21 February 1978

31st Parliament · 1st Session

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The Senate met at 11 a.m., pursuant to the proclamation of His Excellency the GovernorGeneral.

The Clerk read the proclamation.

The Deputy appointed by His Excellency the Governor-General for the opening of the Parliament- the Right Honourable Sir Garfield Edward John Barwick, G.C.M.G., Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia- having been announced by the Usher of the Black Rod, entered the chamber and took the chair.

The Deputy, through the Clerk, directed the Usher to desire the attendance of the members of the House of Representatives, who being in attendance,

The DEPUTY said:

Members of the Senate and Members of the House of Representatives:

His Excellency the Governor-General, not thinking fit to be present in person at this time, has been pleased to appoint me as his deputy to do in his name all that is necessary to be done to declare this Parliament open, as will appear from the commission which will now be read. (The commission having been read by the Clerk)

The DEPUTY said:

Members of the Senate and Members of the House of Representatives:

I have it under command from the GovernorGeneral to inform you that after certain members of the Senate and the members of the House of Representatives shall have been sworn, the causes of His Excellency calling this Parliament will be declared by him in person at this place later this day. It being necessary that the Speaker of the House of Representatives should first have been chosen, you, the members of the House of Representatives, will now retire to the place where you are to sit, and there proceed to choose a proper person to be your Speaker; and later this day you will present to His Excellency the Governor-General the person whom you shall have chosen as your Speaker. Meantime, I will attend in the House of Representatives to administer the oath or affirmation of allegiance to the members of that House. (The Deputy and members of the House of Representatives then retired.)

The President again took the chair.

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– I inform honourable senators that I have received from His Excellency the Governor-General a Commission to administer to honourable senators the oath or affirmation of allegiance.

Commission laid on the table and read by the Clerk.

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– I have to inform the Senate that on 16 November 1977I received a letter from Senator Raymond Steele Hall resigning his place as a senator for the State of South Australia. Pursuant to the provisions of section 2 1 of the Constitution, I notified the Governor of the State of South Australia of a vacancy in the representation of that State caused by the resignation of Senator Hall. I have now received through His Excellency the Governor-General a certificate of the choice by the Parliament of South Australia of Janine Haines as a senator to fill the vacancy.

Certificate laid on the table and read by the Clerk.

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The Clerk:

– I lay on the table the certificates for the election of senators for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, elected at the General Election held on 10 December 1977, as follows:

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Susan Maree Ryan

John William Knight

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Bernard Francis Kilgariff

Edward Albert Robertson

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The following senators made and subscribed the oath of affirmation of allegiance:

Janine Haines

Bernard Francis Kilgariff

John William Knight

Edward Albert Robertson

Susan Maree Ryan

Sitting suspended from 11.26 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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His Excellency the Governor-General entered the chamber and, being seated, with the President on his right hand, commanded that a message be sent to the House of Representatives intimating that His Excellency desired the attendance of honourable members in the Senate chamber forthwith, who being come with their Speaker.

His Excellency was pleased to deliver the following speech:

Senators and Members of the House of Representatives:

It has been my good fortune that so early in my term of office, I have been able to perform two most significant tasks. Last week I welcomed the largest gathering of government leaders ever to meet in this country to the first Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting; and today is the first occasion on which I perform my constitutional duty of opening this Parliament as the representative of Her Majesty The Queen.

This 31st Parliament assembles following general elections in which Australians have returned my Government with a majority surpassed only once before.

My Government’s resolve is strengthened by this decisive expression of the people’s conviction that the basic direction of the Government’s policies reflects their aspirations and interests.

After two years of hard work and substantial achievement, Australians now look to the future with new found confidence.

They know our nation’s prospects are limitless, and that by working together Australians can overcome the great challenges of unemployment and inflation and restore our nation’s economy to full vitality.

My Government rededicates itself to govern for all Australians and to work in partnership with all groups to build an Australia in which its people can have security, the knowledge that they can plan ahead with assurance, and that their efforts will be rewarded.

Its fundamental belief is that a better society can only be realised by giving the men and women of Australia a greater measure of choice, power and freedom.

This process has begun, as may be seen in my Government’s reforms in the areas of taxation, social welfare and its constitutional and legal reforms.

This commitment will remain the keystone of my Government’s approach to every major policy.

