31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
– A petition has been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Sheil.
-I ask the Minister for Administrative Services: Was a contract for a 12-month lease of a $2.5m computer for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs approved yesterday? Has the lease contract been awarded to IBM Australia Ltd without the calling of tenders? Was a similar 12-month lease of a $1.5m computer for the Department of the Northern Territory finalised in December? Did that lease contract also go to IBM Australia Ltd, again without the calling of tenders? Were certificates of inexpediency issued in both cases?
– I have no information but I shall seek it for the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. I refer to section 6 (2) (d) of the Environment Protection (Impact of Proposals) Act 1974 which provides for the public distribution and discussion of environmental impact statements. I ask: Is the Minister aware that, despite this laudable provision, most members of the public cannot obtain copies of environmental impact statements because of the prohibitive price that is charged for them? Is the Minister aware, for example, that the impact statement on the Jabiluka mining proposal is made available to the public at a cost of $2 1? In the light of this, does the Minister believe that the interests of the public would be better served if important publications, such as environmental impact statements, were made more accessible through a lower pricing policy?
- Senator Missen raises some important matters. It is highly desirable that documents such as environmental impact statements should be readily available. I am not aware that the Jabiluka mining proposal document is available at a cost of $21. That seems a little daunting. I am advised that various views have been put forward about the cost of draft environmental impact statements made available for public comment. I am instructed that low prices for impact statements could increase public accessibility to the documents. My understanding is that the Department of Environment, Housing and Community Development is currently examining this issue and expects to make recommendations to the Minister in the near future on the subject. In any case, I shall transmit this question to the Minister to underline the importance of it.
– I direct another question to the Minister for Administrative Services. Will IBM Australia Ltd gain $lm of taxpayers’ money in rental charges for the two computers being leased by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the Department of the Northern Territory? Did the Facom company make an offer of cheaper lease arrangements in the case of both computers. If so, why did IBM get both contracts? Is it a fact that the lease arrangements had been negotiated preparatory to both departments’ buying the computers when the leases expired? Finally, will the award of lease contracts to IBM give that company the inside running in the eventual purchase of computers for the two departments?
– I cannot answer the last part of the question asked by the honourable senator. That is a technical matter which is beyond my understanding. I informed the honourable senator earlier that I had no information on this matter. I would hope to obtain some information before the end of Question Time, in which case I will give it to the honourable senator.
-I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is schistosomiasis or bilharzia, one of the great disease scourges of the world, not presently found in Australia? Would its introduction into this country as a disease of humans require the presence of a special species of snail to act as an intermediate host? Has this species of snail, which is not normally found in Australia, recently been found by the Animal Quarantine Service? Under what circumstances have the snails been detected? Can we be certain that none has been released into our waterways? What significance is there in the presence in Australia of the intermediate vector of bilharzia?
– I am advised that human bilharzia is not presently found in Australia and its introduction as a disease of humans would require the presence of a host specific snail. Under present quarantine legislation, aquarium fish are inspected on importation to exclude prohibited species and to detect the presence of snails or other prohibited aquatic life in the water. The importer is required to treat and appropriately dispose of the water in which the fish are imported.
Recent consignments of water accompanying aquarium fish from Singapore and Hong Kong have been found on quarantine inspection to be contaminated with snails. In one of these consignments of aquarium fish imported from Hong Kong on 13 December 1977, the accompanying water was found to contain snails of a type capable of transmitting human bilharzia. Identification was confirmed by the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, of the Sydney University.
This is the first recorded instance of a discovery of this type of snail in Australia. The snail occurs only in Africa, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and South America. Quarantine officers in the States were subsequently advised that consignments of aquarium fish had been found to be contaminated with snails. They were reminded of the need to examine all importations of water accompanying aquarium fish for snail contamination, and, if such contamination was found, to arrange for the accompanying water to be disinfected with copper sulphate under quarantine supervision prior to discarding the water. Chief quarantine officers were requested also to notify the central office of the department if any snails are detected, giving the name and address of the exporter. Both the Singapore and Hong Kong governments have been asked to ensure that only mains chlorinated water is used for the export of aquarium fish.
Despite our quarantine precautions, there can be no guarantee that snails which could be vectors of this disease have not entered Australian waterways in the past. There are, however, no records of such snails having been detected in Australian waterways. The presence of such snails would not indicate the presence of the disease, but it would indicate the potential for transmission of such disease.
– I direct my question to Senator Withers in his capacity as the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the question I asked him yesterday relating to guidelines governing the relationship between Ministers and officials in relation to government tenders. The Minister in his answer yesterday said:
The Minister was referring to the Stores Supply and Tender Board. I ask the Minister: Under whose control, other than the Board, were those tenders at that time?
– The answer is: The Public Service Board.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to an advertisement in the February issue of Church and Nation, the national fortnightly magazine of the Uniting Church, which called for donations to the movement against uranium mining? The small print at the bottom of the advertisement reads as follows:
People requiring taxation deductibility for their donations should contact Rev. R. F. Wooton.
Can the Minister say whether donations to the movement against uranium mining are deductible for income tax purposes? If not will the Minister consider taking some action to have the true position publicised?
– My advice is that not even spiritual intercession will facilitate a tax deduction for that cause. I think the question was asked and answered in another place some time ago. This cause is not one for which tax deductibility is granted. I will direct the remainder of the honourable senator’s question to the Treasurer.
– I direct to the Minister for Social Security a question which I ask every six months or so. I was reminded yesterday by the presence in the gallery of the Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand of the fact that Sir Owen Woodhouse sits on the bench of the New Zealand Court of Appeal. What is the current state of play with the proposed national compensation scheme which the Government proposed to introduce some 2Vi years ago? Is there still a unit within the Department of Social Security studying this matter? If so, what is it doing and when can we expect to hear from it?
– The matter of compensation has been under consideration for some time. The honourable senator will realise that the proposed scheme of the former Labor Government is not one that has been under consideration for introduction by the present Government. However, the Government has had continuing discussions with the State governments at officer level to compile statistics and facts which are required for consideration. In addition, the Government has established an interdepartmental committee which is at present considering under certain terms of reference matters about which the Federal Government believes it could make proposals to the States to see whether there is any mood amongst the States for co-operation in a national scheme which would be related to such things as injuries during the course of employment and injuries from motor accidents. The interdepartmental committee that will be advising the Government is expected to report around the middle of this year. Following consideration of that report by the Government further discussions could be held with the States to see whether something could be developed that might be the basis of a national scheme. The honourable senator indicated that he asks this question every six months. Every six months I have to respond and say that not all States have indicated a willingness to participate in any proposed scheme.
-Can the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry enlarge on the statement made by the Minister for Primary Industry on the question of feasibility fishing? Can he advise whether, subject to basic criteria being observed, there is a departmental list of feasibility fishing studies that are judged to be desirable and of which investigation would be encouraged? Will Australian fishermen be consulted as to their knowledge of new feasibility fishing proposals before fishing commitments are given? Will Australian fishermen be given the first opportunity to undertake any exploratory fishing that the Government judges to be desirable, irrespective of who may make the initial specific application? Does the Government believe it is desirable to encourage more Australian boats and fishermen to undertake exploratory fishing and does it believe that we should expect the best possible recording and reporting from such Australian sources?
– It is my understanding that, apart from confidential commercial information, details of catches and size will be made available to the fishing industry generally. The other matters raised by the honourable senator have been brought up both in this chamber and in another place. Any proposition for a feasibility study will be examined sympathetically by the Federal Government. So far as I am aware, there is no fixed list of projects. Feasibility fishing proposals are not in conflict with Australian fishermen’s interest. They are intended as short term studies to define the fishing resources to the advantage of Australian fishermen. Exploratory fishing has been undertaken by Australian fishermen and is continuing at the present time. Where government moneys or government industry funds are spent, of course, Australian fishermen will always be given first priority.
In view of the extensive additional resources that appear to be available with the prospective extension of the fishing zone to 200 miles, the Government believes that it is desirable to increase feasibility fishing by both Australian and other fishermen to determine the extent of the resource. It is hoped that from both the exploratory fishing and any commercial operation information will be passed on to Australian authorities so that future applications for fishing this resource can be dealt with and knowledge of the extent and nature of the area to be fished can be made available to Australian fishermen.
– I ask the Minister for Administrative Services: Now that the Federal Government has completed its negotiations with the Clunies-Ross Estate for a site on the Cocos Islands for an off-shore animal quarantine station, can the Minister inform the Senate of the financial consideration made by the Commonwealth for the acquisition of that site? Have any arrangements been made to ensure that the people engaged on the building of the quarantine station will receive Australian rates of pay or will they be paid in plastic tokens?
– A site has been acquired from the Clunies-Ross Estate but I cannot recall the exact sum involved. I will seek that information for the honourable senator and try to give him the exact sum before the end of Question Time. As to who is going to build the station and what rates of pay will apply, that information is not within my jurisdiction. It is a matter for the Minister for Construction and I will ask him to supply that information to the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government and concerns the announcement that the Federal Government is going to convert some of its motor vehicles to the use of liquefied petroleum gas in an endeavour to conserve petrol and also to encourage the general public to do the same thing. Will the Government also remove the sales tax on the equipment required to convert cars to the use of liquefied petroleum gas- something that I have been urging for a long time- as that would provide an added incentive to people to convert to LPG? Will the Government also give consideration to removing the excise on LPG used in motor vehicles as a further incentive?
– I cannot quite understand why suddenly there is a lot of excitement about the Government converting its vehicles. The Government has had some converted vehicles for a considerable time. In fact, six new motor cars were converted to LPG in May and June 1974. I do not know who was the Minister then.
– Under Labor.
– Yes, under the Labor Government. It is certainly not a new suggestion.
– Then it must be wrong.
-No, your hot air was useful occasionally. The idea in converting the six vehicles at that stage was so that, to use Senator Wheeldon ‘s favourite phrase, a feasibility study could be conducted to ascertain the economics of both the cost of conversion and the cost of running. As a result of that, I understand that a further six vehicles have been converted. One of them is at present in Canberra and has done some 80,000 kilometres. When my Department has investigated this matter thoroughly, there is no doubt that I will be in a position to advise the Government on the economics of it. I imagine that I and not some other person will be advising the Government. But I indicate that there are some 5,000 vehicles in the Commonwealth fleet. As the kit costs about $600, an expenditure of $3m would be necessary for this exercise. As to whether sales tax ought to be removed from the equipment or the excise duty ought to be lifted from liquefied petroleum gas, those are matters which governments consider at Budget time. I will pass on the honourable senator’s suggestion to the Treasurer.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs which arises from a question that Senator Walters asked him yesterday. The Minister stated in reply that he would obtain the details of the application of the Government’s new proposals- that is the proposals to subsidise fuel freights under certain circumstancesto Tasmania and specific areas of Tasmania. Has he yet obtained those details? Does the document which the Minister made available to the Opposition last Friday show that of the 438 pricing localities in Tasmania, no subsidy will be paid in Devonport, Hobart, Launceston or 237 of the other pricing localities in the State; that a subsidy of 0.1c a litre will be paid to another 130 pricing localities and that the subsidy will exceed lc a litre in only 15 of the 438 pricing localities in Tasmania?
– I do not know whether the honourable senator is asking a question or giving an answer. Senator Walsh has been providing answers to this question in his own way in a number of newspapers in Australia, including the Tasmanian newspapers. I have had an opportunity to look at some of the things he has been saying. It may not surprise honourable senators to know that his statements seem to be based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what the scheme is all about. Honourable senators may not believe that. It is a fact that petroleum fuels sold in Hobart, Launceston, Devonport and nearby surrounding districts do not attract a subsidy because the freight differential, on which the subsidy is to be calculated, is in fact less than 4c a gallon or 0.9c a litre, which is the maximum freight cost a customer will pay under the scheme. I point out that exactly the same situation obtained when the previous freight differential scheme operated from 1965 until the Labor Government, of which Senator Walsh was a supporter, took it away in 1974. The Government which Senator Walsh supported took away the previous scheme. Now, when it is to be reintroduced the honourable senator is complaining that it is not to apply in a way in which it never did apply and in which it was never intended to apply. I hope that Senator Walsh will take a little time to try to understand what the scheme is all about.
I have some statistics on Tasmania. There are some 690 locations in Tasmania where the Prices Justification Tribunal, which has the responsibility, has established that the freight differential for motor spirit is above the desired limit. Of this number, 2 1 5 locations will receive the benefits of subsidy for sales of motor spirit. There are 453 locations in Tasmania listed in the schedule which attract subsidy for one or more eligible products. The scheme will benefit those people who reside in country areas of Tasmania where the freight component of the price of petroleum fuels represents a significant proportion of the total cost. So it is going to assist both the people in Tasmania whom it was intended to assist, and those in the rest of Australia also. There is a problem peculiar to Tasmania, and perhaps in view of the fact that there is a Labour Government in that State, Senator Walsh might like to take the matter up with it.
The problem peculiar to Tasmania is that there is a past agreement between the oil industry and the State Government under which the price of petrol was increased in Hobart to partially offset higher prices in rural areas. A possible solution to this problem would be to determine differentials based on actual freight costs from the Melbourne /Geelong refineries to Hobart and other seaboard bulk terminal ports, plus the inland freight costs from these centres to the country. This would result in more rural areas receiving a subsidy.
The Prime Minister wrote to the Premier of Tasmania on 10 February suggesting that joint discussions be held between Commonwealth officers, representatives of the State Government and the oil companies on ways in which the scheme may be implemented with respect to Tasmania. No reply has been received from the Tasmanian Premier to date. If Senator Walsh and other Tasmanians are really concerned to do something about the problems peculiar to that State, I suggest that they approach the Tasmanian Labor Government and persuade it to reply to the Prime Minister’s proposal.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question: Can the Minister tell the Senate whether the scheme will honour the Prime Minister’s election policy speech promise to, ‘equalise country and city prices?’ Can he also tell us whether in South Australia -
– Order! If the honourable senator seeks to have the reply to the first question elucidated he has the right to ask that that be done, but not to ask another question.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether she can give any indication as to what progress has been achieved in respect of the joint Commonwealth-State funding under the community health program for women’s refuges in Hobart and Launceston.
– I understand that for some months there have been consultations between the Commonwealth Government and the State Government with regard to the proposed funding of women’s refuges in that State. As far as the Federal Minister for Health is concerned, several weeks ago he authorised action, and discussions have resulted in an agreement being reached between the Commonwealth and the Tasmanian governments at the official level. It is my understanding that the Minister for Health is now awaiting a response from the Tasmanian Minister for Health about the terms of a joint statement, so that details can be announced of the funding arrangements with regard to women ‘s refuges in Tasmania.
-My question to the Attorney-General representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs relates to his answer to Senator Walsh in which he indicated, if I recall correctly, that only 2 15 of the outlets in Tasmania, which number more than 600, would benefit under the Government’s scheme. I ask him: By how much will those 215 benefit? Were the figures quoted by Senator Walsh correct?
– I have not before me the details concerning how the 215 locations will benefit in the range nil to .9 cents a litre. The figures would certainly differ because of the differing freight components. If the honourable senator wishes me to obtain a schedule of them I shall see if I can obtain it.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development if he can indicate whether discussions with the State governments, seeking the establishment of building standards, have been proceeding? If so, and in the light of the significant potential benefits achievable through the proper co-ordination of State Housing Commission building activities, will the Minister undertake action to accelerate agreement?
– I am aware that my colleague in another place has been very active in contemplating the achievement of building standards throughout Australia. I am not aware that actual progress has been made but will seek further information and advise the honourable senator of the result.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether the industrial staff of the Darwin Hospital have warned that industrial action will be taken within 14 days if staff shortages are not eased. If this is a fact, will the Minister indicate what action is being taken to increase the number of industrial staff at the Darwin Hospital?
– I am not aware of the matter that has been referred to by the honourable senator concerning industrial staff at the Darwin Hospital. I am aware of other questions that he and others have raised with regard to the staffing of the hospital. I will endeavour to obtain any further information I can from the Minister for Health and advise the honourable senator accordingly.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade and Resources. It concerns the sale of Australian canned fruit in Canada. Is the Minister aware that the Canadian Tariff Board has recommended the termination of preferential access to the Canadian market for canned fruit from Australia, notwithstanding that specific duties have been losing value as commodity prices have risen? Will the effect be to increase significantly levels of local protection in Canada against our canned fruit? Will the Minister direct our trade representatives to make representations that the recommendation be declined or deferred?
-The Government is aware of the Canadian Tariff Board interim recommendations as to the future structure of the Canadian tariff on canned fruit imports. Should these recommendations be maintained in the final report and accepted by the Canadian Government, the effect would be a significant increase in the level of protection accorded the
Canadian industry as well as a reduction or elimination of the tariff preference presently enjoyed by Australia. The matter has already been the subject of formal representations to the Canadian Government. It was also one of the issues canvassed during the recent visit to Ottawa by the Minister for Special Trade Representations who is also the Minister assisting the Minister for Trade and Resources. The implications of such a development for Australian canned fruit exports to Canada are under detailed examination. I assure the honourable senator that the Government will not fail to press on the Canadian Government the significance for the Australian industry of Canada as an outlet for the production of our fruit growers and processors.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry will recall that on 1 March and again on 9 March I asked him questions about what action, if any, the Government intended taking to assist the wine grape growers in the South Australian Riverland. He undertook to obtain this information for me. I further ask the Minister: Did a meeting take place in Canberra on Thursday, 9 March between Federal and State government representatives to discuss the plight of the wine grape industry? If so, was the outcome of those discussions a favourable one for the industry?
– I acknowledge the earlier questions of Senator McLaren to which the Minister for Primary Industry, whom I represent, has responded indicating that he has received representations from the South Australian Minister of Agriculture in connection with the wine grape surplus in prospect for this season. Consideration of his representations, as well as those from Ministers in other States and from the industry, has led to two particular initiatives. Firstly, the temporary tariff quota additional duty arrangements on imported brandy were extended pending the outcome of the 1978 vintage and the receipt of a further report from the Industries Assistance Commission on whether additional protection against imports should be continued. The temporary arrangements had applied since September 1977 and were to have ceased on 21 February 1978. The Minister for Primary Industry has written to State Ministers responsible for rural adjustment schemes seeking an indication of their attitude to the principle of providing carry-on finance under Part B of the scheme to growers with surplus tonnages of red wine grapes. Discussions on extending the scheme have been held between Commonwealth and State officers. Recommendations to Ministers are expected soon. In addition, the household support provisions of the rural adjustment scheme are available to growers determined as non-viable. Industry representatives have been paying particular attention to the issues of vine planting, and the Government’s policy on and regulation of the grape varieties planted. However, these are areas over which the State governments have constitutional jurisdiction.
The control of imports, the second point raised by Senator McLaren in his initial question, is an aspect on which the South Australian Minister for Agriculture places emphasis. It needs to be borne in mind that the grape equivalent of the total imports of brandy and wine in 1976-77 was about 18,000 tonnes. That is equal to only about 30 per cent of the industry’s estimate of the wine grape surplus that will eventuate this season, which is around 55,000 tonnes. With regard to the imports of brandy, the Minister has already referred to the Government’s decision to extend the temporary tariff quota additional duty arrangements. In addition at the request of the Government the Industries Assistance Commission is currently inquiring into the long term assistance needed for the Australian potable spirits industry, including brandy. The question of brandy taxation and the competition between spirits will be examined by the Government when the Commission’s report is received. If there is further information I will convey it to the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I ask: Further to my previous questions on the subject, and in the light of the particular problems being experienced by a number of Tasmanian industries, particularly in Hobart, can the Minister indicate when the review of the rates applicable under the freight equalisation scheme which was promised to be made by December last will be published?
-Whilst I do not have the information immediately at hand, I know its importance and I shall seek it out and let the honourable senator have it.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. I ask: Have the conditions for the payment of special benefits to prisoners on remand been changed recently? If so, how have they been changed and how many families will be affected by these changes?
– Changes have recently been made to the payment of special benefit to prisoners. This payment is made under section 124 of the Social Services Act which gives the Director-General discretion to pay a special benefit. The Director-General considered that it was not a correct application of section 124 to pay special benefit to a person without dependants who is being maintained free of charge on remand. The Director-General has advised that the practice of granting special benefit in these cases ceased from 9 February of this year. He considers the case of a prisoner on remand with dependants as being in a different category and the wife of such a person will receive direct payment for herself and any dependent children. The normal rate of benefit, less the husband ‘s entitlement to a special benefit, will be paid in these instances.
There will be no change in the practice of paying special benefit for one week to prisoners who apply for unemployment benefit immediately on their release from prison. But it was felt that the discretion to pay a special benefit under section 124 did not cover prisoners who were on remand under the circumstances I have mentioned. The information that I have available about the number of persons who are receiving special benefit while on remand is that at 3 1 December 1977 there were 318 beneficiaries. A survey of special benefit recipients is currently being conducted. It is hoped that further information will be available at a later stage with regard to the number of beneficiaries who will be affected by the change in the new arrangements. One representation has been made to me in recent days about this change. I have no further information than the number of recipients of the special benefit as at 3 1 December.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. On the Australian Broadcasting Commission program AM on Tuesday, 14 March, it was reported that an organisation, the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress, had used funds supplied by the Government for purposes other than those specified by the Government. Is this report correct now, or does it emanate from the financial year 1976-77, when proper accounting procedures and financial controls were not carried out, resulting in closer supervision of the organisation by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and by auditors appointed to the organisation? What is the present position regarding funds for the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress?
– This matter was raised on the Australian Broadcasting Commission program yesterday and I think I heard it raised again today. When the financial reports of the Central Australian Aboriginal Congress first became available in November 1977 they indicated some deficiencies in the organisation’s financial management. Those reports covered the period for the 1976-77 financial year. I think it was a matter of the accounting and bookkeeping records being deficient as much as any other matters that may have been in question. As a result of those problems a temporary administrator was appointed to reorganise the Council’s financial administration and a consultant accountant was appointed. Recently, a qualified accountant has been appointed to the staff of the CAAC. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs is continuing to monitor the financial administration of this organisation, as it does the administration of other Aboriginal organisations receiving departmental funds. It is understood that copies of the annual report were available at the annual general meeting. I understand some controversy has arisen about the release of information. But the annual reports were freely available and some of those people who have been raising questions are understood to have copies of the annual report. As I understand the matter at present, the financial affairs are in order. The recent appointment of a qualified accountant and the adoption of certain administrative practices are resulting in efficient administration of the organisation.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I suppose he is aware of the old saying: ‘Beware of Greeks when they come bearing gifts’. Does this saying also apply to New Zealanders? What is the placard that is being displayed in King’s Hall today? Is it a hoax or is it Muldoon ‘s revenge against the Australian people for the attitudes taken by this Government?
-As I understood the speeches yesterday it is a work of art and a gift from the Government of New Zealand to the people of Australia. It is not for me to comment or to attempt to put an artistic judgment on it. All I know is that one honourable senator looked at it and said: ‘Good lord, it is 1 a.m.; it is time I went home’. He thought that it was a digital clock. It is a matter for those in the art world to comment on its merits. I have no judgment in this area and I do not intend to say anything further about it.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs a question in view of arguments raised yesterday in regard the Queensland Government taking over Aboriginal missions at Mornington Island and Aurukun in that State. Has the attention of the Government been drawn to the statement that the reasons for the Queensland Government’s action were poor educational and health facilities at these two missions? Are these two aspects not vital to the people on the missions? Is it not a fact also that the Minister in charge of Aboriginal affairs in Queensland is a very capable Liberal Party member, Mr Charles Porter? Is it the intention of the Federal Government to take notice of a Liberal such as Mr Porter or of a bunch of socialists in the Uniting Church -
– Oh, come on!
– I went to the Presbyterian Church for 70 years and they are a bunch of socialists. Is the Government not aware, or does it not remember, that a number of the ministers who constitute the Uniting Church in Australia issued a statement at the time of the most recent double dissolution asking people to return the Whitlam Labor Government?
– The matter of the Aboriginal missions at Aurukun and. Mornington Island is to be raised by Senator Gietzelt as a matter of public importance after Question Time. It would probably be appropriate if I were to refer to the matters then on behalf of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I am unable to comment on statements which were made by ministers of the Presbyterian Church, or the Uniting Church in Australia as it is now called, following the double dissolution. I am not aware of such statements being made, nor do I feel that it would be appropriate for me to comment on them. But the matters with regard to the Aboriginal missions which were raised by Senator Wood will be dealt with completely as we debate the matter of public importance raised by the Opposition.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory, with the proverb that a good anvil does not fear the hammer. I ask the Minister: Can we have an assurance that the Northern Territory Mining Warden, Gerry Galvin, has no mining investments which could have coloured his judgment in the decision yesterday to grant 400 mining leases in the Kakadu National Park? I further ask: How does the Minister square up the Northern Territory Minister’s attitude with the attitude displayed in this chamber by the Minister for Education on the vision splendid of the Kakadu National Park with its large wilderness areas? I particularly emphasise the first part of my question.
-With statements being made about my church by an honourable senator who sits behind me, followed by Senator Mulvihill ‘s reference to a good anvil, Question Time is becoming a very difficult time for me. I am unable to respond accurately to Senator Mulvihill ‘s question and indicate the attitude, not of the Minister for the Northern Territory, but of one of the Northern Territory Ministers. I understand that that is what the honourable senator’s question seeks from me. I think I should seek a written answer to the three points the honourable senator raised and bring it to him at the earliest opportunity.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr President. I think the Minister _ representing the Minister for the Northern Territory will appreciate that when I referred to the Northern Territory Minister I meant the Mining Warden in the Northern Territory, whose position I think is a rather topical issue at the moment with respect to the possibility of conflict of interest.
– My answer is the same. The Mining Warden is responsible to a Minister within the Northern Territory Government.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and follows the question asked by my colleague, Senator Wood. Is it not a fact that the education and health needs of the communities of Aurukun and Mornington Island are responsibilities of the Queensland Minister for Health and his Department and the Queensland
Minister for Education and his Department and not the responsibility of the Uniting Church in Australia and, if there is deterioration in both these areas, surely the responsibility lies with those two Ministers and not with the Church?
– It is a statement of fact that the education and health of all communities and of all residents within States are the responsibilities of the State government instrumentalities. Often funding responsibilities are shared with the Commonwealth Government. The Uniting Church has been the body which has been instrumental in conducting the administration of these missions over a number of years. But the responsibilities for the primary needs of the Aborigines come within the province of State Ministers, as do the needs of all members of the community.
– My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry is basically similar to a question which I asked him on Thursday last. I now ask the Minister whether he has been able to obtain from the Minister for Primary Industry facts as to whether the six meat companies I named were among the 10 companies being investigated by the Commonwealth Police. When can I expect to receive from the Minister the information which he promised to me in his adjournment debate speech on the night of Wednesday, 8 March?
– I respond to the last question first. I do not know that I assured the honourable senator that I would bring that information to him. I said that I would refer the matter to the Minister for Primary Industry. In the original question which Senator Primmer asked he made a number of serious allegations. Those original remarks were made when speaking during the adjournment debate in the Senate on 7 March. I indicated, following those remarks, that I would refer the matter to the Minister for Primary Industry, which I did. The Minister for Primary Industry was asked a question on 8 March as to whether there was any substance in the allegations contained in the speech made by Senator Primmer during the adjournment debate. The Minister replied to the question giving considerable detail and he had incorporated in Hansard a letter from the Acting Chief Superintendent of the Commonwealth Police in Victoria giving details of the investigations carried out by the Commonwealth Police into certain of the allegations. I have no doubt that Senator Primmer has read the comments which the Minister made. at the end of his remarks. Perhaps it would be appropriate, as was suggested last week, that Senator Primmer may make his position clear.
– Answer the question, senator, that is all I want.
– I do not doubt that that is all the honourable senator wants. He is willing to come here with allegations against reputable people in Victoria and all he wants is an answer to his question.
– You obviously do not have the information. You lied to me the other night.
– Order! Senator Primmer, you must not accuse an honourable senator of lying.
– I have made the position clear. There is nothing irresponsible in the answer I have given to Senator Primmer. I represent the Minister for Primary Industry. I have brought information which can be made available to Senator Primmer. I repeat that I have no doubt that Senator Primmer read the remarks which the Minister made on 8 March. I think it is up to Senator Primmer to do something about the proposition. The Minister for Primary Industry at the end of his remarks in another place stated:
If Senator Primmer has any other evidence- indeed, if he has any evidence- to justify his complaints, I suggest that he submit it to either my Department or the Commonwealth Police. That might be a more equitable way of settling wild assertions in a fair and just manner.
On 9 March Senator Primmer asked me for details of companies which may be under investigation by the Commonwealth Police for breaches of the Exports (Meat) Regulations. I do not know whether the six companies named by Senator Primmer last Tuesday evening are among the 10 companies being investigated by the Commonwealth Police. The Department of Primary Industry on 2 1 June 1 977 requested the Commonwealth Police to commence an investigation. The response from the Commonwealth Police to that request is on the record in another place. I add that the proper authority to carry out this investigation is the Commonwealth Police. That authority reported once on 16 November 1977. I quote from the letter from the Acting Chief Superintendent to the Department of Primary Industry. It states:
Inquiries are continuing and when further information comes to hand you will be advised accordingly.
- Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Senator Webster in his reply to me on Thursday, 9 March, did not answer the question which I originally asked. The Minister said earlier that he -
- Senator Primmer, you must refer to the question which you put to the Minister today.
-The question I asked previously was: Will the Minister supply me with the information which he intimated he had the previous day? I ask the Minister whether he has given me all the information he has or is there further information with which he can supply me? If so, when can I expect that information?
-I have no doubt that the Minister for Primary Industry, whom I represent in this place, has information in relation to these matters. Any information that has come to me has been given to Senator Primmer. The basic point relating to this matter is that the honourable senator has made particular charges. I think that any reasonable person- and Senator Primmer is a reasonable person- would accept the view that, if he makes charges against certain persons, he should be man enough to give the information and the basis on which he has made those charges. As at 15 March 1978 Senator Primmer has not endorsed in any way the criticisms he made of very respectable people in Victoria. It was put to him last week that he may feel inclined to do that before the end of this week.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether the Government still intends to re-introduce legislation relating to early retirement in the Commonwealth Public Service? If so, can the Minister indicate when that might be done and what progress has been made in discussions with Public Service organisations on the legislation?
