federal Division which he will lose anyway at the next election. It will return to the Australian Labor Party.
The suspension of the operation of the team is one of the most violent and drastic actions that could have been taken. It is a clear indication that it is no longer Mr Fraser who is in the box seat, although he says that he runs this country. It is the Premier of Queensland who is running Australia when he is allowed by the Liberal Party to apply this sort of pressure and get away with it. The Liberal Party has produced a pamphlet for the Federal election campaign and under the heading ‘Aboriginal Affairs’ the claim is made that the national trachoma campaign is one of the plus factors of the two years of Liberal Government. The suspension of the campaign under pressure from the Queensland Premier must be a sad event for the Federal Government. The document is entitled Australia on the Move and the introduction states:
This pamphlet briefly lists the major achievements of the Fraser Government. It shows the record of a Government reforming in its approach, responsive to Australia’s needs, and responsible in its administration.
Under the heading ‘Aboriginal Affairs’ the Government claims credit for Aboriginal land rights legislation. Of course, that is not true. It was the Labor Government which originally introduced the land rights Bill. The Government claims credit for the National Aboriginal Conference and the Council for Aboriginal Development being accepted as national consultative advisory bodies to government. That is not true either because it was the Labor Government which set up the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee. The Government claims the development of a national employment strategy for Aborigines in both government and private employment as another plus. Honourable senators in this chamber have heard my criticism of the Commonwealth Development Employment Projects scheme. The Government has claimed credit for the establishment of the National Committee of Aboriginal Education. That is not true either because the Labor Government put all the processes into operation and the only thing that the Liberal Party had to do was appoint the committee some weeks ago. Finally the Government claims credit for the national trachoma campaign. This is a great pity because the trachoma campaign was initiated by the Labor Government too. However, I do not mind if the Government wants to claim credit for it as long as it does not repudiate its own policy and back out of the campaign just because the lone ranger Premier in one State decides that because he is frightened of a couple of Aborigines associated with the team, the team should not be allowed to operate. The suspension of the campaign for political reasons will prevent Aborigines with eye conditions from obtaining that treatment. It almost certainly will mean eyesight deterioration for some and even the possible loss of eyesight for others.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-When the sitting of the Senate was suspended for the luncheon adjournment I was making some reference to the fact that the Liberal Party of Australia had produced a supposedly authoritative pamphlet. I want to read one more paragraph from it. It states:
The social reforms we have made have been reforms of substance which will make a lasting and meaningful contribution to Australia. We have begun to liberate Australia’s unmatched potential for equality, opportunity and personal independence. Australia is firmly on the road to recovery.
Mr Malcolm Fraser said that in October 1977. After claiming the national trachoma campaign as one of the pluses allegedly associated with the Liberal policy, the Government now sees fit to abandon it. The part that amazes me is that there should be this political knuckling down to a vagabond Premier who not only has created this crisis for the Aboriginal people but has created any number of other problems. I want to run through some of them briefly. It amazes me that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) if one can believe that quotation should align himself with the Premier of Queensland who only a few days ago said at Mount Isa that unless the local people returned a National Party member then his Government-that is the State Governmentwould not complete the Lake Julius water supply scheme. He said at Rockhampton either last night or the night before that he would not associate with the two sitting Labor members of Parliament and suggested that if the people were wise they would elect two National Party members so that the Premier would have someone with whom to talk. The Aborigines in that district have a big problem which goes totally unnoticed by the State Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement and Fisheries. When the Premier was at Badu Island, one of the bigger islands in the Torres Strait, a week ago, he made similar statements there in an effort to protect the sitting National Party member. He suggested that if the Labor member were elected, as he will be, he would have no access to the Premier, providing he remains the Premier, when he was elected to parliament.
At Blackall he described one of the most beautiful women in this country as a crow. Another lady, also a member of the National Party, who was present at the same meeting asked a question abour uranium. The Premier told her to go jump in the lake. He then asked for the public address system to be turned off. I point out to honourable senators opposite that a lot of this is rubbing off on their Government. People tried to get the Premier off the hook by saying that he had an aeroplane to catch. In fact, the Premier had his own aeroplane with him. It was there for his convenience. In recent times, the Premier has forbidden the right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. People can no longer go in freedom in my State. He is applying the same repressive attitudes he has always ap- plied to the Aboriginal people. This man, who olds a vast number of uranium shares, wants a uranium enrichment plant set up in Queensland but not in Kingaroy. He wants it established at Mount Isa, Townsville, Bowen, Rockhampton or somewhere else but not at Kingaroy.
His ruling is that he will not allow Aborigines either as individuals or as groups to purchase properties under the Queensland leasehold system. He has said that publicly. He has instructed every branch of the Titles Office in the State to check to make sure that no white person registers a block of land which then will be transferred to an Aborigine, as an individual or acting for a group. He would not allow anyone to attend the Catholic land rights conference held in Charters Towers earlier this year because he said policies that were not consistent with those of the Government would be discussed. That is quite a reprehensible attitude because one should cultivate the right of freedom of speech. Yet this individual is holding up the development of many programs in addition to the national trachoma program.
It is significant also that in the recent confrontation with civil liberties groups he attacked prominent churchmen. So far as I know, the only church group in Queensland that is supporting the Premier now is the Lutheran Church, which is his church. All the other churches are off-side with him. He has made no bones about referring to them as being the tools of atheists or communists. This attitude can be likened to that adopted in the days of Hitler when the first assault was made on the trade unions. The Premier has gone through that process. The next assault was made on ethnic groups. He has also gone through that process, and is continuing it. The next assault was made on students. He has also gone through that process which involved student bashing by a minority of police. I suppose that the last bastion of democracy- it is usually classified that way- is the churches. He is now attacking the churches.
- Senator, you are not quite right. The head of the Lutheran Church -
-Perhaps I have listed them in the wrong order.
– Wait a minute. The head of the Lutheran Church joined the head of the Catholic Church and the head of the Anglican Church in protesting against the actions of the Premier.
– I am very pleased to learn that there is now a crack in the Lutheran Church. One prominent member of that church supported the Premier one or two days after the anti-uranium demonstration. I must say also that the Premier has two Acts of Parliament to uphold two tiers of law and order- one for black people and the other for white people. One is the infamous Torres Strait Island Act and the other is the infamous Aboriginal Act. Both of those Acts are now under some sort of scrutiny but are likely to remain in force for a long time. Children and women on reserves in Queensland can be gaoled under the by-laws and regulations of those Acts. I visited a reserve only a few days ago. A comparatively young girl was locked up in a cell in the settlement gaol. Earlier this year a Cabinet minute dated 17 May 1977- decision No. 26,409- was produced. An oral submission was made by the Hon. J. Bjelke-Petersen. The title of that Cabinet paper was ‘CommonwealthState Discussions on Aboriginal Matters’. It stated:
That prior to any Commonwealth-State departmental discussions or negotiations taking place on matters involving Aboriginals, the respective State Depanment concerned is to contact the Queensland Depanment of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement in the first instance to arrange for the Director of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement or his nominee to be present at such discussions or negotiations.
The minute was circulated to all permanent heads of departments and copies were sent to all Ministers. It was certified as a true copy by the secretary to Cabinet. This sort of attitude must stop somewhere along the line. On this occasion I would appeal respectfully to the Australian Government and particularly to the Prime Minister, if he has any humanity at all, to restore the national trachoma scheme so that the team will not be fragmented and so that the people will receive the treatment to which they are entitled. If such a decision is postponed until after the December election, Aborigines in the area, and in Queensland generally, will scatter far and wide. It is traditional around the Christmas period at the end of the year for Aboriginals, particularly those who are engaged in seasonal work, to return to the place where their family roots have been sustained. Queensland has tropical weather and the wet season will set in almost immediately after that period. Some of those people needing treatment may never receive that treatment. Some of them may need it urgently and it may be too late if they have an examination either for spectacles or for surgical treatment later. Last night in good faith I wrote to the Prime Minister. The letter stated:
I have just learned that all members of the National Trachoma Team have been sacked and the program suspended.
This is a very great tragedy and I hope you are able to reverse the decision.
The Queensland Premier is being quite unreal in calling for the sacking of individuals associated with the team allegedly because of political activities.
I know both individuals and am sure they would not misuse their positions. However, it is a well-known fact that both are associated with the Land Rights Campaign- perhaps it is this that has upset the Premier.
I respectfully request that the whole situation be reviewed and if possible the programme be reinstated immediately. If the programme is suspended until after December 10 many Aborigines in the area will be travelling to visit relatives and friends over Christmas and those with eye complaints may never receive the treatment they need.
I hope that you will take the necessary action to rectify the situation, and if it will assist at all I am available to discuss the matter with you.
That letter was addressed to the Prime Minister.
– Do you think you will get an answer, Senator?
– I hope so; I am always an optimist in the political game. I hope that this Government will not be stood over by the Premier of Queensland while Aboriginal people suffer. For the sake of some sort of political spleen the Queensland Government, under the misguidance of its Premier, has done this sort of thing time after time. But to do this at this time shows that probably either the Premier or the Prime Minister has lost his nerve. I said earlier this year that if a general election were called before Christmas it would be only because the Prime Minister had lost his nerve. We are to have the general election.
Under these circumstances, I hope that the Prime Minister is able to gather together enough muscle to confront the Premier. After all, if the
Prime Minister is so sure that there are no political problems facing him, it will make no difference at all to hrs election campaign. The votes in both the areas in which the teams will be operating will come back to the Labor Party at this election, so it will not make one iota of difference. If somebody is put on the roll and that is the sum total of the political interference it is a very petty thing to do indeed. Every parliamentarian in this country, regardless of the side of the Parliament on which he sits, ought to back humanitarian programs such as this program. We should be doing everything we can to encourage and to protect such a program.
What is occurring in Queensland is similar to the situation in Western Australia at the moment where, because an Aboriginal candidate was successful in an appeal to the tribunal, the Premier of that State has decided to motivate his Party to introduce legislation to prevent every nonliterate Aboriginal in the electoral seat of Kimberly, or in any other seat in Western Australia, from having the right to vote in an election. Under the proposed legislation they will no longer be able to use a how to vote card setting out the names of the candidates. I defy any honourable senator or any member of the community to go into a polling booth in a Senate election such as we saw in New South Wales in 1975, when there were some 70-odd candidates, and not take his how to vote card with him so that he will know who to vote for in the ordinary sequence set out on the how to vote cards. That applies to all parties and all people. A traditional Aborigine might have a matriculation standard knowledge of his own language but, because he is non-literate in the English language, he will be forbidden to cast a vote. I hope that that proposal is upset too. I make this final appeal to Government senators to prevail upon the Prime Minister not to be scared stiff of ‘Holy Joe’, the infamous Premier of Queensland -
-. . . but to re-engage the national trachoma team and get it back to work before it finishes up tomorrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bills read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech in respect of these Bills incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of these Bills to to extend the support provided under the apple and pear stabilisation scheme to exports of apples and pears in the 1978 export season. Application of the stabilisation scheme to apples in the 1978 export season as in the 1977 season will be based on a maximum level of support of $2 per box and a maximum quantity eligible for support of 2 million boxes. Support will be limited to sales ‘at risk’ to Europe, including the United Kingdom.
The 1977 levels of pear export support will also apply to the 1978 season, namely, a maximum level of support of 80c per box and a maximum quantity eligible for support of 1.4 million boxes. Support will continue to be limited to sales ‘at risk’ to Europe, including the United Kingdom, and North America. The Government is also consulting with the States on a supplementary assistance program for 1978 which could involve an additional $ 1 m to assist apple exports to Europe, including the United Kingdom.
The stabilisation scheme has operated since the 1971 season and has been of particular importance to the apple and pear exporting States of Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia as it provides a measure of stability in the extremely uncertain climate that has prevailed in the export field for several seasons. The continuation of the scheme in 1978 at the 1977 levels of support will allow the export industry further time to adjust to the very difficult economic environment in which circumstances have placed it.
It is clear that substantial adjustment has already occurred, particularly under the provisions of the recently concluded fruitgrowing reconstruction scheme. The number of bearing apple trees in Australia has fallen by an estimated 25 per cent over the past four years, while the volume of apple exports in 1977 covered by the stabilisation scheme was about one half the 1975 level.
Detailed 1977 season export market returns and consequent final stabilisation results are not known at this stage, but European apple market prices were exceptionally high because of poor crops in Europe following the 1976 drought and a marked reduction in supplies from southern hemisphere countries. The apple and pear stabilisation scheme played a significant role in underpinning the 1977 export operation, particularly in the pre-shipment period when there was considerable uncertainty in the industry. Although the European apple market is a volatile one, there is some early prospect that prices may be favourable in 1978, because of a poor 1977 European apple crop. I believe that the early announcement of these support measures will sustain existing industry confidence, and enable preparations to proceed for marketing of the 1 978 crop. I commend the Bills to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wriedt) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 7 November on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a first time.
– The Opposition has spoken already on the first reading of the Apple and Pear Stabilization Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977, the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977 and the Apple and Pear Stabilization Export Duty Collection Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1977. For that reason, I think that we ought to proceed to the next stage with the Customs Tariff Validation Bill (No. 3) 1977.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill provides for the validation until 30 June 1978 of duties collected in pursuance of Customs Tariff Proposals Nos. 11 to 32 introduced into the Parliament during this Session and not enacted to date. The Bill is essentially a holding measure pending the introduction of a Customs Tariff Amendment Bill to enact the tariff changes contained in the proposals. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 7 November on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-On the second reading of this Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill 1 977 1 want to raise a matter which has been of concern to me. I shall not take very long. The matter concerns the provision of frequency modulation broadcasting licences. I refer specifically to the application by the Fine Music Group in Brisbane for an FM licence. The Minister for Education, Senator Carrick, will recall a question I asked some time ago when it was obvious that a FM licence was to be granted to, I think, the University of Melbourne. During the debate on the granting of thai licence, by way of interjection I asked whether a similar licence would be granted to the Fine Music Group in Queensland. I do not know whether I am behind with my information, but it seems to me that no progress has been made with the granting of such a licence. Of course, it was understood that the licence would be granted subject to the final decisions of the Government and dependent upon its policy with respect to the allocation of licences by way of application and subsequent inquiry and appeal.
What concerns me is that there has been no progress in this matter. No satisfaction has been given this worthwhile organisation which has endeavoured to do everything correctly by way of application to the Minister. The assurance which the Minister gave me at that time was sympathetic to this organisation’s request because the Minister was a member of the committee, of which I was a member also, which made investigations and came down with recommendations on the extension of FM broadcasting. In fact, I believe that it was the inquiry by that committee which facilitated the declaration of policies by the previous Government and by the present Government to the effect that FM broadcasting should be made available as quickly as possible. I think that we put in the rider that commercial enterprises should not be excluded from this new technology. For that reason, I believe that Senator Carrick understood what I was getting at and responded with sympathy. However, the Department does not seem to have responded in the same way. To me it seems that there is now some discrimination towards this group.
I take the opportunity to raise this matter in the second reading debate. Perhaps I could have raised it in the Committee stage but it is quite obvious why I am on my feet at the moment. By raising this matter at the second reading debate stage, I am saving myself the trouble of approaching the Minister. I do not need an answer at present but I should be grateful if the Minister could write to me to tell me what progress has been made, why there are delays and what the group can expect. He will realise that Brisbane needs to have as quickly as possible the same sorts of programs broadcast to its citizens as Canberra, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide have. I do not doubt that Tasmania also would be very eager to have such programs broadcast. I cannot see why the Government cannot make specific decisions in this regard subject to certain conditions which can be settled at a later stage.
-The Opposition opposes the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill 1977. I say to my colleague, Senator Georges, that it is obvious why he was on his feet, as he said, not only for reasons which some honourable senators might divine but also because of the content of what he said. It was a vitally relevant contribution to an important debate. It displayed a keen and concerned interest in the subject of broadcasting and television and the administration of that portfolio by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson).
There are some good features of the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill. One of those good features is that in part it carries out something of the Government’s intention expressed on a number of occasions in relation to the licensing of television and radio broadcasting stations. To that extent, the Opposition welcomes that small segment of the Bill but generally it is so bad that we have no course other than to oppose it as a whole and to move the amendment which stands in my name to the second reading of the Bill
The amendment to the second reading of the Bill has been proposed because in the dying days of the Parliament it is possible to deal with only the broader issue rather than have a clause by clause debate on all the objectionable features of this legislation. The legislation represents the final move in the Government’s broadcasting policy before the election on 10 December. For two years there has been a sorry history of broadcasting administration. At the outset I shall review some of that history briefly because it is vitally relevant to the contents of the present legislation. The characteristics of that history of broadcasting administration have been firstly a continual harassment of the Australian Broadcasting Commission in terms of financial cut backs on a number of occasions which have greatly affected morale and program capacity and standards in the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the national broadcasting service of this country.
The second characteristic of the Government’s policy has been a laissez-faire approach to commercial broadcasting. It has been so laissez-faire that even the commercial sector of broadcasting has felt completely without any guidance. A publication earlier this year entitled ‘BroadcastingA Potential Disaster Area’ took it upon itself to attack the Minister and the present Government’s policy. That publication was put out by the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations. Of course, it was right in choosing that title. Under this Government broadcasting has been a disaster area. This legislation is the final capping of that disastrous situation.
The third characteristic of the Government’s policy has been its utter failure in two years to do anything about the development of public broadcasting in Australia and to take advantage of the new technologies in broadcasting which are available and used in most countries but which are available only and not used to the extent they might be in Australia. The history of the administration of broadcasting by the present Government has been marked by inquiries, a lot of talk and no constructive action. I remind the Senate of some of the inquiries which have been conducted. In September 1976 after a hastily commissioned inquiry into broadcasting in Australia the Green report was published. It was titled ‘Australian BroadcastingA Report on the Structure of the Australian Broadcasting System and Associated Matters’. The recommendations of that inquiry- it was commissioned by the Government and conducted by the Department of Postal and Telecommunications; it was not a public inquiryhave not been followed by the Government. In commenting on that report and the legislation introduced relating to broadcasting in December 1 976, the A Australian Financial Review said this:
The net result of Cabinet’s actual decisions is that the proposed Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, which is to replace the existing Australian Broadcasting Control Board, is looking increasingly like its predecessor.
Referring to the report recommending a broadcasting council, it goes on to say:
Therefore, the report recommended that a Broadcasting Council be established to overview the administration of programs and advertising standards.
But the government has decided that the council is to enjoy a brief which is vague and expects no real power.
The report went on in that vein to criticise the legislation introduced in December 1976 following the report of the Department on Australian broadcasting. In December 1976 the Government introduced its first significant broadcasting legislation. That was legislation to amend the Broadcasting and Television Act. It had two main objectives. The first was to get rid of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, particularly certain personnel employed in it who were appointed by the Labor Government. The second objective was to get rid of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board but more particularly to get rid of two members of it who were appointed by the Labor Government. The second half of that legislative endeavour succeeded. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board was disbanded. Anybody who knows anything about broadcasting in Australia knows that that was a totally futile exercise. Two years later, the sort of structure which the Government is now envisaging for broadcasting is a sort of Australian Broadcasting Control Board manque structure. For the benefit of Senator Webster ‘manque’ is a well known international word meaning lacking’.
– I thought it was something to do with science.
-I thought the honourable senator might want to use it in a scientific context at a later stage. In a sense the wheel has come full circle in relation to the structural aspect of broadcasting. The attempt to get rid of the Australian Broadcasting Commission personnel failed because of public concern and outcry about the provisions of the 1976 legislation. The Control Board on the other hand was disbanded. The legislation of December 1976 did very little else except to carry with it a promise of further legislation to be introduced in March 1977. The legislation which is now before the Parliament in November 1977 is presumably that which was to be introduced in March this year which we were promised in December last year. The legislation in December 1976 proposed that the structure of broadcasting should consist of two main bodies, the Broadcasting Tribunal which has been established and a body called the Broadcasting Council which would be representative of various sections of the broadcasting industry and, unhappily, not representative of the public.
The Broadcasting Council which was envisaged in the 1976 legislation has never come into operation; it has never been appointed. That council, which was set up by the Fraser Government has not come into operation because the Government is susceptible to pressures from the commercial sector of broadcasting, and that sector has declined to serve on it. By declining to serve, that is, by black banning the Broadcasting Council- a most reprehensible conduct if attempted by trade unions but apparently quiet all right if attempted by the commercial broadcasting sector- they have rendered it incapable of operation. So the 1976 Broadcasting Council is still in limbo and we have heard nothing more about it.
The next chapter in the history of the development of the Government’s broadcasting policy occurred early in 1977 with the appointment of the Broadcasting Tribunal, which was in itself an interesting exercise. At the dinner a few months ago of the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations one of the great jokes told by the compere was that he wanted to congratulate the commercial television industry upon devising a job retirement scheme ibr executives of commercial television stations. ‘It is called the Broadcasting Tribunal’, he said. This was greeted with great laughter and was no doubt very funny if one happened to be a member of the commercial broadcasting industry, but if one happened to belong to the 65 per cent of Australians who, in surveys, show up as being concerned about the standards of commercial television in Australia it was perhaps not so funny after all. That Tribunal, which was appointed in 1977, included among its number Mr Bruce Gyngell, a former aide of Kerry Packer of Consolidated Press. Two other appointments have subsequently been made and a fourth, quite recently, interestingly enough has a background associated with the Channel 9 network.
Enough said of that particular aspect of the Broadcasting Tribunal’s activity. The Tribunal then proceeded, as it had been instructed to do by the Minister, to conduct an inquiry into selfregulation for commercial broadcasters. That inquiry produced a report which was tabled in the Senate nearly three months ago, and upon which no action has really been taken by the Government. That is the second major report on broadcasting about which nothing has been done.
I refer to these inquiries because the concern is, of course, that there has never been more talk in government circles, and less constructive action in the form of legislation, than there has about broadcasting. In the case of both the Green Report on Australian Broadcasting and the Broadcasting Tribunal Report the Minister instructed that they be prepared quickly, and they were. The Green Committee was given three months to write a report on the future structure of Australian broadcasting. In Great Britain, where there is a simpler broadcasting structure, Lord Annand ‘s committee, set up for the same purpose, was given three years in which to complete it. Our report was completed in three months. It was a creditable effort, in view of the time given to prepare it, but nothing has happened. The same sort of thing occurred with the Broadcasting Tribunal’s report, but continually the Minister keeps speaking about the need for public involvement in the formulation of broadcasting policies and the need, as he puts it, to take broadcasting out of politics.
Those two claims are repeated again and again. They are classic examples of the great hypocrisy and lying that is represented by this legislation. That goes right to the point of the amendment being moved by the Opposition. If there has ever been in the history of this country legislation which puts politics right into broadcasting and does nothing significant to involve the public in the formulation of broadcasting policy it is this Bill.
It is important that Government senators understand this because it will be a significant issue in the forthcoming election. This legislation will then be wrapped right around their necks, because there is a great deal of community concern about the two aspects I have mentioned and much public discussion, despite the fact that it has been rushed into the Parliament in the dying days of the session when there is limited time available so that there cannot be sound and lengthy political discussion of it.
To illustrate the point I make about the way in which what the Minister has repeatedly said is in contradistinction to his present actions- his forktongued approach to politics- let me quote what he said in the House of Representatives on 6 December 1976 when the last amendment was before that House. I cite the Minister’s remarks at page 3329 of Hansard, as follows:
The whole thrust of this legislation is to take politics out of broadcasting. The Minister will no longer have the right to decide as to who gets licences.
We will come back to that when we discuss the details of this Bill. The Minister said further:
The finding of the Tribunal will be the determining factor.
Talking later about the Tribunal he added:
The grant of these powers to a separate independent statutory authority will substantially reduce the possibility of political involvement in the licensing process.
Let us come back to the Bill and discuss that statement of intent. On 10 November 1976 the Minister said at page 2529 of Hansard, in speaking of the structure of the broadcasting system:
Let me stress this point because it is the basic distinction made by the report -
The reference there, of course, is to the Green report: a basic distinction which members of the Opposition persistently ignore despite the clear injunction of the report. The Government is and should be involved in shaping the structure of the system.
That is a notion with which, of course, the Opposition agrees. The Minister continues:
It is not and it should not be involved in dictating the content of programs.
Let us return to that statement in the context of this legislation. The Minister added:
We are reducing political influence in broadcasting. We are replacing it with public and industry participation. Statements to the contrary are nonsense.
That, of course, is true in one sense. This legislation is nonsense because it is quite contrary to all the high-sounding things the Minister said in the course of those speeches in 1976. He said further:
In conclusion may I state that this proposed restructuring will substantially reduce the opportunity for political pressures on broadcasting operations. It will be more economic, efficient and in keeping with today’s conditions and foreseeable future developments.
That is the ‘Minister for Propaganda’, as he has sometimes been called, talking in 1976 about his intentions on behalf of the Fraser Government in relation to the broadcasting structure. If one reads the amendment to be proposed by the Opposition one will get some idea of why the Opposition objects to the total lack of fulfilment of those stated intentions, and to the introduction of legislation which is quite contrary to everything that the Minister was then saying.
Let me now deal with the two points, which were of great concern to the Minister in December 1 976. The first concerns involving the public in the discussion of broadcasting policy. In pursuit of that undertaking he extended the time for comments on the two reports relating to broadcasting to which I have referred. But if this legislation is passed, as it will be, the public will have no genuine opportunity for involvement in the formulation of broadcasting policy. One might be able to mention this matter in the context of the debate in the Committee stage.
There are sections of this Bill which provide that persons interested- there is no definition of the expression ‘persons interested’- might appear before the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. But if the persons interested happened to be members of the public they would know before they appeared before the Tribunal that, whatever the Tribunal decided, they would have no right of appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The only right of appeal given by this legislation to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal is given effectively to licensees or the owners of broadcasting stations. So, right from its inception, the Broadcasting Tribunal is going to be placed in the extraordinary position of being a Tribunal which is being asked to judge a set of circumstances and make a decision about them in the sure knowledge that only one side can appeal against its decisions. What an extraordinary situation for a so-called quasi judicial body to be put in by legislation of this Parliament! That is in fact what will happen. So much for the question of public discussion.
The members of the public of Australia will wake in fright when the full purport of this broadcasting legislation finally gets through to them. It is because of that that we object very strongly to the way in which the legislation is being rushed through the Parliament. The 1976 legislation also was rushed through the Parliament right at the end of a session. Senator Townley- who probably has some sort of interest in this matter; I do not seek to identify it at the moment- nods his head. So there have been two occasions on which this sort of legislation has been rushed through the Parliament. We object very strongly to that.
Let me talk to the three aspects of the amendment which is to be moved by the Opposition. Perhaps I should formally move it now. I move:
Firstly, let me speak to paragraph (a) of the amendment. This legislation provides for a mock transferral of power from the Minister to the Broadcasting Tribunal in respect of the granting and renewal of broadcasting licenses because the power which is being given to the Tribunal by the legislation is, of course, tremendously limited by the powers given to the Minister- for the first time quite explicitly in this regard- to call for applications for broadcasting licences. The Minister is being given exclusive power to call for applications for broadcasting licences. Supposing we had the unlikely circumstance of having a lazy Minister who, firstly, would not call for applications for broadcasting licences. The Australian broadcasting system, which in terms of its present structure rivals that only of the Republic of Ireland, would never be able to develop. The public broadcasting sector would never develop if the Minister did not call for applications for licences. The commercial sector would never develop if the Minister did not call for applications for licences. It is a legislative recipe for not taking action.
The Minister would be open to all sorts of corruption. He could say to his friends in Blacktown, for example: ‘I will let you know that I am going to call for a licence in the Blacktown area. Get ready with your application and put it in as soon as appropriate’. The Minister could do that. It is a recipe for corruption, which is the objectionable feature and which historically has been the objectionable feature of having licensing powers residing in the hands of a politician. Throughout the history of broadcasting in Australia that has been the thing to which people have objected. So, first of all, it represents a mock transferral of power to the Tribunal because the Minister retains the power to call for applications.
Secondly, this legislation gives the Minister power to revoke or vary the conditions of a broadcasting licence at any time. That is a horrifying power for a Minister to have. Many commercial licensees see it in that way. There is a lot of money involved in broadcasting and if one has a licence for five years and if the Minister has the power to vary the terms of that licence in the middle of that period not only would one be potentially up for a financial loss if that happened but also there would be very disastrous circumstances in terms of the capacity of people who have licences or who are seeking licences to plan ahead in relation to broadcasting policy. That incredible power is now being given to the Minister. All the time we have the present Minister raising an eyebrow and saying: ‘We are going to take broadcasting out of politics’ or, as he sometimes puts it, ‘We are going to take politics out of broadcasting’. We have this absurd charade of repeated statements of that kind and at the same time he is granting himself, by this legislation, these quite enormous powers in relation to the broadcasting structure. It does not take broadcasting out of politics; it puts broadcasting right into politics. That is an area of concern to not only the public and community broadcasters in Australia but also the commercial broadcasting sector, which is absolutely appalled by this aspect of the legislation.
Why is it thought by the Minister that broadcasting should be taken out of politics? It is thought that broadcasting should be taken out of politics because the licensing procedures in this country for broadcasting and television stations have been dirty words over many years. It goes back to 1963, I think, when another statutory body- the Australian Broadcasting Control Board- awarded a television licence and the Prime Minister of the day took that licence away from the body recommended by the Board and gave it to his friend, Reg Ansett.
– That cannot be done now, can it?
