31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– by leave- I inform the Senate that, as a result of a decision Senator Chaney made in the middle of last year, he has this day resigned as Government Whip and Senator Baume has been elected in his place.
– I present the following petition from 1 7 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. We, the undersigned citizens and/or taxpayers of Australia, speaking for ourselves and on behalf of the many who cannot become citizens because of their inability to speak English, request the Senate to give immediate attention to the totally inadequate provision of English classes for migrants by the Australian Government.
Our intention is to impress upon the House that inability to speak English means discrimination- discrimination in the field of employment, in education and in social and political life.
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 in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974/77, renewed for one year expiring on the 30th June 1 978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at the 30th June 1977, showeth.
Your petitioners respectfully draw the attention of the Commonwealth Government to the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Aged Persons’ Housing1975 under the Chairmanship of the Rev. K. Seaman (now Governor of South Australia) which recommended additional funds to State housing authorities to meet the demand for low-rental accommodation in the proportion of $4 for $ 1 with the proviso that the States do not reduce their existing expenditure and
That the Act include married pensioners eligible for supplementary assistance and migrants as specified by the Seaman Report and that particular consideration be paid to the special needs and requirements of the prospective tenants in the location and design of such dwellings.
Furthermore, your petitioners desire to draw the Government’s attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976/77 shows that 24.6%, or 283,000 home owning pensioners, have a weekly income in excess of the pension of less than $6 per week.
Your petitioners strongly urge the Commonwealth Government to establish a fund whereby loans can be made to means tested pensioners for the purpose of effecting necessary maintenance to their homes. Such a loan to be at minimal interest rates sufficient to cover administrative costs and to be repaid by the estate upon the death of a single pensioner before probate or upon the death of the surviving spouse in the case of married pensioners or where two pensioners jointly own the dwelling. Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Guilfoyle.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should require Telecom Australia to standardize all telephone fees for calls on a time basis so that the fees for calls of equal time be the same throughout Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce. In view of the substantial losses incurred recently by two American-owned motor vehicle manufacturers, General MotorsHolden’s Ltd and Chrysler Australia Ltd, does the Government propose to review the construction and operation of the Australian motor vehicle manufacturing industry or provide additional short term assistance to the industry? When will an announcement be made about the action, if any, which the Government proposes to take?
– This is a most important question. Therefore, I propose to refer it to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I will endeavour to obtain an early reply for the honourable senator.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether he has noted the recent allocations of the United States entitlements of beef imports that have been granted to the Alice Springs abattoir. As the export industry accepted the control schemes for that country on the basis that they would apply equally to all licensed exporters, whether old or new, will not this action by the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation make it appear to the industry that the AMLC is acting not impartially but, in fact, against the best interests of the Australian meat industry. Would the Minister consider, in the interests of equity, reviewing this decision?
– I cannot at this point answer accurately the honourable senator’s question. I appreciate that there is need for flexibility on the part of the Government. This has in the past been recognised in allocations to northern meat works; but if 1 may take the question on notice, I will attempt to obtain an answer for the honourable senator before Question Time ends.
-Using the terminology of the Governor-General’s Speech, I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer what level of single-digit inflation must be reached before there can be a sustained reduction in unemployment, as anticipated by the Government.
– Quite clearly, there is no magic figure. There was, of course, demonstrably a figure in the other direction in 1974-75 when the level of inflation was the direct cause of unemployment. I would direct the attention of the honourable senator to the fact that his own Leader in another place, when Treasurer, indicated in his Budget Speech of 1975 the precise formula governing the effect of inflation on unemployment and said that the road towards reemployment was one of reducing inflation, not spending oneself out of it. Therefore, in fact, on that score, if on nothing else, the then Leader in another place was at that time entirely in accord with the statement made in the recent Speech of the Governor-General.
– My question to the Attorney-General relates to the Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act 1977, which passed all stages in the Senate on 30 May 1 977 and received Royal Assent on 16 June of that year. I ask the Minister whether he can assure the Senate that this Act will be proclaimed. Is he able to say when this will take place? Is it possible for him to advise the Senate of the reasons for the delay in proclamation to this stage?
-The Administrative Decisions (Judicial Review) Act contains a provision whereby certain classes of decisions may by regulation be excluded from its operation. In order to bring the Act into effect it has been necessary to give very detailed consideration to this problem of whether and to what extent some classes of decision should be thus excluded. The matter has for some time been under consideration by the Administrative Review Council, which has been discussing it with a number of departments. I have not received a firm recommendation from the Council, but understand that it has made substantial progress. Therefore I would hope to receive such advice as soon as possible. Certainly it is the intention of the Government, and my own very great desire, to proclaim this Act as soon as possible. I shall certainly continue to work to that end.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Administrative Services. It relates to the Prime Minister’s statement last Thursday on security and counterterrorism. Does the Minister recall that last September, in Senate Estimates Committee A, I was advised by Mr Harper of the Commonwealth Police Force that on average over the year the Commonwealth Police Force was under strength by 1 50 and that this was due partly to recruiting difficulties but mainly to staff ceilings imposed as a result of Government policy? Is it also a fact that last January applications were called for two senior inspectors’ positions in the counterterrorist section and two inspectors’ positions in the Australian Bomb Data Centre of the Commonwealth Police Force and that these positions have not yet been filled? Bearing in mind the Government’s sudden public interest in internal security matters following the Hilton Hotel bombing in Sydney, will the Government now be prepared to remove its staff ceiling limitation on the Commonwealth Police Force thus enabling sufficient recruiting to take place to enable that Force rather than military personnel to handle any future emergency?
-If the honourable senator had read the Prime Minister’s statement of last Thursday he would have understood that the basic responsibility for civil law and order and the protection of this country still resides with the
States and State police forces. Whilst the Commonwealth Police has a role as it did at the recent Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting, as the honourable senator would well know, a large degree of the security for that conference was handled by the New South Wales police, as it is their proper function. That is why some dismay has been expressed by some of us at the attacks on (he special branches of the police force by some people in the community who ought to know better. It was a very foolish thing to do. State police forces have a real role to play in counter-terrorism. If Senator Georges, who is trying to interject, likes to be so manic about special branches that he would rather abandon them and have innocent people blown up by terrorists, he should say so. But I thought that a person who had no secrets had no fears. I have no fear of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. I have no fear of a special branch. I do not become all excited about them. I wonder why honourable senators opposite become so excited.
Staff ceilings really do not come into this question. If one asked anybody in the Public Service about them he would probably say: ‘I could be a lot more efficient if it were not for the staff ceilings’. This Government thinks it is about time some people in this community got off the taxpayer’s back. There is a limit to what the taxpayer of this community can bear. All departments have a duty to look at the functions they carry out to see whether they can carry them out efficiently. The honourable senator will also recall that my Deputy Secretary said at the same Estimates Committee meeting that there were no problems within my Department over staff ceilings because the Department had risen to the challenge and had so reorganised itself that it could cope.
In any event, since that Estimates Committee meeting there has been an increase in the strength of the Commonwealth Police. I shall obtain the exact figure but I think it increased by about 200 people late last year, ft is not a matter of deciding that another 200 men are needed. We do not get them off the street. They have to be advertised for, recruited and trained before they come into operation. The establishment of the Commonwealth Police Force at its present numbers is the highest it has ever been. There is no staff ceiling problem. As to whether the two positions referred to were advertised but not filled, I do not have the information with me. I shall obtain it as early as I can.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport a question. I refer to the statement that the Government intends to upgrade Brisbane Airport to international standards. Has the Minister any knowledge of any similar proposed upgrading of Hobart Airport to international standards so that Hobart will be able to handle flights to and from New Zealand and incidentally will be much safer for regular traffic? Is the Minister aware that most Tasmanians will not be happy until there is an international airport somewhere in Tasmania?
– One could not be in this chamber for very long without being aware, through Senator Townley and others, of the eagerness of Tasmanian people to upgrade the facilities of their air services and to have a link with New Zealand. I think Senator Townley has on a number of occasions directed questions and made speeches on this matter. We are all aware of the very welcome statement made by the Government that Brisbane Airport is to be upgraded to international standards. I am not aware of any announcement or pronouncement in relation to Hobart Airport. I will direct the question to my colleague in another place and seek a reply for the honourable senator.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. I remind her that last year she said that of 205 field officers in the Department 84 officers were employed on routine inquiries associated with unemployment benefit and 12 1 officers were employed in a wide range of field duties associated with pension claims. I ask the Minister whether the 250 field officers in the Department at present work in the same proportion, that is, 40 per cent associated with unemployment and 60 per cent with other pension claims. I further ask: If that is not so, and all 250 officers are now investigating unemployment beneficiaries, how long will they be away from their other duties?
– The duties that are undertaken by field officers are determined largely by administrative decision within the Department. At present a large number of field officers work in the area of unemployment benefit claims. This decision can be changed from time to time. The field officers have no fixed duties. The proportion mentioned by the honourable senator may have been relative at the time that a question on this matter was answered but from time to time the whole range of pensions and benefits is covered by field officers in the Department.
– I address a question to the Minister for Education. I refer to a report in the Melbourne Sun of 23 January which detailed allegations made by Mr Sandy Thomas, who was then Regional Organiser for the Australian Union of Students, that a department of the AUS was channelling funds to the Malaysian Communist Party. I. ask: Is the Minister aware of this report and, if so, has he made any investigations into this or related matters? What will the Minister do to ensure that the future expenditure by the AUS of moneys compulsorily acquired from tertiary students is spent solely in the interests of students as students?
– The honourable senator raises an important matter. It is exercising the minds of the Commonwealth Government and, I believe, State governments. I am aware of a Press report on this matter; I am not aware of its accuracy. If it is accurate, then money from the AUS has been going to the Communist Party of Malaysia which is an illegal organisation reported to be engaged in terrorist activities. That raises the significant question of whether moneys compulsorily raised in a tertiary institution could be directed to causes that are not directly educational.
– They do not have to be so narrow.
-I take it that Senator Georges by his interjection indicates that he approves of the idea of moneys going to the Communist Party of Malaysia. If not, why should he be so tender? The whole question of the compulsory levying of student fees is at present under review. As Senator Missen will know, some court cases are pending, were recently decided or are under appeal. When the legal situation has been straightened out it will be necessary for individual States to take action on their own behalf. I think in the case of Melbourne that action will be to ratify the right of a university to levy a sporting and recreation fee. I stand to be corrected by the Attorney-General in that regard. It raises the whole question of whether there should be compulsion for the other segment, which is the student representative council segment, and the amount of fees that would go to political or sociological activities, whether students may opt out and get relief from paying that and whether the money should be used outside tertiary institutions.
As a first step, acting on behalf of my Government, I asked all vice-chancellors and principals of colleges to look at the rules that the universities and colleges, as self-governing organisations, have for running the collection and application of student fees, to see, firstly, that they were democratically levied and, secondly, that the funds collected were not used for improper purposes. Whilst we should not exaggerate recent events, they remind us that terrorism is not far away anyhow. The Commonwealth Government will await the rulings in the various court decisions, will study them and then will take appropriate action. It is certainly the view of the Government that it ought not to be possible for fees to be levied compulsorily and then used for purposes such as those of the Communist Party of Malaysia, for terrorist purposes against a government which is a proper, sovereign and friendly government. Clearly this raises most important questions that are as yet unresolved.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Administrative Services been drawn to statements made in the Press during the parliamentary recess by Mr Donald Cameron, the Liberal member for Fadden, that he has ‘direct proof that a Queensland Liberal member of parliament brought pressure to bear on the federal redistribution commission? If so, has the Minister taken any steps to investigate this matter and is the Minister aware of the identity of the member of parliament to whom Mr Cameron refers? Finally, can the Minister inform the Senate whether the distribution commissioners in Queensland were subjected to pressure and interference by the Liberal parliamentarian referred to by Mr Cameron?
– I can advise the honourable senator that shortly after Mr Cameron made his allegations about certain features of the redistribution in Queensland the Prime Minister and I saw him in Canberra and discussed the whole matter with him. As a result of those discussions the Prime Minister sought the advice of the Attorney-General and the Solicitor-General in relation to the legal implications of Mr Cameron’s allegations. The purpose of this was to ascertain whether the material provided by Mr Cameron disclosed a prima facie case of any wrong-doing on the part of anyone connected with the redistribution. The law officers have considered the matter and have advised the Prime Minister that in their opinion no evidence has been produced which could establish a prima facie case and accordingly an inquiry is not warranted.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. How does the Government see the need for uniform standards for wheat silos in Australia and also for airtight silos to assist in the control of weevil and other infestations in stored grain? What research and inquiries has the Government undertaken into grain infestation control, particularly in regard to airtight silos?
– I do not know whether the honourable senator is referring to grain silo explosions that have occurred overseas and have some relevance here. If he is not, his question is directed to airtight containers. My understanding is that there is a considerable problem in attempting to have silos made completely airtight for the purpose of either killing or excluding weevils or similar types of infestation. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has been making investigations into this problem, with the assistance of the States. As far as I am aware, no headway has been made up to the present time in relation to establishing permanent airtight silos for this purpose.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services. Has the Government created a new position known as the Director of Commonwealth Properties? If so, has anyone been appointed to it and what is the salary range? What is the nature of the appointment? Is it designed to streamline government acquisition of property or to reduce the increasing Commonwealth allocation of funds for rented and leased premises?
-That may be the title of the person. A Mr Wollaston has been appointed on a contractual basis to head the Property Division of my Department. I have not in my head what his salary is, but I will obtain that information for the honourable senator. The major purpose of bringing in a person with a great deal of commercial experience is to bring more efficiency and cost savings into the Department. If the honourable senator looks at the Estimates he will see that the Department these days is paying almost $60m a year in rent in Australia and about $14m a year abroad. I have always been convinced of the great capacities for cost savings in this area if a good commercial mind were brought to bear on the problem. The honourable senator would also know that the Commonwealth most likely owns Lord knows how many thousands of pieces of land throughout Australia, and we need some drive in this area to decide really what land ought to be disposed of and how it ought to be disposed of to the best advantage of the Commonwealth. I often wonder how much land the Commonwealth is sitting on for which it really has no use, and this also will be one of the tasks of the Director. The property area is a big area, both in Australia and overseas, and we have hopes that this new appointment will bring the streamlining of which the honourable senator talked and more efficiency and cost savings into the Department. I will get for the honourable senator as soon as possible information as to the salary, et cetera.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the Government yet made a decision on the level of dairy underwriting for the forthcoming season? If it has been made, has the Minister the details? If not, is he able to say when such a decision will be made known?
– I am unable to give a decisive answer as to when the decision will be made. Cabinet has been considering this matter during the last few days, and I would imagine that a decision is imminent.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce relates to the tenth annual report of the Australian Tourist Commission which he tabled on Wednesday last. In the opening remarks the Chairman of the Commission included the contents of a letter directed to the Minister on 1 1 October last year in which the Chairman claimed that the Commission’s resources were the lowest for any of the years of its operations and the present budgetary position meant that the Commission could not carry out its task, particularly at overseas posts. It also referred to the fact that despite the attempt to maintain staff ceilings at the government objective the Commission was finding great difficulty in running its business. Is the Minister able to state what consideration has been given to that representation of 1 1 October to the Government? Have those matters referred to been attended to and have they been corrected?
– I did not quite catch the key word in the letter from the Chairman to the
Minister of 1 1 October. I gather it was in relation to staff ceilings.
– No. Let me quote from page 4. The important point in the letter which was included was as follows:
The problem of inadequate resources is the greatest single problem facing the Commission since it was established in 1967. lt is the view of the Commission that budget levels of the past 2 years have been less than is required to maintain an adequate level of activity overseas.
The letter also referred to staff ceilings as a pan of that problem.
-Two distinct matters were referred to by Senator Bishop in his questionone relating to staff ceilings, the other relating to budgetary allocations. I am unable to give a specific answer in relation to either of the matters, but I would of course reiterate what I have said on behalf of the Ministers 1 represent- I know that the Leader of the Government has said it on a number of occasions. As far as staff ceilings are concerned the Government intends to pursue those policies firmly as an overall objective in regard to the level of employment in the Public Service. However, that does not preclude re-arrangement between points of need taking place within the overall Government Service. I shall refer to the Minister whom I represent the specific matters which have been raised regarding the Australian Tourist Commission, particularly the question relating to Budget allocation. Nevertheless, I should imagine that the matter raised relating to Budget allocation would be taken into consideration in next year’s Budget and not in relation to the present Budget.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry and the Minister for the Northern Territory. In a Press release last week the Minister for the Northern Territory defined three bluetongue areas and classified them according to districts in the Northern Territory. Severe restrictions have been placed on the movement of stock, affecting some 300,000 cattle, in the most severely hit area, the endemic area around Katherine and Darwin. In view of the expressed aim of the Government to ensure that the industry remains as operative as possible by the application of the minimum possible use of severe restrictions on cattle as the export of live cattle is now precluded, and, having in mind also that many pastoralists are in dire financial straits, I ask: Is it the intention of the Government to review the situation and, wherever necessary, to give additional financial support to prevent the complete economic collapse of those pastoralists?
-The matter of bluetongue disease was raised in the Senate on two occasions last week. I recall indicating that three areas in the Northern Territory from which the movement of livestock was in some way restricted had been declared. The honourable senator has made some comments relating to the situation as it applies in the Territory which may or may not necessarily be correct. I think it should be known that there is no total ban on the movement of cattle in the Northern Territory but all movement basically is subject to some restriction. The States have decided that they will restrict the import of livestock from some areas but that under certain conditions cattle can be accepted. The main thrust of the honourable senator’s question relates to whether the Federal Government will provide any additional assistance to producers due to this problem in the Northern Territory. I shall direct that part of the question to the Minister for Primary Industry and shall attempt to obtain a reply for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications and refers to the Government’s inquiry into the possible introduction of a national communications satellite system in Australia. In view of the serious dangers to the Australian public of such a system should it come under monopoly control, will the Minister tell the Senate what steps have been taken to ensure that all interested members of the public will have an opportunity to put their views to the inquiry? Will the Minister say whether the Government intends to table the findings of the inquiry so that all Australians may consider for themselves the arguments for and against such a system before any decision is taken regarding the introduction of a national broadcasting satellite?
– I am not precisely aware how the Government publicised this inquiry. My intuitive reaction to the question is to state that the inquiry was fairly well publicised. In any case, I shall check and find out what degree of publicity was involved. I understand that basically the inquiry is directed towards the utility or otherwise of such a satellite in Australia. As the honourable senator will know, a number of countries at this moment are operating such satellites. They are being operated particularly effectively in large continents of diversity, such as Australia. I take aboard the point the honourable senator made about the control and supervision of such a facility. I shall direct to the appropriate Minister in another place the specific points raised in the honourable senator’s question and shall seek an answer. But I am quite sure that when the report of the inquiry comes forward ample opportunity will be given, not only in the Parliament but also elsewhere in Australia, for points such as those made by the honourable senator to have ventilation. In any case, I shall stress this point to the Minister concerned.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. I refer to a report in the Financial Review of 27 February which indicated that there was likely to be a delay of more than a year in the implementation of the Government’s policy in respect of the establishment of national securities industry regulation and national companies legislation. Is the Government in a position to proceed immediately with a revision of takeover laws which was reported to have been unanimously agreed to by State Ministers at their meeting last Friday or will action in this area be delayed until after the next meeting of Ministers in May?
– The Ministers concerned in this matter met on 24 February- last Fridayand discussed the text of a draft formal agreement between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to co-operative arrangements for the control of company and securities industry laws. This formal agreement gives effect to the Government’s commitment to the scheme. I am advised by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs that substantial progress was made at the meeting, formal agreement was largely concluded and most of the important points settled. The State Ministers are to meet again in May, hopefully to finalise these points, so the suggestion in the report that there would be a delay of another 12 months or so may be somewhat pessimistic. Obviously the matter with all its complexities is making more satisfactory progress than that. The takeover provisions are part and parcel of the general agreement and it is not the intention to legislate in respect of any one matter, such as takeovers, ahead of the implementation of the general agreement.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is the Minister aware that the Australian Government Department of Transport contracted to install proper air traffic control facilities at the Proserpine airport by September 1977? Is he also aware that the airport is now being used by large commercial aircraft and that air traffic control is still being carried out from a caravan without radar facilities with air traffic controllers compelled to rely on primitive line of sight methods and an unreliable radio contact system? Can the Minister inform the Parliament whether he is prepared to take immediate action to have up to date air traffic control facilities installed thus ensuring the avoidance of a possible air traffic accident and at the same time allowing the local tourist industry to remain economically viable because of the availability of regular air transport.
-Senator Keeffe ‘s question raises a number of aspects. I will seek the information from the Minister for Transport and let him have it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and relates to the address given by the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to the Australian Retailers’ Association Council of Management which was reported in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald. Does the Minister’s statement made yesterday indicate an increase in the annual immigration intake? Does the Minister’s emphasis on the future and not on, as he called it, obsession with the present’ suggest that the Government is planning a wider and more diverse immigration selection? Finally, does the Government believe, as does the Retail Traders’ Association, that we could bring in 200,000 migrants a year?
– I did not hear or see the Minister’s statement of yesterday but I saw some Press comment with regard to some of his remarks. The specific questions which have been raised by Senator Davidson, require precise answers. I will refer the questions to the Minister.
-I ask the AttorneyGeneral: In view of the vast restructuring of overall national security operations that the Government appears to be contemplating, does the Minister deny that there is a place for parliamentary scrutiny and that the ideal committee to carry out this task would be the one suggested in a letter in the Age, written by somebody who obviously has had some committee experience in that field?
-Senator Mulvihill drew my attention to a letter to the Age written by a person with a close knowledge, as he says, of security objectives. The letter was one that he wrote himself in which he suggested that a former committee of the Senate of which both he and I were members-
– And Senator Wheeldon.
- Senator Wheeldon, Senator James McClelland and Senator Webster were all members. Senator Mulvihill suggested that this committee would be a suitable parliamentary committee to monitor security matters, and the operations of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation in particular. Of course, the Government is involved in a major review of the laws relating to security in this country as a result of the royal commission inquiry by Mr Justice Hope which was set up by the Labor Government, of which Senator Mulvihill was a supporter. Mr Justice Hope reported to this Government, and the Government has accepted his report, part of which will involve amendments to legislation. As was promised in the Speech by the Governor-General, these amendments will be introduced by the Government, hopefully this session.
Mr Justice Hope made major recommendations about the reform of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, but he also made some recommendations about the establishment of a security appeals tribunal. However he did not recommend that there ought to be a parliamentary committee to monitor security organisations. The Government has not contemplated such a step. Indeed, it would be very difficult to contemplate a parliamentary committee investigating matters of security as a day to day operation. The time-honoured practice of Ministers responsible for security not answering questions in the Parliament on the matter was affirmed by Mr Justice Hope. However, there is an even more fatal objection to the suggestion of reestablishing the old committee to which Senator Mulvihill referred. Although I notice that the honourable senator in his letter offered the services of himself and his colleagues, Senators James McClelland and Wheeldon, to serve on that committee, unfortunately I will not be available to do so.
-Can the Minister representing the Treasurer say whether interest is charged to taxpayers who are late with their dues to the Taxation Office? Further, in cases where the Taxation Office must make a refund because of a mistaken demand made and met, is the taxpayer entitled to the appropriate amount of interest on his money which has been held in error by the Taxation Office? My question is prompted by the number of mistaken demands for Medibank levy payments on taxpayers who are already adequately covered by private health insurance.
- Senator Walters asks a question in two main parts. My advice is that the answer to the first part of the question is yes. There is specific provision in legislation which requires payment of additional tax at an interest rate of 10 per cent per annum on any amounts not paid by the due date. The Commissioner of Taxation does have some discretion in this matter and may waive payment in special circumstances. My advice is that the answer to the second part of the question is no. There is no legislative authority for interest payments to be made by the Taxation Office. The matter has been considered by many governments over many years and similar conclusions have been reached. The cost of administering the scheme would need to be passed on to the taxpayer, and this would far outweigh any advantages that might flow otherwise.
-Does the Minister for Social Security recall saying in answer to a question by me on Thursday, 23 February, that the concentration of field officers on unemployment benefit eligibility would have no effect on appeals conducted through the Social Security Appeals Tribunals? Is it not a fact that pan of the field officers’ functions is to get evidence and facts for appeals to the Tribunals? If so, who will be doing this work while the present investigations continue?
– If information is required by Social Security Appeals Tribunals it may be supplied from a number of sources. It is the intention of the Department that the work of Social Security Appeals Tribunals should not be endangered by any other activities that might be undertaken by field officers. In other words, where Social Security Appeals Tribunals require information it will be provided in order that appeals may proceed.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations noted in the annual report of the Stevedoring Industry Authority, which he tabled last week in the Senate, that although some $ 14m was paid to 1,079 men to retire from the waterfront in order to avoid the payment of certain idle time, in Melbourne, Sydney, Port Adelaide and Newcastle, idle time was still considerable. Without giving all the figures, for Sydney it equalled 522 men for each working day of the week, with the position in Hobart being relatively worse? In connection with idle time, the cost for the September 1976 quarter was $4.7m but after the payout in the early part of 1 976 the cost for idle time in the corresponding September 1 977 quarter was not $4.7m but $4.6m, indicating to me that there had been no improvement by reason of the enormous payout for retirement. Will the Minister ascertain from the Minister whom he represents the figures for the December quarter- the quarter in which the Parliament was induced to pass legislation reorganising the systemto see whether there is any evidence of improvement?
– Although it is true that last week I tabled the report of the Stevedoring Industry Authority, I regret that I did not spend any spare time I had at the weekend reading it. Indeed, it is not my direct responsibility to do so as the matter comes within the responsibility of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, whom I represent. In view of the very detailed nature of the question asked by Senator Wright I will refer it to the Minister whom I represent and endeavour to obtain an early reply.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of the detailed submission made in July last year by the Insurance Brokers Council of Australia to the Minister Assisting the Treasurer stressing the need for the introduction of legislation protecting members of the public who use broker services? If he is, can he say whether the Government intends to consider the request of that body that the Government should continue with broker legislation either in the complete form originally proposed in the draft Insurance Brokers Bill 1976 or in the watered down self-regulatory version suggested by the IBCA as an acceptable alternative?
– I have some understanding of a submission made last year, I think, by the Insurance Brokers Council of Australia. I am not aware of any decision by my colleague the Treasurer or by the Government. I will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister concerned and seek a reply for her.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, although the Minister representing the Prime Minister may be able to assist in the answer. Did the Prime Minister receive a letter dated 21 December 1977 from the Premier of Queensland asking the Federal Government to cease financial support to the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Community Health Service? Does the letter complain of funding voluntary health agencies directly, not going through the Queensland Director of the Department of Children ‘s Services, and before consultation with State authorities? Is it claimed that such funding would discriminate against the Aboriginal community; also that the community. service pursues a radical, racist and militant philosophy and that office holders have criminal records? Will the Government before complying with the request of the Queensland Premier, make its own assessment of the service given by the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Community Health Service? Does this attack upon the health service, considered in conjunction with the Premier’s stopping of the trachoma survey, suggest he is opposed to improvement of Aboriginal health in his State?
-It will be for the Prime Minister to judge whether he is prepared to make public any correspondence which may have passed between the Premier of Queensland and himself. The other matters raised involve, I think, the honourable senator’s own interpretation of the actions and ideas of the Premier of Queensland, and I presume on those aspects I ought not to comment. On the remaining matters which concern the Prime Minister I will seek an answer for the honourable senator.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry concerns a statement by Mr Sinclair who was reported in today’s Press as saying: Under Federal law compulsory unionism cannot be enforced’. Is the Minister aware that, under section 29 of the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956, the Liberal-National Country Party
Government makes membership of the Waterside Workers Federation compulsory for any person seeking registration as a waterside worker? Are we to take it from the Minister’s remarks that the Government is about to repeal that section; or is the Minister aware of any Government acquiescence, in the current review of the stevedoring industry, in moves to force clerks, foremen stevedores and others out of their own unions and into the Waterside Workers Federation under a misguided notion of industry unionism, thus creating monopoly control on Australia’s waterfront, a subject in which I would have thought farmers would be most interested.