-The only matter on which I have had any information relates to what was the Commonwealth Employees (Redeployment and Retirement) Bill. This Bill was introduced into the Parliament in 1976 but lapsed on the prorogation of Parliament in February 1977. As the honourable senator would know, some aspects of the Bill attracted criticism from staff organisations. As a result of that, the Public Service Board held discussions with the peak councils of organisations last year, and subsequently made a report to the Government recommending a number of changes to the redeployment and compulsory retirement provisions of the 1976 Bill. I inform the honourable senator further that the Government was generally in agreement with the Board’s proposals but directed that officials pursue further work on some aspects before the Bill was redrafted. That work is now being finalised.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. As the latest report of the Commonwealth Arbitration Inspectorate refers to the increasing tendency on the part of employers to challenge award construction used by the Inspectorate and a lessening in the level of co-operation of employer organisations, will the Minister comment on this regrettable action which can only aggravate industrial relationship and seek from employers and employer organisations some more respect and cooperation in federal legislation and administration?
– I have not read the report to which Senator Cavanagh has referred. Certainly it would be a matter for regret if there was a lessening of co-operation in these matters. On the other hand, it seems a bit odd that there should be criticism because people are challenging interpretations of awards. When all is said and done, that is a legal right that I think all people have. However, if there are any specific points of criticism in the report which require appropriate action by the Minister, I shall draw his attention to them and ask him to provide me with a detailed reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is the Minister aware that the health of some people is affected by food or drink containing artificial flavouring or colouring? Is it a fact that very few packaged foods indicate on the label whether artificial substances are used in their preparation? Will the Minister investigate this matter with a view to seeking the co-operation of the States in requiring all packaged foods to be clearly labelled if they contain artificial substances so that people whose health may be adversely affected by such substances may be properly advised?
– I will see that this matter is raised with the Minister for Health. I will inquire as to what action he has taken from time to time with State Ministers to lay down labelling procedures that are protective of the
Australian community. As I understand the situation, in many cases where foodstuffs contain substances that may be injurious to health the details are set out on the packages. I will undertake to see what further information can be provided on this subject.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs aware that Australians are spending more money in travelling overseas- I believe almost twice as much- than overseas visitors are spending in Australia? Is the Minister also aware that the Australian Tourist Commission was, in its own words, ‘required to withdraw from domestic tourism’ in 1976-77, only two years after having domestic tourism added to its brief? Can the Minister say who or what caused this withdrawal? Finally, what steps, if any, are now being taken to remedy the situation and to encourage Australians to spend their tourist dollar in Australia?
– I will refer that question to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs in an endeavour to obtain an early answer for the honourable senator.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. The Minister will recognise from my question that I have been studying an overseas trade journal. My question is about the sale of Australian products in the Netherlands. Is the Minister aware that Dutch importers claim that the reasons that not more of our products are sold in the Netherlands are inadequate representations, poorly presented offers and sales literature, and lack of vigour in following up sales products? Is he also aware that Dutch importers claim that the long freight haul is not a major obstacle and that they point to the success of other countries, notably Japan, in overcoming this disadvantage? Will the Minister follow up these claims?
-I do not have any information on the subject. I regret that, unlike the honourable senator, I have not had time to read overseas trade journals. I will attempt to obtain some information for him.
-Has the attention of the Attorney-General been drawn to page 1 9 of the 1977 annual report of the Commissioner for Community Relations, in which details are given of a case referred to the Commissioner by a member of Parliament about another member of Parliament? If so, has the Attorney-General given consideration to the Commissioner’s statement:
The respondent member refused to co-operate with me and took action which can only be interpreted as attempted intimidation of a statutory officer in the performance of his duties.
Is the Minister able to inform the Senate who the respondent member is? Does the AttorneyGeneral intend taking any action in relation to this matter?
– I am not specifically aware of the quotation from the report to which Senator Colston has referred. However, I think I am aware of some of the details of the matter. As I understand it, Mr Grassby has not seen fit to reveal any names in the report. Is that correct?
– There are no names in the report.
– I regard this matter as being general reporting on the part of Mr Grassby. I really cannot see what I am expected to do about it. Nor, in my opinion, would it be desirable for any further action to be taken.
– Yesterday Senator Bishop asked me a question without notice concerning the use of Woomera by the Australian Services and I promised to seek the information for him. The Minister for Defence has provided the following information:
The Defence Department is currently investigating the circumstances under which Woomera could be used by the Australian Services.
Army has a need for a training area such as that available at Woomera and a trial exercise code-named ‘FIRST LIGHT ONE’ was conducted there in September 1977 with ground troops, aircraft and armoured vehicles. The aim of the exercise was to further develop the tactical employment of a balanced combat force in a remote location under terrain and the climate environment represented at Woomera. On the environmental side, the operation was closely monitored by experts from CSIRO’s Woodland Ecology Unit.
The nature of the environment at Woomera is such that it is expected that it will be some time before the full environmental implications of military use of Woomera will be known and final decision made. Army does not currently plan to use the area for similar exercises before 1 980.
It is likely that the Woomera Area will also be used for RAAF, RAN and Joint Service purposes. There has been no deterioration in the future prospects for Woomera.
– I have received a letter from Senator Gietzelt proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:
That the Senate request the Federal Government to assume full legislative responsibilities for Aurukun and Mornington Island Aborigines in Queensland for the purpose of implementing the Federal Government policies of self-management.
I call upon those senators who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of senators required by the Sessional Orders having risen in their places-
– The proposals relating to Aurukun and Mornington Island surely warrant the consideration of the Australian Senate. Many of us would be concerned that in recent times a situation has developed in Queensland that is not acceptable to the Australian people, the Australian Government, public opinion, and certainly the Aboriginal people of this country. We heard on the media yesterday that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) had received a telegram which stated:
Council and community not consulted on Government takeover. What is happening? Please help us.
Those of us who listened to that program and who have followed in recent times the development of events in Queensland as they relate to Aborigines believe that the time has arrived for us to have a parliamentary debate on these issues. The Queensland Government again is finding itself in conflict with church authorities. Hot on the heels of the Premier’s dispute with church leaders over street marches, the Government has now taken on the Uniting Church over the Aurukun Aboriginal Community, Mornington Island, and other areas that are currently managed by the church. I have raised this matter with a view to expressing my grave concern at the takeover by the Queensland Government and the developments that led up to it. Like many honourable senators on both sides of the chamber, over a long period I have become increasingly concerned about the policies of the Queensland Premier and the Queensland Government on many issues, but particularly on Aborigines. I am firmly of the opinion that it is now time for the Federal Government to act. I hope that the spirit and intent of this matter of public importance will have the support of the Senate.
We have all watched the actions of the Queensland Government over the last decade. Some of us have watched them with bewilderment, some of us with disgust and others with despair as many conceptions of decency and humanity towards Australia’s original inhabitants have been eroded. But now is the moment for us collectively as the Australian Senate to make our position clear and to make our request to the Australian Government. This is the moment when all honourable senators should express their desire to halt the trend taking place in Queensland. We can and we must succeed if we as Australians are to hold our heads high in national and international forums as being dedicated to the elimination of racism. On numerous occasions members of the Senate have expressed their opposition to the racist evil of apartheid in South Africa. We must now take steps towards halting the dangerous growth in Queensland. I hope that all honourable senators will join with me in supporting the matter of public importance as a tangible expression of our feeling towards the latest moves. It can be said that we should have requested the Federal Government to take over all the responsibilities for Aboriginal affairs in Queensland. If in the considered judgment of honourable senators that is what they believe should be done, the Opposition will be prepared to support such a proposition. We have deliberately narrowed this matter down to the discernible problem areas as we see them in the Gulf of Carpentaria now.
In moving for the discussion of a matter of public importance today, I am mindful of two of the most important political events in Australia’s recent history. They were in broad terms the dedication of some to an end of racism in Australia and overseas and recognition of the dignity of fellow human beings. In 1967 the overwhelming majority of Australians, in far larger numbers than even the original majority in favour of the Australian Federation- I point out that this question of Aborigines in Australia and in Queensland in particular was an issue at the time of Federation- voted in the referendum to give the Federal Government responsibility for Aboriginal affairs. That responsibility was given overwhelmingly. Progressively all States, with the exception of Queensland, have handed functions for Aboriginal affairs over to the Federal Government. The Queensland Government alone has denied the Federal Government this national responsibility. Indeed, it has gone further in obstructing the Federal Government in the pursuit of the national role given directly to it by the Australian people. It has ignored the promises, statements and policies of whichever government has been in power. In particular, it has ignored the policies of the Government elected in 1975 and 1977.
On 30 October 1975, the Federal Government ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. Article 2(1) makes the Australian Government’s obligations perfectly clear. It states:
Each State party shall take effective measures to review governmental, national and local policies, and to amend, rescind or nullify any laws and regulations which have the effect of creating or perpetuating racial discrimination wherever if exists.
There is no question about our obligations in this respect. The national Government of Australia has the responsibility to eliminate the Queensland State Act on Aborigines. It is the power vested in this Act that enables the Minister of the Queensland Government to ride roughshod over Aborigines in that State and in the case of Aurukun and Mornington Island to take over the church missions without consultation with the Aboriginal people themselves. We submit that this is an intolerable situation. It is contrary to the wishes of the Australian people and in essence contravenes international laws to which Australia is a party. The actions of the Queensland Government in taking over the Aurukun and Mornington Island missions are just the latest in a long record of confrontation between that Government, in the policies pursued by the present Premier, and the Australian Government. In October and November 1977, the Queensland Premier personally destroyed the trachoma program operated by the Royal Australian College of Ophthalmologists in North Queensland. I am sure that honourable senators recall the details of the program. The destruction of the national trachoma program has parallels in deliberate administrative acts. There have been harassments of other Federal initiatives also. For example, in November 1976 the land rights legislation was passed by this chamber. It is perhaps worth while just to recall to the Minister at the table, the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) that on that occasion she said:
The Bill which I am now introducing … is a tangible indication of this Government’s commitment to the principle that Aboriginals and Islanders should be as free as other Australians to determine their own future and to take their rightful place as citizens in the Australian community.
That legislation recognised the moral and legal rights of Aborigines to their traditional lands, but what has the Government of Queensland done? On 25 January 1977, Mr Tomkins, the
Queensland Minister for Lands, told the Queensland Parliament that he Ifad vetoed the transfer of the Archer River lease, which had been purchased in the market place by the Aboriginal Land Fund Commission. The land was for the use of the traditional owners, who now reside in the Aurukun and Coen areas. It is ironic that such a blatant abuse of ministerial discretion should have been announced on Australia Day, and only two months after the land rights legislation had been passed. One can only say that it is perversity at its worst. Yet these actions are only a small part of a catalogue of such actions. I shall refer briefly to some of these. At Mapoon, Aboriginal houses were bulldozed for the convenience of mining companies. The traditional owners were exiled from their tribal lands to Bamaga and other areas. Similarly, the lands that have been set aside as Aboriginal reserves have been eroded as they have become of economic interest. I recall Senator Bonner’s statement in this chamber on that subject in 1 976. He said:
That is the history of land which was set aside in my own State of Queensland and in other States of the Commonwealth for Aboriginal people when it had no commercial value, no minerals and nothing else for the white man. Immediately minerals were found, or the white man saw it as good agriculture land or good land on which to graze cattle or sheep, it was resumed. It was no longer reserve. It went back to the white man.
This, of course, has been the pattern of eventsthe development of the manner in which the Queensland Government has placed itself at variance with the continuing policies of the Federal Government through the late 60s and through all of the 70s- despite different Prime Ministers, different governments and different philosophies upon which government policies, nationally, were determined.
What is happening in Queensland is a blight upon the 1967 referendum and contradicts Australia’s obligations under the International Convention on the Elimination of Racism. These acts are contrary to Federal laws, particularly Queensland’s Discriminatory Laws Act of Queensland, and the Racial Discrimination Act of 1 975. The Queensland Act must be eliminated if Aborigines in Queensland are to receive their just due- their lands, adequate welfare and improvements to health and education. Most of all, they must be eliminated as an inhuman restraint on the self-identity, culture and society of Aborigines. I would hope that the Australian Government would see fit now to take the action necessary to enforce moral and legal rights for Aborigines in Australia.
I refer to some of the remarks made by the Minister himself. I have already referred to the telegram he mentioned. He said that he was disappointed that the Queensland Government did not get in touch with him to let him know what was happening. He said:
We know of the Queensland Government’s agreement to allow mining for bauxite at Aurukun and of course you will recall back in 1976, the Government and the Prime Minister said quite plainly to the Queensland Government that we were anxious to see that whatever was done with respect to mining on Aurukun was done in full and adequate consultation with the Aurukun people. Well now - this was yesterday’s statement by the Minister, Mr Viner-
. that policy still stands. I am concerned at what has happened. It does seem to run counter to the more modern trends of administration of aboriginal affairs, in particular policies of self management, which are directed to putting Aborigines for the first time in a position where they can manage their own affairs, make decisions for themselves rather than being managed by government.
I can well recall debates in this place when those principles were enunciated by supporters of the Government. Now is the time for them to be put into effect.
We are confronted with an arbitrary, blatant and illegal decision by Mr Porter, the new Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, who, as yet, has not even been sworn in before the Queensland Parliament. The Queensland Parliament met for only 38 days during the whole of last year. It has the worst parliamentary sitting record of all Australian parliaments. A man who has not yet been able to justify his position through parliamentary debate or decision has made a determination about these matters while the Parliament is in recess. It has been in recess for about six months. There has been no parliamentary debate on this matter. It is no wonder, in those circumstances, that public opinion is railing hard against the Queensland Government. Mr Porter may well have the endorsement of the Government. But he has made a decision that these settlements will be taken over at the end of this month which means, in effect, that the Queensland Parliament is being disregarded. It is not due to resume until 28 March this year. That is only a couple of days prior to the timetable that has been set.
What has been said by the people themselves? I have a number of telegrams. One of them ought to be read to the Senate. I shall seek leave subsequently to have the others incorporated in Hansard. I received a telegram today from Mr Galarrwuy Yunupingu, the Chairman of the Northern Land Council. He said:
The situation at Aurukun and Mornington Island in Queensland is a matter of great concern to all Aboriginal people. The Government has the authority to act and should act quickly and firmly to ensure that Aboriginal people are not subject to actions by State governments anywhere in Australia that encroach on their inalienable rights to determine their own future or that weakens their hold on the land that remains to them. The administration of Aboriginal affairs should be carried by the Federal Government. This telegram has been sent to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs yesterday.
Excuses have been made by the Queensland Government. Mr Bjelke-Petersen wants full control over Aurukun in order to enable mining to proceed unfettered by the wishes of the Aborigines who are directly affected. The Aurukun Council has consistently opposed a State Government takeover of the mission. I refer to what has been said by the Reverend John Brown, a Minister of the Uniting Church who is in charge of the missions. He said:
We want freedom for the Aurukun people to decide the rate and pace and direction of their own development.
We want freedom for them to respond to the impact of white society at their own pace and in their own direction, that is what it ‘s about.
The Aurukun people were 17 or 18 clans scattered about 80 miles up and down the coast in the vicinity of Aurukun, so Aurukun perhaps, could be seen as a centre for the clans.
He speaks of the need to maintain the separate status of that area as distinct from the direction of the Queensland Government to mine regardless. Consistently, the Uniting Church has maintained that no meaningful consultation has taken place between the mining companies and the Aurukuns. The Church has persisted in bringing to the attention of the Australian people its disquiet at the Queensland Government’s unilateral action in support of the mining companies. One can only say that it is that persistence which has led to the expulsion of the Church from this area. I think we can disregard the excuses advanced by Mr Porter, the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islander Advancement, for the sudden takeover. Health, educational and social standards at Aurukun are better than those in most other reserves in Queensland. Mr Porter’s remarks are indeed hollow. In fact, in 1969 a study on growth retardation in Aboriginals made by David G. Jose and John S. Welch from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research and which was published in the Medical Journal of Australia found that standards at Aurukun were well in advance of those at nearly all other reserves and missions in Queensland. In reality the Queensland Minister, who was at Mornington Island on 12 March and failed even to discuss the proposed takeover with the Aborigines, is attempting once again to cover up the more outrageous decisions of the Queensland Government.
I believe- and I am sure that many people in Australia believe- that the time has come for this Parliament to assert its view and to stop the policies that are being implemented in Queensland. The Australian Government should assume full legal, constitutional and moral responsibilities so that the Aboriginal people in Queensland can be treated in the same way as they are in all of the other States. I think it has to be said that over the years a consensus attitude has grown up in Australia and in the Parliament to the problems of the Aborigines and our responsibilities therein. We sincerely believe that, as has been said by so many people, the time has arrived for the Australian Government to assume its rightful responsibilities. The legal adviser to the Aborigines has said that we have reached the point of no return. It has to be the last straw that the Government in Queensland can continue the policies that it has pursued.
It is in the light of those sorts of conditions and in the light of all the theory that exists in Australia about our responsibilities to Aborigines that we believe that the Senate should, as a place of review and as a place where independence of thought is expressed from time to time, accept responsibility and put on record a request to the national Government to assume its rightful responsibilities. We should stand behind those senators and others who have expressed their views from time to time about the problem in Queensland, stand behind the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, who is very concerned about the developments in Queensland, and stand behind the Prime Minister who has given assurances that there will be no imposition upon the people of Aurukun without their agreement. That agreement can come only with the assistance of those who have given counsel to the Aborigines for the whole of this century- it was 1902 when the Christian Church went to that area- and who have built up respect and leadership in the area for many years. They are the sort of people that the Aboriginal communities at Aurukun and Mornington Island rely upon in determining the future of their area and the future of their race. It is in the spirit of those circumstances that we believe the Senate should adopt the motion that has been moved today.
– The matter of the Aboriginal communities at Aurukun and Mornington Island has become a matter of national interest in the past day or two. It certainly has been a matter of grave concern for the Federal Government. The Government is concerned at reports that the Queensland Government intends to assume direct responsibility for the management of the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities on 31 March. Senator Gietzelt mentioned a telegram and I am able to say that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) did receive that telegram. I want to put into perspective the actions of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs over the last day or two. I want to inform the Senate that the Government regards this as a matter of great importance. Today the Minister has discussed the matter with representatives of the Uniting Church in Australia. He met them earlier today and he indicated that he felt the Uniting Church should continue to maintain its self-management policies and should continue to be involved in assisting the two Aboriginal communities to develop further. He also indicated that the Government is examining what steps might be taken to help the community to manage its own affairs with the help of the Church. Those matters were discussed by the Minister with representatives of the Church earlier today.
Perhaps we ought to look at the background of the two communities about which we are talking to see what the problems are and to see how they can be overcome by working together and seeing that self-management of the Aborigines is the factor on which we place primary importance. The population of Mornington Island is some 681 people and the population of Aurukun is 768, including the nine decentralised communities in that area. In recent years there has been a steady increase in the funding that has been given in grants-in-aid to the two communities concerned. The 1976-77 funding for Aurukun was $56,000 and in the following year, 1977-78, it was increased to $270,000. The proposed funding for next year is $282,000. The grantsinaid were for decentralisation, housing, operational expenses, sawmilling projects, other operating expenses, feasibility studies and things that were considered to be desirable in the interests of the development of the community. As far as Mornington Island is concerned, in 1976-77 the Government provided $164,000. The following year it was $ 1 1 7,000 and for 1978-79 the projected figure is $141,000. These grants were for matters that were important to the development of the communities.
The wishes of the people, as has been stressed, are important. If we look for evidence as to the wishes of the people we need to take into account some of the statements that have been made recently. As I said earlier, the Government is concerned to establish the opinion of the local Aboriginal community on this issue at this time. The Minister today told the representatives of the
Church that arrangements are being made to invite representatives of the two community councils to Canberra for discussions with him before the end of this week. It is hoped that these representatives will arrive tomorrow or the day after in order to have discussions with the Federal Minister. As I said, the Minister has received a telegram from the Council but I think it is fair to say that evidence of the wishes of the people should be shown in the information that is available to us through the Church as well as through the representatives of the people.
The Church announced on 13 March that the Aurukun people indicated to it strongly that they did not wish to come under the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement. The Church holds a letter from the Aurukun Community Council to this effect. That letter was dated 1 8 November and was signed by five of the community councillors. I think that over the years the Aurukun community has indicated to officers of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs that it is opposed to the Queensland Department and that it supports the interest of the Uniting Church in its community. On the other hand, some Aurukun groups have indicated their support for the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, particularly those groups that have not decentralised.
The Mornington Island group also has made its feelings clear to the Church. The Mornington Island community, I believe, needs to consider its attitude. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs considers that the strong opposition of these Aboriginal communities to the Queensland Department has been consistent. The Mornington Island Community Council, individual councillors and departmental officers have noted strong expressions of opposition by the Council to the possibility of a State Government takeover.
Senator Gietzelt spoke at one stage about the takeover being illegal and contrary to provisions of Queensland discriminatory laws or the Racial Discrimination “Act. I am advised that the proposed takeover is not contrary to any provisions of those Acts, however strongly people may feel about it or against it. It is not contrary to the two Acts mentioned by Senator Gietzelt.
The Minister hopes that after his discussions with the community people he will have a final and clear indication of their wishes in this matter by the end of this week. The communications” exchanged between the Uniting Church and the people could be dwelt on at some length. The matter of the councillors indicating their wishes was dealt with at the end of last year. They issued quite a strong statement about how they saw their future and they indicated their wish for the Church to have a continuing interest in their activities. I think that what has been raised in the past few days warrants discussion about the future of the two communities concerned. Our interest is to see that the matters of health, education and community development are dealt with in a way that enhances the environment of Aboriginal life and the opportunity for enrichment of Aboriginal life in these parts of Australia.
I have a transcript of an interview with the Reverend John Brown on Australian Broadcasting Commission radio which was held on 9 November last year. He said that he was able to indicate from a visit to Aurukun the strong feeling of the people in that community that there should be continuing involvement by the Church. There is a transcript of this interview. One of the comments made by Reverend John Brown was that he believed, in honesty, that the people had a very strong desire for the church to stay and support them in the development of their community. He said that that is the way the people see it. He believed that after his visit he was able to say that that was an express wish, one that he believed represented the view of all the community. I think he was asked how many members of the community came to a meeting and he was able to say, in a statement following that interview, that the meeting was attended by almost everyone in the community and that there was a very strong request for the Church to remain as the manager. The councillors went to the people on their own land on the outstations to meet separately with them and found that the people were in favour of the Church remaining as the manager. It seems, from those statements, that the Church has been given an indication that is presence is welcomed by the Aborigines and that the Aborigines hope that it will continue.
I understand that the problems associated with law and order and alcohol abuse caused concern at Aurukun in mid- 1977 but these problems substantially have been overcome by the Aurukun Council. Nevertheless, for at least two years the Council has been seeking to have Queensland police stationed at Aurukun but no action has been taken on that matter. The latest request for this assistance was in the form of a petition signed by almost the whole adult population late last year. It was a request for Queensland police to be stationed at Aurukun but no action has been taken on it at this stage. It was said by Senator Gietzelt that the Presbyterian Church, which has latterly become the
Uniting Church, has been responsible for the two reserves for some 70 years. This is a statement of fact. It shows the continuing interest which the church has shown in this area and which has been shown, through the church administration, by a large number of people in Queensland and elsewhere in supporting that ‘ mission of the church for Aboriginal people.
The Press reports published during the past few days indicated that the responsible Queensland Minister has commented on legal uncertainty and difficulty about the Uniting Church managing the reserves. It is understood that this reference was to the fact that the OrderinCouncil of 1940 vested management of the reserves in the Presbyterian Church of Queensland. It is appropriate to note that the Queensland Government did not raise this matter during the many years the Presbyterian Church was responsible, nor did it raise the matter when the Uniting Church in Australia inherited that responsibility in 1977.
At Question Time today Senator Wood and Senator Bonner referred to education and health problems in the two communities concerned. In answer to Senator Bonner’s question I indicated that education services were the responsibility of the Queensland Department of Education and not of the Uniting Church and, likewise, that the health services for all people living within a State are within the responsibility and interest of the respective State Departments of Health. I indicated at that time also that in matters of the education and health of all Australians the Commonwealth Government has had supportive programs and funding arrangements with the States, which lead us to expect standards of education and health which we believe are demanded by Australians for all Australians. Those two problems in Aboriginal communities certainly require our attention, our concern and our interest; but they are not reasons why the Uniting Church should not administer these communities if it is the wish of the Aborigines that it should.
The Commonwealth Government, through the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, supports Aboriginal community organisations at both Mornington Island and Aurukun. It also makes separate grants to support some nine small decentralised groups. I say on behalf of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that the Government intends to continue to assist Aborigines to reach self-determination in their development and have opportunities for themselves and their children which we would want to see them have. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs, through its
States grants programs, in the financial year 1977-78 provided some $6.6m. These programs are for housing, health, education, employment and town management. Through grants of that kind we hope that in general we will be able to improve the status of Aborigines and to improve their access to the programs which we find desirable.
In the discussion which I had before Question Time today with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs he said that he hoped that after discussions with the Aborigines from the two communities concerned he will be able to determine their wishes for the continuing development and administration of their communities. He also said to me that he believed that the wishes of the people are of primary importance. I indicated this on his behalf yesterday in answer to a question. I again stress that we believe that this is the way in which we will best be able to assist Aborigines in whatever their requirements might be in the future. The Federal Minister went further in our discussion and said that the Federal Government will consider passing appropriate legislation if after these consultations with the representatives of the communities this is considered necessary. I make that undertaking on his behalf on the understanding that he needs to hold discussions with representatives of the communities, which he hopes to hold this week, and to hold other necessary consultations with State government or other bodies who are interested in this problem. The Minister said that the Federal Government will consider passing appropriate legislation if it is thought necessary.
I believe that this matter is of interest to all Australians. It affects the lives of perhaps under 2,000 people in the two communities. But these communities are vitally important to us; they are important in working towards self-improvement and community development in Aboriginal communities. For these reasons it is a matter of primary importance to the Federal Government, and I give my assurance to the Senate that the Federal Government is treating this as a matter of urgency- certainly as a matter of public importance- and we hope that the solution which is achieved to this problem will be of long and distinct benefit to the Aborigines. We as a Federal Government have a commitment, through the referendum proposals which were passed overwhelmingly by the Australian people, to accept responsibility on behalf of the Aboriginal people. It is a responsibility which we willingly accept. In this instance, if it is required after we hear the expressed wishes of the Aboriginal communities concerned, we will take action.
-The Senate is debating the following matter of public importance:
That the Senate request the Federal Government to assume full legislative responsibilities for Aurukun and Mornington Island Aborigines in Queensland for the purpose of implementing the Federal Government policies of selfmanagement.
I congratulate the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) on the informative nature of her speech which, with respect, sounded like an article in the National Geographic. This is perhaps appropriate, having regard to what the Minister said in her latter remarks. The nub of this matter is outlined in a question which was asked yesterday in the other place by the honourable member for Capricornia (Dr Everingham) to which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) replied. I refer the Senate to that question for the specific purpose of indicating that it outlines the nub of the argument. Dr Everingham asked the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser):
Will the Government take steps to take over Aurukun and Mornington Island Missions before the Queensland Government does so on the pretext of improving services to Aborigines. What further steps have been taken since the change of government in 1975 to implement abolition of the racist, feudal State settlement laws and regulations in Queensland- an action which was promised by the Government? Has his attention been drawn to recent statements of the Queensland Premier that moves for land rights in the States, as implemented in the Northern Territory, could lead to a black takeover backed by Communist countries? Will the Government take steps to implement Aboriginal land rights throughout Australia, or will the Government continue to defer to the States which prefer to subject Aboriginal rights to mineral exploitation?
The Prime Minister indicated that the question would be answered by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The Minister said:
The honourable member’s question deals with the action announced yesterday by the Queensland Government to take over administration of Mornington Island and the Aurukun communities from the Uniting Church in Australia. I was advised of the action by the Church.
I interpolate that he was not advised by the Queensland Government. The Minister continued:
I am concerned if this action is being taken against the wishes of the communities in both those places. This morning I received a telegram from the chairman and council at Mornington Island which states:
Council and community not consulted on Government take-over. What is happening? Please help us.
The Minister went on to say:
I have also received a request from the Uniting Church that I hold urgent discussions with it. I shall be seeing a deputation tomorrow. The Uniting Church has a long and distinguished record in the administration of Aboriginal communities in northern Australia and also in other parts of Australia, pursuing modem policies of self-management so that Aboriginals may take charge of their own affairs and make decisions for themselves. The Government and I are watching the situation very closely and we will examine what needs to be done to preserve the interests of Aboriginals in these places.
That answer by the Minister contains some essential facts: Firstly, action was announced by the Queensland Government; secondly, the action was against the wishes of the communities in both places; thirdly, the Uniting Church has a long and distinguished record, as the Minister described it, in relation to those two settlements; and, fourthly, the Uniting Church has a commitment to policies of self-management. One or two other facts were not contained in the Minister’s answer- I do not blame him for that at all, of course- such as the history of the settlements, which has been referred to by Senator Gietzelt and the Minister for Social Security.
