31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned respectfully ask:
That the Government ensures Item 6469 is not removed from the standard Medical Benefits Table, as this item under which an estimated 49,145 contributors claimed in the 1976-77 financial year, covers a legal and medically approved procedure, and the removal of this item from the schedule would destroy the concept of universal health insurance, and would have the most serious repercussions for women and their health.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Peter Baume.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectively sheweth:
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled will take immediate action to provide sufficient funds for the States to finance the setting up and maintenance throughout Australia of:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Button.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members and ex-members of the Citizen Forces of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray
Your honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive and historic Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Citizen Military Force (Army Reserve ) and Citizen Air Force. by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. Is the Australian Government paying unemployment benefits to Aboriginals on reserves in the Northern Territory? Has there been any time since January 1976 when such benefits were not paid? Are Aboriginals legally entitled to unemployment benefits?
– The Department pays unemployment benefits to people in the Australian community who satisfy the terms of eligibility, that is, that they are available for work, are seeking work, and accept offers of work. In some areas of Australia there are schemes whereby amounts equivalent to what would be unemployment benefits are paid to the Aboriginal communities and payment is made to individual Aborigines for work done. A limited number of these schemes are in operation. As regards unemployment benefits in general, Aborigines are eligible for them. With regard to the cessation of payments, I will have the matter investigated to see whether there has been any specific instance in which payment has not been made.
– I address a question to the Minister for Administrative Services. I refer to the report of the Royal Commission into Human Relationships which was tabled recently in this Parliament. The Minister will be aware that the Commission was appointed following debate in the Parliament and that its report was the product of considerable representations from a wide cross-section of community opinion covering numerous issues of public importance. I ask: What action does the Government propose to ensure that there is a full and proper parliamentary debate on the detailed recommendations of this most significant report? Further, what consideration has the Government given to implementing some or all of the recommendations of the report?
-As the honourable senator would know, in answer to a question in the other place the Prime Minister said:
The report has been published. I would expect considerable community debate on it. I have no doubt that at an appropriate time it would be proper and necessary for a significant debate on the report to be held in this Parliament. The Government would want to be in a position of being able to assess the totality of community views and other views which would be put to it before coming to a firm decision on specific aspects of the report.
At the moment I am unable to add to the answer which the Prime Minister has already given. If I can obtain further information for the honourable senator I shall see that it is forwarded to him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. Is it a fact, as reported, that her Department was made aware of the possibility of large scale fraud in invalid and sickness benefit payments by reports from the community involved? Is it a fact that all the cases involved mental illness and that the number of invalid pensions paid overseas to the country involved is proportionately much higher than the numbers paid to other countries? If so, is a continuous check made of such payments to detect unusual concentrations of illnesses or ethnic groups receiving payments, or in geographical distribution of payments, to detect earlier the possibility of such frauds?
– The first question, which related to the way in which my Department became aware of the problem which has been investigated by Commonwealth Police, is probably broadly accurate. I think that information with regard to irregularities came to the Department from a number of sources. Some of these sources were members of the community involved who were themselves concerned at abuses that may be taking place under the Social Services Act. The cases which have been investigated broadly come within the category of mental illness. The charges which have been laid relate to certificates of medical evidence which have been given by psychiatrists and a psychologist. The honourable senator referred to the proportion of mental illness or other categories of illness in the cases which are being investigated as related to other countries. I am unable to state whether they are disproportionate in those terms. Considerable numbers of payments are made under the Social Services Act involving the portability of pensions to a number of countries.
It is a requirement of the Department to check eligibility and to streamline continually procedures in a way that minimises any abuses of the Act. As a result of the protracted investigations which the Commonwealth Police have been undertaking with the officers of my Department we are making continual checks to see that any abuses are minimised. The investigations are continuing. It is possible that further information will be available with regard to other abuses of the Act but at this stage much of what has been published relates to a particular investigation which has been taking place over a number of months.
– I ask a supplementary question. I believe that the Minister misheard something I said. I asked whether the numbers of invalid pensions paid to the country involved were proportionately much higher than the numbers paid to other countries where portable pensions are paid.
– I am sorry that I omitted to answer that question. I shall have an investigation made of the comparative figures and make them available publicly to show the number of invalid pensions being paid to countries overseas under the arrangements for portability of pensions.
– I draw to the attention of the Minister for Social Security a report in yesterday’s Adelaide News that when the chief of the investigation squad which led the weekend raids in connection with the social security and Medibank swindle was asked whether any other ethnic communities had been investigated in relation to the massive fraud he replied:
No, this is entirely connected with the Greek community.
I ask the Minister: Is it intended to continue and to broaden the investigations to see whether any Australians or other ethnic communities have also been cheating, or is the inquiry to be purely into the Greek community and in particular the Greek community in Sydney?
– The police officer who was questioned on this matter did make the statement that members of a particular community were involved. He made that statement because his investigations, which were the subject of the interview, concerned a scheme whereby abuses such as those that have been alleged could occur under the Act. His statement that one ethnic community was involved in this matter related to that investigation. We believe it to be a fact that the abuse which was being investigated did relate to one community group.
The honourable senator asks whether other groups and Australians are involved. Any investigations would be pursued to throw light on any abuse which could be detected in the way that this scheme has been shown to have been perpetrated against the Act. Officers of the Department are continually checking on procedures to determine eligibility. In those cases where medical evidence is the basis of determining eligibility, the Commonwealth Department of Health medical officers also give assistance. I can assure Senator Young that no particular ethnic group in the community has been singled out for investigation, but rather that a scheme which had been devised involved members of one community group in abuses under the Act.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security: Is it a fact that applicants for invalid pensions must be examined by a medical officer employed by the Department of Health? In view of the current prosecutions in Sydney, is the Minister satisfied that all such examinations have been satisfactorily conducted in that city in recent years?
– All applicants for the invalid pension and for sickness benefit of long duration are examined on referral by the Department of Social Security, either by a Commonwealth Department of Health medical officer or, in country and outer metropolitan areas, by a local physician who has been appointed to carry out that function on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Health. The use of other physicians has become necessary because the Commonwealth Department of Health has insufficient medical staff in its divisional offices to cover adequately those outer areas and remote regions. It must be stressed that the Commonwealth medical officer functions in these cases as a medical referee who makes a decision largely on the documentation provided by the medical practitioners, including specialists, who have treated the patient. The Commonwealth medical officer usually sees the patient on one occasion. The illness or disability very often has been of long duration. Therefore, the Commonwealth medical officer relies on the case history and the medical evidence provided by the doctor or the specialist who has been treating the patient.
Perhaps it would be understood that in the cases about which we have been talking the certificates which were given by practising psychiatrists who had been treating the patients for a period were accepted as medical evidence. In particular, in cases of psychiatric illness where there are no physical signs to be observed by a medical practitioner, the medical practitioner relies substantially on the case history and on the medical evidence of the specialist who has been treating the patient. As I understand it, the majority of the cases involved in the fraud which has been investigated by the Commonwealth Police fall into that category. The Commonwealth Department of Health, as I say, has had one consultation with the patient concerned. Whether the procedures that have been adopted in the past are satisfactory is a matter of review by my Department and by the Department of Health.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Education. Was the deadline for application for tertiary education assistance allowances 3 1 March last? If so, what will be the position of students whose applications were delayed by the recent mail strike?
-The arrangement under the regulations for the Tertiary Education Assistance Scheme was that the deadline for students seeking a full year payment would be 3 1 March. Those who had not made an application could make one for later periods of the year but not for the whole year. Of course, the mail strike could have seriously held up arrangements. I put out a Press statement which I will make available to the honourable senator. It ought to be available to all honourable senators. It draws attention to the fact that those who were prejudiced in their applications by the mail strike in fact would not be so prejudiced but would receive the benefit for the whole year. The effect of this is that we will look sympathetically at all applications that obviously have been committed prior to 31 March. I am happy to inform honourable senators that the processing of TEAS applications is proceeding very satisfactorily.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Social Security follows upon the question asked by Senator Grimes and the answer that she has just given to Senator Bishop. When did the Minister become aware of irregularities in the payment of sickness benefits? Has there been a review of or any change in the procedures governing the administration of sickness benefits since the Minister became aware of the possibility of large scale fraud in this area?
– I believe it was during 1976 that I was first advised of irregularities that were suspected with regard to the issue of medical certificates for invalid pensions and sickness benefits. Wherever eligibility needs to be determined procedures in the Department are as tight as it is possible to make them. As I said earlier, where reliance is placed on medical evidence it is assumed that that medical evidence is reliable. This is done in conjunction with the work of the Commonwealth Department of Health. This investigation has extended over many months with the Commonwealth Police asking for a lengthy time in which to conduct their investigations so that they would have a complete source of information and so that charges which they believed should be laid would be able to be sustained through court proceedings. This matter is now in the court and the determinations will be made in due course. I take this opportunity to have incorporated in Hansard the summary of pensions and benefits paid overseas. This summary provides information which was requested by Senator Grimes earlier regarding invalid pensions paid to people in overseas countries. The figures relate to the year ended 30 June 1977. I seek leave to have the document incorporated in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
– Does the Minister representing the Treasurer recall the Prime Minister’s promising during the 1977 election campaign that the Federal Government would abolish Federal death duties as from November 1977 with respect to succession by spouses? Is the Minister aware that in the absence of amending legislation from the Government, Federal estate duty returns still have to belodged and that this entails expensive valuations of all the properties of people who have died since November1977? Could the Minister please indicate whether the Government will continue to require people to lodge these returns pending the legislation? Alternatively, will he indicate whether the legislation will shortly be through the Parliament?
– The Treasurer, Mr Howard, on 18 January this year announced the timetable decided on by the Government to give effect to the election promise to abolish both Commonwealth estate duty and gift duty. I think that is the basis on which Senator Martin’s question rests. The Treasurer announced that the abolition would be given effect in the one piece of legislation to be brought before the Parliament during the current sittings. I understand that this legislation will be introduced very shortly. It will provide, firstly, that no estate duty will be payable by the estate of a person dying on or after 2 1 November 1 977 in respect of property passing to the spouse, a child or a parent of the deceased person. In addition, no gift duty will be payable on property given on or after that date by a person to his or her spouse, child or parent. That is background. The legislation will provide, secondly, that estate duty will be abolished altogether in relation to all property in the estates of persons who die on or after 1 July 1979. Likewise, no gift duty will be payable in respect of any gifts of property made on or after that date.
I suspect I have not answered all aspects of the honourable senator’s question, so I will refer the whole question to the Treasurer and obtain a detailed answer to the specific matters with which I have not dealt. I have sought to explain the framework of what is proposed, but I will ask for a response to the particular questions.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Was the reference to the Industries Assistance Commission concerning the light commercial vehicle industry considered by the Standing Interdepartmental Committee on Assistance to Industry? Was it recommended by the Department of Industry and Commerce? Was it a result of direct agreement between Sir Brian Inglis of the Ford Motor Co. and the Prime Minister?
– The question seeks a number of details. I will refer it to the Minister for Industry and Commerce and seek to obtain an early answer for the honourable senator.