-Yes, it could be done, Senator Missen. Since 1963 it has been argued in Australia that politicians should not have this right and that the licensing process should be above all the skulduggery that went on with Sir Reginald Ansett. The only proper solution to that sort of situation is to provide a structure for broadcasting which delineates the functions of various bodies, including the Minister, in a quite clear sort of way. The Broadcasting Control Board made an important submission to the Green inquiry into Australian broadcasting along the very lines of the importance of having a quite distinct function for the various parties or bodies concerned.
That has been important not only in the case of the Ansett licence but also in cases of administration of licences under the present Minister’s control- for example, the licence given to Prospect Broadcasters at Parramatta on the recommendation of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board before it was abolished. The Minister refused to allow it to have that licence, reversing the decision of the Board. Cynics say that the Minister has been hell-bent to award that licence to a company which is sponsored by Cottee’s, the drink manufacturers, and that Mr Cottee happens to be a fairly well known donor to and member of the Liberal Party of New South Wales. That is what the cynics say, and I simply note what they say without necessarily agreeing with it. But the political point is that it is being said everywhere. When the Minister, in relation to that particular radio broadcasting licence, writes to the Chairman of the Broadcasting Tribunal, a so-called independent statutory body, and asks for the file relating to that matter and when the Chairman of the statutory body asks for the file back and is told that the file is lost, all the comments that the cynics make about the licence being taken away from the people the Broadcasting Control Board recommended and given to a great and powerful friend of the Liberal Party in New South Wales begin to take on a peculiar air. That is a situation which is of concern and which this legislation does nothing to rectify because the Minister will still have those powers.
Then there was the unfortunate business, about which cynics also talk, of the licence promised to Melbourne University for a public broadcasting station, granted on what New South Wales cynics refer to as the basis of the Guilfoyle connection. It was thought that because Senator Guilfoyle ‘s daughter happened to have some relationship with one of the sponsors of that station the licence was promised by the Minister in Melbourne to the Melbourne University when a whole lot of other applicants for licences who were ahead of Melbourne University received no such favourable consideration. Some people who do not understand the way politics works in this country say: ‘What an extraordinary set of circumstances that it should all hap- pen like that. Isn’t that interesting?’ We wonder h ere, as we talk about it in the Senate or the House of Representatives, why Parliament and politicians are not held in the highest respect in the community when that sort of thing is going on.
This legislation does nothing to cure any of that because the Minister will still have the power to engage in that sort of skulduggery, whether he be a Liberal Minister or a Labor Minister. If he is a Labor Minister, we say that it is a bad thing, and we say that in the case of a Liberal Minister it is also a bad thing, because the rules must apply equally. It is for that reason that the Opposition is very concerned about the increased licensing powers given to the Minister, the abuse of which has been discussed in the Press and is the common parlance of people concerned with broadcasting in this country. It is a matter of great concern in relation to a Minister who, rumour has it, has aspirations to be Treasurer of this country. I do not know whether it is a threat or a promise that is being offered. I suppose that if it gets rid of the present Treasurer it is a promise, but it may be a threat if the Minister who has administered broadcasting and television in the way that he has is a potential Treasurer of this country.
We are most concerned with the structural way in which licences are to be granted under the proposed legislation, and in the context of an election on 10 December I say quite frankly that the policy of the Australian Labor Party is one of separating these functions quite distinctly and taking them away from the Minister, as this Minister keeps saying that he intends to do but does not do. Our policy is quite clear; there should be a broadcasting structure in this country in which the licensing function is vested exclusively in a broadcasting tribunal which is a quasi-judicial body. The function of administration and comment on broadcasting matters should be vested in a separate body called the broadcasting advisory council, which will be representative of community groups and the public. That is most essential in the structure of broadcasting because the unfortunate factor here is that the Government has a tiger by the tail. In a recent survey 65 per cent of the people interviewed expressed concern about these things in Australia, and they are becoming more and more concerned. One of the reasons for their concern is that this Government interfered with the existing broadcasting structure for quite blatant political purposes and stirred up a hornet’s nest in the process. The sort of problems that the Government is going to have, now and in the future, are on its own head because of the stirring that was done in those euphoric days of early 1976 after it came to power and was going to display to the people h ow a really good government ran the place, or so we used to hear. That is one of the difficulties into which we have got ourselves in the area of licensing.
The second point in the general amendment moved by the Opposition relates to the Special Broadcasting Service. The provisions of the legislation relating to the Special Broadcasting Service are vague and imprecise, but before I deal with that aspect let me consider the situation of ethnic radio in Australia. Multilingual broadcasting, as it is called in the Bill, or ethnic radio, as it is sometimes called, apparently is to be the first and prime function of the Special Broadcasting Service. If one looks at the history of ethnic radio under this Government, again it is a history of failure, prevarication, uncertainty and disruption. Right from the beginning, when the Government came to power, it found that the world had changed since the days of Bill McMahon as Prime Minister. It found that for the first time migrant communities in this country had radio stations of their own and they broadcast in their own language. What a shocking thing to come into government and find people talking at you on the radio in Greek or some other language! What a terrible thing for the old Anglo-Saxon Establishment to find when it came back into government, and something had to be done about it. A lot of attempts were made to grapple with the ethnic radio problem, including the suggestion from Government spokesmen that any foreign language programs should be followed by a translation in English. Those sorts of suggestions were made and attempts were also made to put the whole of ethnic radio in Australia under the wing of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. But the Australian Broadcasting Commission was not going to be given adequate money to run ethnic radio and it declined to take on that obligation. After a great deal of to-ing and fro-ing, including getting rid of Station 3ZZ in Melbourne, finally the suggestion came up: We will have a special broadcasting service which will take under its wing multilingual radio services, or ethnic radio. So the first function of this Special Broadcasting Service is to take on ethnic radio in Australia.
The legislation does not tell us that the Minister has issued guidelines in relation to the way in which ethnic radio is to be carried on. Officers of the Minister’s Department currently are interviewing a large number of applicants for what they call policy co-ordination of ethnic radio broadcasts. That might not be quite the right expression, but the Department is interviewing those applicants at the moment and nobody is quite clear what the job is all about. However, what the guidelines say is quite clear. The guidelines are very restrictive in terms of the migrant language radio services and the capacity of those services to deal with political matters. There are two basic restrictions that the Special Broadcasting Service will place on ethnic radio or multilingual radio in Australia. The first is that the Special Broadcasting Service will be subject to government allocation of funds, and those funds can be cut off if the government of the day does not happen to like what the ethnic radio services are doing. One could say that that would not happen in Australia, but let us look at the Australian Broadcasting Commission and what has happened to it under this Government. If that can happen to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, a long-established and wellregarded institution in this country, what might happen to ethnic radio under this Government, which has messed around with ethnic radio for so long? The answer, which is of concern to migrant communities, is that the Government might cut off their funds if it does not like what they do.
The second aspect of the Special Broadcasting Service in relation to ethnic radio is the political guidelines that have been provided. The worst feature of all that is not the sort of authoritarianism which runs through it all, the desire for neatness at any cost. The worst feature is the totally patrician,, patronising attitude towards migrant communities in Australia. They have been pretty successful. I do not know about the Sydney experience but in Melbourne and Adelaide they certainly have been pretty successful in running very good programs which have been very popular. The ethnic communities have had a great deal of popular success in the way in which they have been able to run their own programs.
Now, by this legislation, they have been told simply this: ‘You are different from the commercial broadcasting sector in Australia. You are different from the Australian Broadcasting Commission’ that is according to its so-called independent charter- ‘because you will be told what sorts of guidelines you will have and how much money you will have’. The implication is: You are migrant communities. You are not the same as Cottees’- that is the manufacturer of Australian drinks which applied for a radio licence- ‘or any of these other people about whom we have known for a long time. You are different’. That is a patronising aspect of this legislation which is of considerable concern. That is not the proper answer to the question of the right way to establish ethnic broadcasting in this country.
The right way is to grant ethnic communities public or community licences just as Australians we hope will be granted public and community licences. If ethnic broadcasters in Melbourne, Adelaide or Sydney formed themselves into a cooperative and got a public broadcasting licence, the great thing for the ethnic communities, of course, is that they would be free from the financial strictures from then on. They would be free from political or other interference. They would be in exactly the same position as an Australian broadcaster. There should be public broadcasting licences for ethnic communities in each of the major cities. That is an inexpensive and proper way of doing it if ethnic communities are to be treated in the same way as other members of Australian society. We are concerned about that aspect. We do not think the Government has gone about this in the right way in the interests of the Australian community. The Government has gone about this in a ham-fisted political way, contrary to the interests of the ethnic communities and of Australian society as a whole.
Our second objection to the Special Broadcasting Service is simply this: Its functions, other than the multilingual broadcasting function, are not spelt out in any detail. The Minister for Post and Telecommunications is able to direct the Special Broadcasting Service to make broadcasts as prescribed. That is an expression which I should imagine has not previously appeared in the legislation of a country with pretentions to being a modern democracy.
– It is the special purposes which are prescribed, not the multilingual purposes.
-Yes, I understand that. It is special purposes as prescribed. I have left multilingual purposes. Now I am talking about special purposes. I do not know what special purposes are. They will be prescribed by the Minister. I do not know whether Dr Goebbels ever introduced legislation like that. I do not think he had that need. But if he did that is precisely the expression he would have used. He would have said: ‘The broadcasting service of the Third Reich will broadcast programs as prescribed by me as Minister for Propaganda’. That would be the most objectionable piece of legislation to be brought into an Australian parliament. The situation would be even worse if the legislation were carried by the Parliament. As I said earlier, it is these sorts of things that we will wrap around the necks of Government supporters in the course of an election campaign. These sorts of things are of vital importance and concern to the Australian community.
The Government does not need to make this provision in this sloppy way. If it wants to introduce a special broadcasting service and if it gave the matter some thought it could spell out the functions of the service. If the Government wants to introduce a special broadcasting service and it does not know what it should do, it does not have to insert a provision stating that the service shall operate for such special purposes as prescribed. It does not have to insert that provision. It should state: ‘We know it is two years since we started to think about broadcasting, but we need another two or three years’. That is what the Government says about the economy. Why should it not say that about broadcasting? Perhaps that would be more acceptable to people because they are used to that sort of excuse. But for the Government to put this sort of sloppy language in legislation is appalling. There is really no adequate explanation for that.
I refer the Senate to the details of the Special Broadcasting Service which are found in the Bill. Perhaps that matter can be discussed in a little more detail at the Committee stage. This form of final solution for broadcasting policy is most undesirable and should be rejected by the Senate. The third point I deal with relates to the matter of public participation in broadcasting policy about which the Minister has been gabbing for the last two years, and about which nothing has happened. The fact of the matter is that Australia has a unique broadcasting structure which will just crumble if it is not understood that the public demands a right to be heard in relation to the formulation of policies and in discussions about the development of the broadcasting system. There is really nothing in this legislation which assists this process.
When the Government introduced a proposal dealing with the broadcasting council- the Government has not gone on with that because the commercial broadcasting sector put a black ban on the Government- we moved amendments which would have provided that the broadcasting council should represent not only the industry but also other bodies in the community concerned with broadcasting standards. For example, included among our suggestions were bodies like the Australia Council, the Schools Commission and people who properly ought to be concerned in a constructive way about the contents of broadcasting programs. That amendment was rejected. The broadcasting council has never been appointed. Now the Government comes up with legislation which does nothing in terms of public involvement.
If we look at the clauses in the Bill which deal with inquiries which are to be conducted by the Broadcasting Tribunal we will find there is provision for a person interested to appear before the Tribunal in relation to the granting or renewal of a licence. But who is a person interested? Some of the lawyers on the Government side might like to tell me. I would have thought that a person interested would have to be very careful. If he were just Joe Blow, a listener to radio or television programs, I think that if he trotted up to the Tribunal he would not necessarily be thought of as a person interested. Kerry Packer would be a person interested, whether it was before the Broadcasting Tribunal or the Cricket Control Board. There are all sorts of figures like this who undoubtedly would be interested. But what about an ordinary member of the public? The sorts of standards for which one would hope were laid down in the Green report on Australian broadcasting which was made to the Government. Paragraph 216 states:
It would also seem to be desirable that the licensing authority should err on the side of generosity in granting access to its proceedings. While frivolous or irrelevant submissions should be disallowed, there is a very real area of public concern involved whenever the control of such socially important commodities as broadcasting licences is to be decided. Again, it would seem to be desirable that participation in such proceedings should not depend upon sponsorship of a competing petition. There will be many instances in which those wishing to make submissions regarding a licence have no consequent desire, or capacity, to themselves apply for a licence.
That seems to me to be a statement of concern and principle. It is a statement of advice to the Government which it does not take because it does not want to do so. It is not concerned about the interests of the public in broadcasting in any real way. It is not concerned in any sense which is reflected in this legislation. That is a very real problem. We find if we look at the detailed provisions in the Bill that if a member of the public lucky enough to be a person interested, within the terms of this legislation, if he appears before the Broadcasting Tribunal in relation to the granting or renewal of a licence and if the Tribunal hears what he has to say as a member of the public, with Kerry Packer or one of those financial lightweights on the other side in the application, the member of the public is heard in the sure knowledge that only Kerry Packer can appeal. A member of the public cannot appeal. Only the owner of the licence can appeal. What an extraordinary provision for a quasi judicial body like the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, as it has been described, to be confronted with. It is extraordinary that the Tribunal hears a case and makes a quasi judicial assessment knowing that, before it even reaches its decision, one side- the heavy side, the ownership side, the Reg Ansett side, the Kerry Packer side- can appeal but the ordinary member of the public cannot.
What an extraordinary provision for this Senate as a house of review to pass. What an extraordinary provision for the lawyers sitting on the Government benches to approve of. They will approve of it, of course, because an election is to be held on 10 December. They have to approve of it. There cannot be any bucking here. There can be no crossing the floor as Government supporters did in respect of the apple and pear legislation.
– When has a member of your Party crossed the floor?
– There can be no crossing of the floor as Government supporters did under
Senator Wright on the apple and pear legislation.
– You are all just Caucus screwed down, coerced and crushed- a complete captive of your party machine.
– We hear about it now. The backwoods lawyers have woken up now.
– You are in your glasshouse, Senator.
– You are like a little dog who is barking while the gate is closed.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Mulvihill)- Order! I ask the Senate to come back to the Bill and get away from a discussion of apples and pears.
-I know that apples and pears represent a very sensitive subject. The point I seek to make is that Senator Wright with his great concern for all these matters probably has not read the provisions of this Bill. I thought that Senator Wright, who made a lot of noise just a moment ago, would have been concerned that the house of review is about to adopt legislation of this kind because an election is to be held on 10 December and he has to be loyal to his Ministeror part time Minister as he is described- for Post and Telecommunications and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) who want this legislation passed. The point I make is that not one place in this legislation is there any significant concern for the right of public participation and public involvement in the broadcasting structural process of the kind which the Minister has so frequently talked about.
They are the three essential matters of concern in relation to this legislation. These three main points are reflected again and again in the detailed provisions of this Bill. It is unfortunate that there is one good provision in this Bill which ought to be passed; otherwise the Government should be invited to take precisely the course which the Opposition recommends in its entirety, namely, to reject this Bill and send it back to be redrafted. It is a most unsatisfactory piece of legislation. It is of concern to the community. I assure the Senate that, in the next three or four weeks, it will be of concern to Government senators as well as members of the Opposition.
-We are debating the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill. We have just heard a long, 50 minutes, tirade by Senator Button. Out of that 50 minutes, the honourable senator dedicated an entire seven minutes to the Special
Broadcasting Service which as we all know provides for the establishment of a multilingual broadcasting service and a multilingual television service. This shows clearly how important the Opposition views the service which will provide the large ethnic community of this country with broadcasting and television services which are different from those which the Opposition when in government tried to establish.
I congratulate the Government and the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) on this new Bill and particularly for introducing proposed new section 79d which, in part, states:
The functions of the Service are-
to provide multilingual broadcasting services and if authorised by the regulations, to provide multilingual television services; and
I feel that by including that provision in the Bill which will provide multilingual broadcasting and television services, the Government has realised that the term ‘ethnic broadcasting’ as such is a misnomer because in fact it is a multilingual broadcasting service which provides for different ethnic groups but which also provides for people who understand more than one language and who are not necessarily of a certain ethnic community.
I refer now to the second reading speech of the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in which he said: the Government believes it has a responsibility to determine the components of the system . . .
He went on to say:
This contrasts with the casual, incompetent manner in which the previous Government responded to the demands for public broadcasting, particularly in its doubtful method of licensing such stations under the Wireless Telegraphy Act.
He went on to say:
The principle of a broadcasting system not subject to political interference is one of the basic aims of the changes proposed in this Bill.
Further in his speech, the Minister said:
I turn now to those types of broadcasting services described as ‘special purpose’. The Government has been conscious of a need for the Australian broadcasting system to provide basic broadcasting services to the whole community and not just to parts of the community. Over one-quarter of the people in Australia did not have what must be considered a basic broadcasting service, that is, a service in their mother tongue. We inherited from the previous Administration a poorly organised, inadequate multilingual broadcasting service and have sought to respond to a need by Australia’s ethnic communities for a more comprehensive broadcasting service.
The Government decided to establish a permanent framework, not only for ethnic broadcasting services, but also for other types of special broadcasting services which may be considered necessary or desirable in the future.
I now refer to the Opposition’s amendment which Senator Button explained to us during his 50 minute speech. It is worth noting that the Opposition opposes the Bill as a whole. That means that it is also opposes the provision of broadcasting services for ethnic communities. Despite all the talk from members of the Opposition about their interest in ethnic communities and multilingual broadcasting -
– Where does it say that?
– This is quite clear from paragraph (b) of the amendment which states: the functions of the proposed Special Broadcasting Service are vague and imprecise and do not provide adequate machinery for the provision of ethnic broadcasting services;
I wonder whether the honourable senator would like to see these services continue on an ad hoc basis as was the case under the previous socialist Government? The fact is that the proposed SBS will be advised by the nominees of different ethnic groups. They will not be appointed by the Minister as was the case under the socialist Government.
Senator Button also talked about the mock transfer of power. Does the honourable senator really mean to say that he would like to see the Minister dictate to the Tribunal? Is that his idea of the way in which a socialist government should deal with tribunals? Later, Senator Button referred to what cynics say about the granting of licences. I would like to find out what the cymes say about a certain Mr Kaldis. Do honourable senators know who Mr Kaldis is? Is he an apolitical man, a man who is not interested in politics? He is the man who holds the present licence for radio station 2EA in Sydney. He was appointed by the previous Minister for the Media and has been granted a licence. I am sure that many honourable senators will be surprised to find out that Mr Kaldis was recently nominated by a political party- the Australian Labor Party- as its candidate for a seat in the New South Wales Legislative Council. Is that what the honourable senator means by the apolitical running of ethnic broadcasting? Is Mr Kaldis a person who is not interested in politics?
Senator Button also mentioned how the Special Broadcasting Service shows the patronising attitude of the Liberal and National Country Parties towards migrants and ethnic communities. I am fascinated by that and would like to find out how many migrants are in top executive positions in trade unions, how many of them represent the tremendous power -
– You do not know anything about trade unions.
– I am talking about continental migrants, non-English speaking migrants. I am one of them. How many of our colleagues on the socialist side in this or the other chamber have a continental background? There is not one. I must admit that there is one, not in this chamber but in another place, but he does not want to say where he was born. Nobody knows where he was born but he claims that he is an Italian when it suits him and an Austrian or some other nationality when it suits him. If the Opposition wants authorities to be representative of the community, I would like to find out whether there are migrants in executive positions in the socialist camp.
– Don’t they have any in Parliament?
– They do not seem to have. In the discussion on the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill in the other place the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones) said, among other things:
Under the proposed special broadcasting service and the guidelines laid down by the Minister, ethnic broadcasting will be potentially subject to strict political control.
Later on he said:
The main lesson to be learnt from the experience of ethnic broadcasting to date is the need for financial autonomy and program independence.
At its conference in Perth the Australian Labor Party resolved, among other things, that a Labor government would ‘develop ethnic radio as a facility controlled by ethnic communities themselves, not by Ministers’. If ever an ethnic broadcasting service was directed by a Minister it was under the socialist Government, not under our Government. Let us look at who controls ethnic radio and at what Dr Cass said when he appointed the new Ethnic Radio Committees. He said:
At the moment the Government is nominating the members. Eventually, however, members will be elected by the language groups themselves.
Eventually! That never happened because the communities were never consulted by the socialist Government. It is only now -
-That is not true.
– Of the honourable senator I would like to ask: When 2EA and the national ethnic radio committee were established and Mr Jim Bayutti was appointed chairman and Mr Brian White was appointed national director, who appointed them? Nobody but Dr Cass and Dr Spigelman in consultation with Mr Grassby.
Senator Button spoke about political influence. What has happened even in the last two years in ethnic radio? There was no political bias- certainly not- because any time anyone wanted to say something against the socialist view it was not allowed because it was said to be political. When anyone wanted to say something in favour of the present Government it was not allowed because it also was political. Those decisions were made on certain guidelines which were prepared by Al Grassby and company. Even today certain organisations which are not in line with the political views of controllers or co-ordinators are unable to present their view. This is interesting and I would like to quote from a publication which I have obtained from the Parliamentary Library entitled Review of International Affairs, published in Belgrade. It contained the annual report of the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia and dealt with the social organisation of Yugoslav citizens temporarily employed abroad. In the second paragraph the General Secretary stated:
The Presidency notes that the organisation of clubs, societies and other forms of association by Yugoslav citizens abroad has arisen from their needs and interests, that it has reached an important level and strongly fosters their ties with the homeland, patriotism, successful social selfprotection, resistance to assimilation and other negative influences . . .
Later on he stated:
It is particularly important to provide for a regular daily objective informing of our citizens about events at home and in the world (in radio news programmes and in other ways) . . .
They are explicit instructions by certain elements that are forcing their points of view on some of the broadcasters today. Therefore, those points of view are heard daily on the ethnic radio stations in Sydney and Melbourne and they are damaging the process of integration of many migrants into Australian society. The Special Broadcasting Service will be established, despite the opposition of the socialist party to it. In 1976 a consultative committee on ethnic broadcasting heard submissions in Sydney. It received about 250 submissions. The majority view of those submissions was that the ethnic communities do not want ethnic broadcasting to be provided by a private organisation, as Senator Button mentioned, but to be funded wholly by the Government and to be run by the Government. It would be an independent organisation of the type to be provided by the Special Broadcasting Service. The Government established the National Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Council in January 1977 to advise it on policy and future development of ethnic broadcasting services. The
Government has just announced the establishment of State committees, called State Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Committees, in New South Wales and Victoria.
– How were they elected?
– I mentioned earlier that the appointees to these bodies were nominated by their respective ethnic communities. Each ethnic community has nominated a certain number of persons from its own community to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson). From those nominees the Minister appointed Committee members, but not without consultation as Dr Cass did. A Press statement released by the Minister states that other functions of the Committees will include: to develop ongoing consultations with ethnic organisations and provide a focal point for all matters relating to ethnic broadcasting in the State; to advise the SBS on the extent to which the Broadcasting time available and the scope, standard and content of ethnic radio programs reflect the needs and interests of the ethnic communities concerned; and to keep the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, and the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, similarly informed.
If we look at the names of these persons who were nominated and appointed, we find that 19 people came from each State and that all of them were not Australian bora.
I wish now to deal with the role of the SBS as I see it. I believe that the SBS will have two main functions: The first will be in regard to new settlers or new arrivals and the second will be in regard to already established communities. I think that the first function should be to inform new settlers from ethnic communities, which have no organisations or only very small organisations, about their new environment, the Australian way of life, the availability of services and to teach them English, which I feel is very important. Once and for all we should discontinue that beautiful Australian Broadcasting Commission program called ‘Teaching English to Migrants’ which is broadcast at 6 a.m. It is absolutely useless and has no effect on anybody.
With regard to the second function of the Special Broadcasting Service, I think that established communities need and desire to be provided with music from their old countries, traditional customs, theatre and literature. They would like also a program to teach their sons and daughters about the origins of characteristics in their old countries. Finally, I think that both functions-with regard to new settlers and already established communities- should emphasise another point which I think is tremendously important: That is to inform the so-called old Australians about the countries from which the new settlers have come so that Australians in general will be able to understand and be more tolerant towards the different customs. Customs are different in every country and perhaps vary in different parts of a country. It is also important that this type of broadcasting would help the studies of 350,000 Australian-born students who are learning a language other than English. It would be of tremendous importance to teachers and all those educators who are in daily contact with the sons and daughters of migrants who have recently arrived in this country. I have found that many Australian teachers- up to 75 per cent of their pupils having come from some other country- find difficulty in understanding the behaviour of migrant children because they do not understand or know nothing about the habits and customs of those countries. I am sure that these educators would find it a tremendous help if they understood those customs. It would solve many of their problems.
I am delighted that this Bill is before the Senate and that it will be passed intact. It will provide a most important regular service. It will not be an ad hoc service. It will be a service which reflects the wishes of all ethnic communities and organisations, not just the wishes of some people appointed by a socialist Minister.
– I rise to oppose the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill 1977. 1 support the amendment moved by my colleague Senator Button which seeks that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted completely. The Opposition has been extremely concerned about the whole progress of the Fraser Government with respect to the media. Since the inception of this Government, it has made an ongoing attack on the independent aspects of the media in Australia and has undertaken an ongoing manipulation by way of restructuring the media. We in the Opposition believe that the media itself is one of the most important instruments for preserving democracy. We hope that in Australia we still have a democracy to be preserved.
We also recognise that the various forms of the media are so powerful in their effect on citizens and on growing children that they present an instrument which is very open to manipulation. It is for this reason that we, both in this chamber and outside it, have stressed constantly the importance of preserving the independence and the objectivity of national broadcasting and of restraining the commercial sector when it acts in a way which is contrary to the public interest and to the interest of democracy. We were very pleased when it appeared that there would be a restructuring which would divest the Minister of his powers to control the media and would set up a tribunal which would be an objective, expert body, accessible to the public and so forth, whose main function would be the regulation of licences. Of course, that has not happened.
We have waited for this legislation for a long time. Now that it has come before us we are totally disappointed in it and oppose it totally. That is not to say that there is not the odd thing in this legislation which would not be acceptable in the context of another piece of legislation, but the legislation contains so many obnoxious and dangerous aspects that we have no alternative but to oppose it completely. My colleague Senator Button, in introducing the Opposition’s contribution to this debate, gave a very thorough and comprehensive summary of the media situation in Australia today and of the developments that have taken place since the Fraser Government came into office. As I have said, most of those developments have been rather alarming. I should like briefly to remind the Senate of the very bad record of the Fraser Government with respect to broadcasting.
First of all, there was the very partisan and inappropriate appointment of Sir Henry Bland as Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, an appointment which was disastrous and was resolved finally when Sir Henry Bland realised how disastrous the situation had become and relieved the Government of the embarrassment his presence was causing by resigning. Many attacks were made on the independence of the ABC during the period of Sir Henry Bland’s chairmanship and, I think, in a more subtle way even since his chairmanship ceased. There has been a cutting of funds for the ABC; there has been a reduction in the kinds of programs and range of programs offered by the ABC; there has been interference in current affairs programs- a restriction in the range of points of view which can be presented in current affairs programs; and there certainly has been a lowering of quality of national broadcasting. I believe that the lowering of the quality of some of the drama productions and so forth is a direct result of the cut in funds. Good television drama series, for example, simply cannot be made without adequate funds to pay for rehearsal time, careful formulation of scripts and so forth. Of course, that adequate financing no longer exists.
Then the commercial sector was looked at by the Government. An Australian Broadcasting Tribunal was appointed to conduct an inquiry into self-regulation and subsequently to engage in licensing procedures. But again the appointment of somebody with a clearly partisan background in terms of the industry, Mr Bruce Gyngell, caused a great deal of scepticism throughout the community as to the objectivity and the independence of the Tribunal. Indeed, it is interesting to note that when the first report of the Tribunal, dealing with self-regulation in broadcasting, was brought down the Chairman was in disagreement with the other two members of the Tribunal. Perhaps this demonstrates the fears which we in the Opposition had that the Chairman would not be objective with regard to the commercial broadcasting industry in this country.
It is disappointing too that the Government has not permitted adequate consideration in the Parliament of the Tribunal’s report on selfregulation before introducing the legislation which is before us. The report of the Tribunal raises some very important questions. On the whole, I think it raises those questions in an intelligent and informative way. They are questions which should have been properly discussed in the Parliament before further legislation on this matter was introduced. Although there has been no proper consideration of the report within the Parliament, this legislation is brought before us on the second last day of a parliamentary session which has been brought to a premature and hasty conclusion.
As well as those acts of the Government which I have just enumerated, there was also the closure of the ethnic radio station 3ZZ. I was astounded to hear the previous speaker, Senator Lajovic, suggest that the Australian Labor Party when in government was not sympathetic to or had no interest in ethnic broadcasting. The whole issue of ethnic broadcasting became an issue on the initiative of the Labor Government. It is because of the on-going support of ethnic broadcasting and, indeed, of ethnic groups generally by members of the Opposition that there has been further developments and some gesture on the part of the Fraser Government-tokenistic though it is- in this area.
Given the record of the Fraser Government with respect to broadcasting in both the public and the private sectors, it should come as no surprise that we approach this Bill with a great deal of scepticism. When we examine the provisions of the Bill we find that so many of them are totally repugnant in terms of what one would wish for a broadcasting system in a democratic, pluralistic and multilingual society. We have a number of objections to the Bill, some of which will be discussed in more detail at the Committee stage. I should like to draw attention to some specific objections we have which perhaps Senator Button did not mention. For example, clause 3 relates to pecuniary interests. I recollect now that Senator Button did describe our objection to that provision. It appears that the provision requiring a person who becomes a member of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal to divest himself of pecuniary interests is a very superficial one indeed. A person may be appointed and then have 14 days to get his affairs in such order as would not attract critical comment from the public or from the media. We are very unhappy with that provision.