Another important fact is the motivation of the Queensland Government and the shoddy record of that Government in Aboriginal affairs. For example, the announcement of the Queensland Government was accompanied by the suggestion that somehow in law the Uniting Church was not an adequate successor to the Presbyterian Church for the purposes of administration of Aurukun and Mornington Island. There was the suggestion, which was referred to in a question asked today in the Senate, that somehow the Uniting Church was responsible for education and so on in Aurukun and Mornington Island when in fact it is the responsibility of the Queensland Government. We in this place are used to turning a blind eye to a quite shoddy record of the Queensland Government in relation to standards of public propriety, the financial involvement of Ministers in the Queensland Government, particularly the Premier, in companies which bring them into direct conflict with the interests of Aboriginal communitiesfor example, their involvement in companies such as Comalco Ltd and subsidiaries of the Utah corporation. We are fully aware of the implications in that for the Aboriginal people in those areas. We are aware of the attitude of the Queensland Government to the trachoma program. That is a dramatic illustration of that Government’s attitude to the problems of Aboriginal health in Queensland.
That State remains one out. It is the only State which has not been prepared to hand over to the Commonwealth control of Aboriginal affairs. In an article in the Melbourne Age of yesterday Mr Viner, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, was reported as saying that he would find out the wishes of the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island but that the Government was powerless to prevent the Queensland Government taking control of the two Aboriginal reserves. The Minister admitted that there was no legislation which would give him power to stop the takeover. The Opposition in this Parliament must be pardoned for assuming that the Minister’s statement indicates some desire to put the issue on ice for the time being. I am not now persuaded that that is necessarily the case.
The constitutional position in relation to the power of the Australian Government is clear. It has power to make laws for the people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws. Of course, in constitutional terms that issue has the recent support of the people of Australia. It was the desire and expressed will of the Australian people for the Federal Parliament, where necessary, to make laws with respect to Aboriginal people. That is no more clearly stated than in the Yes case which received an overwhelming vote in 1967 when that referendum went to the people. In relation to that law, the Yes case made simply this point: . . to make it possible for the Commonwealth Parliament to make special laws for the people of the Aboriginal race, wherever they may live, if the Commonwealth Parliament considers this desirable or necessary.
It went on:
This would not mean that the States would automatically lose their existing powers. What is intended is that the National Parliament could make laws, if it thought fit, relating to Aboriginals- as it can about many other matters on which the States also have power to legislate.
I believe that is the expressed will of the Australian people in recent terms, having regard to the history of our Constitution. It was a specific result. I refer the Senate to one other matter. In 1901 the same question came up in relation to Queensland in a slightly different form. In the first year of the constitutional history of this country Sir Edmund Barton, the Prime Minister of Australia, wrote to the Queensland Premier. In the letter he made it quite clear that in any areas where there were joint powers between the Commonwealth and Queensland, the Commonwealth will should prevail in a matter on which the Australian people had expressed their views. In referring to the Premier’s suggestion that the Queensland people knew better about the matter than did the people of Australia as a whole, the Prime Minister of 1 90 1 had this to say:
Such an inference this Government cannot admit without disloyalty both to the Federal Constitution and to the Parliament which was elected under it. Citizens of the Commonwealth have the clear right to express themselves upon the nature of proposals laid before the country by the Federal Government, and the more influential the citizen, by reason of achievement or public service, the more weight will the people attach to his opinions. But the claim that your Government represents the public opinion of Queensland on this question more truly than the Federal Parliament which Queensland helped to choose is openly made in your letter, and my answer to it must necessarily be that I cannot admit it without being prepared to admit a similar claim on the pan of each State.
The point I make is that in 190 1 the Prime Minister of this country was prepared to assert himself in that clear way on a similar matter which involved people of racial origins different from the bulk of the Australian community. In 1978, if necessary, this Parliament should not shirk from its legislative responsibilities under the Constitution from taking similar action. I conclude my speech about the importance of this subject matter by referring the Senate to a book which I have been reading. It is called Living Black. The author, Kevin Gilbert, when talking about Aboriginal people in this country, in his introduction stated:
I have also written this book in order to bring White Australia to some greater compassion through understanding and to enlighten it to its responsibilities in the areas of land and compensation for Aborigines.
It is my thesis that Aboriginal Australia underwent a rape of the soul so profound that the blight continues in the minds of most blacks today. It is this psychological blight, more than anything else, that causes the conditions that we see on reserves and missions. And it is repeated down the generations.
The point of the matter before the Senate is to make sure that this so-called responsible chamber, this House of Review, makes it quite clear that, in its view, the blight should not be handed down to future generations. For that reason I support the matter raised by Senator Gietzelt.
– I think most people in the Senate support the sentiments with which Senator Button closed his speech. Certainly, many honourable senators on this side of the chamber agree that in the Senate the Aboriginal people ought to be able to look for support and a lead in taking the Australian community along the line Senator Button has just indicated. I shall deal with a couple of points in Senator Button’s speech which I think may have given some slightly false emphasis to the material he put before the chamber. It is perhaps notable that this is the first matter of public importance which has been dealt with in the Senate. I express personal regret that it is so appro priate that we should be discussing Aboriginal affairs in north Queensland.
The matter from the House of Representatives yesterday which was quoted by Senator Button suggested some subordination of Aboriginal interests to mineral interests. I do not believe that the sort of suggestion which I think was inclusive in the question which was asked in the House of Representatives can stand proper scrutiny. I suggest the best evidence of that is the paper which was recently circulated by the Australian Mining Industry Council. It is another example of what I would regard as less than brilliant public relations. In it the Australian Mining Industry Council set out why it is absolutely essential that the Aboriginal land rights legislation should be amended. A careful study of that, and the obvious unhappiness of the spokesman of the Mining Industry Council with the actions of the Government, should make honourable senators opposite feel a little less suspicious of the attitude of the Government to Aboriginals.
The other matter which Senator Button mentioned related to the report in the Age of today’s date about what Mr Viner had to say. I think it is fairly clear from what Mr Viner has said in other parts of the media and in Parliament that the Age has really captured only a part of what Mr Viner was saying. It is certainly true, as the Age states, that at the moment the Federal Government does not have a law which would prevent a takeover of these reserves by the Government of Queensland from the Uniting Church which is at present administering those reserves. But what has already been made clear in a number of places and by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) in this chamber today is that the Commonwealth Government holds itself ready to legislate if legislation is necessary. I was delighted to hear that assurance from both the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in the other place and the Minister for Social Security in this chamber. So what is being reported in the Age is simply a statement about the present position. The matter is under review. Consultations are taking place. The Aboriginal people concerned are being asked for their views. The Government has made it clear that it holds its legislative power in reserve pending the outcome of those discussions and pending, I hope, some sensible behaviour on the part of the Queensland Government.
There is no doubt, as Opposition senators have said, that there is a Commonwealth reponsibility in this area. Senator Button referred to the Yes case which supported the 1967 referendum. It is, I think, a comfort to those of us who believe there is a Federal responsibility to examine the figures and the attitudes which were expressed by voters in Australia in that referendum. It is perhaps most encouraging to look at the voting figures for Queensland. Over 900,000 Queenslanders were eligible to vote in the referendum. Of the 848,000 people who voted, 748,000 voted for the proposition. Against that, only 90,000 voted against the proposition. So the ratio of Yes to No votes in Queensland was eight to one which is a pretty good indication that there is massive support in that State for the proposition that the Commonwealth has a constitutional responsibility. To some extent, I do not believe we are up against the situation of which Senator Button made mention that applied in 1901. 1 think we can assume that the 1967 referendum gave the clearest possible indication that the people of Queensland accept a Commonwealth obligation in this area. It is an obligation that I, and I know other Government supporters, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), are prepared to accept.
The overall majority is also worth noting. In the whole of the Commonwealth, some 5.8 million ballot papers were issued. Over 5.1 million people voted Yes for the proposition. I stress that point because it has been indicated to me in I think a friendly manner that I am one of those senators who comes into this place and supports the concept of State rights, State obligations, or call them what we will. I believe that we in Australia govern in a most complex federation. I support in general the maintenance of State responsibilities in important areas where States at present have responsibilities. Because I support this concept, I have to accept the fact that very often one cannot solve problems in the very direct way that one would like. I make that concession because I do not like the idea of centralised power. I do not find that Commonwealth public servants stationed in Canberra necessarily know what is best for the outlying parts of Australia.
Having said that, I accept that in this area the major Commonwealth responsibility for Aboriginal welfare and the maintenance of the main thrust of that policy, which is to have a system whereby Aborigines are given more and more chance to manage their own affairs, is something that we must pay heed to and be prepared to act to protect if necessary.
In common with a number of other members of this Parliament, I engaged last year in one of the exercises we have performed pursuant to our constitutional power. We had a look at the subordinate legislation for the land rights legislation. Many of us had the opportunity to visit centres in the Northern Territory where the Government policy is directly put into effect. I was able to visit Bathurst Island, Elcho Island, Gove and Groote Eylandt. At each of those centres, I was impressed by the spirit of selfreliance which was quite evident by the fact that the Aboriginal people were prepared to tell us what they thought, even on occasions when they knew the news was not particularly welcome to us. Some actually told us they were rather sick of giving their views and they preferred we went away and read what they had to say on bits of paper which by now must have been lodged in Canberra. I had some sympathy for that view. I mention this point merely to indicate my limited experience of what the Commonwealth is doing in the Northern Territory in terms of fostering self-management which appears to me to be a most desirable approach to what has been Australia’s most difficult policy area in the history of our country.
The gross lack of success we have had in giving the Aboriginal people of this country a sensible place in society, a place where they can maintain both the standards they desire and their self-respect, is something of which I think many of us are deeply ashamed. The fact that the Government is now pursuing a course which throws additional responsibility on to the Aborigines themselves to determine which way they want to go is something of which I believe we should all be in favour and all anxious to support, at least until it has had an adequate period of trial.
There are occasions when, in my experience, self-management has looked a fairly luxurious business, such as when we see an attempt to provide a development by a community falling apart at the seams through a lack of adequate management. Consequently, this is a waste of taxpayers money. But I accept that is an inevitable part of the system. I believe that the new approach that has been adopted so firmly by the present Government and the present Minister is one which will take a good number of years to work through. I do not believe we should be prepared to see it interfered with by any agency at this stage.
The Government has made it clear- and I am sure that all honourable senators will agree with this objective- that the wishes of the people are to be regarded as paramount. There is also a warning note in some of the material I have seen that it will be important to know how the wishes of the people are to be determined because it is always possible, of course, that there will be a distortion of the view of the people in the evidence gathering process. We know that the Queensland Minister responsible for this matter and others have already gone to these communities to try to ascertain their views. It may be, of course, that we will be left in the very awkward position where it is very difficult for us to know precisely what are the views of particular communities. There is also the possibility of manipulation by whatever side is involved. I suspect that the judgments we can make so easily in advance about following the wishes of the people may prove to be a little more complex in reality. If that happens- and I hope it does not- we will need to have the courage of our convictions and simply push on in support of the policy which we have put before the people of Australia and which we believe to be right.
I wish to touch on a further point which is not so likely to gain agreement around the chamber. One of the aspects which I think it is easy to overlook is the very real difficulties which are involved in the exercise which the Government is conducting. Those difficulties were most evident in the inquiry we conducted in the Northern Territory. I think that Senator Bonner, the chairman of that Committee who will be speaking in this debate shortly, will agree that one of the things we learned was that there is a real conflict of interest in many of these situations. It is very easy to decide in the abstract that Aborigines are to have certain rights. When those rights run into what are regarded as the rights of other people the equation becomes much more difficult. A very good example of that was the strong views which were expressed about Aboriginals having control over off-shore waters. Very strong views were expressed by visitors and by Aboriginals about that area in particular. I believe that in that sort of conflict it is necessary for both black and white to compromise in the same way as other groups in the community have to compromise.
In conclusion, I simply say that I commend the Government for the fact that it has in a restrained way met action by the Queensland Government which was not communicated to it in advance. It has proceeded to try in a measured way to find out what the people concerned want. It has quietly re-enunciated its policy of selfdevelopment. I believe the Government is proceeding in a very proper manner to defend the vital interests of these Aboriginal communities.
-I participate in this debate to support the matter of public importance brought forward by Senator
Gietzelt. I do so rather sadly because, whilst it appears there is no great difference between the views of the Australian Labor Party and supporters of the Government in this debate, it is sad that we have been forced into a situation in which public debate is necessary at all.
I received a telegram yesterday from James Berg, a Victorian member of the National Aboriginal Council which stated:
Ku Klux Bjelke rides again. Victoria Aboriginal deplore the extension of Bjelke Petersen inhuman repressive and dictatorial policies into the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities. When will the Queensland Liberal Party and the Federal Liberal Party use its power to prevent the continuation and extension of these policies? Will the Federal Government intervene against Bjelke or condone by inaction the further repression of Aboriginal rights?
I was pleased to hear the general tone of the contributions to this debate by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and Senator Chaney. Obviously, if pressure is to be applied by the Government it will be only as a last resort. There is widespread indignation amongst Aborigines around Australia because of the actions that were taken without consultation with them in the last few days. I understand that when the State Government team went to Mornington Island no announcement was made to the community. A statement was made by the State Minister when he was safely away from the community. This would not have applied at Aurukun because, by that time it was not only national news but also international news.
Senator Gietzelt has received a number of telegrams about this matter. I will briefly state who sent them. They all have a general theme of support and they are obviously not planned because they are all differently worded. Owing to the shortage of time, Senator Gietzelt was not able to seek leave to have them incorporated in Hansard. Since then I have chatted with the Minister and he is happy to have them incorporated. I will seek leave for their incorporation at the appropriate time. Telegrams were received from Mr Copely, the Regional Manager of Aboriginals Hostels Ltd, Adelaide; from the Aboriginal and Islander Forum, Cairns, North Queensland; from Mr Shephard, Secretary of Camu, an organisation of Cardwell in North Queensland; from Mr McAdam, Director, Aboriginal Community Centre, Adelaide; from Mr John McGuinness, President of FCAATSI in Cairns; and from Mrs E. Hoffmann, Aborigines Advancement League, Melbourne. There was another from Camu- two of these telegrams were sent by separate individuals. There was one from Marcia Langton, General Secretary, Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. There was a telegram from Aborigines in the far away town of Hobart. I seek leave to incorporate the telegrams in Hansard because I believe they convey the sentiments of Aborigines and Islanders all around this country today.
The telegrams read as follows-
Senator Arthur Geitzelt Parliament House Canberra, ACT
Request urgently that Commonwealth Government take over responsibilities as per 1 967 referendum and that it exercises this authority in regards to recent developments per Aurukun and Mornington Island reserves.
Copley, Regional Manager, Aboriginal Hostels Ltd, Adelaide.
Senator Gietzelt Parliament House Canberra, ACT
Request you demand Government declare national emergency to use power given referendum 1967 to administer all Queensland Aboriginal reserves and affairs.
Aboriginal and Islander Forum
Gietzelt Parliament House Canberra, ACT
We urge all Federal Parliamentarians to get the Federal Government to take over all responsibility for Aboriginal affairs in Queensland to implement the power given in the referendum of 1 967 to administer all Queensland Aboriginal reserves and affairs.
Shepherd, Secretary, CAM I.
Senator Arthur Geitzelt Parliament House Canberra, ACT
Please help us. Petersen attempting to colonise Cape York for mining companies. He must be stopped.
Shepard, Secretary CAMU Cardwell
Senator Gietzelt Parliament House Canberra, ACT
Urgently request that Commonwealth enforce responsibility for Aboriginal people in Queensland pursuant to 67 referendum.
McAdam, Director, Aboriginal Community Centre
Senator Gietzelt Parliament House Canberra, ACT
Aborigines are no longer to be used as pawns by hypocritic Queensland politicians. Recommend you raise question of emergency for Federal Government takeover of Aboriginal reserves and affairs generally because of current disputes against Queensland government takeover of Aurukun and Mornington Island community.
FCAATSI, President McGuinness
Senator Arthur Gietzelt Parliament House Canberra, ACT
We call on the Commonwealth Government to take over all responsibility of the Queensland Aborigines immediately and to prevent the Queensland Government from taking over Mornington Island and Aurukun Missions. The powers were given to your government by the people of Australia and the taking over of these reserves will be against the wishes of the Aboriginal people of Queensland.
Mrs £. Hoffmann, Aborigines Advancement League
Senator Gietzelt Parliament House Canberra, ACT
The Queensland Government’s proposed takeover of Aurukun and Mornington Island Missions is a test of the Federal Government’s sincerity in Aboriginal Affairs. It is morally repugnant to allow these missions to be subject to the direct oppression of the Bjelke-Petersen Government. If Australia is to maintain any credibility on race issues internationally the Federal Government must intervene.
Marcia Langton, General Secretary, Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.
Senator Gietzelt Parliament House Canberra, ACT
Strongly urge you to make every effort to force the Federal Government to prevent the Queensland Government takeover of Aurukun and Mornington Island.
– In the limited time available to me it is not possible to cover all the details of such a very wide and very human subject. I point out to the Senate that there are some 60,000 Aboriginal and Island people living in Queensland, all of whom- there are no exceptions, not even Senator Bonner- are disadvantaged or have been disadvantaged in some way because of the operation of Government legislation preceding the introduction of two Acts in 1972. The promulgation of those Acts took place on or about 4 December 1 972. The two groups of people were then separated and brought under either the Islanders legislation or the Aborigines legislation.’ There have been a number of minor amendments since then. The Acts were supposed to have expired by now.
At a Country Party conference in Cairns many months ago, the Premier said he would set up a commission and many months later the commission was finally set up. There are four people on the commission, which was set up to whitewash the Acts and keep them operating. I understand that some of the people undertaking research have found in discussions with people around the various communities that the people almost unanimously made the request that both Acts should be abolished. Those two Acts operate extensively to the very great harm of the people they cover. At least 30,000 Aborigines, that is, half the black population, are covered by one or other of those Acts. The regulations made under the Acts are almost monstrous in their wording and in their impact upon the Aboriginal community. The matter goes further than that because we have had for a long time by-laws that apply only on the reserves. Ostensibly, the community council has the right to make decisions, but this does not happen in fact. I doubt very much whether there is one council that has been able to make a decision that has not been upset by some white manager who did not like the decision. All the black communities in Queensland have white managers, most of whom are without any qualifications. The odd one or two have very good qualifications. The others are selected largely because they are former policemen, former security officers or former employers on tea plantations who worked with slave labour. In a number of cases, being white and from South Africa are good qualifications for getting on to a reserve.
I would like to mention quickly a little of the history of Aurukun and why this takeover is about to be implemented there and, for similar reasons, Mornington Island. In the case of Aurukun it is quite a number of years since exploratory teams moved in and discovered that this community sits on top of one of the richest bauxite deposits in Australia. A group of mining companies has formed a consortium, in which I am told there is no Australian equity. That ought to be adequate reason to make it easy for the Prime Minister and the Government to forbid the granting of export licences. As a precaution I raised this matter with the Queensland Trades and Labour Council a long time ago and sought its co-operation in not providing labour to mine the area until the Aborigines obtained the terms they wanted in that area. There has been a lot of delay in the matter.
– Was that on the part of the Trades and Labour Council?
-No, the Trades and Labour Council took a decision very early in the piece. It agreed totally that mining should not go on there unless the Aboriginal people in that community got from the mining companies the royalties and the types of agreements for which they had been asking, including the preservation of their sacred areas. I think the action by the
Trades and Labour Council was very necessary because it looked as though the situation was going to get out of hand at that point of time and that mining would commence. Mining still has not commenced. Probably one of the reasons why it has not commenced at this stage is that the price of bauxite is not what it used to be. However, this is only a temporary sort of thing in the world of minerals and the situation will arise again. In the case of the neighbouring area of Weipa, the Church, the State Government and the mining company combined to take away all the things that belonged to the people of Old Mapoon and other people living in the area. Today, that community has been partly socially destroyed. Many of the original sites of significance have been destroyed and cannot be replaced. The miners never carried out many of their promises although they are now belatedly making good some of their promises in a very small way. We cannot let that sort of thing happen again on Cape York.
The real reason why this takeover, which will happen on 31 March, is being carried out is partly because of the co-operation between the State Government in Queensland and the mining developers. There is also intense animosity between the Premier and some Aboriginal people. One of the things that the Premier is trying to do, so he says, is prevent the development of a black State. He has made this statement publicly at least three times and it is one of the reasons why the Archer River Station deal did not go through. The Premier is now living in fear because the homelands movements are developing on Cape York. They are developing very satisfactorily. People are again able to bring back discipline into their families where there have been slight problems. The movements are fulfilling a very important role in the communities. I think there are some six or seven which have developed in this area. One person has received a little Commonwealth funding and for this I am very pleased. However, the Queensland Government decided that it would take another attitude and it has forbidden the local commuter aircraft company from carrying this man on its aircraft. An instruction has gone out to the company that it is not to carry that man in or out of the area where his family is now settled.
The case of Mornington Island is not greatly different. A considerable number of years ago a decision was taken to improve the housing situation on Mornington Island. For three years the Department fought the Aboriginal population. The Department wanted the houses built in a certain area and the people who live on Mornington Island wanted them built in another area. For three years the timber lay rotting in the tropical weather and a lot of it was lost. Finally the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement won and the houses were built where the Department wanted them.
Last year a cyclone ravaged the Island. In recent weeks Senator Bonner has been quite vocal about the delay in rebuilding, and I have been unable to get a satisfactory explanation for it. When Darwin was razed by a cyclone in 1974 and part of Townsville in 1971 the rebuilding program was carried out as a matter of priority. It has been said publicly that the people of Mornington Island are living in tattered tents and humpies because no properly planned rebuilding program has been carried out. The blame for that lies squarely at the feet of the State Government. Now we cannot even find some of the money. A lady on Mornington Island who has been rather outspoken in recent months has been removed from the Island by the actions of the State Department. We wanted to start a fishing industry in the area. At a place called Denham Island, adjacent to Mornington, a white-owned fishing industry has been set up but had not been able to continue because of the financial turbulence in the industry. In my view, such a venture would have been ideal for the Mornington Island people, who are expert fishermen. I have made many representations to Mr Wharton, who was then the State Minister, and to his successor, Mr Porter. After many months of delay, when most of the material had been removed from Denham Island, Mr Wharton finally wrote to me and said that he was going to buy the Islanders some dinghies so that they could learn to fish. These people have been fishing for many years.
This decision by the Queensland Government is racist in the extreme. It is an attempt to close down two settlements that have been managed by the Church. I do not believe, as Senator Wood said in this chamber at Question Time, that the people of the Church are a bunch of socialists. There has been considerable enlightenment in recent years in most church organisations associated with Aboriginal affairs, and many try to do their best. There are a dozen more issues that I should like to raise in this debate, and before this session of the Parliament is over I hope to be able to pursue them.
– I join in this debate on the matter of public importance raised by Senator Arthur Gietzelt because I have a great personal interest in what is happening. A smokescreen has been thrown across the scene by members of the State Parliament, the Minister for Health, Dr Edwards, the Minister for Education, and the Minister for Mines and Energy, Mr Ron Camm, and I will touch on what they have had to say later on in the debate. I maintain and I will continue to maintain that what is happening in Queensland at the moment in relation to the takeover of Aurukun and Mornington Island by the Queensland Government started as early as 1968. In 1968 the United States Tipperary Corporation took out a prospecting licence on Aurukun, and I believe that the problems facing the people of Aurukun at the moment started when that licence was taken out.
A cartoon by McCrae appeared this morning in the Courier-Mail and it pretty well sums up what is happening at Aurukun. The cartoon depicts Mr Charles Porter, the Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement in Queensland, a reverend gentleman, an Aboriginal gentleman and an Aboriginal lady. The caption underneath states:
But Reverend, the meek SHALL inherit the earth- after we’ve extracted the bauxite.
I believe that that sums up what is happening. Bauxite is at the heart of the events occurring in Queensland at the moment. The editorial in this morning’s Courier-Mail partly sums up what I have been saying, and rather than go through the whole matter I will read sections of the editorial. In relation to the Queensland Government it states:
Indeed, it has contested all along the right of the community to make an agreement with a mining company.
To an extent, this might have been reasonable, even if immediately unpopular. How does one define and identify the ‘Aurukun community ‘ in an enduring sense?
The State Government stoutly maintains the takeover has nothing whatever to do with bauxite mining. Possibly it is true, but the Government will find many people hard to convince.
I can assure you, Mr President, that I am one person who will be very hard to convince. As a matter of fact, I do not care what the Queensland Government or the Premier of Queensland or Mr Charles Porter say; they will never convince me that the bauxite and the greed of the white man to get out that bauxite are not at the bottom of the problem facing the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island. Admittedly, there is no bauxite on Mornington Island, but again a smokescreen has been raised. The Queensland Government is taking over from the church two communities that the church has been administering for a number of years. It has been administering these communities for nigh on 70 years. It was only in 1954 that the Queensland Government came into the picture to help, financially or otherwise, the church that had been administering and trying to assist those of my people who live in these two communities. In 1 954 the State Government started to channel some funds into the communities.
I have some reports of interviews that have taken place in the last couple of days. Mr Frank Purcell, one of the people interviewed, has been involved with the Aurukun people since the bauxite business came to light. He has been giving legal advice to the Aboriginal community and the Aboriginal councillors, and in an interview he had this to say in answer to a question put to him by Helene Chung:
This is even more atrocious. It is absolutely shocking. The Queensland Government is determined to keep going on a policy of oppression and to prevent the self-determination of Aboriginal people. They are going right against the whole stream of thought throughout Australia. 1 believe that the 1967 referendum was an indication from the people of Australia that the Aboriginal people should have the right of selfdetermination. The referendum gave power to the Commonwealth Government and the Commonwealth Parliament to make special laws pertaining to Aboriginal people.
I return again to the question of the bauxite. I personally became involved in it when the Queensland Government rushed legislation through the Parliament in less than 50 hours. For the Queensland Parliament that was a lot of sitting hours, in view of the fact that it sits for only 30 days a year. The 50 hours must have been quite a strain on members because the Government wanted to get out the bauxite it was prepared to sit for that length of time. It rushed through a piece of legislation giving the mining company the right to go ahead with its mining operations without proper consultation with the Aboriginal people or the Presbyterian Church, which at that time was responsible for the administration of Aurukun. I had the opportunity to accompany the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) to Aurukun to talk with the Aboriginal people. We arrived there at about 1 p.m. on 21 January 1976. That afternoon we sat on the ground under the mango trees, surrounded by 200 people of the Aboriginal community together with their councillors, for six hours while the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs consulted with the Aboriginal people. I would say without a doubt that the reception given to the Minister by the Aboriginal people there at the time, the way in which they confided in him and the things they told him, surprised even me. I have never seen a non-Aboriginal person, in such a short time, be able to communicate with and gain the confidence of a group of Aboriginal people. I do not believe it probable that I will ever see it happen again.
The Minister and I, on our return to Canberra, consulted with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). We sat with him over lunch in the parliamentary dining room for an hour. We were able to convince him that proper, adequate and meaningful consultations had not taken place between the church, the Aboriginal council and the Aboriginal community at Aurukun. But the Queensland Government was determined to go ahead and force its will on the people by allowing the mining company to extract the bauxite. The Prime Minister listened to us very carefully. He noted everything we said. Just before our meeting concluded, I was feeling pretty low. I thought that we had tried but did not seem to have reached a satisfactory conclusion. The Prime Minister, with a broad grin on his face, said: ‘Neville, I do not know what you are worrying about. There is a simple answer to the problem. I will report to Cabinet that the Queensland Government and the mining company will not be granted an export licence until certain things happen’. There and then he laid out in front of me what he required to happen. He said that there should be full and meaningful consultation between the State Government, the mining company, the Presbyterian Church and the Aboriginal community and that the negotiations should include the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and myself.
That happened some two years ago. The Queensland Government and the mining company have made no moves whatsoever to bring about that meaningful consultation with the parties named by the Prime Minister. Suddenly, Charles Porter, the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, made certain statements in an interview for the AM radio program. He said:
We have unhappily had a long history in these two communities of problems involving education, school numbers have fallen drastically, the health reports from our own Health Department teams and the Royal Flying Doctor sources are bad.
If that is the case, the Church is not at fault, nor are the Aboriginal people. It is the two Ministers concerned for those areas of responsibility- the Minister for Education and his Department and the Minister for Health and his Department.
– In the State?
– In the State of Queensland. The Federal Government has lived up to its responsibilities. As the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) has said, the Federal Government has channelled funds into the State for expenditure in those two areas. If the health of the Aboriginal people in those communities has deteriorated it is the fault of the Queensland Government and the two State Ministers and their departments for their neglect, to use the very words of the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, Mr Charles Porter, who must also share some responsibility for this neglect.
The Uniting Church in Australia- and the Presbyterian Church prior to the existence of the Uniting Church- has been administering these communities for some 70 years. All people who know anything about these two communities say that the Church has done a magnificent job all the way down the line. I say here and now that when one of my colleagues on this side of the Senate refers to the Uniting Church as a socialist body my stomach turns. These people are Christian people, God-fearing people, who are doing their best not only for Aboriginal people but also for the spiritual well-being of all Queenslanders. The Moderator of the Uniting Church in Queensland was shocked to receive a letter from the Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement in Queensland on this matter. There was no consultation between the Moderator and the Minister and the Director of the Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement Department. He was called into an office and handed a letter dated 10 March 1978. In view of the limited time available to me I seek leave to have this letter incorporated in the Hansard record.
The document read as follows-
MINISTER FOR ABORIGINAL AND ISLAND AFFAIRS
10th March 1978.
The Reverend Professor R. A. Busch, Moderator, The Uniting Church in Australia, Queensland Synod, Brisbane 4000.
Dear Reverend Sir,
I have to advise that Cabinet has considered the overall position relative to Mornington Island and Aurukun Aboriginal Communities and to inform you of the following decisions by Cabinet:
The Uniting Church be informed that at the expiry of the current advance payment period, viz 31st March 1978, the Government will no longer continue to provide subsidy support to the Church for management of Aurukun; and Mornington Island and the Aboriginal Councils be similarly advised.
The Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement takes steps forthwith to provide an effective management service at each of the Communities and assumes total responsibility for the material well being of the people from that date on a similar basis to other Aboriginal communities in the State.
The Uniting Church be informed that the transfer of Management authority will be on the basis of ‘walk in, walk out’ without capital compensation by the State and without cash exchange either way, except for suitable retail stock in trade which, if required, will be purchased by the Department at actual landed costs at Aurukun and Mornington Island.