-I direct a question to Senator Durack both in his capacity as AttorneyGeneral and as the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. I ask whether I am correctly informed that the Australian Industrial Court last week granted an injunction to restrain the continuance of a boycott on the export of live sheep from Adelaide. Has that injunction been effectively enforced? If not, what are the difficulties involved in enforcing it?
– The Minister held a conference and said: ‘No more prosecutions’.
– Despite Senator Cavanagh ‘s evident wish to answer the question,
I will endeavour to do so myself. Senator Wright’s question refers to proceedings which took place in the Federal Court of Australia last week in Adelaide. Similar proceedings under section 45d of the Trade Practices Act took place in the Federal Court sitting in Western Australia. Both proceedings dealt with the bans on the export of live sheep. An interim injunction was pronounced by the judge of the court in the proceedings in South Australia as was mentioned by Senator Wright, and that is where the matter rests at present. Discussions on this matter have been taking place between the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, the executive of the Australasian Meat Industry Employees Union and the various farmers and graziers organisations. The discussions have centred on a proposal which was discussed by Mr Street and Mr Hawke. The Government has proposed that there should be an impartial inquiry into all aspects of the live sheep export trade and that in the meantime the bans should be lifted and legal proceedings should be suspended. The discussions about that proposal are at a delicate stage. They are taking place between the union executive, a number of grower organisations and members of the Australian Woolgrowers Council in Adelaide this afternoon. That is the state of play in regard to this matter. I do not think I should say anything more. Indeed, I cannot say anything more because the matter is still in the hands of the organisations which are meeting today. As far as the injunction is concerned, it is there and no steps, as I understand the situation, have yet been taken to seek to enforce it. I presume that any steps in relation to it have been suspended, properly, pending the discussions that are going on.
-Mr President, may I ask for clarification of the last part of the answer? In whose hands is the carriage of the enforcement of that injunction?
– It is in the hands of the plaintiff in the action, the Elder Smith company, and one or two other parties.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs say whether at present an examination is being conducted of Australia’s position with regard to United Nations convention 710, the international convention for the suppression of the circulation of and traffic in obscene publications? If such an examination is in progress, can the Minister say who is conducting the examination, what are their qualifications, what, if any, are their terms of reference and when is the examination likely to be completed?
-I have no knowledge of this matter. It is bad enough trying to get me to read ordinary publications, let alone obscene ones. The honourable senator obviously is interested in the enforcement of this United Nations convention. Therefore, I shall ask my colleague to supply the information at the earliest possible date.
– I think my question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate although I am not certain. I know that he will not have read yesterday’s Canberra Times so I shall preface the question by referring to part of it which states that the Australian Film Commission had announced that three members of the Commission had left for China the day before to discuss exchanges of film between Australia and China. Who is responsible for the fares and expenses of the three members of the Australian Film Commission travelling to China? Apparently the Leader of the Government is trying to find out who is going to answer the question. Does the Government think that it is necessary for three members of the Film Commission to travel to China in order to discuss film exchanges?
-I think the Australian Film Commission now comes under the jurisdiction of my colleague the Minister for Home Affairs, whom I do not represent in this place. I was trying to ascertain that for the honourable senator and to see whether one of my colleagues had any information on the matter. I shall take it up with the Minister who is responsible for this Commission and obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Social Security in her own capacity and as Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The question arises out of a question asked by Senator Wriedt and the answer he received. I ask: Did the former head of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Barrie Dexter, write to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in March 1976 about unemployment benefits for Aboriginals on reserves in the Northern Territory? Did Mr Dexter tell the Minister that he had previously informed him that benefits were not being paid on these reserves?
Did Mr Dexter say that this policy of withholding benefits from eligible Aboriginals was being achieved by administrative action? Did Mr Dexter tell the Minister that he personally approved of this policy but felt ‘it is probably illegal’? If the Minister cannot give an answer at this stage to those questions can she say whether Mr Viner discussed this matter with her in her capacity as Minister for Social Security?
– A number of matters were raised by Senator Cavanagh in his question and I will see what information is available with regard to correspondence from the then head of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to his Minister. As to the latter part of the question, I recall that early in 1976, and during that year, I had discussions with Mr Viner and also Mr Street with regard to the payment of unemployment benefits to Aborigines. Also, I believe, from time to time Senator Keeffe has raised questions regarding this matter that I have answered either as part of my own responsibility or on behalf of Mr Viner. I will check to see what information is available with regard to the payment of unemployment benefits to Aborigines and whether the specific matters that have been raised can be answered by my Department. I also undertake to provide to the honourable senator whatever information on the subject is available.
– I ask a supplementary question: Am I to take it from the answer of the Minister that it has come to her knowledge that eligible Aboriginals in the Northern Territory have not been receiving unemployment benefits?
– That matter has been raised and I think that, if the record is searched, it will be found that when these matters have been raised with me, I have undertaken to have officers of my Department go to Aboriginal reserves to facilitate the payment of unemployment benefits. I will check the matter that has been raised by Senator Cavanagh today and will provide him with whatever further information is available, but from time to time I have answered questions and taken action to ensure that officers have been made available to assist Aborigines to determine their eligibility for unemployment benefits and other payments through the Department of Social Security.
– I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources to a report in the Australian of 9 March that ‘A new shipping service began last Monday with the arrival of the Waitaki from
New Zealand’, and that ‘She has slots for 30 refrigerated containers, and a considerable part of her cargo is expected to be meat exported to Australia by the Waitaki freezing works in New Zealand ‘. If this report is correct, can the Minister advise who is the Australian agent for these imports, the type of meat likely to be imported, the reason for such importation, whether the cargo on the first voyage included any meat and, if so, how much?
– I am advised by my colleague in the other place that he is not aware of any proposal for the large scale importation of meat to Australia from New Zealand. At this stage he has no details of the actual or likely cargo of the reported new shipping service, but states that the indications are that there was no meat on the first ship. He is having further inquiries made and when they conclude I will inform the honourable senator of the result.
– Is the Minister for Social Security aware of the front page story in yesterday’s Daily Mirror concerning fraudulent practices surrounding the payment of invalid pensions to some hundreds of members of the Greek community? Does the Minister agree that the headline of the story, which was, ‘War on dole cheats- $42 m fraud’, is scandalously misleading? Will the Minister confirm that the fraudulent practices under investigation concern invalid pensions and not the payment of unemployment benefits or dole cheques, as some people refer to them? Finally, will the Minister consider initiating a complaint to the Press Council regarding the damaging effect on the genuinely unemployed of this fallacious headline?
– An examination of the Press reports yesterday with regard to the matter we have been discussing today would show that various stories were written, various headlines were used, and various amounts of money were cited by the media as being involved. I did see the headline to which Senator Ryan has referred and, of course, it was neither substantiated by the story itself nor accurate as far as the investigation by the Commonwealth Police was concerned. I believe that those who read carefully the media would accept that this was fallacious reporting of the investigation by the Commonwealth Police of what appeared to be irregularities with regard to sickness benefit and invalid pensions and certainly not with regard to the payment of the unemployment benefit.
I have on many occasions deplored the use of the word ‘dole ‘ with regard to the payment of the unemployment benefit or the term ‘dole cheats’ with regard to unemployment beneficiaries. I agree with the honourable senator that this is unfair and inaccurate reporting. As to whether I would initiate a complaint to the Press Council, I would think that the way in which the honourable senator has brought the matter to public attention by her question will enable some accuracy to be placed in the minds of people who may have read only that story. If I were to take the reporting of yesterday’s story to the Press Council, I think I could take many other matters to the Council.
-Can the Minister for Transport recall acknowledging in an answer to me in the Senate that AUS Student Travel had been instructed to discontinue some advertised services which were in breach of the Air Navigation Regulations? Further, is he aware of an answer to a question on notice that another AUS Student Travel fare appears not to be in accordance with the Air Navigation Regulations? Is he also aware that Qantas Airways Ltd has given over some scheduled services to AUS Student Travel for charter purposes with loss of convenience to the travelling public, and is he aware that the Minister for Transport has indicated his concern regarding this practice?
Is the Minister now aware that AUS Student Travel has advertised for 6 September next a charter which has not yet been approved by the Department of Transport as required by the regulations before it is advertised and for which it has been allocated a scheduled Qantas service? I note here that people who have telephoned to get on that Qantas flight have been told that it is full’. Can the Minister assure the Senate that scheduled services will be reserved for all Australians where possible and not for a favoured few, and that Qantas should advise the public honestly when it gives away a scheduled service to a favoured charterer? Finally, will the Minister assure the Senate once again that AUS Student Travel will be required to comply with the Air Navigation Regulations like any other operator in the air transport field?
-I think that Senator Baume ‘s question is in some six parts. I am aware of the circumstances as described in the first part of his question. As to the second part of his question, I am aware of an answer that I sought to be given to him in reply, I think, to question No. 100 on the Notice Paper in which he asked three questions regarding AUS Student Travel. If that is so, it is true that the Minister in another place in reply did refer to some breach of procedures by AUS Student Travel.
I am not specifically aware in an official capacity of the AUS Student Travel charter for 6 September, although I have some unofficial information about it. I will take up that matter with the Minister for Transport and ensure that he gives consideration to it. I know that the Minister has been concerned that there have been breaches of the Air Navigation Regulations. I know that there has been some disquiet about irregularities of practice. I know that the Minister would want to prevent any breaches. I will ask the Minister to respond directly to the last two parts of the question in which Senator Baume asked whether the procedures for scheduled services shall be observed and whether the regulations shall be complied with. I am sure that the Minister will answer yes to both questions.
-My question, which 1 direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, relates to the death sentence which has been imposed on Mr Bhutto, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan. Has any appeal for clemency been made to the Pakistan Government of behalf of Mr Bhutto by the Australian Government and, if this has not been done, will the Government consider doing so? In making this request I am suggesting not that the Government should appear to be unduly interfering in the internal affairs of another country or reflecting on the administration of justice in that country, nor that former Prime Ministers should have some preferential treatment, but that the Government should point out that the execution of a former head of government by a government composed of his political opponents would have at least the appearance of being a somewhat barbarous act which would make it rather difficult in future to conduct civilised relations with the Government of Pakistan.
– I am not aware whether all the processes of appeal which the former Prime Minister may use have been exhausted.
– They have not.
-I understand that they have not. I therefore suggest to the honourable senator that it may be premature at this stage for the Government even to contemplate doing what he suggests. I will draw his question to the attention of my colleague in another place and ask him to consider the suggestion the honourable senator has made.
– I ask the Minister for Education whether his attention has been drawn to a report in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald containing criticism of the Federal Government by the New South Wales Deputy Premier and Minister for Public Works, Mr Ferguson. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the facts surrounding the allegations of delay in the construction of the Alexander Mackie College of Advanced Education at Oatley in Sydney?