Clause 8 is another cause for concern. That clause seeks to substitute a new section 19 in the Broadcasting and Television Act. Proposed new section 19 (2) reads:
Where the Tribunal is satisfied that, by reason of the confidential nature of any evidence or matter or for any other reason, it is desirable that the Tribunal should give directions of all or any of the following kinds, namely . . .
The clause goes on to list ways in which evidence which comes before the Tribunal can be suppressed. We find this provision worthy of concern. We do not claim that all evidence given before the Tribunal should be revealed to anyone at any time, but this provision for confidentiality seems to us to erode very seriously the public interest in the matter. It could give rise to manipulation and suppression of evidence which it is in the public interest should be revealed.
In clause 10 there is a rather strange and badly defined reference to persons who may appear before the Tribunal. It would appear that the Tribunal will be able to decide who appears before it and who does not. Again, this is quite alarming, given that the whole function of the Tribunal, as claimed by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), is to conduct public inquiries. It would seem from clause 10, which seeks to insert section 22AA into the Act, that people may come before the Tribunal only if the Tribunal decides that those people have an interest in the proceedings. In the legislation no attempt is made to define in any specific or objective way of what an interest in the proceedings may consist. So it would appear from clause 10 that an ordinary member of the public who has a genuine interest and concern in a matter and who wishes to put a point of view before the Tribunal may be denied that opportunity because the Tribunal might decide that that person’s interest is not appropriate. We are quite concerned about the possible ramifications of that.
-It was referred to in the report though, was it not?
– I am speaking about the legislation before us. When the Government withdraws and redrafts this Bill, if it is going to do that, we should like to see much more objective and clear-cut definitions of what constitutes interest’ and who can come before the Tribunal. I shall be interested to hear Senator Missen ‘s contribution in this debate, particularly in these respects. Clause 1 1 contains a reference to public interest, but again that reference is not specific. That clause seeks to amend section 25 of the Act by adding the following sub-section:
What is a reasonable opportunity and who are those people who have an interest? The whole situation from the point of view of the community is totally unsatisfactory. There is another provision in clause 18 which we find of concern. That is contained in Division 5- Finance, 79ZA (d). In respect to the provision that the special broadcasting service may be privately sponsored it states: moneys received by the Service in respect of program sponsorship of a kind approved by the Minister.
Again it would seem that, if this new broadcasting service can be privately sponsored in a way approved by the Minister, that may not always be in the public interest. We know that there are groups and bodies in the community which can well afford to sponsor certain kinds of programs and those which could never afford such sponsorship. It is quite likely under that provision that those with the money will get the power yet again when it comes to broadcasting and sponsorship of programs. They are some of the specific objections. We have many more.
I shall move on to the more general and serious objections which lead us not merely to propose amendments to the legislation but to oppose the entire legislation. The first major fault and alarming feature of the Bill is the extent to which it extends ministerial control over broadcasting. I repeat that it extends ministerial control; it does not restrict it. Even though the Minister in his second reading speech claimed to be divesting himself of power and control over broadcasting in respect of the proposed body, when one looks at the provisions of the Bill one finds that the Minister is increasing his own control. This is a totally unacceptable development in a democratic political system. The Minister’s claim that the present ministerial powers in the licensing area are transferred to the Tribunal by the Bill is simply not true. While formal power to grant and renew licences is given to the Tribunal by the Bill, the most significant part of the real power over licensing is to remain firmly in the hands of the Minister. Without any reference to the Tribunal or any public discussion, the Minister will be able to specify the nature and purpose of the service to be provided in pursuance of each licence as well as the area to be served.
That is a serious extension of the Minister’s power. I repeat what the Minister can do. He can actually decide what sort of a licence it is to be and where the licence is to operate. The Minister will have power to specify the nature and purpose of programming as well as the technical specifications for all commercial and public radio and television stations. This will enable the Minister to have significant influence on the granting of licences by formulating specifications tailor-made for one applicant and quite unsuited to others. I do not think it takes very much imagination to conceptualise how that would operate. In some cases this ministerial decision could eliminate all but one applicant in advance of any Tribunal hearing.
As these ministerial specifications determine the scope of the Tribunal’s inquiries, the powers given to the Minister by thus Bill are clearly greater than those transferred to the Tribunal. In addition, the Bill gives the Minister power to vary, revoke or add to the specifications at any time. That provision is contained in the proposed new section 85 (3). This means that in spite of the Tribunal’s formal power over licence revocation the Minister will have an effective power of licence revocation through his power to alter the specifications without any kind of public hearing or a decision by the Tribunal. For example, a public broadcasting licence issued for the special purpose of producing music programs of a special kind could be effectively revoked by a ministerial decision which varies the special condition of the licence and substitutes for it another which is incompatible with the purpose of the licensee. It is very clear that only the most limited
S powers in the area of licensing are to be transerred to the Tribunal by this Bill. The real power stays with the Minister. Where they are transferred to the Tribunal they give inadequate opportunity for the public to participate.
The Bill gives to the Tribunal responsibility in licensing areas for deciding which, if any, of the applicants will be granted a new licence. That has been tailored to the Minister’s specification for laying down such conditions of a licence as it sees fit on matters not covered by the Minister’s powers. In view of the wide powers of the Minister, the Tribunal’s conditions will be substantially confined to programming and advertising standards. Enforced observance of the conditions of a licence through the power of suspension, revocation and short term renewal of licence include the enforced observance of ownership and control provisions of the Act. Of course, the Tribunal will have the power for the approval of licence transfers. Substantial powers in the licensing area are retained in the hands of the Minister. The Minister will be able to lay down licence specifications and to alter those specifications at any time entirely independently of any public hearing or any other action of the Tribunal. The only power the Tribunal will have in licensing matters which is not subject to severe limitation by ministerial direction is the power to determine standards in relation to programs and advertising. This is a power which both the Tribunal and its predecessor, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, has always had. The Minister is transferring no real power other than the unpleasant and unpopular responsibility for enforcing observance of licence conditions.
Related to the retention of ministerial control and the exclusion of the public from significant areas of the Tribunal’s responsibility in licensing is the new opportunity for political manipulation of the media which this legislation presents, particularly in respect of the Special Broadcasting Service. The Special Broadcasting Service as proposed in the Bill will not merely add another element to the existing national broadcasting system; it will introduce also a national broadcasting service of an entirely new character in the history of Australian broadcasting. It will lack all the qualities of political independence that the Australian Broadcasting Commission has and will be subject to direct political control. I draw the attention of the chamber to division 2 of clause 18 which sets out the functions of the service. Proposed new section 79D states:
The functions of the Service are-
to provide multilingual broadcasting services and, if authorized by the regulations, to provide multilingual television services; and
to provide broadcasting and television services for such special purposes as are prescribed.
Senator Lajovic made much of this obligation to provide multilingual broadcasting services. I think he overstated his case with great extravagance. He failed to say, for example, that the provision of multilingual television services will depend on authorisation by regulations.
– I shall be answering it in full later.
-I thank Senator Mulvihill. I am sure he will. Proposed new section 79d stating that the functions of the service are to provide broadcasting and television services for such special purposes as are prescribed gives the power entirely to regulation to prescribe any further function. Again, a Minister could direct further purposes such as the broadcasting of political propaganda. I do not think there is any way in which government supporters can deny that that possibility exists in the legislation as it is drafted. The Opposition finds that possibility totally alarming. Whatever sort of government is in power we do not think that it should have the right to have its own propaganda channel through which it may direct any kind of broadcasting it sees fit to inflict on the listening public or the viewing public in the case of television. The limitation on the role of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is also very alarming. It has been brought in in a back door way. Clause 15 introduces an amendment which states:
In complying with the requirements of sub-section ( 1 ), the Commission shall have regard to the services provided under Pan IIIA.
In other words, the ABC will have to tailor its programming and activities to fit in with what the Special Broadcasting Service is doing. If, for example, the Government decided to direct, under Section 18 (b) that news broadcast or current affairs programs to its own liking should be broadcast, it could say to the ABC, ‘You need not do so many current affairs and news broadcasts now because the Special Broadcasting Service is doing them and it is out of balance to have so much.’ In this way the ABC, which has managed to retain a degree of independence would have its independence quite seriously eroded. I can think of none other than devious motives on the part of the Government for introducing this modification of the independence of the ABC.
– It is not that simple.
– I notice that Senator Missen is looking quite -
– He certainly does not look shocked, but does look quizzical when I suggest that there are devious motives on the part of the Government for including clause 15, which erodes the independence of the ABC. I will be very interested to hear him explain what beneficial or positive motives the Government might have had.
– I hope I live up to your expectations.
-I suspect that you will not, Senator Missen, but I am used to being disappointed. This question of political manipulation is perhaps the most serious inadequacy in the Bill. There is to be no independence for the new Special Broadcasting Service. It is to be completely tied to government control. The public will have very little opportunity to participate effectively in what goes on. The Government will be able to direct the kind of broadcasting, including multilingual, that it wants, and will have almost total control over the kind of programs that SBS would provide. The Government would be able to specify that an SBS program would be multilingual, or that it would be a news and information service; also the political orientation of the program and the social values to be promoted.
The Bill empowers the Government to achieve all this by regulation- another very disturbing aspect and one to which we are entirely opposed -not by the introduction of legislation. Extensive and effective control of the Special Broadcasting Service could thus be exercised by a government without public consultation or debate in the Parliament. Well, we are of course accustomed to the opportunity for debate being drastically restricted by the present Government. The Bill would permit an entirely new area, that of broadcasting, to be controlled by regulation.
– There is the voice of experience speaking.
– There seem to be some rather pointless interjections coming from the other side of the chamber. I can understand why Senator Chaney would wish to distract attention from the provisions of the Bill before us. He is one who was once quite interested in civil liberties and such things as having independent public authorities. It must really be mortifying for him to see the anti-democratic legislation that the Government he supports brings before us- in the full knowledge that it has the numbers to push it through.
To move on to the question of public participation, to which reference has so often been made by the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) when there was such great controversy about the Government’s interfering with the ABC and setting up a biased tribunal to inquire into self-regulation. The Minister kept assuring us that our anxiety was totally unjustified because everything would be accessible to the public; that procedures would be established whereby the ultimate expression of democracy could take place, in that the public could come and say, ‘We do not like that station, that kind of broadcasting’, that if enough of them said it, in a democratic way, their wishes would be observed and they would be able to bring about change.
Despite all these assurances, what we have before us is legislation that virtually excludes the public from all participation in broadcasting, except attendance at the hearings of the tribunal. However, as I have pointed out, the approval to attend such hearings is poorly defined, and may of course be withheld from people who feel that they have a legitimate place before the tribunal. The Bill limits the right of appearance of the public before the tribunal to those who have, in the words of the legislation, an interest in the proceedings. No attempt is made to define what constitutes an interest m such proceedings. That is left to the tribunal.
Apart from the problem of definition, the distinction between persons having an interest and persons not having an interest is doubtful in this context. Every citizen has an interest in the way in which the broadcasting system operates, yet the right of every citizen to express such interest is nowhere guaranteed in the Bill. Thus, the opportunity for public participation is limited to those who are eligible to appear before the tribunal. There is no role for the public in the formulation of policy, of standards, of guidelines for programming, or any of those things we had hoped would be included in this legislation.
It is unfortunate, too, that the Bill has come before the Senate on the second last day of a Parliament that has been brought to a premature conclusion. It is both long and complex and most of it we believe represents bad legislation. It does not fulfil any of the undertakings given by the Government or by the Minister in respect of public broadcasting. It will be a disappointment to all those members of the community who believe in public broadcasting and who have been committed to initiatives in that field. I refer, of course, to the ethnic groups who have shown a great deal of enterprise and energy in setting up ethnic broadcasting over the old community access stations. It will be a disappointment to citizens who have taken the initiative to become involved in other kinds of community access programs. It will be a disappointment to everyone who believes that in a democracy all citizens should have access to the air waves.
For these and other reasons that I have outlined, I totally oppose the legislation and support Senator Button’s amendment that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted.
-At the outset I would like to express to both the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), who is at the table, and the Minister in the other place, as well as the departmental officers, my gratitude for all the help they have been to me with regard to this Bill. It is a matter in which I have, of course, a very great interest. We have before us a Bill that is perhaps somewhat better than it may have been when it was first introduced in the Parliament. In the other place the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Jones) who would, I feel, consider that television and radio were of importance only if they ran on steam, read a report from the Age that I had asked, in effect, that the time of suspension under the Act be changed from 7 days to 10. Section 88 (2) states that the suspension of a licence shall be for a specified period not exceeding 7 days. That honourable member was the gentleman who said at one stage that there were more votes in Newcastle than there were in the whole of Tasmania. Also, he was the Minister for Transport who authorised the increase in air fares across Bass Strait, with the result that those fares almost doubled. So Tasmanians know that he has cost them dearly.
Now he incorrectly assumes that a newspaper report is correct. I do not, as a rule, correct incorrect newspaper statements, nor do I reply usually to accusations that come from people of very limited brain power. Since we are discussing radio and television, I think I could fairly say that the total brain power that would emanate from that person would amount to less than a microwatt; that he would do much better not to broadcast incorrect statements. If he feels that he needs to, let him go ahead; but he can rest assured that I will be counselled chiefly by persons of known talent and that certainly rules him out. In the time before the birth of Christ, General Lucins Paulus said something in Rome that the honourable member for Newcastle could well think about, namely:
Let him confine his passion for talking to his own precincts and rest assured that we shall pay no attention to any counsels such as shall be framed within our camp.
I move now to the provisions of the Bill that I would like to discuss. I do not wish to speak for a long time on the Bill. The Bill, as now presented, does a lot for the radio and television industry. As I have said, I believe that it is better now than it was when it was originally formulated. But I feel that there are dangers in it. To my mind there are dangers in the establishment of the Special Broadcasting Service, particularly as it applies to small areas. The Minister for Education said in his second reading speech:
The Government decided to establish a permanent framework, not only for ethnic broadcasting services, but also for other types of special broadcasting services which may be considered necessary or desirable in the future. This Bill provides for the establishment of the Special Broadcasting Service. It will be a statutory authority comprising a part time Chairman and not less than two, or more than six, pan time members. The SBS shall be empowered to provide multilingual broadcasting services and, if authorised by the regulations, to provide multilingual television services; and to provide broadcasting and television services for such special purposes as are prescribed.
In other words, the extension to cover television could be easily done by regulation. If one looks at proposed section 79ZA(d), which appears on page IS of the Bill, one will see that it says that the moneys of the Service shall consist of moneys received by the Service in respect of program sponsorship of a kind approved by the Minister. That is the provision that Senator Ryan said a moment ago the Australian Labor Party was worried about. Again I refer to the Minister’s second reading speech. He said:
The SBS will not, however, derive revenue by means of normal commercial advertising.
I cannot reconcile those two comments. As far as I can see, proposed section 79ZA (d) says that the moneys of the Service shall consist of moneys received by the Service in respect of program sponsorship of a kind approved by the Minister. Surely those statements are in conflict. Surely by ministerial decree the SBS could become a commercial broadcasting section of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It may be that it would not happen all at once and it may be that it would not happen under this Government, but I am dealing with this piece of legislation as a piece of legislation and, as I read it, there is nothing whatsoever to stop any Minister from extending the SBS to cover a television service and from allowing it to become a commercial television service, which I would call ‘ABC2 Commercial’.
Let us look at what that would mean in a place like Hobart or Launceston or in some of the small areas throughout this country. They are the ones that I am particularly worried about. I am not worried about Melbourne or Sydney. An SBS television service could be set up in, say, Hobart under some pretext. It could then, by ministerial decree, take sponsorship and become commercial and so gradually drain away and compete with the sponsorship of the television station in Hobart, which incidentally had its licence suspended by the Minister in the previous Government for a very petty reason. As I have said, that kind of scenario could take place in many other areas of Australia.
Eventually many of the stations which are now profitable and which now provide a true service in the area in which they operate could easily experience competition from the SBS in relation to some special purposes- for instance, sport. Sport is becoming one of the very big things in television in the United States of America. The government of the day could say: ‘You can put on international soccer matches if you want to talk about multilingual things’. But the programs do not necessarily have to be in foreign languages. ‘ Multilingual ‘ includes English. So we could have further foreign language or English language television stations being set up in areas and they could gradually take sponsorship away from the local stations and send them broke. Many local stations make what appears to be a fair amount of money, but it is not a lot when it is compared with their running costs or their capital investment. We could then have ABC1 and ABC2 Commercial spreading the government word across this nation.
Provision for this is being brought in by a Liberal Government. I am quite blatantly a supporter of private enterprise and I do not want to see such competition from an ABC2.
– Do you not believe in the ABC system?
– I believe in the ABC system but I do not believe in making it commercial or competitive in these small areas. The point I am trying to make is that if a small amount of the advertising potential in a small area were given to an ABC commercial station, which could be the case, it would be enough to reduce the profitability of the local commercial television station and it would go broke. I am not worried about that situation in the big cities. I think they can handle it themselves. But 1 think it is a crazy thing for this Government to be bringing in this legislation because of the effect it could have in the smaller areas.
This matter is something at which I would very much like the Government to look. I know we are in the last hours of the Parliament, but to me that is absolutely no excuse whatsoever for bringing in legislation that cannot be amended. For instance, if the Minister were to say to me that it was too late to amend this legislation I would say that we should put off its passage until the next Parliament. The fact that we are sitting tomorrow and have before us Bills that may require amending but cannot be amended because the other House is not sitting I think is completely wrong. I do not think this House should ever sit in Committee, which is when amendments may be moved to clauses of Bills, when the House of Representatives is not available to consider any amendments passed.
– The reverse should be the case. The House of Representatives should await our decisions.
– I agree entirely. Anyway, the point I am making is that I feel strongly that the proposed section about which I have just spoken should be dropped for the reasons I have tried to indicate to the Government, that is, that section 79ZA (d), which provides that the moneys of the Service shall consist of moneys received by the Service in respect of program sponsorship of a kind approved by the Minister should be dropped from this Bill. If the reply of the Minister is that the Service can get money in other ways, let us stop it getting moneys in other ways. Let us make the SBS a non-advertising section of the ABC. It is also no excuse to me for people to say that if we drop this proposed section the SBS could still wangle to get money in other ways. Surely it is our job as supporters of private enterprise to stop that kind of thing happening.
The other proposed section that I would like to talk about and that I have misgivings about is proposed section 87 (2) on page 22 of the Bill, which reads:
Subject to this Act, a licence granted by way of renewal continues in force for three years or such lesser period (being not less than 12 months) as is specified in the licence, but the Tribunal shall not specify a period of less than three years unless it is satisfied that the circumstances justify its so doing.
Before commenting on that I say that I believe that the period of a licence of a television station in this country should be five years. The original licence granted is for five years. I believe that the renewal should be for a period of five years. In no way do I feel that this Tribunal should have the power to threaten to reduce the period of a station’s licence. Some honourable senators may say that five years is too long, and I would listen to reason on that. For radio perhaps it would be too long, but with television stations that have to gear up to huge capital investments and are involved with large expenditure in promoting and producing Australian content programs, which take anywhere between 12 months and 15 months to produce, it is crazy to give to a Tribunal that is not responsible to the electorate the power to say that a station can have a licence for 12 months because it is satisfied that the circumstances justify it so doing. What does this proposed section really mean? Let me read again the last part of it: but the Tribunal shall not specify a period of less than three years unless it is satisfied that the circumstances justify its so doing.
What kind of circumstances? There is nothing in the proposed section to give any guidelines whatsoever to a station that is attempting to do the best it can within the broadcasting and television spectrum. I believe that, first of all, the licence should be for a fixed length of time. I also believe that if the Government insists on giving the Tribunal that power it should add words so that the section would read: ‘Subject to this Act, a licence granted by way of renewal continues in force for three years or such lesser period (being not less than 12 months) as is specified in the licence, but the Tribunal shall not specify a period of less than three years unless there have been persistent breaches of specifications, conditions or standards’.
– Can’t you read Reg Ansett ‘s writing?
-No, it is my writing. I can never read my writing.
– It is standards, specifications or conditions.
-Yes, I put them in the other order. It does not really matter what order they are put in. At least that would give the stations something on which they could operate; some guidelines that would give them an idea of what they were supposed to do. At the moment they are subject to the whim of a tribunal that is not responsible to any electorate. Those are the main points within this legislation that I believe still need alteration. They both worry me quite a lot, and I hope that they will be changed.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by my colleague Senator Button. Before I go into the brief remarks I wish to make, I should like to comment on what has been said by a couple of speakers on the other side. Senator Lajovic naturally concentrated on the Special Broadcasting Service, but he told only half the story. He gave an indication of only half of what the Special Broadcasting Service was going to do. Already Senator Ryan and Senator Townley have drawn attention to the other half of the role of that Service and I will not press the point. Senator Lajovic commented that the present Government had inherited, as he called it, a multilingual service that was not good, and that raises a query. Ethnic broadcasting was the concept of the Labor Government. The units have operated very successfully, even under the pressure that the present Government has put on them to close down. I think they have made the point quite clearly, and Senator Lajovic would know this, that they do not want to have government pressure imposed upon them. They prefer to operate their own programs, and that is the way things ought to be. I am thinking particularly of the situation in Adelaide, where they have made the point quite strongly that they have operated well and they do not want to have the heavy hand of government on them.
But that is not the point that ought to come out of what Senator Lajovic said. Surely if there is something there that was created in those three years then we ought to build on it, not destroy it. We ought to take the ethnic radio that existed when the present Government came to power and try to build upon it to make it better. Surely that is the way we move ahead. It has been done in other areas. It has been done in regard to Aboriginal affairs and in some other areas. We do not destroy, we build on what was there when we came in. Senator Lajovic made the rather unfortunate suggestion, I thought, that we on this side of the chamber were opposed to ethnic radio. That does not make sense, of course. If we set up ethnic radio during our term of office obviously we are in favour of it, and I suggest that Senator Lajovic was not listening carefully to what Senator Button had to say. He then went on to talk about the fact that there were not enough Continental migrants either in the unions or in the Senate and the House of Representatives. That was a rather unusual statement. Perhaps Senator Lajovic should move into the trade union movement and see how many migrants of continental origin are involved in that movement. I think he will find that they may even be in excess of the ratio in which they exist in the community in general.
Senator Lajovic then mentioned that under Labor the ethnic radio groups were set up by the Minister, and he took exception to that. He suggested that what should happen, and what will happen now, is that they will be nominated by a committee and appointed by the Minister. One does not see how that is very much different, unless there was no consultation at all in the time of the Labor Government, and I do not think Senator Lajovic would suggest that that was so. He also mentioned the role of the Special Broadcasting Service to assist teachers who were teaching migrant children. I think that is a commendable suggestion if they happen to speak the language of the migrant session to which they are listening. If they do not, it is a little more difficult. Nevertheless, if there is any way of doing it I commend it fully. I certainly would like to see that sort of thing operating.
Senator Townley suggested that the legislation is somewhat better than it might have been, if I have the phrase correctly. I do not have the advantage of having seen the previous legislation, but I would hope that this is a lot better. Certainly there is plenty of room for improvement now, and the very thrust of Senator Button’s amendment is that we might have another go. Senator Townley attacked a member in another place, and I thought that that was rather unusual. I am new to Senate procedures, but I should have thought that when one has to go down to the level of attacking an individual then one is light on attacking his argument. I should have thought that the arguments were there to be attacked but not the individual, certainly not in terms of drawing attention to a claim that somebody might have a lower IQ, whatever that happens to be, than somebody else. I found that particularly offensive. Senator Townley then looked at sponsorship and drew attention to proposed section 79ZA (d). He was critical of it and suggested that this Government would not misuse the powers but another government might. I am sure he did not mean that Labor would do so. It is rather interesting to think of Labor being involved in that sort of sponsorship.
I move now to the comments I want to make. I think that the Bill is extremely disappointing. It is disappointing in that it does not follow the Green report. It is perhaps even more disappointing in that it does not do what the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) has said it does, and attention already has been drawn to that by Senator Button and some other speakers. It is not surprising that the Bill does not meet with the approval of the industry or of the public generally. From the remarks made by Senator Townley and from what we know of some activities in the other place, it does not meet with the approval of the back benchers of the present Government. I understand that quite a number of changes have already been made, and Senator Townley confirmed that in his comments. But more changes need to be made.
What has the Minister said that this Bill does? Firstly, he has said that it transfers the licensing authority to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal; secondly, that it provides for public involvement; and, thirdly, that it removes political interference. I wonder if we might refer back to the Minister’s second reading speech and take the actual words he used from which I have deduced that. Firstly, he said: in proposing the changes contained in this Bill, the Government has been motivated by a number of important principles which it believes should form the basis of the further development of the Australian broadcasting system. Firstly, we believe that the broadcasting frequency spectrum is a valuable public resource.
Later in his speech the Minister stated: the Government believes it has a responsibility to determine the components of the system, that is, the types of services provided by the sectors which should constitute the system, and the role of those components.
The Australian Broadcasting Tribunal should determine the components of the system and then it should decide on the role of these components. Further, the Minister stated:
At the same time as we see the need for government responsibility in these areas, it is our view that responsibility for the licensing and regulatory functions in the broadcasting area should rest with autonomous statutory authorities, rather than with the Government itself. The principle of a broadcasting system not subject to political interference is one of the basic aims of the changes proposed in this Bill. The major element of the changes aimed at depoliticising the broadcasting system is the transfer of the licensing power from the Minister to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.
Then the Minister stated: the planning and administration of broadcasting should be designed in a manner which will enable it to be responsive to the needs of the community.
Finally, the Minister stated:
The principle of accountability by broadcasters within the broadcasting system has also been considered as an important element.
That is what the Minister has said the Bill should do. I shall not go through and recap these matters. I think this is pretty straightforward. Let us have a look at what actually happened when the Bill came before the Senate. Let us look at what happened in the area of the transfer of licensing power to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. Traditionally, of course, the Minister has had this power. There have been complaints from the public and from industry that the Minister should not have the power to grant licences. So the decision was taken to transfer the power to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. The Minister in his speech said that this power has been transferred. But has the power really been transferred? The Minister will decide which applications will be called. He will set the specifications on the basis of which applications will be considered. He can actually change those conditions after the licence has been granted. So it is the Minister who gets the licence and keeps the licence. I refer back to the Minister’s speech where he stated:
The Minister will initiate the calling of licence applications as part of the planning process and then refer the applications received to the Tribunal for determination. In inviting applications, the Minister will provide specifications for the particular licence. These will indicate the nature of the service to be provided, the area to be served, the purpose of the licence, and other technical matters. These specifications will become, upon grant of the licence, conditions of the licence, an addition to the conditions set by the Tribunal pursuant to its powers.
So it is quite clear that the Minister will decide who has the licence. As has been fully explained by Senator Button, the Minister will do this by manipulating by the setting of the specifications. I drew attention by emphasis which, of course, will not be shown in the record to the word planning. To me this is very important. The Green report on Australian broadcasting which has already been referred to talked about a planning board. The name did not matter. The report suggested the setting up of a planning board and stated that this board was not to be given to the Postal and Telecommunications Department. It has now been given to the Postal and Telecommunications Department. By regulation decisions will be promulgated. As far as I am concerned this is one of the most disturbing features of the Bill. I shall refer to that later.
Those of us who have some sensitivity to democracy, as we call it, talk about decisions being taken by Parliament. We say that Parliament should make decisions because Parliament is responsible to the people. Anyone who has spent any time in the Public Service will know the problems associated with the setting of conditions by regulation. Things can happen. I do not think I need to develop at any great length the dangers inherent in setting conditions by regulation. It is clear that the Postal and Telecommunications Department has direct responsibility to its Minister and is more susceptible to political influence. Ipso facto, this situation must work in this way. I am not saying that will happen, but it is more susceptible to political influence and less susceptible and less responsive to public scrutiny. It is no good the Minister saying: ‘Of course, you are suspicious. We would not do those sorts of things’. We have been taught to be suspicious. Those of us who are interested in Shakespeare know the comments Shylock made and the protestations he made about other people being suspicious and about how they were taught to be so. We all know what happened there. Justice must not only be done but also it must be seen to be done.
Another area of concern to me is public involvement. The Minister spoke about this. Involvement is of many sorts. It might be involvement in the sorts of programs we will have on the stations. It might be involvement in the decision of who should have the licence. It certainly will be involvement in community radio and television. It would want to be involvement in the total decision making. How much involvement is there of the public as demonstrated by this Bill? The Minister says he wants public debate. He has called for it. He says he wants the matter to be discussed fully throughout the community and within the industry. Of course, this is a comment which is often made by this Minister and by other Ministers of the present Government. But as Senator Townley has said, there is no time for debate. This legislation will be pushed through the Senate because of the numbers game. There will be no debate by people in industry. It appears there will be little debate by members of the Government parties, let alone by others in this place. There should be an involvement of people in inquiries. It is clear that Senator Button has discussed the situation. He has outlined to us how the Bill limits participation to those with an interest in proceedings before the Tribunal. The Bill states:
Where a person does not have an interest in proceedings before the Tribunal at an inquiry, the Tribunal may declare that the person is not entitled to appear before the Tribunal at the proceedings.