The Government’s Priorities

My Government’s priorities are clear. They are:

To build on the progress we have made in the last two years, defeat inflation and unemployment, and restore full economic health to our country.

To promote vigorously the development of Australia’s resources and enlarge our external trade.

To maintain the policies which have halted the excessive growth in Government bureaucracy and expenditure, and to continue the pursuit of greater efficiency and responsiveness by the public sector.

To revitalise our Federal system by cooperating with State and local governments, and giving them a greater measure of financial responsibility.

To provide effective assistance to the disadvantaged in ways that promote their independence and self-respect.

To protect and enhance the rights and civil liberties of every Australian.

To secure the defence of our nation and act as a positive force for world peace.

I turn now to the particular measures my Government proposes to bring before the Parliament to realise these goals.

The Economy

In the economy considerable progress has been made. Inflation has been sharply reduced; interest rates have begun to fall; Government spending has been brought under control; business investment is reviving strongly; the excessive tax burden has been relieved; and the more flexible regime for managing the exchange rate has already proved its worth.

This Government’s economic policies will continue to be based on:

Rigorous restraint of Government expenditure so as to provide for longer term expansion in the private sector.

A monetary policy which will enable a sustained growth in economic activity, and continue to bear down upon inflation- thus laying the only sound foundation for further reduction in interest rates.

Advocacy before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for wage restraints so that inflation can be further reduced and job opportunities expanded; and

Firm action to support Australia’s external economic position, including an active and ongoing program of Governmental borrowing overseas.

My Government rejects the notion that there can be a trade-off between inflation and unemployment. It will continue to give the highest priority to reducing inflation, for only in this way can there be a sustained reduction in unemployment.

My Government will continue to place a high priority on employment and training schemes, particularly those which increase young people ‘s skills, and enable them to take job opportunities as they arise.

As a priority, the Commonwealth Employment Service will be made a more effective national manpower organisation, better able to help the unemployed.

My Government’s policies of lower taxation stem from a commitment to giving the individual a greater control over his own resources. Easing the tax burden provides incentive and stimulates initiative and general economic growth.

Substantial tax cuts have already been achieved through tax indexation, and the reforms of the tax scale which took effect from the beginning of this month.

As the next stage of tax reduction, legislation will be introduced to exempt all deceased estates and gifts passing between husband and wife, parent and child from Federal estate and gift duty as from 21 November 1977 and to abolish such duties altogether as from 1 July 1979.

My Government will continue to support industrial laws which protect the rights of individual unionists and which contribute to a just and orderly system of industrial relations.

A wider spirit of participation and employee involvement in the work-place will be encouraged so that employees and employers can co-operate to improve industrial safety, working conditions, job satisfaction and productivity.

Growth and Development

Essential to my Government’s economic program is the growth of Australian industry, the development of our resources, and a renewed emphasis on growth in exports. These hold the key to greater prosperity and the creation of more jobs.

The Government will continue to give manufacturing industry the protection it needs and, aided by the Australian Manufacturing Council, and by a study group under the chairmanship of Sir John Crawford, will formulate a co-ordinated approach for its longer-term development.

Amendments to the Industries Assistance Commission Act will be re-introduced early in this Session.

A thriving and prosperous small business community is an essential part of a well-balanced economy. As part of the Government’s strategy of assisting small business, legislation will be introduced to enable the Commonwealth Development Bank to extend its lending activities relating to small business.

My Government intends, in co-operation with the States, to introduce legislation for an effective scheme for the national regulation of companies and the securities industry.

My Government has embarked on a major program to boost exports.

Increased access to overseas markets will be actively sought, and in particular my Government is determined to press for fair access to the markets of the major trading blocs.

My Government will examine the ways in which further processing of our natural resources can be undertaken in Australia. Legislation will be introduced to establish an effective export incentives scheme, and an Australian Overseas Projects Corporation to help Australian exporters compete for large-scale development projects overseas.

Encouragement of the North-West Shelf development and other natural resources projects will continue. Legislation will be introduced for a tax rebate scheme for shareholders subscribing funds for off-shore petroleum development and exploration.

Legislation will be introduced to enable the proclamation of an Australian fishing zone covering all living marine resources out to 200 nautical miles. My Government will also seek to conclude discussions with the States on the cooperative regulation of all other ofT-shore matters.

Domestic and international civil aviation policies are being completely reviewed. It is the Government’s desire that some lowering in air fares and freight charges on international air services should result. In the interest of protecting the travelling public, legislation will be introduced to license travel agents.