– I have noted in the media the comments that have been attributed to Mr Sinclair. I am unable to verify whether they reflect his views correctly but will refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister and seek an answer.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport whether, on or about 23 February 1978, a letter was sent by the Department of Transport to AUS Student Travel advising that a fare offered between Australia and New Delhi breaches rule 106a of the Air Navigation Regulations? Did the letter advise that AUS Student Travel should desist immediately from using this fare? Finally, can the Minister assure the Senate that AUS Student Travel will be required to comply with all departmental instructions in this matter?
– My advice from the Department of Transport is that the answer to each of those three questions is yes.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairsmindful of the fact that the Attorney-General formerly held that portfolio- whether he is aware that there is grave concern among exservicemen’s organisations which claim that the Government proposes to withdraw the entitlement paid to ex-servicemen suffering from tuberculosis, and further, that the Government proposes, in the case of burnt out diggers’ pensions, to increase the qualifying age from 60 to 65 years? Will the Minister inform the Senate whether these claims are true? Will he give an undertaking to ex-servicemen’s organisations that he will consult them before introducing amending legislation?
– At the moment I am the Acting Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. Senator McAuliffe raised two matters. One was the special provisions regarding entitlements to exservicemen suffering from tuberculosis. I refer the Senate and Senator McAuliffe to the provisions in the Budget Speech on this matter in which there was a detailed statement by the Government of the policy it was pursuing. It provided that in future there would be no special provision in relation to tuberculosis but it made provisions for considerable protection of existing rights.
I had discussions with veterans ‘ organisations on the matter when I was Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. The present Minister, after the Budget and shortly after he succeeded me, had further discussions with them and promised that no further steps would be taken to implement that policy in the last session of Parliament. I understand that he will be giving the matter further consideration. He will certainly keep exservicemen informed, especially those who have had tuberculosis.
I am unaware of any proposal to raise the age of eligibility for the Service pension from 60 years to 65 years. For that reason, the question of discussing it with ex-servicemen’s organisations does not arise. Of course, it is the policy of the Government that any changes affecting the entitlements of veterans will be discussed with veterans ‘ organisations.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. It refers to the answer he gave to Senator Wriedt last Wednesday in which he said that the Government’s $2,000m borrowing program was successful. He said: . . it has been successful because under the overall money management plan of this country we have achieved, together with the balance of payments, a rectification of the recession which occurred some four years ago.
In the phrase ‘money management plan . . together with the balance of payments ‘ was he implying that the continuing negative balance of payments and consequential rundown of overseas reserves are restricting the money supply? If not, what did he mean? Is a negative balance of payments which restricts the money supply a phenomenon welcomed by the Government?
– I was referring to the fact that under the previous Government the great upsurge in inflation and interest rates together with the 25 per cent cut in tariffs across the board had costed Australia out of the manufacturing and export industries. It brought in a flow of imports which had a disastrous effect on the balance of payments. It was disastrous both in the flooding of imports and in our failure to achieve export earnings. I said that the correct approach to the balance of payments must be taken as a package deal. The significant fact is that we are now operating, as we did last year, at an inflation rate of 9.3 per cent compared with 14.3 per cent the year before. That is a spectacular drop of 5 per cent. We are looking towards a considerable reduction in inflation this year. We hope that interest rates will fall by about 2 per cent this year. Taken together, those reductions are good news for both manufacturing and export industries in Australia. Taken together they will work towards a better conjunction of balance of payments than the disastrous one that was created by the Whitlam Government in its time.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Education. I seek to correlate Senator Harradine ‘s question on compulsory unionism and Senator Missen ‘s question on student unionism. I ask the Minister whether, in view of the enormous sums that this Government directs to university education, it is not overdue for the Government to insist as a condition that student unions exist for the benefit of students in their student affairs as distinct from political ends. Is it not overdue for the Government to simply lay down that proposition to be complied with by the universities of the States in order to prevent funds compulsorily raised by student unions being used for unacceptable political purposes?
– The general principle that there should not be compulsory use of student fees for purposes such as have been described is quite clear. As Senator Wright will know, the great majority of tertiary institutions in Australia are subject to State law and are prescribed under State law to give-
– Commonwealth financed.
– If the honourable senator will allow me, I will make the point that one should not try to use financial clout or a bulldozer where one can achieve better results by better means. The fact is that we set up tertiary institutions in Australia, giving them autonomy, in order to protect academic freedom. This Government has invited all of the institutions to amend their ordinances and regulations to provide the kind of freedom that Senator Wright quite correctly has in mind. We are waiting for the courts to clarify the matter fully. If it is necessary to take further action in order to reach the goal of freedom of choice for the individual and the right of the individual to opt out, the Government will not be hesitant to do so.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Some months ago I raised a question concerning the ship Waverley which appears on the Australian $5 note. The Minister will recall that I pointed out that the ship shown on the note was not the Waverley associated with the work of Caroline Chisholm, as was obviously intended. I asked that, in the interests of correct historical representation, the mistake be corrected. Can the Minister say what progress has been made towards correcting this error? It strikes me as odd that an efficient organisation like the Reserve Bank of Australia could not have resolved this matter within a week, let alone the months that have elapsed since the question was asked.
– I well recall that Senator Devitt raised this matter last year. I understand that my then colleague in this place referred the matter to the Treasury. I do not know what steps have been taken on the matter, which is an interesting one. 1 have spent a fair amount of myopic vision trying to read the word Waverley on the ship’s pennant and I congratulate the honourable senator on his better vision. I will look into the matter to see what can be done to correct the situation.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security relating to the case of Miss Karen Green which was referred to the Ombudsman last year. I ask: Has the Ombudsman made a determination in this case? If so, can the Minister tell the Parliament the result of that determination and what action the Government intends to take?
– I will investigate the matter that has been raised by Senator Grimes to see what information is available.
-Senator Gietzelt asked me earlier a question concerning the salary of the Director of Commonwealth Properties. I can inform the honourable senator that the Director receives a salary equivalent to that of a Level 6 officer in the Second Division of the Commonwealth Public Service. That currently is $36,93 1 .
– Pursuant to section 88 of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act 1974, I present the annual report of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the final report of the Royal Commission on Human Relationships, and I take advantage of this opportunity to thank the members of the Commission for their work. The recommendations contained in the report are being considered in consultation with the State governments.
– For the information of honourable senators I present reports by the Bureau of Transport Economics entitled: ‘Mainline Upgrading- Evaluation of a Range of Options for the Adelaide-Serviceton Rail Link’ and Mainline Upgrading- Evaluation of a Range of Options for The Sydney-Brisbane Rail Link ‘.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Homes Savings Grant Act 1964,I present the thirteenth annual report on the administration and operation of that Act.
– Pursuant to section 53 of the Homes Savings Grant Act 1976,I present the first annual report on the administration and operation of that Act during 1 976-77.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of Aboriginal Hostels Ltd for the year ended 25 June 1977.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to sub-section 8 of section 125 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904, I present the annual report of the Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the interim report of the Industries Assistance Commission on brandy and whisky.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on injection moulding machines (by-law).
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators, I lay on the table the official report of the Australian Parliamentary
Delegation to the South Pacific during the period 29 June to 20 July last year. Due to the limited quantity available, copies of the report have been placed in the Senate Records Office and the Parliamentary Library.
– by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
- Mr President, I have some further information in reply to a question asked by Senator Douglas McClelland, and I take it that I have the leave of the Senate to give that information. Since September 1977, 374 positions have been created and Compol has now recruited 348 officers. The two senior inspector positions were advertised on 21 January, together with two inspector positions. Applications closed on 3 February, and interviews are now under way.
– I seek leave to make a statement on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) regarding protective security and counter-terrorism.
-This statement was put down in the other place on Thursday last. I therefore seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
All members of Parliament will be aware of the tragic event which occurred on the morning of 13 February outside the Sydney Hilton Hotel, where 12 Heads of Government assembled for the Commonwealth Regional Meeting. It was an event which brought home to every Australian that acts of terrorism can occur in this normally peaceable country.
The senseless murder of three innocent Australiansthe third, a police constable died in hospital yesterday- demonstrated the indiscriminate nature of terrorist violence.
Terrorist acts are a violent assault upon the freedom of each and every Australian. The Australian people have a right to be protected against the actions of terrorists. Terrorism will not be tolerated in this country. That is the Government’s position, and I am sure that it is the position of every member of this place.
For some time, the Government has been concerned at the growing international trend to violence for political ends. In the past five years, according to evidence recently given to a United States Senate committee there have been 1 ,800 major acts of terrorism around the world involving 512 deaths, 551 injuries and 363 kidnappings. Following on the events of last week, I now report to the Parliament and through the Parliament to the people of Australia on the actions the Government has taken and will take to guard against this evil.
On coming to office we were advised that changing world circumstances made it necessary to review the arrangements then existing to protect overseas visitors, members of the Diplomatic Corps and the Australian public against acts of violence. We have acted over the past two years to increase the effectiveness of these arrangements.
The Protective Services Co-ordination Centre is advised by a special interdepartmental committee on protection against violence. It maintains close liaison with appropriate Commonwealth and State authorities and agencies.
Contingency plans have been developed over a number of years to deal with any international terrorist incident which might occur either in Australia, or in another country affecting Australian lives and interests. These plans are being regularly updated. Simulated anti-terrorist exercises have been held with the States to test the effectiveness of existing arrangements, and adjustments have been made in the light of lessons learnt from these exercises.
Following the tragedy in Sydney on 13 February, the Commonwealth Heads of Government agreed to establish a working group, to be convened by Singapore, to explore ways in which collaboration can be enlarged, both regionally and internationally, in combating terrorism.
In addition, my Government has undertaken a further review of the totality of security arrangements against acts of terrorism. None of the old assumptions can be uncritically taken for granted. Each must be challenged and reevaluated.
The Sydney tragedy underlines the importance of even more intensive development of cooperation between Commonwealth and State civil and police authorities. Immediately after the tragedy occurred, the Premier of New South Wales and I agreed that a complete review of security arrangements for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting was required, and security was further tightened. Given the additional strain on New South Wales Police, the Premier and I agreed that members of the Australian Defence Force would be used to supplement police resources, and the extent of the use of service personnel was determined in close consultation between the Commonwealth and the New South Wales authorities.
I would like to pay a tribute to the cooperation which the Commonwealth has had from the New South Wales Government. The New South Wales Premier, Mr Wran, put the security and safety of the people of New South Wales and of visiting delegations as his first priority after the bomb explosion in Sydney. He joined with me in a co-operative effort. I would like to repeat and endorse the comments he made to the New South Wales Parliament, the day after the explosion:
It is now the task of the Government, the Parliament, and the community to do everything possible to ensure that yesterday’s scar does not permanently damage the fabric of our society.
This will need vigilance, co-operation, unity, goodwill, and above all, a realisation that our young but great country is now part of a world in which international and internal violence and terrorism has become almost commonplace.
It is in recognition of these facts that we must build further on the past pattern of Commonwealth and State co-operation. As a result of the review which the Government has undertaken, it has been decided that further steps must be taken to fulfill its responsibility to safeguard our society while protecting the individual rights and liberties of all Australians.
The steps the Government proposes fall into two categories.
Immediate action will be taken in those areas where the experience of the last few weeks has made apparent the need for improvement. Additional measures which, by their nature, require further detailed examination will be taken on the advice of a review which the Government is establishing.
Clearly the co-operation of the States is indispensable and I shall be writing to the State Premiers on these issues.
The immediate measures which we propose are these:
We shall be proposing to the States the establishment of a Standing Advisory Committee on Commonwealth State Co-operation for Protection against Violence. The Committee, which I expect to be comprised of the most senior civilian and police officials, will be charged with the task of achieving the highest degree of efficient operation and co-operation on a nation-wide basis.
While selected Commonwealth and State Police are currently trained in counter-terrorist techniques, the Government believes that training in counter-terrorist strategy and tactics should be greatly intensified. To achieve this, experienced instructors will be obtained to provide appropriate training courses for police and relevant civil authorities. They will be drawn from the United Kingdom, and other nations with first-hand counter-terrorist experience. I believe this training is necessary for our police forces, and that such a program would also assist the States.
In addition, funds will be made available to enable more State, Territorial and Commonwealth police to be sent overseas to gain experience in the most modern methods of preventing and dealing with all forms of terrorism.
I am also proposing to the Premiers a total review of the adequacy and mutual compatibility of police equipment. The review should examine police communications systems and determine the need for a common and secure nation-wide police communication network. The Commonwealth will discuss with the States the provision of financial assistance to ensure that essential equipment is made available.
All honourable senators will agree with me that the protection of our society- and all the people who live and work in it- is of the utmost importance. I am convinced all Premiers share this view. The prospects of effective co-operation are real.
I also inform the Senate that Sir Robert Mark, who has recently retired as Commissioner of London Metropolitan Police (New Scotland Yard) has, at the Government’s request, made himself immediately available to advise on the organisation of police resources in the Commonwealth area and measures for protective security and counter-terrorism.
In addition to these immediate measures, the Government believes it of the utmost importance that a review be undertaken of the whole area of protective security in Australia by a person who has an appreciation of intelligence and security operations, and a concern for the liberties of individual men and women of Australia. I am happy to be able to advise the House that the Premier of New South Wales has agreed to make Mr Justice Hope available to carry out this review, and I thank him for his prompt cooperation.
I have received from the Leader of the Opposition a thoughtful and constructive letter which manifests a clear concern both for security and civil liberties. The Government, however, concluded that a review conducted by Mr Justice Hope would be the most effective and appropriate way to proceed, and that the terms of the review embrace the very proper concerns of the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr Justice Hope will be empowered to take a fully comprehensive review. The matters he will consider will include:
This would include the particular case of relationships between ASIO and the Special Branches of State police forces on which I have already been in communication with the Premiers.
For instance, whether it is desirable or possible in law, to provide for a single police commander in given situations.
For example, if an incident occurs in New South Wales, should a senior New South Wales officer be in charge, not only of New South Wales police but also of available Commonwealth forces and instrumentalities.
These are the broad areas which Mr Justice Hope will examine. The Commonwealth will be discussing them with the States and stands ready to amend them if necessary in the light of such discussions.
The introduction of any legislation as a result of Mr Justice Hope’s review will, of course, present the opportunity for Parliamentary examination of the relevant issues.
I should also add that Ministers and their departments have been asked to ensure that their protective security arrangements are fully adequate. The review to be undertaken by Mr Justice Hope does not detract in any way from this responsibility.
Mr Speaker, I believe this Parliament and the Parliaments of the States recognise their overriding obligation to take all necessary steps to protect Australians from acts of terrorism, while protecting individual personal liberties.
I recall in this context the statement in the Rockefeller reports on the Central Intelligence Agency quoted by Mr Justice Hope in his fourth report on intelligence and security:
The measures which have been announced today strike the balance between the need to respond decisively to the threat of terrorism and the imperative of preserving Australia’s character as an open society and the democratic freedoms we all hold paramount.
Terrorism is a crime against every Australian. It will not be tolerated, either by the people of Australia or by their Parliamentary representatives.
-I present the following paper:
Protective Security and Counter-terrorism- Ministerial Statement, 28 February 1978 and move:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wriedt) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Maunsell)- by leaveagreed to:
That, in accordance with the recommendations contained in the Report of Estimates Committee B, presented to the Senate on 1 3 October 1977, the following matter be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations-
The continuing review of expenditure by departments in the following areas, with particular reference to the related cost-benefit:
increased expenditure on computer use. without any resultant savings:
hire of pot plants where less costly alternatives, such as the provision of room dividers, might have achieved the desired result; and
the purchase by departments of newspapers and periodicals.
Motion (by Senator Rae)- by leave- agreed to:
That, in accordance with the recommendations contained in the Report of Estimates Committee F, presented to the Senate on 13 October 1977, the following matters be referred to the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations-
Procedures and practices of the Commonwealth in relation to the engagement and employment of consultants.
The establishment, operation and disposal of Wiltona Hostel, Melbourne, Victoria.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act 1933.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move:
The second reading speech for this Bill is in the same terms as that for the Northern Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill 1978, which I shall introduce subsequent to the introduction of this Bill. These Bills are in the same form as Bills which were introduced into the other House last year but which lapsed upon the dissolution of that House. The purpose of the Bills is to permit the making of regulations fixing fees to be charged in the Supreme courts of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. In the past, fees have been fixed either by rules of court or by ordinance. The previous Labor Government had a policy that, generally speaking, court fees should not be charged. In pursuance of that policy the judges of the Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory Supreme Courts amended the rules of each court to abolish most fees in those courts. This Government believes that court fees should be imposed, so that those who have recourse to the courts will contribute towards their cost. When this matter was raised with the judges, the Australian Capital Territory judges pointed out, quite properly, that the question of court fees appeared to have taken on some political significance because of the. difference of view between the previous Labor Government and this Government, and that it may therefore be more appropriate for fees to be imposed by the Executive Government. The Government respects the position of the Territory judges in not wishing to be involved in a matter of this kind that might be the subject of political difference.
Accordingly, the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill and the Northern Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill are brought in. I would add that the Federal Court of Australia Act and the Family Law Act each empowers the making of regulations to provide for fees payable in respect of proceedings in the Federal Court of Australia and in the Family Court of Australia and other courts exercising jurisdiction under the Family Law Act. The proposed amendments to the Territory Supreme Court Acts therefore bring them into line with the other courts created by the Parliament in this respect. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to amend the Northern Territory Supreme Court Act 1 96 1 .
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing Orders suspended.
– I move:
As I foreshadowed in my second reading speech in relation to the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill, the reasons for the proposed amendment to the Northern Territory Supreme Court Act are exactly the same as those for the amendment to the Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Act. Therefore, I do not propose to repeat those reasons.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Durack) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to the admissibility or business records in evidence in proceedings in federal courts.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
The Bill which was introduced in the last Parliament, but lapsed on its dissolution, will amend the Evidence Act 1905 to provide for business records to be admitted as evidence of the matters contained in them in proceedings before the High Court, the Federal Court of Australia and other Federal courts on a uniform basis.
Under the present law, the admissibility of such records depends on the law of the State in which the court sits. Laws of evidence relating to the admissibility of business records vary from State to State, so that the law to be applied in particular proceedings in, say, the Federal Court of Australia under the Trade Practices Act depends on the State in which the proceedings are heard. A change of venue, or an adjournment of proceedings from one State to another may therefore result in a change in the applicable law, and even in evidence being rejected which would have been admissible had the proceedings continued in the original State. The Swanson Committee that reported on the Trade Practices Act therefore recommended that that Act should be amended to allow business records to be admitted in evidence, along the lines of the recommendations made on the subject by the New South Wales Law Reform Commission. Provisions for this purpose were at first included in the Trade Practices Bill introduced into the Parliament in February last year. The Government subsequently decided that it would be desirable to apply such provisions generally to proceedings in Federal courts. They were then removed from that Bill. Under the present Bill the provisions for business records to be admitted as evidence will apply to all proceedings before the High Court and Federal courts.
The Bill mirrors very closely provisions contained in the New South Wales Evidence Act following an amendment to that Act in 1976 to give effect to the report of the New South Wales Law Reform Commission. In the absence of a special statutory provision, business records are not generally admissible in a legal proceeding to prove matters which are recorded in them. This exclusion results from the fact that business records, like other written material, are regarded as hearsay evidence. The rule against hearsay evidence applies to exclude evidence which is not within the actual knowledge of the witness. As a general rule, the exclusion of hearsay evidence is clearly based on a sound principle. To quote from a classic statement of that principle, ‘hearsay evidence … is not the best evidence, and is not delivered on oath. The truthfulness and accuracy of the person whose words are spoken by another witness cannot be tested by cross-examination and the light which his demeanor would throw on his testimony is lost ‘.
The admissibility of business records under the Bill is not intended to detract from the value accorded to oral evidence given on oath in court. Where evidence is given in person the worth of that evidence can be properly assessed by crossexamination and in the light of the manner and conduct of the person giving it. It could be expected that, where practicable, oral evidence will continue to be given on matters of importance and on matters which are likely to be the subject of dispute, notwithstanding that evidence of those matters could also be admitted in the form of a business record.
There are, however, occasions when evidence, which is strictly hearsay evidence, should be admissible. In certain circumstances hearsay evidence may be the best or only evidence available on a particular matter. Business records are likely to be created in circumstances which will often make them the most reliable record of the facts contained in them. They are, for example, likely to be created at the time of or soon after the occurrence of events recorded in them, when there is a clear recollection of those events. Furthermore, where a record is maintained in the course of a business, there is generally no incentive to misrepresent the matters contained in the record.
The need to provide a means of enabling such records to be used in evidence in legal proceedings arises, in many cases, because of the difficulty in locating or identifying the person who made the relevant record. In other cases, the expense or delay involved in calling witnesses to give evidence in person on a minor or noncontentious matter could be avoided by relying on a business record which contains evidence of that matter. The term ‘business records’ is intended to cover a wide range of documents. Documents created by Government in the course of administration, as well as those created by business in the commercial sense, are included. The records, which will be admissible under the Bill, will include documentary records such as books, plans, paper and the like, and records obtainable by mechanical devices, such as computers.
The Bill contains certain restrictions on the admissibility of business records designed to ensure that a party against whom such records are sought to be used as evidence is not unfairly prejudiced. A wide discretion is given to a court to exclude evidence, otherwise admissible under the Bill, where its admission would be unfair to a party to the proceedings. The Bill provides for the court to take account of all the circumstances from which an inference can reasonably be drawn as to the accuracy or otherwise of the statement, and evidence of the credibility of the maker of the statement is admissible to the same extent as it would be if the person had been called as a witness. As well, there are special safeguards regarding the use of business records in a criminal proceedings.
I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Sim) agreed to:
That the Senate, having considered the Report of Estimates Committee A, dated 6 October 1977-
requests the Government to give an undertaking to table Departmental Estimates Explanatory Notes on the day immediately following the presentation to the Parliament of the Annual Estimates, as contained in the papers presenting the Particulars of Proposed Expenditure, and the day immediately following the presentation of the Additional Estimates, as contained in the papers presenting the Particulars of Proposed Additional Expenditure; and
recommends that the Department of Finance, after reviewing Reports of Estimates Committees over recent years, submit to a meering of Estimates Committee Chairmen a style of Explanatory Notes, embracing both form and content, to be used as a model by all departments and statutory authorities.
Debate resumed from 23 February on motion by Senator Walters:
That the following Address-in-Reply be agreed to:
To His Excellency the Governor-General
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY-
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
-When I began my speech last Thursday I discussed the situation in the Antarctic because it is currently of intense interest. A big conference in Canberra at the moment is discussing Antarctica. I mentioned that it is the coldest, windiest, driest, highest and the least accessible and least known of all the seven continents in the world. I mentioned that since 1959 it had been administered by 12 nations under one of the most successful international treaties in the world. The treaty froze all territorial claims there and banned military activity there. It established a free flow of scientific and technical knowledge between the cooperating nations. Currently, of course, there is growing tension around the world as we move to the development of the Antarctic. It has several resources, most of which are in huge supply. The ones in contention at the moment are largely krill, off-shore oil and gas, coal, iron ore, and the possibility of uranium and other minerals.
Antarctica is a huge continent. It covers onetenth of the world’s land surface. On Thursday last I mentioned that it is divided almost across the centre by the Transantarctic Range into an eastern section, which is the larger and geologically older section- it is a huge, high, frozen plateau more than 13,000 feet high- and a western section, ‘ Lesser Antarctica, which is dominated by mountain ranges which thrust up through the ice and snow. The ice is more than a mile thick and covers 98 per cent of the surface of Antarctica. There is little or no daylight there for six months of the year. The land mass itself is almost lifeless, but the seas around it are some of the most bountiful in the world. These seas abound in krill, which is a Norwegian sailor’s word meaning whale food. There are many species of krill, which are rather like shrimps. They are herbivores, crustaceans, which feed on phytoplanktons. They are luminescent at night and tend to swarm and are therefore easy to harvest as long as they can be found. There are problems, of course, because it is often difficult to find the swarms and after the krill are caught they spoil very easily. Catch rates can be up to 40 tonnes an hour, which is really fishing. It is estimated that 50 million tonnes a year can be harvested without detriment to the krill population. That figure compares with a total world catch of 70 million tonnes in 1974. Krill have a protein content of about 1 5 per cent, with some species containing more than that. In other words, a 70 million tonne catch would provide 20 grams of protein for one billion people, which is one quarter of the world ‘s poplulation
Two nations, Japan and Russia, are intensely interested in and have spent a lot of money on harvesting the krill. They process it and use it to a large extent for domestic consumption, although they also export it. Other nations, including West Germany, Chile and Poland are doing experimental work on krill, and Taiwan and Norway are showing interest in the area.
– Is krill a new commodity?
– It has been known for years as the food of whales, but now it is being harvested for protein and food for people. It is present in huge quantities, and that is why I mentioned the 40 tonne catches. To catch 40 tonnes of prawns an hour is tremendous fishing. I will say more about that later. No oil or gas has yet been discovered, but certainly there are smells of it, particularly on the continental shelf. Recent United States reports show that there could be as much oil in Antarctica as there is in the whole Alaskan field, and the Americans estimate that the extraction problems are not insurmountable.
I have mentioned the Gondwanaland hypothesis, which holds that Antarctica was once joined to South America, Australasia and South Africa, and it is thought that the minerals, oil and gas in those areas might be replicated in the Antarctic region. The evidence found so far shows that that is probably so. Although no uranium has yet been discovered, rocks have been found in Antarctica that are very similar to Australian rocks which bear uranium. Of course, coal was discovered in some of the earliest explorations of Antarctica- in the eastern part, that is, the Australian, Norwegian and New Zealand sectors. Those areas could contain the world’s largest coal deposits. However, the coal is inaccessible and is relatively impure. Iron ore has been found in huge quantities- almost mountains of it- in the Prince Charles Mountains in the east and is potentially winnable. It is estimated that there is sufficient iron ore there to satisfy world demand at the present rate for the next 200 years. However, because of the difficulties involved, I doubt that it will be mined until present deposits are depleted.
Even the ice in Antarctica has been tested as a resource. Further staggering figures for the region show that the ice cap contains 70 per cent of the world ‘s store of fresh water and 90 per cent of the world’s ice. Each year 1.4 trillion tonnes of ice break off and melt. That equals 350 tonnes of ice annually for each human being on earth. The French have researched the possibility of towing icebergs to the more arid parts of the world to see whether they can be used for water.
Because Antarctica has many resources, a number of countries are now evincing an interest in actually owning parts of Antarctica. Between 1908 and 1946 six countries- Australia, Argentina, Chile, France, New Zealand and the United Kingdom- made formal territorial claims. These claims were based on discovery, occupation and performance of administrative acts such as issuing decrees, printing stamps, building post offices and continuity of activity and contiguity. The claims of the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand cover two-thirds of the Antarcticcontinent. All the claims made to date have been pie-shaped and directed towards the South Pole, and five- those of Australia, France, New
Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdomhave been recognised. Belgium, Japan and South Africa do not recognise any claims, while the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics have reserved their rights. To compound the confusion, claims by Argentina, Chile and the United Kingdom overlap. In addition, 1 5 per cent of the area has never been claimed by anyone, but that portion is tacitly regarded as a United States area. A few countries have longstanding claims to various sub-Antarctic islands which were used as whaling and sealing bases. They are now deserted and relatively useless, but they are important because of the 200-mile exclusive economic zone.
– Are any of those cases before the International Court of Justice for arbitration?
– Not now. No claim in regard to the islands has been made, but they are important because of previous occupancy as sealing and whaling bases. During the International Geophysical Year in 1957-58 Antarctica was given very special attention, and 12 countries subsequently implemented scientific and research projects. A gentleman’s agreement was made shelving all political activity in Antarctica and maintaining it as an international laboratory for research to be used only for peaceful purposes. The treaty was signed in 1951 and became operative in 1961, when it was signed by all 12 participating powers- the seven original countries as well as Belgium, Japan, South Africa, the United States and the USSR. Poland ratified the treaty in 1977, and it has been acceded to by Czechoslovakia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Rumania, the German Democratic Republic and Brazil. Federal Germany and Uruguay have expressed interest in acceding to the treaty, and several of the acceding nations are moving now to its ratification.