– I am aware of an article in the Sydney Morning Herald this morning headed ‘Building of college to resume’. I think that is the article to which Senator Lajovic refers. I was surprised to read that article for two reasons. The first is that the article suggests that the State Minister was announcing the commencement of construction. It is a small matter to remind the Senate that the total amount of money for the construction of this building is provided through the Tertiary Education Commission and, of course, through the Advanced Education Council. Therefore, these matters are properly the responsibility of those bodies. I was a little more surprised because if there was delay in the construction, the Federal Government to which the State Minister should seek to fix blame is the previous Federal Government which set aside the triennium and the funding and, therefore, the funding of this stage of the new complex at Oatley. I am happy to say that in the time of this Government funds have been made available, and made available promptly, for the development of this complex and under this Government the job will proceed without any delay.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. On 12 October last I drew attention to the fact that an error had been made in the picture of the ship Waverley on the Australian $5 note. Despite the fact that nearly six months have elapsed since I raised this matter and that I again raised it in a question a few weeks ago, I am still waiting for an answer. Can the Minister give any reason for this very lengthy delay and can he assure me that the matter is being investigated? Is it possible to get an assurance that my question will be answered?
– I well recall the question which, I think, has been asked twice previously. I also recall that as a result I and no doubt many other people studied the currency note concerned and saw with the help of spectacles the word ‘Waverley’ on the ship pennant. I undertook to refer the matter to the Treasurer and that has happened. I am not aware of the reason for the delay in replying but I will endeavour to make amends on that score as soon as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and refer to a question on 15 March last in which I asked whether the Minister could indicate or ascertain the situation in relation to the review of rates of assistance under the Tasmanian freight equalisation scheme. Is the Minister now in a position to provide the information conveyed by his colleague, the Minister for Transport?
– I recollect the question asked by Senator Rae relating to the Tasmanian freight equalisation scheme. My advice is that the review by the Bureau of Transport Economics of the rates of assistance under the scheme has now been completed. Arising from that, a report of the Bureau’s findings is being finalised. It is expected to be available very shortly. My understanding is that there will be some minor delay in regard to its printing but it should be available to Senator Rae and to other honourable senators in a week or so. I shall refer Senator Rae ‘s inquiry to the Minister and see whether the matter can be expedited. I am well aware of the interest in Tasmania in this matter.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs: Has the Government before it for consideration a proposal to purchase the CluniesRoss estate in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands for about $7m? If so, is this sum roughly twice the valuation placed on the estate by reputable valuers in 1975? Is it also a fact that the price of copra on the international market has not picked up since that time? Finally, when does the Government intend taking action in its own right to end the feudal system operating for Australian citizens of Cocos-Malay origin in the Cocos (Keeling) Islands?
– A number of questions have been raised by Senator Douglas McClelland. I shall refer them to the Minister for
Home Affairs to obtain the information that is required.
-I ask the Minister for Science whether his attention has been drawn to the menace of the Portuguese millipede which has been ravaging the Adelaide Hills area of South Australia for five years, which is rapidly spreading to other parts of the State and which is also known to be in the Blue Mountains. Is the Minister aware of the mental anguish, known locally as ‘millipediosis’, caused to families, and particularly to housewives, each morning when they face a clean-up operation involving collecting buckets full of black insects which are found on walls, ceilings, floors and furniture, wardrobes, curtains and linen stores as well as in babies’ ears and nappies? Is the Minister further aware that the South Australian Government is not facing the question of effective control of the millipede with any sense of urgency? In order to restrict the further spread of this plague to other parts of the Commonwealth, will the Minister take the matter up with the State Government and consider assistance to it in finding a method of biological or other control?
– I am not totally aware of the particular insect to which the honourable senator referred. A few years ago an insect was introduced to Australia which apparently causes nuisance seasonally when it invades houses. I take it that this is the Portuguese millipede to which the honourable senator referred. I understand that this type of insect usually becomes a nuisance in damp weather, in spring and in autumn. My understanding is that although it is a nuisance it does not do any particular damage. The insects live and breed in rotting organic matter, long grass and surface litter. The best method of control is to destroy the breeding places of the insects. Rotting leaf mould and similar material close to houses should be disposed of. Some pesticides can be used with good effect. I understand that snail bait pellets also exercise some control and pyrethrum based fly sprays can be effective on such insects. It is understood, however, that spraying is not completely effective. To sum up, millipedes are not an economic pest, but they do have great nuisance value in the towns and cities of South Australia.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the
Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Is it a fact that the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia, Sir Garfield Barwick, has recently paid several visits to the historic homestead of Lanyon in the Australian Capital Territory which has been gazetted on the register of the Australian Heritage Commission? Is it a fact that several thousand dollars of taxpayers’ money have been expended on the renovation of Lanyon? Is it also a fact that a precious collection of the paintings of Sidney Nolan, presented by the artist to the nation, is housed in Lanyon? Were the visits of the Chief Justice to Lanyon occasioned by his desire to have this mansion allocated by the Government for occupancy by the Chief Justice when the High Court is established permanently in Canberra? Does the Government intend to gratify this wish of the Chief Justice?
-Clearly a number of inferences to be drawn from the honourable senator’s questions are beyond response by the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. I am not aware of whether the Chief Justice visited Lanyon. I am not aware of how much money was made available for renovations. My recollection is that during the term of the Whitlam Government the land was acquired and Lanyon was brought under national trust. I think it was during the term of the Whitlam Government that money was allocated for the renovation of Lanyon. I think it was also during that time that the paintings of Sidney Nolan were assembled there. Those statements are subject to checking. I shall have them checked.
The purpose of the Chief Justice in visiting Lanyon is a matter for response by the Chief Justice himself if he so desires. My understanding is that the present Chief Justice has been enormously interested in the Australian Heritage Commission and the environment. It would be natural for him to make such a visit. Nevertheless, I shall bring the question to the attention of my colleague in another place to see whether any further information can be added to the answer I have given.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Treasurer a question which relates to provisional tax. I preface it by saying that the Minister is no doubt well aware that the majority of those people who run businesses had to pay their tax for the financial year 1976-77 and provisional tax for the present financial year by 30 March just past. No doubt the Minister is also aware that the provisional tax was calculated at the old rate which is much higher than the rate now paid under the pay-as-you-earn scheme. What is the rationale for requiring business people to pay tax at a higher rate than their employees pay as well as having to pay it in advance? Will the Minister ask the Treasurer to re-examine this matter and make appropriate refunds in line with expected earnings?
– It is only three months in advance.
– You are a back bencher of great loyalty but little intellect.
-I thank honourable senators for their help with the answer. I hope it was accurate. I am aware that provisional tax must be paid by the end of March each year. I believe that provisional tax paid this year would be calculated on the old rate but this would be subject to checking. I shall refer to my colleague the Treasurer the subsequent questions of Senator Townley relating to the reason for the calculation on the higher rate and whether any adjustments or refunds should be made.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, relates to a report which appeared in this morning’s Australian newspaper and which was written by Norman Kirkham, the London Daily Telegraph’s Luanda correspondent. I ask whether the Minister has seen the report which states:
The Soviet Union has . . . set up a secret training camp in Angola for 25,000 African guerillas who will form armies to attack Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), Zaire and Namibia.
Is the Minister aware that the report states that the camp is for members of Mr Joshua Nkomo ‘s faction of the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union and the South- West African Peoples Organisation? Is he aware that the report states that teams of Soviet and Cuban advisers have moved into south-eastern Angola to instruct those guerrillas in the use of field guns, surface-to-air missiles, rocket launchers and other heavy equipment? Has the Minister anything to add to what is stated in that report? If not, will he undertake to ascertain information about this situation and present it to the Senate.
-I have no information which I can give to the honourable senator at the moment, but I shall ask my colleague in the other place to supply it so that I can give an answer to the honourable senator tomorrow.
-Is the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications aware that the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts is currently conducting an inquiry into the impact of television on the learning and behaviour patterns of children? Is it a fact that the Government is planning amendments to the Broadcasting and Television Act? Is it also a fact that those amendments arise from the report entitled: ‘Self Regulations for Broadcasters’? Are those proposed amendments complete? If not, will the Minister, firstly, take note of the fact that the Senate Committee is dealing with areas relating to those aspects of television and children mentioned in that report; secondly, seek the interest and co-operation of his colleague’s Department to see whether arrangements can be satisfactorily made so that the Senate Committee’s report can be completed and tabled before the amendments to the Act are devised; and, thirdly, ascertain whether consultation can be arranged to ensure that any amendments to the Act are not in conflict with any recommendations of the Senate Committee? These inquiries are obviously made on the assumption that a date for the tabling of the Senate Committee’s report is satisfactorily indicated.
– I think there are seven individual points to which I am asked to respond. I am aware of the inquiry being conducted by the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts. I am aware of the significance of that inquiry and of the very considerable public interest in the impact of broadcasting and television upon juvenile and early childhood behaviour. I think all honourable senators will commend the Senate Standing Committee for its work and will be eager to see the results. I am aware that my colleague in another place, through his Department, is proposing amendmentsI think substantial ones- to the Broadcasting and Television Act. That was foreshadowed by me in this place when some subsidiary amendments were made previously. I am aware that those amendments arise substantially out of the inquiry which was held recently, but I think that my colleague will also draw upon any useful suggestions. I am not aware whether the amendments to the Act are complete. In any case, I will certainly take note of what the honourable senator has said. I am sure that my colleague will want to study any useful suggestions.
The honourable senator asked whether the Minister would co-operate. I cannot say whether he would be able to withhold the legislation pending the tabling of the report. The date of the tabling of the report apparently is not known as yet. I think I had best respond to the final part of the honourable senator’s question in which he asks whether I can arrange for consultations between the Senate Committee and the Minister in another place so that the Minister will be fully alerted to the impending tabling of the report and to its significance in terms of amendments to the Act. I will be very happy indeed to contact my colleague and to endeavour to arrange those consultations as soon as possible.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. By way of preface I refer to my longstanding agitation to have Liberian tankers banned from the Australian coast. This agitation is fortified by the recent Brittany episode. I put it to the Minister that a survey by the Netherlands Maritime Institute shows that there are 400 obsolete tankers of which 150 are Liberian flag carriers and that Liberian carriers are involved in 46 per cent of the major maritime tanker mishaps. I ask the Minister a two-pronged question. Does Australia intend taking independent action to ban Liberian flag tankers? As a member of the Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Malaysia complex of nations which surveys oil tanker mishaps, is this matter on the agenda for action? If so, when?
-I think all honourable senators and the community in general would be concerned by the number and size of mishaps to oil tankers throughout the world and therefore would want to ensure maximum safety in this country’s ports and off-shore areas. That matter underlies any basis of my response. I am aware of the honourable senator’s keen interest in the matter. I was not aware of the survey figures of the Netherlands Maritime Institute. I accept them as given by the honourable senator. Of course I will draw the attention of my colleague to them. I cannot say what action the Commonwealth Government proposes to take about any specific tankers. I know it is concerned to ensure that all tankers shall be of the highest possible specifications in terms of safety and safety behaviour. In fact, as the honourable senator may know, one of the first jobs that the Australian Maritime College is doing in the early days of its formation is running tanker safety handling courses because of our emphasis on safety. I am not aware of any immediate actions.
I shall seek the information and let the honourable senator know.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill 1978.
Northern Territory Supreme Court Amendment Bill 1 978.