Senator Button has developed the argument of what we mean by an interest. It appears from what has been left out of the Bill and from what has been said in the debate so far that the taxpayer, the person who pays for the Tribunal and who pays through his taxes for these things to be set up, does not have an interest. He cannot appear before the Tribunal. It is clear that the Bill lays down no guidelines through which public opinion can be channelled. It is not always enough simply to say that one should ring up and talk about it. We move on to the involvement of the general public, the taxpayers, in the decision as to who should have licences. It is quite clear that the public will have no part in setting the specifications on which licences are called. We notice that proposed new section 82 of the Bill states:
Before a licence is granted (otherwise than by way of renewal) the Minister shall publish in the Gazette and in a newspaper or newspapers, if any, circulating in the area concerned, a notice-
setting out an outline of the specifications to which it is proposed the licence is to be subject.
Those are the specifications which have been decided by the Minister, not by the Tribunal and not by the public who pay for these things. The Parliament is not involved in these guidelines. I have drawn attention to this matter already. There is no doubt that licences will go to those who are favoured by the Minister. The situation has not changed. The present Government has always done that sort of thing. But let us not pretend with a Bill of this type that we are doing anything else. Let us not be hypocritical. Let us simply say that we give licences to those people who support our point of view and we will take back licences from people who do not support our point of view. That right remains with the Minister.
There needs to be an involvement of the general public in the sons of programs on radio and television. Again, there is no allowance for this. At the moment a number of honourable senators are members of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts which is inquiring into the effect of television on children. Without pre-empting the report I can say that it is clear that many people are disturbed at the standard of television programs. I cannot see anywhere in this Bill where those people could be involved in bringing this matter forward. I cannot see any provision in the Bill which permits them to effect any changes in programs. It is not enough, as some people say, to telephone the station and tell the manager that one does not like a program. There is a lot more than just telephoning and complaining. There is a lot more to deciding on programs than simply complaining about those one does not like. Of course, most of us simply turn off the television set. But there is a danger. This danger is coming through very clearly in the inquiry which we are conducting at the present time. The danger is that the poor quality will become the standard and people will not recognise the defects because they have been conditioned to the poor quality which has been turned out for so long. But I digress. There is no opportunity for involvement in the programs. That is the point I wish to emphasise.
Let us look at community radio and television. Obviously this is an area of complete involvement. This is where the community has the opportunity to broadcast its own programs in the way that they think is appropriate. I commend the Minister for the Media in the Labor Government, despite the comments that have been made about him, for what he did in the fields of access radio and community radio and for the licences that have been passed on to tertiary institutions. It is quite clear, if one looks at the number of licences that were issued during the three years of the Labor Government from 1972 to 1975, that there was a lot of activity in all areas including tertiary institutions.
The present Government, for some reason, is opposed to granting licences to tertiary institutions. I received recently a letter from a tertiary institution in Darwin which wants a licence. The institution explained what it wanted to do with the licence. It outlined its plans for drama sections, radio sections, television work and so on. It wanted an opportunity to set up a small limited station within the Darwin area. The reply from the Minister for Post and Telecommunications was what one could only call incredible. In effect he said: ‘I have not decided whether to have these sorts of licences. I have yet to make this decision. If I do decide I may invite you to apply. If you do apply under the specifications that I set I may grant you a licence. No, I will not give you any guidelines to help you. I will set the specifications at a later date. ‘ This is frightening. It is certainly an unnecessary power to leave in the hands of a Minister.
Some people, of course, would say that the Special Broadcasting Service is the organisation that would look after this situation. That point is not clear to me. Let us have a look at it. The Special Broadcasting Service is a new concept. As Senator Button reminded us, it is virtually the Minister’s private station. The legislation provides that the Service will broadcast ‘Those programs the Government prescribes by regulation and conduct in accord with principles laid down by the Government from time to time’. That is incredible. If that is not the Minister’s own private station, I wonder what it is. Again, this is to be done by regulation. There is no attempt to enable the Senator Missen ‘s of this world to speak on these sorts of propositions when they come up so as to bring some sanity from that side of the Senate. As I said, this is to be done by regulation. It is no good the Minister saying: ‘Oh, we would not do that’.
– Perhaps you will repeat that point as Senator Lewis did not appear to understand it.
– I will come back to it later. But, as I said, it is no good the Minister saying: ‘We would not do this’. Let us face it: The credibility of the Government is pretty low at the present time and most people out in the community I speak to believe this Government would do almost anything.
There is the further danger, of course, that the Special Broadcasting Service may take over any programs from the Australian Broadcasting Commission and this is something that will worry Senator Missen and no doubt Senator Lewis as well. The Government can close down any news broadcast it does not like. It can close down any commentary programs. These programs can be taken over from the ABC because for some strange logic the ABC must take cognisance of what has been done by the Special
Broadcasting Service, not vice versa. The ABC must stop and the Special Broadcasting Service will take over.
When in opposition the present Government, of course, claimed that the ABC was biased, It was not, of course; it was only neutral and this was something that the then opposition was not used to. But in the light of the result at Greensborough last week I wonder whether some honourable senators on the other side are not a little frightened. Imagine what power we are talking about going into the hands of a Button or, as Senator Lajovic says, a socialist government. What terrible things could happen if this power got into their hands. The mind boggles. To deal with this subject on a more sensible plane, what could the Special Broadcasting Service really do? It could continue ethnic radio and television. It could continue the wonderful experiment that Labor set up and extend it into the communities further to places like Darwin which has the greatest ratio of non-English migrants- or as Senator Lajovic termed them, continental migrants- in Australia. It could develop community access radio and television and again extend this facility. This is what the Special Broadcasting Service could do.
It could provide programs for Aborigines. This is something that I have been calling for for many years. I have been calling for indigenous language broadcasts for Aboriginal people not only for their pleasure and entertainment but also for education purposes. But, of course, the Government will not listen to this. We nearly got it under Labor. We actually managed to get the transmitters into Darwin. But then the present Government sent them away again.
– But the power is there to do it.
-One would wonder whether it is, but one would hope so. One has to rely to a certain extent on the track record, and the track record at the present time is not too good. At present we do not have any local programs in English. All of our programs are imported from Queensland. We do not have enough staff to provide us with coverage for ordinary sporting fixtures and local events in Darwin. I wonder whether on that track record we would have much for Aborigines. The Special Broadcasting Service could continue educational broadcasts and telecasts covered by the ABC although I do not know why it would want to do this. The only area the ABC is not covering fully at the present time- although it does some of this- is in respect of adult education and the open university area.
I conclude my speech by saying that I think this Bill is disappointing because it could have done so much. There are elements within the Bill which have the right idea. Some of the intentions are good. There has been a good input from the public. There has been a good input from inquiries. There has been some good input from industry. But this has been almost wasted. The situation is no better than it was previously. Others have called the situation bad. People involved in industry, the Justice in Broadcasting groups, have called it bad. They have called it bad because it claims to do what it does not do. They have called it bad because it puts too much power in the hands of the Minister. They called it bad because it does not improve the situation but makes it worse. They called it bad because it has enunciated principles but has not carried them through. They have called it bad because it shuts out the public from the important area of broadcast planning. They called it bad because it opens the door to political manipulation.
I support the amendment that the Bill should be withdrawn. It should be reconsidered by the Government which should use all the inputs available to it at the present time. The Bill should be put down for discussion. In other words, the Government should do what the Minister said he wanted to do. Let us put the legislation down, discuss it and amend it as necessary. Let us see the Bill in future passed with due regard to these democratic principles which should be enshrined in a Bill of this sort, given the sensitive area with which it deals.
-We are dealing with the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill which is an important Bill. I am afraid that apart from those honourable senators who have spoken this afternoon and a few others there would not appear to be, in the dying days and hours of this Parliament, a great deal of interest and a great deal of opportunity for careful and rational consideration of a Bill of this nature. I regret, therefore, that this is the situation. This Bill is not the beginning and the end of alterations to the law in regard to broadcasting and television. It follows a Bill which I am afraid came rather hurriedly upon the scene at the end of last year and it is obvious from the statements made by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) that there will be further legislation next year when such matters as the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal’s report on selfregulation and other matters are considered. But nonetheless this Bill comes forward as an important piece of legislation whose purposes are only partially understood.
I think that we also have the problem that, although the Bill has been seen now for some two or three weeks, and some members of the Government parties, particularly those concerned with committees, have seen it for a longer period than that and have given it consideration, nonetheless there is not sufficient appreciation by the public of its purposes and terms. It is a long and difficult Bill and therefore requires dispassionate concern. I do not regard it as a Bill that ought to be considered in a party political or election atmosphere. I do not tackle the Bill today in that atmosphere because I believe broadcasting and television should be considered in such a way that we do not look at it as a matter of party political advantage; we look at it as the way in which we can provide the best system of broadcasting and television for this country.
I am by no means satisfied with the system we have at the present time. I am very much a supporter of the two-type system whereby we have the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the national system, and a financially sound commercial television system. At the same time I think there are distinct weaknesses in the system as a whole which will continue to need remedying. I have looked at the debates in the House of Representatives which concluded on Thursday and further reports and representations which came in as late as this last weekend. I want to make some reference this afternoon to some of the representations and some of the concerns that I feel about the Bill. Let me first of all put into context what this Bill is about because there have been some references to it. The main purposes to be served by the Bill should be understood. The Minister’s second reading speech has already been quoted but I think it should be quoted again. In it he states:
The principle of a broadcasting system not subject to political interference is one of the basic aims of the changes proposed in this Bill. The major element of the changes aimed at depoliticising the broadcasting system is the transfer of the licensing power from the Minister to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal.
The Minister went on to say:
In addition, we believe it highly desirable that there should be a significant degree of public and industry involvement in the development of broadcasting.
With those aims we must surely be in agreement. They are important aims and must be kept in the forefront of our thinking on this legislation. The Minister summarised the main provisions of the Bill in the following way:
The transfer of the present ministerial powers relating to the licensing of stations;
The full establishment of the powers and functions of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal;
The transfer of the broadcasting planning responsibility from the Secretary of the Postal and Telecommunications Department to the Minister;
Introduction of public inquiries into licence renewals;
Establishment and constitution of the special broadcasting service; and
A number of minor and consequential amendments reflecting the above changes and updating or modifying the act where necessary.
He went on to speak of the powers which are given to the Tribunal under the Bill. In relation to those six basic intentions or principles on which this Bill is based I say that I have some reservations about one of them, namely, the transfer of responsibility from the Department of Post and Telecommunications. I have some doubts about it and am in some ways sorry that the Green report was not followed in that regard. I have no reservations about the other proposals which are all basically important. From that point of view this is a desirable Bill.
At the same time we must recognise that this is in no way the end of the matter and we might remind those who this afternoon have been critical of the legislation of what the Minister, Mr Eric Robinson, said in the debate in the House of Representatives on 3 November 1977 as recorded at page 2814 of Hansard. He was replying to an amendment which had been moved by Mr Wentworth in relation to the Broadcasting Council. On that occasion the Minister said:
Any acceptance of proposed new clause 2a would preempt the Government’s consideration of that Tribunal report which addresses itself to the broadcasting council. It suggests as an alternative a broadcasting information office. The Government will consider early in the next year that Tribunal report, as well as the submissions we have received from the community and from interested organisations. Any amendments which may flow on from that consideration will be examined at that time.
The Government did not accept the amendment.
– That is what he said last year, in 1976.
– He said it last year and on this occasion also. I suggest to honourable senators that insofar as we make suggestions here and insofar as the public will be making suggestions to us- I have had many representations from members of the public and am concerned to refer to them today- those suggestions ought to be considered and this Bill ought to be regarded as a step along the way. The Bill provides certain things and, particularly because of the establishment of the Special Broadcasting Service, there is some element of urgency about it. Were it not for that urgency I would hope that the Government would not have pressed this legislation at this time but would have allowed further time for consideration of it.
I understand the need for the setting up of the Special Broadcasting Service. It is something which the ethnic community is anticipating and wanting and from that point of view I can see some urgency in the legislation. However, there are representations which have come to us that ought to receive consideration. The Senate is a house of review but we obviously are not in a position to review this legislation in the sense of making detailed amendments to it in view of the fact that the House of Representatives, presumably, will no longer be sitting after tonight. Nevertheless, I hope that there will be a fundamental review or consideration of what is said in the debate today on both sides of the chamber. Although there was a political overtone in the speeches from Opposition senators there were among the criticisms they made sound comments which deserve further consideration in the interests of making the best possible arrangements for broadcasting and television in this country.
I turn now to a number of criticisms that have been made and I shall make some comment on them. I received a submission from the ABC Staff Association, Victorian Branch, in the last few days. The Association has raised particular objection to the provisions of clause 15 relating to the interrelation between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the new Special Broadcasting Service. Clause 15 proposes that section 59 of the principal Act be amended by inserting the following sub-section:
In complying with the requirements of sub-section ( 1 ), the Commission shall have regard to the services provided under PartIIIA.
That relates to the setting up of the Special Broadcasting Service and the criticism which is made by the Staff Association, a criticism which I think is exaggerated, is that the provision could be used as a means to limit the programming independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and, therefore, should be opposed. I think that the Association is reading too much into that clause. To say that the Commission shall have regard to something does not mean that the Australian Broadcasting Commission, which is an independent Commission, will not be able to deal in areas where the Special Broadcasting Service will be operating. Of course, the Commission must have regard to whether it merely duplicates the functions of the Special Broadcasting Service, thereby wasting public money, when there are other things which could be done in the community with that money. I have mentioned already what has been said about political independence and refer now to what the Minister, Mr Eric Robinson, said on 4 November last year when speaking to the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill (No. 2) 1976. He said:
I would stress here that the planning function of my Department will not involve it in the setting of programming standards or in influencing the programming output of the various sectors of the broadcasting system.
At the same time, the independence and integrity of the Australian Broadcasting Commission will be maintained. The services provided by the ABC will be subject to a periodic review by an independent public inquiry, with the first such inquiry being undertaken in 1980.
That is an important statement and one to be recalled. The independence and integrity of the Australian Broadcasting Commission are matters on which on many occasions I have made public utterances. I stand firmly for that independence. I believe it is important but I do not think that the clause to which I have referred does anything really to touch that independence.
A further matter on which a considerable amount of criticism has been made today is the allegation that the powers of the Minister under this Bill or the powers from the original Act which are left with the Minister are too great. I have a general reservation not only about this provision but also about many provisions which l eave too many decision-making powers to the Minister. Ministers are very busy, attributing to them the best possible motive, and often make decisions which a specialist tribunal is in a better position to make. This criticism of the Bill has been made by an organisation to which one honourable senator opposite referred, the organisation called Justice in Broadcasting. I would like to quote from the submissions which that organisation has made. Let it not be thought that the organisation Justice in Broadcasting is some wild, radical and revolutionary organisation. It is confined mostly to Victoria and consists of persons mainly associated with churches in that State- they speak as independent persons and cover a wide change of churches- who have taken an interest in this subject over the years. The organisation is headed by Mr Dirk Bakker, the director of Mission Enterprises, and comprises a considerable number of well known public men including doctors, surgeons, lawyers, barristers and Jim Ramsay M.P. who is the parliamentary secretary of the Victorian Cabinet. It might be said therefore that I am not dealing here with an irresponsible organisation or one whose views should be lightly disregarded.
In the submission which it has sent to me and which, I presume, also has gone to the Minister there is an analysis of the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill and the organisation makes a number of points. I want to refer to some of them in relation to the powers granted to the Minister in the Bill. That body stated:
The Bill retains substantial powers in the licensing area in the hands of the Minister. The Minister will be able, entirely independently of any public hearing or other action of the Tribunal, to lay down licence specifications and to alter these specifications at any time. Besides technical matters these include specifications about the nature and purpose of the service- Le. the programs- to be provided and the area to be served.
Reference is made then to portions of the Bill. The analysis goes on to state:
These powers would enable a Minister, without any kind of public consultation, to determine the kind of programming that is to be available throughout the entire commercial and public broadcasting system and in each part of that system. They would also enable him to determine, independently of any Tribunal inquiry or decision, in large measure who will or will not be given a licence by tailoring the specifications to suit certain potential applicants while excluding others.
It is further stated:
As from January 1977, as a result of the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Act (No. 2) 1976, the ABCB was disbanded and the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal created. At the same time responsibility for planning advice to the Minister passed from the ABCB to the Postal and Telecommunications Department.
This change in the structure of broadcasting planning had two important effects. Planning decisions became more susceptible to political pressures and the planning processes became less open to public scrutiny.
I make this one further quotation at this stage:
Our concern, therefore, is not that the Bill gives the Minister more power over licensing than he had before but that it retains this power in his hands within a completely new structure of planning that creates unprecedented dangers for distortion of the broadcasting system in the exercise of these ministerial powers.
That is fairly strong criticism by a body of people who, for a considerable time now, have made submissions and appeared before various inquiries that have been held. They feel that there are unprecedented dangers involved in this legislation. They are not referring necessarily to the present Minister or to the present Government. They state that powers are being granted which may be used by different governments and which may be used negligently or intentionally to the harm of the community.
I feel that in the review which is to take place and in the submissions to be looked at that matter should be considered carefully to determine whether there are powers that might be changed so that the unprecedented dangers which are referred to will not occur.
I turn to what has been said today about the Special Broadcasting Service. I applaud the fact that there is now proposed to be organised a system in regard to the setting up of ethnic or multilingual radio and television. I believe that this is better than the ad hoc system which has been in operation for some years. We have seen the setting up of broadcasting stations under the Wireless Telegraphy Act or in some other way. It is better that proper provisions should be made.
– Supposing we agreed with that. It is not the best way of doing it; that is the point. Surely we should not just make those points.
– It may not be the best way of doing things. It may not be possible to do this in the best way. I think that it was Senator Robertson who rather applauded the setting up of the Special Broadcasting Service, as distinct from the speech made by Senator Button. Senator Robertson criticised- I think I would be somewhat with him on this point- the way in which the powers are expressed. I feel that it is better that the Service should be set up and that it should have representatives of the ethnic community on it. From that point of view, I think that the provisions in the Bill are desirable.
But on the other hand, I think that there is justice in the criticism that has been made. In Part IIIA of the Bill, the functions of the Special Broadcasting Service are described in these terms:
I do not know why that complete distinction is made. In the case of television, the broadcasts can be made only if authorised by regulation. In other words, the Minister must decide whether the ethnic community or the Service shall carry out certain functions. This is not the case with the Australian Broadcasting Commission which, of course, is given a responsibility to provide comprehensive services. Much of the decision making in that respect is left to that Commission. But in this case, television broadcasts are restricted in that it is necessary to obtain authorisation under regulations. I know that this Parliament can disallow the regulations. But I wonder whether there ought not be a review of the powers so that the same situation applies in respect to radio and television.
The second function of the SBS is to provide broadcasting and television services for such special purposes as are prescribed. Once again, this requires the prescribing by regulation. It will be necessary to set out what the special purposes will be. I hope, as Senator Robertson does, that the special purposes will go beyond some of the things that have been contemplated in the debate and that they will include community and access radio. I hope that we will see more of that type of radio developing in this country. I know that there are limitations on the financial resources of the community, particularly at the present time. But I hope that the special purposes will include such things as the proposals Senator Robertson made in regard to Aboriginal services and providing the Aboriginal communities with their special radio features. I hope that the Service will be used to provide community radio which I think ought to blossom, ought to be under proper control and to be given encouragement in this country.
However, I am a little concerned in regard to these restrictions to be placed on the Special Broadcasting Service. It is proposed to insert a new section 79E. After setting out the powers of the Service, proposed sub-section (2) states:
The provision under this Pan of broadcasting or television services shall be in accordance with such principles as are prescribed.
I do not know what that altogether means. Perhaps a government may prescribe that the principles shall be that the Service will espouse only the causes of socialism or communism. That would be a principle, although it may be one that honourable senators on this side of the Senate would not wan*, a bar of. But under this provision, a government could prescribe principlesthat is a word of considerable looseness- which I think could be such as to restrict greatly the independence of the ethnic services which are being provided in this Bill. I suggest that further consideration ought to be given to those powers. Whilst I applaud the setting up of the Service and see the necessary urgency for doing so, I think that the Bill as presently drawn should receive some further consideration.
Further criticism has been made today of public involvement and of the extent to which the members of the public can take part in the determination of licences, in making representations and so forth. In the representations that have been made to me some considerable concern has been expressed about what is involved in the provision that there should be an interest- that someone must have an interest in the matter before that person can appear before the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and appeal. Of course, not just any person could appeal against a decision of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal because this provision is restricted to licensees and people who have an ownership interest. Some reference was made to this matter by Mr Lionel Bowen in the debate that took place in the House of Representatives on 3 November 1977. The following remarks are recorded on page 2824 of the House of Representatives Hansard. Mr Lionel Bowen said:
I was talking about people having an interest and the Minister by interjection says that now it virtually means people with a pecuniary interest -
The Minister for Post and Telecommunications, Mr Eric Robinson, stated by way of interjection-
No, I did not, I did say interest. It has nothing to do with pecuniary.
Mr Lionel Bowen went on to say:
It is not pecuniary; we are pleased for that assurance. What I cannot understand is how we are going to define the word interest’. It is such an all-embracing term.
I feel that there is some justification in that criticism. I think it is not just for pecuniary interests; it would be unfortunate if it were.
– It is called interpretation by interjection.
-Yes, that is right. But I do not think that we should try that course here because we might come to some other conclusion altogether. But when it is provided that a person must have an interest to appear before the Tribunal, I should like to see the ‘interest’ defined. Since it is left to the Tribunal to decide whether a person has an interest, one could feel some concern about that.
I am aware of the representations which have been made, again, particularly from Victoria, by members of parliament and by organisations in regard to children’s television programs, which they regard as being quite inadequate and which I regard as being quite inadequate and unsatisfactory. I know that these matters will be considered when the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal’s report on self-regulation is considered in the Parliament and certain aspects of that report are embodied in legislation because that report covers this matter. One wonders whether people who watch television, who have children and who are concerned about programs will have an interest in the view of the Tribunal, so that they will be allowed to appear before the Tribunal and set out their cases against a television or radio station, suggesting that those stations should or should not receive renewals of their licences et cetera because of the standards they have set perhaps over a period of years. I should like to be assured that such people would be entitled to appear before the Tribunal and would not be blocked off by a decision of the Tribunal from putting submissions before it.
There is one other area which gives me and a number of people who have written to me considerable concern, that is, the provision concerning secrecy, as contained in clause 23 of the Bill, which seeks to insert proposed new sections 106A and 106B in the Broadcasting and Television Act. Proposed new section 106A deals with the assembly of information by the Tribunal and provides also that the Tribunal shall not disclose information which would be, in the opinion of the Tribunal, prejudicial to the interests of any person. Proposed new section 106b reads:
Subject to this section, a person to whom this section applies shall not, either directly or indirectly, except for the purposes of this Act-
It refers to information he obtains by reason of his office. Under proposed new sub-section (4) of proposed new section 106b, he is also denied the right to make any communication to a court of information of this nature. That has been criticised in correspondence I have received from a number of people. I have received a telegram from the Melbourne Access Video and Media Co-operative Ltd, which is concerned about this provision. I see that it has been criticised by Miss Sally White in an article which I think appeared in the Melbourne Age. Under the heading ‘Tribunal Staff Attack Secrecy’, the following is stated:
In a letter to be sent this week to the Minister for Post and Telecommunications … the staff members claim a section of the proposed bill goes ‘far beyond the normal secrecy requirements embodied in the Public Service Act’.
The article goes on to point out that the letter included the following:
An officer of the tribunal who prepares school project material for educational purposes, including details of programmes broadcast by radio or television stations, compiled from documents supplied to the tribunal by such stations, would almost certainly be in breach of section 106b’ . . .
A tribunal member who mentions in a public address that channel X has reduced its spending on Australian programmes in the current financial year would also be in jeopardy,’ . . .
Similar protests have been received by me from the Students’ Representative Council of the La Trobe University and from the Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the Footscray Institute of Technology, Mr John G. Sinclair. The Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the Footscray Institute of Technology stated:
In particular, a section of this legislation, 106a I believe, threatens to restrict access to information about the ownership and control of the media in this country. Not only do we believe such information to be necessary to legitimate academic research, but also in the principle that government ought not protect private interests by such secrecy as the legislation proposes.
In the light of the impending, and I hope soon to be introduced, freedom of information legislation and also in the absence of the broadcasting information office, the establishment of which has been recommended in the report of the Tribunal concerning self-regulation and which I hope will come on the scene, I feel that much of the criticism of the secrecy provisions in that they are rather too strong is justified. At page A 120 of the Green report, in regard to public access to information on ownership and control, Mr Green stated:
It is proposed that the ABT -
That is, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunalbe required to keep registers and records of ownership/control information and to allow public access to such information (other than certain prescribed classes of documents) and copying facilities.
The Act as it now stands does not require disclosure by the Board of such information.
I hope that the Government will look further into those secrecy provisions so that they might be altered, if necessary. It would be undesirable to increase the extent to which the disclosure of information which would be useful to the public in making up its own mind and useful in the putting of submissions to the Tribunal is restricted.
We have received other criticisms about the proposed legislation. I do not go to the extent that Senator Townley went in making his criticisms. I think that there would be a problem in regard to the setting up of something like a semicommercial Australian Broadcasting Commission, if that were to be the case. If the Special Broadcasting Service were to do that I think it could be a matter of concern and danger to commercial stations in small towns. However, in regard to the honourable senators other complaint in regard to the idea that there ought to be a term of five years before the renewal of licences, it seems to me that the proposed term of three years is long enough. It is desirable that there should be a period such as the five year period provided for original licences to operate but after that here ought to be the closest possible public scrutiny and an opportunity for the public and for organisations concerned to go before the Tribunal at regular intervals and to express their views in regard to the renewal or otherwise of a licence.
As I have said, I believe that the general purposes of this Bill are good, but as in other legislation which is hurried, there is a danger that we might have to come back and amend this legislation because of the way it operates. We have read the amendment proposed by the Opposition. There is some justification for the criticism contained in that amendment. This matter which we are debating is not in any way a black and white matter. But I do not believe that the proposed amendment poses a practical proposition. I think that this Bill, the main feature of which is the establishment of a special broadcasting service, is legislation which must proceed. But I hope that the Government will take due cognisance of the criticisms made by honourable senators today, I believe, in good faith. I hope that finally, in the re-writing of this legislation which will take place next year, we will ultimately have legislation for a system which is worthy of this country.
– I participate in this debate on the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill 1977 to support the amendment proposed by Senator Button and also to refute some of the assertions made by Senator Lajovic. Senator Davidson, a Government senator, and I were appointed to the first national ethnic radio advisory committee. The reason we were included in the membership of that committee was that each of us in his time had been chairman of the Immigration Advisory Council. I think that it is a gross disservice to a man like Senator Davidson for an implication to be made that he would be a plaything in some gigantic socialist plot. The fact of the matter is that for 21 years of LiberalCountry Party Government, including some costly junketting at the Canberra Rex Hotel on occasions which were called ‘Citizenship Conventions’, nothing was done to make any innovation in the vital area of ethnic radio. I say that because not one honourable senator either in the chamber or listening to the broadcast outside the chamber can deny that ethnic radio was a particularly valuable innovation. After waiting 21 years, particularly between 1969 and 1972 when the mass feelings of the ethnic community became a powerful political factor, it was the Labor Government which kept faith, firstly, by introducing pension portability; secondly, with the elimination of discriminatory clauses in the
Crimes Act; and, finally, with the creation of ethnic radio. I suppose that this is similar to when the Second Front in World War II opened on the beaches at Normandy. There were probably early mistakes when that attack was launched. But the innovation came about. It laid the foundation for subsequent refinement. I say that with some feeling.
The people whom Senator Lajovic mentioned, such as Jim Kaldis who will shortly be a member of the New South Wales Legislative Council, did not play party politics. They went firstly to Senator Douglas McClelland and subsequently to his successor, Dr Moss Cass, when the foundation for ethnic radio was laid. They were joined by many other people. Senator Lajovic implied that the sort of people who were appointed to committees on ethnic broadcasting had allegiance to a certain party. Let me say this to him. When I was chairman of the Immigration Advisory Council we did not exclude or discontinue membership to anybody. The ratio between people of European origin and other people was very much against post-war European migrants. Nothing was done under successive Liberal governments. The Labor Government immediately appointed important people from the Yugoslav, Italian and Greek communities. We also appointed a representative whom Senator Chaney would know. I think he was originally from Sri Lanka. We should get away from this nonsense about bias in appointments.
Who did we appoint to the National Ethnic Radio Advisory Committee? I shall give a typical example of the sorts of people on that Committee. Senator Davidson and myself were members. Another member was Mrs Spicar from Cabramatta. She was not a member of any political party. I shall tell the Senate how she was tested in public affairs. As a teenager, she was naturalised in Sydney. She returned to Yugoslavia, married and bore a little girl. This was in 1969 when the most inept AttorneyGeneral we have ever had, the Honourable Nigel Bowen, was responsible for the amendments to the Citizenship Act. He forgot to promulgate regulations that any Australian mother who bore a child overseas had the right to go to the nearest Australian Embassy and have the child registered as an Australian citizen. Mrs Spicar. as a young Australian mother, was the person who exposed this bungling by a previous Liberal government. She wrote a very strong letter to me. I had it tabled in the Senate. Justice was done by a much better Attorney-General in Tom Hughes. I am giving credit to Liberal Ministers where it is deserved.
That is the sort of person who was appointed to the National Ethnic Radio Advisory Committee. She was not a member of any party but she had a contribution to make. A member of the New South Wales Ethnic Radio Advisory Committee was Joe Cujes. He was one of the driving forces in the Slovene-Triglav Club in Sydney. He does not hold any party membership. I shall relate free of party partisanship the difficulties we experienced. There were distinct schisms in the Portuguese community- one of the minority groups- between the mainlanders and those who came from the Canary Isles, the Azores or other places. There were other difficulties. The mopping up we had to do- mediation would be a better word- laid a very sound foundation for the development of the next phase of ethnic broadcasting.