The first provision of the treaty is that Antarctica is to be used only for peaceful purposes, but military personnel and equipment can be used for scientific and other peaceful purposes. The second provision relates to the freedom of scientific investigation and co-operation. The third provision relates to the freezing of the legal status quo. Fourthly, nuclear explosions and waste disposal are banned in Antarctica, and appointed observers from the participating powers have been given free right of access into any area. It is interesting to note that this is the first time the United States and the USSR have agreed to any mutual inspection rights. Full membership of the treaty is limited to the twelve original signatories and any acceding state demonstrating continued scientific interest and activity. However, the original treaty was ambiguous about the exploitation of the resources. For example it did not refer to the non-living resources and was very non-specific in its reference to the living resources. The reason for the conferences now being held is that the treaty powers disagree on whether exploitation on the land or the seabed is compatible with the treaty. That has raised several questions, not the least of which is who will decide the issue.
In the second half of the twentieth century, there has been a thrust in law making for areas clearly that are beyond the natural jurisdiction of nations- for example, the moon, outer space and the seabed. Antarctica could be seen as another of these areas especially by those who wish to internationalise it; but to me that would appear to be a chimeric proposition. The United Nations Declaration of Principles of 1 970 stated:
Antarctica could be considered, in that sense, as similar to the seabed, as it is beyond the limits of national jurisdictions that are already recognised. The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Japan are opposed to any mineral exploitation of the area. The United States favours it, and the position of other nations lies somewhere between the two. There is also division among the Treaty powers as to what forms of mineral exploitation are desirable. For example, some powers feel that any oil or gas which may be found on their claims belong to them. Australia is one of these.
In settling these factors, certain truths should be borne in mind. First, Antarctic ecosystems contain relatively few species, and that these are extremely vulnerable to disturbance. Krill, for example, is the main link in a complex food web which supplies many oceans. Unwise harvesting could upset many different species of fish, up to and including the whale. The Southern Ocean may represent only 5 per cent of the world’s ocean waters, but represents some 20 per cent of all the marine photosynthesis that takes place in those waters and photosynthesis is vital to the life of oceans.
Antarctica plays an important role in the circulation in deep oceans, especially the circulation of nutriments that are carried to far flung fishing grounds that are important to other nations. Antarctica has a critical influence on oceanic and atmospheric circulation. Thus, of course, it has an effect on global climate.
– We need to be very cautious then.
– We do. Oil spills, leakages and blowouts could have a devastating effect down there.
– They have had them already in Alaska, despite all the promises.
– Yes. All development has some risk to it.
– But the oil lobby reckoned it would not have any.
– In Antarctica such occurrences are almost inevitable, given the pack ice and its movement. There is the further difficulty that in that region it would take a lot longer for oil to degrade. Some estimates are that it might take 50 years and that, with diffusion and the movement of the ice, the oil could run onto the actual surface and thus alter the radiation balance. Another serious effect is that it could change the reflectivity of the surface and thus have global climatic implications for climate, including our own.
As major conflicts ensue among conservationists, fisheries and mineral developers, we must see that a balanced approach is taken. This is what I plead for now, because, if we do not achieve that, all of us could be the losers. I take this opportunity of saying to the participants in the Conference presently being held in Canberra that I wish them well.
– This will be one of the few occasions during debate when I have not had cause to disagree with anything that Senator Sheil has said. He has posed a number of problems, especially in the area of fishing within the 200-mile economic zone, which have huge international ramifications, especially in the South Pacific. It is an issue that could, whether we like it or not, drag us into a dispute with some of the super powers.
I take this opportunity to congratulate Senator Haines on her maiden speech, which I thought was concise, to the point, and perhaps more important for all of us, brief. I also agreed with her conclusion, in looking at the voting for the Senate, that this Government had nothing to cheer about because more than 54 per cent of the Australian people had not voted for it.
I wish to take the opportunity afforded by the Address-in-Reply debate to raise a number of issues. May I first say how pleased I was to witness the new Governor-General deliver his Speech. I am sure he will serve in his office more honourably, and with less controversy, than did his immediate predecessor.
– And he did not mumble: He was clear when he was speaking.
– Yes. I know that we on this side of the Chamber have already been lectured by the Leader of the Government, Senator Withers, on this matter. We have been told that for us it is a wrong issue; that, in fact, we are only damaging ourselves in pursuing it. However, I believe that the people of Australia are just beginning to realise that we have been right all the time on this matter. I was one who believed after the elected Government was sacked in 1975 and convincingly defeated at the polls that the majority of Australians agreed with Kerr’s actions; but at least 40 per cent violently disagreed with them. They knew that the Governor-General had not informed the Prime Minister, let alone the Government of his intentions. In fact, on a number of well-documented occasions he intentionally deceived members of the then government.
This 40 per cent of the people, including some of Australia ‘s leading constitutional lawyers and historians, saw through the plotting that was taking place between Kerr, Barwick and Fraser: They realised what was happening. I also believe that a large proportion of the Australian people who voted to oust the Labor Government at that time had some misgivings about the way in which the election was engineered. But what happened? By 1977 the scars had almost healed. Many had forgotten what had happened. But in late 1977 John Kerr granted the Government an election in mid term. It seemed that Kerr was determined to give the other side an election whether it wanted one or not, whether it was in government or in opposition.
Shortly afterwards we found out why John Kerr was always so good to the protectors of the establishment. In full public eye, he accepted the big payoff, more than $70,000 a year plus benefits and the hardships of the post in Paris, a large income by any standards, but surely a cheap reward for dividing his nation, undermining the very fibre of Australian constitutional democracy and degrading the position of Head of State of the Australian Commonwealth. Who would have believed that so cynical a deal, and so dishonest a deal, could have been set up- a job in exchange for sacking an elected government, for calling an unjustifiable early election and then retiring in time for the electorate to forget about the shame of 1 1 November.
Now we find a situation where every newspaper editorial in the country attacks the cynicism of those manoeuvres. The electorate is beginning to wake up, and the 40 per cent to whom I referred in regard to the events of 1975 has increased to an overwhelming majority. The attacks from this side of the chamber have been justified. I believe it has now been proven that it has not been a wrong issue for us at all.
– Is this the argument by which you hope to get back?
-No, Senator, but I do believe it is something that ought to be put into the records of this Senate.
– I thought that was your process.
– I think we ought to look to the future, to what we should be doing about a situation such as I have been describing. We should be looking at means of updating and improving our constitution. It is simply not good enough to appoint a new Governor-General every time the old one becomes an embarrassment. We need to establish a commission to review the functions and nature of the Constitution, which was framed before many of the developments of the 20th century- such as industrialisation, the need for increased Government participation in the economy, guaranteed employment, the rights of trade unionists, basic human rights, civil liberties and the role of political parties within the governmental systembecame as important as they are today.
Senator Baume gave us a lecture about how we on this side of the chamber had to pull up our socks and try harder. It reminded me of a football coach telling everybody at half time to play the game a little harder. He said:
One of the challenges facing the Thirty-first Parliament is to ensure that the Opposition in both chambers begins at last to function as an effective, active, involved Opposition, doing its job properly.
He went on to say:
In this chamber. . . . we -
That is the Government-
It is easy to say that but after the events of 1 975 and 1 977 we on this side could hardly be blamed for thinking that whatever is said here is irrelevant. As Senator Button said earlier that day, the biggest threat to Parliament in this country is the growing cynicism towards the institution itself.
As one who lost in the last election and who has examined that defeat I shall make a few brief and general comments. I admit that the issue of tax cuts and the whole grey area concerning the benefits to be gained certainly damaged the Labor Party very badly. During that campaign we also saw some of the most scandalous political advertising ever with regard to the economy generally. There were a number of such advertisements. I refer to only two of them. There was the advertisement with the balloons. There was a large balloon with 19 per cent written on it. Underneath were the words ‘ Under Labor Inflation’. There was a smaller balloon with 9 per cent written on it, supposedly representing the Liberals’ performance on inflation control. The figures used represented the highest quarterly inflation rate under the Labor Government from 1972 to 1975 and the lowest quarterly figure under the Liberal Government from 1975 to 1977. The figure of 19 per cent for Labor represented a doubling of the figure for the September and December quarters in 1974- a six-month period. The figure of 9 per cent supposedly representing the Liberal Government’s performance was arrived at by adding together the three quarters from January to December 1 977 and then multiplying it oneandahalf times.
Another advertisement showed a woman with two children and a spiel that indicated that with the Liberals’ child endowment increases she would be much better off. The advertisement did not mention that the Government had taken away the tax concessions for dependent children. In fact, the average woman with two dependent children would be considerably worse off financially because of the removal of the tax concessions. Because child endowment is not indexed she would become progressively worse off. They are two examples of what I said was the most scandalous political advertising I can remember. On a number of occasions during the campaign elderly people came to me in response to some of this advertising and said: ‘Senator, if the Labor Party gets in why would it take our tax cuts from us and give them to the large multinational companies?’ If that situation was not so tragic it would be funny.
A lot of critics have forecast the end of the Labor Party and a whole new era in Australian politics as a result of the 1977 election. One issue that seems to have been ignored by a great majority of them is the similarity between the elections of 1974 and 1977. As I went around New South Wales I was consistently told- I certainly did not agree with it- that this Government had not been in power terribly long and it deserved another chance. That was very similar to the sorts of things that were being said in 1974. 1 believe that was a crucial element in the election campaign and, as I said, one the critics seem to be ignoring.
In regard to the role of the media and communications, especially that which influences the relationships between the electorate and members of Parliament, I would like to suggest certain possible improvements. As all honourable senators on the Opposition side of the chamber do, I believe in the importance of a completely free Press for the improvement of Australia and the preservation of a democratic society. The question we have to ask ourselves is: Just how free is the Press in Australia at the moment?’ Those of us who believe in a fair and equitable dissemination of information throughout the community must question a system which allows a handful of wealthy individuals to dictate the editorial line and in some cases to direct journalists to report events and statements in a deliberately biased fashion.
This makes Mr Packer, Mr Fairfax and Mr Murdoch three of the most powerful men in Australia. They are not elected. In all three cases they hold their power not only by virtue of talent in their particular field but also because of inheritance. They obviously have interests in common with the most wealthy and powerful sections of the community and little sympathy for anybody or anything except their own bank accounts. They are very much in the mould of the big monopolies, squeezing or buying out competitors and building empires. One must carefully scrutinise the term often used to describe them as Press barons. We must seriously ask: What is the place of a feudalistic method of imposing the will of the few on the many who work for them and also the countless others who are forced to read their Press in Australia because there is no other available source of information?
Any honourable senator on the Government side of the chamber would have to admit that the Press was exceptionally biased both in editorial policy and in the selection of material to be reported. Any responsible government, not just a Labor government but any true Liberal government, would not approve of what has become a very disturbing element in Australian society. Many of our industries are monopolies or near monopolies because of the relatively small market in Australia. There are ways by which an Australian government could encourage improvements in the field of the media. For example, it would be possible by offering various taxation and other incentives to corporations involved in the media to encourage the establishment within the structure of each newspaper of an editorial board of the professional journalists working for the newspaper elected by the reporting staff of that paper. There is also the possibility of establishing a commission with a similar degree of autonomy to the Australian Broadcasting Commission with terms of reference directed towards the publication of a newspaper. It could also be involved in the publication of Australian literature and other articles which commercial media enterprises are either unable or unwilling to publish at present.
I raise briefly another matter which was brought to my attention more strongly than ever during the Federal election campaign and immediately afterwards. That is the electoral system. Although I was defeated I was the second last candidate eliminated. An analysis of the total Australian Labor Party vote for the Senate against the ALP vote for the House of Representatives in New South Wales shows that the ALP proportion of the vote in percentage terms was a full 2 per cent smaller for the Senate than for the House of Representatives. A large percentage of people, without a doubt, wanted to cast a formal Senate vote but were thwarted by the outdated and complicated Senate system under which we are presently operating. I have talked to people who scrutineered during the election campaign. In NSW the percentage of informal votes was down to 9 per cent. That is a lot lower than it was in 1975 and 1974. But the scrutineers told me that practically all of the 9 per cent of people tried to cast a deliberate formal vote. There was not a very large protest vote by people not even trying to vote.
During the campaign and afterwards I personally heard of several occasions of blatant discrimination against the less educated and poorer sections of the community. For example, Aborigines were intimidated by employees of the Commonwealth Electoral Office or Electoral Office staff allowed people to be intimidated. I shall make a point about this. I am referring to casual employees, those people who were put on just for the election. I am not talking about the full time officials whom I have always found to do a very good job in very tiring circumstances, operating under an Act which is years out of date. Because the Act is complicated and because these people are casual employees they become just as confused as the people who are trying to vote. Whilst it could be said that this has hurt many members of the migrant community who might be voting for the Australian Labor Party, if one examines the figures one will see that it should also worry the National Country Party. In a number of rural electorates the percentage of the informal vote was much higher than the State average in New South Wales.
I have said in this place on a number of occasions that the present electoral system is badly in need of reform. I have suggested certain possible remedies, including the introduction of optional preferential voting, and various measures to get rid of the joke and nuisance candidates who persist in standing for the Senate and further complicating not only the system of balloting but also delaying the finalising of the count and complicating counting procedures. I believe that in 1974 at least some people stood for the Senate purely as a tax dodge. The result of the last Senate election in New South Wales, even without a recount, was not known for at least a month following the ballot date. The other day I was very pleased to hear Senator Withers say that in the life of this Parliament a complete review of the Electoral Act would be undertaken. Because of that fact I will not go into any further detail but it is something which I think should concern all honourable senators.
The last area of electoral reform on which I should like to touch is the matter of public funding and the accountability of political parties as to the origins of their funds. It became obvious to me both as a senator and previously, when like Senator Mulvihill I was Assistant Secretary of the New South Wales Branch of the Labor Party, that the Liberal Party and the Country Party had financial resources which far outstripped the resources of parties such as the Labor Party and the Australian Democrats. They have more than we could ever hope to have. If one takes the last election, one can see that the cost of running election campaigns in this country today has become crippling for all parties. I recently read a statement by the Liberal Party in New South Wales. It appeared in that Party’s own journal and I believe most of the contents of the article. The article set out the Party’s financial situation and although it was certainly better than that of the New South Wales Branch of the Labor Party it was not a particularly good financial situation.
The Labor Party operates on a shoestring budget. We have considerably fewer full time officials and nowhere near the amount of money to spend on research, advertising and other campaign expenses that the Government parties have. The political system itself falls into disrepute when citizens can see the enormous amounts of money used by parties but are unable to find the origin of these moneys. I believe that in the future it should be necessary for all political parties and candidates to submit a balance sheet of income and expenditure in the same way as public companies are obligated to publish annual reports. However, because both-
– Do companies have to publicise their customers?
– Because both major political parties in this country are unable to be certain of the source of their funds- they would no doubt be embarrassed to some extent by the exposure of the source of their funds. I believe that this would apply more to the conservative parties than to my own party. I think it is important that the Australian Government begins to undertake research into a fairer system of public funding for political parties and for candidates. Accordingly I placed on notice a motion in the last Parliament that a parliamentary committee be established to review the possibilities of setting up such a system in Australia. I propose to speak further to this matter in the Parliament in the future.
-Mr Deputy President, I rise to support the motion which has been so ably moved and seconded by my colleagues Senator Walters and Senator Collard respectively. The Address-in-Reply debate traditionally affords the Senate an opportunity not only of examining the record of achievement of the Government during the time of the previous Parliament but also of looking at the initiatives proposed for the present Parliament. As His Excellency stated in his Speech, after two years of hard work and substantial achievement Australians now look forward to the future with a new-found confidence. Australia is a land of great opportunity with great potential for development. In that regard it is in a fortunate position compared with various other countries both in its own area and in the world generally because of the rich natural resources contained in .its vast open spaces. These, of course, are basic essentials to a developing nation.
– If that is the case we should not have any unemployment.
– That does not necessarily follow; it is not quite as simple as that. The Government’s record of achievement over the past two years in reducing the annual rate of inflation to single figures is now history. Whilst a large number of unemployed people is a matter of grave concern to all honourable senators, the control of inflation, coupled with the Government’s policy of reducing taxation, together with other initiatives proposed, should produce some reductions in the number of unemployed people over the months that lie ahead. Of course, the effect is not yet apparent of the taxation reductions that took effect on 1 February last, but I suggest that over the months that follow it will become apparent. The great thing about taxation deductions is that they put more take home pay in the pocket of every worker in Australia. People tend to spend the excess income which is generated by the taxation cuts. This increases consumer demand and brings about a situation where employment opportunities are created.
I want to devote some of the time available to me in this debate to deal with some of the pressing problems faced by the primary industries and rural areas of Australia. I want to deal first with the dairying industry. I am conscious of the fact that this is a States House and in the course of my remarks I intend to indicate the injustice to my State of Victoria of the proposed legislation to implement Stage 2 of the document known as the Crawford report but which is an Industries Assistance Commission report which was commissioned into the dairying industry. Stage 1 of the legislation was passed by the Federal Parliament last year. The Victorian section of the dairying industry claims to be disadvantaged by the proposals which were accepted by the Australian Agricultural Council at its January meeting for Stage 2. The Australian Agricultural Council is constituted by the Federal Minister for Primary Industry and the State Ministers for Primary Industry. In this case a majority of the States have suggested that the legislation take a certain form, which I indicate is not in the best interests of the Victorian dairy farmers.
The allocation of the State aggregate entitlements is set out in a statement issued by the Federal Minister for Primary Industry dated 13 February 1978. 1 have with me a copy of that statement. It shows that Victoria is the only State where production will be reduced. Every other State has been allotted an entitlement which accords with its present production. That in itself is a pretty clear indication that Victoria is at a disadvantage. When we look at the figures we find that New South Wales has as its entitlement 1 1,200 tonnes of butterfat and that Victoria has 99,800 tonnes as its entitlement. I quote these figures to show that the preponderance of the dairying industry is in Victoria. Whether one takes in the number of cows, the amount of production or the number of producers, Victoria has well over 50 per cent of the Australian total. Queensland has an entitlement of 1 1,000 tonnes of butterfat; South Australia, 7,300 tonnes; Western Australia, 3,300 tonnes; and Tasmania, 12,600 tonnes. Victoria has far more than all the other States put together. I seek leave to have that document incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
The allocation of the NAE amongst the States i.e. the State Aggregate Entitlements (SAE’s) would be as follows:
– As I have already said, Victoria is the only State which on present figures produces more than its entitlement. To explain the disadvantaged position of Victoria one must refer to the situation in respect of market milk, whole milk or city milk, as it is sometimes called. It is not included in the entitlement scheme, and this is the basic objection from Victoria. We have a marketing scheme which is supposed to be comprehensive for the Commonwealth; yet it ignores 30 per cent of the total production of the industry throughout Australia.
I have another table which is supplied by the Victorian Dairy Industry Authority. It shows, in precentage terms, the production of manufactured dairy products as against whole milk or market milk production, averaged over the last three-year period- 1974-75, 1975-76 and 1 976-77. In New South Wales the percentages of production are: Manufactured milk 27.3 per cent and whole milk 72.7 per cent. The situation is that in the State of New South Wales 72.7 per cent of production is outside the entitlement scheme and is not subject to restriction in any way. In Victoria, however, manufactured milk represents 83.7 per cent of total production, whereas the production of whole milk, market milk or city milk represents only 16.3 per cent. I think that vividly illustrates the difference between States. Tasmania, as Senator Wright well knows, is in virtually the same position as Victoria because 85.4 per cent of its production is manufactured milk and only 14.6 per cent is whole milk. Whole milk attracts a much higher price relatively than does manufactured milk. That has been the situation in the industry over many years, and I suppose everyone has learnt to live with it. The issue which is taken here is that whole milk is completely outside the entitlement scheme. If we are to have a comprehensive marketing scheme in the dairy industry, surely it is unreal to exclude from the impact of the scheme a significant proportion of the total production throughout Australia.
The table from which I have quoted shows that market milk represents about 30 per cent of total production in Australia. As I have suggested, it is quite unreal for such a significant quantity of total production to be outside what is supposed to be a comprehensive scheme. Any government scheme should be designed to ensure that efficient production, at the lowest possible cost, will be achieved. It is interesting to note, as has been pointed out by my colleague in the other place the honourable member for Murray (Mr Lloyd), that on a butterfat basis, even with the inclusion of market milk, a dairy farmer on the Victorian side of the Murray River receives little more than two-thirds of what his counterpart on the other side of the river in New South Wales receives for producing exactly the same amount of milk. Of course, he would be worse off if market milk were excluded. The authority for this statement is a paper produced by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics in October 1977. The position was highlighted to me personally when I visited Queensland about 18 months ago. At that time dairy farmers on the Atherton Tablelands received $1.20 per lb for butterfat. At that time Victorian dairy farmers were receiving only 60c per lb for 80 per cent of their product, the other 20 per cent being market milk.
Therefore, there is a grave disadvantage to Victoria in that the more inefficient farmers are being kept in the industry at the expense of the more efficient farmers. It is not necessarily the human element that makes production inefficient. The accidents of geography, irrigation, climatic conditions and a number of other factors combine to make certain areas in Australia better than other areas for producing primary products. In the case of dairying the Goulburn Valley in Victoria is undoubtedly the best area. Proof of that -
– What about Tasmania?
– Tasmania is all right. Proof of what I am saying is found if one looks back to the time immediately after World War II. The Berne Swiss Co., the largest manufacturing milk company in Europe, came to Australia and prospected the whole of Australia and New Zealand to see where it would establish a factory. It established a factory at Tongala in Victoria, where the Nestle Co. still operates as the successor in title to that company. Twelve months later, in 1948, the Carnation company, one of the largest manufacturing milk companies in America, came to Australia and did exactly the same exercise, lt chose a place called Merrigum, about 20 miles from Tongala. These companies set up their factories in an area in which production per acre was better than it was anywhere else in the Commonwealth, where they were certain of the supply of raw materials in the quantities they wanted.
I think what I have said clearly indicates the point that the legislation in its present form does not help the producer who can produce his product at the lowest price. In a sense it helps the inefficient farmer to stay in the industry at the expense of the more efficient farmer. That is not entirely the fault of the Federal Government. Circumstances in the States come into this, and the constitutional position affects it as well. In fact, the impotence of the Federal Government to move in certain areas of marketing has been well known over the years. It is only by cooperation between the State governments and the Federal Government that things can be achieved. When we have, as we have in this instance, well over 50 per cent of the production of a primary product in one State which has only one voice in six and is outvoted, to the detriment of the dairy farmers in that State who comprise well over 50 per cent of the total number of dairy farmers in the Commonwealth, the inequities of the situation become apparent.
On the manufacturing side of the industry, where this quota is to be imposed, Victoria is the only State in the Commonwealth in which production will be reduced. It is not only the primary producer who is affected by the reduction in production. The factories are affected and in turn that affects the towns. There are whole towns in Victoria- and, I think, in Tasmania- engaged in the dairy industry on an intensive basis, and if the dairy factory were taken out of the town it would become a dead town. It is easy to visualise the drastic effects of a cut in production. If it does not close that factory it limits the production of the factory and leads to more unemployment. I think a strong case can be made for the Government looking at this situation again. I do not think there is any great urgency about implementing stage 2 of this proposal. In view of the drought and the cutbacks in production, given the better markets for cheese and other products, the problem of overproduction is not as great as it was some 1 8 months or two years ago. I urge the Government to ensure that justice is done to the people in the industry in Victoria who are being disadvantaged. Perhaps the legislation could be reconsidered and deferred for a further 12 months until some more equitable proposal comes to hand.
I now turn to the question of telephone charges insofar as they affect people in country areas. It is well known, of course, that the problems of rural communities are compounded by the high telephone charges compared with the charges in capital cities. I do not think there is any greater injustice throughout Australia than the charges incurred by telephone users in rural areas in comparison with the charges incurred by city based subscribers. It is opportune that I should mention the matter in the course of this debate because this very important matter has already had a lot of Press publicity during the last fortnight following the record profit of $99m made by Telecom Australia for the 6 months ended 3 1 December last.
– Is that a net profit?
-Yes. It was reported in the Press.
– A net profit?
– Yes, I understand it was. It was published in the Press. Questions were asked in the Senate last week. Surely the magnitude of the profit should motivate the Government to give serious consideration to striking a real blow for decentralisation by equalising charges for metered telephone calls on a time basis irrespective of the distance. There are other methods of reducing the burden suffered in rural communities, particularly by country businesses. It is now apparent in my State of Victoria that the decentralisation initiatives which have been introduced on a wide and comprehensive basis by the present Government, including payroll tax exemptions, will be by no means complete unless something is done about telephone charges in country areas. Indeed, I would suggest to the Federal Government that the best decentralisation initiative it could take at this time would be to make money available to put telephone charges on a uniform basis, as 1 have suggested. At the very least an investigation should be held, either by Telecom or by some departmental committee or authority, to ascertain the cost of giving some relief to country subscribers. Responsible bodies such as the AlburyWodonga Development Corporation, the Victorian Employers Federation, the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures and the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and Industry are all urging the Government to take action along the lines that I have suggested.
I appreciate the problems which Telecom has in regard to its capital investment program and the expanding of its facilities, but surely, as a beginning, registered decentralised industries in States such as Victoria, where the State Government is already providing valuable assistance, should be given reduced telephone, telex and telegram charges. Indeed, I know of a number of instances in Victoria where the failure of the Federal Government to act in this regard has been a decisive factor in an industry refusing to move to country areas. The heavy penalty of excessive telephone charges destroys any basis of fair competition with similar factories in the capital cities. The suggestion was made as recently as last week by Mr Ian Spicer of the Victorian Employers Federation that a system should be introduced which would allow a registered decentralised industry to be charged the same rate for telephone, telex and telegrams as firms based in any of our capital cities. This would be an important first step towards a uniform charge for all Australian telephone, telex and telegram charges. I trust that the Government in framing its next Budget will give earnest consideration to introducing some initiatives which would give a measure of justice to country telephone subscribers, perhaps along the lines proposed in the fuel equalisation scheme. I do not suggest there is a true parallel between the two, but that is the type of relief which is required to give some justice to country subscribers.
I mention briefly the abolition of federal estate duty. I congratulate the Government on its election promise, which was confirmed in the Governor-General’s Speech, that federal estate duty will be abolished in respect of an estate which passes from spouse to spouse or parent to child. The legislation will be retrospective to 2 1 November last. There is a promise that in the next Budget estate and gift duties will be completely removed.
– I thought you believed in equalisation.
– This will be of considerable assistance. Senator Walsh, you are a farmer but apparently you do not realise the great advantage this reform will be to the farming community throughout Australia. I think you are out of step with the farmers. This reform will be of considerable assistance to farmers and small businesses which are run on a family basis. It will enable assets to be transmitted from generation to generation without the necessity of selling part of the assets or part of the family farm which are essential for the running of the business or the farm, as the case may be, to meet the demand of the federal estate duty assessment.
I want to say a few words on education. It is pleasing to note the Government’s initiative in making available $50m in addition to existing commitments. This sum will be used to improve technical education facilities in inner city areas and country towns. I think we all agree that the present-day system must be geared to meet the changing demands of modern technology. It is good to see technical and further education, which Tor many years has been the Cinderella of education services, at last receiving some due recognition. The initiatives of the Government in taking action to ensure that parents of handicapped children will pay no more for the education of their children than the parents of other children pay and also in providing further facilities for the education of children in isolated areas are also to be commended.
I make brief reference in this speech to the report on drugs by the Senate Standing Committee on Social Welfare, of which I was a member. That report was put down in the Senate towards the end of the last Parliament. The report highlights the problems of alcohol, tobacco, analgesics and cannabis use and abuse. There are now no fewer than three royal commissions in Australia into the cannabis or marihuana problem. A good deal of valuable information is contained in that Committee’s report. It has been well received throughout the community. I do not propose to deal with it in any length today but simply refer to it in relation to the appalling road toll which is still with us in every State of the Commonwealth.