Members of the Church staff serving at each centre be offered positions within the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement provided they are considered suitable and acceptable to the Director, but that such positions be not necessarily at Mornington Island or Aurukun nor with Public Service rank equivalent to their status within the Church staff structure.
Sole responsibility devolves on the Church to administer spiritual needs of residents; and land considered suitable by the Director be set aside on the Reserve for permanent use of the Church as a place of worship and a residence for the clergy, noting that an existing place of worship and a place of residence may be made available to the Church free of charge.
I would appreciate your co-operation and that of your Church organisation in effecting the change-over as soon as possible and in the best interests of the Aboriginal communities.
Yours sincerely, CHARLES PORTER
– I thank the Senate. I have another short letter which I will read into the Hansard record. It provides an indication of the feelings of the people of Aurukun, who have not been consulted. The letter is addressed to Mr J. C. Hooper, Division of World Missions, Uniting Church in Australia. It states:
We, the undersigned members of the Aurukun Community Council, have, after extensive talks with the members of the Community of Aurukun, found that it is the people’s wish to remain under the Administration of the Uniting Church of Australia.
We would therefore appreciate it if you would pass this to the Synod of North Queensland, along with our thanks for their support. We look forward to working together in the future.
The letter is signed by five members of the Aboriginal Council at Aurukun. They are Donald Peinkinna, Barry Ngakyunkwokka, Eric Koooila, Roy Landis and Fred Kerindum. I have with me a large bundle of telegrams from organisations and people scattered not only throughout Queensland, but throughout Australia, expressing support for what I am doing. They urge that the Federal Government take steps to prevent the actions of the Queensland Government in whatever way it possibly can- be it legally or constitutionallybecause they believe that the Federal Government not only has those legal and constitutional rights but also has a moral responsibility to support the Aboriginal people. I have spoken to the Minister for Social Security about incorporating these telegrams in Hansard and I now seek leave to do so.
The telegrams read as follows-
Care Parliament House
Congratulations on your stand on backing up Aurukun and Mornington Island people especially your statement that the Commonwealth Government should take over all Aboriginal and Islander affairs in Queensland. Truaid and the Northern Land Council would like to hold a major fund raising appeal for the Aurukun and Mornington Island people in their fight against Queensland Government’s takeover as we regard this as a major disaster. Could you please ring me ASAP regarding this matter, 0795757 16.
Yours faithfully SHORTY O’NEILL, Publicity Officer, Truaid
Senator Bonner Phone 726861 Canberra, ACT
Council and community not consulted about government takeover. What is happening. Please help us.
Larry Lanley, Prince Escort, Lawrence Dugong, Nelson Gavenor, Roger Kelly.
Senator Neville Bonner Parliament House Canberra, ACT
Legal service fully supports Aurukun and Mornington Island communities in resistance to state government takeover. Best wishes in your own endeavours on their behalf.
ERIC KYLE, State President, , Atsils Cairns
Senator Bonner Parliament House Canberra, ACT
The Queensland Governments proposed takeover of Aurukun and Mornington Islands missions is a test of the Federal Government’s sincerity in Aboriginal Affairs. It is morally repugnant to allow these missions to be subject to the direct oppression of the Bjelke Peterson government. If Australia is to maintain any credibility on race issues internationally the Federal Government must intervene.
MARCIA LANGTON, General Secretary, Federal Council for the Advancement of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.
Parliament House Canberra, ACT
We of the Ngoonbi Housing Society Kuranda, disapprove of the Queensland Government taking over Aurukun. Can’t you people see that Aurukun would end up as a second
Weipa. That is what the Aurukun inhabitants do not want. The majority of Aboriginals today would support a Federal ruling.
Ngoonbi Housing Society, Kuranda.
Senator Bonner Parliament House Canberra, ACT
Solidarity over current issue. Urge you influence your Ministers. Declare national emergency and Commonwealth administer our affairs in Queensland.
Aboriginal and Islander Forum.
Senator Bonner Parliament House Canberra, ACT
Fully support your stand on current dispute Aboriginal reserves takeover. Suggest you concentrate influencing your Government Ministers declare national emergency and takeover Aboriginal reserves and affairs Queensland.
FCAATSI President McGinness
Senator Neville Bonner Parliament House Canberra, ACT
In solidarity over current issue. Urge you influence your Ministers declare national emergency and Commonwealth administrate our affairs.
SHEPHERD, Secretary Camu
The Honourable Senator Neville Bonner Parliament House Canberra, ACT
Noonuccle Nughie Cogaoperation Stradbroke Island urge all Federal parliamentarians to vote in favour of takeover or to resume responsibility for Aboriginal affairs Queensland to ensure Federal Government policy on self determination and management for Aboriginal people is honestly implemented.
Kath Walker, President
Senator Neville Bonner Parliament House Canberra, ACT
Copy of telegram received. Shocked by high handed action of takeover of Aurukun Mission and Mornington Island by Queensland Government against expressed wishes of communities. Congratulations on your stand.
McKenzie, Cameron, Gman, former missionaries, Aurukun.
Senator Neville Bonner Parliament House Canberra, ACT
Urge Federal takeover of Aboriginal affairs necessary to assist in self determination by aborigines in Queensland.
Bertossi, Secretary, Housing Society Vice President Land Council, Stradbroke Island.
– Finally, I urge the Federal Government- I would beg if necessary- to exercise its constitutional right under the terms of the 1967 referendum. I ask that the Government do this not just in relation to these two communities but in relation to the whole of the Aboriginal movement in the State of Queensland.
-I support the following matter of public importance proposed by Senator Gietzelt this afternoon:
That the Senate request the Federal Government to assume full legislative responsibilities Tor Aurukun and Mornington Island Aborigines in Queensland for the purpose of implementing the Federal Government policies of self-management.
Other honourable senators have supported the matter also. Senator Gietzelt is asking the Government to protect the rights of the people at Aurukun and Mornington Island and, indeed, indirectly to protect the Aboriginal people in the whole of Queensland in this matter. We are asking the Government to use this Parliament’s powers to protect these rights- powers given to it in the Constitution; powers that even a Statesrighter such as Senator Chaney admits are there. As has been quoted, section 51 of the Constitution reads:
The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to . . . The people of any race for whom it is deemed necessary to make special laws.
Ever since I have been in this Parliament, Aurukun in particular and North Queensland in general, have been the subject of controversy at various times- because of the attitude of the Queensland Government, and its Premier in particular, concerning the rights of the people who live in that area.
Aurukun and Mornington Island are and for a long time have been administered by the same church- initially the Presbyterian Church and now the Uniting Church- more or less as one unit. One expects that that is why Mornington Island is included in this takeover bid by the Queensland Government. We have heard, of course, that a tourist consortium is equally anxious to set up business at Mornington Island as are Aurukun Associates to set up a bauxite mine in the Aurukun region.
The problems of Aurukun and Mornington Island, in particular, have been well canvassed by previous speakers. The long-felt concern of the Aurukun people, their representatives, and, initially, the Presbyterian Church and now the Uniting Church, and their fears for the future of their settlement as well as for the social and ecological ill effects of mining on this area, have been obvious for a long time.
I might add that this is not the first time that the possibility of a Queensland Goverment takeover in this area has come to the fore. In June 1977 the Premier threatened to take over the Aurukun Aboriginal Mission from the Uniting Church. At that stage he said that it may be necessary because the church did not have its house in order; that there was a law and order problem at Aurukun. Considerable controversy -very similar to that in the present situationarose at that time. The Queensland Government then backed off: It had been pointed out that the people of Aurukun were also concerned about the problem of law and order in their community and for many years had been requesting the establishment of a police station there to assist with such law and order difficulties as they had. We were informed today by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) that they still do not have that police station. One can imagine what would have happened if a white community in Queensland, or anywhere else, the size of Aurukun had been requesting for years a police station in their area and had not received itbecause it was too expensive, or for other reasons. At that stage the people of Aurukun were concerned about law and order. They wished to live in a community which had respect for the law and asked for the ordinary, common, decent provision of a police station there, as was provided in every similar community in Queensland and every other State. Law and order in these circumstances is, I might add, a State responsibility. I repeat, at that stage, because of the controversy, because of the difficulties, the Government of Queensland backed off.
Now we have a further effort to take over the community of Aurukun and Mornington Island from the Uniting Church which has been administering the area for some 70 years. But the reasons given now are different. We are told by Mr Porter that there has been a deterioration in the health and education provided to the children and the people of Aurukun in general. That is just as much a State responsibility as is law and order. As Senator Bonner has pointed out quite clearly today, and as was confirmed by the Minister, the responsibility for the provision of health and education services to the people of Aurukun lies with the State Government, assisted by some funding from the Federal Government. If the standards of health and education in this area are dropping the responsibility lies with the State Government, just as it lay with that Government in June 1 977, when in fact the people there were concerned about the problem of lawlessness in their community. The crux of the matter is that we have Mr Porter, the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, saying that this attempted takeover has nothing to do with bauxite and nothing to do with the possibility of mining in the area but that it has to do with the provision of health and education in the area. One year ago Mr Bjelke-Petersen was saying, ‘This has nothing to do with bauxite mining in the area’. But the reason given then was different- it concerned the matter of lawlessness.
Several things have happened in the last few years in the Aurukun area, in particular, which have made the Queensland Government so very interested in it. Senator Bonner said that he thought it started in about 1968 when the bauxite industry was getting under way in that area. Indeed, this was confirmed by Mr BjelkePetersen in 1975 when the Queensland Government rushed through the Parliament its Bill for an agreement with Aurukun Associates to mine in the area. Mr Bjelke-Petersen at that time said: There has been interest in mining in this area since 1968 and we have been interested since 1968 in mining in this area’. One remembers the protests when that agreement was signed between the mining consortium and the Queensland Government- without prior consultation with the Aboriginal community or the Uniting Church which had been charged by the State Government to administer the community.
What has happened in that area since 1968 to lead to the present set of circumstances? Two basic things have happened, I suggest. The first is that the Presbyterian Church, now the Uniting Church of Australia, has introduced graduallyrather belatedly, some may say- a policy of selfmanagement for the people there.
– It is a sort of apartheidkeeping them apart from the rest of the community.
– It is not apartheid, Senator Wood, but is designed to allow the people there to decide what they want to do.
– It is keeping them separate from the Australians.
– It is for the people to decide that they may not want to integrate, to live in a centralised community in the Aurukun area. That was the first thing that happened: The Uniting Church introduced this policy of encouraging the Aboriginals to, in fact, look after their own affairs, to get to the stage where they could per.fectly well manage those affairs- a policy which, I might add, is also that of this Federal Government, as it was of the previous Federal Government.
The second phenomenon, as has happened in so many Aboriginal settlements in North Queensland, in the Arnhem Land region and in the Northern Territory in general, was the decision of many Aboriginal people to move back to the land of” their clans; to go back to where they came from before, many years ago, they went to the mission settlements; to attempt to retain part of their culture; to in fact develop their own culture, their own future; to give themselves, literally and metaphorically, some breathing space, so that they could see where they were going. In some cases this policy was stimulated by an attempt to get away from the difficulties of alcohol consumption, which so many of these people have. They wanted to get back to the land that they knew, that they had feeling for, that they felt they had come from. Of course, there was a great difficulty here because much of that land is a bauxite-rich area; a lot of it contains very rich bauxite ore. Looming over the whole problem of Aurukun is the problem of bauxite and what comes from bauxite- profits and money for various people. In 1975, deposits in the area were estimated to be worth well over $1 billion. A small group of Aboriginals is trying to defend its rights over both the Queensland Government and the mining companies which wish to exploit that area. The Aboriginals have seen what happened in Weipa and they are worried about it. They want the right to make their own decisions.
In 1967 this Parliament was given the constitutional power to protect those people and to allow them to make their own decisions. The Parliament is honour bound to use its constitutional power to make laws for the protection, peace, order and good government of the Aboriginal people in that area. That is what this motion is asking the Federal Government to do. I am pleased that the Minister- if I heard her correctly- has said that the Federal Government is willing to do this if it finds that it is necessary. This motion urges the Government to do this. We saw what happened to the trachoma treatment team in Queensland. We saw what happened to other people, not black people, in Queensland when they were sacked from their jobs for standing for political parties of which the Premier of Queensland does not approve. It is about time that the Parliament asserted its power, given to it in the Constitution, to protect these people. Every speaker in this debate has supported the use of that power. We urge the Government to use it to protect these people.
– The Senate is debating a matter of public importance. The debate is concerned with the issue of an arbitrary decision by the Queensland Government to take over the Aboriginal communities at Aurukun and Mornington Island by removing the management of these communities from the control exercised from the beginning of this century, firstly, by the Presbyterian Church and, more latterly, by its successor, the Uniting Church. From what honourable senators have said today, it appears that the action being taken by the Queensland Government is against the wishes of the people of those communities. Messages from leaders of the two communities expressing their concern have been read to the Senate. In the last few minutes a telegram which reached Parliament House within the last hour has been handed to me. It was sent from Mornington Island Outpost to ‘Minister Viner, Parliament House, Canberra’, from Larry Lanley at Mornington Island. The text of the telegram is:
Council and community rejects State Government decision to take over Mornington. We wish present administration to continue but with Federal Government assistance.
We also know from comments made publicly that the action proposed by the Queensland Government is being taken against the wishes of the Uniting Church. This is a major church group in Australia which is highly respected.
– Good leaders for Whitlam, they are. Yes- a good deal for Whitlam.
– I find it incredible that an honourable senator can abscribe to a church and its members in general derogatory comments such as I hear at the present moment.
– I attended the Presbyterian Church for 70 years. I know about this.
– I should imagine that any major religious grouping in this country would contain members whose political views ranged from one end of the spectrum to the other. Why should it be any different? This is a highly respected church whose social conscience and social presence have been considerable. Its experience in the area on which the debate centres today has been respected. It has been a responsible group. It has certainly been socially concerned. It further appears that the proposed takeover is to take place without proper consultation either with the Church or with the communities involved.
– But we can stop that, can we not?
-The honourable senator indicates that we can stop that. I accept his comment. But the real issues we have to face now are: How can we determine what is going on in these communities? What justification can we find for the proposed action? How can we bring about proper consultation with the people whose views should be heard? How can we bring about that consultation before any decision becomes irrevocable? These are the first steps that I want to see taken.
The Federal Government has a major role in providing funds for Aboriginal advancement but, as other honourable senators have said today, the departments in day to day control of conditions in these communities are departments of state of the Government of Queensland. It is interesting that the State Government is complaining about activities being undertaken by its own departments which are leading it to say that it should intervene. The basis of the takeover proposed by the Queensland Government appears to be concern which it is expressing over the adequacy of health standards and health performance in the settlements and also over educational performance and standards.
The Courier-Mail of 14 March reports a statement by the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, Mr Porter. The article states:
Aboriginal and Island Affairs Minister (Mr Porter) said yesterday that both communities were facing rapidly mounting health, education, maintenance and other problems.
He accused the Church of ineffective management, backward policies and promoting philosophies hostile to Government programs.
It is at least worth examining this statement. It is worth examining what evidence we might have that there are special problems at Aurukun or Mornington Island in relation to health or education, to take just a couple of examples. Health services in Queensland are provided by the Queensland Government. If there is something wrong with those services, as other honourable senators have said they would be deficient because the Queensland Government has not provided them or has not conducted them to its own satisfaction. It is not the fault of the Uniting Church if health facilities in an area of Queensland are inadequate. It is not the function of the Uniting Church to be responsible for providing health services throughout Queensland. Health services for Aboriginal people, even if they are subsidised from Canberra, remain the responsibility of the Government of the State in which they are given. This is part of our federal system.
The Senate Select Committee which studied the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the preservation of their sacred sites presented its report to the Senate in August 1976. It included a chapter on Aboriginal health. One of the questions we might ask is: Do we know that Aboriginal health generally is better than that at either Aurukun or Mornington Island? If it is not, on what grounds is the Queensland Government basing its claims that there are special health problems. After all, the Committee found that at the time it conducted its study 70 per cent of Aboriginal children admitted to hospital in Darwin suffered from malnutrition. Seven per cent of Aboriginal children admitted to hospital in the Northern Territory had severe malnutrition. The Committee presented figures showing that the infant mortality rate among Aboriginal communities throughout Australia, even in 1975-76 when it had been improving measured 50 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. It was still three times the rate for non-Aboriginal Australians.
That is a general finding. We know that the general health performance of the Aboriginal people has need of improvement. It has not been as good as that of the non-Aboriginal community. We know that 18 per cent of Aborigines have visual defects and that 40 per cent of Aboriginal children aged 6 years to 10 years have hearing defects. Nowhere in the evidence presented to it could the Committee find anything to suggest that there were special problems at Mornington Island or Aurukun which set those areas apart. I noted on reading through the report that there was a reference to health and health performance ; Aurukun. There was in the report of the Senate Select Committee a quotation from the report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administrative Investigation upon the facts surrounding the attitudes of the Aurukun people to the proposed mining venture. That report was tabled in the Queensland Parliament on 6 April 1976. The Commissioner, in talking about Aurukun, made a comment as follows:
The Mission is presently free of liquor and the attendant misery usually associated with drink. The responsible Aurukuns want to keep it this way.
That is an interesting comment. In 1976 the Aurukun community was the one that was selected as having stated that its community had no special problems with alcohol. That was in 1976, yet Mr Porter tells us without any supporting detail, and without any extra evidence that the health problem at Aurukun is one of the reasons why his Government must move in and take over the community. We know that alcoholism concerns all Aborigines. We know that it is not just a question for paternal non-Aboriginal
Australians. We know that the Aboriginal people themselves want to do something about the problems of alcoholism that exist within their community.
It is no good just picking on Aurukun when we know about Oenpelli and the border store; it is no good just picking on Aurukun and Mornington Island when we have received a report from the Western Australian Royal Commission into Aboriginal Affairs which talked about alcoholism levels throughout the Aboriginal community in Australia being greater than that of nonAboriginal community by a factor of about four. Unless the Minister in Queensland gives us facts and analyses, I see no reason to accept at face value his statement that there are special health problems in this community which require a takeover such as is proposed. If the problem has developed since 1976 when we last received figures, it has to be set against the failure of the Queensland Government to accede to requests within the communities for the provision of policemen to help to enforce the law in their own areas. We do not know the details on which the claims of the Queensland Minister are based; we certainly do not know enough details to enable us to acknowledge or respond.
The same thing applies in the field of education. Mr Porter says that there are increasing educational problems in these communities. Increasing over what? Are they increasing over the general education problem facing Aboriginal people? Any honourable senator who reads the Senate Select Committee report will be reminded that there is a general failure of education in this country to cope adequately with the aspirations and requirements of Aboriginals. We have no evidence that the educational performance at Aurukun or Mornington Island is worse than in any other Aboriginal community. Until that evidence is made available we cannot accept, reject or evaluate the claims that sufficient problems exist to enable this takeover to be seen as proper, necessary or advisable. Education also is provided not by the Federal Government- although it provides the funds- but by State instrumentalities and if there has been a failure in education the State Government involved should look to its own performance to see what has happened.
Honourable senators have spoken of a dropout rate. The Senate Select Committee report on page 163 lists school participation rates. We know that the kind of figures one can expect are that 1 3-year-old Aboriginals might have only a 60 per cent school participation rate compared to an 80 per cent rate in the community as a whole. If Mr Porter wants us to accept and believe in what he is proposing, let him produce the figures and the facts to justify it. We require evidence that there are special problems at Aurukun and Mornington Island. More than that, I would require special argument to enable me to accept the proposition that it is appropriate for a State Government to take over. After all, what is being proposed is the replacement of a nongovernment instrumentality by government.
-Thank you, Senator, that is my very point. It is a takeover from a non-government instrumentality by a government. It is in fact a socialist activity, a socialist enterprise, when a government takes over from non-government people who have been doing the job for 70 years and doing it perfectly adequately. I do not believe and have never believed that State capitalism- State monopolyhas anything to offer over private monopoly. What is being proposed by the Queensland State Government is nothing more than the accretion of power for purposes which have not been made clear to us. Good socialist philosophy it is and it may be considered as that, certainly in the State from which I come.
There is no evidence available to us to suggest that the kind of problems that Mr Porter has talked about this morning exist at Aurukun and Mornington Island. There is certainly no supporting argument to lead him to suggest that a takeover by his State Government- a venture into State monopoly- is the right proposition. This is a matter of public importance and I believe that the Senate has done a service to Australia today by debating it as it has done. There is still time, before this takeover becomes effective, to seek from the Aboriginal people an expression of their point of view if further expressions are needed. There is time to seek the point of view of the Uniting Church. There is a chance to have more consultation. This is a matter of public importance and it is a matter upon which the people of Australia want more information.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Mulvihill)- Order! The time permitted for the discussion has expired. The discussion is concluded.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a discussion paper on paying for health care prepared by the Hospitals and Health Services Commission together with the text of a statement by the Minister for Health relating to the report.
-by leave- I move:
The Opposition welcomes this report which has been tabled earlier than we expected. It is quite a lengthy document and we have not yet had the chance to consider it. The problems of health care costs have been a matter of public controversy for some time and a matter of concern to all of us. Many statements have been made by people on both sides of Parliament and outside the Parliament on the causes of this increase in costs. They have often been made without evidence, the evidence not having been assessed or not being available. Among the conclusions reached by the Committee led by Dr Sax, I think there are three important conclusions that we should consider. The first is paragraph C 1 9 where the Committee says:
There is a lack of information about levels of, use of and expenditures on, health services among families with different characteristics. Basic information of this nature is essential for the design and analysis of systems of financing health care.
Paragraph C20 states:
It is essential that statistics on claims for health benefits be available for analysis. The supply of information from private health benefit organisations is incomplete, and much of the information that is supplied has not been analysed. Without such data, reviews of the use of specific services, or of medical services generally are severely inhibited.
I- and certainly the Opposition- echo the sentiments expressed in those two conclusions. I would have thought it would be impossible to introduce sane and sensible changes to the systems of funding of health care in this country and to the system of health care in general unless we have that basic information and unless we know just what is happening under the present scheme and what was happening under the previous Medibank scheme.
In order that we can receive and consider that information I ask the Government and the Minister for Health in particular to urge the voluntary health funds- the private health funds- to supply the information which the Minister by regulation has required them to supply. One understands- I have a question on notice on this matter- that the two largest health funds in the community have refused to give such information, and continue to refuse to give such information. One understands that in fact only a small number of very small funds have given the information which is required of them and that they cover a very small percentage of the people in funds in this community. I would have thought that even with this document- I am sure it is a valuable document and we will study it with care- it will be very difficult for any of us, the Government in particular, to come to any conclusions about what should be done about the funding of health care in this community and about paying for health care in this community before we have that vital information.
We already have had changes in the Medibank scheme in the duration of this Government without such vital information and those changes, we believe, have severely disadvantaged the community in Australia. We believe that before any further changes are made the basic statistical data which is available should be collected from those who have it and analysed by those who have the wherewithal and the knowledge to analyse it so that we can make our judgments on accurate figures and on an accurate knowledge of what is happening in the community. As I said, we welcome the report. With those remarks I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I seek leave to propose a motion in respect of the annual report of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies for the year 1976-77 that was tabled yesterday.
– I move:
I was appointed to the Council of the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies after the report had been handed down in June 1977 but I have been interested in the work of the Institute for many years. I saw much of the work which was going on in the Northern Territory and much of the work that has been done there since 1964-65. In looking at the report, we must commend the Council for the work which it has done in the period 1 976-77 and, in particular, the work done by the Chairman, Dr Hiatt. The small report belies the quality of the information that is in it and does not indicate the amount of work which has been carried out by the Institute over that time. We have to look to other publications for some indication of the amount of work that was done. We have to look into research journals and into academic journals if we want to put it that way and we have to move into the field to see the excellent work which has been done by the Institute in that time.
I commend also Dr Ucko, the Principal, and his staff for the way in which they have organised and administered the funds of the Institute and carried out this most worthwhile work. Those of us who were on the land rights committee, as we called the committee, saw some of the work being done in the Territory last year when we watched a videotape recording of one of the committee ‘s hearings at Batchelor. We watched the work done by the group there when they were recording comments made by the traditional owners when where their land lay in a certain section of the Alligator River area of the Northern Territory. All of the committee members were, I think, impressed by this unique method of recording, realising of course that there are few other ways in which this recording could be done. I would think that the work of the Institute over the past 12 months justifies the vision of Mr Wentworth, who was a member of the other place at the time the Institute was set up- I believe he was the father of the Instituteand carries on the good work started by Professor Macintosh and the early staff. But there are a number of disturbing features of the report which I would like to bring to the attention of the Senate. The first is a comment on page 1 of the report which states:
The financial grant from the Australian Government for the year 1976-77 amounted to $1,882,500 which was at the level of the reduced grant for 1975-76.
Let us note then that the grant for 1975-76 was reduced- in other words, it was less than the grant for 1974-75-and the grant for 1976-77 was set at the same reduced level. Despite the increase in costs from 1974-75 to 1976-77 there was no increase in funds. No additional money was provided to the Institute to carry on its work. No additional money was provided for the additional responsibilities which were given to the Institute. This seems most unusual during a time when we had the great discussion on land rights, when there was perhaps a renewed interest in Aboriginal affairs on the part of the Government, and when there was a need for much more of what I call ‘action research’ by the Institute to guide the Government in its deliberations.
When referring to advisory committees, the report states at page 1:
Institute Advisory Committees have continued to meet -
This is the important part- although due to financial restraints placed on the Institute it was not possible for all Committees to meet twice in the financial year.
I think it would be agreed by most Council members of the Institute that the committee work is a most important part of its chaner. I mention, in particular, the work of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Advisory Committee. I do not think there is any doubt that we, in this place, would realise what limitations would be placed on Aborigines and Torres Strait Islander people meeting once a year to give advice to the Institute.
Let us face it: These are the people who are most involved in the work of the Institute. I would not want to call them the ‘raw material’ of the Institute, suggesting any sort of derogation, but they are the people with whom the Institute is involved. They themselves saw a need for meetings. They saw the need for meetings at different locations so that different groups within the community could be involved. It seems to me a great pity that it was necessary to cut down on the meetings of those particular committees.
I turn now to page 2 of the report where research fellowships are mentioned. This comment is contained in the report:
Due to the imposed Institute staff ceiling it was not possible to replace Research Fellowships for the positions which became vacant during the year.
Staff was cut at the Institute by an incredible 15 per cent. More than half of the Institute staff was cut due to staff ceilings. I wonder if all honourable senators appreciate the fact that the research fellows referred to in the report are people who are what we call short term research folk- those who do perhaps one or two years or perhaps even three years work and then go back overseas because there was no possibility of giving them funds for further research. These people have a wealth of knowledge about the Aboriginal people. It seems a great pity that their work should be lost to us simply because we cannot provide additional moneys to enable them to carry on their work. This was one of the early criticisms of the Institute- that people came, completed their doctorates, and then went away and forgot about the Aboriginal people. The Council of the Institute reacted early to this criticism and made sure that the people who were carrying out work would have a contribution to make. But obviously, if one has a short term research fellow who works for a while in the field, he must have time to write up his work and he must have time to go back and continue his work. We lost during that time a tremendous amount of information which could have been valuable to the Government and the people of Australia. Page 2 of the report also states: . . due to financial restrictions and the uncertainty in regard to funds for the 1977-78 financial year Council was not able to authorise the funding for all the projects approved, particularly those commencing in 1977-78.
I stress the words ‘the projects approved’. That means the projects that were seen by Council as necessary. Two such projects in which I was particularly interested come to mind alcohol, which was mentioned by Senator Baume in his contribution to an earlier debate, and housing. They were two projects that were seen as being absolutely essential to go ahead- two projects about which the Institute had had many requests for assistance from both government and nongovernment agencies. These projects were not able to go ahead. I am not picking those two projects as being the most important but the importance of them should be obvious to all honourable senators. They were not able to go ahead because money had been cut back.
In another section of the report there is an indication that training of Aboriginal people had to be cut back. I am advised that no in-house training of Aboriginal people took place in 1976-77. This seems to me to be an absolute disaster. An organisation which is perhaps uniquely fitted to carry on training Aboriginal people in particular areas was not able to do so. I think that there would be general agreement on both sides of the chamber of the need to involve Aboriginal people and certainly to train Aboriginal people so that they can make a greater contribution as a result of learning of the way that researchers do their work.
In conclusion, I commend the Institute for the work done during the 1976-77 financial year, but sincerely ask the Government to look at the obstacles it has placed in the way of the Institute, basically by cutbacks in finance and perhaps more importantly, but still related by the way in which the staff ceilings have been reduced so drastically by over 15 per cent. If the Government will look at this matter and provide funds which will enable the Institute to lift staff ceilings, it will be able to carry out the good work for which it was designed many years ago.
Debate (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) adjourned.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report entitled ‘Families and Social Services in Australia’. Mr Acting Deputy President, I seek leave to make a statement on this report.
– The report is the result of the work of a committee established by the former Social Welfare Commission, and continued after its abolition as a committee reporting to me. This report devotes much of its content to an examination of the characteristics of families in Australia, noting the demographic statistics and trends, the high proportion of one-parent families and the high proportion also of Australian families who come from a variety of cultural backgrounds. Aspects of the report discuss the needs of families for assistance during the phases of family development through to the point at which children leave home and the family comprises adult members only.
In compiling the report an examination was carried out of the patterns of welfare services provided by State governments, by nongovernment agencies and by the Commonwealth of Australia. The study of welfare services was carried out with the support and co-operation of State government departments. The report concludes by making some recommendations about possible changes in approaches to providing services for families, both in respect of Commonwealth activities and in respect of the serviceproviders at State and community level. I believe this is an important report, not least because of its attention to the needs of families in Australia today and to the extent to which government and community agencies can assist in meeting those needs. It is also an important report because it was produced as a co-operative venture between the Commonwealth Government, State governments and the community.