National Water Resources (Financial Assistance) Bill 1978.
Territory Authorities (Financial Provisions) Bill 1978.
Bounty (Polyester-Cotton Yarn) Bill 1978.
Control of Naval Waters Amendment Bill 1 978.
Australian National Railways Amendment Bill 1978.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 28a I lay on the table my warrant withdrawing, at his request, Senator McAuliffe from the panel of Temporary Chairmen of Committees and nominating Senator Robertson to act as a Temporary Chairman of Committees.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the interim Australian Science and Technology Council for the period 29 April 1976 to 29 March 1977 and the report of the Australian Science and Technology Council to the Prime Minister on energy research and development in Australia, together with the text of a statement by the Prime Minister relating to the reports.
- Mr President, for the information of honourable senators I present the terms of reference of the inquiry into whales and whaling which has been established by the Government to review Australia’s policies in this field. It will be conducted by the Honourable Sir Sydney Frost.
– Pursuant to section 8 of the Independent Schools (Loans Guarantee) Act 1969, I present a statement of payments made during the year ended 30 June 1977 in respect of all guarantees given under that Act.
– Pursuant to section 32 of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission Act 1973 I present the annual report of the Hospitals and Health Services Commission for 1 976-77.
– Pursuant to section 27 of the Australian War Memorial Act 1962 I present the annual report of the Board of Trustees of the Australian War Memorial for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Wine Overseas Marketing Act 1929 I present the annual report of the Australian Wine Board for the year ended 30 June 1977.
– Pursuant to section 23 of the Egg Export Control Act 1947 I present the annual report of the Australian Egg Board for the year ended 30 June 1977.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 70 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904 I present the annual report of the President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for the year ended 13 August 1977.
Senator DURACK (Western AustraliaAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on commercial motor vehicles, parts and accessories.
Senator ROBERTSON (Northern Territory) by leave- I move:
This report was tabled in the Senate on the last day of sitting. I should explain why I have sought leave to do this today. There is no doubt that this report will be studied at great length later, but I have sought leave today because this is a vital issue in the Northern Territory at present. Action is needed not at some future time but at the present time and I do not think that we can afford to delay any longer a consideration of this matter. I have called for this report several times in the last 12 months and it seems appropriate that I comment briefly on it now. I certainly will have much more to say about it when it is debated at length in this place.
If we look at any report put in front of us we have to look at the reason the report was asked for. We must look at the terms of reference set down by the Government which sought the investigation. We must look at the way in which the study was carried out by whichever group did the job. We must look at the recommendations of the committee set up to study the topic, and- I think this is particularly important- we must look at the relevance of the study to the total planning of the Government at the time. I will look at these issues with the exception of the methodology or the way in which the study was carried out. I have no quarrel with this. The Bureau has a very fine reputation for the work it does. In any case I do not have the academic background to comment on the way in which it has carried out the inquiry, but I would like to look at the other issues. Before I do so, however, I think it is important that we remind ourselves that any recommendations which are made in a report are nothing more than that. They are recommendations made to Government. They make certain suggestions or they may provide a number of options which the Government may follow but the Government has the final responsibility. This point must be stressed early in my comments. The Government must see how the study fits into its total philosophy and into its total planning for the area concerned.
Let us look at the reason why the Bureau of Transport Economics was asked to look at the topic. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to note what the Minister for Transport ( Mr Nixon) said in presenting the report in the other place on 16 March. He said that the broad aim of the study related to investment necessary to maintain an efficient freight transport system to serve Darwin and the Northern Territory. He said that the study was primarily concerned with requirements to provide effective all-weather links to the major population centres at minimum overall costs to the community. I should like to repeat that phrase because I think it has relevance as we go further. He said that there should be minimum overall cost to the community. We know of course that the report followed work done by the former Minister for Transport in the Labor Government who was concerned with the amount of subsidy which might be paid to the Australian National Line. The former Minister asked the Bureau of Transport Economics to look at the subsidy being paid to ANL to provide shipping transport for the Northern Territory. Because this was too narrow a term of reference it was broadened so that the investigation should look at all transport requirements for the Northern Territory. I think one should examine the terms of reference. They were:
Estimate the future freight requirements for Darwin and the Northern Territory.
Examine the economics of the various transport modes in meeting this requirement for Darwin and the Northern Territory.
Examine the existing transport services to Darwin and report on the scope for changes that would improve financially or operationally the services provided.
d ) Investigate the scope for changes in technology and or regulations in reducing the cost of transport services to the study area.
Investigate and report on the investment necessary to maintain an efficient freight transport system for Darwin and the Northern Territory taking all modes into consideration.
Honourable senators will notice that the study did not concern itself with a number of areas which I think are particularly important. For example, it did not deal with passenger traffic, although in part of the report it makes a passing reference to tourism. I shall come back to that later on. The investigation did not deal with bulk freight, specifically mentioning this on page 3 of the report:
The report concentrates on general freight and does not deal with bulk freight requirements in detail. The majority of bulk freight is carried in specialised ships and so can be considered separately from general freight.
But this is not done in the report. It can be considered but is not considered. The terms of reference do not encompass either passenger or livestock traffic so these issues are not discussed at length in the report. I regard that as a weakness of the report and question whether one can really prepare an adequate study without looking at these things within the context of the Northern Territory. The study did not look at the development of the Northern Territory and the problems of defending a long coastline. It did not look at overseas trade, particularly with our near neighbours. I shall make some reference to that in a moment or two. So I think it is fair to say without being unduly critical that it was a narrow study. I hasten to add that this is not the fault of the Bureau but the terms of reference that it was given. The Bureau worked within its terms of reference as one would expect.
I ask the Government to study the report with these limitations in mind. Mr President, this is one of the reasons why I sought your approval to speak today. I ask also that the Government consider the factors which have particular reference to any consideration of a developing transport system. I shall speak briefly about those. When we are looking at the development of a transport system we must consider the development of the north at present. In speaking of the north I mean the north of Australia- the north of Western Australia, the Northern Territory and the north of Queensland. I think honourable senators on both sides of the chamber would agree that there is great potential there for development. There is great potential for tourism. I do not want to dwell on this but it is a particular interest of mine. I think both sides of the chamber would agree on the great potential for tourism. There is little secondary industry in the Territory and there could be secondary industry. We could develop pastoral interests in the Territory, not in terms of using more land but rather by more effective utilisation of that land. There is little agricultural development in the Northern Territory and room for more in Western Australia and in Queensland. Each time I fly over the Ord River scheme I think with envy of the value that that scheme would be to the Northern Territory if we could only get that water back into the Northern Territory, where it belongs, of course. I see that this is something to be looked at.
Obviously if we are thinking of a transport scheme we have to think of development. I come to the last point- one which is on everyone’s mind at the moment- the great potential in the mineral area. We have great open spaces in the Territory and we have a long coastline. Defence is very difficult, as has been made fairly obvious in the last few weeks by the comments that have been made in this place and other places on surveillance and the need for surveillance. Recently I was speaking to a senior officer of the Navy on this very matter and his comment- made socially and not in his official capacity- was simply that the best sort of surveillance is population. I think his point is valid. Surveillance would not be so difficult if we had more centres across the top of Australia. If we think about that for a moment it is a fairly obvious comment.
We have moved away from the statement that was made by a statesman of former years who was trying to give away the top end of Australia. I do not think we see this as a solution to the problem at the present time; but we do see that there is reason for development. Why develop? We develop because we need the return from the area. We have a great potential. We should be developing it, also so that others will not cast covetous eyes at it. I do not want to be a scaremonger here, but certainly the point has been made many times that people to the north of Australia will be looking at these areas if we do not develop them. Of course, it is fair to ask on moral grounds whether we are entitled to retain this space when other people are so short of space. I am not suggesting that we should hand it over; rather that we should make use of it and put it into production. Any transport system must take this into account.
The present report looked forward for 20 years- which is I suppose middle-term, certainly not long-term- but unfortunately it looked forward for that period at the present rate of growth, and with the present philosophy. I think this is the challenge that I must make to the report. It is certainly within the terms of reference but what I am suggesting is that surely we should go beyond our present growth rate, beyond our present philosophy, and re-think the development of the north. There is there a great potential for trade with our northern neighbours. I should like to see Darwin as a northern gateway. That is what it is called, but it is not really that at the moment because we are not making full use of it as a gateway. We want to see the development of Darwin as an entrepot, rather than see its importance curbed. We have to link any transport plan to this sort of conceptdeveloping Darwin in this way.
A previous study was made by another standing committee- in that case the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works- which in 1975, in looking at the Darwin port facilities, said-
An investigation of the current operations of the Port of Darwin indicated that the two principal conclusions reached by the parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works in 1970 -
An earlier investigation- relating to general cargo facilities, were still valid.
These were that -
I quote only the first- the Port of Darwin is suffering severely from congestion and there are considerable cargo handling difficulties.
The 1975 committee went on to make further recommendations, of which I have selected two. They are:
An improvement in port facilities is economically justified and would provide substantial benefits.
The report concluded:
Evaluation of the options -
They presented four- . . over a twenty year period showed that each option can provide a net economic benefit. The highest rate of economic benefit is given to Option D, whilst other benefits, nonquantifiable in money terms, also favour Option D.
But the point is that the four options presented by the 1975 Committee were all seen as presenting a net economic benefit. If we could develop the port of Darwin we would solve one of the greatest problems which the shipping services to the Northern Territory have at the present time. That is the problem of back loading. In the absence of back loading, obviously the cost one way is going to double. And when we look at the figures given in the report we see that for oneway traffic they are actually almost double.
I look now at tourism to suggest again that there is a great potential in the Northern Territory. It was not part of the study, although this comment was made by the 1973 committee:
Tourism is an increasingly important industry in the N.T. and, for that reason alone, the effects of any road or rail investment on the transport of passengers must be carefully considered.
Unfortunately it was not part of the study. I do not think I need to comment at this stage on the need for transport facilities if we are talking about tourism. I think that we come to something which amounts almost to the chicken and the egg situation. If more people could get north I am convinced more people would go north. Obviously the bulk of people would be thinking about travelling by road.
The use of roads brings me to the next pointthat of energy resources. This is another factor which was not considered by the Committee. Honourable senators from both sides of the chamber have explained that there is an energy crisis at present and that this crisis will get worse. I would like to read part of a speech made by my colleague Mr Peter Morris, who is the shadow Minister for Transport in the other place. Mr Morris, when speaking to the Automotive Engineering Conference held in Melbourne on 6 May 1977, said inter alia:
We must therefore develop as soon as possible means of reducing liquid fuel consumption in the transport sector.
By far the largest proportion of energy supplied to the transport sector is used by road vehicles and this is almost totally supplied by oil. The number of registered vehicles in Australia has grown from 505,900 in 1945 to over 5 million in 1976, presenting awesome problems for fuel usage, the economy and policy making. With this in mind, transport energy policies should seek ways of achieving economies in road transport fuel usage and searching out new sources of energy and developing alternative means of transport.
He then went on the say:
In comparison with motor vehicles, buses and trains have an insignificant fuel consumption.