I think it is interesting to note- too much publicity cannot be given to this- the combined effect of marihuana and alcohol in relation to the driving of a motor car. The evidence from Dr Gerald Milner, a Victorian expert in this field and a man with an international reputation, and evidence from all the other witnesses- in fact there was no evidence to the contrary to disprove the statement- clearly showed that the combined intake of alcohol and marihuana has a disastrous cumulative effect. It has been expressed in various ways. Probably the simplest way to put it is that one unit of alcohol taken alone has a certain effect; one unit of marihuana taken alone has a certain effect. But the combined effect of half the intake of alcohol and half the intake of cannabis is more than double the effect of each of the units of alcohol and cannabis taken separately. The combined effect of these drugs on the human body has that sort of geometric progression. Activities of this kind by the youth of today cause disastrous car accidents. The major casualties on our roads occur in the age group up to 25 years.
I conclude with a few words about the role of women in society and the importance of the family as a basic unit in society. In her maiden speech, Senator Haines referred to the necessity to improve the status of women; Senator Melzer and Senator Ryan made similar references. I do not quarrel with that objective. What I have to say on the matter will suggest some solutions to the problem different from those proposed by those honourable senators.
As this will certainly be the last AddressinReply speech I shall be privileged to make in the Senate, I remind the Senate that in my maiden speech some two years ago I referred to the role of women in society. As reported at page 2 1 7 of the Senate Hansard of 25 February 1976, which I shall not read, I made reference to the importance of the family as a unit in society and mentioned the important role of both parents with the father being equally as important as the mother.
On 9 March last year, after the opening of the Parliament, when I was privileged to second the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply, I used the example of the happy family life of Her Majesty the Queen as a basis on which to re-state those sentiments. What I said on that occasion is perhaps worth repeating:
Her successful combination of the roles of wife and mother with the very exacting, demanding and time-consuming tasks of the reigning British monarch are a shining example to all of us as to how a proper balance can be preserved between what might be termed the public and private role which she is called upon to play in society, without neglecting either of those roles.
Of course, there are numerous examples of other women in the community who successfully combine these dual roles.
The family has been called the primordial unit of society: Man, woman and their offspring- the greatest influence in all our lives, for good or evil; the source of our hereditary characteristics; and the first model on which our behaviour patterns are built. Although modern psychology diverges on a number of matters, there is almost unanimous agreement that the ideal way for a child to grow up is for him to grow up in an environment in which he becomes strongly attached to those people who care for him. Furthermore, this care should be continuous and consistent. So, the ideal climate in which a child should be reared is with his own parents.
Modern psychology now recognises that the father is as important a model as the mother and that the child needs two parents or responsible and loving male and female substitute parents. Professor Urie Bronfenbrenner, who is regarded as a world authority on the welfare of children and who wrote a magnificent article on the family entitled ‘The Origins of Alienation’, which appeared in the Scientific American, has said:
The evidence indicates that the family is the most effective and economical system for fostering and sustaining the development of the child. The evidence indicates so far that the involvement of the child’s family as an active participant is critical in any intervention program. Without such family involvement, any effects of intervention, at least in the cognitive sphere, appear to erode fairly rapidly once the program ends. In contrast, the involvement of parents as partners in the enterprise provides an ongoing system which can reinforce the effects of the program while it is in operation and helps to sustain them after the program ends.
This extract surely contains a political message. It is good economy and essential for effective social services to have families fully involved and for a family to be regarded as the basic unit of society. I deal in some detail with this matter because of its great political significance in terms of the ultimate costs to the nation of social services which are required following broken marriages, particularly where children are involved.
If we look at the divorce rate, we see that the rate of divorce dropped in 1977. Recently the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) released a statement which indicated that 65,788 applications for divorce were filed in 1976 and 41,698 applications were filed in 1977, representing a very significant reduction in applications. But when we go back to the figures for 1975 we find that 24,307 applications were filed. Whilst one does not quarrel in any way with the statement made by the Attorney-General, one has to look at the figures for the years prior to the introduction of the Family Law Act to gain the correct perspective.
If we look at the cost to the community of social service payments, we find that last year the cost of benefits paid to deserted wives, supporting mothers, unmarried mothers and deserted de facto wives was $ 127m. I agree that these people have to be supported: They are entitled to be supported by the community. The point I make is that in a happy family situation- a responsible situation- the State is spared these costs.
– Do you find the absence of successful enforcement proceedings a problem?
– It is a problem. I think we do find that people are disadvantaged socially because the enforcement provisions are inadequate. But the argument I am putting is that if we were to support women in the home this situation might not arise- families might stay together. It is trite to say that a continuing and happy family with both parents accepting their responsibility for the love and care of the children of the marriage is in the long run a saving to the state. One could almost say that a happy and stable marriage where the parents care for the children without resource to social sendee payments is a very relevant factor in the social services budget.
The Family Law Act does not really protect the children of a marriage for the trauma of a breakdown in that marriage. Putting on one side the consequences to the young child of divorce legislation which protects the irresponsible partner in the marriage, when the concept of guilt is removed from consideration in the dissolution of a marriage- I am happy to concede that that has happened in the family law context- all that happens really is that the concept of guilt is considered at the child-custody level. Inevitably this means suffering for the innocent children of the marriage. Whilst the Family Law Act has made it very easy for a marriage to be dissolved, the custody of the children and the property settlement are still matters over which the parties argue, very often to the distress of the children of the marriage who, I think, are the major concern of all of us.
The truth is that managing a home and children can be a full time job until the children are grown up. It is true to say that a wife and mother acting as a full time housewife and mother does save the state considerable sums of money in terms of child-minding services and other social services. I support the right of both the male and the female of the species to work without discrimination and I recognise the necessity for adequate child-minding facilities being provided for widows and other single parents. But in the past 30 years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of working women. I have a few figures which I shall quote. In 1947, 15 per cent of women in the work force were married and only 7 per cent of married women worked outside their homes. By 1966 the number of women in the work force had doubled and 50 per cent of them were married. By 1975, 35 per cent of the work force were women and 63 per cent of them were married. The Bureau of Statistics figures for 1975 indicate that there were 505,300 married women and 23,300 other females without children under eleven in the work force. Studies of women in the work force in several countries show that, although a woman is fully employed outside her home, she still does some 70 per cent of the child and home care. Over half of these women state that they would prefer either not to go to work or to have part time work. Most are working to improve the quality of life of their families. For many it is a necessity.
The issue is not necessarily whether married women in the work force are depriving unemployed juveniles of work. A great deal of investigation would have to be undertaken before any firm conclusion could be drawn in that regard. One has only to look back some 20 or 30 years to find that the care of the young, the sick and the old were family responsibilities. We have moved now into an era where governments assume these responsibilities for the simple reason that there is no successful alternative. I do not think anyone would argue that the therapy received by institutionalisation is better than the human companionship of the family, even the so-called bad family, and the cost to the nation of institutionalisation is enormous. Budgetary expenditures on welfare, health and education have grown from 25 per cent of the Federal Budget in 1966-67, 10 years ago, to 47 per cent in 1976-77, the overall expenditure in the 1966-67 Budget being $5,640m whereas in 1976-77 it was $24, 124m, almost 5 times as great. It is this weakening of the family as a functional social mechanism which is at the heart of the matter. If there is a relationship between the over employment of married women and the under employment of juveniles it springs from this major factor.
The real position is that, as in every other sphere of social and political life, freedom of choice should be available to married women in this situation. The economy should be geared to give a genuine freedom of choice to a married woman to tend a machine, work in a factory or stay at home and care for her husband and children. I understand that the economic value of what a married woman produces in an office or factory is measured in the gross national product whereas the economic value of her work in the home is not. Surveys by the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Electrical Trades Union of New South Wales showed that those married women who have children but who are currently in the work force would prefer to stay at home and care for their children if they were paid a relatively small amount of money for doing so. The Government should be prepared to look at a scheme which would pay an allowance to wives and mothers who elect to stay at home and fulfil their vocation as wives and mothers. This is a proposal which is now being advocated in a number of countries.
Time does not permit me to go into greater detail so I will conclude on this note: Next year, 1979, is the Year of the Child and, whilst we are all gravely obsessed with the economic problems which confront the nation, in the long term the preservation of the family as a unit in society is vital to the future of the nation.
-At the outset of my speech in this Address-in-Reply debate I extend congratulations to Senator Haines, the new senator for South Australia. This is the first time for a number of years while I have been in this chamber that a Governor-General has delivered the Speech on behalf of the Government. I do not propose to dig into the past but one amusing story on the departure of the former Governor-General of Australia appeared on the front page of my local newspaper, the Townsville Daily Bulletin. The newspaper revealed that one of the perks of his new office would be the availability of duty free alcohol. Before moving on to the main part of my speech I want to refer briefly to two previous speakers from the Government side, particularly the last speaker who appeared to be delivering his farewell speech to the Senate. I did not know he was leaving so soon. One of his criticisms of the Family Law Act concerned a matter which is now the responsibility of his own Government. If he feels that the matter needs a rectifying amendment to the Act he should approach the Government about it.
Senator Tehan said that he wanted to say something about women. I was surprised that he appeared to adopt the attitude of getting women back into bed and behind the kitchen sink.
– That is what you think, Senator.
– That is the general tenor of what Senator Tehan said. There is a complaint that social welfare is costing this country too much, but if the Government got rid of the unemployment problem for a start and got people back into the work force it would very considerably reduce its social welfare commitments. We are going to spend in the current financial year $24, 124m on social welfare payments and this is a considerable sum of money, but the Government has a lot of the remedies for this problem in its own hands. I shall develop that theme as I go through the various matters mentioned by the Governor-General. A previous speaker in the debate, Senator Sheil, I was pleased to note, is now harvesting krill in the Antarctic instead of stirring up things in South Africa. I was interested to hear him say that there was no oil or gas in the Antarctic although, he said, ‘you could smell it’. I read a story the other day where allegedly on preliminary investigations -
– That is not what he said. Senator.
-He said that none had been found but that ‘you could smell it’. He also said that there was a United States estimate that there was hydrocarbon in the Antarctic probably exceeding that available at the other end of the world. I wondered why he confused his listeners by making those statements which were in opposition to each other.
– You were the only one here listening.
– Well, if you are a krill fisherman I suppose you can get things a little mixed. The Governor-General’s Speech made reference to a number of factors which had been the policy of the Government over the past two years, but one would hope that some of them will be abandoned in the coming three years. The Governor-General in his Speech stated that one of the priorities of the Government would be ‘to revitalise our Federal system by co-operating with State and local governments, and giving them a greater measure of financial responsibility’. This means precisely what it says. We will reduce our payments to State and local authorities and they will find the additional money. In other words it is a continuation of double taxation which the Government has claimed over the last two years it has not introduced. One of the other priorities referred to in the Speech was to protect and enhance the rights and civil liberties of every Australian’, whilst another was ‘to secure the defence of our nation and act as a positive force for world peace’. They are matters to which I shall refer in detail later. The Governor-General made reference to the economy, saying that inflation had been sharply reduced and interest rates had begun to fall. After two years they have fallen by one half of one per cent.
– One and a half per cent.
– I do not know what the interjection was but obviously no one is going to pursue it. Civil liberties no longer exist, particularly in my State of Queensland, and I have a number of quotations which I will refer to later to support this claim. The Governor-General later in his Speech referred to the Aboriginal population and to the Government’s intentions in regard to Aborigines. He said:
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.
The history of the Government over the last two years has been deplorable. I do not see the balance of this financial year or the 1978 calendar year being any better. At the end of last financial year almost $20m which had been allocated for spending in the field of Aboriginal Affairs had not been spent by the Government. This meant serious cutbacks in housing, health, education and employment programs. Probably the best pan of the Governor-General’s Speech was the last paragraph. On behalf of the Government, he said: 1 now leave you in the faith that Divine Providence will guide your deliberations and further the welfare of the people of Australia.
Of course, the Governor-General is not to be criticised for the manner in which his Speech was worded, because it was compiled for him by the Government. Consequently, he had no option but to deliver it. The last paragraph is significant because it refers to the only area to which we can turn for assistance during the currency of this Government.
I want to call on some words which have been published concerning the unemployed, the massive way in which unemployment has increased over the past year or year and a half and the way in which it is still increasing. A letter to the Brisbane Telegraph published on 27 February 1978 states:
I have read that many unemployed young people are too ashamed to apply for unemployment benefits.
Extremely wealthy men in Australia, even a millionaire, are not ashamed to take the $7000 superphosphate bounty.
The same men are not too proud to set up family trusts that allow them to understate their taxable incomes legally, and to dodge tax amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. They don’t worry that other less fortunate taxpayers are hit harder as a result.
Wealthy people are not ashamed to accept child endowment which they pay into their children ‘s bank accounts, or to apply for the Home Savings Grant.
People on low incomes with children are denied this grant because they are not able to save the required amount to qualify.
The government looks after the wealthy. The poor must look after themselves.
The poor can best do this by applying for every benefit to which they are entitled by law.
A job and a living wage are basic rights of every school leaver.
If this land of plenty is so mismanaged that it cannot fulfil that obligation, it is doing no more than its duty in partly compensating the unemployed by paying unemployment benefits.
The letter was signed by a Brisbane reader. It outlines the sort of thing to which I was referring a few moments ago. I believe that this is an area in which the Government is burying its head in the sand or closing its eyes in the face of a gathering catastrophe. Unemployment figures have shown a remarkable increase in Queensland, which I think now has the highest rate of unemployment in Australia next to the Northern Territory. We have to remember that during the three years of harassment of the Labor Government $10Om was offered to the Premier of Queensland and his Government for various schemes, all of which he refused to accept at various times because he said that it was in the form of tagged grants. Nevertheless, had that money been accepted, Queensland may not now be in the serious situation it is in.
Last month’s figures show that unemployment north of Mackay, that is in the far northern area, had risen to 16,994 or 2,780 more than for the corresponding period in the previous year. The number of job opportunities fell from 3 1 5 to 297. In other words, there was an average of 57 people competing for each job vacancy. Three months after the end of the school year more than 2,000 young Queenslanders in the far north were still unable to find their first job. The latest figures on northern districts compared with January of last year show that unemployment went up from 4,207 to 4,340 in Cairns, from 682 to 798 in Atherton, from 1 , 1 1 5 to 1 ,5 12 in Mount Isa and from 728 to 941 in Ingham. In Ingham and Atherton one in every seven or eight men, women and children is out of a job.
Recently my attention was drawn to an article that was published in the Australian periodical Cleo in February 1977. The author of the story, Ms Shelley Gare, said:
But when unemployment hits people sweet reason vanishes. The hopeless, useless, drifting state of joblessness can bring out the worst in people. Quarrels, biting words, marriage crises- all can be attributed to unemployment.
Last November -
That was in 1976 - there were 272,518 people registered as unemployed in Australia; economists predict that 1977 will see an unemployment figure of 400,000 or seven per cent of the work force- the highest rate since the Great Depression of the 1930s . . .
The article went on to deal in detail with the problems faced by individual unemployed people and by groups of unemployed people. It is a very thoughtful article and I believe it ought to go into the record. The figure of 272,000 for unemployment in November 1976 has now grown to almost 500,000, so the crisis is continuing. Mr President, I sought permission from the chair earlier to have two and a half pages incorporated in Hansard. I also sought the permission of the Minister in the chamber at the time. We found one word in the article which might not be parliamentary and it was deleted. I seek leave to have the article incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
Laurie Foster relied on strong tea and philosophy to get through life. She used to think that no matter what troubles beset her, life always came up trumps in the end.
Look at me ‘, Laurie would say to her friends. ‘Six months ago Wally lost his job at the factory and we thought we were goners. Then I landed a good job. Wally has plenty of time to look for a new job and he takes care of the kids while I work. I even earn more than he did before so we’ve bought a colour television and a washing machine on hire purchase.
For Laurie, there was a silver lining on the cloud of Wally ‘s unemployment, but the clouds got blacker for Wally himself as the months of idleness and dependency on his wife went by. One night she came home and was met by a beer-brave, axe-swinging husband. He chopped up the television, battered the washing machine and attacked anything else that had been bought with Laurie’s wages. Then he gave her a good hiding to teach her the lesson that wives should stay at home and men should work and if a man can’t work then a wife shouldn’t try to prove she can do better than her man. Laurie was horrified, bewildered and scared. Perhaps she had been insensitive in the past few months; otherwise she might have had an inkling of how Wally felt. On the other hand Laurie may have suspected how Wally was feeling but couldn’t believe in her misgivings. When you have kids, a mortgage and HP, money has to come from somewhere and what could be more reasonable than her supporting the family for a change while Wally got back on his feet?
It was reasonable. But when unemployment hits people sweet reason vanishes. The hopeless, useless, drifting state of joblessness can bring out the worst in people. Quarrels, biting words, marriage crises- all can be attributed to unemployment.
Last November there were 272,5 1 8 people registered as unemployed in Australia; economists predict that 1977 will see an unemployment figure of 400,000 or seven percent of the workforce- the highest rate since the Great Depression in the 1930s when unemployment peaked at 25 percent. Since then we have enjoyed an average unemployment rate of only 1.5 percent. Up until now.
The hardest hit workers have been laborers, process workers and tradesmen but people in top management have been affected too. Companies have sacked highly paid employees to cut salary costs. Unemployment used to be something that happened to friends of friends of friends but today almost everybody has been unemployed, is unemployed or has friends or relatives without a job.
That doesn’t lessen the shock of finding yourself without a job. You can’t know how bleak it is to be unemployed until you have been out of work yourself.
The positions vacant pages of the daily newspaper arc a painful lucky dip and you pass your days in the doldrums of depression, longing for the time when you can shout: Hey! I’ve got a job.
The western way of life starts on the premise that you work. Working proves you are worthwhile and have talents somebody needs. People who are out of work say it is the job, not the wages, they miss because a job gives them self respect, fulfilment and identity. Not that money is the least of the problems of the unemployed. Money lets you pay your rent, pay off a car, save for a holiday and buy groceries from the supermarket without checking the price first. All that comes under a question mark when your job and your salary stops. The financial effects of unemployment can range from having to whittle your $2000 savings away to supporting a family on the Commonwealth Unemployment Benefit of $87.50 a week.
Generally, a man surfers more than a woman from losing a job. In spite of the growing numbers of women in the workforce, women still have a socially acceptable choice about working or staying at home. But people assume that any man of sound mind and body will have a job. A man grows up with the expectation that he will be able to earn enough to support his wife and family. It becomes an endurance test for an unemployed man to own up to losing his job and to admit that for the time being he is dependent on either his wife or the government for money.
In a marriage where the man loses his job he cops the first shocks. It is his job that has disappeared, his anger at the loss, his ego on the line. He may get depressed, moody or quarrelsome, he might spend escapist hours in the pub. At first the wife has the emotional advantage. Her capabilities haven’t been questioned by his retrenchment. While the man’s spirit is dejected by the private fear that he is a failure, the woman has the stability to think out the practical problems.
But in the end the wife may suffer more than her husband. She bears the disadvantages of his unemployment as well as his uncertain temper and unhappiness but she can ‘t change the situation. She can ‘t get him a job.
At least I can be single-minded and active about what I have to do- find another job- but my wife has to carry on with her usual routines of work and looking after the kids as well as keep up my spirits, cope with my depressions and worry about money,’ said Andrew Calley, a former retail executive who recently lost his job.
People often blame unemployment for a broken marriage but the connection between a disrupted relationship and losing a job is more subtle. ‘ Unemployment aggravates a situation but it doesn’t cause it,’ says Kate Hely, a Sydney occupational therapist who has worked with groups of unemployed people.
Emotional and financial and even sexual problems will test a marriage by testing the partners. I know one case where the husband and wife prided themselves in their refusal to play roles and their ability to share housework. But when the man lost his job the marriage fell to bits. Housework full time was a different matter and, more importantly, he hated depending on his wife. He had only been able to feel secure about non-roles before because he had never been in a position where he didn’t have a working role. ‘
Blaming your marriage breakup on unemployment alone is not on, ‘ commented one psychologist. ‘ How you survive unemployment depends on your own and your partner’s personalities and on the previous stability of your marriage. If a marriage is shaky unemployment could topple it but if your marriage is sound it will probably stay that way. ‘
Unemployment is a crisis period snagged with unexpected problems that make the going rougher than anybody who has a job could realise. Powerlessness can be the most frustrating feature for both men and their wives. ‘Psychological studies show that changes you can ‘t or don ‘t control cause far more stress than changes you initiate yourself,’ says Dr Chris Tennant, a psychiatrist at Sydney’s Prince Henry Hospital. ‘Someone thrown out of work is vulnerable. Men want and need to feel they are in control of their immediate environment.’
Until you lose your job you tend to think of society as fair and functioning according to balanced equations. You pass your exams and that should mean a good place in the workforce. You work hard and that should mean security. But when you are retrenched the equations become lopsided and negative.
The frightening thing is how losing your job cuts you off from the rest of the world,’ said Joseph Andrews, who used to be a copywriter for a Melbourne ad agency and lost his job after a takeover. He has been unemployed three times since his marriage eight years ago, and speaks from experience. ‘What is unbelievable is the way you feel so bad when you ‘re unemployed and then you get a job and everything falls into place. You get money, another circle of friends to replace the ones from your last job, other people’s confidence and above all you get back your justification for being a member of society. ‘
Joseph is dependent on his wife’s earnings while he looks for another job but says he doesn’t resent her for that. Other wives aren’t as lucky. Sarah Travers left her husband, an out of work plumber, after 22 years of marriage because of the way he reacted after he lost his job. ‘I had always stayed home and looked after the children and I know Tom was proud of his ability to earn enough. But when he was retrenched I had to work and I thought that was fair enough. I was shocked when I realised how degraded Tom felt though. I used to think he was a strong man but he crumpled. In the end I couldn’t take any more of his hurt feelings and secret resentments so I left. Now I’m critical of all men. I keep on thinking that underneath their hearty he-man exteriors they are pitifully weak-charactered. ‘
Coping with a husband who is out of work calls ona wife ‘s full reserves of patience, selflessness and understanding. The wife must prepare herself for her husband to take his anger out on her. It isn’t fair and it can make her boil with anger, but she has to realise her husband isn ‘t his normal self and nor is she. They are both under a strain and she must recognise that the relationship she has with him when he is out of work isn ‘t the real thing, ‘ says Dr Tennant.
When I’m unemployed there is a cloud over everything,’ said Joseph Andrews. ‘Even if I am enjoying myself there is a terrible grey feeling behind the jollity.’ Not surprisingly, with tension fogging the air, a couple’s sex life can deteriorate, as Joseph explains: ‘It’s not so much that I feel impotent or hostile toward my wife. It’s just that I don’t think of sex so often. My mind is filled with ideas for getting another job. Once I was the one who made the first move in the bedroom but now it’s my wife. Mind you . . . once we get there it’s OK but it’s up to her to head us in the right direction. ‘
Other men find they don’t want to make love at all. ‘A man often gets his potency through his work so if his work is taken away from him so is his sexual impetus ‘, Dr Tennant says. Luckily, sex doesn’t have to be a major problem between couples caught in the unemployment syndrome because the lack of it- like the lack of a job- is, hopefully, temporary.
Time is another trouble for the unemployed man and his wife. The hours that used to be filled automatically by work become spaces of time the man must fill himself by using his wits. His new daily schedule will affect his marriage whether or not his wife works. If she does work, the man has a lonely run of the house. His friends will be at work so there’s no companionship and his boredom will increase his frustration at being out of work himself. If the wife stays home the couple will soon find themselves getting in each other’s way. A lot of the men interviewed for this story said they tried to live self-imposed routines to give them a feeling of purpose. It wasn’t coincidence that several of them were busy renovating their homes. It was as if they were saying they couldn’t pay for the family nest but at least they would have a go at putting it in good shape.
Perversely, even these good intentions can backfire because a wife will have to re-order her housework routines around the renovating attempts and in time she may see her husband as an annoying intruder. Previously she had the run of the home and did what she liked. Now she must fit in with someone else’s plans. Slowly, the quality of the time the couple spend together will change. The shared evenings and weekends that used to be so enjoyable become pan of a dull and changeless week when all time, out of circumstance, is shared.
Normally husbands and wives have made an unconscious adjustment to the amount of time they can spend together without strain’, says Dr Tennant. ‘There can be problems if there is a sudden change in the amount of contact between them’.
The husband’s attitude can make this situation worse. For some men this initiative can end with their jobs and can send them into a habit of morose brooding. ‘I don’t have the motivation to do anything but look for a job’, Andrew Calley said. ‘Every now and then, perhaps when a job is in the offing, I cheer up and do a bit of carpentry but mostly I don’t have the inclination’. Jan, his wife, said frankly: ‘I feel resentful when I’m working hard and I see Andrew doing nothing- but I try to keep cool’.
I used to go hot with fury when I came home to find the bed unmade and the breakfast dishes in the sink’, said Jenny Allsop, a working wife whose husband spent a month out of work. ‘I felt savage having to work all day and then work at home in the evenings while he moped’.
The problem every wife of an unemployed man faces is whether to let him know how she feels or hang on to silence for the sake of peace until he ‘s working again. The answer is a qualified yes, a qualified no. Explained Jenny. ‘You can’t bottle up too much or else it will sneak out in other ways, in nagging or heavy put upon sighs. But at the same time you have to edit what you say. For instance you can say: “Could you help a bit more with the housework because it’s dreary to come home from work to find more work?” But you can’t imply that he should do all the work to justify living off you ‘.
Outside help from relatives or friends becomes important too. The woman may be pouring her emotional energy into supporting her husband but who is supporting her? She needs an outlet for her feelings so she won’t feel like a silent martyr; someone who will let her rant and rave without making her feel disloyal to her husband.
The other sufferers, of course, are the children. Kids are at an immediate disadvantage because their father is different. He doesn’t work like everybody else ‘s dad.
But kids will adjust remarkably well if the parents do’, said Wenda Pleasance, a Women’s Electoral Lobby representative and secretary of the Blacktown Community Aid committee. ‘Children are so adept at picking up tensions you might suspect that they wear invisible antennae and sprout eyes on stalks. Arguing in front of them will only serve to further disrupt and confuse them. Once the brawls start you get all the problems with children that you have in any unhappy marriage- bad school performance, delinquency . . .’
Sometimes, however, there is a cheerier variant of the unemployment picture. Peter Miller, a businessman in his early 40s, says with relish that losing his job was the best thing that could have happened to him. He used to be a national products manager with a large wine company on a salary of $26,000 a year. He was politely fired from his job after a disagreement, but within eight months he and his wife Meg have set up a profitable contract cleaning service. Now they are making $300 a week and Peter says the money making potential is unlimited.
We are much closer too’, said his wife. ‘We see more of each other because we work together and we talk more because we have a common interest. The hard work is worth it’.
But because many of the arguments and resentments that accompany unemployment stem from resentment at switching work and housework roles, younger couples seem to cope better than most older couples. Role stereotyping is not as strong in the under 30-year-olds. It also helps if the wife understands the fluctuations of the job market and realises her husband didn’t lose his job because he was incompetent.
If only Australians would lose their -lazy . . .”mentality,’ says Dr Tennant. ‘We are still adjusting to the fact that a man can be out of work through no real fault of his own. If we were more tolerant the unemployed wouldn’t suffer so much and ironically would probably find it easier to get another job. It is hard to feel confident of your abilities when you have the rest of the world pointing a finger at you. You feel apprehensive and defensive and that affects your ability to sell yourself during an interview’.
There are other ways a wife can take away that apprehension so that both come through the crisis with egos and marriage intact. ‘A lot depends on your wife’s say-so’, said Joseph Andrews. ‘ I ‘ve turned down a couple of job offers because they weren’t right for me. I have only been able to do that because Anna, my wife, hasn’t hassled me into taking any offer simply because it meant a regular salary. She knows that the wrong job will stain our marriage even more than my being without a job’.
Joseph, like the other interviewed men, agreed that what they needed from their wives was understanding and confidence. ‘I needed to know my ability was still there and that something good was just around the corner’, said Peter Miller. ‘I simply needed encouragement’.