The States will be substantially assisted in upgrading essential public services. Legislation will be introduced to provide further annual grants for the improvement of State railways, urban transport, roads and water resources. Work will commence on the upgrading of the Brisbane airport to international standard.

My Government is most conscious of the need to meet the challenge of present and future international shortages in energy supplies.. The Government’s decision to proceed with the development and export of uranium for peaceful purposes under the strictest safeguards will make a significant contribution to meeting the world ‘s future energy needs. This decision takes full account of the need to protect the environment and the interests of the Aboriginal communities. It accords with Australia’s international obligations and has given Australia an important voice in the world councils seeking to avert the proliferation of nuclear weapons. It has made possible the continuing valuable contribution made by my Government’s Ambassadoratlarge, Mr Justice Fox, to this important issue.

A national energy conservation program will be carried out in association with the States, industry and interested groups. Increased research and development of new energy sources will be undertaken.

Rural Community

My Government believes that it is of vital importance to Australia’s interests that its rural community be strong and viable. High priority will be placed on assisting rural producers through the present difficult period. Drought has been, and in certain areas continues to be, of serious concern. My Government, in consultation with the States, is actively engaged in relief measures, and is working to identify how further assistance can be given to those worst affected.

The Australian Rural Bank will commence business this year and provide an important new source of financial support for rural industries.

A special program of assistance to beef producers is being undertaken, and, in this and other rural industries, my Government will examine ways to offset the uncertainties of export markets.

Legislation will be introduced in this session to subsidise the freight differential on petroleum products in country areas.

Social Policy

My Government is committed to a wide program of social legislation which will help those in need, increase opportunities, and bring about greater social justice. Fundamental reforms such as the family allowance, the supporting parents benefit, the indexation of pensions and benefits, and the reform of the means test are already law.

In furtherance of this program, legislation will be brought forward to expand eligibility for the domiciliary nursing care benefit. Funding programs for the housing of the handicapped and aged will be extended a further year. Voluntary welfare agencies will be assisted in their emergency relief programs.

My Government is considering how the universal health insurance scheme might be further improved to provide a prompt and effective health insurance scheme which restrains increases in the cost of health care.

Measures will be taken to strengthen the capacity of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics to counter illegal drug trafficking, and to coordinate more closely international measures to control this evil.

It is of paramount importance to my Government that our people be properly housed and have the opportunity to own their own homes. Accordingly, legislation will be brought forward early in this Session to give effect to a new threeyear Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. This will give low and moderate income earners increased opportunities to own their own homes and enable the States to provide further low cost rental accommodation.

My Government will study closely the report of the current Committee of” Inquiry into land and housing costs. A housing allowance experiment will be conducted to determine the effect of cash payments to low income householders renting private accommodation.

My Government plans to implement a deposits insurance scheme to strengthen permanent building societies and protect depositors. This will be discussed with the States and financial institutions.

My Government will work to improve the quality of education at all levels. Particular attention will continue to be given to the improvement of technical and further education and an additional $50m over existing commitments will be provided to improve technical education facilities in inner city areas and country towns. The Education Program for Unemployed Youth will be enlarged.

The Government will introduce measures to ensure that parents of handicapped children pay no more for their education than parents of other children, and to provide further assistance for the education of children in isolated areas.

Action will be taken on the inquiries into major aspects of education which will be submitted to the Government in the coming months.

Australia is a multi-cultural society and my Government is concerned that all groups have the opportunity to enrich their identity and develop their talents to the full.

Emphasis will be given to assisting Aboriginals to become more self-sufficient and acquire the skills to manage their own affairs.

New initiatives will be undertaken concerning Aboriginal health, alcohol abuse and juvenile welfare, and the Government looks forward to the fullest consultation with the National Aboriginal Conference and the Council for Aboriginal Development on these and all other issues affecting Aboriginals.

My Government will act to ease the problems which migrants face, particularly through barriers of language. Migrant welfare, health and education programs are being expanded and support for non-government migrant resource centres will be increased.

An ethnic television service will be established. Close attention will be given to the recommendations of the expert group currently reviewing post-arrival programs and services to migrants.

My Government will continue its efforts to improve the status of women in Australian society and a permanent National Women’s Advisory Council will be established.