He takes as his authority studies carried out in the United States of America which indicated that three times as much energy is used in transporting one person one kilometre by road as compared with rail and six and one-half times as much if transported by air. The same studies also revealed that 65 times as much energy is used in transporting one tonne of goods one kilometre by air as compared with rail and almost five times as much if transported by road. I think these comments have been reinforced by studies that have been undertaken by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.
This information is of vital importance to transport planning in the Northern Territory. We need to look at the bi-modal form of trains and buses because they are energy conserving. This is just one of the many reasons why we must press for the rail to continue to Alice Springs and then to become a bi-modal form of transport. We need to look at the savings that can be achieved by running ships on coal. Australia has deposits of coal and this fuel could be used in ships and trains. Although oil is used at the present time there is no reason why we could not use our coal. We will have to look at the energy crisis. However, this is part of the pattern which has not been considered by the study.
The employment situation in the Northern Territory should not need further comment from me. I have commented many times that the unemployment problem in the Northern Territory is acute, with an unemployment rate of nearly 10 per cent. I do not think I need elaborate on the fact that road and rail work, but particularly road work, could be carried out by the private sector which could absorb a good many of the unemployed. It could provide employment and, through the multiplier effect, assist the economy generally. I have to make the point that timingthis is one of the reasons I am speaking today- is important. The need is now and not later. We cannot leave it any later. The labour is available, the economy needs stimulating and we need transport. I would like to read to the chamber this statement which appeared on page xv of the report:
Irrespective of the transport system chosen, part of the central corridor, the Darwin-Alice Springs sector of the Stuart Highway, must be upgraded to provide an efficient distribution system for the centre of the continent.
Here is somthing that can be done immediately. It is not something that can be left for later. Darwin residents who were questioned about this matter made quite clear what they were looking for in a transport system. They said they were concerned about reliability, frequency, source and price. If I had time I would elaborate on those four matters. But this indicates the sort of attitude that the people had at that time. Recommendations were made in the report but they were not final. This is perhaps one of the major points I want to make at present. The following comment was made on page 3 of the report:
Traffic freight flows for the NT are at present fairly evenly distributed between the three modes, sea, rail and road.
However, the implementation of any one of the proposed capital improvements, or any alteration to the shipping services, could radically alter modal split and origin-destination patterns.
So there is more work to be done. We cannot take the report as giving the only answer. There is a need for consideration of the report in relation to the total plan for northern Australia. I have mentioned in this place before the problems of owner-drivers who claim that at present they must overload, must spend excessive time at the wheel and are at the mercy of the major companies. I have canvassed this material before. However, any study of the Northern Territory must look at the place of the contact system and the place of the owner-driver in the total situation. This study had limitations because of the terms of reference that were given to it and because of its method of operation. The report made this comment:
In summary, this report concludes that the construction of the entire Stuart Highway from Port Augusta to Darwin to all-weather standard is the least cost method of meeting the freight transport requirements of the Northern Territory.
The report then goes on to make certain statements about the railway. Let us make sure that the least cost method is not the only approach. We have to think of the long term situation. I am not denying that these things need to be done but while we look to economists and statisticians to give us the least cost method we also look to governments and politicians to consider the other factors. That is the point I am trying to press. We need development of the north. There are social factors to consider. We have to consider such things as the conservation of energy. One comment I would make about the methodology of the report is that it states that road transport is cheaper than rail transport, although in this regard we had some rather interesting factors emerge when the North Australia Railway closed down. The figures I am about to quote are the prices prevailing when the North Australia Railway operated between Larrimah and Darwin and after the line had closed down. In respect of commodities such as ale and beer the price was $41.51 per tonne but this jumped to $58.83 per tonne when the line closed. The price for insulwool and mattresses was $267.46 but this rose to $557.66.
-That is not relevant to the figures we are discussing at present.
– Of course it is. It relates to cost and freight factors.
-Not at all. It does not concern the figures I am quoting at the moment. The reason that the North Australia Railway was running at a loss was that the cost of rebuilding houses in Darwin destroyed by Cyclone Tracy was included in the costing of the freight and this gave a totally irrelevant figure. General rates rose from $97.56 to $1 19.66. 1 do not need to pursue that in order to show what happened when that one section of railway was taken out.
I am most encouraged by two statements which were made by senior Ministers of the present Government. The news release which accompanied the presentation of the report said:
Mr Nixon also reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to proceed with the completion of the Alice Springs-Tarcoola standard gauge railway line and indicated that this would provide all-weather access through the central corridor in the shortest possible time.
It is very encouraging to hear that Mr Nixon had that to say. It was also encouraging to hear what Mr Sinclair had to say in a telex which he sent to the Mayor of Alice Springs, Mr Smith. In it he said:
After discussing the issue with Mr Sam Calder, M.P., and Senator Bernie Kilgariff, I believe it necessary to identify a special fund allocation specifically for the reconstruction of the Stuart Highway. This would mean, in addition to funds provided to the South Australian Government as part of the national program and for allocation at their direction, there would be a specific sum provided to upgrade the Stuart Highway over a period of years.
When we discuss this report at some length later we will discuss the relationship between the Federal Minister and the State Minister. Mr Smith wrote back to Mr Sinclair in these terms:
I take the liberty of reminding you of your telex to me on Friday, 25 November 1977, regarding the reconstruction of the Stuart Highway from Port Augusta to Kulgera. 1 regard this telex as firmly committing your Government to:
Commence funding for the Highway in the budget of 1978, with a guaranteed forward commitment of funds to complete the Highway in subsequent years.
As a solemn promise that special funds would be produced in addition to South Australia’s normal allocation for road reconstruction.
A belated, but still very important recognition of the vital needs of the Northern Territory to have adequate road links with her southern neighbour.
So I look forward to the Government honouring these promises, even though the one given by Mr Sinclair was given during an election compaign. The report by the Bureau will be of valuable assistance to the Government in its total planning. But I stress once again that this report is a part, but only a part, and that more input is needed.
The plans that the Government has, as indicated by Mr Nixon and Mr Sinclair, are a good start. There is no need to delay. Longer term planning can get under way while we start with the early stages. I commend the Bureau for its report, although, as I have mentioned, its terms of reference were too limiting. I call on the Government to honour its promises and to get moving on this most important issue. Perhaps one of the first steps might be for the Government to receive the bipartisan deputation as requested, one consisting of members from the Northern Territory, from South Australia and the Federal sphere.
- Mr President, now that Senator Robertson has resumed his seat, at this juncture I wish to raise a point of order in relation to matters in the Senate. In no way do I wish to inhibit or deprive honourable senators of the right of using the forms of the Senate in order to obtain that which they require. Standing Order No. 115 allows an honourable senator to seek leave to make a short statement but I suggest that the term ‘short statement’ means exactly that. The honourable senator sought and obtained the leave of the Senate to make a short statement about a report which was presented to the Senate. He took 25 minutes to make that ‘short statement’. Mr President, I should be grateful for your advice in this matter. If I seek leave of the Senate under Standing Order No. 1 15 to deal with the matters which have been raised by the honourable senator, may I continue the debate? I should be grateful for your advice, sir, either now or at your convenience at some subsequent time.
- Mr President, I wish to speak to the point of order. I noticed the order of business today and saw that Senator Robertson was formally seeking leave to make a statement in relation to a report. When we debated the Standing Orders we came to an arrangement in respect of reports presented by Ministers. Instead of the practice of moving that the Senate take note of the report, we agreed to a device whereby a report would be tabled and then honourable senators would look at it and at an appropriate timewould seek leave -
– Give notice of motion.
– No, I did not see it that way. I took it that we were facilitating the right of honourable senators to peruse a report, copies of which were not available at the time, and to speak on that report. Previously the arrangement was that an honourable senator sought leave of the Senate to move that the Senate take note of the report. At that point, if necessary, he or she made comments on that report. If I remember correctly, in the past this led to several debates which went for as long as two hours. I believe that the Standing Orders provide that at the end of those two hours the Senate then moves on to the next business, or a procedure of that sort. In speaking to the point of order, sir, could I ask you this: What are the rights of honourable senators who today heard reports being presented- there was a whole series of them- and who have particular interest in those reports? If they were not able or not prepared to debate them at the time they were brought down, could they move that the Senate take note of the papers and then seek leave to continue their remarks? That was a procedure which we followed. I think one of the reasons why we altered the Standing Orders in this regard was to avoid the Senate Notice Paper being cluttered up with many notices as a result of honourable senators not being fully aware of the content of reports. Perhaps I have spoken a little too long on this matter but my interpretation of the change was that we did not need to seek to take note of a paper on the day that it was brought before the Senate. I understood that at any subsequent and appropriate time I could do what I had not done at the time that the Minister brought down the statement. It seems to me that it was not necessary for Senator Robertson to have given notice or to put on the Notice Paper his intention to seek leave. It would have been in order for Senator Robertson to seek leave at an appropriate time, such as when the other statements were being presented, and to make a few remarks. Senator Robertson allowed the Minister to bring down the statement, whereupon he took a look at it and today he sought leave to make a statement -
– A short statement.
– That is your argument. Perhaps he spoke for too long.
– No, he sought leave to make a statement.
– All right, he sought leave to make a statement. Having made the statement, surely it is in order for Senator Sir Magnus Cormack to seek leave to add to that statement if he so wishes.
– That is why I just asked for guidance.
– In my view, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack can do so. My view is that we can continue to debate this statement, by leave, for a period of time.
– I must remind Senator Robertson that he sought leave to move a motion. Leave was granted. Now any honourable senator may speak. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack you are at liberty to speak if you so desire.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (4.7)- Mr President, I could indicate the total absurdity of this situation in which we are involved by not taking 25 minutes, as taken by the honourable senator who represents the Northern Territory, to speak to the report of the Bureau of Transport, but one solid hour. I have already propositioned the honourable senator who sits on my right to seek leave of the Senate to continue the debate for another half an hour. The business has been taken out of the hands of the Government in the Senate and we are in a debating shambles. With respect, sir, I think I should be allowed to make this interim observation: The recommendation of the Senate Standing Committee on Standing Orders was that the previous system be discontinued but that the rights of honourable senators be protected. An honourable senator who wishes to rise and deal with a paper presented to this Senate should give notice of motion that he wishes to raise the matter. His rights would be protected. This device of seekingleave- and I noted the words on a piece of paper- ‘to make a short statement’ in Senator Robertson’s case took 25 minutes. If I were to involve myself in the reductio ad absurdum of this operation, I could indicate that I or any other honourable senator for that matter could continue the discussion and proceed to annihilate debate in the Senate.
With great respect, I suggest that honourable senators might consider this device, or that the Senate Standing Orders Committee should look at it, or that the Senate itself should take some interest in it. The Senate is constantly pressed for time to debate matters. Indeed the whole of the drift of Senator Robertson’s ‘short statement’ was that the Northern Territory is pressed for time. I repeat that when the Senate is invited to grant leave to an honourable senator to make a short statement, some sort of definition as to what constitutes a ‘short statement’ must be brought down by the President or the person in the Chair. With that comment I conclude my remarks.