– Last week we saw unprecedented panic in this place about security. The tragic bombing at the Sydney Hilton Hotel, which all of us deplore, should never have happened because no Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting should have been held in a place like the Hilton. I note that since the meeting the manager of the hotel has said that it is the last time he will agree to such a meeting at the hotel because he cannot guarantee safety. In other countries similar meetings are not held where security is weak. Then there was the famous visit to Bowral by the Heads of Government. I do not suppose a great number of people outside New South Wales knew where Bowral was until the visit by Heads of Government to the health farm there. What a security laugh it was. The public relations statement said: We tricked them all. They thought we were all going to travel to Bowral by train but we came in by helicopter, car and other methods of transport’. I do not think that would have tricked anyone who had an assassination planned. I see no reason why the meeting could not have been held in Canberra, where efforts to provide for security probably could have been more thorough. We note that on 22 February the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said:
I have had the view, and I think the Government has had the view for a significant period, that Canberra is by no means the whole of Australia. I thought it would be a good thing, because of the number of people involved, to have this meeting in one of Australia’s major and great capitals. In this instance it was either Melbourne or Sydney. In view of the number of people who would be at the meeting- not just the heads of government but members of the delegations- the facilities of Melbourne and Sydney obviously would be much better than the facilities of Canberra.
I thought we had reached the stage in Canberra, the bush capital of Australia, where we had sufficient facilities to be able to hold major conferences. I will refer in greater length later to the attempts to carry out security arrangements at Parliament House last week. They were laughable in some areas, even though the people involved did their very best. I pay very high tribute to the attendants of both this chamber and the other chamber and the people who look after both sides of Parliament House. They were the only ones who were not panicking. Members of the Commonwealth Police were also excellent but perhaps the weakest part of the whole security set-up were the private guards who were brought in. Give an untrained man a gun and a bit of authority and he becomes quite ruthless when he wants to exercise that authority. I think there is obviously a need to lift staff ceilings in respect of employees in Parliament Housethose normally employed in this chamber and in the other place- and in respect of Commonwealth Police. There was a general air of panic on the matter, and there should not have been. My wife was distressed when she tried to park her vehicle in the usual place. Permission to park there had been given earlier in the day by Parliament House officials, but she was told by one of the security guards that she could not park in that place. On the other hand, our children were allowed to walk into Parliament House without their bags and so on being searched. It would appear that if somebody wanted to place a bomb in Parliament House the best thing to do would be to get a 12-year-old child to bring in a bomb with a timing device attached to it. Nobody questions a child. That is not a reflection on the staff of Parliament House, all of whom know my children, but it is a reflection on civilian security staff, who ought to have known what they were doing.
I do not know why our security measures should be so costly. Last week I received through the post a parcel, delivery of which had been delayed because it had to go through the hands of the Commonwealth Police. The parcel had been examined and dated. It was a very simple little parcel, and the name of the sender, together with details of the address, appeared on the back. One would have thought that the easiest thing would have been to contact me, and I could probably have identified the contents of the parcel. What caused this great commotion and examination was a hair brush. It did not look like a bomb. It did not even feel like a bomb. In fact, it bore no resemblance to any sort of weapon. It felt like a hair brush, it looked like a hair brush, it was a hair brush, but it caused a great kerfuffle while it went through the bomb testing procedures.
I doubt that the proposals announced by the Prime Minister will work, but I was interested to read about them in the Australian. They have not yet been published in any parliamentary document in the same detail as they appeared on the front page of that great left-wing newspaper, in an article published only last Friday, after we had had our grand opening, our tea party and our picnic in the rose garden. No legislation was introduced. Nevertheless it was a grand social week for all concerned. Nobody’s tea was poisoned and nobody’s little cakes had cyanide in them. No bombs were left around Parliament House. All that was found was one hair brush. The article in the Australian stated:
The Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, outlined plans in Parliament yesterday -
That was last Thursday- to:
SET UP a standing advisory committee on Commonwealth-State co-operation for protection against violence.
INTENSIFY police training in counter-terrorism with the Government drawing on the knowledge of experienced overseas instructors.
REVIEW with the States the adequacy and compatibility of police equipment with the emphasis on communications.
The former Metropolitan Police Commissioner -
I understand he is now retired and will come out of retirement-
Sir Robert Mark; Scotland Yard’s exChief; will serve as a special adviser to the Government on the organisation of police resources, counter-terrorist and other security measures.
A similar type of inquiry was established a year or so ago in Queensland and became known as the Lucas committee. It was supposed to look into all sorts of problems associated with the local police. There seemed to be a reluctance to call witnesses, and only a small number appeared. A report was finally completed, but nothing has been done about it. I understand that one of our own people has gone overseas to look into counter-terrorism measures. I should point out that Parliament House is the only place in which proper security measures have not been taken. In another comment in the Australian on the statement made by Mr Fraser Mr Greg Hartung said:
The announcement on national security last night by the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, covers all but one of the most important buildings in the country- Parliament House.
The reason for its neglect in Mr Fraser’s statement is clearUnder the Westminster system parliamentary security is the responsibility of the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President of the Senate.
That puts a very great weight on your shoulders, Mr President, and on the shoulders of Mr Speaker. I sincerely hope that somewhere along the line you will get together and, without the aid of overseas experts, draft a security scheme which will be non-spectacular and effective and which will cause the minimum amount of inconvenience to the people who work in this place and to the people who have legitimate business here, whether they are tourists or people coming to see their parliamentary representatives.
One of the priorities set out in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, according to the drafting of the Government, is the protection and enhancement of the rights and civil liberties of every Australian, and that is an important matter to which I will refer in a few moments in relation to Queensland. On page 8 of the Speech it is stated:
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 interests of members of Parliament and others in the public sphere and principles which might be adopted to avoid these conflicts.
In consultation with the States, legislation will be reintroduced to establish a Human Rights Commission. My Government - said the Governor-General on behalf of the Prime Minister- 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.
The first paragraph of the section dealing with civil rights and political reform stated:
My Government will cany 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.
Why does this Government, in its many spheres of operation, seek to impose limits and strictures on organisations such as the Australian Broadcasting Commission? One of the Government’s most recent actions was a move to curtail the independence of the Industries Assistance Commission. Legislation introduced in Parliament commits the IAC to making decisions parallel with government policy. It does not matter how much the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) apologises for that, it is there in black and white and it is part of this Government’s policy. Last week I asked a question on notice concerning the use of the name of the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch), the former Treasurer of this country, in an advertising campaign. Apparently it is considered to be appropriate. A newspaper article on the matter stated:
Sydney radio announcer Bob Rogers has been using the name of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Phillip Lynch, to advertise the sale of home units at Surfers Paradise.
Mr Lynch last year bought a three;bedroom unit in the Golden Gate tower block at Surfers Paradise for $95,000.
– Where did he get the money?
– He borrowed some from a friendly insurance company, a bit here and a bit there, and he made some money on a land sale, while we have all been told to tighten our belts.
– It is all set out in his public statement.
– There was supposed to be a proper inquiry and the information was to be made available to the public of this country. The Prime Minister, obviously with the support of his party, has now shelved the inquiry. We were to be told everything about the matter, but it has been swept under the carpet with the cockroaches and the earwigs. The article continued:
Bob Rogers, who conducts a Sunday program on 2 ICY in Sydney, has been promoting units on the Gold Coast.
People who have listened to the program say that Rogers has several times mentioned Mr Lynch and said that his unit was now worth much more that he had paid for it.
– That is not the Honourable Phillip Lynch advertising. Someone is using his name.
– He has a case at law if somebody is using his name, but I have not seen any mention of a writ being issued. Part of my question on notice was directed to whether he was receiving a monetary reward for allowing his name to be used. But then, of course, the Government adopted a different attitude when it told the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal that it was not appropriate that his name appear in advertisements for American Express credit cards.
– That was authorised by him.
-On the one hand a Minister of this Government is allowed to have his name used wholesale for exploitation in the field of real estate; on the other, an official of a statutory body is not allowed to have his name used in a similar way for advertising. It takes one back a few years to the time when at least one Minister in this Parliament was prepared to resign his job because his wife was advertising a particular brand of bedsheets. That brand of morality has now disappeared: On the one hand the Government says that such a practice is okay, and on the other that it is not.
– They are completely different situations.
– Maybe the honourable senator will explain all the fine legal technicalities, when he makes his contribution- if he has not already made it. He might like to speak on the adjournment tonight and let us know all about it.
– I would not waste my time.
– All right, the honourable senator is tired; he wants to go home. I ask him to write a letter to the Melbourne Age and tell us what he thinks of it, to make sure that he does not keep it to himself.
I want now to refer especially to Queensland, where there has been a serious erosion of civil liberties at all levels in the community. In another of the great left wing newspapers of Australia, the Brisbane Courier-Mail, the cartoonist McCrae a few days ago published what I believe was a very appropriate cartoon. It was a caricature of the Premier, saying to the local Aboriginal representative: ‘We welcome foreigners exploiting our land; why can’t you?’, and pointing out that Japan, Comalco, Utah and the company that owns the Mt Isa mines are all taking away the assets of Queensland, for a minimum return to that State.
I think that has been summed up very well by Dr Paul Reynolds in a letter to the Editor of the Courier-Mail which was published on 27 February 1978:
At last it has happened. The Premier has told us as plainly as possible that, in future, the schools will be allowed to teach only ‘what the Government wants to be taught’.
Thought control by this Government has officially arrived. SEMP - which is one of the educational schemes, along with MACOS- . . has been stopped before it started because one woman, 10 teachers and an anonymous ‘Independent committee ‘of faceless people decided that way.
Mrs Joyner admits that she has not studied the SEMP material, only extracts sent to her. She decries the film part of the program because one (unnamed) ‘parent’ said it was awful, but refused to say what it was about.
This is the basis used by our Premier in reaching his decision to ban SEMP.
It may seem strange to some that a Government which prides itself on its fanatical anu-Marxism and anti-anything Left of Ivan the Terrible should reveal itself as the most mindless dictatorial government in Australian history.
Dr Reynolds is a lecturer in Government at Queensland University. Mrs Joyner, incidentally, is the unseen member of the Queensland Cabinet. She looks after the morals of all Queenslanders, except those members of the Labor Party whom she thinks are beyond the pale. She is determined that no controversial type of education will be introduced into Queensland and, because she has very close personal ties with the Premier, is able to persuade him to dictate to his Cabinet that if something has to go, it has to go and that is it. And guess who says it has to go- Mrs Joyner.
Perhaps this is pretty well summed up in an article which Norm Harriden wrote in the, again, left wing Australian:
The Queensland Premier, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, is rapidly establishing himself as the first President of a potential republic of Queensland.
One of these days we will wake up here to find a terrible mutilation of our so-called democratic processes when Joh arrives in Canberra in Air Force 1 , bombs The Lodge and takes over as the Prime Minister of the country. He is rapidly heading that way.
– We would hardly notice the difference.
– We probably would not in terms of local democracy, but it would be a change to see a different face around the place. Mr Harriden said further:
In the last few weeks, Mr Bjelke-Petersen has broken most of the rules of conventional ministerial responsibility with a series of ad hoc decisions which have changed the face of his conservative National Country Party Government.
He has stamped his personal imprimatur on the State Government, taking it far beyond the Westminster system followed in all other States.
He has dominated the Cabinet, personally overturning major submissions from senior Ministers and intervening in a wide range of departmental activities.
One of the most tragic interventions recently, of course, was when he told his Minister for Mines that he was not to accept the recommendation of the Electricity Authority in Queensland, to establish a power station on coalfields at Millmerran which were partly Australian-owned- j but instead was to give the project to an almost wholly-owned- less about 3 per cent- overseas company which would site it almost on the boundary of Mr Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s own State electorate of Barambah. The Petersen family have extensive interests in the area. The fact that it is going to cost us another $197m more than would the establishment of a similar project at Millmerran is, of course, just by the way. Incidentally, too, an oil-from-coal project was part of the tender put in by the Millmerran people.
– Does any Commonwealth money go into that deal?
-Indirectly, Commonwealth money goes into it, of course it does. I am surprised that the honourable senator, with his knowledge of the law would ask such an idiotic question. Mr Harriden states further that Mr Bjelke-Petersen -
As the 82 members of the Legislative Assembly prepare for one of their rare public appearances in the session beginning late next month, important government decisions continue to stream from ministerial offices- after appropriate consultations with the Premier.
No Minister in that Government is prepared to do a thing in relation to Commonwealth or State funds unless he first gets the approval of the Premier. In fact last year- I think it was incorporated in Hansard during a contribution I made on the Estimates- a direction was issued from the Premier’s office that no Minister or senior departmental head was to discuss with any person associated with the Federal Government anything at all to do with Aboriginal affairs. Mind you, this is under the present so-called Liberal Party Government, with which of course Mr Bjelke-Petersen has little truck anyway. Moreover, his senior representative was present to make sure that, according to his lights, nothing wrong was done. The article read further: .
In the absence of an Upper House, many political analysts argue that the Queensland Legislative Assembly- the only single chamber Parliament in Australia- has been downgraded to the status of a House of Review, debating earlier decisions of the executive.
I must read also this last paragraph, which I think is highly relevant:
The centre of Australia’s most centralised government is the aptly named Executive Building, a heavily securityconscious glass and steel skyscraper towering over the old sandstone departmental buildings in Brisbane’s historic George Street.
That is where the Premier reigns supreme.A few days ago- and Senator Bonner made some reference to this- the Mining Industry Council was very caustic about the land rights legislation in the Northern Territory. In Queensland, of course, there are no land rights at all. In the Northern Territory on paper there are land rights; in practice there are none, but eventually this Government may get around to implementing some.
Mr Bjelke-Petersen was also reported recently in the Press in these terms:
White Australians would be converted to second class citizens unless mineral rights provisions were removed from Aboriginal land legislation, the Premier (Mr BjelkePetersen) said last night.
He said legislation which gave mineral and land rights was pure Alice in Wonderland’, and had been drawn up on a misunderstanding.
Aboriginal control of a vital resource such as uranium could lead eventually to an independent black State in the Northern Territory.
The last time he talked about an independent black state was when the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs wanted to buy a station on Cape York. That was forbidden by the Premier because, he said, it was setting up a black State. The article reads further:
The Premier said mineral rights had been included in land rights legislation because they were written into the Woodward Commission terms of reference as a fait accompli.
I shall not read the whole idiotic statement. I shall refer to certain sections which I think point up the great problems that we have in Queensland, the greatest State in Australia but with the most dictatorial government seen in the southern hemisphere. The Press report continued:
The Premier said the mineral rights idea, never questioned or debated, was based on the fact that American Indians controlled minerals under their traditional land.
The report continued:
Mr Bjelke-Petersen said the actions of the Northern Land Council in the Northern Territory over uranium showed the stupidity of granting mineral rights.
He said a small group, prey to militant and do-good advisers, could hold mining companies and the entire nation to ransom on a vital resource.
It went on to say:
They could use uranium and land control to demand an independent State- and China or Russia would be eager to step in to help’, he said.
In the final paragraph of his Press statement he said:
The only benefits seemed to be jobs, perks and influence for militant white lawyers and social workers and selfappointed experts and politicians.
The same Premier on the campaign trail at Bamaga in North Queensland had one of his departmental officers put the following public notice on the notice board and distributed it to everybody on the Aboriginal settlement. It read:
The Premier Hon. Joh Bjelke-Petersen and Mr Eric Deeral of National Party will hold a pre-election speech at the Bamaga Beer Canteen at approximately 3 p.m. on Monday 24 October 1977.
I have said before, of course, that Mr BjelkePetersen is anti-grog. But he has meetings at pubs now and he also opens pubs. The public notice continued:
All are invited. DAIA workers will be allowed time off work with full pay to be present at this speech. Workers who take time off to attend the speech and do not do so will not be paid for same.
It was signed by the manager at Bamaga. It was Mr Bjelke-Petersen who sacked the trachoma team in North Queensland because he said he had heard that one or two of them were indulging in political activities while they were doing the job. This, of course, was not true but, as a result, hundreds of people have not yet had their eyes examined. Now they may never have them examined. Some of the youngsters, in particular, will finish up blind at an immature age. The winds to which the Kalkadoons listened and which were heard by the late Frank Barton, who was buried on the day that Senator Bonner made his speech in the chamber last week, will probably blow again. This time they may blow in some frightening way around our friend the Premier of Queensland.
The same sort of action has been taken in the Mount Larcom area. Many of us Queenslanders were amazed to find out why some 41 farms in the area were originally to be commandeered with government aid by the Queensland Cement and Lime Co. Ltd. The aid of police was sought. The mining warden’s report has never been made available to anyone. Apparently it is one of those D-notices. It is a secret document which one cannot get a look at. However, leaks indicate that the mining warden’s report did not favour the Government or the mining company. Those farms that will be left will probably be rendered useless. Damage to the water table is likely to take away their irrigation prospects as well as a lot of the good soil. I have a report dealing with the takeover of another major company. This Government was going to prevent takeovers of this nature unless they were in the best interests of all concerned. There has not been a murmur about this. The report reads:
Queensland Cement and Lime Co. Ltd yesterday revealed that it had bought a total of 520,991 North Australian Cement Ltd shares between February 2 and 15 1978.
Incidentally, North Australian Cement Ltd was set up with a guarantee in the late 1 940s or early 1950s by the then Queensland Labor Government. It was an independent company but without government finance it would not have been able to get off the ground. Since then it has been very successful. It has provided employment for a large number of north Queenslanders over that period. The chances are that when Queensland Cement and Lime Co. Ltd takes it over it will be phased out or certainly scaled down. The new development at Gladstone will be proceeded with and the Brisbane plant of the Queensland Cement and Lime Co. will undoubtedly be expanded. That will reduce employment for north Queenslanders and increase the cost of cement for all the purposes for which it is used. The report continues:
This brought Queensland Cement’s shareholding in NACL to 42.8 per cent.
At prices above $5, the big share buy would have cost Queensland Cement more than $2. 5m.
This is a company which has been grubbing around overseas trying to import money. Whether it was successful I do not know. The report continues:
It entered the market after Adelaide Steamship Co. Ltd had announced it intended to make an offer of $4.80 a share for NACL shares.
Adelaide Steamship is believed to have about 20 per cent of the shares of NACL
Before the recent activity, each company held 17.5 per cent.
That at least gave them a reasonable shareholding. It ought to have been allowed to stay at that. The Queensland Cement and Lime Co. has now sent a cryptic letter to all shareholders pointing out that there are problems associated with the development and more or less saying that it also wants the rest of the shares. I now refer again to Tarong. I made a brief reference to it a moment ago when I said that the Premier overruled his own Minister for Mines. The Millmerran Shire Council Chairman, Councillor Viv Saal, in a Press report said yesterday that he was staggered by the Cabinet decision in favour of a Tarong power house. The report said:
It is a more important issue than just Millmerran being unsuccessful. It raises serious doubts about the Cabinet style of government, ‘ he said.
They (Cabinet) spend a lot of money on departmental inquiries and they take notice only when it suits them,’ Cr Saal said.
He was referring to the State Electricity Commission’s recommendation favouring Millmerran as the site for the power station.
The report went on to say:
I don’t know why they have departmental heads if they don ‘t take notice of them ‘, Cr Saal said.
That is a bit like this Government. The report continues:
He said it appeared personalities were involved and that cost and expert opinion appeared not to matter.
We waited two years for the SEC recommendation to come up and it was stated it would be accepted ‘, Cr Saa said.
It is very convenient that it is two-and-a-half years to the next election but I don ‘t know if the people will forget this decision. ‘
In Queensland we are paying far more for electricity than we ought to be paying because of the inability of the Government to manage properly the electricity resources. Needless to say, in Kingaroy, the home town of you-know-who, there was a big dinner paid for by the mining company which got the contract for Tarong. All celebrated. A few weeks ago we were told that the Queensland Government was livening up an attempt to mine on the Great Barrier Reef. I know that Mr Killen, the Minister for Defence, is having trouble watching the coastline, but if a patrol boat happens to be anywhere around that area perhaps it might keep an eye out to see what sort of drilling is being done. In spite of a denial by the Federal Government and the Queensland Government there is a possibility that exploratory boring will be carried out in the vicinity of the Reef. There is conflicting evidence from geologists as to whether oil or hydrocarbons of any sort are present in the area.
– Whereabouts in the Reef are you talking about? Is it the top end or where?
-The Queensland Mines Department and the Government define the Reef proper as extending from a little north of Mackay to just south of Gladstone. In fact, it extends for almost the whole of the Queensland coastline as the honourable senator knows. The area that is likely to be prospective for hydrocarbon exploration is that area off Townsville. Geologists who have not even done any exploration around the area or have not even looked at any charts are prepared to say that there are likely to be large amounts of gas even if there is no oil. It is a trick definition by the Queensland Government to try to sneak into the area exploratory drilling at least, if not actual drilling for hydrocarbons.
I raised this matter with the Queensland Trades and Labour Council. The Council has now carried a resolution in the following terms. It ought to go into Hansard. It said:
That we reaffirm the previous decisions of Council expressing our complete opposition to any drilling on the Great Barrier Reef either exploratory or productive and further that this matter be referred to the ACTU Executive for endorsement with a request that international assistance be sought wherever possible to ensure that the black ban on drilling operations is effective.
Without the safety precautions of trade unions which may be compelled to take action if necessary, I hope the Government itself which has some authority under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act will take the appropriate steps to ensure that action of this nature will not be taken by the Queensland Government.
Sitting suspended from 6 till 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting I had 15 minutes left in which to speak. I notice that the clock has not been changed; I still have that time but I do not propose to take quite that long. I want to refer to only two more subjects. For a long period I and other people who live in the remote areas of northern Australia have asked for proper coastal surveillance to be carried out to prevent the introduction of goods on which duties have not been paid, to prevent the illegal export of Australian fauna and flora and to prevent also the introduction of hard drugs into this country. Nothing very much has been done about it. I understand we have a radar system in the Darwin region which has a surveillance area of something like 100 miles. For a long time it closed down at 5 o’clock on Friday afternoon and did not operate again until 9 o’clock on the following Monday morning.
One of the more humorous occurrences- if one can look at serious things humorously- was the recent episode of an aeroplane coming into this country carrying large amounts of drugs. One of the largest RAAF planes was sent off in pursuit, but it almost ran out of petrol, ran out of daylight and consequently had to return to base. The Minister for Defence, who is a very normal sort of man who has had experience in war and in peace, recently said that we could not carry out proper surveillance unless we had a lot of expensive aeroplanes with which to do it. An article in the Canberra Times of Thursday 23 February casts a new light on the statement made by the Minister. The article reads:
The problem of adequate surveillance of Australia’s coastline was thrown into the ‘too hard/too expensive’ basket yesterday by the Minister for Defence, Mr Killen.
Neither he nor the Government was satisfied with the adequacy of surveillance around Australian waters, he told Mr Birney (Liberal, New South Wales) in the House of Representatives, but he hoped there was some reasonable perception of the difficulties associated with it. There were 300 registered airfields north of a line drawn between Cairns and Broome and twice that number of unregistered airfields.
That means there are almost 1,000 areas where aeroplanes can land, particularly small planes. The article continued:
At least 100 radar stations would be needed to detect lowflying aircraft and in addition there were problems of identification and apprehension.
That sounds like a lot of political poppycock. First of all, the planes that the Minister wanted to use are very expensive. Many defence organisations have said that the Grumman Hawkeye early warning aircraft carry sufficient equipment to be able to detect planes coming in and are able to do an air to sea surveillance as well. I think the Government must face up to its responsibility in this matter. One could be cynical and say: ‘ Well, the big worry is the fact that most of those who trade in drugs, the big people behind the drug running scene- including the breweries- are mostly conservative party supporters and most of the victims of the drug running scene are members of the Labor Party’.
– Did I hear you say that some big businesses, including the breweries, were behind the drug running?
– Including the breweries. This distribution of alcohol is drug running, whether the honourable senator likes to regard it as such or not. Alcohol is an addictive drug as is nicotine. Yet we spend most of our time running around the country catching some kid who has a couple of ounces of marihuana, which is a nonaddictive drug. I am not saying that it is not a dangerous drug, but the hard drugs like heroin and similar drugs are mostly handled by the bigtime establishments. They are run by people in the conservative area and they have to be wealthy business people before they can go into the big-time drug pushing trade. That is where the major problem lies. The victims, of course, are usually the young people and those who have all sorts of social problems associated with their standard of living.
Another matter I mention is the loss of civil liberties in Queensland. I referred to this when I was speaking prior to the suspension of the sitting before dinner. Some months ago the Premier of that State decided that there would be no marches. There were a number of exceptions. If one was a member of the Army and wanted to march through the main streets of Brisbane or any other city of that State one could march. If one was a returned soldier and wanted to march, one could march. If one belonged to a school childrens organisation and wanted to march, a permit would be granted. But if one wanted to protest against anything one was forbidden to march. Queensland is the only State in Australia where the right to march has been forbidden. Next weekend throughout a number of centres in Queensland gatherings organised by the Civil
Liberties Organisation in that State will request the right to march, to publicly demonstrate. There is nothing wrong with that and no violence has ever taken place in Queensland unless it has been initiated by a small number of Country Party politicians and a small group of police who support the Country Party.
I was told- not confidentially- quite recently by a disgruntled State policeman that in my city of Townsville where a few weeks ago we held a demonstration and adhered to the law, the local police had been criticised and had been told that on the next occasion of a demonstration there had to be a mass number of arrests. The special branch in Queensland had decided that two unidentifiable special policemen would be sent to the demonstration in order to provoke disorder. It is a pretty sad state of affairs when people paid by the taxpayer and directed by the Premier or his nominee- also paid by the taxpayercan go into an area for the purpose of causing violence.
Over the years there have been a lot of demonstrations in this country; mostly they have been peaceful. I want to refer to two or three of them. One took place in Victoria when Dr Jim Cairns, who at that time was a member of this Parliament in another place, decided that he and others would try to obtain permits for the handing out of leaflets in Victoria. It led to a confrontation and a public demonstration but finally the law was altered. In the United States of America and Australia massive demonstrations took place against the involvement of those countries in the Vietnam war. The massive public demonstrations went a long way towards ending the Vietnam war. Because of public attention, the war finally came to an end. With regard to the anti-uranium debate, it is remarkable how the polls have shown a tremendous increase in those people who now feel that it is safer to leave uranium in the ground a little longer until we are sure of how we can safely dispose of the waste. So that also has had an effect.
I make one final statement. I understand that as the former Governor-General is no longer the Governor-General we may make statements about him too. Massive public demonstrations against the former Governor-General caused this Government to sack him before his term was finished and put him off at the taxpayer’s expense into an ambassadorial job where he will be out of sight and, hopefully out of hearing. He was in every sense of the word a corrupt GovernorGeneral. I am disturbed by the statement that was made today in the other place by the Prime Minister. He defended his right to give the former Governor-General this job; he defended his right to close the lid on the Lynch affair and this puts the Prime Minister under grave suspicion of political corruption also. I would hope -
– Order! Senator Keeffe, you must not make that inference here.
- Mr President, I am saying that in both cases, by what the Prime Minister said in another place he pushed things under the mat. In the first case, the former GovernorGeneral was obviously buyable. He was apparently buyable at the time that your Party was appointed as a caretaker government and he has been buyable again in getting out of this country so that he will not cause the country any more trouble. I think it is a very sad reflection on democracy in Australia when both the Prime Minister and the former Governor-General can enter into collusion to bring about this state of affairs.
– Order! That is an imputation. The honourable senator must not speak in these unparliamentary terms in respect of those gentlemen.
-Mr President, I disagree with you that it is an unparliamentary term. I speak the truth. Many people in this country today are afraid to speak the truth. I have made that statement and I do not propose to withdraw it. I leave it at that and close my speech on that note.
- Senator Keeffe, with reference to your last words- that you would not propose to withdraw- let me say that had I asked you to withdraw you would have had to withdraw.