I knew a chaplain in the Polish community who would not have been of the same belief as myself and Senator Keeffe. He had hangups. Because ethnic radio was broadcasting soccer scores from Warsaw he thought we were part of a Cominformist plot. This gentleman of the cloth stormed into my office and insulted my secretary. I pursued him and gave him a dressing down which will make him a better priest. He had never been spoken to like that since he left the seminary. It was ill-timed and ill-advised for a man of the cloth to use the language he did to me and my secretary. I know that the Liberals could get that treatment from somebody on the Left. This was a man from the Right. I am trying to point out the problems with which we were confronted. Nobody today would object to sports scores coming from different places, whether it be Bucharest or a western democracy. If they did, it would cut no ice with ethnic radio.
We had a lot of teething problems. I pay a tribute to that Committee. It was maligned earlier today. Senator Davidson was extremely articulate and objective. I do not think Senator Lajovic would say in his calmer moments that any Committee was not bipartisan, that it could not function and that it was unworthy. What he said was an insult to Senator Davidson who is an illustrious senator. It is something he ought to think closely about. Senator Davidson served on that Committee with me. I can assure Senator Lajovic of the problems we had to deal with such as placating rival Portuguese factions. In the case of the Polish people we achieved a reasonable modus operandi. That came about because Senator Davidson and I and the other people on the Committee such as Mrs Spicar were not looking to see what labels people had.
Senator Lajovic also referred to trade union promotion of people of European origin. A former Vice-Chairman of the Victorian Trades Hall Council was Bill Nowak. He was originally from Poland. Mr Mendel Lelli was the Secretary of the South Coast Branch of the Federated Ironworkers Association. Henry Pietracci was a senior officer of the health and research union. Nobody, whether he was born here or not, wants to be given preferential treatment. Senator Lajovic did not get his promotion on a plate. He worked in his party for a long time for promotion. That is also the case with the people I have mentioned. They gave long service to the trade union movement. Other such people are Ivan Kosovich of the Yugoslav community Mr Calomneris of the Greek community. These people served on the various ethnic radio committees. I assure honourable senators that they did not pull any punches when they made representations to Senator Douglas McClelland, Dr Moss Cass or me.
I participated in this debate to reply to what Senator Lajovic said about appointing representatives to committees. The Labor Government could have gone through a lengthy appointment procedure. Some ethnic groups were not in a position to take a consensus. They were ribboned by certain bitterness. By the establishment of interim management committees, we got the show on the road. I think it worked effectively. I notice that in the Press release of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr MacKellar), he gave the names and locations of the personnel of the New South Wales and Victorian Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Committees. I do not expect Senator Carrick to have the information with him but tomorrow when we deal with the estimates for the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs I should like to find out what positions those people hold. Whether a person is an ethnic spokesman, a trade unionist or an official, I believe that he should be a shop steward before he aspires to be an organiser. I think that also applies to ethnic communities.
Senator Button referred to the functions of the proposed special broadcasting service. I think they have some merit. We know that there are upheavals in our own political parties. I am sure that ethnic communities will be no different. I think there is a general feeling that people have been frozen out. I shall give Senator Carrick an example from observations which have been made to me. At present there is a re-awakening or agitation among our brothers and sisters from Latin American countries. Some people say that when a Latin American group has a representative in ethnic radio there is a domination of Latin American music and kindred programs. I should like to be sure that the National Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Council follows the procedure adopted by Liberal governments before 1972. It deliberately appointed a representative from the Government and the Opposition to the Immigration Advisory Council. When somebody from the Government made a statement on immigration issues the Opposition representative would know how much it was coloured by party political allegiances. I make that very strong point when I latch on to clause (b) of what Senator Button has propounded in his amendment. It is an area respecting which I am not going unduly to regale Senator Carrick, or honourable senators generally, with complaints from the Latin American community, but I can assure him that they are very effective political operators with strong points of view and will not allow themselves to be dominated by any other group claiming to speak for all Latin American groups at committee level. I am not sure whether the machinery we have here is able to meet the situation I have described.
Perhaps, if Senators Carrick or Guilfoyle can tomorrow give me the form guide on these people I will be better briefed, but I felt I would be remiss if I did not join the debate and defend the original committees that were appointed, including that of Senator Davidson.
– in reply- The Senate is debating the second reading of the Broadcasting and Television Amendment Bill 1977 which is, all honourable senators have acknowledged, an important and in many ways complex measure. Opposition supporters have suggested that it has been brought forward in some haste. Let me recite its antecedents. The Green Committee was set up in 1976 in the early months of the Fraser Government and reported in September of that year. The Government’s decisions as a result of that report were made known in November 1976. The public, the Senate and the Parliament have had a year in which to consider and deliberate upon them.
In the interim the Broadcasting Tribunal, having been set up, initiated a public inquiry into general conditions in the media, especially as to self-control and there again there has been a continuous dialogue.
– Self-regulation, not selfcontrol.
-Senator Button’s interjection simply reminds me that although he today chides us with acting in haste, he in recent months asked at least three times why we were dilatory in bringing the legislation forward. I would remind him that, as I believe a number of honourable senators have pointed out, the amendments that are necessary in the whole field of the media are such that they could not be encompassed in one Bill. It is vitally necessary that two main measures, the Broadcasting and Television Act, dating back to 1942, and the Wireless and Telegraphy Act, which I fancy goes back to about 1905, should be the subject of major review, consolidation and reform. The Government recognises this and intends next year to direct its attention to achieving that. The experience that has resulted from the earlier introduction of the Bill now before us will, of course, be taken into consideration.
I thank honourable senators for their contributions and would make some brief remarks in reply. First, just one balancing comment: Some criticism has been directed by the Opposition to the Broadcasting Tribunal and to the fact that one member of it had had considerable commercial experience prior to his being appointed. I was surprised, indeed astonished- because I remember Dr Samuel Johnson- in that the Opposition was somewhat selective on this; that there is, of course, a second and equally able member, Mr James Oswin, with parallel commercial experience in partisan commercial undertakings, on the Tribunal.
– You missed the point. It was pecuniary interest.
-On the one hand the Opposition regarded Mr Oswin ‘s background in the commercial field of sufficient merit to warrant his being made the head of a department in a Labor Government. Presumably Opposition supporters would regard someone of equal experience and talent as being of equal value.
– Experience is different. Financial interest is the thing we are concerned about.
-I think Senator Button is saying that experience is different. Might I simply say that Mr Bruce Gyngell has even wider overseas experience, in the dual purpose British system, and has received wide commendation internationally. I say that in no partisan fashion but simply to balance the books in that regard. The aim of the Bill is twofold. To reduce ministerial or direct government influence on decisionmaking in the media, and to widen public participation. Opposition supporters have queried these aims. I am bound to say that in the years of the Whitlam Government when, of course, there was opportunity to amend the law in various ways, especially the Wireless and Telegraphy Act, which provides for direct ministerial control, no such flight of conscience apparently occurred.
The effect of the Bill is not, as Senator Button has alleged, a mock transference of powers. All of the Minister’s present licensing powers are transferred to the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal. I refer to the grant, the renewal, suspension or revocation of licences; changes in ownership and control; transfer of licences and other matters. Senator Button referred to the planning powers, which remain with the Minister. For more than 20 years the Minister responsible for broadcasting has invited applications for new licences and has received applications for renewal. That happened also, of course, under the Whitlam Government without apparently attracting criticism from present Opposition supporters.
Senator Button has criticised the proposed powers concerning the imposition of licensing conditions. The present Act has for 20 years or more given the Minister the right to attach conditions to any type of licence- I refer to section 81- or to vary or revoke such conditions- referring to section 108. The amending Bill leaves the Minister with the same powers, except that he is limited to conditions relating to certain specificationsfor example as to the nature, the area and the purpose. Opposition supporters have referred to public participation. In their time in office there was no public participation. For the first time in the history of Australian broadcasting the public will be able to make submissions to, or appear before, the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal at all inquiries relating to broadcasting matters, whether they be for the granting, the renewal, suspension or revocation of a licence; whether concerning broadcasting standards or other matters.
All reports of the Broadcasting Tribunal, except as to such information as is classified as confidential, must be published. Registers of applications and ownership details must be made available to the public for inspection. These, I think, are extremely valuable reforms.
Reference was made to the present hibernation of the Broadcasting Council. The Green Committee recommended that it should have a role in the administration of standards and consultation on planning. The Government has accepted, subject to the outcome of a public inquiry into broadcasting standards by the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, that this should be so. The Minister has refrained from establishing the Broadcasting Council pending Government consideration of the Tribunal’s inquiry into standards. The composition of the Broadcasting Council has not been determined for the very same reason.
The clear evidence is that the Government has achieved very largely what it has sought to achieve, that is, it has transferred the decisionmaking in an enormously wide area away from politics and ministerial control to an independent tribunal. It is clear that it has established wide public participation. From time to time there are suggestions that the Government is seeking some partisan objectives in this regard. I only say that for some 23 years in the administration of the media in this country governments of Liberal faith maintained throughout the media, particularly through the Australian Broadcasting Commission, an independence of activity by the media and an absence of bias by the Government. It was the desire of the Government at all times that the media itself should seek to achieve under the Broadcasting and Television Act the presentation of adequate and comprehensive programs.
The subject is, of course, an enormously complex one. I was privileged, together with a number of other honourable senators to serve for some years on a public inquiry through a Senate committee into all aspects of broadcasting and television in this country. I believe that the Bill before the Senate is one that goes a considerable distance and that there is more to be done. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned. Sitting suspended from S.57 to 8 p.m.
-by leave- I wish to make a statement on the progress that this Government has made in implementing the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty under the chairmanship of Professor Ronald Henderson. I will also outline the special arrangements that the Government is now taking to expedite further examination and action on the Inquiry’s recommendations.
Over the past five years Australian society has been subject to the most comprehensive investigation into the incidence, nature and implications of poverty ever conducted in this country. This process commenced in August 1972 with the appointment of Professor Henderson by the then Prime Minister, the Right Hon. William McMahon. Professor Henderson was asked to conduct an independent inquiry into poverty. The terms of reference of the Commission were subsequently widened and four additional members, Professor Ronald Sackville, the Reverend G. S. Martin, Professor R. C. Gates and Dr R. T. Fitzgerald, were appointed to report on the specific areas of the legal, socio-medical, economic and educational aspects of poverty.
To date four of the five reports from the independent Commissioners have been received covering the broad areas of social security and welfare, health, education and the law. In total they contain more than SOO recommendations designed to contribute towards the alleviation of poverty in its broadest sense, and thus they provide a significant basis for the Government’s commitment to action. Indeed, significant steps have already been taken in relation to these recommendations. But much remains to be done. What I want to stress tonight is that the Government is firm in its determination to assist the disadvantaged in Australian society by mounting a concerted attack on poverty as inflation is brought under control. Before proceeding to outline the progress which has been made towards the implementation of the recommendations, let me say that the reports of the Commission of Inquiry have been generally recognised as a major contribution to the understanding by the community and by government of the causes and effects of poverty. The knowledge and understanding of the Commissioners and the recommendations they have made command great respect.
Significant progress, especially in the income security area, has already been made in implementing a number of important recommendations, or in proceeding towards the objectives which underlie them. While there are considerable complexities involved in accepting many of the reports’ proposals, the Government is determined that all recommendations should receive the most detailed and high level examination. The new administrative arrangements that I shall be announcing shortly will expedite and co-ordinate further consideration of these outstanding matters.
The single most important action taken by this Government to alleviate poverty has been the priority given to right the economy and defeat inflation. Those most in need in our society were harmed most by the erosion of living standards inflation brought, and by the unemployment which inevitably follows inflation. As Professor Henderson pointed out, reducing inflation is central to our ability as a nation and as a Government to assist those who are disadvantaged or living in poverty. To reduce inflation we have had to exercise careful restraint- to reduce the massive rate of growth of government expenditure introduced by the previous Government. At the same time we have protected those most in need. We have been able to effect some very major reforms while heeding the warning the Henderson report offered Australian governments against ‘falling into the inflationary trap of attempting to carry out so many social reforms or other public expenditures at once that they accelerate an inflationary spiral that does more to damage poor people than the assistance provided by the reform’.
The recommendations of the first main report give priority to improving the income security system. As Professor Henderson stated in that report, ‘an adequate income is fundamental to a person’s security, well-being and independence’. The most recent advance which has taken place in the social security area relates to the provision of financial assistance for sole fathers with dependent children. To date very limited assistance has been available to such families. Legislation has been passed which will enable pensions to be paid to families headed by a sole father on a generally similar basis to that now available to families headed by a sole mother. Perhaps one of the most significant improvements to the income support system has been the automatic adjustmenttwice a year- of basic pension and unemployment and sickness benefit rates in line with consumer price index movements. This ensures that the standard of living of aged and disadvantaged people is fully protected and that they do not become further deprived through the effects of inflation.
Professor Henderson’s main recommendation was the introduction, over a 10 year period, of a guaranteed minimum income scheme in which payments to pensioners and payments to all other income units, at a lower rate, would be balanced by a proportional tax on all private income. The Government has adopted several important elements of such a scheme. Last year we introduced two major reforms. Firstly, we abolished tax rebates for dependent children and introduced a new family allowances scheme on a much more generous basis than the previous child endowment program. This historic reform assisted 300,000 families with 800,000 children who, simply because of their low income, were not eligible for the full tax rebates under the Hayden tax scale. It corrected the imbalance between rich families and poor families. Moreover, it put a great deal more money into the hands of those who normally bear most of the day to day responsibilities for children, that is mothers. Secondly, we replaced the former means test on pensions with an income test.
In this year’s Budget, the Government announced a radical new tax system to operate from 1 February 1978. For the great majority of income earners, the broad effect of the Henderson proposal would be that net tax payable would be 35 per cent or 40 per cent of the excess of income over about $4,000. The Government’s new tax scheme involves a 32 per cent tax on income in excess of $3,750. In both cases there would be surcharges which would affect a small minority of taxpayers on high incomes bringing the maximum effective marginal tax rate up to 60 per cent. The proposals are thus broadly similar.
It is noted that Professor Henderson’s preferred proposal would involve a marginal tax rate of 40 per cent for the vast majority of taxpayers compared to 32 per cent under the Government’s new tax system. In addition, the great majority of taxpayers without children, especially those on middle incomes, would pay significantly more tax under Professor Henderson’s preferred proposal than under the new tax system. A taxpayer without dependants would pay: about 15 per cent more tax if he were on average earnings; about 10 per cent more tax if he were on three times average earnings; and about 5 per cent more tax if he were on five times average earnings. It is clear, therefore, that there would be difficulties in adopting some aspects of the Henderson proposals. Two other worrying aspects of the proposal would be the provision of the lower level of payment to people irrespective of whether they have difficulty in earning an income and the large increase in payments to all families with children regardless of their income. The Government is, however, pursuing the rationalisation of the existing system. It is felt that the existing policy of assisting those who do not only have a limited income but also suffer other disadvantages such as age, sickness or unemployment has the strong support of most Australians.
Several recommendations involving assistance for the unemployed have also been put into operation. Additional assistance to help unemployed workers to move to areas in which they will be gainfully employed has been introduced. Administrative processes for claiming unemployment benefit have been and are being reviewed following the Norgard and Myers inquiries. Young people who are unemployed may benefit through assistance and encouragement provided through local voluntary groups funded under the Community Youth Support Scheme. Non-viable farmers have become eligible for retraining under the National Employment and Training scheme and for rehabilitation assistance on a needs basis under the Rural Adjustment Scheme. The Commonwealth has provided additional general purpose funds to the States and local authorities which will enable them, if they so desire, to further develop education, health and welfare services and also to support voluntary activity.
The Inquiry stressed the importance of actively involving the community in assessing and devising welfare delivery schemes. Steps have been taken to provide effective mechanisms for co-operation and interchange of ideas with interested groups in the social welfare field. The National Consultative Committee on Social Welfare advises me on current issues in social welfare which come within the responsibility of the Commonwealth Government. In each State and Territory- except Victoria where other arrangements exist- a consultative committee on social welfare advises on administration, at the State or Territory level, of Commonwealth social security and welfare programs and their relationship to other programs. Likewise, the women’s welfare issues consultative committee advises me on welfare issues of particular relevance to women. As far as proposals for increased research activity are concerned, it should be noted that the Government plans to establish a social welfare research centre within the University of New South Wales. To ensure that all people are aware of their entitlements, increased use has been made of pamphletsincluding foreign language pamphlets- and of the ethnic press to publicise the availability of services.
In the area of the law, the Government has taken a number of measures generally consistent with the recommendations of the inquiry to improve the position of underprivileged groups. Recommendations relating to landlord and tenant law in the Territories, protection of claimants’ rights in social security inquiries, legal services to Aboriginals and the protection of Aboriginals against discriminatory legislation have been substantially implemented. A Commonwealth Legal Aid Commission has been established by the Government, but its role differs from that envisaged in the second main report. The Commonwealth Commission will operate in conjunction with independent statutory State and Territorial legal aid commissions. Broadly the functions of the Commission will be to momtor, co-ordinate and advise upon the provision of legal aid through State and Territorial commissions. The Standing Committee on Federal and State Attorneys-General is preparing draft legislation relating to consumer credit. The Australian Law Reform Commission has recently tabled in Parliament its report on the repayment of debts.
In the health area, recommendations substantially implemented include the provision of training for Aboriginal health workers and interpreters, health screening of intending immigrants, changes in mental health legislation and provision of free day training faculties for mentally retarded children in the Territories. In 1977-78, the Government has been able to make increased funds available for the community health program to enable continuation of a substantial number of projects which have relevance to certain areas of concern highlighted by the Inquiry. Eligibility for assistance through the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service has been extended to include women at home.
In education, responsibility is shared by the Commonwealth and the States. The bulk of recommendations made in this area to enable the community’s educational needs to be met more effectively require the active participation of both levels of government for nationwide implementation. Within its own direct area of responsibility within the Territories, many of Dr Fitzgerald’s recommendations have been substantially implemented. These include special provision for children at risk, including Aboriginals and migrants; the provision for specialist teachers, counselling services and a diversity of school-types; regional workshops, resource centres and in-service courses for teachers and the encouragement of community participation.
Dr Fitzgerald emphasised the importance of problems associated with the transition from school work or further study. The Government’s concern in this area is shown by the establishment of the Committee of Inquiry into Education and Training, known as the Williams Committee. The Australian Education Council has also set up a Commonwealth-State working party of education and labour officials to examine such matters as the special difficulties faced by early school leavers, the need for vocational preparation for school children and the expectations which employers have of the education system.
Action towards the general implementation of many of the proposals is being pursued through existing instrumentalities such as the Schools Commission, the Curriculum Development Centre, and the newly established National Aboriginal Education Committee. Both the Commission and the Centre are involved in the field of multicultural education for which the Fitzgerald Report makes a number of recommendations. The Departments of Education and Immigration and Ethnic Affairs are also considering initiatives in this area.
Assistance for Groups in Special Need
Special attention has been paid to groups Professor Henderson identified as being in great need. In particular, we have taken action to improve assistance for migrant groups and Aboriginals. New mechanisms have been established to enable Aboriginals to express their needs, priorities and objectives to the Government. A National Aboriginal Conference with branches in each State and the Northern Territory, and a Council for Aboriginal Development, will advise the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs on the long term goals and objectives the Government should pursue and the programs it should adopt; the National Aboriginal Education Committee advises the Minister for Education on the educational needs of Aboriginals and on the measures that should be adopted to meet these.
The Government acknowledges that Aboriginal participation at all levels is a vital factor in making services responsive to the needs and circumstances of Aboriginals. In addition to the measures outlined above, the incorporation of Aboriginal communities under recent legislation will enable them increasingly to co-ordinate and discharge welfare functions in the same way as local government, and receive funds and professional support to this end. The community based programming procedures adopted by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs have an important effect in encouraging Aboriginal welfare liaison agencies that will co-ordinate services across a whole range of functions, and advise and refer Aboriginals in respect of benefit entitlements and service provisions.
State and Commonwealth welfare Ministers have agreed in principle to a range of new approaches in key welfare areas affecting Aboriginals and the practical implications are at present being studied by State and Commonwealth officials. These welfare matters include Aboriginal participation in welfare services, the adoption and fostering of Aboriginal children and further study of ways to meet family and children’s welfare needs, talcing into account existing family and group support practices. Training of Aboriginal welfare workers will be a vital element in pursuing these new strategies.
A substantial number of recommendations relate directly or indirectly to migrants and the ethnic community and the Government has acted on a number of these, particularly in relation to language communications and information services.
The Australian Ethnic Affairs Council, the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters and the National Ethnic Broadcasting Advisory Council have been established. Interpreter and translating services, including the Telephone Interpreter Service, are being progressively extended and funds are also being provided through the Office of Child Care to Aboriginal and migrant organisations providing direct services to children. I might add that both migrants and Aboriginals are represented on the wider consultative bodies mentioned earlier in this statement.
I now come to the arrangements that the Government has decided upon to co-ordinate further examination of the Commission’s recommendations and to facilitate subsequent action. An ad hoc committee of Ministers has been established to determine priorities and to examine all recommendations made by the Commission of Inquiry. It will report progressively to Cabinet. The committee comprises the Ministers for Social Security, Education, Health, Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Aboriginal Affairs and the Attorney-General.
The Government is deeply concerned that poverty in any form should continue to exist in Australian society today. The new arrangements which I have announced are designed to give the fullest and most positive consideration to the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty and demonstrate the Government’s determination and commitment to improve the living conditions of all disadvantaged elements in Australian society. Without doubt, action to assist these elements will concurrently improve Australian society as a whole.
The Government’s actions so far provide bona fide evidence of our concern for the poor, who suffer not only from a lack of income but also from loneliness and lack of personal support. Whatever is done, it is crucial that personal dignity and the self-esteem of the individual is preserved. The general thrust of Government policies has been and will continue to be to combat inflation which hurts most those in need; to protect at the same time those most in need and, where possible, to redirect assistance to them; and to improve incentives for self-help. I present the following paper:
Poverty Inquiry-Progress Towards Implementation of Recommendations- Ministerial Statement, 8 November 1977 - and move:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
-The Opposition is very interested in this statement although it has some difficulty in knowing just what it is intended to do.
– It is intended to win the election for the Government.
– As Senator Cavanagh has implied, it may be intended as a social security policy speech although it includes aspects of many other portfolios in which the Government has engaged. There are examples in the statement of things which the Government has done but there are many other things which the Government has done which are deliberately not mentioned. There are some examples of things which the Government may do or wishes to do but they are all couched in such general terms that it is hard to make out just what is going on. In an interview on Channel O in Melbourne on 20 August this year the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) in reply to a question said that she had looked at the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry into Poverty and found that the Government had implemented most of those recommendations. Of course, the statement made at that time was nonsense, grossly dishonest and worthless. I suppose that the statement which was just read by the Minister is not as extravagant as that claim. But I believe that the claims made in this statement, to say the least, are misleading and contain about an equal level of honesty.
Many errors of commission and omission are contained in this statement. I believe that the general tone of the statement is of one that has been thrown together hurriedly because an election is to be held in about six weeks’ time. In fact, on the first page of her statement, the Minister states that some 500 recommendations have been made by the commissioners of the Inquiry into Poverty. Of course, all the reports of the commissioners have not yet been received. The last commissioner, Professor Gates, has not yet put in his report. As an economic adviser to the Government, he would be very busy under the present circumstances. I do not know how many recommendations he is likely to add to the 500-odd that have been made by the other commissioners. In fact, hardly any of the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry into Poverty have been implemented. In most cases in which recommendations have been implemented, they have been implemented only partially. Also the Government, even this week, as introduced changes to legislation which are quite contrary to the reports and the recommendations of the poverty inquiry and which are quite contrary to the reports and the recommendations of the Myers and Norgard inquiries. Those inquiries also were mentioned in the Minister’s statement tonight. The Minister paid some respect in her statement to the knowledge and understanding of the commissioners who were appointed by two successive governments. But it is difficult to find in the report many examples of the respect that she also claims to have for the recommendations of those commissioners.
I think that we on the Opposition side should comment on those parts of the statement that we were able to look at in the short time that was available to us before it was read in the Parliament tonight and lay to rest some of the claims made in it. The Minister makes great claim, as do all her fellow Ministers, about Professor Henderson’s general comment that a reduction in inflation, which is important to the welfare of the poor and the under-privileged in the community, has been brought about by the present Government. The only way in which the Government can gain any sort of satisfaction from that sort of statement is by eliminating the Medibank levy from the inflation rate to try to reduce it below 10 per cent.
– Oh, come on; do not be ridiculous.
-In fact the inflation rate, as Senator Messner would know, has been 13.7 per cent.
Opposition senators interjecting-
-It seems that honourable senators on the Government side have all supped well tonight. The Opposition is concerned about the manner in which the Government has gone about attacking inflation because this has had extremely severe effects on the poor and disadvantaged in the community.
– So has the family allowance scheme.
– People such as Senator Messner, Senator Walters and Senator Archer always find it amusing to laugh when any reference is made about them.
– It is a hardship which your Party caused.
-The ex-Premier speaks. In fact the Government’s policy of contracting economic activity to the point of stagnation not only has made it more difficult for the underprivileged people; it has added to the number of under-privileged people in the community. Even the supporters of the Government would admit that unemployment has risen to an all-time high.
-We did not put 200,000 people out of work in one year.
– At the same time, I inform the honourable senator from Billingsgate, the position of unemployed and under-privileged people has been attacked by an increasingly severe series of measures, including more severe work tests and by depriving unemployed people of their benefits for six weeks, actions in direct contrast to the recommendations of the commissioners of the inquiry into poverty. The same action of the Government has affected severely low income earners and young unemployed people in rural areas. These actions of the Government also have been contrary to the recommendations of the Myers inquiry and the Norgard inquiry. What is more important, those actions have been repeatedly publicly attacked by Professor Henderson himself. There is silence from the Government senators. Real incomes in the community have in fact been cut. The first legislative act of this Government was to cut out subsidised health benefits and the subsidised pharmaceutical scheme, which meant in fact -
– The first act?
-The first legislative act of this Government. So in fact those people who were assisted by those schemes did not receive the benefit of free benefits and suddenly had to pay more than twice the previous amount for pharmaceutical benefits. Over the cackling of onourable senators opposite, I mention that the next item which was spoken about in this statement was the introduction yesterday of the lone fathers’ benefit. The manner in which that benefit was introduced, the failure of the Government to consult with the States, the failure of the Government to make provision for the first six months when most lone fathers will need the benefit and the anomalies which will arise from this benefit have been attacked by the Lone Parents Federation, which quite justly objected to being used as a political football. The introduction of the twice yearly pension adjustments, which are indexed to the consumer price index, have been quite correctly noted in the Minister’s statement.
– But you welcomed that, Senator.
-Certainly the Opposition did not oppose that measure.
– You did not do it either.
– We did not do it that way. We increased pensions by far more than the consumer price index increase when we were in government. We increased pensions from 19 per cent of average weekly earnings to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. But the present Government when in opposition in fact promised to index pensions to the CPI automatically and immediately, not with four months delay.
As the Minister well knows, the Pensioners Association Inc. has not forgotten this promise. But that Association realises also that pensioners’ dependants’ allowances have not been increased since the Labor Government increased them in 1975, nor has the supplementary benefit which goes to the poorest of the poor in the community, namely, those people on pensions with very little more income who have to pay rental for their accommodation. Supplementary benefits to the recipients of sickness benefits and the allowances for spouses and children for those people on unemployment benefits, sickness benefits and special benefits under this Government are now taxed for the first time. One understands that that was a proposal of the ex-Premier of South
Australia, who is now trying to move into yet another House of Parliament.
The statement then goes on to make certain claims about the introduction of the new family allowance scheme- certainly a worthwhile reform; certainly something which the Opposition did not oppose. But we pointed out at the time of its introduction that if the family allowance were introduced in this way and if tax rebates for children were abolished, if justice was to be maintained, it was essential that that family allowance should be regularly upgraded. Of course, this has not happened. Inflation has run away with the situation. We have produced tables, never questioned in the Parliament, which demonstrate that with the introduction of the Medibank levy and of the family allowance and with the scrapping of the children’s rebates which would have been indexed, what has happened is that anyone earning $120 to $200 a week who has more than one child has less disposable income now than he would have had under the old tax scheme.
The family allowance recommendations of Professor Henderson were only part of a recommendation. They did not even make up the total of one of the recommendations by Professor Henderson. In the same recommendation Professor Henderson recommended that the supporting mothers’ benefit should be a Commonwealth responsibility, and that to maintain justice in the community home care help, infant welfare, child care and general accommodation services for women in distress and children in distress should be upgraded and should be funded. We all know what happened to expenditure in this area in the last Budget.
– What happened?
– There was no growth in cash terms and, therefore, a reduction of 14 per cent in real terms. I do not believe that even Senator Baume would deny that. The change to the income test from an income means test is another example of a recommendation by Professor Henderson which the Government half introduced. Professor Henderson said that injustice would arise if a capital gains provision was not included in defining private income for pensioner services. Only half the recommendation was introduced, thus causing this injustice. The Minister listed some achievements of the Government in assistance to the unemployed. This is probably the most cynical section of the statement. No government in the history of this country has done more to denigrate the unemployed. In fact, it has conducted an organised campaign to do so.
The Minister mentioned assistance to relocate workers when they were thrown out of employment. Anyone in this place from Tasmania- I notice that our friend Senator Archer has disappeared now we have reached this section of the statement- will realise what happened when 300 people lost their jobs at Mount Lyell last year. Promises were made to an inquiry by a Senate select committee that relocation allowances would be paid to these people. So few relocation allowances were paid that all honourable senators from Tasmania and some from South Australia because that is where some people went to get further jobs were still trying to obtain for these people the relocation allowances they were promised.