– I must say to Senator Georges that the intention was to avoid the cluttering up of the Notice Paper but the main aim in respect of reports being tabled was that honourable senators might have time to look at the reports, to assess them and then give notice- and they are quite at liberty to do so at any time- that they will seek leave to move that the Senate take note of the report.
– They must give notice.
– Yes. A motion must be moved to take note of the report. That is to avoid undue inclusion of reports in the Notice Paper. Honourable senators, having seen and considered the report, would take action so that it could be debated in the Senate.
– That makes the position worse.
– No, it does not.
– I address my remarks to the actual motion, however fortuitous the motion may be, and not to a procedural matter which is for another time. I take note of your ruling, Mr President. But we have a motion before us. Senator Robertson made some remarks. I feel that as I represent the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) I should respond. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that the Minister tabled the report of the Bureau of Transport Economics on 16 March. In doing so he made a statement which I commend to the Senate. It identifies a considerable number of important matters which were raised today by Senator Robertson. Senator Robertson suggested that the terms of reference of the inquiry were limited. I do not wish to canvass that opinion. I invite honourable senators to look at them. I suggest that the terms of reference were wide enough to encompass all the matters which Senator Robertson foreshadowed including defence, tourism and other matters with regard to the Northern Territory.
In fact, this inquiry was initiated by the current Minister for Transport in late 1975. In essence, the Bureau of Transport Economics made four major recommendations of which I remind the Senate. It recommended firstly that priority for investment be given to a central corridor linking
Adelaide, Alice Springs and Darwin; secondly, that the least cost option would be to cease construction of the Tarcoola-Alice Springs railway and put the available funds into upgrading and sealing the Stuart Highway; thirdly, that second priority should be given to making the Landsborough and Barkly highways all weather links; and fourthly, that there is no economic justification for subsidising shipping services for either the east or west coast to Darwin. With regard to those matters, I draw attention to a number of points in the statement of the Minister when he tabled the report. A news release on the statement said:
Mr Nixon said that the Stuart Highway within South Australia was the only unsealed National Highway link in the State and the Government regarded its development as a matter of priority. He had already indicated to SA that he wished works to be well under way during 1 978-79.
I know that honourable senators have stressed that necessity and desirability. It is important also that honourable senators note Mr Nixon’s remarks apart from the recommendations of the Bureau of Transport Economics on the Alice Springs-Tarcoola railway. The news release stated:
Mr Nixon also reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to proceed with the completion of the Alice Springs-Tarcoola standard gauge railway line and indicated that this would provide all weather access through the central corridor in the shortest possible time. He commented that the capital cost analyses in the BTE report reflected a 1976 cost situation. Since the report was undertaken there had been substantial changes in the capital cost information relating to the road and rail central corridor proposals.
I do not want to enlarge this debate at the moment. I simply responded on some basic matters, particularly the terms of reference. I wished to draw attention to what the Minister said when he tabled the report. This matter is important. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I seek leave to move a motion relating to precedence of Government Business.
-The Opposition knows I am going to move this motion. I move:
Honourable senators who think that I am speaking double Dutch may look at page 21 of the Journals of the Senate, No. 2. They will see that the Sessional Order for the sittings of the Senate which the Senate agreed to on its second sitting day reads:
That, on all sitting days of the Senate during the Autumn Sittings, unless otherwise ordered, Government Business shall take precedence of General Business, except that General Business shall take precedence of Government Business on Thursdays after eight p.m. . . .
Honourable senators will know that every second Thursday, under Sessional Orders, this chamber will rise at 4 p.m. If I did not move this motion General Business would be discussed only once a fortnight. General Business will now be discussed once a week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Withers) read a first time.
– I move:
The purpose of this Bill now before the Senate is to give effect to the Government’s decision to introduce a scheme to reduce the prices paid for certain petroleum products by consumers in country areas throughout Australia. Products to be covered by the scheme will be motor spirit, power kerosene, automotive distillate and aviation fuels. Honourable senators will recall that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the course of the last election campaign stated that prompt steps would be taken after the last election to implement a scheme which would subsidise freight differentials involved in transporting eligible petroleum products from refining ports and seaboard terminals to country sale points. These freight costs constitute a substantial element of the relatively high prices paid by rural consumers particularly in the more remote areas for various petroleum products.
The proposed scheme will subsidise country freight differentials to the extent that country consumers of products covered by the scheme will pay a price which includes no more than 4 cents per gallon of the transport costs. The scheme will operate by means of grants made by the Commonwealth to the States pursuant to section 96 of the Constitution. These grants will be in amounts equal to moneys expended by the States in subsidising sales of eligible products by oil companies and other registered distributors, provided such payments are made in accordance with legal schemes formulated by the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs under the Act. These legal schemes will formally set out the respective roles of the Commonwealth and the various States in the implementation of subsidy arrangements and will detail the relevant administrative procedures.
The freight differentials to be subsidised are based on costs submitted by individual oil companies to the Prices Justification Tribunal and accepted by that Tribunal. Rates of subsidy are calculated by deducting from these differentials that part of the freight cost to be borne by consumers, namely 4c per gallon or approximately 0.9c per litre. For example, in the case of a freight differential of 10c per gallon the consumer will pay 4c only and the remaining 6c will be covered by subsidy under the scheme.
Provision exists in terms of section 4 of the Act for the Minister to amend the scheme by varying rates of subsidy set out in the schedule of subsidies which is an integral part of the scheme and lists the subsidy rates applicable at some 8,000 locations throughout Australia. This provision enables account to be taken of requests by oil companies for variations in differentials in cases where freight cost charges have been established to the satisfaction of the Prices Justification Tribunal.
Section 7A of the Act requires all amendments to the schedule of subsidy rates to be tabled in the Parliament in the same manner as regulations. Disallowance by either House would result in the amended rates being revoked and previous rates continuing in force. Section 7 of the Act requires copies of the schedule and of all amendments to the schedule to be published in the Gazette.
The legal schemes in relation to each State provide that claims for subsidy are to be made only by oil companies and other distributors registered under the scheme by the Minister. Before such distributors may be registered they must enter into an agreement with the Commonwealth that they Will pass on to consumers the full benefit of subsidy received in respect of all sales made at locations in the schedule.
The States Grants (Petroleum Products) Act 1 965, which is proposed to be amended by this Bill, formed the legal basis for the previous subsidy scheme. This scheme was terminated by ministerial action in 1974. The Government considers, however, that a scheme of such great significance to rural consumers of petroleum products should not be capable of termination by ministerial action only without reference to the Parliament. Accordingly the Bill before the Senate provides that, except as authorised by a resolution of each House of the Parliament, the Minister shall not revoke or otherwise terminate the operation of the scheme. The earlier scheme also involved appropriate complementary State government legislation. This legislation is still extant and with certain amendments will be suitable for the same complementary function in the new scheme. The scheme will come into effect after the required State legislation amendments are effected. The scheme will operate in the Northern Territory on the basis of an ordinance of the Legislative Assembly of the Territory and an administration scheme legally formulated under that ordinance.
Honourable senators will appreciate that the proposed Australia-wide scheme is directed solely to subsidising freight costs in excess of 4c per gallon. It will therefore have no effect on the prices of petroleum products in metropolitan and other areas where freight differentials do not exceed the 4c subsidy margin. In addition, I would point out that the scheme is not related to, and will have no effect on, present motor spirit discounting practices whereby resellers in some areas are prepared to operate on the basis of minimal margins and large throughputs. The proposed subsidy scheme will substantially benefit large numbers of Australia’s rural citizens whose economic activities and general well-being are so heavily dependent on the availability of reasonably priced transport and machinery fuels. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Walsh) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Withers) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for a later hour this day.
– Ordinarily debate on a Bill of this sort would be adjourned until the next day of sitting. Conscious of some contentious matters in this legislation, I anticipated that we would have that interval for considering it. I am not opposed to the motion which seeks to adjourn the debate to a later hour this day, but I give notice that if the exigencies which I expect arise during the debate when the Bill is brought on later in the day I will expect in fairness to be given a proper opportunity to consider the legislation, otherwise the debate will be much prolonged.
-In order to comfort Senator Wright I point out that the reason that we seek, by the motion, to adjourn the debate to a later time today is merely to allow the legislation, having been introduced, to come on for debate possibly at a very late hour in case tomorrow we should be seeking time to debate a very important Bill which we expect to come from the other chamber. Neither of the Whips, nor those who are responsible for preparing the Notice Paper by agreement with honourable senators on this side of the chamber, intended that we should deny any honourable senator the right properly to consider the Bill before the debate commences.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 March on motion by Senator Durack:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– As was stated in the House of Representatives by my colleague, Mr Hurford, the Opposition is not opposing the Bounty (Drilling Machines) Bill 1978. The Bill provides for the payment of a bounty on defined types of drilling machines under certain conditions. If those conditions are complied with, one-third of the factory cost of the machine will be paid by the Government. The conditions are, chiefly, that 85 per cent of the component materials used in the production of the machine must be of local origin, otherwise the bounty is progressively reduced, and that materials of Australian origin must also comprise 55 per cent of the factory cost of the machine. A bounty of one-third of the factory cost is, of course, equivalent to tariff protection of 50 per cent. The effective rate of protection in this instance has not, so far as I am aware, been calculated, but on 1966-67 production figures some $150,000 would be paid out under the provisions of this bounty. That represents a subsidy of approximately $3,000 per employee if it is expressed in terms of that common denominator. By the standards of many sections of Australian manufacturing industry, that is a relatively low rate of public assistance.
The only reservation that I express in passing is concerned with the administrative costs. I wonder what it costs to administer a piece of legislation which will expend probably in the region of $150,000 a year, which requires a ninepage or 10-page Bill to be presented, to be distributed and to be printed in all of the government documents, which occupies the time of this Parliament and its staff. Added to that, of course, is the cost of the administration and ultimately the policing of the payment of the bounty by, I presume, the Department of Business and Consumer Affairs. One wonders whether we are drifting into a Parkinsonian situation in which the administrative costs of a piece of legislation such as this might be approaching the amount of money which is paid out under it. But I make that observation only in passing.
On grounds of both equity and efficiency, it is preferable, in principle, that bounties be paid rather than tariffs or tariff quotas being imposed. That is so, firstly, because there is less distortion in the efficiency of resource allocation and, secondly, because the burden of bounties is distributed through the taxation system on the whole community in a more equitable way than is likely to be the case via the high cost method of imposing tariffs. I think it is especially importantI welcome this move in one small waythat the present Government has decided to provide protection for this industry by way of bounty rather than subsidy. I think it is a significant concession, even though it is concerned with a small issue, because the present Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), in spite of the fact that he does not believe there is any such thing as a free lunch, seems to believe that there is such a thing as free protection, as long as the cost of protection does not show up in the Government’s accounts. He seems to believe that unlimited protection by way of tariffs or import restrictions does not cost anything. So at least in this instance, because the protection is not being provided by way of tariffs or import restrictions, the cost will be visible even to the Prime Minister. His blind spot on this issue of the cost of protection is about to be manifested again in the States Grants (Petroleum Products) Amendment Bill which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) has just introduced and which will be the subject of debate later this day.