-I rise with great pleasure to support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply because the Address is in reply to the Speech made by the newly appointed Governor-General, Sir Zelman Cowen, who is an outstanding Australian and who did an outstanding job in this chamber last week when he made the Speech to members of both Houses of Parliament on the occasion of the opening of the new Parliament. I extend to him my congratulations on his appointment to this high office and also wish both him and his wife well during his term of office. I also congratulate Senator Haines on her maiden speech. No doubt she will find this place a most fascinating one and one that will bring her a great deal of experience even though her term in this place will be short lived because under the Constitution her term will expire on 30 June this year.
Having said that, I refer again to the AddressinReply. Usually we hear a varied and wide range of speeches in the Address-in-Reply debate. We have had the same again on this occasion. The two speeches that to me were outstanding were those which were made by Senators Chaney and Rae last week and in which they dealt specifically with the functions of the Parliament itself and, in particular, the role of the Senate. They expanded on the possibility they see for the further development of the operation of committees in this place. We are all conscious of the fact that the Senate committee system was introduced quite a few years ago. We have seen an expansion of the operations of those committees. We have also seen an increase in the effectiveness of those committees; but we all realise that there are ways and means whereby the committees can be improved and the effectiveness of the Senate and the Parliament can be improved.
That is why I was so impressed with the speeches made by those two honourable senators. They looked at ways and means of making the committee system far more effective. They went so far as to suggest that in Committees we could deal more with the legislation, instead of dealing, as we tend to do in this place, with the policy itself; in other words, that we place more emphasis on the classification and interpretation of legislation and less on the actual policy involved which normally has been debated in the other place. I support, as I know many honourable senators on both sides of this chamber support, the views put forward by those two honourable senators last week. I hope that in the not too distant future we can see some of those ideas brought into this place for discussion so that we can see the Senate play a more effective role than it has played in the past, particularly in its role as a House of review which is one of the Founding Fathers ‘ requirements of this chamber.
One of the things that I regret very much is the fact that members of the Press, although they were present during that debate, did not bother to pick up one word that was said. So often we see the Press picking up other areas, possibly on a basis of sensationalism, to make a headline. To me it is a tragedy when this happens. We hear so much criticism of Parliament and the Parliamentary system, and here were two honourable senators making an earnest endeavour to make a contribution to the further development of the parliamentary system for the further benefit of the parliamentary system and in the interests of its efficiency. It was not until this morning that I had the pleasure of reading in the Age, in an article by David Solomon, the first reference made by the Press in this country to the speeches made on the committee system in this place. I may be wrong -
– The Hobart Mercury printed, in great fullness the opposing arguments of both Senator Rae and Senator Grimes.
-I thank Senator Wright very much. I am pleased to see that another newspaper has picked this up. I trust that, if and when we have further debate in this place on the development of the committee system, the Press will take notice of what is said by honourable senators, irrespective of the side of the chamber on which they sit. I hope that the Press will notice the contribution honourable senators are making in an effort to make this a more effective chamber and, if I may put it this way, a less political chamber. Perhaps debate will be reduced in some respects. We do not know, until we see what is proposed, what will be debated. To my way of thinking, the aims of these honourable senators are extremely worthwhile and I hope, because of the criticism offered by so many in the community, that the Press will play its part in making sure that the community is made aware of what honourable senators are trying to do.
I now turn to what might be called a wee spot of parochialism. I wish to refer to the election results in my State of South Australia. It is interesting to note, when looking at the final figures- I am talking now of the primary votes in South Australia- that in the House of Representatives election the Liberal Party polled 45 per cent of the votes, whilst the Australian Labor Party polled 42.6 per cent of the votes. I emphasise that I am referring specifically to primary votes. In the Senate election the Liberal Party in South Australia polled 49 per cent of the votes and the Labor Party 36.8 per cent. On a twoparty preferred basis, in South Australia in the House of Representatives election the Liberal Party polled 51.3 per cent of the votes and the Labor Party 48.7 per cent; yet we in the Liberal Party finished up winning only five of the 1 1 seats. Granted, we were only marginally behind in one of those seats, namely, the seat of Grey, in which our candidate was a matter of 60-odd votes short of the number he required to beat the Labor Party candidate. Nevertheless, I have always believed that if one party gets 50-plus per cent of the votes it should finish up with a majority of the seats.
In the Senate election- also on a two-party preferred basis- the Liberal Party received 55.9 per cent of the votes and the Labor Party received 44. 1 per cent. In this case we won three of the five seats. At this stage I want to make it perfectly clear that I have no criticism whatever of any of the distribution commissioners who redrew the boundaries both for the Federal election and for the State election in South Australia. The Federal boundaries, particularly within the urban area of Adelaide, were directly related to the State boundaries. If we look at the State figures for South Australia we find that the Liberal Party, combined with the Country Party and the Australian Democrats, polled 46.5 per cent of the votes, whilst the Labor Party polled 53.8 per cent of the votes. The Labor Party won 27 seats, compared with 20 won by the Liberal Party, the Country Party and the Australian Democrats. I mention this matter tonight because I think there is a great need for the people of South Australia to be aware of the fact thatagain I am not being critical of the Distribution Commissioners- the guidelines under which the Commissioners had to operate were restrictive in such a way that there was a greater opportunity for the Labor Party in the State elections than there was for the anti-socialist group, if I may put it that way, to win. I think this is something that has been reflected in the Federal vote and something that must be looked at in the future in South Australia.
I now turn to something that I consider to be of great importance not only to my State of South Australia but also to Australia as a whole. I refer to an area known as Roxby Downs in South Australia, a mining area of great potential both in copper and uranium. The ore body itself covers a vast area. Extensive exploration has been going on, but it is complex because the ore body structures are fragmented and fairly deep in the ground. In fact, I have seen unofficial estimates that they are up to 1,000 feet deep. The company involved has already spent millions of dollars in exploration and will spend many millions more in exploration to evaluate the area fully, but already the company knows that it is a highly potential area. The company also knows that it is not a viable proposition to mine for copper alone because the costs are likely to be very high. As I said earlier, the deposits are fairly deep and are in a rather remote area in the north of South Australia. The development of this mine would require the establishment and development of a township plus the many other ancillary facilities that go with the development of a township. Also coupled with these costs are the costs of separating the uranium from the copper. If the company is not allowed to sell the uranium or to process it in any way, of course there will be the added cost of stockpiling the uranium. No doubt the question of environmental protection would also be raised, and this would be a considerable cost.
There is a need at the present time, in order that the company has a satisfactory cash flow, for both of the minerals to be processed to some extent and to be sold- I again name the minerals, copper and uranium- otherwise Roxby Downs would not be an economic proposition. This company has been prepared, as I said, to spend many millions of dollars in exploration costs for the future development of this highly potential area, but unfortunately the Premier of South Australia is still playing ducks and drakes in regard to uranium. I say ‘ducks and drakes’ because, whilst the Premier has been saying many things in opposition to the mining of uranium, he has allowed uranium exploration to continue not only around Roxby Downs where there is uranium in the ore body but also in other parts of South Australia. For example, a German company known as Uranez which was issued with a licence in August 1977, which was not very long ago- one recalls the Premier was opposed to the mining of uranium when this licence was issued- has been exploring two areas some 30 kilometres from Adelaide. One of these areas is in the Gawler-Kersbrook area which you, Mr President, would know very well because it is not far from your residence. The other one is South Willunga which again is not very far south of Adelaide.
Uranium exploration also is going on in the Olary province, as it is called, on Plumbago Station. I have been in touch with the people on Plumbago Station, and they have expressed a lot of concern about the exploration which is taking place there. It is interesting to note that Plumbago Station was declared an Aboriginal historic and relics area in 1972. Yet reports have stated clearly- I have not seen them denied by the Premier or any other member of the State Government- that the Aboriginals were not informed nor consulted before licences were issued and exploration began in the Plumbago Station area. In fact, there was a report in a newspaper of a statement made by Mr Viner on 6 December 1 977 in which he said:
The Aboriginals had become aware of exploration only when it had been ‘ revealed ‘ in the Press.
Such secrecy in Aboriginal affairs is to be deplored’, Mr Viner said.
At a time when Mr Dunstan is presenting himself as the champion of anti-uranium protesters and the champion of Aboriginal interests, the revelation that uranium drilling is taking place in Aboriginal historic and sacred areas must dismay Aboriginals throughout Australia.
There is quite a deal more verbiage there. I am willing to table this article if I am challenged. This was reported in the Adelaide Advertiser of 6 December 1977. The final comment in the Press article was that Mr Dunstan could not be contacted for comment that night. To my knowledge- I stand corrected, if anybody wishes to correct me- Mr Dunstan has never commented in the Press on this matter. No doubt he has passed private comments. One could go further and refer to the station owners themselves and the concern which they have publicly expressed when interviewed by the Press. I have had discussions with them in regard to Plumbago Station. I again quote from the article:
The owner of Plumbago station, Mr David Crawford, and the station manager, Mr Gerald Gloster, have approached the . . . company and the South Australian Government to halt the exploration.
They claim it is causing considerable damage to the ecology of the area.
The article also stated:
Mr Crawford is also an honorary warden of Plumbago Reserve.
I emphasise that part of the article:
Mr Crawford is also an honorary warden of Plumbago Reserve.
It is a reserve. It was established as an Aboriginal reserve in 1 972. The matter does not stop there. When I say that it does not stop there I mean that Mr Dunstan has been allowing this exploration to go on in this reserve and in other areas of South Australia ever since his change in policy which took place, as I understand it, in March 1 977. Earlier this evening I cited Press comment dated December 1977. One can go further than that. The South Australian Government delayed for over 12 months any amendments to the South Australian Mining Act because the Act as it previously stood stated very clearly that any company that was given a licence for exploration of minerals was also entitled to the exploitationI repeat the word ‘exploitation’- of those minerals. It can be only in that State Parliament that the legislation to my knowledge can be amended. I pose this question: Why has there been delay for all this time if the State Government were genuine in its opposition to the mining of uranium?
One becomes aware of the fact that the South Australian Government is continuing with a feasibility study on the establishment of an enrichment plant in South Australia. I have talked previously in this chamber about the matter. It has gone on for many years. The State Government is still working closely with the Australian Atomic Energy Commission in regard to a uranium enrichment plant in South Australia and uranium exploration generally in South Australia. But then we go further and we find that the South Australian Government established a uranium enrichment committee in 1975. That committee is still operating. Each year it has produced a report.
Although the South Australian Government received the third report of that body late last year, that report has still not been presented to the State Parliament and made public. I ask why. Is it because, as has been reported, the Premier and his Cabinet asked the authors to rewrite the report because they were not happy with its contents? One does not know. But it would be very interesting to know why the Premier has not seen fit to accept this report. This report has been prepared- I emphasise- by experts. There is no doubt in my mind- no doubt this will come out some time in the future- that this third report possibly spoke in favour of the mining of uranium and the establishment of an enrichment plant in South Australia. We certainly will know whether this is so one day.
But let us go still further. Mr Dunstan is still pressing for the establishment of a uranium enrichment plant in South Australia. Back in March he changed his mind. But in October 1 977 he met with representatives of URENCO CENTEC, a British-Dutch-German company with the expertise to develop and establish an enrichment plant on the centrifuge system.
– Was that just after the State election?
-That was in October, which would be after the State election. That is correct.
– You are not even being honest now.
– I heard that interjection, Mr President. If any honourable senator from the other side or my side of the chamber wants to dispute what I am saying tonight he or she is welcome to do so. I am quite willing to listen. I am stating facts which have been given in South Australia to the people of South Australia. Also, through the Department of Mines, the South Australian Government helped to organise a seminar in Adelaide last December to inform mining companies of the potential for mineral and energy development in South Australia. It is interesting to consider some of the topics which were listed for discussion: Potential for Mesozioc and tertiary uranium deposits; the Stuart Shelf and Torrens Hinge Zone; the mineral potential of Gawler Crater- let us remember that at the present time a German company is exploring for uranium there- the Olary Province, where as I mentioned earlier a company is exploring also; and the Adelaide Geosyncline. Geologists state very clearly that all of these areas are known to contain substantial deposits of uranium.
I take the matter further. Again, if I am incorrect, let any honourable senator challenge me, as I should like to know. The State Government has been the client of AMDEL, the Australian Mineral Development Laboratories in Adelaide, South Australia. The State Government has been a client of AMDEL and AMDEL has been carrying out field trials during the past year to see whether the leaching process for the extraction of uranium is suitable for use on uranium deposits in South Australia.
– Fraser is corrupting you like everyone else.
- Senator Cavanagh is criticising me and saying that I am corrupt. If I am wrong in some of the things I have said it is up to honourable senators to say that I am wrong.
– You know you are wrong.
– I do not know I am wrong. If I am wrong let honourable senators prove with facts that I am wrong. It is up to them. They have challenged me; let them prove it with facts, Mr President. How can Mr Dunstan keep up with all this technology, as he had done with his studies into enrichment? If he is so opposed to the mining of uranium, why has he used taxpayers’ money for this research by AMDEL? I repeat: If it can be proved that I am wrong, let honourable senators say that I am wrong and I shall accept that my information is not correct. But until such time as I am proved incorrect I shall stand by the information which has been given to me.
I again emphasise that much of the work which I have mentioned tonight has been done since Mr Dunstan had his change of policy. We recall that Mr Dunstan seconded the motion on uranium passed at the Federal Australian Labor Party conference in Perth last year. What is more, he also led the ALP general election campaign on the anti-uranium issue. We all saw him on television. Ironically, as I understand it, while this was taking place, the Tasmanian Government issued licences for the exploration of uranium in that State. Again, if I am wrong, let honourable senators tell me so and prove to me that I am wrong. But this does indicate the confusion on the uranium issue within the ALP at the present time. I want to know why Mr Dunstan adopted the stand he did. Was it because, as Senator Messner stated earlier, some things happened after the State election? Was it to appease people and to make sure that he maximised his vote in the State election? Or was it because he is ambitious and would like to be the next Federal President of the ALP?
Let us not lay all the blame on Mr Dunstan. I make it perfectly clear that the Labor Party in South Australia originally was in favour of the mining and export of uranium. For years discussions continued on the establishment of an enrichment plant in South Australia- an enrichment plant which was proposed to be built at Redcliffs in South Australia. But it is stated that the Premier changed his mind after receiving reports from a particular committee. But who were the members of that committee and who prepared that report? Were they members of the Mines Department with expertise? No, they were not. Was anybody on that committee scientifically engaged on research into aspects of uranium et cetera? According to my information this was not so. The members were two officers of the Premier’s Policy Secretariat.
A question concerning this matter was asked in the House of Assembly in South Australia. I shall quote what was said because I might be questioned by one or two Opposition senators. I shall read from the South Australian Hansard proof for that House of 1 3 December 1977. After being questioned by Mr Roger Goldsworthy, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in that House, Mr Dunstan finally said that two officers of his Policy Secretariat prepared the report. He went on to say:
After the report had been presented to the Government, a special working party on the development of material in the report was established, but it has not yet finally reported.
That report still has not been presented to the House of Assembly. Again I ask why.
Further, it has been stated that one of the reasons why the State Government is opposed to the mining of uranium is the problem of waste disposal. But let us go back over the history. When the South Australian Government was in favour of the mining and export of uranium, technology was not advanced as it is today. Today we know that France, West Germany, England and the United States of America- but particularly France- have made the statement that with vitrification or glassification the storing of waste will be a commercial exercise by 1985. There are scientists who a few years ago questioned the problem of waste for the future who today say that vitrification will make a great difference with respect to the safe disposal of waste.
Might I suggest that the South Australian Government might have a very close look at what will be known as the Windscale report when it becomes available, which I hope will be in the not too distant future. Windscale has been one of the major research areas on nuclear reactors in the world. It has had not only theoretical but also practical experience and it is interesting to note that following the evidence that was given to the Windscale inquiry the United Kingdom has agreed to the establishment of a further four nuclear reactors in the United Kingdom. That decision was based on the evidence that was given, not on the report- and there is a difference.
I have mentioned these matters tonight and have referred particularly to uranium and the attitude of the South Australian Government to uranium because I am concerned about the future of Roxby Downs. Roxby Downs has great potential. I do not know whether this chamber is aware of the fact but Roxby Downs could be another Mount Isa, plus or minus, and Mount Isa produces some 1 50,000 tonnes of copper a year. Coupled with this, at Roxby Downs there is uranium and some reports, though not official, have stated that the uranium at Roxby Downs could equal that in the Ranger deposits and that there is sufficient uranium in Roxby Downs alone, forgetting the other known deposits in South Australia, to justify the establishment of an enrichment plant in South Australia. Yet we see the Premier and Government of South Australia playing ducks and drakes on the issue. I will say now that they will change their mindsthey will have to change their minds pretty soon -because no company will continue spending millions of dollars in exploration of an area of great potential- I emphasise the words ‘great potential ‘-if it is to be forced to separate and stockpile uranium and suffer all the costs involved in that operation as well as the other costs which are involved.
As I said earlier, this is a remote area of South Australia. It is in a position which would require the establishment of a further township together with the establishment of some smelting works and possibly processing works for the uranium. It is an area in which we can see the potential for the industry in conjunction with the ancillary and other services to employ collectively thousands of people in my State of South Australia.
– Except that they have no water.
– We once had no water at Whyalla but we managed to pump it from the
River Murray and established a new industrial area there. We have an iron triangle at the top of South Australia. So water could be pumped to this area and no doubt would be. This development has the potential to bring so much into South Australia and to employ so many people in our State. No company can be expected to be Father Christmas forever and to continue spending millions of dollars if it does not know exactly where it is going. I go further and say that no government can afford to play ducks and drakes- I will not say ‘use double standards’- on an issue in the way that the South Australian Government is doing on this issue at present and place at risk the possibility of the development of an area of such great potential, development that could mean so much to our State in so many ways but particularly in terms of employment opportunities.
There is a great chance that we could lose the opportunity to develop this mine. So much work has been done over the years in feasibility studies on the establishment of an enrichment plant in South Australia, but we may see an enrichment plant, which will be established in Australia some time, finish up in one of the other States and our State would miss out again. The responsibility lies clearly with the South Australian Government and if it does not face up to its responsibility and we in our State miss out on what could be the greatest development in South Australia since the Sir Thomas Playford days, it will have to pay the price. If it does not accept its responsibility I hope that the price will be heavy. I have much pleasure in supporting the motion before the Chair.
-In speaking for the first time in the Thirty-first Parliament I have pleasure in welcoming Senator Haines to the national Parliament and congratulate her on her maiden speech which she made last week. Her stay in this chamber will be brief. Nevertheless, I wish her well while she serves the term for which she was elected by the Parliament of South Australia. Many of the honourable senators who have made a mark in this chamber have first entered the Federal Parliament after being chosen by a State Parliament to fill a casual vacancy, just as Senator Haines has. There was a time in 1 975 when I thought I would enter the Senate in that way. As honourable senators know, that was not to be so. Having been rejected on political grounds by the Queensland Parliament I was subsequently elected by the people of Queensland later in 1975. At least my experience was part of the catalyst which led to the constitutional change in relation to casual vacancies in 1977. That constitutional change affected the length of tenure of office of Senator Lewis who was in the chamber at the time of the 1977 referendum. In that respect, therefore, Senator Lewis was the first person to be directly affected by the 1977 constitutional change. On the other hand, Senator Haines is the first person to fill a casual vacancy under the new law which resulted from the Constitution being altered in 1977.
In one respect I was pleased to be able to listen to the Governor-General ‘s Speech on 2 1 February. My pleasure arose from the fact that the Governor-General, although not a Queenslander by birth, had recently spent a number of years in Queensland. In my latter years as a post-graduate student at the University of Queensland Sir Zelman was the ViceChancellor. In later years I came to know him much better than I had when I was a student. When I heard that Sir Zelman had been appointed the Queen’s representative in Australia I was delighted. At that time I thought that if any person could restore dignity to the high position of Governor-General in Australia it would be Sir Zelman. Like many others in Australia I hope and pray that Sir Zelman does not let us down. Knowing him as I do I doubt that he will give us cause for disappointment.
Before referring to the Governor-General’s Speech I make one comment about a matter that was raised by Senator Young. Senator Young implied that there was some malapportionment of electorates in South Australia. Of course, he was referring to Federal electorates. It has been my experience that if one wants to see malapportionment of electorates one should look at Queensland. At the moment it is almost impossible in Queensland for either the Australian Labor Party to win office or for the Liberal Party to become the major party in the coalition. The answer in Queensland clearly does not lie in requesting the current coalition to ensure that there is less malapportionment of electorates in Queensland. The answer clearly is in the hands of the Liberal Party in Queensland which, if it wished, could form a loose arrangement with the Australian Labor Party to ensure that there are proper electorates in Queensland, electorates which will more properly reflect the vote that is cast and electorates which are not malapportioned as they are now.
I turn now to the matter which is under direct consideration in this debate, the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. We must remember that the Governor-General’s Speech was not written by him but by the Government, so any criticism of aspects of the Speech is not a criticism of the Governor-General but of the Government. As the Governor-General began to read his Speech I was hopeful that some plan would be outlined for dealing with unemployment. Instead, we were confronted with the same old mixture as we have been confronted with over the past two years. Largely, there were words and more words but nothing to give any real hope for the future. Let us remind ourselves what the Governor-General said about unemployment. He said:
My Government’s priorities are clear. They are:
To build on the progress we have made over the last two years, to defeat inflation and unemployment, and restore full economic health to our country.
I hold that there has been no progress in defeating unemployment. In fact, as I shall show later, unemployment has become markedly worse over the past two years. The Governor-General in his Speech said:
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.
It would be folly for us not to recognise that there has been some reduction in inflation, but what a cost there has been in reducing it- a cost in throwing many more people out of work. There was nothing in those two statements of the Governor-General to suggest that there is any hope for the unemployed. There were some remarks about the employment and training schemes and also making the Commonwealth Employment Service more efficient, but these schemes have already been used with singular lack of success. Reorganisation of the CES should have been undertaken long ago if the Government had any wish to honour its promises in regard to unemployment. Let us look at some of the statements that have been made over the last two years and beyond by this Government about how it would put people into the work force. In 1975 Mr Fraser, in his policy speech, said:
Let us all as Australians determine to restore prosperity, defeat inflation and provide jobs for all.
Since he made that statement about 163,500 more people have become unemployed. Following the return of the caretaker government in 1975, on 17 February 1976 the GovernorGeneral, in his Speech, said:
My Government’s immediate objective is to bring inflation under control so that there can again be jobs for all who want to work.
Again we were being told that the Government’s aim was to provide jobs for all people. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table entitled Unemployment Statistics January 1976, 1977 and 1978’. The table lists the unemployment figures for Australia and Queensland. I showed the table to the Minister at the table and he has indicated his willingness for it to be incorporated in Hansard, provided the Senate agreed.
The table read as follows-
– A comparison between 1976, when the Governor-General made the comment to which I have referred, and 1978 shows that there has been a dramatic increase in the number of unemployed. The percentage of the work force unemployed increased from 5.66 per cent to 7.2 1 per cent. I have taken the figures for January because they are the latest available. If we are to compare month with month now that there are no seasonally adjusted figures, it is important to compare like calendar month with like calendar month. This table shows how dramatic the increase has been. In my own State of Queensland the increase has been even more dramatic, being from 6.54 per cent to 8.57 per cent of the work force. We now have the worst unemployment in Australia since the Great Depression- two years after Mr Fraser saying that he would provide jobs for all.
In 1976 Mr Lynch mentioned in his Budget Speech that unemployment would soon drop. After talking about growth factors in the economy, he said:
It would be rash to predict any earlier reduction in unemployment; movements in the remainder of the calendar year 1 976 are unlikely to be great.
But 1 977, all going well, should see a start on a more concerted fall.
But 1977 did not see the start of a more concerted fall. The table I incorporated in Hansard shows that in 1977 the figures were worse than they were in 1976. In Queensland there were more unemployed. A marginally smaller percentage of the work force was unemployed because of an increase in the work force, but 1977 did not show the fall we were looking for after that speech. In 1977 Mr Fraser, in his policy speech, seemed to be doubting whether we would get unemployment under control. He said:
Because of our job assistance strategy, because of the growth and development our policy has made possible unemployment will fall from February and keep falling.
What he was saying was that unemployment would fall from February. Of course, one would expect it to fall from February or March because of the seasonal factors in the economy. He was not saying that unemployment would fall in real terms. The words ‘will fall’ seem to have a familiar ring. I sometimes wonder whether we shall see a fall in 1978 as we hope we shall. We now have 7.2 per cent of the work force unemployed. As I said, that is 163,500 more than when Mr Fraser promised in 1 975 to provide jobs for all. Words and more words have been spoken about unemployment, but we do not seem to be able to get any action. Unemployment is continuing to increase and greater and greater social distress is being experienced throughout the community.
As I represent Queensland, I think it is incumbent on me to mention something about the unemployment situation in that State. Unemployment in Queensland can only be described as disastrous. From January 1977 to January this year unemployment increased by a massive 35 per cent in Queensland. Queensland has a greater rate of unemployment- 8.57 per centthan that of any of the other States. Of course, some areas of Queensland had increases greater than 35 per cent over the last year. Metropolitan Brisbane had an increase of 44 per cent. Other employment districts in Queensland where the increase was particularly severe were Gladstone with 38 per cent, Ayr with 39 per cent, Nambour just north of Brisbane with 42 per cent, Bundaberg with 45 per cent, Warwick with 46 per cent, Toowoomba with 65 per cent and Rockhampton with the greatest increase of all- 76 per cent. Sometimes when one looks at these figures one just wonders how high unemployment must go before the Fraser Government realises that the situation is serious.
When unemployment is being discussed much stress is put on economic issues. I do not say that these are unimportant, but there are other issues I wish to canvass tonight. I believe these other issues are more severe and have graver consequences than the economic issues. I am referring to the social consequences of unemployment. These should be discussed in Parliament, so I intend to outline to the Senate some of the social consequences that flow from unemployment. We can quite understand that the examples we can see in the literature from overseas can be applicable to Australia as well. I refer firstly to mental illness. Substantial evidence exists of a strong link between rates of unemployment and mental illness. For example, Brenner’s book Mental Illness and the Economy, a report of a series of studies which used unemployment as a major economic indicator, contained a good deal of evidence which indicated that the link between mental illness and unemployment exists. Because of the depth of Brenner’s findings it is difficult, if not impossible, to outline an adequate summary of his book in a few minutes. Nevertheless, it may be stated that the study revealed an inverse relationship between the state of the economy and mental illness- that is, the worse the state of the economy the higher the incidence of mental illness.
Brenner reported that three broad phenomena were associated with that inverse relationship. Firstly, the national economy was shown by his study to be the single most important source of fluctuation in mental hospital admission rates. Secondly, the relationship is so consistent for certain segments of society that virtually no major factor other than economic instability appears to influence variations in their mental hospitalisation rates. Thirdly, the relationship has been basically stable for the last 127 years, and there is considerable evidence that it has had a greater impact in the last two decades. Of course, that study was based on material collected overseas. Those who read the House of Representatives Hansard would know that last week one speaker quoted figures relating to Victorian mental hospitalisation rates which indicated that a connection existed between unemployment and hospitalisation rates in that State.
In addition to mental illness but associated with it is the information to be obtained from suicide rates. Suicide is a most dramatic indicator of the connection between job security and stress. An Australian historical study shows a relationship between male suicide rates and unemployment for the period from 1901 to 1967. The study clearly indicates a positive correlation between levels of unemployment and suicide rates. A study conducted in the early 1 970s by the Victorian Mental Health Authority also showed that in two Victorian regions, one metropolitan and one provincial, attempted suicide amongst the unemployed was far greater than amongst the remainder of the community. For example, in the metropolitan region unemployed males had an attempted suicide rate of 118.6 per 10,000 compared with a rate of 2.4 for professional and managerial personnel, 14.9 for white collar workers and 23.4 for blue collar workers, the latter three categories being employed persons. Similar contrasts were shown in attempted suicide rates for females. In the provincial region the difference between the figures for unemployed and employed persons was even more marked than those I have quoted for the metropolitan region. For those who are interested in considering the study in more depth, it was documented in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry in 1 975.