– And they received them.
– They have not received them. I have at least six examples on my books. One of the honourable senator’s colleagues has at least five on his books. There were extraordinary statements that administrative processes recommended by Dr Myers and Mr Norgard in their inquiries have been introduced to assist the unemployed in claiming unemployment benefit. The facts are these: The Government has acted in a manner that is the reverse of what Dr Myers, Mr Norgard and Professor Henderson recommended. The Government has failed to continue the decentralisation program for officers of the Department of Social Security, introduced by Labor and recommended by all those gentlemen. The Government has made the work test by the Commonwealth Employment Service the ultimate work test. It is not allowing the Department of Social Security to overrule it. That is quite contrary to the recommendations of all those gentlemen.
In introducing the payment in arrears for unemployment benefit the Government has failed to abolish the 7-day waiting period. That is also contrary to the recommendations of Professor Henderson, Dr Myers, Mr Norgard, the Reverend Martin and everyone else who has made recommendations in this area. The Government has legislated for a delay in the payment of unemployment benefit to school leavers, also contrary to all these recommendations. Yet the Government says that it has introduced administrative changes to assist the unemployed in receiving their benefit. The Minister then spoke about actively involving the community in assessing and devising welfare delivery schemes. She mentioned the National Consultative Committee on Social Welfare. This Committee is some example of community involvement in the assessment and delivery of welfare schemes! It was appointed by the Minister. It meets in private and reports only to the Minister. Its reports are not made public. Its members are not allowed to show even the minutes of its meetings to the bodies outside to which they belong. Some public involvement! The same goes for the consultative committees in the States and the Women’s Welfare Advisory Committee.
How does this compare with the active community involvement in the Australian Assistance Plan which the Government, despite a firm election promise, effectively torpedoed without any consultation with the States soon after coming into power. The statement goes on into other areas and portfolios, into law and legal aid, the very area in which the Government has not only cut expenditure but has also introduced stringent and more restrictive means tests- to the extent that people, especially those seeking maintenance, have been unable to obtain assistance from Australian Legal Aid. The number of lawyers employed by that office has decreased and we have, in fact, had protests from lawyers, client groups and the community generally about the reduction in legal aid and the inability of people to obtain assistance.
The Government speaks of increased expenditures for the Community Health Service, but that increase amounts to only Sim more than the 1975-76 allocation, and 15.3 per cent less than the Hospitals and Services Commission estimated was needed to continue existing projects. Moreover, the Government has changed the basis of funding so that the States must now provide 50 per cent of the cost of new projects. The Aboriginal Health Service, which the Minister also mentioned, is in fact to receive funding amounting to only Sim more than it received in 1975-76, which is certainly a decrease in real terms.
I am unable to go into detail concerning the fields of education which are mentioned, but I note that the Minister was careful in her statement to say that the recommendations of Dr Fitzgerald could be only partly implemented, that is, in the Territories in which the Federal Government had direct power to act. We know what has happened in the States, where education funding has been cut, because of the failure of this Government to maintain its supporta subject that is raised every morning at Question Time in this chamber.
The Poverty Commission’s report contains so far some 500 recommendations. Many of these could be implemented without cost, but for the Minister to state that the Government is well on the way to implementing Professor Henderson’s guaranteed minimum income scheme, is well on the way to achieving the recommendations of the various poverty commissioners is, I believe, nonsense and quite dishonest. The Minister’s statement on television, that the Government had already achieved most of Professor Henderson’s recommendations, was outrageous.
I assume the Government’s statement is in fact some sort of pre-election gimmick. It gives no detailed facts or certainties about the future; indeed, it is couched in generalisations- certainly in regard to areas outside social security- from which no one could derive hope. We read it with interest. We get little from it. We expect that, in the future, the underprivileged of this community will also get very little from it.
– I rise to make only a few comments on the Government’s statement, which took me by surprise and was obviously not so much a social welfare statement as one made in preparation for the forthcoming election campaign. I believe that the Minister’s ability to read such statements effectively did it more than justice. If she repeats it during the election campaign one can imagine the multitudes lauding the good servant, the Government, which now cries over the poverty in Australia that it supposedly wants to alleviate.
However, someone may force Government supporters to answer this question; what has it really done to assist, other than make promises and incur expenses? When one analyses its supposed reforms one finds that the Government has increased the numbers of unemployed far beyond those that existed under the previous Labor Government. What is more the Government has made the test applicable to unemployment benefit so difficult that many people who formerly would have been entitled to unemployment benefit are today not entitled to it.
– Which group?
– For instance, the school leaver who formerly went on to unemployment benefit immediately if he could not get a job now has to wait six weeks before he gets any return from the Government. That is despite the fact that jobs have been taken away from the school leavers. The qualifying period for the great training scheme for those youths who have been unemployed has been reduced from six months to three months because of the unemployment situation. But no survey has been made to determine whether those who have been trained are replacing men already in industry. That scheme is not reducing unemployment; it is increasing unemployment and subsidising employers who give preference to a particular type of employee.
What has the Government done for the Aboriginals? As Senator Grimes has said, the appropriation for Aboriginals has been reduced. That is not of benefit to the Aboriginal community. Today we find the Premier of a State sabotaging a Commonwealth scheme that is designed for the benefit of Aboriginals and the Commonwealth supporting the cancellation of a health scheme in Victoria. The constitutional power is being used to enforce the situation because elections are coming up in Queensland and in the Commonwealth. Rather than permit those who are alleged to be political advocates to be in a health team the health and eyesight of Aboriginals in Queensland are being sacrificed. Many Aboriginals will go blind as a result of the neglect of this Government. This Government is crying crocodile tears to the electors when it expresses great concern for the unemployed and about the poverty in Australia.
The previous Government’s Aboriginal employment scheme, which subsidised councils for the purpose of employing Aboriginals at award rates, has been superseded by a co-operative scheme for Aboriginal communities. The work on Aboriginal settlements is today performed under the scheme about which Senator Keeffe has told us, whereby the amount of unemployment benefit previously paid to individuals on that settlement has been pooled and paid into the community, which is now employing a greater number for reduced hours and reduced wages for the purpose of seeing that they do not get in excess of the dole money. Aboriginals have to work for their dole money on Aboriginal settlements. Those are some of the Government’s proposals for assisting Aboriginal communities.
When I asked a question on this matter I was told that in States other than Queensland award rates will be paid on the basis of the hours worked. There is no right to work 40 hours. I refer to the position at Hopevale in Queensland. It is an offence under racial discrimination law to pay an Aboriginal on a reserve less than he would receive for the same work off a reserve. I was informed in a letter from a Minister today that there will be no breach of the law and that the law does not apply to contract work or work on a co-operative basis. The law of this Parliament is being overcome by a subterfuge in Queensland to permit the continuation of the training rate of Bjelke-Petersen whereby Aboriginals on reserves get less than award wages and less than the wage that the Whitlam Government established for them.
We are told of the Government’s concern for Aboriginals and of how it is developing an Aboriginal advisory council for the purpose of advising the Government and working in cooperation with it. The Labor Government established the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee to advise it. Before promising to continue with it this Government set up the Committee of Inquiry into the role of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee under Dr Hiatt to examine the proposal and to see what could be done about the Consultative Committee. Dr Hiatt reported that the Committee was unable to function effectively because of the large area that it had to control and he recommended an increase in the membership of the Committee. Instead of increasing the membership, this Government reduced it by five and then told the Committee that it would not hold conferences when the Committee thought it was necessary but it would hold annual national conferences to advise the Government on Aboriginal affairs. The Government decided that the Aboriginal community would appoint five members to the Committee and the Minister would appoint five members and that body would advise the Government. Today the authority of Aboriginals who have a say in the Government has been taken away from the Aboriginals themselves and put into the hands of a Committee to which the Minister appoints five members, one of them being the Chairman. The majority decision of the Committee is the advice that the Minister receives. So the power has been taken from the Aboriginal community and is in the possession of a body to which the Minister and the Aboriginal community appoint equal numbers, but the Chairman is appointed by the Minister.
The Government has pointed to what it has done for Aboriginals. The plight of Aboriginals is getting worse each day. I have brought numerous cases of injustice to Aboriginals in the Northern Territory to the attention of the Minister. A judge at Alice Springs has said that in no court in Australia would a juvenile be sentenced without a pre-conviction report on him being given. Yet that was done in Alice Springs and the juvenile was locked in an adult gaol, to be contaminated by the criminal element that may be in the gaol from time to time. The investigation into the Skull Creek incident, which was financed jointly by this Government and the Western Australian Government, reported on the wrongdoings of the police in Western Australia, but this Government sits back complacently. The Royal Commission found that there were two mam culprits in the Police Force who were in error, but one has received a promotion and the other has suffered no penalty. What a lovely thing that is for the Aboriginals! Also in Western Australia the rights to a great diamond find were given to private enterprise, with no provision for the protection of Aboriginals, although the find was on their land. Yet the Government has the constitutional right to assign the land for the benefit of the Aboriginals, and the Labor Government was prepared to do that in Western Australia and in Queensland.
Having some knowledge of Aboriginal affairs, I say to the Government that it should not make statements on the pretext that it is helping Aboriginals. They received no help at all from the white man until 1972, and the great strides that were made between 1972 and 1975 are being whittled away by a Government that is telling the people what it is doing for the Aboriginals. I am sure that the electors are not foolish enough to be taken in by the oratory and the crocodile tears by which the Government has tried to indicate its anxiety for the poor. Actions speak louder than words, and recent elections have shown that the Aboriginal people know what this Government is doing for them. They have voted against the policies of this Government. That was done in the Northern Territory and in the Kimberleys in Western Australia, where the law has now to be altered so that the Aboriginals cannot have an effective vote in the politics of Australia. That attitude will also become apparent next Saturday in Queensland. I think this is one of the most hypocritical statements ever to have been made to this Parliament. It shows the desperation of a Government that has pulled on an election and is afraid of the results.
– It was the Government of which Senator Cavanagh was a member which brought to this country on a scale never seen before in Australia the inflation, the misery and the unemployment which we inherited two years ago. It was that Government’s Budget which cost jobs. It was that Government’s tariffs which cost employment. It was that Government’s expenditure which left the country where we found it when we came to office. The statement which the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) brought in tonight has set down a record by the Fraser Government of new initiatives, increased benefits, a family allowance scheme, extended benefits, a movement towards an income supplement scheme which will guarantee a minimum income, an income test replacing a means test and consultative mechanisms set up within the welfare area. The Minister set these things down.
The hypocrisy of an Opposition which claims that we have done nothing is almost unbelievable in its audacity. The Opposition cannot camouflage the extra benefits which the Fraser Government has brought to Australia and which Senator Guilfoyle set down in her statement tonight. I believe Senator Cavanagh should be ashamed of what he has said. The statement is worthy of most careful attention by the Senate. I move:
- Senator Baume, you have moved for the adjournment of the debate? You may ask for leave to continue your remarks, but at this stage you cannot move that the debate be adjourned.
– I cannot move the adjournment, Mr President?
– You may seek leave to continue your remarks.
- Mr President, I seek leave to continue my remarks.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order.
– The motion for the adjournment of the debate lapses. It cannot be moved by Senator Baume at this stage. Senator Baume, you may ask for leave to continue your remarks.
– I have no more remarks.
– I wish to contribute to the motion that the Senate take note of the paper. I do so along the same lines taken by Senator Grimes and by my other colleague Senator Cavanagh. I shall repeat what both those honourable senators have said. The statement which has been put down in the Senate tonight is nothing but a blatant piece of electioneering in the dying hours of the Parliament. To understand that we need look only at the opening remarks of the Minister for
Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) where she stated:
I will also outline the special arrangements that the Government is now taking to expedite further examination and action on the Inquiry’s recommendations.
But which words came first in the Minister’s statement? The words were: ‘expedite further examination’. The statement is put down to try to hoodwink unthinking people into believing that the contents of the statement refer to real things that have taken place because of the Government’s sympathy for people suffering poverty in this country. On every page of this statement one sees the word ‘poverty* Further in the statement the Minister, when speaking about Professor Henderson’s report and the number of recommendations contained in it, stated:
In total they contain more than SOO recommendations designed to contribute towards the alleviation of poverty in its broadest sense, and thus they provide a significant basis for the Government’s commitment to action.
The Government has been in office for two years and it made those promises back in November and December 1975. The Government promised that it was committed to action to alleviate poverty which it claimed was brought about by the Australian Labor Party Government. That claim has even been made here tonight. It was mentioned in the statement by way of interjection from two honourable senators opposite. The Government still claims that it was the Labor Government which brought about poverty in this nation. Senator Baume, in the few words he had to say, talked about inflation. He claimed that the highest level of inflation on record occurred under a Labor government. I have had incorporated in Hansard on more than one occasion a document I procured from the Legislative Research Section of the Parliamentary Library which indicates that the highest level of inflation in living memory occurred under the regime of Mr Menzies. That level was 25 per cent. Yet, honourable senators opposite continually claim that the highest rate of inflation occurred under a Labor government.
Supporters of the Government also say in some of their documents that the highest rate of unemployment in this country since the last depression took place under the Whitlam Government. They use figures which again cannot be backed up. They know that the highest rate of unemployment in this country since the last depression m the 1930s has taken place under this Government. Yet, we find claims are made in the Minister’s statement that the problems that exist in this country today were brought about by the Whitlam Government and the
Hayden Budget. Of course, that is not correct. The Minister in her statement went on to state:
What I want to stress today is that the Government is firm in its determination to assist the disadvantaged in Australian society by mounting a concerted attack on poverty as inflation is brought under control.
That is the qualifying tag attached to this problem. The qualification that this Government puts on alleviating poverty is one of bringing inflation under control. All the Government is concerned about is inflation. The jobs of hundreds of thousands of people have to be sacrificed in order to bring down the rate of inflation to the level that the Government boasts about.
I have pointed out on numerous occasions in recent weeks that any housewife can cut down her budget expenditure if she does not provide the necessary needs for her family and her children. She can cut down her budget if she makes her family go without. This is the very remedy that this Government is using. It is making the needy people in this community go without in order to try to bring down the rate of inflation.
Under the heading ‘ general ‘ the Minister said:
The single most important action taken by this Government to alleviate poverty has been the priority given to right the economy and defeat inflation.
These words are repeated on about every page of this statement. We are told on just about every page that the Government is going to right the economy by defeating inflation. But the Government does not have a care in the world for the suffering and misery it is creating in this country by its desire to be able to go out to the people and say that it has reduced the rate of inflation. The housewife knows that the Government’s claim is not correct even though it plays about with the figures of about 2 per cent for the September quarter. The housewife who goes to the supermarket to buy her weekly groceries knows jolly well that the rate of inflation has not come down and the claims that it has is only a myth. The real situation will be revealed when the figures for the December quarter are released. However, it will be too late by then because the figures will come out on the eve of the election. The figure will be much more than the low rate that this Government is boasting about now. But the Government cannot fool the housewife who has to pay the bills. The Minister further said:
To reduce inflation we have to exercise careful restraint . . .
The people suffering the most because of this Government’s restraint are the people mentioned in this statement who are living in poverty. She goes on to add:
Of course, she is talking about the Whitlam Government- or other public expenditures at once that they accelerate an inflationary spiral that does more to damage poor people than the assistance provided by the reform’.
I said in this chamber last night when I was speaking to the Social Services Amendment Bill which was introduced by the Minister for Social Security that I was quite prepared to see a government, and quite happy to be a member of a government, that made money available to the needy people of this country even if that government was accused of wasting money. In my view this is the correct policy. This policy was necessary and it was needed when the Labor Government took office. It had to do something to uplift the living standards of the people who had suffered under Liberal-National Country Party governments for 23 years from 1949 to 1972. Those governments never had a care in the world for those people.
The Minister boasted in her speech about bringing in a twice yearly increase for pensioners. I have had incorporated in Hansard on many occasions the miserable increases that previous Liberal-National Country Party governments have given to pensioners. We have seen those governments give increases of five shillings and sometimes 7s 6d. In some years the pensioners would get nothing but if it was an election year they would get ten shillings. That was the Government’s very proud record. If we go back over 23 yean we will see the miserable increases year after year. It was not until the advent of the Whitlam Labor Government that the pensioners knew they would get a twice yearly increase in the pension. Our promise was that we would lift the pension to 25 per cent of the average wage and were very close to achieving it when we went out of office, despite the fact that we were continually frustrated in this chamber and had been forced to an election midway through our first term. Yet we were able to give these benefits to pensioners and bring about many other reforms to assist people on the lower rung of the ladder.
Senator Grimes has already referred to the relocation allowance. To have an unemployment figure so high that it has to introduce measures making money available to relocate people because there are no jobs for them in certain areas is not something about which any government should be proud. This would be all very well if the Government were paying the relocation allowances only to single persons because generally they have not too many ties in the towns in which they are living, but what about the married man with children going to school, the man who has bought a house and is paying it off. Whyalla, where the Government has wrecked the shipbuilding industry, is a typical example of an area where something should be done about unemployment. The Government now boasts that it will relocate the people of Whyalla who have been affected. But where will it relocate them, because there will be no jobs for them wherever they go in Australia and the unemployment figures prove this. Unemployment is rising weekly all over the Commonwealth.
So how can the Government boast in this document about a relocation allowance to help people to shift from one area to another? What will it do about their commitments on their homes, about their children’s education which will be disrupted and all the other things that go to making a happy family? The Government has no concern for these things. Honourable senators opposite seem to think that the working people are like shell-backs and have their houses permanently on their backs so that they can go wherever the Government likes to send them. I am afraid the Government is in for a very rude awakening on 10 December. Even though the Minister has made this statement it has not fooled honourable senators on the Opposition benches and certainly will not fool people who are suffering today from the policies of this Government.
The Minister spoke about how the Government by way of the family allowance, had put a great deal more money into the hands of those who normally bear most of the day to day responsibility for children. I mentioned this matter last evening when talking about the Social Services Amendment Bill and the problem that existed in certain sections of the community because of the Government’s actions. The Minister, speaking about how the Government is helping mothers, has jogged my memory about how in many cases it is not helping the mothers. Before the family allowance was introduced the husband in well regulated families used to budget and allocate so much out of his pay packet to the wife and mother on which she had to run the household. Now he has so much less in his pay packet because he is not able to claim his children as a taxation deduction. So what the mother is getting on the one hand by way of family allowance her husband is keeping out of her weekly housekeeping allowance in order to meet his weekly commitments because he has to put so much aside for council rates, house payments and those sorts of things. He has to balance his budget. It is all very well for Senator Walters to throw up her arms in horror but I have had people corning into my office with this problem. They have pointed out to me that they are no better off. All the Government has succeeded in doing in many cases is transferring finance from the husband to the wife, and people in many cases are not one penny better off. Despite this the Minister in her speech boasted about the introduction of the family allowance.
As Senator Cavanagh pointed out- I had intended making reference to this matter anyway but he has covered it adequately- on just about every page of the Minister s statement she talked about what the Government is doing for Aborigines. But what has the Minister for Health (Mr Hunt) done today to those two Aborigines who were interviewed on television tonight and who have been given the sack? He has acquiesced with the request of Mr Bjelke-Petersen, the Premier of Queensland, because these people had the audacity- and I might mention that Senator Bonner has already spoken about this matter in the Parliament today- to ask their own people to fill in enrolment cards so that they could exercise the right of every Australian citizen over the age of 18 years to vote at elections. Yet we find the Minister for Health, Mr Hunt, acquiescing to a strong demand by Mr BjelkePetersen that these two gentlemen be sacked. What they were doing was quite within the law. But Mr Bjelke-Petersen does not want Aboriginals to be enrolled so that they can vote. As Senator Cavanagh pointed out, we in the Opposition know why.
We have seen the Electoral Act altered in Western Australia to deprive illiterate Aborigines of a postal vote or seeking the assistance of a scrutineer at a polling booth to enable them to cast a vote for the candidate whose photo they point to on a how-to-vote card. At least Mr Court, the West Australian Premier, will not be able to deprive illiterate Aborigines of the opportunity to vote in the Federal election. Under the Commonwealth Electoral Act any voter has the right to seek the assistance of any person to assist him to cast a vote. Yet immediately Mr Court, this Liberal Premier in Western Australia, was made aware of the fact that he presented a very weak case in the Court of Disputed Returns and that the court intended to order another election, what did he do? He rushed legislation through the State Parliament to prevent the illiterate Aboriginal people from applying for postal votes and from having persons assist them at the polling booth. He was hoping that the candidate who ran so close to his Minister in the election in the Kimberleys would not have the benefit of the vote from the Aboriginals despite the fact that the Labor candidate is an Aboriginal himself. That is the type of thing that members of the Liberal Party do. Yet we find being put down in this Parliament tonight on the eve of an election a document which tries to fool the people that the Government has some concern, in the first place, for people who are suffering poverty and, m the second place, for the Aboriginal people of this community. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Government could not care one iota. It has no concern whatever for these people.
On the eighth page of the statement of the Minister for Social Security mention is made of how the Government is concerned about school leavers and that the Australian Education Council has set up a Commonwealth-State working party of education and labour officials to examine matters such as the special difficulties faced by early school leavers. That is the very point that was contained in the legislation that passed through the Senate last night and which the Opposition opposed. We voted on it. Clause 14 of that Bill stated that the Government would make school leavers wait for six weeks and then if they had not found a job they would be entitled to unemployment benefit. Yet the Minister has the audacity to say in this document that she read tonight that the Government will give special attention to early school leavers. The Government does one thing by way of a provision contained in legislation introduced into this Parliament and, less than 24 hours later, it presents a document which expresses its concern for those people who will be deprived of getting the unemployment benefit.
– They will say anything.
– Of course honourable senators opposite will say anything. As I pointed out when I first rose, this statement that has been presented tonight is a blatant political exercise. There is nothing more to it. The Government wants the Minister’s speech to be broadcast on the radio tonight and to be reported in the Press tomorrow, so that the people who are listening and who read the newspapers tomorrow will say what a wonderful document it is. Of course, I think that Senator Grimes and Senator Cavanagh have pointed out adequately, and I have endeavoured to enlarge on it, that the Government has no concern for the povertystricken people of this nation nor for Aboriginals either.
Motion (by Senator Walters) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
The main purpose of this Bill is to amend the Trade Practices Act to enable parties to certain commercial transactions, which fall within the definition in the Act of a consumer transaction, to limit their liability above a minimum level.
The Trade Practices Amendment Act, which came into force on 1 July 1977, extended the definition of a consumer transaction to include certain commercial transactions involving acquisitions of goods or services costing less than $15,000. Since that amendment, the Government has received representations from sections of industry expressing strong concern. This concern relates to the possibility that, in certain circumstances, a breach of the non-excludable conditions and warranties implied by the Act into relevant commercial contracts could present industry with enormous costs for consequential damages. Furthermore, the Government has been informed that the risk involved in such circumstances is, for the most part, non-insurable.
The Government has concluded that, in the context of commercial dealings in commercial goods or services, it is reasonable to allow parties to a contract to negotiate their own arrangements regarding liability for consequential damages flowing from a breach of the contract. The Government is seeking to free Australian commerce from unnecessary strait-jackets imposed by legislation. The present position is unnecessarily restrictive.
In making the amendments to which I have just referred, the Trade Practices Act will continue to maintain a basic philosophy that suppliers of goods or services should stand behind the quality and title of those goods or services in their dealings with business as well as with the public. Accordingly, the Bill does not allow liability for repair or replacement of faulty goods or services or for a breach of the undertakings in section 69 relating to title, to be excluded. Further, the Bill does not allow relevant liability to be limited with total disregard to equity between the parties. The Government believes that recent amendments to the law in the United Kingdom in this regard are appropriate to the Australian situation. Accordingly, a limitation of liability in a contract governed by the Trade Practices Act may be challenged on the grounds that the limitation was not fair or reasonable between the parties.
The Bill gives a list of indications as to the determination of fairness or reasonableness.
Apart from the question of limitation of hability, there are a number of technical difficulties in the language of the present Act relevant to calculating the monetary limit Particularly these relate to situations where goods are hired or leased or there are credit charges involved in a transaction. The Bill remedies these technical difficulties.
I now turn to another matter dealt with in this Bill. Honourable senators will be aware that quality standards for, and information about, consumer goods is the central concern of the Australian consumer movement. The present Act provides for consumer product safety standards and consumer product information standards to be prescribed by regulations. This has led to substantial delays due to complexities in drafting, which have been greatly criticised by the consumer movement. This is an important area, and the Government has decided to provide for alternative procedures to enable consumer product standards to be brought into law more simply. The procedure envisaged by the Bill seeks to rely upon the very substantial work done in the field of consumer standards by private organisations in Australia, particularly the Standards Association of Australia.
Mr President, a Press statement made last week by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) referred to the intention of the Government to amend the Trade Practices Act with respect to manufacturers’ warranties. The Government will be dealing with this matter early next year, upon our return to office. 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 Durack) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The primary purpose of the Bill I have just introduced is to make amendments to the Customs Act which will increase very substantially the maximum penalties for drug trafficking offences and provide for seizure and forfeiture of cash, cheques or goods that are in the possession or control of a person by reason of:
The proposal stems from acceptance by the Government of recommendations by the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence which, late last year, were unanimously adopted by a meeting of Commonwealth and State Ministers concerned with drug abuse.
The meeting of Ministers agreed that existing penalties for offences involving cannabis leaf should not be varied. While this decision requires differentiating between marihuana and other drugs as regards trafficking it means retention of the existing lower-tier penalty for all drugs where the quantity concerned in an offence is not indicative of trafficking.
Penalties for trafficking in drugs were last increased in 1971. However, significant developments since that date, namely:
The alarming rise in trafficking in, and abuse of, extremely dangerous drugs such as heroin, morphine and concentrated cannabis derivatives, cannabis oil and cannabis resin; evidence of participation by ‘organised crime’ syndicates operating from overseas as well as within Australia; and emergence of Australia as a major market worthy of inclusion in regular smuggling routes as a destination and as a transit point usually for drugs enroute to New Zealandindicate that the present maximum penalty level of $4,000 or 10 years imprisonment, or both, is singularly inadequate in view of the enormous rewards that can be reaped from the illicit trade. I do not need to tell honourable senators that the participants in this shameful trade are dealers in the ultimate in human misery, degradation and despoliation and I am sure that all will agree that penalties of a sufficiently high level to serve as a deterrent are called for.
In the past, the deterrent effects of the penalty have suffered because the ill-gotten gains from drug trafficking have been beyond the reach of the law even in those instances where, in the course of arrests and drug seizures, large sums of money have been intercepted in the course of changing hands. To correct this weakness and to strengthen the deterrent effect where strengthening is as much, if not more, needed than in the area of prescribed penalties, the Bill provides in clause 8 for the forfeiture to the Crown of moneys, cheques or goods that can be shown to be proceeds from drug-trafficking offences. Safeguards are included under which cash, cheques or goods seized from a person as forfeited to the Crown, but in respect of which another person establishes innocent ownership, shall by direction of a court, be delivered to that lastmentioned person. Similar safeguards are included in respect of innocent storage of narcotic goods by warehouse licensees.
Clause 10 of the Bill proposes that offences against the Customs Act that are related to importation, exportation or possession of a prohibited narcotic substance- other than cannabis in leaf form- and that involve a quantity of that substance that is not less than the quantity specified in relation to that substance in Schedule 1 to the Bill, be punishable by a penalty of up to $100,000 or by imprisonment for up to 25 years, or by both a fine and imprisonment up to those limits. The quantities set out in that Schedule as trafficable quantities are in accordance with the recommendations of the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence to which I referred earlier. The quantities reflect the experience of law enforcement agencies in relation to amounts which would reasonably be consistent with personal use. In the light of the proposed substantial increase in penalties, the quantities decided upon are, in most cases, four times the quantity at present prescribed. The Bill proposes a number of other amendments to the Customs Act which are more of a general ‘housekeeping’ nature. These include:
Amendments dealt with in clauses 3, 4 and 9 which are consequential to Australia’s adoption last year of the Brussels Definition of Value. The ‘Brussels’ system relies on normal commercial documentation and does not require ‘ Customs ‘ invoices.
Amendments proposed by clauses 5 and 6 which are designed to provide greater flexibility for regulations to govern the granting, operation and transfer of licences or permissions in respect of goods subject to import or export restriction.
In co-operation with the Treasurer, by clause 7, a restructuring of provisions setting out the general requirements in relation to exports to provide a basis for eliminating the need for export licences under the Banking (Foreign Exchange) Regulations by upgrading the export entry as the sole control document.
Although the proposed amendments require entry before export, instead of within the present three days grace, any apparent disadvantage to exporters is outweighed by, firstly, the elimination consequential to the passage of this Bill, of export licences and, secondly, by the introduction of a system under which regular exporters may, subject to observance of the conditions of the system, furnish to Customs periodic returns of exports instead of shipment-by-shipment entries. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Button) 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 Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
The main provisions of this Bill to amend the Australian Shipping Commission Act are engaged to encourage a regime of equal opportunity for competition in coastal trades between the Australian Shipping Commission and private shipowners, and to enable the Australian National Line to undertake shipping services for the carriage of goods between places in a State where that State authorises the Commission to provide such services. The opportunity has also been taken to effect a number of minor amendments to the Act.