The Committee which has produced the report was chaired by Mrs Marie Coleman, formerly the Chairman of the Social Welfare Commission and now the Director of the Office of Child Care in the Department of Social Security. The members of the Committee at the time of finalisation of the report were: Mr Spencer Colliver, First Assistant Director-General, Department of Social Security; Mr Chris Creswell, Attorney-General’s Department; Miss Lado Sybaczynskyj, Department of Health, and the Hospitals and Health Services Commission; Mr Robert Plummer, Director, Department of Children ‘s Services, Queensland; Mr Keith Maine, Director. Department of Community Welfare, Western Australia; and Miss Valerie Douglas, Royal District Nursing Service, Melbourne. The report was discussed last year at a special meeting of State Ministers for Social Welfare which was attended also by me and a representative of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner).
In the main, the State Ministers welcomed and endorsed the report. Ministers agreed that they would sponsor regular national conferences on families and social welfare services in Australia, and the first of these is now in planning.
Most of the recommendations bear on the responsibilities of the States and on the responsibilities of individual community welfare organisations, and to that extent the Commonwealth must await responses to this report from those authorities. However, honourable senators may be aware that we have already established, through the children’s services program which is administered by the Office of Child Care, a three-year pilot program to develop family support services. A sum of $8. 7m has been allocated for this purpose. Arrangements are in hand for States and Territories to establish welfare programs aimed at assisting parents to improve their child-rearing practices and thereby improve family functioning. The grants will be paid through State departments of social welfare and States are encouraged to develop coordinated planning in association with community groups.
Copies of the report will be deposited in State public libraries and State parliamentary libraries as well as as being made available to State government departments and Ministers who were involved in the development of the report. As well, copies will be available through the normal Australian Government Publishing Service outlets to interested members of the community. As I mentioned earlier, the Commonwealth now awaits the reaction of the State governments and of community organisations to the ideas and recommendations of the report. I commend the report to the Senate.
-by leave- I move:
As with the other report tabled this afternoon by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), we shall read this report with interest. It is rather voluminous and contains many recommendations. I take note of the Minister’s remarks about the pilot program which her Government has established under the children’s services program. We think it desirable, even at this late date after that program has been established, that we should have a statement from the Minister setting out in some detail the guidelines of that program and any plans for evaluation of the effectiveness of the program so that the Senate and the general public can discuss those issues. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-by leave- I move:
These four matters were referred to the Committee on 21 April 1977. As I mentioned when tabling the Committee’s report on outstanding references in November last year, two other matters were subsequently referred to the Committee which required a report back to the Senate at an early date. These were the clauses of the Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Bill 1977 and advisory opinions by the High Court. The Committee reported on these matters and on the Evidence (Australian Capital Territory) Bill 1972 before being able to commence consideration of the four matters referred to it on 21 April 1977. As the Committee had not been able to hear any public evidence on these four matters before the end of the previous Parliament, the Senate granted to the Committee an extension of time until 3 1 March 1 978 to report.
Since the Committee’s reappointment three weeks ago it has already taken some evidence in relation to the matter of processing law reform proposals. As a result, some new avenues of inquiry have been opened up which the Committee will need to pursue. In order to expedite its consideration of these outstanding references the Committee is simultaneously considering the references on processing law reform proposals and priority of Crown debts. A series of public hearings have been planned in relation to the priority of Crown debts. The Committee has necessarily deferred consideration of the references on delegation of parliamentary authority and the parliamentary scrutiny of rules of court until these public hearings are concluded and is seeking additional consideration of these two references. Whilst conscious of the need to report back to the Senate on all references without undue delay, the Committee would be remiss in its duty to inquire adequately into matters referred to it if it did not seek this extension of time in order to complete its consideration of these four matters.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– In looking at the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill and at the contents of the debate on the second reading I find one or two matters which I would like to follow up and to which I referred in my speech to the second reading of the Bill. I would be grateful if the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) who in this chamber represents the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) could give these matters some attention during the course of the Committee discussion. In the course of the second reading debate I referred to the quality of Adelaide ‘s water and to the Adelaide nitration system. The Minister in another place when referring to the $32. 8m for South Australia stated:
If the South Australian Government gives that scheme a high priority, under this new scheme, if it so wishes it can make bids to put even more money into the Adelaide water treatment scheme. I was then and I am now seeking from the Minister in this place some further information on this mutter particularly as it relates to this Bill. The Minister in his second reading speech pointed out that the main purpose of the Bill was to provide a legislative framework within which the Commonwealth would be able to make agreements with the States on financial assistance for water resource projects. In any reference to the Adelaide filtration system and to the quality of Adelaide’s water, salinity looms very large. Salinity came very strongly into yesterday ‘s debate. There were many references to the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. One reference in particular dealt with the program known as the Pels scheme.
I received some attention from Senator McLaren because of a paper which I delivered to the Adelaide Summer School of Environmental Studies in January 1974. I remember the occasion very well. I was one of a number of speakers privileged to take part in that School. Because the Senate Committee report was of fairly recent memory I was invited to address myself to the report and to share with members of the School some observations on our investigations. I referred at some length and in some detail to the scheme which had been put forward to the Committee by Mr Simon Pels. Mr Simon Pels was brought to our attention by the consultant firm of Gutteridge, Haskins and Davey which is well known for its work in this field. The Committee decided that it would meet with Mr Simon Pels who had put a scheme to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust in 1967 after discussing salinity problems in California. Arizona and
West Pakistan. In the course of the preparation of the report the Committee decided to give the Pels scheme some considerable emphasis because as it stated:
The Committee was impressed by the boldness and logic of the Pels scheme . . .
I meant to refer to that scheme just now in my reference to the Adelaide nitration system and to the grant of money for the Adelaide water schemes. Mr Pels told us that the scheme would contribute greatly not only to irrigation efficiency and hence to water economy but also it would provide Adelaide with a high quality water supply and postpone water shortages in that city for very many years. With all sincerity I invite Senator McLaren to look at that section of the report which deals with the Pels scheme. It commences on page 85. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard about 12 paragraphs which relate to the details of the Pels scheme as it was presented to the Senate Committee. The material is perfectly capable of being incorporated in Hansard and is not of any great length. It puts the Pels scheme into the record as a matter of interest despite the fact that some years have passed and some other studies have taken place since then.
The document read as follows-
It had been investigated in detail and a preliminary design and estimate of cost had been prepared. The design developed and improved upon the initial proposal and offered the most likely variant to it, Mr Callinan said.
The Committee later heard details of the Pels scheme from Mr Simon Pels himself, who had proposed it to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust in 1967 after studying salinity problems in California, Arizona and West Pakistan. He said that the present use of the river for both drainage and supply was irrational and that it could not be justified for much longer. The 1967-68 drought had shown that the waters of the Murray River could be used in South Australia only if substantial dilution flows were released upstream. At that time no large releases could be made, as storage levels were low, and salinity consequently increased significantly downstream.
The cost of the Pels scheme has not been fully estimated, but an indication was given to the Committee that the cost would not be likely to exceed the scale of expenditure on large storage dams. Mr Pels said that his scheme could save annually 500,000 acre-feet of water which would be worth about $25 million per annum.
Mr J. V. Seekamp, a Bachelor of Agricultural Science, and a member of the Australian Institute of Agricultural Science, who appeared before the Committee as a member of the Salinity Committee of the Australian Dried Fruits Association, said that the Department of Agriculture in South Australia had claimed that the use of saline irrigation water over recent years had led to an annual loss of about $2 million worth of production from the irrigated fruit-growing areas in that State. Certainly, the Salinity Committee claimed that there were considerable losses. They were caused by such things as increased capital expenditure on under-tree sprinklers, furrow and grading machines and increased drainage; by increased labour used for installing and operating such improvements; by the loss of crops, particularly apricots and citrus fruits; by semi-permanent and permanent damage to plantings and soil; and by increased water use, interrupted irrigations, and the costs of drainage disposal and grower education.
Mr Seekamp said that in the Renmark area, $1,000 an acre was now considered a fair selling price for a fruitgrowing property with some son of irrigation system and possibly some drains. To drain it completley would cost from $100 to $200 an acre and to put in a full irrigation system, with some regrading to overcome problems of salinity, would cost another $100 to $200, so that salinity measures could cost about one-third of the capital cost and perhaps another 1 0 or 20 per cent on working cost.
The Pels scheme proposed that the river should continue to be used for drainage but that water supply be drawn from artificial channels constructed along the river valley so that their bed levels were above prevailing groundwater levels. The water supply would thus remain unaffected by saline groundwater inflows.
Groundwater, the level of which had risen substantially in irrigated areas, was very saline, as more water was added to irrigate areas than was drained away. When drainage did return to the river it contributed large amounts of salt. The Kerang area, via Barr Creek, contributed an estimated 180,000 tons a year, and the estimated total annual contribution from all drains in the upper sector of the river was 250,000 tons. Reliable sources had said that in the sector between the South Australian border and Morgan 500,000 tons of salt entered the river annually. The total 750,000 tons of salt reached the river as a highly concentrated solution. To keep the quality of the river flow acceptable, annual dilution flows of up to 500,000 acre-feet had been required. But no more than 25 per cent of both the annual entitlement plus the dilution releases had ever been used in South Australia. Dilution today was often facilitated by uncontrolled excess flows but when the national aim of a fully regulated river was achieved a substantial volume of stored water would have to be released simply for dilution purposes. It appeared that if South Australia were to receive only its legal entitlement, the quality of the water could not be maintained in that State.
Mr Pels said that his scheme would contribute greatly to irrigation efficiency and hence to water economy. It would also provide Adelaide with a high-quality water supply and postpone water shortages in that city for many years. Mr K. W. Lewis had already told us that 86 per cent of South Australia’s reticulated water supplies came from the River Murray and metropolitan reservoirs and of that 86 per cent, 38 per cent came from the Murray.
The Committee was impressed with the boldness and logic of the Pels scheme and was pleased to note that it was being further studied. But we had no access to the assessment of it made by Gutteridge, Haskins and Davey. In his evidence for that firm, Mr Callinan said that the most likely variant of the proposal provided for water to be taken from the Murray near Tocumwal and carried north of the river to meet the supply to Adelaide from Mannum. This main channel would supply the existing irrigation areas and communities by channel or piped connections.
-I thank honourable senators. I seek the Minister’s response to this Bill and on the relationship which exists between the Commonwealth and State Governments.
Further I ask an additional question of the Minister concerning the Bolivar scheme north of Adelaide to which I referred in my second reading speech. In that area there are extensive and up-to-date treatment works. An enormous amount of treated water which has been declared as suitable under appropriate circumstances for agricultural use is flowing out to sea. This matter has been the subject of some discussion and could very well be the subject of an agreement between the Commonwealth and State governments under the terms of this Bill. These are matters of particular and immediate importance to South Australia. In reply I would appreciate information from the Minister.
– In looking at the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill I find that a couple of points concern me. Clauses 6 and 7 are the main clauses in the Bill. I regret that I was not here for the second reading debate. I am much concerned about the powers which we are giving to the Executive and taking away from Parliament. The expenditure of money under this Bill would seem to rest within the capabilities of the Minister when he reaches agreement with the States. Having reached agreement with the States it is essential that the Minister shall, as clause 6 states:
The Minister lays it before us so that we are informed of what he has done. There is no power to disallow. When a vote has been taken for the Minister to spend a certain sum of money in the current year, he can spend that amount wherever he likes after he reaches agreement. I would have thought that we, as a States House, would have some interest to see that there is an expenditure either where the need arises or which is just to all States. Money should not be spent at the whim of a Minister. But under the Bill he has that power. We find that clause 7 states:
The amount is $2,500,000 in subsequent years. Sub-clause (2) states:
Other payments, including advances, under this Act shall be made out of moneys available under an appropriation made by the Parliament for the purpose.
I take it that at some time- it may be during the Estimates Committee hearings- we will get notice of an appropriation, if I interpret the clause correctly, for so much money to be spent under the Act in the ensuing year. But where that money is spent is a decision for the Minister in agreement with the States. We are given the advantage of seeing the agreement but we are not given the advantage of objecting to it. This is a plain case of the Parliament putting control in the hands of the Minister. The projects which Senator Davidson points out as being pertinent to South Australia may not be mentioned in the agreement at all. We may be voting for an appropriation which will not be expended on projects which we, as a Parliament, think are essential. On that basis, the Bill might be considered unacceptable. I ask the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) for some explanation on that aspect. I do not want the Minister for Education to say the good offices of the relevant State Minister are a requirement in this respect. The Bill will be in operation for many years. Some favouritism may be shown or some unscrupulous expenditure may be indulged in from time to time by some Ministers.
– I wish to make some comments on the Bill as a whole. Senator Davidson referred to a report of the engineering firm Gutteridge, Haskins and Davey part of which I think he said he used in an address he gave to the Adelaide Summer School of Environmental Studies.
– No. I simply said that they referred the Pels scheme for our attention.
- Mr Corcoran, the South Australian Minister for Works, is not entirely satisfied with the report brought down by that consultant body. I quote from a Press release which Mr Corcoran issued on this matter on 12 May 1977. Mr Corcoran pointed out that there were some very serious loopholes, if I can put it that way, in the report in relation to salinity. The Press statement read:
He said that every day of the year 3,000 tonnes of salt or the equivalent of around 300 ten tonne truck loads found their way down the River to the Murray Mouth, about one third entering the River in South Australia.
The Press statement then pointed out where the salt came from. Mr Corcoran ‘s Press statement continued:
Some people urged immediate action on recommendations suggested in the Gutteridge, Haskins and Davey report, but the subsequent work of the Depanment clearly showed some of the recommendations would have led to undersirable environmental consequences, and in many cases would not have solved the problem, ‘ he said.
For instance, G.H.D. recommended increasing the area of evaporation basins on the flood plain. Nobody in the Department or the community would accept this today. ‘
Mr Corcoran laid to rest several fears expressed to him by people in the Riverland. He said that:
Lake Bonney would definitely not be used as a salt lake.
There would certainly be no further evaporation basins developed on the Murray flood plains. This had been a mistake in the past and the lesson had been learned.
Many of the Gutteridge, Haskins and Davey report recommendations had now been shown to be ineffective but other alternative solutions had been developed.
The Press Statement then went on to mention the work that had been done by Mr Corcoran ‘s Department.
Senator Davidson referred to what I said yesterday during the second reading debate about a paper he had delivered at the Adelaide Summer School of Environmental Studies. Of course, Senator Davidson would be aware that I was quoting from an article in the Advertiser of 9 January. If the honourable senator had read the speech that I made last night he would know that I said I had not seen anywhere in the South Australian Press where he had repudiated his remarks. Perhaps the honourable senator can enlighten me on that point later.
Yesterday I expressed some concern that the legislation was being introduced in a block form. I believe that separate pieces of legislation should be introduced and enacted for each water project. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in his second reading speech said:
A copy of every agreement with a State must be tabled in the Parliament.
Of course, that procedure does not cover all matters which are of great concern to many State governments. Some years ago legislation concerning the Dartmouth Dam was enacted by this Parliament. However, no mention was made in the legislation or the agreement that would have been tabled that Mr Hall, the then Premier of South Australia, was privy to certain matters in that respect.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was pointing out that in his second reading speech the Minister said that a copy of every agreement with the States must be tabled in the Parliament. But not everything is revealed in agreements of this nature which are tabled in the Parliament. I would like to refer to the Dartmouth Reservoir Agreement Act, which received the royal assent on 1 May 1 970. The agreement, which is contained in the Act, says nothing about a feasibility study being carried out on the Dartmouth Dam for a hydro-electric scheme. This causes me great concern because the projects to be financed under this legislation, which we are now going to pass because of the weight of numbers, will be included in the Supply Bill each year. There is no way whatever in which we can object to them unless we adopt the tactics of the Government when it was in opposition and refuse to vote for Supply, thus forcing a dissolutionif we had the numbers. The only other way we could object would be to vote against Supply. Even the Government when in opposition in 1 975 did not have the courage to do that.
The feasibility study on the hydro-electric scheme was a well hidden document. Before I was elected to this chamber I sought information through party colleagues on this feasibility study. They could not obtain any information in this Parliament by asking questions of Ministers. When I was elected I pursued the matter and I still could not obtain any information. However, I kept at it and finally a parliamentary official came to me one day and said: ‘Senator, you have been asking repeatedly for a copy of the feasibility study on the hydro-electric scheme for Dartmouth ‘. He gave me a copy. I have a copy in my hand. This document was well hidden at that time. I had sought it from the Minister’s office- I think Mr Swartz was the Minister for National Development then- but I was always told that such a thing did not exist. I am concerned about this legislation, particularly because my State of South Australia has to be party to the funding of the construction of the Dartmouth Dam, but when the agreement was signed nothing was mentioned in it that a hydro-electric scheme was being looked at for the sole benefit of the people of Victoria. Mr Bolte saw to that.
The signatories to that agreement were the then Prime Minister, Mr J. G. Gorton; the Premier of New South Wales, Mr R. W. Askin; the Liberal Premier of Victoria, Mr Henry Bolte; and the Liberal Premier of South Australia, Mr Steele Hall. Mr Steele Hall never told the people of South Australia that the Victorian government was going to be the beneficiary of the Dartmouth Dam in that it would have a hydro-electric scheme constructed in it. As I pointed out in my speech yesterday when quoting from a Press release by the South Australian Minister for Works, Mr Corcoran, South Australia was committed last year to the sum of $8m for the construction of Dartmouth and it will not receive one cent’s worth of the electricity that will be generated by that hydro-electric scheme. I am also disturbed to note that the introduction to the feasibility study states that in a letter dated 4 March 1969 the River Murray Commission asked the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority to undertake in close collaboration with the Victorian State Electricity Commission a preliminary assessment of the likely cost and energy output of various power installations at Dartmouth on the basis of a three million acre feet storage.
This is my major complaint and I ask the Minister: Can he assure us that in this legislation nothing of the kind I have referred to will happen again? Will the people representing South Australia be aware of what is being done, such as the hydro-electric scheme being built on the storage dam on the Murray River for the benefit of another State, but paid for by the people of South Australia? I hope that the Minister can give me an assurance on those matters. This legislation will come into force and all that we have been told by the Minister in his second reading speech is that a copy of every agreement with the States must be tabled in the Parliament. It will be too late to lodge any objection if we find the same sort of humbug going on as went on when this agreement was signed by Mr Hall, when he let the people of South Australia down. In the debate yesterday Senator Thomas said:
When Senator McLaren was answering interjectors from this side of the Senate he pointed out that he did not like this loan coming from the Commonwealth. I suggest that if the honourable senator does not want the money he should suggest to the people of South Australia that he does not want it and let them judge his action.
I said no such thing. My main complaint- I emphasised it over and over again- is that in winding up his speech in the other place the Minister said: . . $32.8m will be given to South Australia to improve the water treatment plants to overcome those very real problems in Adelaide.
This was repeated here by Senator Davidson. As I pointed out, only 30 per cent of that amount of money is given to South Australia by way of grant and South Australia has to find the other 70 per cent. That is, the taxpayers in South Australia have to find the other 70 per cent of that $32. 8m. What it actually amounts to and what the Minister and Senator Davidson should have said is that South Australia is receiving an amount of $ 10m by way of grant, not $32. 8m. It is very disturbing when we have a South Australian senator being hoodwinked by his Minister into believing that the people of South Australia will receive a grant of $32. 8m, when in fact, it is only $10m. The people of South Australia must repay the remaining 70 per cent of the $32. 8m at the ruling rate of interest, that is, the bond rate, over a 40 year period. I am concerned that this is blanket legislation. As I pointed out yesterday we will be given no opportunity to debate each individual project as it comes before the Parliament. These projects will come in under blanket legislation. They will be mentioned in the Budget Speech, and that will be it. I hope that Senator Carrick can give me some assurance that there will be some way that we can have a debate on water projects the money for which will be allocated by the Minister. That is, if Mr Newman is still the Minister he will determine where the money is spent. I hope that Senator Carrick can answer my other question about agreements tabled in the Parliament not revealing things like the feasibility study for a hydro-electric scheme at Dartmouth. We must be made aware of these things so that if we are not happy about them we can voice our objections.
– A number of senators have made points in this the Committee stage of the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill. I would like to respond to them. Senator Davidson in particular, both in the second reading debate and in the Committee stage, has drawn attention to the serious plight in South Australia in terms of the supply of water and the quality of drinking water. He raised three points. Firstly, he asked what is the essential priority for a water filtration system for Adelaide. His second point related to the priority for the Bolivar scheme and the third point he mentioned related to the Pels concept. I make it perfectly clear to Senator Davidson and, I hope to all honourable senators, that the principle involved in this matter is that the South Australian Government has the responsibility for determining the priorities. It must first determine what it regards as the top priorities for water resources programs in the State.
– Are you suggesting that the initiative should be with the South Australian Government?
– The South Australian Government must take the initiative in order that the program can be put together. The Commonwealth will invite the South Australian Government to put forward its priorities of programs so that an agreement can be negotiated. The South Australian Government has a responsibility for priorities for Commonwealth assistance proposed in South Australia. If the honourable senator looks at paragraph (b) of the definition of ‘project’ in clause 3 of the Bill he will note that that would enable the Commonwealth to provide assistance to the South Australian Government for the Adelaide filtration scheme if the State grants that scheme its priority. That is the key. The same situation applies to the Bolivar scheme. I am told, but I am not fully briefed on this matter, that the Pels scheme is not regarded upon mature reflection as the preferred approach to such a situation. It has its own complexities.
A number of honourable senators, including Senator Cavanagh, raised the question of the general powers within this legislation. I will deal with a number of points that have been made. First of all, I want to say that there is nothing new in what is being done in this legislation. It is machinery legislation, or blanket or umbrella legislation, the architecture of which was designed by the Whitlam Labor Government. I refer honourable senators to the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1974 which the Whitlam Labor Government devised for a precisely identical purpose and which it saw as being an instrument that would cover all these situations that have been raised. Under that legislation agreements were made. The Whitlam Government did not fear that there would be no opportunity for the fullest discussion, the fullest examination between the States and the Commonwealth, or the fullest debates in the Parliament. There was never any such suggestion on its part. Honourable senators opposite have looked at one part of the second reading speech stating that a copy of every agreement with a State must be tabled in the Parliament and have seen that as being the one opportunity for debate. They have omitted to consider the following sentence:
In addition, the Parliament will need to consider separately the appropriation of funds for the purpose of the agreements.
In every appropriation of the Parliament there will be a recurring opportunity for debate. Whereas if there were simply one Bill for one project there would be one debate in the Parliament, under this legislation there will be a recurring opportunity for debate in the Parliament. Debate can be initiated on the agreement or it can occur on the appropriation. If honourable senators, including Senator McLaren, are worried about how various aspects can be ventilated, discussions of matters of public importance can be initiated. There is a whole series of devices that Parliament can use to analyse any one of these agreements. Certainly I give an assurance that it would be the aim of the Government I represent to have the fullest ventilation of these matters. I do not foresee that any of the difficulties of the past need arise.
Senator McLaren raised the question of the hydro works in Dartmouth not being linked with the agreement. I am advised that that hydro works was funded entirely by the Victorian
Government and therefore were not part of a bipartisan agreement. That may have been part of the solution. I talk without any profound knowledge of the matter; I merely relate what I am advised. Mention was also made of the Gutteridge, Haskins and Davey investigation that was made basically with regard to salinity, which I understand is a major problem in South Australia. Again I am advised that that report was made in 1 970 and was not acted upon. The Commonwealth, South Australian, New South Wales and Victorian governments are now looking at the salinity problems, and the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) recently announced the appointment of consultants to advise the governments as a matter of urgency. So an attempt is being made to bring up to date our knowledge of this massive problem of salinity.
asked a number of questions at the second reading stage of the debate which perhaps were not responded to adequately. I indicate that the Tasmanian Government, along with all other State governments, has been invited to submit proposals for Commonwealth consideration under the National Water Resources Program. The States have been provided with guidelines for the program and asked to nominate priorities for assistance on a dollar for dollar basis for approved projects. The Tasmanian Government was informed last October that assistance for the Warner Creek dam, which is one that was raised, would be considered in accordance with the priority accorded to it by the State, and that is the fundamental point. The State itself must do this in regard to its own programs, and then it has to be taken vis-a-vis the overall programs for the Commonwealth. It is therefore inappropriate to speculate on the nature of Commonwealth assistance for the Warner Creek dam until such time as the Tasmanian Premier has responded to the invitation of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) to submit proposals on a priority basis, and until such time as the Commonwealth has investigated the priority proposals.
If I could draw together my comments, we are looking at a piece of machinery legislation to provide ways of negotiating agreements between the Commonweatlh and the States to implement a $200m water resources program, a vital program. As I have repeated, the instrument is not new. It is one that was well commended by the then Labor Government in 1 974. The point that has been made that there might not be ample opportunity for full debate on individual projects I do not think is to be sustained. I give the assurance of the Government that it will welcome the fullest debate, whether it is on the agreements or on the appropriations which will be annually recurring, whether in Senate Estimates Committees, in discussions of matters of public importance, in Question Time, in a dozen different devices for probing.
Let me make it clear that the essential situation is that the facts should be revealed, but there is no need to feel other than that the matter is completely open handed. The fact is that there is to be an agreement between a Premier of a State and a Prime Minister of the Commonwealth. The State itself is well equipped to pursue its own interests, and I take it that honourable senators do not doubt the capacity of State Premiers to deal with these matters. I believe it is unlikely that any of the weaknesses that have been foreshadowed will occur. I believe that the machinery is good; I believe that it has been well tried. I think that the job now is for honourable senators to go to their States and commend to the Premiers the need to get the most accurate scaling of priorities for their purposes. I commend the Bill.
-I would like to pursue a little further with the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) the guidelines and the general principles of the legislation which were outlined to the State Premiers. Perhaps I could raise a series of questions and obtain some answers from the Minister. The Minister mentioned that the guidelines were made available to the State Premiers in the latter part of last year. I ask whether it is possible for those guidelines to be made available to honourable senators and to be published generally. If it is not possible to do this, can the Minister indicate whether they set down a fixed system which will apply to all schemes or whether the schemes will be varied? For example, will some of the schemes be funded on a basis of some grant money and some loan money, some by all grant or all loan, some by matching dollar for dollar and some without any contribution from the State? In other words, what variations will apply, and is it possible for honourable senators to obtain details? Again, I remind the Minister that there was a specific commitment by the Commonwealth Government to construct the Warner Creek dam.
– I thank the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) for his reply to the two questions I raised. I was speaking in the debate without knowledge of the attitude adopted by the Australian Labor Party at the second reading stage. I discovered, after reading the Hansard record, that at that stage the Opposition moved an amendment to the Bill which was in line with what I was suggesting. The amendment moved by Senator Walsh on behalf of the Opposition was to the effect that the Parliament should have details of every proposed expenditure. The Minister, when in replying, seemed to support the proposition that the power to decide where money should be spent should not be taken from the Parliament. He assured us that Parliament would have some authority because any agreement with the States for financial assistance has to be tabled in the Parliament. At that time, an honourable senator could move a motion in respect to the agreement. Alternatively, when an appropriation was made during the year an honourable senator could oppose it.
The Minister said that the legislation does not encompass anything new and that the origins of the present position could be traced back to a sin of the Whitlam Government in respect to the urban and regional development scheme. If an error was made under one government and the present Minister agrees that there should be some supervision of expenditure, I do not know why the position should be continued under another government. I can visualise that the urban and regional development scheme was entirely different from what we are being asked to accept, a water resources development program. The point I make is that even on this occasion we will hand over $2,500,000 for the Minister to spend at will. Whilst the Minister is obliged to submit to the Parliament a statement showing where he is spending money under an agreement, we have no power to disallow that expenditure. Therefore, it will be the law if the Minister decides to spend the money.
Senator Walsh said in his speech at the second reading stage that the purpose of the Bill was to meet an obligation in regard to the 16 bribes at the last election. If this is so, there may be bribes for future elections. I think that in every discussion on the subject since I became a senator the Minister has agreed that the Parliament is superior in deciding the expenditure of public moneys. In this legislation we give a blanket authority to the Minister for Finance. Possibly we shall vote an annual sum of money for the Minister to utilise under the legislation. No honourable senator from South Australia could disagree with that because we know the expenditure is necessary for water resources development and water purification in South Australia. We may all agree on that but find when the agreements are tabled in the Parliament that the money is to be spent in Queensland or in New
South Wales. Whilst we would be able to approve the expenditure, we have no say in where the money would be spent. The Senate is a States’ House, but we give away our rights under this Bill and allow the Minister to spend money at his pleasure or at his discretion in agreement with the State concerned. It is true that the Minister must tell us where the money is to be spent. But nothing can alter the fact that he is entering into agreement for the purpose of spending the money.
– More than 50 per cent of total Commonwealth expenditure is appropriated in a similar way.
– If it is, it is time the position was rectified. However, I do not agree with the honourable senator for a minute. The appropriations detail the expenditure on every subject pretty thoroughly. But to my knowledge, we have never allowed expenditure on new projects- these will be new projects- without the approval of the Parliament. We will be giving the Minister that power. I say that it is a breach of all the principles of parliamentary control and is handing over control to the Executive.
I cannot take the matter any further. I just voice my protest. The amendment which the Opposition moved during the second reading debate would have overcome the problem. The Parliament would have had to approve every agreement. Whilst it may not be desired that every agreement come before the Parliament, I think that if we give the Minister the discretion he gets under the Bill we should have the power to disallow an agreement when he tables it in the Parliament. As the Bill stands we are not to be given that power. We have it in respect of many other matters including the power to disallow regulations and ordinances or to declare that something is not in the national interest, or that something is a violation of Aboriginal lands, et cetera. When the Minister decides to spend some money under this Bill, he simply tells us what he has spent and that is the end of the matter. The people ‘s representatives in this chamber have no right to disallow that expenditure.
– I am amazed at Senator Cavanagh ‘s contribution to the debate. Surely he should recognise that for every project commenced under the National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill there will be an appropriation presented to the Senate for debate.