The medical practitioners in this chamber would be better able to comment on the relationship between unemployment and heart disease than a person without a medical background, but apparently there is also a correlation between the two. Physical illness, it seems, can result from periods of unemployment. In the New Doctor of July 1977 an article entitled ‘Economic Change as a Factor in Heart Disease’ showed a strong association between heart disease mortality and unemployment during the past 50 years in Australia. Heart disease mortality rates rise with unemployment and fall as employment recovers.
When discussing the social effects of unemployment it is important that we do not forget the children of the community. Unemployment does have an effect on children in a family where unemployment is prevalent. As well as increasing tension and insecurity in the home, unemployment results in food, heating, clothing and other basic ingredients of good health being edged out of the household budget as long term commitments to rent or mortgages have to be paid. A study by the Brotherhood of St Laurence has shown that the majority of the unemployed have minimal savings. Thus it is not long before those families feel the full financial blow of unemployment, and quite often the children suffer because of it. The last consequence of unemployment with which I wish to deal, although not the only one remaining, is juvenile crime. Evidence is available which suggests a link between unemployment and juvenile crime. A South Australian Government working party on youth unemployment reported a 238 per cent increase in juvenile unemployed offenders in the period June 1 973 to June 1 976. That compared with an increase of 40 per cent for school-attending offenders and 37 per cent for work force-employed offenders.
As I said earlier, much of the discussion on unemployment centres on economic matters. I do not consider those matters to be unimportant, but it is most important that we consider the social effects of unemployment. Many of them will be long term if unemployment remains high in the Australian community. It is not good enough for us to look at the employment figures in terms of mere statistics, compare one month with another and make comments about the unemployed as such. We must consider the people behind the statistics and the misery that is being created for a large number of people throughout the community. When we consider that the latest statistics show that 445,300 Australians are unemployed, we will realise that a large number of people, in effect many more than those figures suggest, are being affected by unemployment, and the social consequences of that unemployment are more far-reaching than the figure of almost half a million would indicate. One could say that more people within the community are unemployed than the statistics indicate, because those statistics refer only to people registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service. Even if no more people were unemployed, some of those 445,300 have families to support. Probably close to one million people in the Australian community in some way are affected because they or their breadwinner, their father or their mother are employed. We should remember those social consequences.
I have outlined the way in which I believe the Governor-General ‘s Speech was deficient in not throwing any light on how we are to tackle unemployment in the community. That is not a criticism of the Governor-General, it is a criticism of the Government. I urge the Government, not only on the social grounds of which I have been speaking this evening but on all grounds, to tackle the problem with all the vigour that it can muster. If it does this, it may ensure that in two years’ time we do not look at figures typical of those that I have referred to tonight and do not find that there has been a dramatic increase during that period.
– I rise to speak on the Address-in-Reply to the Speech delivered by the Governor-General opening the Parliament. There is, on the part of senators from Queensland, a particular interest in that speech and in the appointment of the Governor-General. Those of us who not only come from Queensland but also have been associated with the University of Queensland, as have Senator Colston and I, have a particular knowledge of the sort of job that Sir Zelman Cowen did as Vice Chancellor of the University, and look forward with interest to see how this man, who has for many years been recognised throughout Australia for his endeavours in various areas of activity, will fill this post.
I should like to congratulate Senator Haines upon her maiden speech. I think we all admire the courage which Senator Haines, who came here on her own as it were, without Party colleagues, has shown in involving herself immediately in the workings of the Senate, and her eagerness to give her maiden speech so that she can be an active participant in the proceedings of this chamber during the time that she will be here. I make no comment about the method of her appointment because I do not hold her responsible for that. However, on the basis of her performance so far I am sure that we will receive much benefit from her stay here.
I look forward to greeting appropriately the other senators from the Australian Democrats when they arrive and will be interested to see how they perform in this chamber. I am especially interested to see how these representatives of the Party which made the Senate its particular target in the 1977 election treat this body in fact. I, along with certain others in this chamber, remember clearly that Mr Chipp and others were party to supporting a Yes vote in a referendum which, if carried, would certainly have damaged this chamber. While I do not want to canvass that issue again because it was settled by the electors, I do feel some misgivings about the fact that a party which, by its own actions, has shown that it is not particularly motivated to the Senate as a States House and a house of review has nevertheless chosen this chamber as its political target on the grounds that it is easier for a minor party to receive representation in it than in the State parliaments or in the House of Representatives. We must await the arrival of those senators to see how they demonstrate their sincerity by their actions in this chamber, in the light of their motives for wanting to be here.
I wanted to make one or two comments, in opening, about the 1977 election, a subject in which the Australian Democrats are, of course, highly relevant. At the declaration of the poll in Queensland I made some comments on the election. It was a fairly long speech of some 20 to 25 minutes duration. One sentence, though almost irrelevant to my speech, received a great deal of media attention. I do not intend to repeat that sentence this evening, but would like to repeat a little of what I said on that occasion concerning my impressions on the election and what it meant to this country.
Without doubt, the overwhelming mood of the electorate in 1977 was one of weariness and cynicism; not necessarily weariness at having to vote again, because there was a special situation in Queensland in that only one month earlier there had been voting for the State election. I do not think that Australians are so careless of their rights in a democracy that they objected to having to vote again. Indeed, I think they cherished that right, and meant to make the best use of it that they could. But continually I heard from voters during the campaign throughout Queensland a sentiment expressed which concerned me greatly. That was one of disillusionment with political parties, rather than the structure of government and parliament in Australia. These were not necessarily voters who were being motivated to vote for the Australian Democrats as a result of their disillusionment. Undoubtedly some were, but not all. These were people who had a firm view in support of the Liberal Party, the National Party or the Labor Party but voted without any great joy for any of those parties. One person with whom I had a discussion summed it up fairly well. She was a youngish woman, in her 30s, very intelligent and very much involved in the community. In discussing the question with me she said very simply: ‘ We feel used. ‘
I think that does sum up the feeling of many Australians. She was referring to the way that she, as a voter, felt in relation to the major parties, be they government or opposition, in Australia. I believe every candidate in the last election, regardless of party, would have been quite aware of that sentiment on the part of a significant section of the Australian public, which is a thinking and caring public, one which cares about this nation and wants to see government, whatever its political colour, clearly motivated towards acting in the interests of our nation. Many people do not have confidence that Australia’s political parties have that motivation. We can debate whether that lack of confidence is justified in relation to our own Party. What we must nevertheless take very seriously, whatever else we may say in this debate, is the fact that that feeling is there, that it is strong and that it is pervasive. We have, as elected representatives of the people, a special responsibility to ensure that they see that what we do is relevant to them; that we are representing them and are working for the good of our country in the way that we see best, whatever our political philosophy or affiliation.
I believe that all political parties, and certainly all members of the Parliament, should address themselves very seriously to this problem with an open mind, not approaching it from the standpoint of a political philosophy to which we have all long since been committed, on whatever side of politics we happen to be, but with a true concern for what so many Australians are sayingbelieving that if so many are saying it, it is something that we ought to take very seriously indeed, try to analyse and respond to rather than utilise for our own short term political objectives. There is certainly a very strong feeling of disillusionment with the major political parties in Australia. There is probably not much point in continuing a debate into why this should be so, but we ought to recognise that it is there. All of us, whatever our political allegiance, believe that our party has something to offer this country. We differ only as to the best way to direct our country according to our own political philosophy. Nevertheless I feel that a major part of the disillusionment is that too many people have seen members of Parliament anxious only to score political points on the basis of party rather than with an eye to what is best for the nation ‘s welfare.
The points which are scored in this place frequently come too cheap and, unfortunately, especially so during election campaigns, when the attention of the media is really centered on the politicians, especially the leaders: That sort of point scoring becomes monotonous, tedious and disillusioning. It really puts that sort of unworthy political activity into the spotlight and people, I believe, reacted to it last year. We cannot just believe that it will just go away for another three years, until the next election. There is a mood abroad of which heed must be taken.
Much has been said in this debate about the relevance of Parliament and there will, of course, be much more debate in this chamber in months to come on how we can attempt to make the Senate more relevant within the parliamentary system. The responsibility for doing that is, obviously, upon both Government and Opposition. Possibly, there is a slightly greater responsibility upon the Government because it usually initiates changes in this chamber. The Senate Opposition, whatever party it may be, has nevertheless developed a tradition of making a positive contribution to the processes of this chamber. I hope that we can look forward to a genuinely bipartisan attempt in the Senate to find ways to make the Senate more relevant to all Australians, not only to those in States which are currently most aware of its importance.
My own special interest in this subject is sparked by a long-growing irritation, which has grown into anger on some issues, with certain statutory corporations. For quite some time I, obviously along with many other members of the Parliament, have had a growing concern about the power of statutory corporations in our society, about the way they are using that power and about the seeming impotence of Parliament to try to reach out and do anything about it. As a general rule, we set up statutory corporations because we believe there is a function that is best performed without the interference of party politicians. Some of those statutory corporations occupy positions of enormous privilege and social importance in our community. Many of us believe, I am sure, that some of them are now acting in a way which has the most profound social implications for our country. Their decisions are ones of far-reaching importance to many Australian citizens, but they are beyond the control of Parliament and at times they act as though they believe they are beyond the questioning of Parliament.
We have to address ourselves vigorously to this problem. I am aware that a Senate committee is investigating statutory corporations at present, but I think that we also should all be aware of the possibilities of what I would openly call an abuse of the authority by some of these corporations, and their disregard for the responsibility that ought to go with that authority. We have debated this subject in passing on a number of other specific topics. We have debated it in relation to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, and it also arose last year in debate on some industrial legislation when we were particularly concerned about what was happening with Australia Post and Redfern particularly at that time. I believe that we should address ourselves vigorously and continuously to this problem, not in order to blackguard the statutory corporations but to look seriously at the nature of the problem to see what sort of difficulties it is creating for Parliament, and to try to find a reasonable solution which will somehow meet the original objective of statutory corporations but will not at the same time undermine the authority and responsibility of Parliament.
Generally, statutory corporations operate from a position of privilege. I shall talk about two particular statutory corporations this evening, the Australian Telecommunications Commission and Australia Post, which I shall take as one example, and the Australian Broadcasting Commission which I take as another example. These corporations occupy a position of privilege. Telecom and Australia Post have a virtual monopoly on a particular form of communication in this country. The ABC has a monopoly in certain areas. Telecom and Australia Post have to find their own finance. The ABC does not; it is financed from the public purse. When a government allows such organisations as Telecom and Australia Post to occupy the highly privileged position they have in the area of communications in Australia it must recognise that those organisations can make decisions which can have the most profound social implications for the development of our country and a very large impact on policies which a government is pursuing in other areas. When a government funds a corporation such as the Australian Broadcasting Commission and makes it independentfor a very good reason- it nevertheless must face the fact that it has given public funds to the organisation and somebody has to be responsible for how those funds are used. Unfortunately, accountability and responsibility are two area which certain statutory corporations- I include the ABC, Telecom and Australia Post among them- and government have been very unwilling to face. They have not faced their real responsibilities for what is happening with the political and social power and the public funds conferred on them by government.
Two things in particular stir me to speak on these subjects this evening. I shall deal with the Australian Broadcasting Commission first. Last year a citizen of Queensland wrote to me complaining about a certain radio program which she alleged had been broadcast at 5.30 on a Sunday evening. This person, the mother of a young family, said that the ABC was the only broadcasting service that they could get in their area. If they wanted to listen to the radio at that time on a Sunday afternoon- obviously a fairly popular time for family listening- the ABC was the only program they could listen to. This woman told me that she had been horrified by the content of two programs which had been broadcast as part of a series. I am about to get into the area of censorship and moral standards. I realise that this is an area we tend to shy away from as vigorously as we can in the Parliament, but in shying away from it we are doing a disservice to our citizens. I do not believe that the debate has to be hysterical on a straight out question of individual liberties. We can indicate that there is a standard of generally accepted public decency in Australia to which one ought to expect a publicly funded broadcasting service to adhere.
The first of the two programs to which this woman objected was on homosexuality. The second was on lesbianism. She had written to the previous Minister for Post and Telecommunications complaining about the program. She had also written to the General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I regret that I do not have with me this evening copies of the correspondence. I am afraid that I left them in Brisbane this week through an oversight on my part. I ask honourable senators to bear with me and accept a brief precis of the contents of those letters. The General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission replied to the effect that broadcasters had a responsibility in extending discussion of certain social issues and that the issues to which she had taken exception were ones which the ABC felt were better to be openly discussed by the community. I have no quarrel with that theory. The letter from the Minister for Post and Telecommunications was very brief. He said that he did not believe that the Government should interfere politically with the ABC. I do not think anybody was suggesting party political interference with the ABC. A citizen was saying: What is happening with my money? What is the Broadcasting Commission up to? What is it trying to do when it broadcasts programs of this nature? Can I please have an explanation of what is going on? What is the policy of the Government and the Broadcasting Commission?’ Frankly, she just got the brush-off from both the people to whom she wrote.
She then sent copies of this correspondence to me. I did not correspond with the Minister. I thought that there was probably nothing he would want to add to his answer. However, I wrote to the Australian Broadcasting Commission and requested transcripts of these programs. My reply came not from the General Manager but from the person responsible for ABC ‘talk’ programs. I was informed that the Australian Broadcasting Commission does not provide transcripts of its programs. However, the ABC did have tapes of these allegedly offending programs, and if I would like to travel to Sydney and sit in an ABC office he would be big-hearted enough to let me listen to those tapes. I felt that was something a little less than a polite response to a member of Parliament acting on behalf of a constituent. I replied to the effect that I had in my possession tapes of the same quality as those used by the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I was prepared to post them to Sydney and would be obliged if the ABC would transcribe on to them these programs and return them to me in Brisbane so that I could hear them without travelling to Sydney. I received no reply to that letter. Several weeks later I had a conversation in Canberra with the gentleman who had replied to my first letter in which he informed me that it was unnecessary for me to post my tapes. The ABC would give me copies of the tapes which he just happened to have in his briefcase. We were attending an Estimates committee meeting at the time. With the tapes he had a letter. I regret that I do not have this correspondence with me. What was said in it was rather important. The tone of his letter was entirely different from all the previous correspondence. There was an explanation of the context of these particular programs, the purpose of the series of programs that was being run and a comment that there was some content in the second program which the ABC regretted had been allowed to go to air. Because of some foul-up, somebody being sick and other problems with the internal ABC system of checks and balances, it had slipped through. The tone of the letter was more conciliatory, but I cannot see why that explanation could not have been given to the citizen who had written and complained. I am sure that the only reason that more conciliatory and more polite explanation was given was that I had shown that I was prepared to pursue this matter to the end. Even so, that letter was in strong contrast with the tone of the first letter I received from the ABC. I have since played these tapes. At one stage I considered making a written transcript of them and perhaps tabling them in Parliament. There is some language in them which you, Mr President, would not accept for incorporation in Hansard. However, it is not the language that upsets me most about these tapes. I have listened to both of them and what concerns me is the insidiousness of them. I know it is difficult to debate moral issues in those terms–
– What about the commercial stations and the advertising of foundation garments? Why do you not have a go at private enterprise? It is just as immoral, if you are to take that attitude. You should deal with the other side too. You ought to be fair and honest about it. Let us not gang up on the ABC.
– Be consistent, Senator.
- Mr President, I find it extraordinary that members of the Labor Party indulge in that son of nonsense when one mentions the ABC. They do themselves and this Parliament no good at all when they are not prepared even to look at something that the ABC has done. It is not a matter of ganging up on the ABC at all. If Senator Mulvihill wants to bring up in his speech -
– Why do you not have a go at the commercial stations?
– If Senator Mulvihill chooses to raise it in his speech- as I understand it he is the next but one to speak- then he can -
– Yes, I will have something to say.
– And I will give him a hearing. But I do not intend to be deterred from what I am trying to say by that sort of aside. What I am saying is as applicable to commercial radio as it is to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, namely the question of standards in broadcasting. It is a very difficult question. I am trying to deal with it objectively; I am trying to deal with it in a non-impassioned way and to get to grips with this very difficult area. I have no objection to the broadcasting of programs on homosexuality and lesbianism if they serve some useful purpose. What I objected to in these two programs was, I repeat, the insidiousness of them. They were a series -
– What is wrong with that?
– Just wait a minute and Listen!
– No Queensland solidarity there.
– Ord er ! Senator Martin has the floor. I ask honourable senators not to interrupt her speech.
– Thank you, Mr President. The two programs were a series of interviews with young people discussing their own experiences with and attitudes to this subject. As I said, all the people interviewed were young. I do not know whether the tapes were heavily cut but that is possible because the young people who were interviewed came across in an extraordinarily fluent manner. That is unusual when young people in their late teens and early twenties are interviewed. However, what 1 objected to was the total lack of balance in the programs. By the end of the program any young people in their teens who may have felt that they were interested in this subject would have known exactly how to go about becoming a homosexual or a lesbian. They would have known exactly who to contact in the major capital cities. But they were given no information at all about counselling of a balanced son; they were only told how to join the ‘scene’.
From my own readings on the subject- they are not extensive but it is obviously a current social issue- I have reason to believe that many people follow that pattern of behaviour and then bitterly regret it. There was no comment from people like that; there was no balancing in the programs at all. Instead there was a very smooth and persuasive commentary from people who were committed to a certain form of social behaviour and who were defending their own actions, not looking at them objectively, over a period of an hour or more. I believe that that sort of programming is unbalanced. I believe that any radio station, be it commercial or noncommercial, which takes unto itself that sort of broadcasting, ought to be prepared to publicly justify having gone about it in that way. In contrast, as I have said, when a citizen attempted to pursue that line of questioning she got the total brush off and the Minister used the convenient let out of non-political interference with the ABC. It would not have amounted to political interference. It might have amounted to showing some responsibility and interest in what is being done with public funds under the guise of parliamentary approval.
I was given rather curt treatment when I at first inquired about the content of these programs. It was only when I showed that I was totally determined to pursue the matter- that I was not prepared to catch a plane to Sydney and sit in someone ‘s office for the great privilege of listening to the tapes- that I received what I think was reasonable consideration from the ABC.
– I got treatment inferior to that from Channel 9. Do not run away with the idea that the treatment you got is unique.
-By the time Senator Mulvihill has finished his speech he will have had about 65 minutes. That should be enough for anyone. Will he just let me finish my own speech as neatly as I can. I say in conclusion on the matter of the ABC that it does operate with public funds. That does not mean that politicians should be telling it who it ought to employ and what its programs should be. It does mean that when it takes unto itself the authority that goes with broadcasting, a monopoly authority in many areas of Australia, it is accountable to the public, either directly or through the public’s representatives, when the public objects to what it does. We need to have in this place on occasions a dispassioned debate on what happens in publicly funded authorities. It is indeed a great disservice to the Australian public and it is a denigration of our dudes when we approach a debate on a matter such as the ABC on a blind party political basis. That is what I was talking about at the beginning of my speech. The reason so many people are disillusioned with Parliament is that they see too many politicians who only go through that knee jerk exercise and who show no willingness at all to use their intellect to dispassionately examine a matter of considerable social importance.
I want also to make some references to the activities of Australia Post in a particular area in my State. I think it again reflects the enormous social implications of the activities of Australia Post and Telecom when they make decisions which are very difficult for members of Parliament to understand or learn the facts of, let alone to affect.
I have received recently some information from people living in an area centered on a small town called Abercorn. This is in the general Monto area which is a very large beef growing area. A secondary but very important industry in the area is timber growing. It seems to me that the people who live in this area are going through a process through which many other people in Australia have gone. They are threatened with the closure or downgrading of their post office and their local telephone exchange. I am informed that Australia Post and Telecom are at the moment conducting an investigation into whether this mail service and telephone service which have operated for many years ought to be continued.
The concern of the people involved is that they have seen many people lose their phone and mail services or have them dramatically reduced without having had an opportunity reasonably to put their case. They have reason to believe that Telecom and Australia Post are currently proceeding on the basis of misinformation in their case. They have not been invited by these statutatory corporations to put their point of view on the matter. There has been some private correspondence within Australia Post and Telecom which has not involved the local citizens at all. Their fear is that decisions will be made, possibly on the basis of misinformation but certainly before the consumers are given any opportunity to put their case. I want to give honourable senators some information relating to this service but I want to take it further than just that postal and telephone service. I want to show the implications of what a negative decision will mean for these people.
We all know only too well when we receive anguished letters from our constituents on subjects such as mail services and telephone services what are the normal consequence of our engaging in correspondence on these subjects. When we write to any Minister for Post and Telecommunications and plead that he consider the social and political implications of an adverse decision we are invariably told that Australia Post and Telecom are independent bodies which have been set up in a particular way and that it is not for Ministers of the Crown to interfere in their decisions. There might be a good case for that but I am not convinced that it is the whole case. I fear that a position has existed under governments of all political colours of Ministers and governments not really facing their responsibility in this area. Basic communications are tremendously important social development factors in our country- particularly in our country, which is so huge and which has such a small population. I am part of a government which is committed to decentralisation, and we cannot have meaningful decentralisation without an adequate communications system.
In the case of the Abercorn exchange, I believe that Telecom is proceeding on the basis that the exchange has only 12 subscribers. These words have been used in correspondence.
– What about Mulgildie?
– Mulgildie is close. I ask the honourable senator to wait a minute. I am not going to talk about Mulgildie yet. It is in the area, and I congratulate Senator McAuliffe for remembering that Mulgildie is between Abercorn and Monto. Mulgildie is not involved at the moment. From all the available evidence, Telecom is proceeding on the basis that there are only 12 subscribers on the Abercorn exchange. In fact, there are 12 party lines and 29 subscribers. That is the basis on which the matter ought to be debated. In view of the secrecy with which Telecom goes about these things, naturally the local subscribers are concerned that that is the basis upon which Telecom is proceeding. They have good reason to believe it, but Telecom has never communicated to them that that is the basis on which it is proceeding. As I have said, there are 29 separate phone connections involved and that is rather more significant than 12. There are more than 29 families involved who are working in the beef industry in this developing area of Queensland.
One is led to wonder whether other decisions to close down exchanges have been based on misconceptions about the actual service that is being given. When Telecom is not required to justify its actions until after the event, if ever, one is in no position to know what is really going on.
I am told that Australia Post has planned for some time to amalgamate two mail services in this area. Senator McAuliffe interjected in relation to Mulgildie.
– I did not think you knew.
– I know Mulgildie very well. It is at the end of the story. I ask the honourable senator to be patient. There are two mail services- one which runs from Abercorn and another which runs from Eidsvold, some 18 miles south of Abercorn.
– What electorate in Queensland is that?
– Is is the Federal electorate of Kennedy. I am sorry that Senator Mulvihill’s knowledge of the geography of Queensland is not up to that of Senator McAuliffe. Some time ago the Abercorn service was centred on Eidsvold. In fact the people who live in that area do more business with Monto, although it is just a few miles further distant, and many of them see Monto rather than Eidsvold as the centre of their business. After a great struggle they managed to get Monto considered as part of their local area and they were no longer making trunk line calls every time they made a call to Monto. They managed to have Monto rather than Eidsvold, which was just a few miles closer, recognised as their natural centre. Now they are led to believe- they have not been officially told- that Australia Post is considering amalgamating their mail service from Abercorn, which is three times a week, with an Eidsvold mail service.
The Eidsvold service seems to be particularly badly designed because at the end of the run there are nine dead miles; that is, nine miles without any calls until the last two or three calls. The local people believe that it would make more sense for the calls at the end of that run to be added to the Abercorn run, which would make it a more viable one. But the answer to that from Australia Post is: ‘No, we will scrap Abercorn altogether and we will tie it all in with the Eidsvold run and reduce it to possibly one service a week’. Australia Post apparently also reasons that when it reduces a service to once a week mail becomes less important because people tend to go to town at least once a week. What an extraordinary philosophy for our basic communication service it is that Australia Post will count on people driving some 30 to 40 miles to their local town once a week- it believes, as of necessity- instead of using the local mail service. What an extraordinary assumption!
– It is not strange in relation to Telecom ‘s attitude to people in the outback.
– I know that that is an attitude towards people of the outback. What is making the people of Abercorn despair is that over the years they have had their service steadily reduced. They are only too aware that people in very isolated areas are lucky if they get a mail service at all. They see themselves headed for the same sort of problem because they cannot get access to Australia Post and Telecom when the decisions are being made and it seems that their elected representatives are not capable of doing so either. The decision making is removed from us and we cannot get a sensible and factual answer when we try to investigate the matter.
– You need Senator Bishop back as Postmaster-General.
- Senator Bishop had something to do with the setting up of Telecom and Australia Post. I do not think he would be blowing his trumpet too strongly in this area. Not surprisingly, as the mail services decrease, so does the volume of mail handled decrease; so it becomes a vicious circle. Because people are not getting a reasonable mail service they are not using the mail service, and that in turn is given as a reason for cutting it out altogether or, at most, doing them a favour and giving them a service once a week. This ignores the fact that mail services are critical to people in these areas.
One of these people has complained to me that they believed it was Government policy to decentralise, not centralise. Australia Post has indicated what it wants to do: Instead of using a local mail distribution, with four different centres being served by Abercorn, it wants to take all the mail from Abercorn to Maryborough for central sorting and then send it back. I do not know how this is more efficient. The distance between Abercorn and Eidsvold, another major centre, is less than 20 miles and the distance between Abercorn and Monto is less than 30 miles. The distance between these areas and Maryborough is in the 100 to 150 mile range. The mail will have to be taken all that distance, re-sorted and sent back again. One wonders what the rationale is. The difficulty is that one can never get the people who make the decisions and who are operating on this rationale to enter into a public debate.
I might say, as a final postscript on the case on which Australia Post is apparently proceeding within the privacy of its own offices, that it quotes the fact that there is no longer a bakery or a store in Abercorn. It sees Abercorn as a dying town and that confirms, in the mind of Australia Post, that the exchange and the mail service ought to go. The simple fact of the story is that the person who owned the general store also used to operate the school bus run. The store burned down. With the beef industry depression, whilst it was previously economic for the person to operate the school bus run and the store it did not justify rebuilding at that time. However, the people in the area believe that if beef prices pick up and more income is generated in the area that store will be rebuilt. Some of the social consequences of all this are very serious indeed. The person who presently operates the mail run and the telephone exchange has five children. If the mail run and exchange go, it is likely that the local railway family will be transferred. That family also has several children. There is a small school at Abercorn and the risk of losing those families is that the school will have to close and the children from that school will have to travel by bus to Mulgildie, which is rather further than they have to travel to Abercorn. At present the children have to travel varying distances to their school, lt may be anything up to 20 miles. If they have to go to Mulgildie, most of them will have to travel anything from 10 to 20 miles extra each way in their journey to and from school. Losing the school would be a very serious blow to the people who already are living in this area under some privation.
– What State is this in? Not Queensland surely!
- Senator Georges interjects, and for once he does not interject very loudly. I could not quite catch what he was saying. He was a member, as I was, of the Senate committee that looked at the problems of the education of isolated children. The matter of the closure of schools was thought by that Committee to be a very serious one indeed. Parents in the Abercorn district are faced with the prospect of having to send their children on 50-mile and 60-mile journeys each day so that they can attend school, or else of sending them to a boarding school. The families in the beef-raising areas of Queensland, certainly parents in this area who have a fairly young family, cannot afford to send their children to boarding school. Their only alternative is to have their children go through a very rigorous journey so that they can attend school each day.
The Federal Government, I believe, withdraws from this sort of problem at its own risk. I quote from a report in the Monto Herald of Thursday, 2 February 1978. This, I think, is probably fairly typical of the kind of comment that gets into a local newspaper when this sort of problem arises. I quote from a story headed Govt. Decision gets a Blast from Council’. The article stated:
The possibility of the closure of the Abercorn Post Office is causing the Eidsvold Shire Council Chairman, Councillor Mac Hamilton, grave concern.
At a Council meeting last Friday, Councillor Hamilton blasted the Federal Government for what was termed ‘ policy setting on costs alone ‘.
Councillor Hamilton said it was ridiculous that shires should be placed in awkward positions by a government supposedly sympathetic to the country dweller.