Civil Rights and Political Reform

My Government will carry out a continuing program of law reform, particularly with a view to protecting civil liberties and enhancing individual rights. Constant vigilance is required to ensure that the rights of individual citizens are not eroded or ignored.

In consultation with the States, legislation will be re-introduced to establish a Human Rights Commission. My Government welcomes Australia’s membership on the UN Human Rights Commission as an opportunity to contribute to the discussion and further development of internationally accepted principles of human rights.

Freedom of information legislation will be introduced to give members of the public a right of access to Government documents where these can be made public without harm to any overriding public interest.

Legislation will be introduced to establish a Security Appeals Tribunal to ensure that security assessments are subject to an appeal system and safeguard individual liberties.

A public inquiry will be held to make recommendations concerning conflicts between public duty and private interest of members of Parliament and others in the public sphere and principles which might be adopted to avoid these conflicts.

Further development of the parliamentary committee system will be promoted and parliamentary scrutiny of the Executive will be enhanced by introducing legislation enabling the AuditorGeneral to conduct efficiency audits and report to Parliament thereon.

Legislation will be introduced to establish a government of the Northern Territory with its own Ministers responsible to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and having responsibility for its own finances. The Government will be giving consideration to the question of delegation of functions to an Australian Capital Territory Assembly after there has been public comment and debate on the proposals for reform announced last September.

As part of my Government’s continuing commitment to strengthen our federal system, tax sharing arrangements will be maintained and strengthened. Over the course of the next three years, local governments’ share will be increased to 2 per cent of personal income tax receipts.

Environment, Science and the Arts

In recognition of our duty to protect and conserve a vital part of our national heritage, my Government will take a number of initiatives to protect our land, air and marine environment.

The world’s largest national park will be established at Kakadu, assistance will be given to the establishment of an Australian branch of the World Wild Life Fund, a public inquiry into whales and whaling will shortly commence and legislation will be brought forward to improve measures to control marine pollution.

Scientific research in the Australian Antarctic Territory and off-shore waters will be stepped up and my Government will work towards the establishment of international arrangements for the conservation of Antarctica’s marine resources.

Support for scientific research of high quality has major priority. Legislation to establish the Australian Science and Technology Council as a Statutory body will be introduced. The report of the Committee of Inquiry into CSIRO is being examined and legislation will be introduced to amend the Science and Industry Research Act.

Strong support will be given for the Arts. My Government will move to amend taxation legislation to encourage greater community investment in the Australian film industry.

International Relations and Security

The Government attaches high priority to the maintenance of strong and healthy relationships with our long-standing allies, the United States of America, Great Britain and New Zealand.

In the same way, the Government will work to enhance and strengthen our relations with Japan and with our other neighbours in the Asia and Pacific region, including the five members of ASEAN.

The success of the first Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting, which brought together 12 Presidents and Prime Ministers from Asia and the Pacific, has done much to help in this process of developing closer relations with our neighbours.

My Government will be actively pursuing the initiatives taken at the Meeting in the areas of trade, commodities and energy, and in combating drugs and terrorism. The Meeting was a milestone in the development of the modern Commonwealth of nations. It has given new form and meaning to Asian and Pacific regionalism and can only strengthen the effectiveness of existing regional organisations. The second meeting will be held in India in 1980.

The Government will also continue to develop and strengthen its important and highly valued associations which it has built up elsewhere in the world.

My Government firmly believes that the security of Australia is one of its supreme responsibilities.

My Government will continue to work for international stability and security, and to maintain an appropriate and substantial capacity to defend Australia. The Government will continue its policy of increasing the proportion of defence spending allocated to capital investment and new equipment purchases.

My Government has accepted the basic conclusions of the Royal Commission on Intelligence and Security. The functions, responsibilities and powers of the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, which have been reviewed, will be clearly defined by legislation.

My Government regards with deep concern recent outbursts of violence employed for political and other ends, both overseas and in Australia. Urgent steps are being taken in cooperation with other nations to develop more effective means of combating such acts of terrorism.

The Government’s Task

The Australian people have charged my Government with the responsibility of managing the affairs of this country. The Government is determined to honour this trust.

While the objectives my Government has set itself have been endorsed unequivocally by the majority of the Australian people, my Government is determined to act as a Government of the whole and not a Government for the majority alone.

Its trust is to all the people of Australia, and its concern is for all- all sections, all groups, and all interests who care and serve this great country of ours.