– Not every particular project.
– The honourable senator could discuss the matter objectively at that time and criticise the project if he wished to do so. Senator Cavanagh really amazes me because he has been very rigid in his attitude to Senate Estimates committees. The Estimates committees provide a forum in which honourable senators can examine a particular appropriation in fine detail.
– They cannot. Where?
– Honourable senators can examine the appropriations during the meetings of Senate Estimates committees when they are presented. We can make requests to the Government. Any Government that ignores requests from a Senate committee does so, I believe, at its peril. As the honourable senator has said already, that is our job. Senator Cavanagh referred to our responsibility as a States’ House. The Estimates committees provide a forum in which he can exercise that surveillance if he chooses to do so. But the honourable senator has chosen to disregard the opportunity to present his argument in that forum. I can understand his agitation. I am sure that he feels guilty about it.
I ask the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) whether he has paid regard to what I had to say yesterday afternoon during the second reading debate on the Bill. I referred to the need for the Government to examine the question of establishing national water quality standards throughout Australia. In my view, that is vital and it should be treated as a matter of urgency. Senator Mulvihill stated in his contribution to the debate yesterday afternoon that water is one of the most precious resources- I believe it is the most precious resource- we have. It is my view that the Government should pay attention to the recommendation that was laid down in 1970 by the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution to establish a national water commission whose responsibility it would be to lay down a program for the future development of our water resources and a future program for conservation and prevention of pollution in this very important area. I ask the Minister to reply to that and also to draw it to the attention of his colleague in another place, emphasising the urgency of my request.
– It is a request which has come from a number of people.
- Senator Rae has also supported that view and I recognise that he was a member of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, of which Senator Davidson was
Chairman. Senator Mulvihill and other honourable senators have also emphasised the urgency of taking such action and I believe the Government has a responsibility to recognise the points that were made in that Committee’s report. I would also like the Minister to clarify the reference in clause 3 to ‘approved body’ which is denned as meaning a body approved by the Minister for the purpose of the Act, being ‘(a) an authority of the State; or (b) a local governing body’. Does this mean that a local government authority can make representations to the Federal Government for an allocation of funds under this Bill for a particular project in its area, or that that authority has to go through the State government? On Eyre Peninsula at Penong, in the vicinity of Ceduna, water resource problems are experienced and assistance is required to meet the needs of the people living in that area.
Another point on which I should like to comment is the need for the continuance of financing for water filtration in Adelaide and in country areas of South Australia. This was mentioned today by Senator McLaren, who also drew attention to the fact that there are projects in the near country areas of South Australia that are proposed by the State Government. I believe that that program should continue. However, it is regrettable that we cannot devise a way to provide non-filtered water for gardens and toilets, rather than use filtered water across the board. After all, at this stage, 80 per cent of the water that is filtered in Adelaide will go down the drain or on to the gardens of the metropolis.
– We want rainwater tanks.
– That is a very good suggestion but I suppose one could argue that they may not be as healthy as people may consider them to be. I must also re-emphasise what I have said about the need to give consideration to a water filtration program for the northern Spencer Gulf area. There are very good reasons why the South Australian Government ought to accord that a high priority. I believe that the present Government is committed to an on-going financial program to support water filtration in Adelaide and in South Australia generally. As I said in this chamber yesterday, South Australia’s water quality is the worst in Australia. South Australia is the driest state in the driest continent of the world. I conclude on that note, expressing the hope that the Government will realise the importance of the suggestions I have made.
– In replying a short time ago to my earlier remarks, the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) said that the hydro-electric scheme at Dartmouth was to be funded solely by Victoria. I had quoted the Dartmouth Reservoir Agreement of 1970, under the schedule of which on page 2, one reads:
And whereas, pursuant to clause 32 of the River Murray Waters Agreement, the cost of carrying out the works mentioned in clause 30 of that agreement is to be borne by the Commonwealth and States in equal shares.
That was my complaint: That the feasibility study for the construction of a hydro-electricity scheme at Dartmouth was nowhere mentioned in the schedule to the agreement or in the Act. Are we to have a repetition of that son of thing in any agreement or Act which might be passed by this Parliament?
The Minister said also that the State Premiers would be well equipped to ensure that any agreement protected their State’s interest. I repeat: Can all State Premiers be relied upon to make public all matters associated with a project for which an agreement is signed and a copy tabled in the Parliament? We could not rely on Mr Hall, who was then the Premier of South Australia, to publicise at the time he signed the agreement, the fact that this feasibility study on a hydroelectricity scheme at Dartmouth was being carried out. Nobody in South Australia knew of it. We were not told, when an election was fought on the construction of Dartmouth Dam, that there was to be a hydro-electric project in association with its construction. All we were told was that the purpose of the Dartmouth Dam was to ensure for South Australia a supply of better quality water. Not one word was spoken about a hydro-electric scheme being constructed in conjunction with the wall of the dam. That is the kind of thing that I am concerned about.
The Minister also replied that there would be ample opportunity for debate on any project presented to this Parliament, but he did not say that there would be ample opportunity for this chamber, as a States’ House, to reject a project if it was not in the best interests of a particular State, lt is idle for us to debate such a project for, perhaps, weeks if we are not to be able to reject it if it comes before us in Supply Bills. The Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) in his reply to the debate in the other place said:
If the South Australian Government gives that scheme -
And here he was speaking about the water filtration scheme in South Australia- a high priority, under this new scheme, if it so wishes, it can make bids to put even more money into the Adelaide water treatment scheme.
Yet, if we look at clause 8 of the Bill, we read:
On the one hand we have the Minister saying in the other place that the States themselves may set the priorities, yet in this very Bill we find from clause 8 that they will have to comply with the requirement that they show how ‘part of the amount advanced to the State under that subsection has been used or applied as the Minister for Finance requests’.
That appears to me, and I am only a layman, to present two conflicting statements- one by the Minister in the other place and by the Minister in this chamber who was not quite so definite in his remarks and the other in the Bill itself; the latter suggesting that whatever priority is arrived at by the States, they will have to comply with the request of the Minister for Finance, or he may withhold funding. I would like the Minister to clarify whether my impression is wrong or whether there is indeed some conflict such as there has been in the Minister’s statement that the Government was making a gift of $32. 8m to South Australia when, in fact, it was making a gift of only $10m. Also, I should like to know whether there has been a mis-statement when it is said that the States can set their own priorities and that is the end of it, when in fact they must comply with clause 8 of this Bill.
– In pursuance of the argument that has been put forward in the last few minutes in relation to this matter, I refer the Minister to the statement in his second reading speech which reads:
A copy of every agreement with a State must be tabled in the Parliament.
In addition, the Parliament will need to consider separately the appropriation of funds for the purpose of the agreements.
In my speech on the second reading, I said that this provision reads well and seems to be quite appropriate. However, as practical politicians, we all know that a whole number of documents and agreements of a wide variety are tabled in the Parliament. Because of our preoccupation with the events of the day, we are not necessarily acquainted with the details of each agreement. I hope that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), as a senior Minister in the Government, has recognised the emphasis which the Senate is placing on this Bill to indicate to him and the Government that the important matter of water resources is occupying the attention not only of honourable senators from South Australia but also of honourable senators from other States as a major ingredient in our national development.
I hope that this point has registered with him. Therefore, in the light of the Minister’s second reading speech- I have a copy here- which states that copies of agreements will be tabled in the Parliament, I ask: Will some indication be given when a copy of an agreement is to be tabled so that there will be an opportunity not only to examine it but also to discuss it? This emphasises the point which a couple of my colleagues have made in the last few minutes in relation to legislation dealing with water resources in Australia. I refer again to the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution which I mentioned in my speech in the second reading debate. It said:
There is nothing in the present piecemeal and parochial administration of water to prevent the insidious growth of pollution excesses.
In short, it is high time that the Government looked very seriously at a national organisation such as that recommended by the committee or a national water commission. I again ask the Minister to give details in his reply of the procedure presentation of copies of agreements and their tabling in the Senate.
– I thank honourable senators for their contributions. Senator Rae asked basically whether details of the guidelines could be made available. I am in no position to answer that question. It is a matter for the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman). I shall raise it with him. If the guidelines can be made available, I shall certainly make sure that this is done.
Senator Cavanagh misunderstood me. When I referred to the Whitlam Government’s Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Act 1974 I did not see any evil in it. Perhaps the best I can say is that under that Act funds for Adelaide water treatment were made available. Senator Cavanagh said that funds for water treatment would not have been made available under that Act. Funds appropriated would have been for different purposes. But it was that very Act which provided funds for the Adelaide water treatment. That was a classic example of an umbrella Act which achieved the very purpose that the honourable senator is now seeking.
asked whether any work was in progress regarding the testing standards of water quality. I am advised that the Australian Water Resources Council, together with the National Health and Medical Research Council, is working on denning those standards for Australia so we are making progress in that area. Senator Jessop also asked me about an ‘approved body’ as denned in clause 3 (b) and whether a local authority could approach the Commonwealth direct. My understanding is that it could not. Priorities will be established for each State. Local government will be included in such determinations. Once priorities have been established and agreement has been reached, it will be possible for the local authority to be the active body. Senator Jessop also referred to the need for water treatment in the northern Spencer Gulf area. I can only refer that comment to the Minister. It remains a matter for the State Premier.
asked a number of questions. He asked about the amount of $32m and whether that amount was, in fact, $ 10m. The fact is that $32m was made available on a formula well established between the Commonwealth and the States. As I understand it, 70 per cent of the amount was to be made available by loan and 30 per cent by grant. This arrangement was publicly known. As far as I know, it was not represented in any other way. It is true that 30 per cent of the amount was in the form of a nonrepayable grant; seventy per cent of the amount was a loan. That is a well established arrangement. I have no knowledge of how the Dartmouth situation occurred. I can only say that this Government gives with the greatest of goodwill its undertaking that it will endeavour to make the fullest knowledge available of the agreements. It will provide opportunities for the agreements to be debated. If, in the past, this instrument made moneys available for the Adelaide water treatment and no fears arose it ought to be possible for it to do so in the future.
asked whether there would be adequate notice of the tabling of agreements. I shall pass that question to the Minister and endeavour to ensure that that is so. Let us reflect upon the situation. It is quite clear that in maters such as water conservation and development and the vitally important continental development of Australia this chamber functions not only as a States House, but also in a truly bipartisan fashion. If honourable senators want a specific investigation and examination it remains within their competence to bring that requirement about. That is utterly clear. We have seen that happen on many occasions. I do not think that we need any underlying sanction. I am quite sure that on behalf of my Government I can give an undertaking that it intends to allow the fullest exposure and the fullest debate. It has been suggested that, if this Bill provided for a single instrument, the agreement could be rejected but that as it relates to a number of agreements this cannot be done. I have no doubt in the world that each project will be debated fully in this place well before it ever reaches the stage of an agreement being determined. Each of the main points for future projects is already a matter domestic to this chamber. Debate on them will be a continuing process.
Nevertheless, I simply put forward to honourable senators the full bona fides of the Government. I reveal the fact that this instrument was used by the previous Government in precisely the way it is now intended to be used. I ask the honourable senators to work together in order to make it work. If there is a need for further probing and debate on an agreement, on the annual appropriations, on the estimates, on a matter of public importance or at Question Time, I am quite sure that, if the present Government is made aware of the matter, it will do everything possible to expose it.
This Government is a pacesetter in the development of water resources. This Bill provides $200m for a rolling program to deal with the massive problems.
– Including a free vote in this chamber?
- Senator Harradine must look to his own conscience. There is no caucus and there is no binding of votes on the Government side of the chamber. The laughter of Opposition senators is against the facts of history. One thing is certain- the Labor Party is inert, inelastic and congealed to its seat in all matters where its outside masters dictate. On the other hand, there is no such caucus here and I commend the national spirit and the work of this chamber to the Senate.
– I would like to add to what the Minister has said in relation to the matters raised by Senator Cavanagh. Senator Cavanagh gave the impression that there was nothing this chamber could do in relation to the appropriation of moneys under this Bill for specific projects. I suggest that the senator appears to be wrong. It is my understanding that any appropriations made under this Bill will be dealt with in the Appropriation Bills but they will be part of the capital expenditure- they will not be part of the ordinary annual services- and therefore amendable by this chamber should it wish to do so. The concern expressed by Senator Cavanagh is misconceived. It seems to me that there can be no real doubt that they will not form a part of the ordinary annual services.
Any appropriations for any projects under this National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Act, when it is passed, will be dealt with by the Estimates Committee as Document B; that is, they will be part of the appropriations which are not ordinary annual services and which are amendable by the Senate. So if the Senate wished to do so, it could specifically amend the Bill in relation to any aspect of expenditure under this proposed legislation. That being so, and with all the other factors that have been referred to, including the development of a whole committee system enabling full debate and full scrutiny to take place, I believe that Senator Cavanagh is tilting at windmills when he expresses his concern. Bona fide though it may have been, I believe that it was misconceived.
I want to refer to questions that have been raised such as the reconstitution of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution and questions which Senator Jessop and others have referred to about the attitude towards the major recommendation of the former committee in relation to the creation of a national water commission on a federal basis. As one of those who was quite closely involved in the development of that concept, I can say that it was certainly done on a federalist and not a centralist basis. I again ask the Minister whether there is any comment which he feels able to make, or whether alternatively he can recognise comments by specifically referring them to the Minister on the basis that they will come back here for a further opportunity for discussion in this chamber. It is quite clear that there is considerable interest in this chamber in being able to pursue these matters further.
- Senator Rae has referred to matters raised by Senator Cavanagh. It is unfortunate that Senator Cavanagh is unable to be in the chamber to make a speech. At the present time he is with Senator Cameron and Senator Bishop on a very vital mission to the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) which concerns employment in the town of Whyalla. I want to thank the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), who represents the Minister for National Development (Mr Newman) for putting on record after this matter has been under debate in the other place and in this House- I think this is the third day if you take the two Houses together- some clarification of the statement made by Mr Newman. He said for the information of the public that the Government was in fact making a gift to South Australia of $32. 8m and the Minister representing him has said in this chamber that the terms of loans would be well known to governments- the percentage of grant or loan. But of course the man in the street is not aware of those things and having read that in the newspaper he would be of the opinion that the Government had made a direct gift of, as the Minister himself is reported as having said in Hansard, $32. 8m.
I appreciate the fact that at last we have on record for the public to see and hear tonight as we are on air, that in fact the direct gift was only an amount of $ 10m. That is something which I tried to get across in my speech yesterday and again today. When the Minister replied to my speech tonight he made no mention of the query that I raised with regard to clause 8 of the Bill. The Minister said that if the South Australian Government gives this filtration scheme a high priority, it can under the new scheme if it so wishes make bids to put even more money into the Adelaide water treatment scheme. The Bill itself says that it has to be vetted by the Minister for Finance. If the South Australian Government does give this matter a high priority and wants to expend more money, will the Minister for Finance still have the overriding say as to whether the South Australian Government can do it, or can the Government go ahead and make its own priorities and spend the money as it so wishes despite the fact that it is stated in clause 8 of the Bill that the Minister for Finance requests how it is to be spent?
– I would like to support the proposition put forward by Senator Rae in relation to the reconstitution of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution or some similar committee which might consider the report which was tabled in this place with a view to updating it, examining the recommendations it made and bringing forward a report which would not only give a clear indication of the Government’s and the Parliament’s concern about the water supply and water resources in Australia but also provide the Australian community with the opportunity of presenting additional material so that there could be a nationwide understanding and examination of Australia’s water situation. I join with Senator Rae in asking the Minister for his comment on and reaction to that suggestion. As one who was privileged to serve as chairman of the Committee, it became apparent to me over the two years during which it was involved in the examination that there was a particular and very emphatic concern for the future of Australia’s water resources.
– Are you talking about a national water commission?
– I have always given in this Senate my emphatic, continued and enthusiastic support for the concept of an Australian national water commission. I have stuck with that support and I have put questions on the matter to Ministers over a period of time. If one examines the report made by the Committee one will find that it went also into the constitutional situation of that concept. I believe that the only way that a nation like Australia will be in a position of providing water resources not only for the present community but also for the community ahead is by having a national authority for water resources, water management and water distribution.
In response to my friend, the senator from Murray Bridge in South Australia, Senator McLaren, his continuing concern for me and his uncommon pleasure at the editorial which apparently appeared in the Adelaide Advertiser in relation to the address which I gave, I am grateful to him for keeping the address and giving it considerable publicity today. I refer him to page 88 of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. I think the best thing to do is to quote a paragraph on page 88. Honourable senators will remember that we had been discussing this from time to time. The report states:
The Pels scheme proposed that the river -
That means the River Murray in this instance- should continue to be used Tor drainage but that water supply be drawn from artificial channels constructed along the river valley so that their bed levels were above prevailing groundwater levels. The water supply would thus remain unaffected by saline groundwater inflows.
Senator McLaren has been concerned that I have not replied to the editorial in the Advertiser of that time. I think it was a compliment to the Senate Committee that the Advertiser took note of its report. If Senator McLaren takes malicious glee from constantly reminding the people of the Senate and those who listen to the Senate that the Advertiser took note not only of the occasion but also of the address which I gave, based on the Senate Committee’s report, well, it is a matter for some satisfaction all round. I think, in all seriousness, it explained the fact that that address on that occasion was based on the report which had been tabled in the Senate at an earlier date. As I said in this Committee discussion earlier this evening, I commend to Senator McLaren not only the whole report but also these particular comments on salinity. As I said at that time, events, investigations and technological information have come into the picture since then but I am sure that he will find these comments of very great interest.
- Senator Rae and, later, Senator Davidson asked me to respond to two matters. It was suggested during the debate that the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution be reconstituted. I think it is acknowledged by both sides of the chamber that that Committee did very good work indeed and advanced the understanding of this matter. The second question asked was whether the Government would act upon a major recommendation of the report of that Committee which called for the creation of a particular Federal body. I am not equipped to answer on behalf of the Government but I will be happy to pass on those suggestions. I would draw attention to the fact that, as honourable senators would know, the Senate Standing Committee on National Resources, under the chairmanship of Senator Thomas, is currently undertaking an inquiry into the Commonwealth’s role in the assessment, planning, development and management of Australia’s water resources. That Committee may well have something to contribute which is more up to date.
I apologise to Senator McLaren for not responding to his questions about clause 8. It was inadvertent and the answers are quite direct and simple. Both clause 8 and clause 9 relate to matters about which approvals already have been given. They are post facto so that there is no question of threatening the approval or challenging the rights of the States. They apply after approval is given and they are identical, I am advised, with provisions in all previous legislation which has provided specific purpose actions. In other words they are standard matters for ordinary financial controls once an approval has been given. I think that basically responds to the questions.
It is natural, I think, that the debate on this Bill, which is innocent in itself should have taken the length of time it has taken. The Bill has been thoroughly examined. I think all honourable senators have responded to Australia’s greatest challenges- its arid continent, its singularly irregular rainfall and the need to preserve and conserve every drop of water. It is natural that honourable senators in some States, notably
South Australia, should have a particular interest because of the aridity of their States. I thank all honourable senators.
– I briefly want to make one more comment on this Bill. I thank the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) for acknowledging the urgency of our suggestion to establish a national water commission. I should also like to comment on the role of the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment which, in effect, has taken up the responsibility placed on it by the Senate, of a continuing oversight of air pollution and water pollution. Both matters were the subject of previous inquiries by Senate select committees. The Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment currently is dealing with two references. One happens to be industrial research and development in Australia but the other is an examination of what has happened in Australia with respect to the recommendations of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. I remind the Minister of that point so that he can consider it along with the proposition that has been put forward.
– I did not intend to rise again because I think I have all the answers I require from the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) and I thank him. What prompted me to rise again was the fact that Senator Davidson claimed that I was pursuing him with malicious glee. Perhaps that is what he thinks. If the honourable senator read my speech in the second reading debate he would find that I quoted from the Advertiser. I went on to say:
So I must assume that that editorial is correct when it states that Senator Davidson advocated that the River Murray should become a salty drain.
As I said, I have not seen any denial of that in the Press. Tonight Senator Davidson said, in rebuttal of his earlier statement, that all he was doing was quoting from the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution, of which he was chairman. But the Advertiser stated:
It is a revolutionary approach, and one which has been sharply criticised by the Government and by the director of Environment and Conservation (Dr W. G. Inglis).
In the Advertiser of the same date one headline states: ‘Salty Murray would mean no Chowilla’. Of course, an argument developed between another senator in this place and myself. That is how Chowilla came to be mentioned. If Senator Davidson thinks that I am pursuing him with malicious glee, so be it.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 8 March on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I rise to speak on this Bill because it has particular relevance to the Australian Capital Territory. The Canberra Commercial Development Authority is mentioned specifically in the Bill. That Authority has developed the Belconnen Shopping Mall which opened recently. It has provided important and improved shopping facilities in the Belconnen area of the Capital Territory. I make the point, in passing, that this development is a significant part of the Government’s program to ensure improved facilities in the Belconnen region of the Capital Territory.
A considerable program is under way to build roads such as Kuringa Drive; to upgrade the Barton Highway; the duplication of Ginninderra Drive, which has now commenced; to construct footpaths and drive strips and to undertake landscaping projects within the Belconnen area; to develop sporting and recreation areas, for example around Lake Ginninderra, and sporting facilities, such as tennis courts, pavilions at ovals and, significantly, heating for the Macquarie swimming pool, which is the only pool in the area; and to construct schools, such as those in Spence and the one now proposed for Fraser and the Catholic schools at Florey and Evatt.
As I said, the Belconnen Shopping Mall is an important element in demonstrating the Government ‘s determination to improve facilities in the Belconnen area for the people of Belconnen. The present Federal Government has given substantial financial support to the Canberra Commercial Development Authority to further this objective and to ensure that the Belconnen Shopping Mall was completed. As I mentioned, it was opened recently. The Territory Authorities (Financial Provisions) Bill will make the Canberra Commercial Development Authority, the Canberra Showground Trust and the Poker Machine Licensing Board subject to Commonwealth taxation laws. It will make the Canberra
Commercial Development Authority liable to pay income tax and sales tax.
I raise this matter because this legislation, particularly its provisions relating to the Canberra Commercial Development Authority, has recently been subject to some discussion and a good deal of distortion in public debate, much of which I am afraid has been for what appears to be rather blatant political purposes. I refer particularly to statements made by the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry) and the Labor Party Leader in the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly. As I shall demonstrate, they referred to this matter in terms which are grossly inaccurate. In the other place recently the Labor Party shadow Treasurer, the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis) opened debate on this matter for the Opposition. I believe that he opened the debate in a basically reasonable way. I should like to quote some of his opening remarks. He said:
Although there seems to be no hard and fast rule, in general it appears that statutory authorities established by this Parliament are subject to income tax and sales tax when they are engaged in commercial operations in competition with private enterprise. Thus such authorities as TAA, The Australian National Line and the Commonwealth Trading Bank are all subject to tax. We support the fact that they are so liable.
I repeat that statement made by the honourable member for Gellibrand, the Labor shadow Treasurer
We support the fact that they are so liable.
He went on to say:
In this way a competitive public enterprise can provide substantial benefits to the community, quite apart from its business role.
I believe that that was a basically constructive approach. But he went on to state- I believe that he was putting the basic opposition of the Labor Party to this measure- what I believe to be some fundamental errors. He said:
If local governments in the States are exempt from tax on such enterprises, then there is clearly at least an arguable case for the same exemption to apply in the case of the Australian Capital Territory.
He said that there was an arguable case, then he attempted to argue it. But the whole point is that his argument, the arguments used by the honourable member for Fraser and the argument used by the Labor Leader in the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly are based on a misapprehension of the distinctions between a local government body and an authority such as the Canberra Commercial Development Authority.
It is my understanding that under section 23 (d) of the Income Tax Assessment Act a number of groups are exempted from income tax liability; among these are municipal corporations and local authorities. For example, in the debate in the other place the honourable member for Fraser referred to many such organisations- local government authoritieswhich are exempted from income tax liability. He and others referred to the Campbelltown shopping centre, which I understand is referred to as Glenquarrie. But the point about that shopping centre is that, as I understand it, it is part of the Campbelltown Council and it is the Council which is exempt from income tax liability and not the shopping centre per se. The shopping centre is exempt because it is part of the Council.
I understand that it is this provision in section 23 (d) of the Income Tax Assessment Act which exempts many similar operations by local government authorities. I understand, from advice available to me, that it is impossible to tax this shopping centre because of the difficulty in drawing the distinction between the Council as a legal entity and the shopping centre, which is a part of that entity. The Canberra Commercial Development Authority is a legal entity in its own right. It competes with the private sector. It is not part of a local government authority which is exempt under section 23 (d ) of the Income Tax Assessment Act. I return to the first statement by the honourable member for Gellibrand to which I referred. He said:
Although there seems to be no hard and fast rule, in general it appears that statutory authorities established by this Parliament are subject to income tax and sales tax when they are engaged in commercial operations in competition with private enterprise. Thus such authorities as TAA, the Australian National Line and the Commonwealth Trading Bank are all subject to tax. We support the fact that they are so liable.
The Canberra Commercial Development Authority is just what its name suggests: It is an authority involved in development. It is developing a shopping centre in competition with two major developers with shopping centres here- the Monaro Mall and the Woden Plaza.
Having said that, I think it is important to realise- one would never realise this from the speeches made by Labor members of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly or by Labor members in the other place- that the Canberra Commercial Development Authority was established and the terms and conditions of its establishment and operation were set down during the period of the Labor Government. I quote again from what the Labor shadow Minister said:
It could be claimed, of course, that the Canberra Commercial Development Authority was in a privileged position because it received a no interest loan from the Australian Government to commence operations. That did not apply to the Campbelltown enterprise.
There he was referring to Glenquarrie in Campbelltown. He continued:
On the other hand, under section 19 of the ordinance establishing the Canberra Commercial Development Authority, it is provided that the Authority shall repay the capital in a manner stipulated by the Minister in consultation with the Treasurer and that it shall pay to the Australian Government such proportion of the profits as the Minister, in consultation with the Treasurer, determines.
As he then said, that provision did not apply to the Campbelltown project. But from 1974 it did apply to the Canberra Commercial Development Authority. It did apply because that was the provision set down by the Labor Government. The Ordinance establishing the Authority came into effect on 1 October 1 974. It was made clear to those people involved, one of whom was the present Labor Party Leader in the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, that the Authority would be subject to these taxes; yet the honourable member for Fraser in the debate on this matter in the other place said:
One can only ask: Where was he in 1974 when the Labor Government decided that the Canberra Commercial Development Authority would be subject to these taxes? The honourable member for Fraser went on to say:
He was referring to pressure to tax the Canberra Commercial Development Authority-
One could take that as being an absurd statement, but it is difficult to do so because one would assume that the honourable member for Fraser would know what he is talking about. After all, it was an Australian Labor Party Government decision, made when he was a member of Parliament, to tax the Canberra Commercial Development Authority. The honourable member for Fraser goes on in his speech to reject the normal taxation provisions which apply to such developers and that is just what the Canberra Commercial Development Authority is. It is a developer and it ought to be subject to these taxes. The Labor Government in 1 974 told the Authority and all those involvedone such person was the present Labor leader in the Legislative Assembly- that the Authority would be subject to such taxes. The honourable member for Fraser also claims that the Authority received little support from the Government. I mention that it received $lm equity capital assistance and then it borrowed $32. 5m with the Treasurer’s guarantee. That was provided under this Government. Of course, it might be noted that some private developers would no doubt like to have such provisions when they are seeking capital for development.
There was a lot of talk of consultation here this evening and in another place when the debate proceeded there. It is very interesting to note what happened when the Labor Government was in office and when the Canberra Commercial Development Authority was created. There was no discussion in the Advisory Council, as it was then, and later in the Legislative Assembly about this matter. It was created by Executive decision by the Minister at the time and by the Governor-General. Yet we have the shadow Minister for the Capital Territory in another place saying that the Government seems to be acting with indecent haste in this matter. In 1974 there was no consultation by the Labor Government. At that time the Labor Government made it clear to those involved in the Canberra Commercial Development Authority that it would have to pay the taxes for which, under this legislation, it is made liable. The Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) made it clear in a statement on 7 March this year because of the local debate which was then ensuing about this matter. He stated: . . no secret had been made of the fact that the Authority was to be liable to pay Commonwealth and Territory taxes. The Chairman of the Authority had been so advised when the Authority was first established in 1974 and subsequently.
I would have thought that if the Labor Party shadow Minister was so concerned and interested about consultation and about the provisions now applying to the Canberra Commercial Development Authority he would have consulted the Labor leader in the Legislative Assembly or his colleague in another place, the honourable member for Fraser, because they were involved when these decisions were made. They know there was no consultation by the Labor Government at that time. They know or should know that at that time it was made clear to all those involved that the Authority would compete with private enterprise on an equal basis and that it would be susceptible to the charges which are now to be levied under this legislation,
The statements of the Labor leader in the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, to put it mildly, have been distortions. They have been misleading. One can only conclude that if those people are being honest in what they say then members of the Australian Labor Party in the Legislative Assembly and in this Parliament either do not know what their Party did or they are not prepared to admit it. The Minister for the Capital Territory said recently that this Bill, that is the one we are considering in the Senate tonight, would not alter the method by which the Authority’s profits are disbursed. No changes have been proposed in that respect. This Government is pursuing policies in relation to the operation of the Canberra Commercial Development Authority which were introduced and implemented by the previous Government. The debate which occurred in the Legislative Assembly and the statements made by the Labor leader there and by the honourable member for Fraser in another place have been clearly misleading. I suspect that that represents an attempt by both those people to evade their responsibility in this matter.