The Australian Coastal Shipping Agreement 1956 expired in September 1976 and the Government has considered the effectiveness of this Agreement and whether any useful purpose would be served by entering into a new agreement. The main purpose of the Agreement was to facilitate trade and commerce in coastal shipping by ensuring the continued operation of ships by private shipping companies and the Australian Shipping Commission, and to ensure the maintenance of competition between the private companies, and between the companies and the Commission. Following discussions with private shipping interests and the Commission, the Government concluded that a new agreement was not necessary but that certain amendments to the Australian Shipping Commission Act were desirable to ensure that ANL enjoys no special advantages or suffers any disadvantages vis-a-vis private shipping interests. The amendments proposed are therefore designed, among other things to provide a situation of equal competition and equal opportunity as between ANL and private snipping companies.
I propose to refer only briefly to the principal amendments to be effected to the Act. An explanatory memorandum that is being circulated gives details of all the amendments contained in this Bill. Section 17 of the Act is being expanded. This section currently provides that the Government may direct the Commission to operate a particular service in the public interest. If such a direction is given and the service incurs a loss, the Commission is entitled to reimbursement of the loss. However this provision does not enable other shipowners to be offered the subsidised operation. There will be added a requirement that if such a direction- to provide a particular service in the public interest- is issued, the Minister for Transport must at the same time set up an inquiry into alternative services, and the form and amount of assistance that such alternatives might need. Where a service is considered necessary in the public interest all Australian shipowners and other forms of transport will have the opportunity to compete for that service. All possible ways of handling the cargo will be explored and a proper commercial evaluation made of the best way to solve the transport problem involved.
A new section 17a will be inserted to require the Commission to earn sufficient to pay dividends in respect of its coastal operations to the
Commonwealth on a basis that puts the Commission on a footing with comparable private enterprises. The Munster for Transport will have power to instruct the Commission as to the target dividend it should aim for in respect of its coastal operations and the Commission will be required to report to the Minister for Transport during the trading year with proposals to correct the situation should it appear that the target will not be achieved. These requirements would place additional pressure on the Commission to operate in a commercial way. Section 30 is to be amended to require the Commission to pay interest on borrowings from the Commonwealth at the going rate paid by private first class borrowers. This is in fact the position now, but it will be expressed specifically in the Act. Under the amendment to section 36 the Commission will be required to pay State and Territory taxes as well as Commonwealth taxes.
Under its present legislation, the Commission is not empowered to trade intrastate. However following extended negotiations between the Commonwealth and Queensland governments, the Queensland Government recently legislated to authorise the Commission to operate intrastate shipping services in Queensland following its decision some time ago to allow the Commission unrestricted access to the general cargo trade from Brisbane to north Queensland ports.
A new section 16a will be inserted to enable the Commission to carry out the powers and functions relating to intrastate trading conferred by a State government, such as Queensland. The service between ports in Queensland will be provided by the Line’s vessels which currently operate regular services between southern ports, Brisbane and North Queensland, but are presently unable to accept cargoes from Brisbane to northern ports in the State. This will provide residents of North Queensland with the benefits of an alternative transport system previously denied them. The Bill also provides an opportunity to make a number of minor amendments of procedural or a consequential nature to the Australian Shipping Commission Act which will bring the provisions of the Act into line with 1>resent practice and make for uniformity with Legislation in relation to other Commonwealth transport undertakings. 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 Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the text of the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
The Bill now before the Senate continues and extends arrangements for the provision of assistance to the States for land transport planning and research. Honourable senators will be aware that the Government has included a sum of $8m in Appropriation Bill (No. 2) for transport planning and research assistance in 1977-78. The Bill now before the Senate provides standing legislation specifying the conditions and arrangements covering the use of these funds and funds to be appropriated in subsequent years.
At the Australian Transport Advisory Council the future arrangements concerning the planning and research program have been discussed with State Ministers holding responsibilities for transport. There has been unanimous support for the continuation of the program and the structure pf the arrangements proposed has been influenced by the views of the States. Some general introductory comments are appropriate. The Commonwealth Aid Roads Act 1969 provided assistance for road research. The Transport (Planning and Research) Act 1974 extended assistance to urban public transport as well as roads. The present Bill further extends assistance to cover planning and research into all forms of land transport as well as into areas involved in the relationship of land transport and other modes.
The transport planning and research program has achieved its objectives through effective Commonwealth-State co-operation. It has promoted an integrated approach to planning and research, to the sharing of results and to avoidance of duplication. Commonwealth assistance to more than SOO projects has totalled over $23m since 1974. Examples include large studies such as the south west area study in Western Australia, the north east area transport study in South Australia, the Koonung Creek corridor study in Victoria and the Newcastle, GosfordWyong and Wollongong urban studies. There are also many smaller projects such as area control of traffic in Hobart and crew rostering by computer in Queensland which are directed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of existing facilities and infrastructure. With regard to the Bill itself, I should say that several changes from previous legislation have been introduced to simplify administrative arrangements whilst preserving the essential features of a CommonwealthState co-operative program which has developed successfully to this time. A change from former arrangements is that State programs will now be approved rather than individual projects. This is to allow States greater flexibility in implementing and managing their planning and research programs and at the same time further encourage the development of balanced programs.
I turn now to financial aspects. In 1977-78 the Government has proposed an appropriation of $8m for transport planning and research and the Schedule to the Bill indicates the assistance to be given for each State. The 1977-78 grants will be provided on a matching basis of two Commonwealth dollars to one State dollar in line with previous legislation. However, after 1977-78 the Government proposes to contribute to the program on a dollar for dollar basis. We recognise that continuity of funding is very important in a program like this and we have already told the States that for 1978-79 and 1979-80 we are prepared to contribute our share on a dollar for dollar basis of a total program maintained at the 1977-78 level in real terms.
The explanatory notes I have circulated describe the main features of the Bill and I do not propose to deal with individual clauses in detail. The important points covered by the Bill include definitions, arrangements for approval, details of grant entitlements in 1977-78 and in later years, provision to cover planning and research projects carried out for the States by research organisations, details of financial administration and provisions for delegation. Honourable senators will recall that on 24 August 1 976 and 3 May 1977 I tabled reports of progress on projects under the Transport (Planning and Research) Act 1974. The Bill now before the Senate provides for continued communication of results through annual progress reports and final project reports. The transport planning and research program to date has provided a good example of Commonwealth-State co-operation. This Bill will enable this co-operation to continue and ensure effective use of resources. It will encourage planning and research relating to land transport, will allow for emphasis on new initiatives and for the avoidance of unnecessary duplication. 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 Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have the text of the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to seek authority for the Treasurer to guarantee on behalf of the Australian Government loans raised by Ansett Transport Industries Ltd to finance the purchase of one Boeing 727-200 series aircraft. This will be the eighth aircraft of its type in the Ansett fleet. The Company also operates four Boeing 72 7- 100s and twelve DC9s. The Australian National Airlines Commission, Trans-Australia Airlines, which operates the same number of aircraft of each type as Ansett, intends to finance its eighth Boeing 727-200 from its own internal resources. The need by both Ansett and the Commission to seek additional aircraft to incorporate into their fleets, is to meet the strong growth in traffic that has been evident throughout most of this year. The industry is optimistic that these trends will continue through 1978.
During 1976 both carriers experienced relatively depressed market conditions with a situation of no growth in some areas and only marginal gains in traffic being made in other areas. By comparison to 1975, when very high rates of growth were achieved, 1976 was indeed a most difficult time for both airlines. However, statistics indicate that for the first three quarters of 1977, the number of passengers carried was 4 per cent higher than for the comparable period in 1976. Average load factors, or the number of seats occupied compared to those available, have also improved. Aircraft utilisation, or the number of hours flown by each aircraft in the fleet, has also increased. Ansett and TAA have achieved levels of utilisation which are amongst the highest in the world. This facet must be considered as one of the more beneficial features of Australia’s two-airline policy. The achievement of such levels of utilisation ensures that the aircraft are flown to their fullest capacity, of course within the strict margins dictated by safety. This in turn assists to keep fares down by avoiding the cost of surplus capacity within the fleet.
Earlier this year both airlines introduced two new routes on to their networks. For the first time there is now a weekly direct jet service between Canberra and Adelaide. Similarly, there is a weekly service offered between Sydney and Alice Springs. On this route, the service is provided by each of the airlines on alternate weeks. These developments, I believe, reflect the airlines initiative and their willingness to explore new markets and break new ground. Apart from these factors which are contributing to a tightening of available capacity within the fleets, there is another matter which also should be mentioned. For some years now both operators have been going through a process of up-grading their fleets As I mentioned earlier, in addition to the Boeing 727-200s and the DC9s that each airline operate they also have four Boeing 727- 100s. This particular aircraft was first introduced onto the domestic network in 1964 and in fact was the first jet aircraft type to operate regular services in Australia.
During 1976, both airlines sold two of the Boeing 727-100s overseas and I am informed that they intend to continue the retirement program over the next few years for the remaining units of this aircraft type in their fleets. The decision to retire these aircraft is based not only on age, but also on the fact that this aircraft is somewhat smaller and relatively noisier than the Boeing 727-200s. On the general question of fleet expansion, the domestic operators have been watching with interest the experience of overseas operators with the new generation of widebodied aircraft. Of course, it would be some years yet before their introduction could be expected on the domestic network. Network expansion and fleet re-equipment are matters most pertinent to Australia’s two-airline policy.
Indeed, I think it can be said that most forms of air transport in this country are to some extent influenced by this policy.
Whilst the policy has both its supporters and protagonists, I do not believe it can be denied that it has nurtured Australian aviation through it relative infancy of the early 1950s, to its present position. In fact, it has enabled Australia to develop a first class internal aviation transport system which has been the envy of many nations. Nevertheless, even though the two-airline system has served Australia well, we should from time to time review and test that policy to ensure it still meets the community’s needs to the fullest. Accordingly, the Minister for Transport, in July of this year announced that a review of domestic air transport policy is being conducted and directed by a steering committee of senior officers from the Department of Transport. The terms of reference are expansive and will include such topics as: The role of the Commonwealth and the States in the licensing of air services; the possibility of improving the Commonwealth air service licensing arrangements; the possibility of up-dating the two-airline policy arrangements; seeking to clarify the role of the smaller airlines and commuters; and the dual scheduling arrangements engaged in by the two major operators on trunk routes.
All interested parties from both private and government sectors together with the aviation industry and major users have been invited to forward submissions to the study group. These views, where appropriate, will of course be taken into consideration in preparing future policy. Similarly in the field of international aviation the Minister for Transport has also directed his Department to undertake a major review of air policy. Like the domestic review it will be a comprehensive study of all factors affecting international air travel.
At the present time, there is considerable interest in the possibility of lower international air fares to and from Australia. While such fares would benefit certain sectors of the public and the tourist industry, the effect on the level and frequency of schedule services must also be taken into account. It is essential that the Government’s regulatory policies do not prevent such benefits being available to Australia. At the same time however, the Government must ensure that our air links with other countries are not placed in jeopardy by those who may only wish to ‘cream the trade ‘.
Further, this study of the international situation will assist the Government in making a proper contribution to the work of the International Civil Aviation Organisation which will be preparing studies over the next three years to help the world aeronautical community to find solutions to the problems affecting the industry. I am sure that the outcome of both of these studies will offer sound and positive guidelines for the continued development of both Australia’s domestic and international air transport system.
While on the general issue of developing future guidelines for air transport, it seems appropriate that I mention the present study in progress on the planning of future aviation facilities in the Sydney area, namely the Major Air- port Needs for Sydney Study. Sydney Kingsford-Smith) Airport is not only the centre of Australia’s domestic air transport network, but it is also the major international airport in Australia. In the last seven years the number of persons moving through Sydney Airport has increased by 16 per cent, from 4,214,322 to the year ended June 1970, to an estimated 4,869,000 for the year to June 1977. It is expected in future years that the number of passengers handled at Sydney Airport will continue to increase at a substantial rate.
In a joint statement, in October 1976, the Prime Minister and the New South Wales Premier announced the establishment of a committee of senior Commonwealth and State officials to recommend a suitable strategy to cater for the future aviation demand in the Sydney area. I understand that not only the Department of Transport but other departments, including those within the New South Wales Government, are making a considerable manpower commitment to the study to ensure that the optimal solution in every sense, is achieved. In the long term the outcome of studies such as this, involves the sinking of capital into aviation facilities and infrastructure. Of course this raises the thorny issue of who should pay. One would be foolish to deny the contribution that aviation makes to our economy; yet this can also be said of other forms of transport. We would all like to see air fares kept as low as possible; however it must be borne in mind that this can only be achieved at considerable cost to the taxpayer.
As has been said in the past, it is this Government’s objective to ensure that Australia’s overall transport system is the most efficient possible. The general issue of cost recovery in the aviation field is certainly not new. In fact, in the Airlines Agreements Act of 1961 it was stated that the Commonwealth would implement a policy of full recovery of the cost of facilities properly attributable to civil air transport. Of course, the policy received notoriety under the previous Government when it announced its intention to increase the level of recovery for the costs of civil aviation to 80 per cent across the board by 1978-79. I believe the Government has taken a responsible decision by deferring the very harsh line of the previous Government until the industry has been properly consulted on the levels of cost, revenues and services. These discussions are continuing and proving to be a most fruitful exercise.
Deferral has also been made to facilitate proper studies and comparisons of cost recovery programs of other transport modes to be made. These studies are being carried out by the Bureau of Transport Economics and are now well advanced. For the year ended June 1977 a total of $2 12m is estimated to represent attributable costs with appropriate overheads in respect of civil aviation in this country. Revenue estimates for the same period show a return of approximately $ 124m. Of this $ 124m, half is contributed by air navigation charges, 20 per cent by aviation fuel tax, the balance being made up by airport rentals and concessions. This gives an overall recovery position of 59 per cent. When it is considered that, for the year ended June 1969, the percentage of revenues covering costs was only 44 per cent, this is a considerable achievement.
Considering the same estimates to the year ended June 1 977, a clearerpicture emerges when the overall recovery position is looked at on a sector basis. For international operations full recovery of costs is being achieved. For domestic trunk operations namely those routes over which Ansett and TAA operate the recovery position is approximately 76 per cent. For the remaining sectors, rural airlines and general aviation, the recovery situation is somewhat less. Although this situation is recognised, the ability of the industry to pay has to be considered. There are also the needs of persons in remote areas of Australia who rely almost entirety upon air transport to meet their everyday needs.
I would now like to mention a number of announcements the Government has recently made on this general theme, in respect of subsidies for air services in remote areas of Australia. Honourable senators will know that it has been the Government’s position that the people in outlying areas of Australia should enjoy the best possible air services while at the same time keeping the cost to the taxpayer, of subsidies, to a reasonable level.
To this end, the Government last year established an interdepartmental committee to assess the demand for air services in the area served by the Northern Territory airline, Connair Pty Ltd, and to recommend to me how that demand might best be satisfied. The Committee comprised representatives of the Departments of the Northern Territory, Aboriginal Affairs, Finance and Transport. The committee placed considerable importance on conducting its inquiries on the spot and sought to obtain the widest possible range of comment and opinion from all sections of the community.
The decisions recently taken by the Government were not solely based on the recommendations of the committee. I understand that the Minister for Transport had a number of quite frank discussions with the Chairman of Connair, Mr E. J. Connellan. The proposals which are now to be implemented were to some extent developed during the course of these discussions. These recent decisions by the Government provide for the continued operation of Connair Pty Ltd as a viable enterprise. The airline will continue to meet the air transport needs of the people in the area who depend so much upon it
The committee also made a number of recommendations in respect of certain new initiatives, which the Government has implemented or will implement shortly. These too will assist in catering for the air transport needs of the people in the area, in the most efficient manner possible. In considering the general question of subsidies to operators serving remote areas, the Government did have the benefit of similar studies concerning northern Western Australia and northern Queensland. These studies were undertaken by the State Government authorities in conjunction with the Department of Transport.
Honourable senators will appreciate from this brief resume of the aviation industry that the responsible attitude taken by the present Government has been an influencing factor upon the reestablishment of a stable climate within which confidence is being restored, and which is enabling industry growth. The reviews which are at present underway will enable the Government to continue to be well advised and to respond to the needs of the people of Australia in the rational development of air services which are so vital to our general well being.
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 Carrick) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the text of the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
This is a Bill designed to allow for grants of financial assistance to the States for projects related to the environment. Honourable senators will be aware that the Commonwealth’s role in respect to protection of the environment and conservation is essentially concerned with national policies, and that the States have the authority and the responsibility for the development and implementation of programs that deal with environmental issues at the grass roots level. In most cases it is the States that have the legislative powers to monitor and enforce environmental standards. They also have the appropriate agencies and establishments in these areas. The role of the Commonwealth is to assist the States as far as possible and as far as is desirable in providing the means for co-ordination of policies for the environment. Honourable senators will know that there are councils comprised of Commonwealth and State Ministers through which common standards and common policies in respect to issues relating to conservation and the environment are debated and decided.
A recent initiative pursued by the Government through the Australian Environment Council is the decision to move towards comprehensive and co-ordinated regulation for the export and import of environmentally hazardous chemicals. The responsible State and Commonwealth Ministers have agreed to the establishment of a national body to assess the environmental effects of potentially hazardous chemicals and to recommend the appropriate controls to Federal and State authorities. For some years now the Commonwealth has also taken the lead in providing special purpose grants to the States to assist them in undertaking activities within a variety of environment and conservation policies. These grants are a reflection of the Commonwealth’s responsibility to encourage national standards and national policies, where it is judged that these are required in the interests of the States and the Commonwealth.
One matter that is of great significance is the question of national parks and nature reserves. A project where the Commonwealth has been able to provide substantial assistance is the natural resources survey now being undertaken jointly by the Commonwealth and the State of Tasmania in the south-west area of that State. It is designed to assist the State in making appropriate and responsible land use and management decisions for this unique area of Australia. This particular project is an excellent example of Commonwealth-State co-operative action of a kind which we would wish to encourage through joint consultative arrangements and the grant of funds for special purposes. The need for prompt and effective Commonwealth and State actions to monitor the quality of air in our major cities is well established. The Commonwealth has provided funds in the past to assist in the establishment of monitoring stations as a step towards the setting up of a national program of air quality monitoring and the compilation of comparative data. This is an on-going program and our consultative arrangements will be underpinned this year through the grant of further financial assistance for this important initiative.
In the current financial year amounts are included in the Appropriation Bill for grants to the States for air quality monitoring, soil conservation and nature conservation. The purpose of this present Bill is to allow for these grants to be disbursed to the States. Honourable senators will be pleased to know that the Bill will provide the mechanism not only for these three programs this year but also for others that may be deemed necessary in subsequent years. In other words, it is a standing piece of legislation that will be available to provide a proper and convenient means for the Commonwealth to assist the States financially in respect to matters relating to the’ environment.
The Bill provides for the Minister to agree with a State upon financial assistance and, acting jointly with the appropriate State Minister, to approve projects relating to the environment. Agreements made under this provision in the Act will be laid before each House of Parliament, as is the customary procedure. It is in essence a simple Bill, but it is, nevertheless, a significant policy decision which emphasises again the Government’s concern to work co-operatively with the States, through well established means in the interests of responsible and rational management of the environment. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Mulvihill) 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.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
The speech read as follows-
This Bill amends both the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Act 1948 and the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act 1973. First, it introduces significant improvements to the reversionary benefits arrangements of the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits schemesthose benefits which are extended to the family of a contributing or retired member upon his or her death. Second, it incorporates an amendment to the commonly known ‘no detriment’ provisions of section 25 of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act. The effect is to enhance these provisions in respect of certain late entrant officers who elected to limit their contributions to the old DFRB scheme, with a consequential reduction in benefit expectation, but who, because of the conversion arrangements from the old to the new scheme, were placed in a disproportionately worse position visavis others transferred to the new scheme.
The Bill also seeks to rectify a series of technical deficiencies and anomalies in the legislation which have come to light with the benefit of ex- perience in its operation. Foremost amongst the liberalised reversionary benefits provisions are:
These provisions devolve from changes made to reversionary benefits in the Public Service superannuation scheme. Thus, the Defence and Public Service prescriptions will be very largely on the same footing so maintaining the long-established principle of common treatment amongst the general body of former employees of the Crown.
Turning now to the amendment to section 25 of the Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefits Act, I should first explain that the Act already contains ‘no detriment’ provisions to protect certain late entrant officers transferred to the new scheme against any possible diminution of their pension entitlements for which they were contributing at the time of transfer. This Bill expands those provisions for that group of officers to place those who limited their contributions under the former scheme in a comparable position to those who did not. The reason for this provision is that amongst the conversion arrangements from the old to the new scheme all transferees had their contributions to the former scheme equalised on the basis of 5.5 per cent of the aggregate pay received in the past from which they made their contributions. So it is therefore clearly equitable that the ‘no detriment’ provisions should apply uniformly to all. The Amendment is to be effective from the date of commencement of the present scheme- 1 October 1972.
In conclusion I turn to the amendments designed to overcome anomalies and technical defects in the DFRDB legislation. Let me first make it quite clear that a cardinal principle of the transfer of all serving members from the DFRB to the
DFRDB scheme was that the new range of benefits was not to be additional to those provided in respect of service under the former scheme but in substitution of those benefits. There was to be no double-counting.
So, to avoid dual payments, any benefits paid before 1 October 1972 in respect of service for which benefits also become payable after that date were to be recovered or used as an offset against pension and associated benefits payable under the DFRDB scheme. The pre-October 1972 benefits to which I refer are gratuity; deferred pay; certain pension payments for periods of service which were able to be paid under the old scheme to some classes of members whilst serving but which, on transfer to the new scheme, they could convert to full DFRDB pension entitlement for those same periods; and DFRB commutation payments where members again commute in respect of their DFRDB pensions derived from both initial DFRB and subsequent DFRDB service.
Certain provisions of the Act dealing with these matters have been found to be defective in that they do not adequately reflect the policy intention. The amendments concerned, which are to rectify these deficiencies, will therefore apply from the date of commencement of the DFRDB scheme. In providing for retrospectivity in this way, no pensioner will be required to pay any moneys to the Commonwealth or suffer a reduction in his existing pension benefits. It merely provides beyond doubt statutory sanction for what has been done to date in conformity with accepted policy.
The remaining machinery amendments are of a minor character and serve to consolidate some matters relating to the administration of the DFRDB scheme. May I say that we have welcomed the constructive initiatives of former member representative organisations. They have made a practical and realistic contribution. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
– I conclude my remarks on the second reading debate and indicate that the Government will not accept the amendment moved by the Opposition. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Button’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question put:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 17- by leave- taken together.
– I want to address remarks to clauses 1 to 17 which are consistent with the remarks made by members of the Opposition at the second reading stage of this Bill. These clauses illustrate very graphically the points which the Opposition sought to make in the second reading debate regarding the strictures which this Bill imposes on the broadcasting system and particularly to show where it fails. I refer first to clause 3 which deals with pecuniary interests. The effect of clause 3 is that a person appointed to the Broadcasting Tribunal must divest himself of any pecuniary interests within 14 days of his appointment. The section in the current legislation provides that a person shall not be appointed to the Broadcasting Tribunal if he has a pecuniary interest direct or indirect.
In bald terms the amendment means that anybody can be appointed to the Broadcasting Tribunal. The appointee does not need to have any degree of independence about him provided that after he is appointed he divests himself of financial interests. Before this amendment was brought forward people could not be appointed to the Broadcasting Tribunal who had financial interests in the broadcasting industry. That is the distinction which the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), who represents the Minister for Post and Telecommunications (Mr Eric Robinson) in this place, apparently does not understand. The Labor Party is not critical of people who have experience in broadcasting being appointed. It is critical of people who have financial interests in commercial broadcasting stations being appointed to statutory bodies.
– If it is not obvious to the honourable senator I really have not the time to enlighten him now. The point is, for example, that when the present Chairman of the Tribunal was appointed the objection to his appointment was not that he had experience in broadcasting but that he had a direct pecuniary interest in the broadcasting industry. He did, of course, divest himself, one is lead to believe, of bis pecuniary interests afterwards. He would be accommodated by the amendments in this legislation.
Why in a system of broadcasting such as we have in Australia should people be appointed to statutory bodies who have financial interests in the outcome of their decisions? That is a point of very grave concern. Let me illustrate it in one simple way. Under the proposed new section Mr Kerry Packer, as an example, could be appointed to the Broadcasting Tribunal. Because of his financial interests it would not be an appointment which had public confidence. I am saying nothing against Mr Packer. He could subsequently discharge his financial interests, divest himself of them by handing them over to his cousin, and everything would be all right under this proposed section. That is quite objectionable to the Opposition. I refer the Committee to the Opposition’s policy in relation to these matters, which specifically states that appointments to statutory broadcasting bodies should be made only after the approval of a joint committee of the Parliament. That is the way it should be done. Both parties should follow that policy in relation to appointments to broadcasting tribunals, because that is the only way we will get what the public seeks in Australia, which is genuinely independent bodies dealing with these matters.
Clause 4 contains a provision that is related to that contained in clause 3, and I do not need to deal with it in detail. Clause 5 provides that the Broadcasting Tribunal may be constituted in divisions for the purpose of an inquiry, but not in relation to certain matters. Under the existing provisions the Tribunal may be constituted for specific purposes and may make a report and recommendations. Under the proposed amendments, effectively it will not be able to do this; that is, members of the Tribunal can be seconded to an inquiry, and they then effectively have to have what is called a meeting of the Tribunal when the majority opinion prevails, including the casting vote of the Chairman. The effect of that is that members who conduct an inquiry do not decide the matter any more. Why is that? It is because the Government, when it made appointments to the Tribunal, expected that it would have a totally supine body on its hands; but it found with the inquiry into self-regulation for commercial broadcasters that it did not, and the Chairman had to put in a minority report. This provision is a legislative device to fix up that sort of situation, to provide that any members of the Tribunal who constitute a division of the Tribunal are subject to the overriding numbers of the Tribunal assembled in a meeting of the Tribunal. It is a neat legislative device. It is not in accordance with the principles with which broadcasting legislation and decisions in Australia ought to be made.
Clause 6 deals with the functions of the Tribunal. It puts the formal licensing power in the Tribunal’s hands as distinct from those of the Minister. It gives the Tribunal the powers it had under the old section 16 of the Act and it clarifies some very doubtful legal relationships between sections 16 and 18 of the present broadcasting legislation. I make that comment because it is relevant to other comments we will make about other clauses of the Bill. Clause 8 deals with public inquiries. It refers to certain documents which the Tribunal might decide should be confidential. It would be nice to have in the clause a definition of what sort of documents the Governments thinks should be confidential. When one considers proposed section 106B to which Senator Missen referred and considers this legislation in the light of the much vaunted freedom of information legislation which we keep hearing about, one thinks that it is a nice and interesting question what sort of documents would be confidential.
Honourable senators might ask themselves: What documents about the Australian broadcasting industry should be secret? What documents should be kept from the public? What should the public in Australia not know? Why should things be hidden from the public in an industry which uses public airwaves and which is responsive, or ought to be responsive, to public criticism, comment and participation? One would like to hear from the Minister what sort of documents will be regarded as secret under this legislation. Clause 9 deals with evidence before the Tribunal and the power of the Tribunal to summon witnesses. It is a matter for comment that the Tribunal is given quite draconian powers in terms of penalties for witnesses who fail to attend. We make that observation in passing because we think that this provision is consistent with the rather authoritarian nature of this legislation.
Clause 10 is quite a crucial clause in this legislation. As I said in the second reading debate, the Minister keeps talking about the importance of the public being involved. This clause provides the one opportunity of involving the public in proceedings before the Tribunal. Clause 10 in the amending Bill provides quite specifically that one can appear before the Tribunal only if one is a person with ‘an interest’. The lawyers on the Government side of the chamber might disagree with me but I would have thought that the term person with an interest’ would have been interpreted as meaning a person essentially with a pecuniary interest- something he wants to protect, a proprietary interest in the broadcasting system.
It may be that a member of the public is concerned about broadcasting. Senator Jessop, for example, may be concerned about the standard of broadcasting programs. He may belong to that 70 per cent or so of the Australian community who are concerned. So he may go along to the Broadcasting Tribunal and say: ‘Look, I am a person interested. I want to appear before the Tribunal’. I point out that I did not say that he was not an interesting person; I said ‘a person interested’. He may say to the Tribunal: ‘I want to appear before the Broadcasting Tribunal and put my point of view’. The Tribunal may say: We are sorry, Senator Jessop. You are not a person with an interest. You do not have a broadcasting licence and you do not have shares in a broadcasting company. You cannot appear here. Go away. If you do not like it you can switch off’.
– Could you not have a community interest?
-I do not think so, as a matter of interpretation. That is a matter of concern because we are dealing with legislation. I would like to think that the honourable senator would be concerned about community interest. It is very important that community interest be represented before the Tribunal. It is of no use Mr Robinson saying in answer to interjections in the House of Representatives that he thinks that would mean anybody who was interested could appear. That is not an interpretation of the legislation that is just another opinion off the top of his head.
– He did not even go that far.
-He did not even go that far. I thank Senator Missen. The provisions of clause 10 are of great concern to the Opposition. We are very concerned that in the broadcasting structure of Australia, community groups, the public interest, be represented m discussions about all sorts of matters varying from program standards to the question of whether people are entitled to have licences renewed and so on. Clause 10 is most unsatisfactory. It can be used to exclude the public interest. It puts the matter firmly in the hands of the existing broadcasting proprietors club and it is most undesirable from the point of view of the Broadcasting and Television Act.
Clause 12 relates to publication of the decisions of the Tribunal. Clause 12 is inadequate in that it does not provide for the decisions of the Tribunal to be made public. It provides only for them to be served on the persons involved in the proceedings. The decision of the Tribunal should also be made available to the public. Its decisions are sufficiently important in the view of the Opposition for them to be tabled in the Parliament. The Opposition thinks that the legislation is inadequate in relation to both these matters. It opposes that provision because of its sheer inadequacy.