I will not speak at great length but I endorse the observation made by the Liberal Party member for Lilley (Mr Kevin Cairns) in the House of Representatives. He made the point that legislation of this nature, while in this case it protects a very small Australian industry and probably ensures the maintenance of something like the existing level of employment, is a very poor substitute- in fact, it is no substitute at allfor a general economic recovery. It is a band-aid measure. The honourable member for Lilley also made the very important point that a prerequisite to the restructuring of Australian industry is the end of the recession which has plagued the Australian economy for about the last three years and which is unquestionably deepening. Measures of this type are a very poor substitute for wider-ranging government policies which will lift the economy out of the recession. The policies we have had over the last two years have now, on the absolutely decisive evidence of the latest quarterly national accounts, driven the economy deeper into recession.
– I notice that the Opposition is not opposing the Bounty (Drilling Machines) Bill. I address my remarks briefly to one or two issues raised in respect of the Industries Assistance Commission report which preceded the introduction of this legislation. I noticed that Senator Walsh, who has just resumed his seat, largely outlined the general matters set out in the Bill. I do not intend to repeat them. In respect of the age old question of bounty versus tariff, I support the view that the bounty certainly is the most equitable method of distributing the cost across the community. It also provides that visibility to consumers and to others in society as to the real cost of tariff protection. In this case it has the effect of not imposing higher costs on our community at a time when the recovery, which Senator Walsh is seeking, is struggling valiantly against periods of high cost increases which occurred over the last few years. It is an issue at the right time in terms of the recovery which he seeks.
In reviewing the IAC report which preceded this matter it is interesting to note that a deal of information emerges about the crisis that faced Australian industry, albeit a relatively small industry, in the last few years. I notice that in terms of the production of these machines, that is, belt-driven pulley operated non-power fed bench or pedestal drilling machines, the total market for the items produced in 1972-73 was some 3,900 and, of that market, local manufacturers provided 40.2 per cent, whereas in 1976 the market had risen to almost 10,000 machines but the local market provided only 10.7 per cent. Obviously, imports from Taiwan and other countries have radically affected the ability of Australian firms to compete against imported machines. That is highlighted very drastically by the comparison between the total value of the market and the number of units. In 1972-73 Australian manufacturers had some 40.3 per cent of the market, which was roughly the same percentage as the number of units produced, whereas in 1976-77, in terms of value, that market had fallen to 32.5 per cent. Very clearly, whereas the Australian manufacturer had only 10.7 per cent of the market in terms of units, the value was 32.5 per cent. In other words, they were selling to a very much more expensive part of the market.
That is clearly evidenced in the IAC report which shows that the unit price of drilling machines locally produced in 1972-73 was, on average, $201 and subsequently that price rose to $431 in the last financial year. The price of imported machines in fact fell from $201 in 1972-73 to $1 10 in the current year. There is no doubt that the competition which Australian firms have suffered has been a direct result of the serious cost increases in this country during that period. It is very interesting to see that the IAC in reviewing this matter took the view that the tariff ought not to be increased in this case as it would further inhibit the total market size, that there ought to be a definite attempt to increase the total market and, at the same time, provide Australian manufacturers with a bounty in order to be able to compete more effectively against imported items. That is a very significant point and it was well made in the IAC report. We need to note that this Bill only covers the provision of a bounty until June 1979, so it is a very temporary measure.
I think it is important that further consideration be given to the plight of the industry. When the IAC brings down a further report on machine tools and the Government makes a decision on it in a few months we may be able to see this relatively small part of the total machine market in its proper perspective. Then we may be able to form better judgments about the future of this industry which, although small, provides a relatively important sector of some areas of the market. I finish my remarks by merely reiterating the point that the decision to provide a bounty in this case is the right measure at the right time.
– in reply- I thank all honourable senators for their general support of the Bounty (Drilling Machines) Bill and for the thoughtful remarks made concerning it. I noted that Senator Walsh made some interesting observations about what he is pleased to call the blind spot of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on tariffs. I assure Senator Walsh that I will do my best to make certain that his remarks are drawn to the attention of every trade unionist who works in manufacturing areas of Australia. I also say to Senator Walsh that rather than his Party, both Federal and State, setting up committees to discover why it lost the last election it ought to be looking at his remarks and wondering why the workers of Australia will not vote for the Australian Labor Party.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
- Senator Georges was hardly raising a point of order, but I allowed him to continue because he was referring to an area in which I have responsibility. The instructions on the back of the pass tell the holder to wear his pass when inside the building. Attendants move in and out of this chamber continuously. Personally, I can see nothing wrong in an attendant dashing from the chamber to another part of the building while wearing his identity badge. I must say that with the passing of time refinements could be made to the new security setup, but the fact is that officers are told on the back of their pass- they are our orders- that the pass is to be worn when the officer is inside this building.
– I will take the matter up at a later stage.
Statement by the President
Debate resumed from 16 March, on motion by Senator Withers:
That the Senate take note of the statement.
Upon which Senator Button had moved by way of amendment:
At end of motion, add ‘, and that the matter of the security of Parliament House be referred to the Committee of Privileges”.
- Mr President, I thought that my speech was being anticipated a few minutes ago. I spoke on this matter for a few minutes on 16 March before the suspension of the sitting for dinner. After the suspension of the sitting the House discussed other business, so since that date I have been waiting to continue my remarks on this matter. On that date I outlined in my usual gentlemanly manner some of my thoughts about this statement. I do not wish to say, but I think I am obliged to say, that my manner will not be so gentlemanly this afternoon because I am rather stirred up by some of the aspects of the security measures instituted around this Parliament since I spoke on 16 March. I shall mention shortly the aspects about which I am unhappy.
When the debate was interrupted on 16 March I was outlining some of my own thoughts on the security measures outlined in your statement, Mr President. I was doing so in the hope that my thoughts would be looked at. This debate was to be a vehicle whereby we in this Parliament could have some say as to what was to happen in the immediate precincts of Parliament House. I will describe some of my personal feelings. They need not necessarily be the same as those of some of my Opposition colleagues, but I do not think that that is particularly important. It is important that we all have the opportunity to outline what we think of the statement so that perhaps we can come to a consensus within this chamber on what we will do about security in Parliament House. I really have no objection to people wearing security identification passes in the Parliament. I hope that those members of my staff who, because of the statement and the decision that has been made, are obliged to wear an identification pass are mature enough to accept that they should wear it.
Before I came to this place I was in many places where it was necessary to have some security identification, and I suppose because of that I became aware of the need for it and aware of the fact that it helped not only the person who was wearing the identification but also his colleagues. In particular I have had a great deal of experience in two of the Services. In those two Services I had to wear security identification at times, and I had no objection to doing it. As some honourable senators would know, I have also had experience in one of the police forces in the country. At times it was necessary for members of the police force to have some sort of security identification. Because of my experience I suppose I am more ready than some of my colleagues to accept the necessity for identification. But the aspect of the matter that I cannot entertain is the fact that we were told that certain measures were to be taken before we would be allowed to debate them.
The whole of Parliament House is insecure in certain aspects. I shall mention them now. I can quite well recall that in the course of some of my security training I was told that we should look at the security of three major aspects, within which there were certain subdivisions. The three major aspects were information, materials and personnel. I suggest that in this Parliament House we could secure these three major areas to some extent, but we will never be able to secure them against a person who is determined to break down any security measures that we may have and come into this building for his own particular purposes.
Let us look at those three areas. The security of information in this building is probably negligible. Senator Martin said that she could come into this building at any time and almost invariably find her office open. The position is the same with my office. I can come into this building at almost any time, even on weekends, and find it open. So how secure is the information that we are holding in our offices? How secure is the material that we are holding in our offices? I think it is very insecure. I do not think that this aspect will be overcome by the security measures brought into force recently.
The question of security of personnel raises a different matter. Those who would rather not see us have some form of security in the Parliament must bear in mind that it is not only their security which is involved; the security of other people is involved also. I think that the last time I spoke on this subject I mentioned that if there is any physical attack on people within this Parliament it is more likely that the victims of that attack will be the staff members rather than the members of this chamber or of the other chamber. It is our staff members that we should consider. When I was speaking last time I was about to say that a number of parts of the statement brought down by the President were deficient. For example, we were not told who was in charge of security. Shortly after I spoke, however, a statement was made about the appointment of a person to be in charge of security within Parliament House. This person is known to some members of this chamber; he certainly is not known to me. But even though the appointment has now beer made there is still a deficiency in that we have not been told exactly what his duties are. We should be told and we should be able to debate what his duties are. We have not been told the duties of the attendants in this place. Probably even some of the attendants do not know their duties. This information should be made available to us and we should be able to debate the duties of the attendants. We do not know- I certainly do not know- who are responsible to the person who is looking after security in this place. If arrangements have been made the information should be made available to members of Parliament.
The question of identification was mentioned only a short time ago. It was mentioned in the President’s statement that members of Parliament would be able to enter Parliament House without having any identification. There are certain weaknesses in this situation. If everybody else is wearing some form of identification- as I mentioned earlier I personally would have no objection to wearing some form of identification; some members of this Parliament would have objections. If we do not wear some form of identification it is inevitable that we are going to have some awkward moments. I already have been asked once for my identification. I was asked by one of the attendants of the House of Representatives. One could well expect that most of” the attendants on the Senate side would know the senators, although a newly appointed attendant would not know the members of the Senate for some time. During that time he would be placed in the awkward position of wondering whether to challenge a person because he is not carrying identification or, hopefully, to accept that he is a member of Parliament.
– After 1 July they will have the same problem.
-Certainly, when we have some 10 new senators or thereabouts after 1 July a number of the existing attendants will not know them for some time. But, perhaps more importantly, we in the Senate do not frequent only this side of Parliament House. At times we are obliged to go to the House of Representatives side. The attendants on that side are likely to see us less often than attendants on this side and they will not always be aware of who are the members of the Senate. The converse applies to members of the House of Representatives who come over to this side. Sometimes I still see members of the House of Representatives in the dining room whom I cannot recall having seen before.
– You are lucky.
-Certainly, Mr Minister, because they are from your side. This is perhaps why I am lucky but it is also the reason why I do not know them too well. Unless one works in a joint committee with members of the opposing parties one does not usually get to know members of the House of Representatives too well. If I find the situation difficult at times I am sure the attendants do too. I think that this matter has to be looked at. If decision has been made that everybody except members of Parliament is to wear identification if he or she comes into this place, something has to be done to make the members of Parliament easily recognisable to the attendants or to the people who have the responsibility to ensure that nobody without the correct pass or identification is in this building. I am not sure how this will be done. It could be done by members of Parliament wearing identification similar to that worn by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) this afternoon. It could be done by us wearing our gold badges of office. I am canvassing ways that it could be done.