I made the point about consultation. There was no consultation whatever under Labor. The Authority was created entirely by Executive action in 1974. 1 have made the point about Mr Fry’s allegations about vested interests. If this legislation has been introduced as a result of pressure from so-called vested interests, then presumably that is why the Authority was set up under the terms established in 1974. Where was Mr Fry then? I have also referred to other authorities like Trans-Australia Airlines and the Australian National Line. The fact is, as I understand it, that these authorities and the CCDA are distinct from local government authorities because of the nature of local councils and their related operations. The Labor Party established this Authority in 1974. It knew the terms under which the Authority was established. The leader of the Labor Party in the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly presumably knew those terms and that same person has been a member of that Authority. The honourable member for Fraser presumably knew the terms for the establishment of the Authority. One hopes that the Labor Party shadow Minister for the Capital Territory would have known them. If he does not know those terms one hopes that he will quickly familiarise himself with them. The Canberra Commercial Development Authority will operate and will pay taxes under the terms and conditions which were set down by the Labor Government.
I believe that the debate and statements we have heard recently from Labor Party members in the Territory represent a deliberate attempt on their part to escape their responsibility and to avoid the embarrassment which they apparently feel because of what they did in 1974. Presumably they are embarrassed because of their failure to consult and because of their decision to impose taxes on the Canberra Commercial Development Authority. I conclude by saying that I strongly support the legislation. 1 believe that the Canberra Commercial Development Authority should compete on an equal basis with private enterprise. It has been known for about Vh years, as I understand it, that this would be the case. This legislation implements that decision and I strongly support it.
– The Senate is debating the Territory Authorities (Financial Provisions) Bill 1978. Although it is called a Territories Bill it is really designed for the Australian Capital Territory. My colleague Senator Sue Ryan will be speaking about the influence of the Bill in the Australian Capital Territory. I will limit myself to making some comments about the Northern Territory. We in the Northern Territory have a number of concerns about the Bill because it is designed to meet the problems of one area and Bills which are designed to do that seldom meet the needs of another area. The Act will apply to the Northern Territory. That is implied within the Bill and we are concerned about that. Little has been said in the other place and in this chamber up to now about the problems facing the Northern Territory. Of course there are implications for us in the Northern Territory in any action which is taken in the Australian Capital Territory as a result of any Bill which is designed specifically to meet the needs of the Australian Capital Territory. Let us look at the Bill. In the second reading speech the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), who in this chamber represents the Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott), stated:
This Bill is to overcome technical problems affecting statutory authorities established by Territory ordinances. In 1973 it became apparent that provisions for the payment of Budget appropriations may be beyond the power of a Territory ordinance.
Later in the speech she stated:
Since then it has become apparent that certain other provisions concerning loans and taxation may also be beyond the powers of an ordinance.
In the other place just recently there was reference to the 1973 Act. In the other place the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis), who was mentioned by Senator Knight, had this to say about the 1973 Act when referring to the present Bill:
Thus, the Bill goes beyond the 1973 legislation by providing that for all territory authorities the Minister for Finance may determine the terms and conditions of the loan to a statutory authority of moneys appropriated for the purposes of this Parliament.
It is rather interesting that the part of the honourable member’s remarks to which Senator Knight did not take exception comes early in the speech. Senator Knight had some comments to make about the later part of the speech and no doubt Senator Ryan will deal with those. I add a word of caution to Senator Knight. It appears to me that he has been sitting too close to Senator Carrick and that he has caught a disease from that worthy senator. This disease has two symptoms. The first is that one blames Labor for everything; the other is the argument: ‘If Labor did it, we are justified in doing it ourselves’. I suggest that the honourable senator shift before his own obvious ability and logical processes are beyond treatment.
What does the Government say the Bill is about? We are told that it is about the funding of operations of statutory authorities, the funding of their day-to-day running- what we might call the operational expenditures- and the allocation to cover the yearly costs of operations. It is about loans for capital works and the application of Commonwealth taxation revenue to statutory authorities.
As has been mentioned already by Senator Knight, this legislation is designed to meet what has been called the unfair advantage of the Canberra Commercial Development Authority. My information is that this legislation was prompted by certain major organisations- not the Chamber of Commerce- and the names of the David Jones and Lend Lease organisations loom large in the information that came to me. My only concern is for the Northern Territory. Any decisions which are taken in relation to this legislation may have some implication for the Northern Territory. As honourable senators know, the Northern Territory is moving towards self-government and perhaps later to statehood. The situation in the Northern Territory is what I have called, and what I will continue to call, unique. The people of the Northern Territory at present must look at what structure of government they will have as well as what structure of public enterprise will be adopted. These matters have not been settled yet.
So, it is very difficult for us to assess what effects a Bill such as the legislation we are presently considering will have on a development as yet unformed. Because of that unique new and developing situation, many hope that an opportunity will be taken in the Northern Territory to have a new organisation. We may even see a new organisation in the structure of government. We may see a new organisation or new concept in public enterprise. Surely we will not follow slavishly the situation in the States and repeat the mistakes that have been made there over the years. Surely we will learn from what has been done elsewhere and come up with some ideas.
I have made a constant call on this place- and I repeat it- for an evaluation of what is happening elsewhere in Australia and in other countries to provide ideas that we can use in the Northern Territory. It will be to our discredit if in the form of government we are to have in the near future in the Northern Territory we simply adjust and modify what has gone on in other places.
We feel that there is some unseemly haste in what is going on and that there ought to be a postponement of the enactment of part of the Bill. Therefore, I formally move the amendment, circulated in my name, which is in the following terms:
At the end of motion, add ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion that provisions relating to taxation of statutory authorities in the Territories should be withheld pending discussions on the financial arrangements for the Territories as they move towards self-government’.
-Is the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– I should perhaps make my position clear. I would go much further than the amendment does. I would ask for the whole of the legislation to be reconsidered. I see no reason for us not to do so. But that is not what the amendment seeks, and I will speak only to the amendment. We need time for further discussion and consultation.
Honourable senators may recall that the Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) in his second reading speech said: . . there will be appropriate consultation before any authority is prescribed under this Act or before any amendment to the Schedule is proposed to the Parliament.
The key word, of course, is ‘appropriate’. Later in my speech I shall refer to the breadth of discussion that I believe is necessary. We need discussion long before the Minister indicates in his speech we need it. We need it a long time before any authority is prescribed or before any amendment is made to the Schedule. We need to look now, before any firm decisions are taken.
I remind honourable senators that the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Northern Territory which inquired into constitutional development in the Northern Territory called for discussion. Rather interestingly, what I propose to quote comes from the speech by the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) in the debate in the other place. It is good to see that not only a senator from the Northern Territory but also the member for the Northern Territory are able to think along the same lines on the matter that we are talking about at present. He quoted this extract from the Committee’s report: . . the Committee . . . stresses the need for close consultation between the Australian and Territory Executives so that local knowledge and expertise can be utilised.
He quoted further:
The Committee refers also to: . . . the need for continuing and close consultation and co-ordination of effort between the national and Territory Executives on a wide range of matters.
Then he continued:
It concluded by formally recording and stressing the view: . . . that without close and responsible cooperation between the National and Territory Executives this brave experiment -
That is, in relation to the constitutional development in the Northern Territory-
. in self-government in the Northern Territory is doomed before it even takes the vow.
I am pleased to be able to quote that reference from the honourable member for the Northern Territory who sees the need for close consultation in all these matters relating to the constitutional development of the Northern Territory. We need not only wider discussion with members of the Northern Territory Executive as suggested in the Joint Parliamentary Committee’s report but also consultation with members of the Opposition in the Northern Territory. We need consultation and discussion with members of the public in the Northern Territory.
We have noticed that the Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr Ellicott, recently sent to every Canberra household a letter giving details of proposals for selfgovernment. I commend this action. I have commended it before. But no such thing has happened in the Northern Territory; we have had no such discussion. We in the Northern Territory need to know all the aspects of movements towards self-government and certainly those matters of finance and taxation. The need for this consultation is recognised in an editorial in the
Northern Territory News of September last year which concluded with this comment:
Senator Robertson has called for ALP representation on the Consultative Committee and while this may not be possible he is right in thinking that there should be some way of drawing the ALP into the discussion.
Here is the important part:
The issue is too important and cuts across the boundaries of individual party platforms.
I would agree, of course, with the comment made by the Northern Territory News.
The matter that we are discussing has been of interest to the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly. Honourable senators will recall that that body called for certain action to be taken. The following motion was moved:
I was most disturbed to find that, whilst this legislation was being considered by the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, it was not being considered by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly which ended a twoweek sitting last Friday. Without doubt the documents pertaining to the Bill were in the hands of the Government; they were certainly in the hands of the Opposition. I think it is to the discredit of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly that it did not raise the matter and discuss it when the opportunity was available. The people of the Northern Territory- the people in the street- are certainly interested and they are looking to the Assembly for some sort of guidance and certainly for some information. Therefore, despite what Senator Knight has said, let me stress the need for discussion and consultation in the Northern Territory.
I think that enactment of that part of the legislation referred to in the amendment should be postponed because the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly itself needs time to get organised. It needs time to consider the various alternatives that might be offered to it. The Northern Territory Public Service, as we know, has outlined certain suggestions but these have been found to be at variance with the proposals of the Departments of Finance and the Treasury. Let me give one example relating to the functioning of the Grants Commission. The Northern Territory Public Service has called on the Minister to allow the Grants Commission to assess the revenue raising potential of the Northern Territory and to assess the expenditure needs in the Northern Territory. The Treasurer (Mr Howard) said it was not appropriate for this to be done and that the Grants Commission would not be allowed to do it. The Northern Territory Public Service said that the Commonwealth subvention for 1978-79 should be on the basis of the Federal-State formula. The Minister for Finance (Mr Eric Robinson) and the Treasurer disagreed and said that it was too early for this formula to be applied. I raise these points only to suggest that the Assembly needs time. It is quite obvious that the Assembly is not sure of the way things ought to go. It needs to feel its way. Most of the major propositions put forward by the Assembly met with a contrary view put forward by the Minister for Finance and the Treasurer.
The Northern Territory Assembly needs to know what the Government means by federalism for the Northern Territory and how this will apply to the people of the Northern Territory. The Legislative Assembly needs to know the state of finance of the various statutory authorities in the Northern Territory. My information is that the Port Authority has not submitted a report since its 1974-75 report; the Housing Commission has not submitted a report since its 1973-74 report; the Community College, established before Cyclone Tracy, has yet to submit a report; and the Corporation of the City of Darwin has not submitted a report since 1973-74. The Assembly needs to know also the financial status of the Electricity Authority. The Chief Secretary during recent discussions here in Canberra said that the Authority was losing $25m a year. That is a guess. He could not substantiate it. Nobody really knows what it is costing to run the Electricity Authority in the Territory. We do know certain things. We know that we need another power station and that we need new distribution substations. We have been told by the Federal Government that these utilities are supposed to pay their way and that costs must rise in the Northern Territory to at least the level in Queensland. What worries the people in the Northern Territory is who picks up the tab for the difference between what is raised, even with the increased charges, and the amount of money that will have to be paid out not only for operational expenses but also by way of interest or the capital development for the Electricity Authority.
I would like to mention again the role of the Northern Territory, particularly Darwin. I believe that the Northern Territory has a special role; I believe Darwin has a special role. As we have said before, Canberra is the national capital and so more money is needed for it. More of everything is needed- bushfire fighters, rangers, and such people. We in the Northern Territory perhaps do not agree completely but nevertheless we accept that because Canberra is the national capital it will need more of some things than do other places. But Darwin has a special role. Like Canberra, it has no economic base. Like Canberra it was built and developed as a city for administration. It is the door to Asia and the front line of our defence. It is the first contact that Customs has with all the things that come down from Asia. The Northern Territory has a special role and the Aborigines have their special problems. Of course, of special consideration are the mining royalties which do not go to the Northern Territory. I claim that there is need for special assistance to the Northern Territory.
All these matters I have mentioned need to be discussed before we can give any real consideration to the Bill which is before us. There is a need also for the Northern Territory Public Service to be fully established but without unseemly haste. The Auditor-General in his 1 976-77 report was fairly critical of the Department of the Northern Territory. Everything was not running all that well in the Territory during 1976-77. While we are setting up a Northern Territory Public Service let us hope that we can overcome some of the problems and that we do not have simply for form’s sake a mirror image of the Commonwealth Public Service. As I said before, we have here a chance to correct some of the mistakes made by the older States or the Public Service. It is a unique situation and we need to do a lot of study. There is a possibility that we can have new approaches to problems and new techniques introduced. But we cannot do this if we rush this Bill through. I put this forward as yet another reason for the postponement of the taxation measure.
Much has been said about this Bill being a machinery Bill and that perhaps we are being overly critical by making too much of a Bill which corrects an earlier Act. Let me remind the Senate that the Bill is just that- an ad hoc Bill to overcome Australian Capital Territory problems. This is fair enough; it is a Bill to do these things.
But it does not meet the needs of the Northern Territory and it cannot meet its needs because they are not yet known. The effects of taxation cannot be assessed on structures which, as yet, have not been developed. There is need for further discussion by both sides of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. We do not want the sort of discussion that was suggested recently when one week before major talks were to be held in Canberra the Chief Secretary sent a letter to the Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly saying: ‘If you have any ideas you would like me to take to Canberra, let me have them by tomorrow’.
We want frank, free and open discussion. Let us be, to use the colloquialism, dinkum if we are to have discussions. We need more discussion by the Territory Executive and its advisers. We need more discussion by the Territory Public Service to look at what is going on in the rest of the world and devise techniques for the establishment of a good, sound Public Service. We certainly need discussion with the people of the Northern Territory. This discussion needs to be not on narrow lines but on matters like the economic infrastructure, including the shape of statutory authorities. There needs to be discussion on the method of Federal Government intervention. The responsibility of the Federal Government for Northern Territory functions needs to be made clear. We want to make clear the national aspect of Darwin and the Northern Territory and we want to clarify through discussion the role of the Northern Territory in the future. I seek support for the amendment.
– The Senate is debating the Territory Authorities (Financial Provisions) Bill 1978. I support the amendment moved by my colleague, Senator Robertson. I think there is obviously a need to clarify what this legislation is about and a need to clarify the nature of the reservations expressed by the Opposition in the amendment moved by Senator Robertson. Senator Knight, who spoke earlier in this debate, suggested that the Opposition was misled as to the nature of the legislation. He certainly represented our reservations in a very misleading way. There is no question that we in the Opposition accept the principle that public authorities should be liable to taxation. As Senator Knight pointed out, in 1974 the Canberra Commercial Development Authority was set up by the Labor Government and the principle that this Authority would eventually be subject to Commonwealth tax was known, recognised and understood at that time. That principle is not in dispute and it is not the cause of our reservations about the legislation. The Minister for the Capital Territory (Mr Ellicott) has seen fit to put out a Press release clarifying the nature of the legislation. I suppose I can do no better than to quote it because the nature of the legislation is stated very clearly. He said:
The Bill would, amongst other things:
Make the Canberra Commercial Development Authority, the Canberra Showground Trust and . the Poker Machine Licensing Board subject to the taxation laws of the Commonwealth;
Revoke the Canberra Commercial Development Authority’s exemptions from income and sales taxes.
Mr Ellicott said however it was important to realise that the Income Tax Assessment Act provides for the exemption from taxation of the revenue to a public authority constituted under any Commonwealth or State Act or under any law in force in a Territory. The Poker Machine Licensing Board and the Canberra Showground Trust would continue to be exempt from income tax notwithstanding the enactment of the Bill in its present form. The Office of the Commissioner for Taxation had confirmed this. .
The Bill in its present form would not change the current status of the Poker Machine Licensing Board or the Canberra Showground Trust with respect to liability for sales tax.
Mr Ellicott said the position of the Canberra Commercial Development Authority with respect to income tax and sales tax would be altered.
The Opposition is quite clear that that is the purpose of the legislation. It is also quite clear that it endorses the principle -
- Mr Fry does. He said so specifically.
- Senator Knight is seeking to interject and score points from my colleague in another place. There is no lack of clarity in the position of the Opposition and I should like to go on to explain our reservations. Our reservations relate to the timing of the introduction of the Bill, the timing of the revocation of the exemption. It is clear from the statement the Minister has just made publicly and from which I have just quoted that it is proper and legal for a commercial development authority to have an exemption from income tax. It is proper for that to happen and up until now the Canberra Commercial Development Authority has had such an exemption. The purpose of this Bill is to revoke that exemption.
The Opposition is saying in very clear terms that it is not opposed to that happening but it is opposed to it happening at the present time. We are opposed to it happening at the present time because of the complete chaos in which the Australian Capital Territory finds itself with regard to financial arrangements, the devolution of powers from the Federal Parliament to the Legislative Assembly, and so forth. Senator
Knight will be as aware, as I or any person in the Australian Capital Territory of that state of complete chaos. The Opposition is saying that the provisions in this Bill affecting the liability of the Canberra Commercial Development Authority for income tax and sales tax should be postponed until such time as proper financial arrangements are worked out for the Australian Capital Territory. That is the content of the amendment Senator Robertson has just moved and that is the case that I shall now argue.
It seems to the Opposition that the Federal Government is treating the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory with absolute contempt. The Territory has been subjected to a number of extraordinarily harsh policies with respect to employment, funding, rates charges, rents on government accommodation, and so forth, and none of those measures has come about as a result of a decision of the locally elected body. Senator Knight was anxious to point to the statements of various Labor members of the local Legislative Assembly. What he did not add was that the resolution from the Legislative Assembly condemning the introduction of the legislation at this time was a unanimous resolution. It was supported also by Liberal members of the Legislative Assembly.
– I also pointed out how much consultation there was in 1974.
- Senator Knight wishes to return to 1974 and to the question of whether or not there was consultation. At that time I was a member of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly and I recall that there was no shock or surprise at the decision of the Government to set up the Authority on the terms on which it was set up. What we are concerned about now is that the members of the Legislative Assembly have been abused by the Fraser Government in that their term of office has expired and has been extended indefinitely but no proper measures for devolution have been taken. Members of the Assembly have been working for about four years now in the interests of the community- working without proper resources, without proper payment and without any timely resolution of their difficult situation. Those people have not been consulted about the introduction of this Bill. They have unanimously condemned the Minister and the Government for failing to consult with them and I believe that the unanimity of the resolution expresses a widespread feeling within the Australian Capital Territory.
The citizens of the Territory have been pushed beyond the limits of endurance with regard to what is to happen to the Australian Capital Territory. Senator Robertson raised the question, I believe very pertinently, of where the Northern Territory fits into the Fraser Government’s federalism proposal. On several occasions in this place I have asked where the Australian Capital Territory fits into the Federal Government’s federalism policy. I have received no answer; there is still no answer. All we have is a Bill before the Senate which will impose taxation on the Commercial Development Authority.
For the benefit of those honourable senators who are not familiar with the existing circumstances of retailing in Canberra, I should like to point out that to talk of the Canberra Commercial Development Authority being in direct competition with the Woden Plaza shopping mall or with the Civic shopping centre is really quite misleading. Both of those shopping centres exist in well-developed well-established residential and work areas. As far as I can see, they are under no threat from the Belconnen Authority, which is in another valley in an area that is very short of all facilities, including major shopping facilities. The argument that we must instantly impose a taxation responsibility otherwise the Canberra Commercial Development Authority will have an unfair advantage over the other established commercial retailing bodies is quite misleading.
What the Opposition is asking for, what I have continued to ask for since I have been in this place, is a decision by the Federal Government on the future of the Australian Capital Territory. When Mr Staley was Minister for the Capital Territory, after about 1 8 months in the portfolio he finally came up with a rather lengthy draft of proposals for devolution of powers to a locally elected body. There were some very interesting proposals in that document, many of which I would agree with. However, there was a notable omission from the document, a very grave and serious omission and one which bears directly on the reservations we are expressing about the legislation before the Senate this evening. What was omitted from the proposals was the matter of specific financial arrangements. Whilst all sorts of areas were nominated where locally elected people could make decisions- education, health, public transport and so on- no suggestion was made as to who should pay for what.
Many honourable senators, and I confess even some of my own colleagues, labour under certain misapprehensions about the Australian Capital Territory and the charges that are levied on the people here. Many honourable senators are under the impression that the citizens of the Territory are advantaged by comparison with citizens in the States of Australia. The fact of the matter is that citizens of the Territory, like any other citizens, pay taxes. They pay rates, which have increased at a very rapid rate since the Fraser Government came to office. They pay the normal kinds of service charges. I think it can be argued that the citizens of the Australian Capital Territory do not get a great deal in return for what they pay. I instance my own district in the Territory, the Belconnen Valley, where I have lived for several years. The Belconnen Valley has a population of about 70,000 to 80,000 people. It has one swimming pool, no cinema and no other extensive community facilities. I would be very surprised if there were any municipality in Australia with a population of that size which did not have more community facilities. It is unfortunately the case that when honourable senators and members in another place come to Canberra and survey the attractive vista of Anzac Parade and the War Memorial- they may even visit the National Library, which is a very fine institution indeed- they form the opinion that Canberra citizens are somehow very advantaged. If they were to take the time and trouble to go into the outer suburbs, particularly the newer suburbs of Canberra, to see just what is lacking in the way of ordinary conventional community facilities they might have a different view. They might come to realise the urgency of the question of the financial arrangements for the future of the Australian Capital Territory.
Before any more time passes this situation needs to be resolved. As I have said, a number of charges have been imposed on the citizens of the Territory in the last 2h years that have not been imposed by anybody elected by the citizens but by the Minister, first Mr Staley and now Mr Ellicott. Decisions affecting wage earners and pensioners have been made with regard to rates, housing, the fees charged for drivers’ licences, and so on. Those charges have been increased rapidly because of the stated policy of the Minister to make Canberra pay its way. We do not even know what that means. We do not even know to what extent Canberra citizens pay their way and contribute to the welfare of their fellow citizens throughout Australia because no proper territorial accounting system has yet been devised and implemented.
During this period of indecision many very grave situations have developed. For example, during the last 10 years Canberra had the fastest growing work force in the country. Now, Canberra in the Australian Capital Territory- this so-called citadel of privilege- has the fastest growing unemployment rate in Australia. In December 1977 the national average increase in unemployment was 13.2 per cent. That is a scandalous increase. But in Canberra, the national capital, the increase in the unemployment rate was 1 8.7 per cent, the highest in Australia. The Commonwealth Employment Service figures for January of this year show that 7,114 persons were registered as unemployed in the Australian Capital Territory and that 46 per cent of those unemployed people were under 2 1 years of age. At the end of January this year, 7,000 people were chasing 680 jobs. That is more than seven people for each job available. There were 20 juniors chasing every one job available.
The Public Service has been subjected to harsh, irrational and, I would say, extremely damaging cutbacks by way of the staff ceilings policy. Of course, this has contributed to the massive unemployment in the Australian Capital Territory. It has led also to a massive decrease in services available to the public. For example, there is only one person dealing with the emergency housing scheme in the Australian Capital Territory. This has meant that families and individuals in need of emergency housing must wait for three weeks before they can obtain an interview, let alone a house. The emergency housing scheme is just what it says it is. It is a way of providing houses, for example, to families who have been evicted from their previous accommodation. If people are evicted, they must wait three weeks before they can even obtain an interview with the emergency housing section in the Housing Branch of the Department of the Capital Territory because of the imposition of staff ceilings.
I can cite similar cases in other areas. Before the election last year the new Woden Valley public library was opened with much fanfare and bombast. I seem to recall that it was my colleague on the other side of the Senate chamber, Senator Knight, who actually officiated at the opening ceremony of this very beautiful library in the Woden Valley. It was the first such facility to be provided for the very populous Woden Valley area. It has a population of 70,000 to 80,000 people. Under the Public Service staff ceiling policy implemented by the Government of which Senator Knight is a supporter, the Woden Valley library cannot operate a full service to the public. It is operating at half its capacity. There is complete inefficiency and failure to fulfil the undertakings given during the election campaign. Again, this is due to the staff ceilings policy.
The Kippax library in the Belconnen Valleythat area which is so lacking in public facilities which I have just described- was supposed to open before last Christmas. It is still not open. If the staff ceilings policy is still in effect when it is opened, this will mean that the Kippax library will not be able to provide proper services to the public. Another example is baby health centres in the Australian Capital Territory. Surely this is a service for which proper resources could be found by any government with a sense of responsibility. Two baby health centres in Canberraone at Holt and one at Melba- have closed because of a want of properly qualified staff. The Government has failed to ensure that adequately qualified staff are available to look after babies in our community.
The Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority also has suffered very badly from the staff ceilings policy. It was to provide a new, innovative, progressive, autonomous education system. But it is staggering along experiencing constant complaints from teachers, parents and students about inefficiency. It simply cannot perform its proper function with a skeleton staff. There are many other examples in the education area where Government cutbacks are imposing hardships on students. One of the hardships imposed on the parents of students has been the increase in school fees. At the Copeland College in the Australian Capital Territory a fee of $80 a year is charged. It is virtually a compulsory fee, despite the fact that the state education system, the government education system, is supposed to be free.
In housing, the Government is embarking on what can properly and not at all sensationally be described as a rack-renting policy to gather its revenue. Last year the Government increased the rents charged on all government houses and flats by as much as 100 per cent. At the same time, it introduced new water and sewerage rates for its tenants. This has meant a flat rate increase for all tenants of government accommodation of $18.20 a fortnight. Of course, the increase in some rents was as great as 100 per cent. I could go on to give other examples.
I want to return to the legislation before us and to explain why it is that the Opposition believes the introduction of this Bill is untimely. No proper financial arrangements are proposed for the Australian Capital Territory. Proposals regarding self-government have been circulated by the previous Minister for the Capital Territory; and by the new Minister for the Cap:tal Territory to give the people, in the Minister’s words, an opportunity to comment. But 1 think that what the people want at this stage is not so much an opportunity to comment on rather vague and indeterminate proposals but an opportunity to have a voice in the charges which are being levied upon them and an opportunity to have some say in the expenditure of moneys that are derived by way of charges equivalent to local government charges.
It is rather a scandalous state of affairs that when one of the local commercial radio stations conducted a radio poll with regard to selfgovernment in the Australian Capital Territory it found, not surprisingly given the way charges have increased in the Territory, that many residents are not enthusiastic about the proposal. It seems that the initiative of the local radio station has been the only thing to provoke the Minister to start circulating the rather stale proposals which, in fact, had been made public by his predecessor some months ago. It is not good enough to go on procrastinating, saying that the position is very difficult and that the Government does not know which powers it wants to devolve on the Legislative Assembly. People are being asked endlessly for their comments when, in fact, very succinct proposals have been made to various governments for many years. It is not good enough on the one hand to procrastinate about the devolution of powers, to use that period of procrastination and confusion to continue to levy more and more charges on the people of the Australian Capital Territory, to give them no voice in the disbursement of the money so raised and then to say as soon as the Canberra Commercial Development Authority is established the Government will tax it because, after all, that was the principle laid down in 1 974.
I repeat that the Opposition is not in argument with the proposition that the commercial Authority should be liable to taxation. We have serious reservations about the timing of the introduction of this provision. We believe that it was quite unnecessary to introduce such a provision at this stage and we believe that by introducing it at this stage the Government is engaging in another procrastination exercise about the future of the Australian Capital Territory. The situation now is very grave. I have cited the unemployment and housing figures and I have instanced the rundown in services provided to the public in order to convince the Senate that the situation in the Australian Capital Territory is a grave one. It is not one that will be solved by ad hoc measures like the imposition of a taxing responsibility on a new Authority which I suppose to date has had only a few hundred customers. If the Government is serious about accepting its responsibilities in the Australian Capital Territory it will accept our amendment to postpone its consideration of this Bill for the time being and proceed to make the very serious and urgent decisions which it should make with regard to the devolution of powers and the establishment of proper financial procedures to safeguard the future of the nation’s capital.
– I support the Territory Authorities (Financial Provisions) Bill and oppose the amendment moved by the Opposition. As has been indicated by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) in her second reading speech, this is purely a machinery Bill. It will cover certain commercial Territory authorities that prior to 1973 had not been covered by financial provisions legislation. Senator Knight has covered extremely well the situation of the Australian Capital Territory and I intend just briefly to refer to that of the Northern Territory. As one can see from the Territory Authorities (Financial Provisions) Bill, under Part I the only portion that relates to the Northern Territory is the reference to the Darwin Community College as an authority that is exempt from taxation.
The amendment proposed by the Opposition seeks to add to the motion the following words: but the Senate is of the opinion that provisions relating to taxation of statutory authorities in the Territories should be withheld pending discussions on the financial arrangements for the Territories as they move towards self-government.
As I see it, at present the Australian Capital Territory is a long way from self-government; perhaps it will never get that far. At least, it is now a considerable way from it and much water must flow under the bridge before it reaches that point. That is not the case with the Northern Territory. There have been many constitutional changes in the Northern Territory since 1947 when the Legislative Council was formed. They were the days of what was then called the 7-6 treatment, there being seven nominated members of the Assembly, and six elected from the Northern Territory. No matter what the people of the Territory felt, no matter what they asked their elected members to do within the Legislative Council, no matter how they acted, the Federal Government was in a situation in which its seven nominees could veto any action taken on behalf of the Territory. The people of the Territory suffered much under that arrangement because, whilst a part of Australia, they as yet had no say whatsoever in their own affairs. From that day onwards the situation persisted up to the time when certain moves were made, notably the elected members walking out of the
Northern Territory Legislative Council. These moves resulted in a further constitutional changethe introduction of nominated members.
From that stage forward there were three nominated non-official members. The number of elected members was increased. Even then the elected members of the Territory within the Legislative Council were outnumbered by appointees. That situation continued until gradually, step by step, the people of the Territory indicated strongly their desire to have some say in their own affairs, just as has anyone in any State of Australia. At last it was decided that the Territory should have a fully elected Legislative Assembly. This was prompted by a joint parliamentary committee formed from the two Houses of this Parliament to report on the Territory. That committee made many recommendations, which I have discussed on previous occasions. The report became the bible for further constitutional change that produced a fully elected council. Gradually, the people of the Northern Territory were beginning to have some little say in their own affairs.