Of course the simple fact is that government supporters who try to do something about that sort of situation are told that they and the Government are powerless. Nevertheless, the Government gets the blast locally. Governments must face this problem. They must face the reality that what Australia Post and Telecom are doing are of fundamental social importance in the development of our country, and a government which claims to be in favour of decentralisation must face the fact that there are certain costs that go with decentralisation. It is good to have industries which go into remote areas, which generate employment and export earnings, but there are certain costs attached to that. The costs are, of course, notably high in the area of communications. But we cannot expect people to undertake pioneering work without at least the basic services of communication with the outside world, which is particularly necessary in cases of emergency which are likely to arise in these areas. Also their children ought to have reasonable access to a decent education.
Governments, I believe, can no longer shrink from this fact. If the Government looks the other way and lets bodies such as Australia Post and Telecom, which have no particular social responsibility I am not saying that they are necessarily irresponsible, but there is no particular urgency on them to respond to social feelings- have their way, the Government has abdicated a very large area of its own responsibility. If the people hold the Government responsible, regardless of whether or not it claims it could influence the decision, and react adversely to the Government’s inaction then the Government will have earned its fate.
– In speaking to the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply I initially join honourable senators from both sides of the chamber in extending my congratulations to Senator Haines on her maiden speech. I felt it was a very worthwhile contribution, and I sincerely trust that the Government will take serious note of her remarks. It becomes increasingly apparent- remembering that this is the third speech in the Address-in-Reply debate that I have made in three and a half years- that it is almost traditional that members of the Senate use the occasion either to condemn or to congratulate their particular State government on its achievements or its lack of achievements in the preceding period. There are many things that 1 wish to say tonight about my State of Western Australia.
Western Australia, as honourable senators know, was called ‘The Wildflower State’. Those of us who wished to be patriotic in a State sense could spend a few dollars on the purchase of a special plate, which could be attached to the number plate of one’s motor vehicle, proclaiming that one came from ‘The Wildflower State’. Unfortunately, because of the cold and sometimes callous burning and clearing of roadside verges by shire councils, the fairly indiscriminate clearing of large areas by developers and the plundering of native forests by mining companies, we can no longer claim to be ‘The Wildflower State’. Indeed, the State government has now decreed that consumers of motor vehicles, that is, people who use motor vehicles, in the State of Western Australia will now be forced to carry around the slogan ‘Western AustraliaThe State of Excitement’. That slogan might have been applicable to Western Australia some 20 to 30 years ago when we were on the brink of our mineral boom, but it can no longer apply as a slogan anymore than ‘The Wildflower State’. We have permitted the mining interests to interfere with and even to stop the natural germination process that occurs from the high combustion caused by bush fires.
– The hand of Lang Hancock.
-He and a few others. Of course native flora just gets in the way of development of the ‘State of Excitement’. The State Government’s concern about the preservation of native forests is clearly evident in the commissioning of the Stanford Research Institute $70,000 review of land use in the Darling Ranges which is one of the few areas close to the city that we can proudly say has native forests. We take our visitors from other States and proudly display the forests to them.
For those honourable senators who are not familiar with the program, let me just say that the State Government of Western Australia through the Department of Industrial Development has invited Alcoa of Australia Ltd to share in the costs of the review by the Stanford
Research Institute because of Alcoa’s mining interests in the area. It takes little imagination on my pan- I do not know about the imagination of other honourable senators- to realise how impartial that report will be. The major protagonist is paying the lion ‘s share of the bill. Alcoa is meeting $40,000 of the costs, but the State Government is paying only $30,000. Apart from the destruction of native forests there is the very real threat to the water catchment area around the site. There has been considerable conflict in the community about the use of forests for timber production, water conservation and/or bauxite mining. I personally do not believe that the affected area should be at the mercy of collaboration between the State Government and big business. For the Premier Sir Charles Court to say, as he did in the Western Australian of 20 February, that a report of its findings would be made to the Government and not to Alcoa is laughable. It is cause for a great deal of humour amongst environmentalist because not only will Alcoa have progress reports of the study but it will also have the advantage of knowing what the final report contains before it even hits the State Parliament.
One of the many disadvantages of living in the State of Excitement’ is the severe water restrictions that apply at the moment, purely and simply because of a lack of foresight on the part of State governments many years ago. The price of the water that is available has been subjected to massive increases, just like the costs of all the other essential services. Perhaps members from other States may not be aware that in Western Australia we have had water restrictions since last October. In the intervening period the metropolitan area has received one day’s rain. I know that the situation in the wheat belt is perhaps a little different. Because the State government lacked the foresight that I spoke of earlier–
– God is angry with Western Australia because of the son of government that it has.
– True, very true, but because our State governments did not have the foresight to cater adequately for the needs of a growing metropolis it has been found necessary to pump up from our water-table millions of litres or millilitres- I am not terribly sure about the metric system so perhaps I can just say millions of gallons- into our natural catchment system. It is no longer possible for anybody in the metropolitan area- I am sure that other members from Western Australia will agree with me- to get a glass of cold water out of the kitchen tap. The water is warm. It is coming directly from the water-table.
Let us look at the increases in cost of the provision of essential services such as the provision of water to people who live in the metropolitan area. Between 1974-75 and now metropolitan water rates have increased by 60.3 per cent; country water rates of course have gone up by only 92 per cent! In the same period excess water rates have gone up by a dramatic 143 per cent. Sewerage rates have risen by 83.3 per cent. Drainage rates have increased by 33.3 per cent. As I said before, it is not just in respect of those essential water services that increases have occurred in my ‘State of Excitement’. The cost of electricity has increased by 85 per cent; the cost of gas has increased by 6 1 per cent; and metropolitan rail and bus fares have gone up 60 per cent. Motor vehicle licence fees have gone up a significant 1 14.5 per cent in the same period, but then someone has to pay for the new number plates we are being forced to carry around.
Westrail freight rates have risen by 62 per cent. That has a positive effect on the spending power of people living outside the metropolitan area. Drivers licence fees have gone up by only 132.4 percent!
– What percentage, Senator?
-By 132.4 per cent, Senator Mulvihill. The State Government Insurance Office rates have increased by 52 per cent and for this it provides the consumers of government insurance with very little service, I can assure honourable senators, having had personal experience of its service a very short time ago. Metropolitan State Housing Commission rents have averaged an increase of 75.7 per cent plus a $60 management fee. In actual fact this is a bond which people who go into SHC housing have to pay. SHC rents in the country areas have gone up 90.92 per cent. There is not one area of Western Australian Government participation in which there have not been massive increases. Hospital fees have gone up 100 per cent; stamp duty on cheques has gone up 33.3 per cent; payroll tax has gone up 1 1 per cent; State shipping freight rates have gone up 60 per cent.
– For what period is that?
– This is from the year 1974-75 right up to the present. Of course, Western Australia offers a real ‘State of Excitement’ for those people who can afford to pay more for their food because at the moment we are at the top of the food price inflation table for capital cities with an increase of 13.6 per cent in food costs last year whilst the national average for the six State capitals was 9.7 per cent. In actual fact, quoting from the West Australian of Wednesday, 22 February, these are the figures which apply: Brisbane, 7.3 per cent; Hobart, 1 1 per cent; Adelaide, 11.2 per cent; Sydney, 8.9 per cent; and Canberra, 8.3 per cent. As I said, in Perth the increase was 1 3.6 per cent.
Perhaps we could assess the situation quite succinctly by saying that Western Australia could be a ‘State of Excitement’ indeed for those who did not need or did not want to live in a State Housing Commission home, did not cook or bathe, own a car, have a garden, travel by public transport, write cheques, be hospitalised, work or eat. Western Australia promises plenty of excitment for people who are unfortunate enough to need workers compensation because now some private insurance companies are illegally stopping workers compensation payments. Those people who are fortunate enough to receive compensation have to wait many months and sometimes even years to have their claims settled. But under section 12 (b) (i) of the workers compensation legislation an employer has to serve a medical certificate on a worker 21 days before payments are altered or stopped. This just is not happening in our ‘State of Excitement’. Because the Premier, Sir Charles Court, will not agree to the Labor Party- the Opposition Party- amendment to the workers compensation legislation to allow an extra panel to handle the backlog of claims, we find people waiting up to years before their cases are heard.
I want to tell the Senate about what I believe to be a fairly typical case. On 27 October 1975, a trained nurse slipped on some sputum while she was performing her duties and injured her side. As a result of that fall she has developed osteoarthritis in her hip and knees. While she was in hospital she developed an infection which a microbiologist diagnosed as staphylococci. As a result of that infection, which now at least appears to be recurring, she breaks out in abscesses. To treat the abcesses she receives massives doses of antibiotics which in turn affect the osteoarthritis condition which as a result of the fall has developed in her hips and her knees. We have this marvellous Catch 22 situation.
Until August 1976, or 10 months after the accident, she was paid workers compensation. Then payments were stopped. She endeavoured to have her case heard by the Workers’ Compensation Board. The date for the hearing of her case was set down as June 1978, two years and eight months after the accident and one year and 10 months after payments were stopped. She made representations to a State member of parliament and he was instrumental in having her case brought forward to 8 February 1978. When she appeared at the court at that time she was told that two doctors who were to give evidence were unavailable that day and that her case would now have to be set aside until 6 December, a further 10 months’ wait. I do not think that this is an isolated case but it is one about which I have received personal representations. The only possible pension payable to her is an invalid pension. But, to receive this, she has to have certification that she is not fit for work. The doctor says that she is fit for light work. I should dearly love someone to tell me what light work a nurse can do because nursing is one of the many heavy working professions which women undertake. So, without a certificate stating that she cannot work, she cannot get a pension. Because the State Government will not commission another panel to hear the backlog of compensation cases, she has to wait until December to have her case heard. I imagine she finds that a State of Excitement’!
The Western Australian vehicle number plates are becoming a source of humour to our interstate visitors as well as our residents. Two letters, a copy of which I have taken from the Western Australian newspapers, give an indication of how people feel about what is not happening over ther. An even better letter appeared in the weekend Australian last Saturday but unfortunately I could not locate it in time. The following letter is from a gentleman, one presumes, named F. Pollaers of Lalor Park, New South Wales.
– That is in the electorate of Mr Armitage, the honourable member for Chifley.
-Is it? He probably has better road directions over there. He stated in his letter:
I am a visitor to this State. When I first saw your new car number plates with the inscription ‘ WA-State of Excitement’ the thought occurred to me that perhaps the Department of Main Roads and local councils could look into the matter of road signs- or rather the lack of them- before Western Australia became known as the State of No Directions.
In answer to Mr Pollaers, Mr G. Maxwell of South Perth wrote:
The excitement captioned on our WA number plates surely refers to the transcendent pleasure of being transported in the sheer delight of driving around our roads in the excited hope of spotting that most rare and soughtafter of all sights- a direction sign.
After all, when one knows where one is or where one is going, there is hardly any excitement at all, is there?
Obviously the real state of excitement must lie in that ecstatic experience of not knowing where one is going so long as one knows, eventually, where one has been. But this can also be achieved quite easily and with hardly less excitement by the simple expedient of driving around in reverse without the need for any direction signs at all.
There is also the excitement in Western Australia involved in the subversive element of our Statethose people who do not uphold the sacred materialistic ethic. Our Premier, Sir Charles Court, has branded as subversives all those people suspected of questioning the predominant lifestyle or, worse still, pursuing an alternative lifestyle. He made that statement with particular reference to a recent Down-to-Earth Festival conducted quite successfully there.
The proposed naval base at Cockburn Sound also promises a deal of excitement- as a potential target So, perhaps it is no wonder that Mr Mensaros, the Minister for Mines and Minister for Fuel and Energy, has been unable to resist the temptation and the opportunity to share the wonderful assets of our State with overseas businessmen. He has been generous enough to offer no objection to fully foreign-owned undertakings and he stated so in his recent overseas trip when he was trying to flog off what was left of Western Australia. I am reminded of a slogan I saw when I was in Queensland at an unfortunate happening there quite recently. It was a sign that advised people to ‘See Queensland quickly before Joh sells it’. The situation is just a little different in Western Australia.
– Order! Would you kindly refer to the Premier in the correct way.
– I am quoting from an actual car sticker, Mr President. I am not being disrespectful. There is a saying in Western Australia that if the Government owns an industry which makes a profit we should sell it and if a privately-owned business makes a loss the Government should buy it. There are a number of prime examples, including the exercise at Wundowie, which could be quoted in that context. If Mr Mensaros is successful in allowing fully foreign-owned companies to operate, and one presumes that if they are fully foreign-owned they are also fully foreign-controlled, it could jeopardise thousands of jobs in my State as well as raising doubts about the credibility of Sir Charles Court’s pre-election promise of majority Australian ownership. This frenzied state of excitement to which I have referred has even infiltrated the Press in Western Australia. It does not really take much effort to infiltrate the Press in Western Australia. It is already the most conservative Press in Australia and I think it is going for the world record.
– It is no wonder you could not win the seat of Swan.
– We probably have to thank the Press for a great deal there, Senator. The Daily News on 21 February attributed a comment to Dr Spock who, for the benefit of people who are not aware, is an eminent child psychologist. He is quoted as having said: Frankly my first book was the sexiest’. It is probably inevitable that in this state of excitement sexist material suddenly becomes sexiest. I want to quote one further comment that Dr Spock made because although he was talking about the scene in the United States the same applies in Australia. He said:
Governments are largely to blame for what ails the young. They have cut back on child care. They see everything in terms of politics. The real needs of people, their health and welfare are ignored. We have seen massive cutbacks in programs here and we can now no longer afford or offer hope to the young, the old or anybody who comes in between.
The need for excitement in Western Australia has superseded all other human needs, especially the need for personal integrity through employment, which is becoming more and more a privilege and no longer a right. Unemployment figures in Western Australia have reached an unacceptable level as they have in most other States and, as my colleague Senator Colston reminded the Senate earlier, we have the highest unemployment since the Great Depression. Mr Hayden pointed out in the House of Representatives last week that the total number of unemployed is likely to be much higher than the official Commonwealth Employment Service figures because of the number of people who do not register as being unemployed. This is reflected in the number of people who are described by the Bureau of Statistics as voluntarily inactive or keeping house. As a result of difficulties in finding work many females, particularly juniors, are failing to register for employment and are being maintained by their parents.
Unemployment in rural areas presents different problems- more specific problemsbecause of the limitations involved in getting to the nearest Commonwealth Employment Service office every two weeks. The ratio of females to males in country towns in Western Australia has increased dramatically over the last few years. In Kalgoorlie there has been a 100 per cent increase in female unemployment compared with male unemployment over the last five years. In 1972 the ratio was one female to 6.94 males unemployed. In other words, for every female unemployed there were 6.94 males unemployed. In December 1977 there was one unemployed female for every 3.4 males out of a job. The figures for Bunbury showed a similar marked increase. In December 1972 the ratio was one female to 1.75 males out of work whereas in December 1977 it was one female to every 1.25 males out of work. In Merredin in the same period the ratio increased from one female to 1.91 males in 1972 to one female to 1.3 males in 1977.
It would appear that Senator Guilfoyle is unaware of the inherent problems of young females in non-metropolitan areas because on a Four Corners program on 25 February she said that ‘if youth were motivated they would actively seek employment in areas where there is work. ‘ That might be all very well for males, although I would not let my 15-year-old son leave home, but I have to ask: Does Senator Guilfoyle advocate that girls as young as 15 years should be expected, and that their parents should be prepared to allow them, to leave home and find work in another town or city many miles away? I can tell the Senate of a family in Kalgoorlie which would rather suffer hardship than allow their daughter, who is 17 years of age, to go to a town 50 miles away where work is available. As a result she is not eligible for the unemployment benefit because she will not go to where work is available and her parents have to finance her staying at home.
What is the position of a man who lives with a teenage family in a rural area? Should he have to face the situation of moving his home, going away from friends and his place of employment so that his children may- I stress the word may’- have the opportunity of getting work in a larger town or city? They may get employment; he may not. Of course, if he leaves his job voluntarily he is not eligible for the unemployment benefit until a longer period has elapsed. So we are committing people to stay in jobs that they hate or to remain unemployed. Not so many years ago it used to be an indictment of a person to be sacked. Under this Government’s policy that is preferable because at least that person would qualify for the unemployment benefit earlier. If a person leaves his job of his own accord the Government considers that he does not want to work and withholds payment of the unemployment benefit. There is in sight no relief from the unemployment crisis as the ratio of unemployed to unfilled vacancies increases all the time. In Western Australia, that State of excitement, the ratio of unemployed to unfilled vacancies was one to 4.34 and in December 1977 it was one to 18.9.
Breaking that down into the sexes, the ratio of females unemployed to positions unfilled has increased 5.78 times whilst the equivalent increase in the ratio for males has increased only 3.87 times. The ratio of men unemployed to positions vacant in December 1972 was one to 4.95 whilst in December 1977 it was one to 19.19. The ratio of females unemployed to positions vacant in December 1972 was one to 3.19 and in December 1977 for every female unemployed there were 18.44 positions unfilled. In other words, the ratio was one to 18.44. Even those figures do not reflect the real statistics because the unfilled positions refer to full time, part time, permanent, temporary and seasonal positions whilst the unemployment figure refers only to those people registered with the Commonwealth Employment Service as seeking full time work, that is, of 35 hours a week or more. If the unfilled positions comprised only full time positions the ratio would be even higher, especially for females. In May 1976 women constitute 32.9 per cent of the work force working part time compared with males constituting 4.5 per cent of the work force working part time. If honourable senators want to check those figures, I refer them to the Australian Bureau of Statistics publication The Labour Force of May 1976’. Comparing the female unemployment rates for Western Australia with rates in other States over a fiveyear period, we can see just how badly women have fared in Western Australia, the State of excitement. Mr President, at this time perhaps it would be appropriate for me to seek leave to have a small table incorporated in Hansard.
The table read as follows-
(refer Monthly Review)
– I thank the Senate. The table shows the percentage of female unemployed of the total unemployed over the period 1972 to 1977 and the percentage increase and decrease over the same five-year period. Let us compare Western Australia with the other States. In 1972 in Western Australia 25.17 per cent of females were unemployed. In 1977 the figure was 33.71 per cent, an increase of 29.96 per cent. In New South Wales in 1 972 the figure was 33.3 per cent and in 1977 it was 32.75 per cent, a decrease of 1.65 per cent. In Victoria 1972 saw 33.67 per cent of females unemployed and in 1977, 36.67 per cent, an increase of 8.9 per cent. In Queensland in 1972 the figure was 28.93 per cent and in 1977, 29.12 per cent, an increase of 0.65 per cent. In South Australia, including the Northern Territory, the figure in 1972 was 33.05 per cent as against 33.12 per cent in 1977, a plus of 0.21 per cent. In Tasmania the rate was 40.75 per cent in 1972 compared with 34.5 per cent in 1 977, a decrease of 15.33 per cent.
The Australian Labor Party, whether in or out of government, traditionally emerges as the scapegoat for unemployment. Figures show that two Labor States, Tasmania and New South Wales, have actually experienced a decrease in the percentage of unemployed women and the third Labor State, South Australia, has the lowest percentage increase. Recently in Western Australia a scheme was commenced under the auspices of the State Government. Some rather exorbitant claims are being made by West Australian Government Ministers, including the Premier, who, according to a report dated 23 February this year, said that the Western Australian Government had created new jobs at the rate of 1250 a month over the past 12 months. He said that this was the biggest job-making program in any State. He gave the job figures in a statement which he said showed that the Government’s performance had matched its election promises. He said that the coalition parties had made a total of 506 promises in their separate policies. Of these 83 per cent had been implemented, nearly 10 per cent had been initiated and 7 per cent remained to be tackled. The job-creating rate was in response to the Government ‘s promise of an extra 100,000 jobs by 1 984.
We have to look at how these jobs are being created. The query is raised in my mind- I hope it is raised in the minds of other honourable senators and will occasion some questioning of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street)- whether they are being created under the Commonwealth Youth Employment Subsidy Scheme, in which case to be eligible a person must have been unemployed for four months. Is the State Government claiming that it is totally responsible for every person who obtains employment under this scheme? These are very serious and very real questions. I do not think that anyone in the Government has looked at the tremendous social repercussions of unemployment. They are enormous. They have detrimental effects on individuals. They are responsible in part at least for increases in crime rates, suicide rates and mental illnesses. The list is endless.
I want to tell the Senate about a man. Unfortunately I could not find the report that I read, but it concerns a migrant resident of Western Australia who lost his job. He is not so young. I think he is in either his late thirties or early forties. Because of the publicity about people accepting unemployment benefits being dole bludgers, when he lost his job and when his savings had reached a formidable low he attempted to commit suicide by setting fire to his flat. When he appeared in court, the only reason he gave was that he did not want to be known as a dole bludger. More recently Bernard Ceriani an 18-year-old, was charged with stealing $500 from a postman. Perhaps the state of excitement that occasioned him to attack a postman could have resulted from his being unemployed, having no unemployment benefit and having no money to buy food.
I believe one thing was evident from the Four Corners program that was broadcast in Western Australia last weekend. I sincerely hope that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is not so far behind that Western Australia is getting programs after the rest of Australia. The program concerned the unemployed, particularly the unemployed youth. It was evident from that program that unemployment has reached a stage where the unemployed need more than just a job. Many of them are in the grips of such deep depression that they are not even looking for a job, and even if they could get one they do not feel capable of handling it anyway. Ann Gorman of the New South Wales Youth Services who appeared on the program attributed the apathy and depression to the fact that the youth are playing no productive part in our society and eventually become unemployable. An 18-year- old who was simply called Julie who was interviewed on the program typified the prevailing apathy. She has not had a job since last April. She has been on unemployment benefit. She has not even been looking for a job. When she was asked why, she said: ‘I can’t be bothered any more’. When she was asked how she saw her future, her reply was: ‘I don ‘t ‘.
I would hate to think that because of the comments I have made tonight about the State of excitement in which we Western Australians find ourselves I had encouraged honourable senators to pack up and move across the Nullarbor. Perhaps I have a duty and responsibility to dampen their spirits a little. I should tell them that in this State of excitement even the Premier, Sir Charles Court, has expressed his concern about the housing situation. The West Australian of 22 February states:
WA ‘s housing industry was urged yesterday to do more to control cost increases, while making sure that the quality of housing did not fall.
The Premier, Sir Charles Court, told a meeting of the Housing Industry Association that costs had spiralled in a frightening way.
He also said that he was very distressed at the lack of stability in the industry, and described the variation in house building figures for the last seven years as appalling.
The industry had to gear up to meet the demands of a big increase in WA ‘s population.
Sir Charles predicted a population rise of 2 1 per cent by 1984.
Three years ago the average price of a home in Western Australia was equal to 118 average weekly pay packets. Last year the cost had risen to 128 average weekly pay packets. Perhaps another deterrent would be that our schools are grossly overcrowded. We also have 500 or 600 school teachers out of work. Teachers who have come out of teachers training college are unable to be employed. At the same time in many suburban schools- I have no doubt that the situation applies in the rural area as well- we find classrooms with split grades and a teacher trying to educate anything up to 38 or 40 children. I believe that if the Federal Government had implemented the recommendations of the Schools Commission the situation would not have arisen. If the Government had not cut funds so drastically more school rooms would be available- rooms which would cater for remedial teaching, specialised teaching, guidance and counselling.
– 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.
– A week ago, on 22 February, while debating the motion for the Address-in-Reply, I made reference to a Mr Brych, a so-called cancer specialist in the Cook Islands. In the course of that speech I drew attention to the participation in the dispute of the Premier of Queensland and, in particular, to some threats he had made against a Federal Minister. At this stage it seems only fair to advise the Senate that I have had a communication from the Premier of Queensland. Honourable senators might care to hear what the Premier sent to me on 23 February as his further contribution to this debate, and I quote his telegram:
I have seen the remarks attributed to you in the Senate last night. I along with many other people are disturbed at the near hysterical and defensive attitude of you and some of the medical profession in regard to Doctor Brych. It appears you have fallen prey to the federal parliamentary disease of opening your mouth before using your eyes. Had you consulted the Parliamentary Library you would have seen my statements that and I quote ‘I am not a medical man and unable to judge whether the claims about Doctor Brych ‘s treatment are true or not. All I can go on are the statements of those people who have been given up for dead by their doctors and have come home apparently cured from Doctor Brych. This is why I say he should come to Australia to demonstrate his methods to doctors so that they can make up their own minds if he is a quack or not’. I would have thought Senator Baume that in view of your interest in this matter of concern to every person who has cancer that you would be the first to volunteer to hear Doctor Brych. Why is it that so many people including yourself are more concerned at condemning Doctor Brych in his absence than in hearing him in person. I would remind you senator of your profession ‘s condemnation of people such as Jenner, Lister, Pasteur and Sister Kenny who were denounced by ‘eminent qualified physicians as charlatans unleashing dangerous methods and ideas’. Beware that you are not caught by professional snobbery. I repeat what I have said: ‘Doctor Brych may or may not have methods that help cancer patients. He should be allowed to come to Australia to demonstrate his methods so that Australian doctors and Australians can judge for themselves’. I am not a medical man as you say senator but even I can diagnose blind prejudice when I see it.
Joh Bjelke-Petersen Premier of Queensland.
It seemed appropriate in the circumstances to respond to the Premier’s telegram, which I did in a telegram sent on 24 February, to which I have had no response from the Premier. My telegram stated:
Mr Premier, your telegram re my speech on Brych arrived yesterday and requires a response. The central issue raised by me was that Brych is not making known details of an allegedly effective treatment for cancer. In so doing he maximises his profit but at the expense of making his treatment unavailable to hundreds of thousands around the world in similar need. Neither Jenner nor Lister nor Sister Kenny mentioned in your telegram sought to keep their methods secret nor did they seek to reserve the benefit of treatment for those who could afford to pay exorbitant fees. My request to you was and is f encourage Mr Brych to identify publicly and in complete detail what he does to people when he treats them. This is an issue of public importance which will not be resolved by the trading of insults between politicians.
Peter Baume, Senator for New South Wales.
It seemed appropriate to place both the telegrams on the public record.
– Tonight I wish to speak briefly on a matter brought to my attention some months ago. I have been informed that the Australian Copyright Act currently precludes Australian booksellers from purchasing directly from publishers overseas. They are compelled to purchase through the Australian agents of the overseas publisher and frequently pay prices higher than the retail prices for the same books in the United Kingdom. Government departments, libraries and private citizens are permitted to purchase directly from overseas, but booksellers are not. I understand that the previous Attorney-General was asked to amend sections 37 and 38 of the Copyright Act to permit booksellers, like other people and institutions, to purchase directly from overseas. If I have been correctly informed, the existing sections 37 and 38 constitute a restrictive trade practice of a type which I would expect to be anathema to the Government. I request the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) to consider amending the sections in the way suggested and to advise the Senate if and when it can expect some action.
– I had some representations on this matter from Mr Leece, the President of the Australian Booksellers Association in Western Australia. I imagine that they are the same representations as those to which Senator Walsh referred. They seem to seek a repeal of sections 37 and 38 of the Copyright Act. Similar provisions exist in the copyright laws of the United Kingdom, Canada and
New Zealand. The copyright laws of both Canada and the United Kingdom have been studied recently by committees, and in both countries a decision was made to retain provisions similar to those which exist in Australia. The relevant sections of the Copyright Act protect the right of an author or publisherpublishers often have assigned to them the rights of authors to copyright- to arrange for the distribution of the copyright works in any country. In Australia those rights are contained in the sections which have been referred to. If those safeguards were removed there would be very serious repercussions on the rights of authors and publishers. The system controls not only how books are released but when they are released in Australia. The removal of the provisions would have a serious impact, for instance, on the normal publishing practice of issuing a hardback edition in certain quantities followed by a paperback edition in larger quantities for sale in supermarkets and similar places. If unrestricted importation were allowed such control would be affected.
I understand that the Australian Booksellers Association is divided on the issue and that, for obvious reasons, publishers are opposed to the repeal of the sections. Furthermore, such repeal would not actually ensure that educational institutions purchased books from booksellers in Australia. They would still be free to make their own arrangements, as they do today. All in all, consideration has been given to this matter both by my predecessor, I understand, and by myself and I do not see any reason why the sections should be repealed or amended in the way that has been proposed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.39 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 February 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780228_senate_31_s76/>.