Australia is becoming a nation of increasing diversity, and this enriches us all in numberless ways. We also know as Australians that we are a nation that can only progress if we acknowledge our dependence on each other, if we work together for our common good. The unity which we seek is not the unity of unthinking conformity, but the unity of free men who live by respect and concern for each other.

My Government will sustain and strengthen the basic institutions of the nation, by advancing its economy; by offering aid to those who are disadvantaged by misfortune or disability; by helping to enrich the arts, science and learning of our country; by protecting the civil liberties of all Australians; and by securing the safety of our nation.

By devoting all its energies to these goals, by emphasising those things that unite all Australians, my Government will strive to realise the hope and vision of every Australian- an Australia rich in opportunity for all its people to live the life they choose, fully and freely.

Mr President, Members of the Senate.

Mr Speaker, Members of the House of Representatives.

I now leave you in the faith that Divine Providence will guide your deliberations and further the welfare of the people of Australia. (His Excellency the Governor-General and members of the House of Representatives retired).

The PRESIDENT again took the chair, and read prayers.

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– I inform the Senate that I have received a copy of the Opening Speech which His Excellency the Governor-General was pleased to deliver to both Houses of the Parliament.

Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:

That consideration of the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be made an order of the day for the next day or sitting.

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Senator WITHERS:
Minister for Administrative Services · Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate · LP

– I have the honour to inform the Senate that the ministry was sworn in on 20 December 1977. I ask leave of the Senate to incorporate full details in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The document read as follows-

Mr President, the first fourteen Ministers named in the list I have tabled comprise the Canbinet. The Leader of the House is Mr Sinclair and I am the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

In the Senate, I will represent the Prime Minister in all matters except federal affairs, Senator Carrick will continue to represent the Prime Minister in this matter. I will also represent the Ministers for Trade and Resources, Foreign Affairs, Defence and Special Trade Representations, The other portfolios will be represented in this chamber as follows:

Transport, Treasurer, National Development, Post and Telecommunications, and Environment, Housing and Community Development- Senator Carrick

Finance, Aboriginal Affairs, Health, Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, and Home Affairs- Senator Guilfoyle

Primary Industry, Northern Territory, Construction, and Capital Territory- Senator Webster

Industry and Commerce, Employment and Industrial Relations, Productivity, Business and Consumer Affairs, and Veterans’ AffairsSenator Durack.

Mr President, Ministers in the Senate will be represented in the House as follows:

The Minister for Administrative Services by Mr Street.

The Minister for Education by Mr Staley.

The Minister for Social Security by Mr Hunt.

The Minister for Science by Mr Adermann.

The Attorney-General by Mr Viner.

I further announce the Government Whip is Senator Chaney and the Assistant Government Whip is Senator Baume.

I also wish to inform the Senate that the Minister for Special Trade Representations (Mr Garland) left Australia on 14 February for discussions in North America, Europe and the Middle East. He is expected to return on 15 March. During his absence, the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony) will act as Minister for Special Trade Representations and the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) will act as Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. In that respect,

Senator Durack will be represented in the other chamber by the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman).

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Senator WRIEDT:
Leader of the Opposition · Tasmania

- Mr President, I advise the Senate of the following appointments in the Opposition: I am Leader and the Deputy Leader is Senator Button. In the shadow portfolios, I will be responsible for Foreign Affairs; Senator Button will be the shadow Minister for Education and Science; Senator Gietzelt will be the shadow Minister for Administrative Services; Senator Grimes will be the shadow Minister for Social Security; Senator Ryan will be the shadow Minister for Communications and the Arts; and Senator Walsh will be the shadow Minister for Primary Industry. Senator Georges remains the Senate Opposition Whip and Senator Mcintosh is the Deputy Senate Opposition Whip. I take this opportunity, on behalf of the Opposition- I am sure I speak for the whole Senate- to place on record our appreciation of the excellent service given to this chamber by Senator Douglas McClelland during the time he was Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

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Senator WEBSTER:
Minister for Science · Victoria · NCP/NP

– I announce that I will lead the National Country Party of Australia in the ensuing session, that Senator D. B. Scott will be the Deputy Leader and that Senator C. R. Maunsell will act as Whip of the National Country Party.

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Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:

That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn to 2.30 p.m. tomorrow, Wednesday.

Senate adjourned at 3.50 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 February 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.