They were still frustrated by the fact that they were controlled and ruled by people who were 1,000 to 2,000 miles away in the Federal sphere- the bureaucrats; the Government in Canberra. So this further constitutional change to a fully elected council occurred. The joint committee report listed various actions that would lead to a Northern Territory Executive to be formed and certain State-like responsibilities to be transferred from the Federal sphere to the Northern Territory. However, this took a little while because although the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly became a fully elected body, it was given no teeth. That was because a Federal Labor Government was in office. Although it enacted the amendment to the Northern Territory Administration Act that created a fully elected council, it did not pursue the recommendations of the joint committee, which would have transferred to the Territory more executive responsibility and allowed it more say in its own affairs. So things began to dwindle on the vine; the bough began to die back. There was then a change of Federal government and immediately the new coalition government took up the report, and pursued its recommendations. This course has been followed for some three years now. Many consultations and discussions have taken place. There have been two Legislative Assembly elections and the Party to which I belong has made its number one policy for the Northern Territory that its people, in common with everyone else in Australia, should have a say in their own affairs.
In the last 1 8 months we have reached a critical stage in the negotiations, to the point where the Territory has begun to enjoy a transfer of powers leading to what is called responsible selfgovernment. Some of those powers, I believe some 34 in number, were transferred on 1 January, but a large number are yet to be transferred. The timetable provides for this to take place on 1 July. On that date if certain things happen- I stress this- we will see completed the transfer of State-like responsibilities to the Northern Territory. Its people, for the first time since the Territory was first settled in 1 824, will be in a position similar to that of people in the States. This is responsible self-government. No matter what other people may say in an endeavour to draw a red herring across the track in criticising actions that have been taken by the Northern Territory Executive, this is not Statehood but responsible self-government. Statehood, as enjoyed by the States, is something for the future in the Northern Territory.
As one who has been involved in this situation for a considerable time I cannot, nor can any of my friends within my Party, yet look to the day when Statehood will be achieved by the Northern Territory. There is much yet to be done. What we are discussing now is responsible self-government, with the Federal Government retaining, under the Northern Territory Administration Act, certain powers. I repeat, on 1 July most of the State-like responsibilities will be transferred, but certain other powers will not. More time is required to work out the ramifications of the responsibilities involved. One cannot rush into the transference of such powers as govern health and education. Aboriginal affairs is, of course, a Commonwealth responsibility and for the present will remain such. There are in the Northern Territory, as there are in this Parliament and in Australia generally, two differing viewpoints: Federalism versus centralism. Centralism envisages one authority within Australia associated not with State Parliaments but with regional authorities responsible to it. That is centralisma Federal government responsible for the ruling of Australia and there being no other authority. Federalism is something quite different. Federalism recognises that there is a federal government, the State governments and regional responsibilities.
– You have parochial localism too.
– The honourable senator can have his say at any time he likes. I am describing the difference in policies and the reason why the majority of people in the Northern Territory wish to have federalism. Federalism will give them responsibilities and the opportunity to have a say in their own affairs.
As I have said before, much has to be done even before 1 July. The financial arrangements have to be agreed to by the Commonwealth Government and the Northern Territory Executive. Much discussion is taking place. The Majority Leader of the Northern Territory Executive, Mr Paul Everingham, has been most fair and open. He has given to the people of the Northern Territory all the information that it is within its power to give. He has indicated to them what is going on. In the last two weeks he has tabled a document in the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly indicating the discussions which have taken place between the Federal Government and the Northern Territory Executive. Honourable senators may recall that in the last two weeks I have addressed questions in this place to the Minister representing the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs, Senator Carrick. The statements that Senator Carrick has made clearly indicate what the financial arrangements for the Northern Territory will be under the Government’s federalism policy. Yet there are people who wish to decry those arrangements. They endeavour to draw a red herring across the trail. They speak of double taxation and immense taxation and taxation increases. We know that, under federalism, the Northern Territory will be treated as a minor State by the Commonwealth Grants Commission. Within the framework of that Commission it will be given special consideration, so that it will be brought up to a standard comparable with the larger States of Australia. I refer to Victoria and New South Wales.
Despite this fact, much is being said within the Territory by the Opposition to put false ideas into the people’s minds. Some are saying that the new financial arrangements will cost people in the Northern Territory more money. This is absolute rubbish. It may cost people more in some cases. For instance, stamp duty in the Northern Territory presently costs one cent. After the transfer of powers, this could possibly rise to five cents. I do not think that would cause much hardship to any business or any citizen in the Northern Territory. The Majority Leader of the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly has said that he will not agree to any financial arrangement that will not be of benefit to the
Northern Territory. He will not agree to any financial arrangement unless the Commonwealth Grants Commission participates. The work of the Commonweatlh Grants Commission is to assess the requirements of the States and to make recommendations to the Federal Government to support with more finance those States which are under par with others. I do not need to go into a comparison of the States to show where some of the minor States have over the years received special financial assistance.
The Federal Government has promised that this assistance will be given to the Northern Territory. Nevertheless, the Majority Leader has said that, until the proper financial arrangements have been agreed to by the Commonwealth and the Northern Territory, the Northern Territory Executive will not sign any agreement unless it is beneficial to and protects the people of the Northern Territory. Perhaps some people are being swayed by the arguments of the Opposition. They fear the possible effects on their hip pockets. They fear double taxation. I draw their attention to the fact that the Minister representing the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs has given the lie to the statements that have been made by the Opposition.
– Tell that to local government in New South Wales.
– I suggest that the honourable senator should scrutinise the payments made to local government under the new tax sharing arrangements in the last two years. Perhaps then he would not make the comment he has just made. I do not support the amendment moved by the Opposition that provisions relating to taxation of statutory authorities in the Territories should be withheld pending discussions on the financial arrangements for the Territories as they move towards selfgovernment. It is not the role of honourable senators to move such an amendment. The financial arrangements for the Northern Territory are in the good hands of the Northern Territory Executive. For that reason, I support the Bill and I do not support the amendment.
– I thank honourable senators for their contributions to this debate. It would appear that the comments made by the Opposition in this place are not the same as those made in another House while this Bill was being debated. I think it could be said that all honourable senators generally agree with the basis of the Bill. Perhaps the only argument left is whether sufficient time has been given for those people interested basically in the Canberra community to discuss these arrangements.
With the exception of the Canberra Commercial Development Authority, this Bill does nothing more than regularise the present position of statutory authorities. For example, concern may be expressed that the Canberra Showground Trust and the Poker Machine Licensing Board of the Capital Territory are listed in the Schedule of the Bill as being liable to taxation under the laws of the Commonwealth. Clause 9 ( 1 ) of the Bill makes it clear that the authorities concerned are to be considered for liability under each Commonwealth taxation law without the shield of the Crown. Accordingly, they will be liable to Commonwealth taxation unless exempted by specific provisions of particular taxation laws. Thus, the Canberra Showground Trust and the Poker Machine Licensing Board of the Capital Territory will continue to be exempted from income tax under the exemption for public authorities in income tax legislation. The Canberra Showground Trust will be exempted under the sales tax legislation because of the very nature of its functions.
The Bill makes the Canberra Commercial Development Authority specifically liable to income tax and sales tax. As pointed out by the Minister in his second reading speech in another place, the chairman of the Authority was advised in 1974 by the Labor Government of that day and subsequently that it was intended that the Authority should be so liable. This Government’s view is that it should be placed on the same basis as similar private sector bodies with which it competes. The Authority is to be made subject to income tax retrospectively from the date of its establishment so that it may benefit from the offsetting of any trading losses incurred in its early years against the future taxable income in the same way as a private developer.
The Authority itself is agreeable to this arrangement and undoubtedly that is to its advantage. There would be administrative difficulties in attempting to impose sales tax on past transactions, so the authority’s liability for sales tax will commence with the commencement of this measure. Since the Authority is already trading it is important that these provisions take effect as soon as possible. They can take effect without prejudice to the financial arrangements that may be made for the Territories as they approach self-government. The Government believes that there has been ample time for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory Legislative Assemblies to examine the Bill. It is in exactly the same terms as the Bill introduced into another place last October.
As I have said, Mr President, the Bill will make the Canberra Commercial Development Authority subject to Commonwealth taxation including sales tax and income tax. It is interesting to note that the following Commonwealth authorities are already subject to taxation on this basis: The Australian Industry Development Corporation, Australian International Airlines Commission or TAA, Australian Shipping Commission or ANL, Commonwealth Serum Laboratories Commission, Commonwealth Trading Bank, Housing Loans Insurance Corporation, Overseas Telecommunications Commission, and the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation. Mr President, the Government does not agree with the amendment moved by the Opposition. I commend the Bill to the House.
That the amendment (Senator Robertson’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I want to make one point and that is to welcome the statement by Senator Ryan who conceded that the Labor Party does not oppose the taxing of the Canberra Commercial Development Authority but that it is a question of the timing of this legislation. I welcome the statement that the Opposition does see the necessity and the appropriateness of the taxation provisions included in this legislation. It is important that that be made clear because in another place the honourable member for Fraser (Mr Fry), on 7 March, said: ‘. . . this enterprise should not pay tax’. I think it is important to note that it has been made clear by Senator Ryan that the Labor Party does not oppose that particular provision in the legislation but that it is a question of timing. On that aspect, I only say that–
– I rise to a point of order. I want to know to what clause the honourable senator is speaking. He seems to be referring to a discussion that took place during the debate on the second reading of the Bill. That is not the purpose of the Committee stage. Its purpose is to seek clarification of particular clauses.
– I am dealing with clause 9 which refers to the Canberra Commercial Development Authority and the taxation provisions relevant to it. I want to conclude by emphasising what I was in the process of saying: Senator Ryan said that as a member of the advisory council in 1 974 it was no surprise to her when this decision was made in respect to the Canberra Commercial Development Authority. What I cannot understand is why it should be a surprise now and why this Bill should be seen as a matter of ‘indecent haste’, to use the words that were used by the Labor shadow Minister for the Capital Territory. I would simply like to emphasise again that it is important to note that this statement on the issue of taxation provisions has been made by the Labor Party. We should all be grateful to Senator Ryan for having made the position clear.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Webster) read a third time.
Debate resumed from 9 March on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-The Labor Party supports this Bill which is designed to provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of certain polyester-cotton yarn. I think it is important at this stage to indicate- as the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs (Mr Fife) indicated in his second reading speech- that this Bill emanates from advice following an inquiry by the Industries Assistance Commission. The relevant report is report No. 138 of 19 July 1977 which deals with certain spun yarns and wool textiles and other goods. The second reading speech states: . . it has been decided to accord assistance by way of a bounty scheme providing for payment to Australian manufacturers of a bounty of Si. 15 per kilogram on yarn consisting of a mixture of polyester and cotton fibres, in which the polyester fibres are not less than SO per cent by weight, being single-fold combed yarn not coarser than 20 tex with at least one ply of 10 tex or coarser.
The Opposition welcomes this Bill because it will provide, as indicated, at least short term assistance to a section of Australian industry experiencing some disadvantage from imports of this commodity.
I think it is important that I should bring to the notice of the Senate the fact that this report emanates from a reference forwarded to the IAC by the Minister. The document presented is entitled: Industries Assistance Commission Report- Certain Spun Yarns and Wool Textiles and Other Goods’. It clearly indicates that this reference was given to the IAC in accordance with the appropriate section- section 23 of the Industries Assistance Commission Act 1973- on 5 May and 24 May. According to my calculation, approximately ten months have passed since then and the Bill is now being debated in the Senate. It took only two months for the IAC to present its report. I think the Commission is entitled to be complimented on the expeditious manner in which it completed its inquiry and presented its report and recommendations to the Minister. However, I repeat that about ten months have passed since this reference was given to the IAC. Eight months elapsed between the presentation of the report and the preparation of the legislation. As I understand the situation, five months will elapse between the introduction of the Bill and the date it will come into operation. Clause 2 of the Bill, which refers to the commencement of the payment of the bounty, states:
This Act shall be deemed to have come into operation on 1 October 1977.
The difference between the date of the proposed operation of the bounty and the debate this evening is approximately five months. I emphasise that point because there are clauses of the Bill with which we do not agree. Whilst we are supporting the Bill, for obvious reasons, we are concerned about a number of anomalies. We trust that the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), who is responsible for the Bill in this place, will be courteous enough to answer questions raised- I am sure he will- because a number of matters concern us. At page 20 of the IAC’s report it states:
There are two local producers with the equipment necessary to produce fine count combed yarns of cotton or polyester/cotton, namely Bradmill and Bond’s Spinning. Bradmill ‘s capacity in this field is restricted to one of its mills only, at Kotara, NSW. Bond ‘s Spinning stated that the company could not produce polyester/cotton yarn without modifying its plant layout and air conditioning system.
When the Minister is responding to this debate I ask him to indicate whether this means, in effect, that there is only one manufacturer currently producing this product which attracts the bounty. I ask that question because I will be referring in due course to clauses of the Bill which enable the Minister to exclude persons. Clause 12 (5) states:
Where an applicant under this section was not, on 1 October 1977, engaged in the spinning of bountiable yarn at the premises to which the application relates -
This refers to registration of premises- the Minister shall refuse to register those premises unless, in the opinion of the Minister, the registration of those premises will promote the orderly development of the production of bountiable yarn in Australia.
I refer again to the IAC report. The comments on page 20 seem to indicate that at this stage there is only one manufacturer producing the product which will attract the bounty. We find it difficult to understand why the Minister would be charged with power to refuse an application for registration for the bounty from a company which complied with the conditions for the bounty other than that it was not ‘engaged in the spinning of bountiable yarn at the premises to which the application relates’, and was not so engaged on 1 October 1 977. That certainly does appear to be an anomaly. On page 22 of the report the Commission gives its reasons for its recommendations. It states:
The Commission considers that a more suitable form of short term assistance pending consideration of the long term issues involved would be to provide a bountry at a rate broadly equivalent to the local producer’s price disability per kilogram.
I repeat: We believe that is commendable. The report continues:
Assistance in this form would meet the present needs of the industry more quickly and would limit the level of assistance to the volume of production it could reasonably be expected to achieve. It would also avoid the high costs to users and consumers associated with the use of tariff quotas or an additional duty on imported yarns.
That reasoning of the Commission in its recommendations to the Minister appears to us to indicate that the recommendations are designed to meet the present needs of the industry more quickly than some other technique which might otherwise be imposed. The Commission went on to state in its report:
The Commission will recommend - of course, it has recommended- that a bounty be payable on the production of single fold combed, fine count (20 tex or finer) polyester/cotton yarn of a kind which if imported would be classifiable to item 56.05.9.
That simply describes the particular product which will be bountiable. The report continues:
It is proposed that the bounty be payable at the rate of $1.15 per kilogram on yarn produced on or after the announcement by the Government of its acceptance of these recommendations, but that the annual amount payable be limited to $600,000. The bounty should continue to apply until a decision is made on the Commission ‘s recommendations on long term assistance to the industry.
I understand that that decision is likely to be made within the next 12 months. Even that recommendation raises questions in our minds. The Bill states that it is designed to do the following:
To provide for the payment of a bounty on the production of certain polyester-cotton yarn.
Clause 7 of the Bill states:
The rate at which bounty is payable in respect of bountiable yarn is $ 1 . 1 5 per kilogram of the weight of the yarn.
One could be forgiven for believing that in fact $1.15 per kilogram would be the bounty payment. But the recommendation of the Commission has two parts. It refers firstly to ‘yarn produced on or after the announcement by the Government of its acceptance of these recommendations’. I presume that that would refer to the date of implementation of this legislation. The recommendation states secondly that ‘that annual amount payable be limited to $600,000’. In my view, the Government could act on the recommendation in two ways. It could make provision for a payment at a rate of less than $1.15 per kilogram or it could exclude manufacturers of this bountiable product from an entitlement to that bounty. The report continues on page 23:
The bounty is intended to allow the local industry in the short term to compete on reasonable terms with imports of combed fine count polyester/cotton yarn and should result in improved levels of activity and employment.
The reference to ‘improved levels of activity’ and employment’ are commendable. It would appear that that would accord with provisions of the Bill to amend the Industries Assistance Commission Act 1973, which passed through the Parliament last week and received royal assent this week. I refer specifically to clause 8 of that Bill, which amended section 22 of the principal Act by providing the Commission with guidelines indicating that it should have regard to increased opportunities for employment and investment. This statement by the Industries Assistance Commission in its report seems to be consistent with that philosophy. However, that paragraph from the Commission’s report which I just quoted has limitations. The Government may provide for a lesser amount than $1.15 per kilogram to be payable and have application only to those producers of this bountiable commodity on or after the announcement by the Government of its acceptance of the IAC recommendations. It is difficult to believe that the suggested improved levels of activity and employment would be possible under those circumstances. It is true that I cannot claim to have the expertise of a constitutional lawyer, although I did spend many years on the bench as a cabinet maker. Section 51 (iii) of Part V of the Constitution refers to:
Bounties on the production or export of goods, but so that such bounties shall be uniform throughout the Commonwealth:
Among other things that describes the powers of this national Parliament. I find it difficult to believe that the Bounty (Polyester-Cotton Yarn) Bill accords with the intention and the principles contained in that section of the Constitution.
– What might the words uniform throughout the Commonwealth’ mean?
-That is the point I raise. It seems to me that a bounty in many respects is not dissimilar to a subsidy- for example, the superphosphate subsidy. I understand that I do not even have to prove that I am a primary producer to gain the advantage of the superphosphate bounty; I can do that simply by purchasing superphosphate.
– What for?
– For whatever purpose I might wish. I might happen to be a market gardener in the domestic sense. But quite seriously, the point I am making is this: To derive the advantage of the superphosphate bounty one does not have to prove that one is a primary producer. In the Bill first of all one has to prove that one is a producer of this particular bountiable yarn, but one can be excluded from the payment of the bounty by a decision of the Ministeraccording to the way in which the Bill is framed- or, alternatively, even if one is accepted as a manufacturer of a bountiable product in accordance with the description of this Bill one might receive an amount less than the amount prescribed in clause 7 of the Bill. That clause states:
The rate at which bounty is payable in respect of bountiable yarn is $ 1 . 1 5 per kilogram of the weight of the yarn.
These are some of the questions and the anomalies which we believe invite- in fact, demand- clarification by the Minister. I repeat that I am sure he will pay us that courtesy. Clause 4 of the Bill prescribes the period to which the legislation applies. It states:
For the purposes of this Act, each of the following periods is a period to which this Act applies:
the period of 12 months commencing on 1 October 1977;
the period of 12 months commencing on 1 October 1978; and
the period of 1 1 months commencing on 1 October 1979.
Off-shore Fishing- Commonwealth Day
– Order! It being 1 1 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I apologise to honourable senators for delaying them tonight but I believe I must make reference to two newspaper reports which I have read recently. The first report appeared on the front page of the Australian Financial Review of Friday, 3 March 1978. It was headed:
Russia’s $ 100m a year trade deal.
At a cursory glance it would appear from the report that there was a Russian proposal for fishing our off-shore waters to establish an industry worth $100m per annum. The front page refers to a submission to the Minister for Primary Industry (Mr Sinclair). It mentions Russian research and technology and states that the Russian state fishing organisation V/O Sovrybflot has a 45 per cent interest in the venture. One would think that if it had a 45 per cent interest in the venture then 55 per cent would be available for Australians. The front page article then flies a few general kites about our off-shore fishing zones and trade with Japan, and it refers to the sale of beef to Russia last year. That reference caused great concern to many of our fishermen.
I am particularly concerned about our fishermen in south-eastern waters. Investigations in those waters off Portland indicate large fishing resources. Local fishermen there have heard all sons of rumours. In particular they have heard rumours about trade-offs of fish for beef. They have also heard stories of Russian fishing fleets scavenging whole areas in northern waters. This kind of story on the front page of the Australian Financial Review certainly does not help to allay their fears. When I turned inside the newspaper for continuation of the story I immediately came across the name of Mr Bruce Fasham described as a director of Commercial Bureau. As I read further it became clear that I was reading a Press release by Mr Fasham. Further analysis indicated that the trade deal was only a proposal to the Minister for Primary Industry. My suspicions were aroused when I realised that the Press release must have been made at or about the same time as Mr Fasham made his submission to the Government.
The Press statement and presumably the submission alleged that V/O Sovrybflot had a 45 per cent interest in the venture. But the proposal was not being made on behalf of the Russians. It was being made for a Victorian company named Commercial Bureau (Australia) Pty Ltd. The proposal was that another company be formed in which the Russians would be given a 45 per cent interest and Australian fishermen would be offered some shares in yet another company which is already in existence and which would be given a 27 per cent interest, leaving Mr Fasham ‘s company with a 28 per cent interest in a $100m annual project. It seemed to me that Commercial Bureau (Australia) Pty Ltd warranted some further investigation. I organised a search of that company at the Victorian Companies Office. That search disclosed that the company, Commercial Bureau (Australia) Pty Ltd, was incorporated on 21 January 1976; that is about 26 months ago. It has an issued capital of only $2.
As a lawyer I know that when most companies are incorporated their share capital is only $2. But usually, some short time after incorporation, their issued capital is increased. After two years the capital of this company is still only $2. In fact, its nominal capital is $ 10,000 so the most it could issue at the present moment would be $10,000. One $ 1 share has been issued to a Mr Laurence Matheson, a company director of Moscow. My information is that Mr Matheson is an Australian, formerly in the Royal Australian Navy, formerly with the Australian Trade Commissioner Service and apparently now a company director in Moscow. The other share has been issued to a Mr Michael Salvaris who is apparently a surgeon in Carlton, Victoria. The three directors are named as Mr Matheson; Christine Eve Matheson, also of Moscow, and as her occupation is home duties I assume she is Mr Matheson ‘s wife; and Mr Michael Salvaris. Mr Bruce Thomas Fasham is not named as a director but he is named as the general manager of the company.
This $2 company is putting to our Government a deal worth $100m a year which would give it an annual income of $560,000. That is not bad for starters. The second newspaper report which attracted my attention was in the Melbourne Herald of 14 March, that is yesterday. In that report Mr Fasham had another go with his high pressure tactics. The Melbourne Herald reported him as accusing Australians of having an immature attitude to the Soviet Union and suggesting that his deal was very attractive to Australians. I have no doubt that Mr Farsham thinks his deal is attractive but the fishermen at Portland disagree with him. To accept Mr Fasham ‘s proposals without full and careful study and a comparison with the many alternative Australian proposals to develop this resource, in my view would be unsound. If we want to do a deal with a foreign country, let us do it direct. In the last week or so there have been many questions and answers and the Minister has made a statement. He has written to me in reply to one of my questions. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a copy of the Minister’s reply.
The letter read as follows-
MINISTER FOR PRIMARY INDUSTRY
10 Mar 1978
Dear Senator Lewis,
Senator Webster has referred to me your question of 7 March (Hansard page 359) concerning a feasibility fishing proposal submitted by a new joint venture company, Sovaust Fisheries Pty. Ltd.
This is one of a number of proposals I have received since my media release of 1 9 January advising that the Australian Fisheries Council (comprising Commonwealth and State fisheries ministers) has agreed guidelines for feasibility fishing involving foreign interests in Australian waters. The thrust of the guidelines is to enable short term arrangements involving foreign vessels to assist in determining the extent and economic feasibility of fishing relatively unknown offshore fisheries resources. Such operations, if approved, would not conflict with existing Australian fisheries or be permitted in fisheries where Australians have a clearly defined interest.
Consideration of any fisheries project involving foreigners would take into account our overall relationships with the country concerned. Specific trade off proposals along the lines you suggest are not contemplated, particularly where they could affect individual primary producers in an unrelated industry.
Yours sincerely, IAN SINCLAIR
– The Government very properly takes the view that the long-term interests of Australia, Australian fishermen and Australian supporting industry must be the first consideration. The Minister has made it clear that there will not be specific trade-off proposals such as fish for beef. I trust that the Government will not be stampeded by tactics of the type adopted by Mr Fasham with his present proposal.
– Honourable senators will recall that yesterday we referred to Commonwealth Day and that a number of resolutions and statements were put down. Today I received from Datuk Musa Hitam, the Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, a Commonwealth Day message for 1 3 March 1978. It is a short message of four paragraphs. I seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
TO ALL BRANCHES OF THE COMMONWEALTH PARLIAMENTARY ASSOCIATION
Commonwealth Day Message 13 March 1978
As the nations of the world struggle to reach their aspirations for the benefit of their peoples, Commonwealth Day stands as a symbol of the realities of mutual interdependence and the possibilities of international co-operation.
The Commonwealth, this free association of nations, is a unique forum for the development of understanding between countries, representing a wealth of mankind ‘s cultural diversity throughout the continents of the world.
Against a background of the shared needs of man, the opportunity which the Commonwealth can supply for the exchange of knowledge, ideas and personnel requires the practical co-operation of each member nation in order to reap the maximum benefit.
It is my hope that through the efforts of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the existing channels of communication between representatives of the peoples as parliamentarians can be maintained and expanded, that through the further development of opportunities for exchange programs in the Commonwealth will come a clearer understanding of the methods of achieving a life of freedom, dignity and material sufficiency for all our people.
Datuk Musa Hitam
Chairman Executive Committee
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association
- Mr President, could I direct a couple of questions to Senator Lewis? Some members of the Opposition are interested in the matter which he raised tonight. In fact, some of us were pursuing a course similar to the one he has undertaken. He has reached the point of having information which, if we could have it, would save us a deal of trouble. If he has any other information or any other documents to which he has spoken tonight, perhaps he would be kind enough to either table them or have them incorporated in Hansard. I suggest that he could table them as he has completed his remarks. I know that the procedures of the Senate allow me to move that the honourable senator table any documents to which he referred. Perhaps I can deal with the matter in this way. Therefore I formally seek the permission of the Senate to have tabled any papers to which the honourable senator referred, if he has any such papers. Of course, if the honourable senator does not have any papers we will have to seek information elsewhere.
– I think it only appropriate whether in response to Senator Georges, who has raised the matter of the tabling of documents, or whether by way of a point of order -
– A point of order was not raised. Senator Georges made an inquiry. I ask Senator Lewis whether he has anything to table?
– No, there is nothing.
-That matter having been dealt with, I believe Senator Lewis has raised a matter which illustrates the importance of the adjournment debate. Undoubtedly the Government and the Opposition congratulate Senate Lewis for the research he has undertaken on this matter. The honourable senator’s interest in the fishermen of the southern waters, particularly those who work out of Portland, is well known. It is of great importance to Australia that someone should bring to the notice of the public through the media the existence of a company that perhaps could be seen to have the respect of another country but which would not necessarily bring credit to Australia. It is very important that a matter such as that raised by Senator Lewis is brought to the attention of the Parliament. Indeed how it has raised the interest of the Opposition can be seen.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.12 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
Was a ticket obtained in November or December 1975 from TAA or Qantas for overseas travel by Mr Wiley Fancher; if so, who paid for the ticket and for what ports of call was the ticket issued.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Trans Australian Airlines as an agent for Qantas issued, in December 1975, a ticket for overseas travel by Mr Wiley Fancher. The ports of call endorsed on the ticket were Sydney and San Francisco.
Mr Fancher paid for his ticket by personal cheque which was later cleared through a local bank.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (l)No.
Northcliffe Lodge Hostel for the Aged (Question No. 122)
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 1 March, 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I am informed that the following admission and selection criteria are applied by the Northcliffe Lodge Hostel for the Aged, which is sponsored by the City of Chelsea:
applicants are preferred from the Chelsea area or from persons who have relatives living in the area.
Sales Tax on Compost Bins (Question No. 128)
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
Will the Treasurer consider lowering the present 1 5 per cent rate of sales tax on compost bins which convert waste into useful garden material without any environmental pollution, in view of the fact that plastic garbage cans and incinerators attract only21/2 per cent sales tax and tend to create pollution.
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Arrangements have been made for this matter to be considered, in accordance with longstanding practice, in the context of the 1 978-79 Budget preparations.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Air traffic control at Proserpine is being carried out currently from a mobile control tower which is specially designed for use at locations where no control tower exists and there is a need to provide control services at short notice. It is air-conditioned and suitable for two-man operation. The equipment includes Very High Frequency ( VHF) radio communication channels, telephones and inter-unit coordination facilities. At Proserpine, mains electric power is connected to the carefully selected site of the mobile control tower, which is in the middle of the aerodrome and raised some two metres to provide better vision for the controller.
Whilst this facility is not desirable for use over a long term, it is adequate for the provision of safe control of air traffic for the limited periods involved at Proserpine.
Radar facilities are not provided nor can it be justified economically to install such expensive equipment. There are many locations in Australia where air traffic control is carried out without the assistance of radar.
asked the Minister for Science, upon notice, on 2 March 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 2 March 1978:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
1 ) Under a Memorandum of Arrangements between the National Coal Board (United Kingdom) and the Department of National Resources (now National Development), the parties indicated their intention to institute exchanges of technical information and to pursue the possibility of cooperative work on selected topics in the field of coal research including coal mining and coal utilisation. Fields of special interest at present envisaged include the following:
Cricket: Bodyline Bowling (Question No. 179)
asked the Minister for Science, on notice, on 7 March 1978.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Sport: Use of Mouthguards
-On 22 February 1978 (Hansard, page 26) Senator Messner addressed a question without notice to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Senator Messner suggested, inter alia, that the use by children of mouthguards in sport could be encouraged by allowing their cost as rebatable expenditure for income tax purposes. In her response, Senator Guilfoyle indicated that she would refer this aspect of the question to the Treasurer, who has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I appreciate the honourable senator’s concern in this matter but have some doubts whether the taxation concession he envisages would be the most effective approach. The benefits of any income tax rebate would not of course be available until after the end of the income year in which the equipment was purchased. Moreover, any taxation concession is no more than an incentive; it could not guarantee that mouthguards would be worn. If the wearing of them is regarded as imperative, the surest way of achieving that would be for the bodies that organise sporting activities of a kind that could lead to tooth damage to insist on the wearing of mouthguards
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 March 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780315_senate_31_s76/>.