– Is that clause 13?
– I am referring to clause 12, relating to the publication of the decisions of the Tribunal. That is the view of the Opposition. At the moment the decisions are required to be served on the parties to the proceedings before the Tribunal.
Clause 15 is objectionable from the point of view of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It requires the ABC to have regard to the services provided by the Special Broadcasting Service established by clause 18 and subsequent clauses. Theoretically, the matter can be ut this high: If the Minister who is in charge of a Special Broadcasting Service prescribes m the exercise of the very wide powers he is given that the Special Broadcasting Service shall provide current affairs and news programs- he is not answerable to the Parliament immediately and not answerable to the public in any way- the Australian Broadcasting Commission must have regard to that decision. I suppose that if that section has meaning at all, it could be taken as high as saying that the Australian Broadcasting Commission might say: ‘Perhaps we should not be in this area because it is now a Special Broadcasting Service area’.
– Too high.
-I may be putting it too high, but the point is important in regard to the cart before the horse attitude of the legislation. Surely what should happen is that the Special Broadcasting Service should have regard to the current program policies of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
Clause 16 provides that the ABC shall provide its own studios and so on. The effective result of this and the surrounding clauses is that the Minister now has control over the siting and arrangements for studios and for transmitters. A double power now exists in the Minister. It is not a matter on which a Minister of any government necessarily has expertise. It is a matter on which the Australian Broadcasting Commission or commercial licensees have the expertise. This is another example of powers being very firmly in the Minister’s hands.
– Clause 3, which concerns pecuniary interest, was discussed. Senator Button rightly pointed out that under the existing Act a person may have a pecuniary interest up to but not including the date upon which that person is appointed. Clearly, there is virtually no difference between that Act and the provision in the Bill for a discretionary period of 14 days. This Bill simply means that a fortnight is allowed for divesting of pecuniary interests. The important thing is that the pecuniary interest should be divested, and it will be under this Bill.
Senator Button criticised the functions of the divisions of the Tribunal and the fact that each division has to report back to the whole Tribunal. A little reflection on this will show the necessity for it. The fact is that when an inquiry is conducted by a division of the Tribunal, winch may be one or more members, that division prepares a draft report and recommendations and submits them to the full Tribunal or to a quorum for endorsement and issue in the name of the Tribunal. If that were not so individual Tribunal members could be making policies which of course were not part of the overall policy of the Tribunal.
I am surprised that Senator Button asked about confidentiality of documents. I think he is a practising solicitor. It is normal practice to regard certain business practices as confidential. Indeed, the Senate Estimates Committees respect the confidentiality of certain commercial transactions. For example, the type of information that commercial broadcasters would regard as confidential and the confidentiality of which the Senate has indicated it respects is how much broadcasters pay to talent such as Graham Kennedy and Don Lane, how much they pay a package program from someone such as Hector Crawford or Reg Grundy, and the dates of expiry of key agreements with talent, news gathering organisations and senior executives. To state what is happening is to understand the good common sense of it.
Some question has been asked about clause 10 and the interest of a person or organisation in intervening. The Bill does not say ‘pecuniary interest’; it says ‘interest’. My understanding is that any genuine person who can show an interest- an interest as a viewer, as a family or as an organisation in a particular programming or activities- would be regarded as quite bona fide and would have access -
– You are not really serious about that, are you? Look at what the present Act provides. It provides a distinction. You know that.
– That is my advice, and certainly there is no reason why Senator Button should draw the distinction between financial interest and interest. Clause 10 merely says ‘an interest’. I spoke about publication of the decisions in my summing up of the second reading debate. This is fundamental and it is being done. As to the question of the Australian Broadcasting Commission taking regard of the Special Broadcasting Service, I should have thought was eminent common sense. If, in the scheme of things, matters develop that need some kind of qualification or rectification, this Parliament has before it always the access to amendments of the law. Why would we not want to ask the ABC to do this, seeing that a Special Broadcasting Service has been set up. Mr Chairman, I do not believe that there are any solid grounds for criticism in the comments put forward by the Opposition.
– I just indicate that it is not the intention of the Opposition to divide on these clauses but that if it is indicated by an Opposition spokesman that we oppose them, that is to be understood. We do not wish to waste the time of the Committee by taking divisions on all these clauses. We would if the circumstances were not such that this legislation is being dealt with in the last hours of the Parliament.
Clauses agreed to.
The Principal Act is amended by inserting after Part III the following Pans: 79ZA The moneys of the Service shall consist of-
in payment of remuneration, allowances and fees payable to members, acting members, the Executive Director, an acting Executive Director and persons referred to in section 79y. 87. (1) Subject to this Act, a licence granted otherwise than by way of renewal continues in force for such period (not exceeding 5 years) as is specified in the licence.
-This clause establishes the so-called Special Broadcasting Service and is opposed by the Opposition. We do not oppose it because it is a bad idea to set up a new statutory broadcasting corporation to be called the Special Broadcasting Service. That is not, in itself, a bad idea. But of course the functions of this Special Broadcasting Service are not clearly spelt out. It is totally the wrong way of going about things. The matter has not been thought out properly and it should not have been rushed into the Parliament at this stage. The primary function of the SBS, as set out in the clauses of the Bill, is to provide for ethnic broadcasting. When I say ‘primary’, that is its initial task; that is what it will do first. It will provide for multilingual broadcasting in Australia.
We oppose it first of all on the grounds that it is not the proper way in which to deal with multilingual or ethnic broadcasting. It is no good the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) saying, as he did in reply to the second reading, that the Labor Government did not do much better in 1973. 1 thought that the Senate would have been concerned about 1977 and beyond. It is really not a very good answer to take the lowest common denominator of political debate all the time as if we were a couple of football teams here, instead of people who were trying to get good legislation for the benefit of the Australian public. I would have thought that that is what we ought to be about. If we are about that, the important point to consider is what is the best way first of all to handle multilingual or ethnic broadcasting.
The Opposition suggests quite clearly that the proper way to handle ethnic or multilingual broadcasting is to treat them exactly the same way as Australian broadcasters are treated. That is to say, they should be subject to the law relating to broadcasting guidelines, defamation and so on. They should be precisely free to do their own thing. But of course the Minister who will administer the Special Broadcasting Service is laying down guidelines for ethnic broadcasting in which he makes it quite clear that ethnic broadcasters cannot do their own thing. Those guidelines are not part of this legislation. They are a scruffy little document which is being circulated at the moment in broadcasting circles and turns up as a result of a leak in newspapers and so on. They are not open matters. They are matters which are behind the scene but which are quite fundamental to the future of ethnic broadcasting in Australia. They should be out in the open. We say that ethnic broadcasters should not be subject to these sorts of guidelines.
The other thing to which they should not be subject is the possibility of financial strictures being imposed by a government of either political persuasion. A government should not be able to say: ‘Well, look, we finance the Special Broadcasting Service. We do not like what ethnic communities are doing with their broadcasting programs. Therefore we will cut the money or. Of course, that can happen. It has happened in recent years with the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is just the wrong way to go about it in terms of ethnic communities, which are rightly concerned that they are being treated in this patrician manner, differently from Australian broadcasters. They are being told that because they are New Australians, if I may use that expression, the rules for them are different. That is a wrong approach if we are to have the sort of cohesive society in which terms like multiracial, ethnic and multilingual are meaningful in developing a rich and proper community.
The second main criticism of the Special Broadcasting Service proposal is that the functions of the Service are not properly spelt out; they are to be defined by regulation; they are to be alternatively as prescribed. In essence, it is not too much to say that the Special Broadcasting
Service would be a new State-run service without any of the so-called independence of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, indeed totally subject to ministerial control. That is a very bad thing in the context of a country with democratic pretentions such as ours and we very much regret that the Government -
– You mentioned that the Minister would have control of the finance. Would you tell me where that is stated in the Bill?
-I did not say that, with respect. I think perhaps you were talking to Senator Missen and did not hear what I said. I said that it would be subject to ministerial control and direction. That is quite clear from the clause dealing with the functions of the Special Broadcasting Service and is, I would have thought, a bad thing in a country with our democratic pretensions. One wonders whether the Government has thought about this. If it has, the clause is totally insidious. If it has not, it should not be presenting this legislation to the Parliament. One or the other must apply. It is a bad and iniquitous provision.
There are one or two other points about the proposed Special Broadcasting Service that one could make, but the essential point is that we are to have in Australia for the first time a ministerially run broadcasting service- as Senator Robertson called it today, the Minister’s private broadcasting station. That is not putting it too graphically.
Clause 1 8 deals also in part IIIB with the question of licences. Section 81 empowers the Tribunal to grant or renew licences. That is a welcome provision. The Tribunal should be able to grant or renew licences, but that provision is absolutely meaningless in the context of other provisions in Part IIIB proposed section 82 empowers the Minister to call for applications for licences. This is perhaps the most pernicious clause in the Bill- pernicious in the context, of course, of the much-vaunted changes that the Government says it is making, such as taking politics out of broadcasting- all these things that, according to numerous statements on record by the Minister in the other place and by the Minister who represents him in the Senate, were going to happen.
What we have before us is the exact obverse, because its effect is that the Minister may decide where he will call for a licence. He does not have to do anything, but if he does it is subject to the same sort of corruption that has occurred in the past in regard to the issuance of broadcasting licences. I am talking not about financial corruption but about corruption of the processes of government, the sort of corruption that brings parliaments and politicians into disrepute in the community. That ought to be of concern to honourable senators, whatever their political persuasion. Those kinds of practices can all continue under this provision.
It means, effectively, that no new licences can be issued unless the Minister calls for applications. It means that the Minister can choose the area in respect of which he calls for an application, and the proposed section also makes it quite clear that the Minister will determine the specifications for the licence. The effect is almost total control of the licensing process in a very genuine way for the Minister and token control for the Broadcasting Tribunal. It is another case of forked tongue legislation and of a doublepronged approach to this sort of thing. It is a most extraordinary and either ill-thought out or dangerous and pernicious legislation. One or the other applies. There can be no third course in relation to these provisions.
Proposed section 83 provides the methods by which the Tribunal will consider licence applications. In sub-section 4 of that proposed section there is a quite inadequate method of public accountability of the Tribunal in relation to its decisions. It should report to the Parliament about these matters. It should publish its decisions in a way that makes them quite apparent to all members of the public. Proposed section 84 again gives the Minister the right to interfere with the specifications of a broadcasting licence after it has been granted by the Tribunal. One can go through all the hassle of getting a licence from the Broadcasting Tribunal and it can be an empty exercise because if the Minister does not like one he can then come along and say: ‘We are changing the specifications of your licence. Bad luck, chum’. One would be back to where one started from, presumably, if one has invested capital and so on in the exercise of setting up a broadcasting station.
Proposed section 85 is also consistent with that. It empowers the Minister to vary or revoke a licence during its currency. If one is a commercial broadcaster- the commercial broadcasting sector is very concerned about the provisions of this proposed section- one can get a licence and invest a great sum of money in it and during its currency the Minister may vary or revoke the conditions of that licence. There are no guidelines under which the Tribunal or the Minister may vary the conditions of a licence. There are no guidelines for the exercising of the Minister’s power and no reason is given as to why the Minister should have it at all. It provides a direct and overt opportunity for political interference in the licensing process, it undermines the independence of the Broadcasting Tribunal and it is an unpopular proposal with all sections of the broadcasting industry- commercial, public and national. It is another example of the total confusion that the Minister seems to have about laying down planning guidelines for broadcasting and meddling in the broadcasting process from day to day, which will undoubtedly go on. This legislation is subject to the sort of political abuse and to the situation which, as I have said, brings members of this Parliament and politicians into disrepute because it is always open to the allegation that the Minister is crook, that some people in the Government are crook or that some people in the Opposition are crook because of the way in which a particular licence was granted. That is a bad thing for the Parliament, a bad thing for the broadcasting system and a bad thing for the country. We oppose that provision as well.
Proposed section 86 provides in sub-section 4 for notification of renewal applications to interested persons’. Again it comes back to this question Who are interested persons? That is a debate that we have had already, and I do not want to go into it any further. We have very grave doubts about that provision. There is also some provision there regarding the revocation of licences that seems to us to be vague. Proposed section 89a deals with the transfer of licences, which is a very big matter if one is transferring the licence of Channel 9 to somebody else, to take a hypothetical case. Proposed section 89a requires the Tribunal’s consent to this procedure. It should not be a matter which goes on behind closed doors; it should be a matter of which the public of Australia has the opportunity to be fully aware. There should be public advertising of any application for the transfer of a licence.
Proposed section 89b also deals with limitations on the transfer of licences and is not in itself objectionable. Clause 23, which is another provision about which I should comment, provides for the assembly of material related to the finances and ownership of the broadcasting industry by the Broadcasting Tribunal. In itself, proposed section 106 A in particular is unobjectionable. But one does not nave any guarantee or guidelines about how that task will be carried out. One only has to look at the practices of this Government when licences have been renewed. Contrary to the control and ownership provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act, it said that people such as Sir Norman Young, a friend of Mr Rupert Murdoch and a director of one of his companies, could belong to three broadcasting companies. When licences are renewed in those circumstances it is most important that the assembly of material relating to finance and ownership in the broadcasting industry be well collated and available to the public. That will not necessarily happen under the provisions of this legislation, which perhaps is something that the Government wants in view of its conduct in renewing licences in the past year or so.
Proposed section 106b makes one wonder why we have a Crimes Act at all. It is a draconian method of preventing non-disclosure of information by members of the Broadcasting Tribunal staff and by members of the Tribunal itself. Much of the material relating to broadcasting that comes into the possession of the Tribunal should be public information. Broadcasting is a public concern, it uses public air ways, and the suggestion that disclosure of information should be subject to the sort of penalty set out in proposed section 106B is an extraordinary provision in the light of a Parliament which beefs about freedom of information legislation and which already has a Crimes Act on its statutes. The Opposition objects very strongly to that provision of the Bill.
– I feel strongly about two sections of the proposed Part that the Committee is now debating. One of the proposed sections that I feel is detrimental to this legislation is proposed section 79ZA (d), and that is one to which I propose to move an amendment in a few moments. I am opposed to this proposed section because it has implications for small areas that are very dangerous in the long term for commercial broadcasting and television. Proposed section 79ZA (d) states: moneys received by the Service in respect of program sponsorship of a kind approved by the Minister;
Reference is also made to moneys from other sources. In the second reading speech the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) said that the stations would not be able to carry on normal commercial advertising. I will quote exactly from that speech, when the Minister said:
The SBS will not, however, derive revenue by means of normal commercial advertising.
I find that very hard to reconcile with the proposed section that I read a moment ago which states:
The moneys of the Service shall consist of-
d ) moneys received by the Service in respect of program sponsorship of a kind approved by the Minister;
Perhaps this Minister would not approve of the Special Broadcasting Service becoming a commercial Australian Broadcasting Commission, but some other Minister might. I think it is very unwise for a Liberal government to put that kind of legislation on the statute books. Let me give the Committee a run-down on the kind of situation that could occur in Hobart, for instance, and there are many other areas around the country that could be in a similar situation. On some pretext the Government could set up an SBS for a special purpose. As I said earlier, it might be to run all the sporting programs that are now run by the ABC. Under another Minister, the Government could allow sponsorship of a kind approved by that Minister that would make it a commercial station. If that happened, then it might detract from the amount of money available to run channel 6, which is the channel that the Minister in the Labor Government put off the air for some very petty reason.
It could well happen that as more services are incorporated under the SBS, this could gradually detract more and lead to a situation where the commercial stations in Hobart could no longer continue viably. I have not heard the Minister say that this is not possible under the Bill. There is absolutely nothing in my interpretation and the advice which I have received that leads me to think that there is any way that that scenario could not happen. We could have a situation where a piece of legislation brought in by this Government- a private enterprise governmentcould result in the private enterprise section of the television industry in Tasmania being put out of business. We could end up with ABC1, which is what I call the present Australian Broadcasting Commission, or ABC2 commercial, which is what I call the new service. If some explanation is given that that kind of thing cannot happen in Hobart and in other small areas around the rest of the nation, then maybe I shall reconsider my action. At the moment I cannot see that that situation cannot happen quite easily.
I think it is quite clear from the second reading speech that the SBS will not derive revenue by means of normal commercial advertising. This conflicts with clause 1 8 which states: 79ZA The moneys of the Service shall consist of-
Only the approval of the Minister is required to start a commercial Australian Broadcasting Commission. The matter becomes even worse when we consider what the Minister said a few moments ago, that nothing in the future can stop the SBS being incorporated into the major section of the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
-I did not say that.
– I thought the Minister had said that. I am sorry if I have misinterpreted him. I did not mean to do that. As far as I can see, there is nothing to stop this Parliament from moving at some stage to incorporate the SBS within the ABC. If that happened after the other small commercial television stations around the country had gone broke we would end up with big brother ABC being the only source of television, but maybe through two channels. That would be the only source of television throughout the country, except in the big areas, which could support more than two stations. I feel that another clause deserves some alteration. This is proposed section 87 in clause 18. In order to make clear the kinds of things which can be done I read it out. It states:
What on earth is meant by the words: ‘unless it is satisfied that the circumstances justify its so doing”? We are passing a piece of legislation into law yet we are putting in things which it would be very hard for a lawyer to analyse. I read that part again. It states:
I intend to propose that the words ‘it is satisfied that the circumstances justify its so doing’ be left out and instead there be inserted: ‘there have been persistent breaches of standards, specifications or conditions’. Then we would have:
Subject to this Act, a licence granted by way of renewal continues in force for three years or such lesser period (being not less than 12 months) as is specified in the licence, but the Tribunal shall not specify a period of less than three years unless there have been persistent breaches of standards, specifications or conditions.
At least then the licensee would have some idea of the kind of way he should operate the radio station or television station. When one comes to think of it, the fact that a licence is issued for between one year and three years gives a tribunal that does not have responsibility to the electorate a tremendous threatening power that I do not think it should have over the people who run the television or broadcasting station.
- Senator, what if the tribunal thought a station was on the verge of bankruptcy?
-Then I do not think the matter that it is on the verge of bankruptcy comes into this one way or another.
– I do.
-That is irrelevant. The point that is relevant is that many people in this country believe that the length of time for which a licence is issued, particularly in regard to television stations, needs to be- not should be- in the order of five years for two reasons. The first reason is so that the company can adequately finance itself and afford to buy the complex and expensive equipment that is always needed these days in television. The second reason is that unless this length of time is given, the television station cannot produce programs with the Australian content that governments of whatever political persuasion happens to be in power seem to want them to produce. Some of the programs that are now so excellently produced in Australia took 15 months to get rolling and to hit the air waves. If a program fails the cost to the television stations is very high.
I believe I have covered the two proposed new sections of the BilL I formally move the two amendments relating to clause 18 that I have circulated. I move:
– Following the comments made by Senator Button earlier in the debate I have one or two queries to raise, particularly in respect or proposed section 79d. Let me clarify my queries by saying that I support the concept of the Special Broadcasting Service whereby we can expand multilingual broadcasting services and television services as well as general public and access radio and television. My first query relates to proposed section 79d which states:
The functions of the Service are-
to provide multilingual broadcasting services and, if authorised by the regulations, to provide multilingual television services;
I just wonder why the difference in the wording? I also want to know how much ministerial control there will be in this area.
– It will be total, Senator. There is no doubt about that.
-I want to get this point clarified. I also draw the attention of the Committee to proposed section 79E(l)(d) which states:
The Service may do all things that are necessary for the performance of its functions . . .
acquire, accept or take on hire, or dispose of or let out, personal property . . .
Then if one looks at proposed new section 79z ( 1 ) we find the following:
There are payable to the Service such moneys as are appropriated by the Parliament for the purposes of the Service.
Proposed new section 79ZA states:
The moneys of the Service shall consist of-
the proceeds of the sale or other disposition of any property of the service . . .
Here again I question the difference in language. I am a layman and not a lawyer and I would like some clarification of this. I would also like to know the definition of ‘any property of the Service’. Does this include such tilings as buildings which may have been bought out of funds appropriated for the Special Broadcasting Service? Does it meant that that property could be sold? If so, why should it be this way? I wonder what the position would be if two individuals who may be irresponsible- it can happen, but it may notdecided between themselves to do this; if, having cashed in, they cashed out.
Senator Townley referred to proposed section 79ZA(d), which refers to ‘program sponsorship of a kind approved by the Minister’. What actually will take place with regard to sponsorship? Am I to presume that some local identity or company will be mentioned as the company sponsoring a program for the next quarter of an hour, ten minutes, or whatever it might be, and that this will be tightly controlled by the Minister so that it can not get out of hand and become a commercial proposition? It will have to be watched very closely to make sure that there will not be competition in the commercial market with commercial radio and television. I support the whole concept of allowing the Special Broadcasting Service to have its areas of responsibility rather than, as Senator Button said, that it should rely solely on Treasury funds. It should be within its responsibility, with the assistance of Treasury funds, to do a lot of its own funding. This is a very important aspect. I ask the Minister whether in doing its own funding the Service will encroach into the commercial area to get finance to fund its broadcasting and television services.
- Senator Townley has moved two amendments. I ask whether he intended that separate questions be put on the amendments.
– I would prefer that separate questions be put on the amendments.
– I support in principle the amendments that have been moved by Senator Townley.
– Are you going to vote for them, or do you support them merely in principle?
– I support the principle behind the amendments. I think that the Bill has been altered quite a lot since it was drafted originally, and it meets with my general approval. I certainly will not go to the barricades on the amendments. I merely inform the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) that I think that what Senator Townley has said about the two clauses to which he has objections ought to be given serious consideration. I suggest that when this legislation comes up for review at some future time the Minister give favourable consideration to including the amendments that have been suggested by Senator Townley.
– I rise briefly in order to draw attention to this most important development, the creation of the Special Broadcasting Service, and to mention the need for the Government to consider the situation in relation to smaller States, particularly South Australia and Western Australia, as the Service is extended throughout Australia. I have in mind the position of radio station 5UV in Adelaide which provides time for local ethnic groups to broadcast their programs, as they determine them, throughout the Adelaide area. I draw the Government s attention to that point. Proposed section 79E(l)(a) provides for the production or presentation of programs or the arrangement or provision of facilities for that purpose and proposed section 79E(l)(d) provides for the acquisition, acceptance or taking on hire or the letting out of personal property, including programs or rights or interests in programs. I ask the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) whether these provisions are sufficient to allow for the extension of the activities of the Special Broadcasting Service into remote areas as well as to smaller cities such as Adelaide.
– Order! 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.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Senate adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 26 April 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Sydney; Parramatta; Melbourne; Brisbane; Adelaide; Hobart; Launceston; Canberra.
A further registry is being established at Townsville, where so far a counsellor is performing duties. Other positions at Townsville are currently being filled.
The Family Court of Western Australia, a State Court, has its one registry in Perth.
Appointments to the Family Court of Western Australia are a matter for the State authorities under the Family Court Act of that State, subject to the approval of the Commonwealth Attorney-General under section 41 (4) of the Family Law Act.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 25 May 1977:
Are there any statutory authorities responsible to the Treasurer; if so, (a) what are they, (b) who are the bankers for each authority and (c) which, if any, of the authorities may be termed ‘statutory authorities of a business nature’.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Australian Industry Development Corporation.
Commonwealth Trading Bank of Australia Commonwealth Savings Bank of Australia Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia.
Bank of New South Wales. (ii), (iii) As the Reserve Bank and the constituent members of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation are themselves banks, this part of the question is not applicable.
asked the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice, on 24 August 1 977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The above listed payments to the States are for the services rendered by State offices in the Registries of the High Court of Australia located in those States. The payments are charged to Division 170-2-06, High Court of Australia, Administrative Expenses, Payment for services of State officers.
The payments to the States as listed above are for the services of Judges and officers of the States for duties performed in bankruptcy matters. These charges are borne by Division 172-2-05, Courts Administration, Administrative Expenses, Payment for services of State judges and officers.
The payments shown in the above table other than to Western Australia are charged to Division 173-2-06, Family Law, Administrative Expenses, Maintenance, enforcement and property matters- Reimbursements to States. The payment to Western Australia is made under Appropriation Act (No. 2) Division 824-01.
Prior to the coming into force of the Family Law Act 1975 and the creation of the Family Court of Australia, all maintenance matters in the States were handled by the State Courts under the provisions of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1959 and relevant State legislation. The Family Law Act 1975 replaces the Matrimonial Causes Act and is administered through the Family Court of Australia, and, in some matters, the State courts of summary jurisdiction.
As each State Government has administrative machinery for processing and enforcement of maintenance orders, it is proposed that State Governments continue these functions and be reimbursed by the Commonwealth.
** The amount of $85,000 has been appropriated to pay for Family Reports, provided by State Welfare Officers and suitably qualified persons, at the request of the Family Court of Australia. These payments will be charged to Division 173-2-07 Family Law, Administrative Expenses, Family Reports.
The amounts paid to the States for the services rendered to the High Court and the Bankruptcy Administration have been reviewed from time to time at the request of a State.
The amounts payable to the State for services and facilities provided to the Family Court are still being negotiated with a view to arriving at amounts that will cover the actual costs to the States.
To date State Governments have rendered accounts for services and facilities for the Family Court of Australia in accordance with bilateral agreements. These accounts are examined for reasonableness by the Attorney-General’s Department and the Department of Finance prior to payment.
asked the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice, on 24 August 1 977:
Cairns, Southport, and Townsville, respectively, for the year ending 30 June 1977.
-The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications, upon notice, on 24 August 1977:
– The Minister for Post and Telecommunications has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 6 September 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The information sought was set out in the reply by the Minister representing the Treasurer on 1 1 October 1977 to question No. 1272 (Hansard, pages 1276-1277).
Migrants from the United Kingdom and Ireland (Question No. 1366)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 4 October 1977:
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question upon notice:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 22 September 1 977:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 1 1 October 1977:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
There have been numerous discussions between growers and manufacturers or in which both groups have been represented. I have met representatives of both growers and manufacturers on more than one occasion and I intend to meet them again for further discussions.
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 6 October 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 1 1 October 1977:
With reference to the Minister’s reply to Senate Question No. 1199 concerning Fraser Island (Hansard, 6 September 1977, p. 619): (a) does the Minister’s reply conflict with the statement by the Chief Justice of Australia in the High Court on 25 November 1975 (pp. 106-109 of the official transcript), which implied that the terms of reference restricted the Fraser Island Environmental Inquiry to the environmental aspects of making a decision; and (b) did the Chief Justice also state that it would be an impertinence for the Commission to make any recommendation as to whether or not export permits should be granted or whether or not mining should proceed.
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
When the Chief Justice of Australia referred to an ‘impertinence’ he was responding to a submission made by senior counsel for the plaintiff sand-mining companies to the intent that the Commission might recommend that a particular ministerial decision was inappropriate. The Chief Justice was not saying that the Commissioners were precluded from making recommendations, but rather that in their recommendations they should not characterise particular ministerial decisions as inappropriate.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 12 October 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 18 October 1977:
Has the Attorney-General received a number of suggested amendments to the Australian Capital Territory Small Claims Ordinance; if so, when will such amendments be referred to the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly for consideration.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
From time to time, relatively minor matters that might require attention by amendment of the Small Claims Ordinance 1974 of the Australian Capital Territory have come under notice. My Department is currently conducting a review of the operation of the Ordinance with a view to identifying and preparing any amendments that may be desirable. Any such amendments will be referred to the Legislative Assembly of the Australian Capital Territory.
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 18 October 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development, upon notice, on 18 October:
– The Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 2 November 1977:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The majority of recent arrivals of Lebanese migrants have been sponsored for migration to Australia, mostly by relatives already resident here. Many are in difficult circumstances and I am concerned that resettlement services and assistance is provided by my Department to meet their special needs. The following assistance is being provided for Lebanese by my Department in addition to the welfare and supportive counselling services provided for migrants generally:
The information sought is not readily available as there are no tabulations which identify Lebanese as distinct from the population at large. The Lebanese are eligible for social security benefits and allowances under the same conditions as the remainder of the community.
Family Allowance Scheme
-On 24 August 1977 (Hansard, page 451) Senator Grimes asked me, as Minister representing the Treasurer, a question without notice concerning the family allowance scheme. The Treasurer has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Neither the tax rebates previously allowable for dependent children and students, nor the concessional deductions which preceded them, were ever indexed. The question is therefore founded upon a misconception. The main reason for abolishing tax rebates and introducing family allowances for dependent children and students was a redirect assistance towards families most in need, namely those with insufficient taxable income, and therefore insufficient gross tax liabilities, to take full advantage of the former tax rebates. The benefits under the new arrangements for large families with low incomes are substantial and such families are better off in 1977-78 than they would have been under the previous system.
Defence Services Homes
– On 26 October, as recorded in Hansard at page 1767, Senator Bishop asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, a question without notice concerning the disposal of land that will not be required for Defence Service Homes purposes. He asked if any Defence Services Homes land in South Australia has yet been sold and if consideration has been given to compensating persons on the waiting list by using some of the proceeds of land sales. The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has supplied the following information in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No land that will be surplus to the requirements of the Defence Service Homes Corporation in South Australia or elsewhere has yet been sold. It is expected that all eligible persons who had made an application before 17 August 1977 for a building lot of a house to be built by the Corporation in South Australia will receive an offer of land or a house. When the extent of surplus land holdings has been determined, they will be declared surplus to the Department of Administrative Services which will be responsible for disposal.
Consideration has not been given to the other matter raised by the honourable senator.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 November 1977, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1977/19771108_senate_30_s75/>.