The previous speaker in this debate spoke of what was happening in another Parliament. She said that members wore some identification in their lapels to show that they were members of parliament. I am not sure of what can be done that will be acceptable to all members of the House of Representatives and all members of the
Senate to make sure that we are easily recognisable to the attendants. It does not really worry me if I am challenged by an attendant and asked why I am not wearing my identification. But it does worry me that an attendant probably would be embarrassed when he found out that he had asked a member of Parliament why he was not wearing his identification. I am assuming that the attendants are the people who are responsible at the moment for the security of the House, and I am not sure that that is correct, as I outlined before, because we have not really been told. Presumably they are the people who are responsible and they should not be placed in the position of having to guess about whether we should be walking around without identification.
Earlier I mentioned that I would not be as gentlemanly as I was when I spoke last time. I now raise a point that has not angered me but one which has caused me to be a little annoyed. I think the whole of this debate probably has been relegated to the level of a farce. Although we are debating what was outlined in the paper presented by the President, when we came into Parliament House this week- some of us yesterday, some of us today- we found that all the security measures which were outlined in the paper have now been implemented. It would have been a much better idea for members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives to debate the question and the papers presented and then, on the basis of that debate, institute some security procedures.
Before I conclude I shall outline some incidents which have happened in the Western world which suggest that there is a need for security in this place. By my comments earlier I acknowledge that, in my own mind at least, there was need for security in this place. What I object to as a member of this Parliament- perhaps as a back-bench member but certainly as a memberis to have a paper put down indicating that certain security measures will be introduced, to be given an opportunity to debate the paper and then to find that, irrespective of what is happening in the debate, certain of the procedures referred to have already been undertaken. I would hope- even though probably the debate is somewhat farcical in that most of the procedures already have been implemented- that honourable senators from both sides will have an opportunity to say what they think about the security of Parliament, and that their views could still be taken into consideration. I know that there will be honourable senators, perhaps from both sides, who will have differing opinions about what should be done with regard to security in this place, but that is the very idea of the debateto enable us to air what we think should happen here, and have the matters to which we have referred taken into consideration.
I will outline three events which have occurred within a Parliament in the Western world which give some credence to the belief that we should examine the security of Parliament House. Probably the most tragic occurrence in recent years, and one that all honourable senators would remember, was the assassination in the South African Parliament itself of Prime Minister Verwoerd. Honourable senators will recall that it was an attendant- subsequently found to be mentally deranged- who came up to the Prime Minister in the chamber and stabbed him. Ten minutes later the Prime Minister, even though already on the way to the hospital had died. It may not be possible, under those circumstances, to prevent such an occurrence, no matter what security we have in this place. The assailant was a person trusted within the chamber. Even though it might not be possible to prevent that type of act from occurring, the fact that we have an effective security system in Parliament House would lessen the possibility of its happening and if it did lessen the possibility, that would be all the better.
Perhaps not so well known was an incident in 1970 in the House of Commons, when some CS gas was thrown into the Commons while it was actually in session. I am informed that CS gas is a type of tear gas which contains fine crystalline particles of the irritant 2chlorobenzalmalononitrile. Whether that is so or not, CS gas, or a type of tear gas, was actually thrown into the Commons. Three members of the House were taken to hospital as a result and, of course, the proceedings had to be interrupted. I will quote a passage in the Times which described the incident as follows:
Interruption . . .
A man in the public gallery threw two CS gas canisters on to the floor of the Chamber soon after 4.30 p.m. while Mr Barber, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, was making a statement about Common Market negotiations.
It went on to say that among the cries that were raised by the man who threw the gas were ‘How do you like it?’ and ‘Now you know what it is like in Belfast’. If we read other extracts from the Times we find that the actual language used was a little stronger than that and probably would not be allowed in this place, so I use that extract only.
That reminded me of something that happened in this place, I believe last year. While the
Senate was in session, suddenly a stream of pamphlets came from the gallery above us, a flag appeared and we heard chants and shouts. I did not at first know what was happening, but when I realised what had taken place I thought how easy it would be for someone to throw anything into the chamber. In fact, that has happened in the Commons.
In another incident, at the Palace of Westminster in 1974, a bomb exploded, injuring five members of the staff of the House of Commons, and a fireman. One staff member of the House suffered a fractured leg. I was rather interested to read the Hansard report of the debate on that incident. Mr Short, a member of the House, said:
We are agreed that the incident raises the whole question of security in the House and in the precincts.
I would hope that that does not happen here; that because of some incident that has occurred here we then decide that we have to look at our security. I think that the action that is being taken is probably the correct way to look at our security- in the hope of preventing that type of incident occurring here. I do believe that there are reasons why we should examine the security of this Parliament. It is probably unfortunate that the present examination was prompted by an act which occurred a short time ago in the Australian community. I refer to the bomb outrage in Sydney, but if that has prompted us to look at our security, I suppose it is something from which we can learn. I would have hoped that we would have looked at it before.
If I sound uncharitable I hope, Mr President, you will excuse me, but I think it would have been much better for members of this chamber and of the other place to have discussed all of these measures before certain security procedures were taken. When that does not happen it really takes out of the hands of anyone in this chamber the opportunity to make a worthwhile contribution about what he thinks should happen. I do hope that in the course of the remainder of the debate honourable senators will outline areas where they believe there are deficiencies. I firmly support the proposal from this side that the matter should be referred to the Privileges Committee. I support that proposal even more now than when I last spoke because of certain incidents which subsequently occurred.
If we are going to implement a system of security in this place- as we appear to have donethat system must be sound. An ad hoc system that was followed only partially would probably be more dangerous than having no security at all. I would hope that in the days to come- and if I may project it even further, in the years to come and the parliaments to come- we shall have an unobtrusive system of security, one which will be acceptable to members of the Parliament and also to those who work here. My thoughts on the matter are not necessarily for the members of Parliament, who probably are the least likely to be the subject of any act of terror here, but for the members of the staff, who are more likely to have a confrontation with someone who wants to go through our security barrier and carry out an act which we would not regard as acceptable.
- Mr President, I rise to support the motion that the Senate take note of the paper which you put down in the Senate on 2 March. I oppose the amendment which has been moved by Senator Button. Later in my speech, for reasons I will indicate, I shall move an amendment to that amendment which I think will be more acceptable to honourable senators on this side of the chamber. I hope that it will leave the Opposition’s amendment in a form that will be acceptable to honourable senators opposite.
I am interested to follow Senator Colston in this debate because he raised in his speech a number of matters which I would have thought were of interest to honourable senators generally. I disagree with the comment he made a few minutes ago that the debate is necessarily farcical because some security measures have already been instituted. I express the hope, Mr President, that you and those who advise you on these matters will in fact gain some benefit from the contribution in this debate of honourable senators who have made specific suggestions which may improve the arrangements which you have already instituted and which I support.
I share with all members of this Senate regret that we have reached a point where it has been thought necessary by most people that we should have additional security measures. I think that one of the satisfying things about Australian politics has been the fact that we have been able to carry out our work with a minimum of fuss and that there has been a high degree of public access to the people who represent the public. For example, I believe that most senators in this chamber still have their telephone numbers listed in the telephone book. This is a small indication of the good relations that exist between the general community and the elected representatives who sit in parliament. After all, there is no way in which one is more directly accessible to a very large number of people than over the telephone. The fact is that anyone can find in the telephone book the telephone numbers of most senators and members of the House of Representatives and ring them. I think that is a small fact that underlines the generally satisfactory situation that has existed in this country.
At the same time one simply has to acknowledge that there are some elements in the community who are capable of doing things which go outside the normal democratic process and which put people at risk, whether they are members of parliament or others. I well remember speeches that were made by honourable senators opposite when they were in government in which they complained about extremist elements in the community who were making life difficult for the Yugoslav Embassy and other people. Those honourable senators were quite properly concerned about small elements in the community who were prepared to indulge in violence and to endanger not only those whom they were seeking to attack but also the general public.
Having disagreed mildly with Senator Colston, can I also say that I agree with a number of points that he raised. Senator Colston, in common with Senator Sir Magnus Cormack and Senator Martin who spoke during the debate on this subject on 16 March, referred to the need to ensure the safety of staff in this building. I think that they expressed a widely shared view in the chamber, namely, that security is not merely a matter of ensuring the physical well being of senators or members of the House of Representatives; it is also a matter of ensuring that those who have the not always pleasant job of working for us do not have the additional disadvantage of having their lives placed at risk. I think for that reason one has to be prepared to put aside one’s own feelings of doubt about personal security. I believe that honourable senators such as Senator Cavanagh who tended to oppose the whole idea of security are, as Senator Sir Magnus Cormack observed, tending to look at their own situation and not regarding the situation of other people in this building. I think we have little choice in this matter but simply to follow sensible procedures which ensure that people are looked after.
I commend you, Mr President, and Mr Speaker, for the fact that your statement makes it perfectly clear that the members of the public will continue to have open admission to the areas in this building which have traditionally been open to the public. They will still be admitted to Kings Hall and to the area under Kings Hall. They will still be admitted to these chambers, as, of course, it is essential they must be admitted. I think it is important to underline the fact that the traditional freedom of the public to have access to the building in that sense has been preserved.
After all, one does not have to go into a parliament house to find restrictions on movement in what may be termed non-public areas. When I went to an office building in Melbourne last week I was required to declare myself at the desk in the foyer. I was required to take a pass before I was allowed to go into the private areas of that building. I did not object to that requirement. It is the perfect right of the tenants of that building to issue such directions.
– What building was that.
– It was simply an office building. This example underlines the fact that attitudes to these things are changing; that they have to change. Like a number of other honourable senators who have spoken in this debate I have had personal experiences which have left me dissatisfied with previous arrangements for security in this building. One particular case which I took up with you, Mr President, concerned an incident that occurred at about the time of the Queen’s visit. On that occasion I went to what was then my office- the Government Whip’s Office- on a Sunday morning. I walked into that room and found someone who I certainly did not know sitting at my secretary’s desk. I naturally sought an explanation and I was told that the female concerned was assisting in the servicing of the bleeper or paging system that has been installed in Parliament House. I made the comment, I think politely, that I thought she should tell her employers that if someone was to be in my office I should be advised. She left and someone else entered without knocking or seeking permission to enter. When I spoke to that person on several occasions I was ignored. I eventually asked him to leave and I was promptly abused for my trouble. I took up the matter with the housekeeper who was the nearest available person. He explained the very real problems that he faced under the existing rules. He asked: ‘What am I to do in situations where a lot of people come into this building?’ I am paraphrasing his remarks but I think I am giving a fair summary of what he said. He went on to say: If I interfere people tend to complain, including members, that I have to live and let live. They say that the working of parliament requires easy entry and access. But if I do nothing you complain’. He added: ‘What I would like to see is a set of rules so that we know where we stand ‘. I think that is a very reasonable stance for a member of the staff of this place to adopt.
At about the same time- I think it was the same weekend; if not, one or two days before or after that weekend- some very busy activity took place in a Minister’s offices. It involved people laying wires in the ceiling. I suppose I was a bit security conscious after my experience on the Sunday and I asked the members of the Minister’s staff what were the people doing. They told me they did not know. They had already commenced inquiries, and it took them some time to ascertain who these people were, what they were doing and who had authorised what they were doing. It seems to me that it is a rather unsatisfactory state of affairs that one has to be put on that sort of an inquiry. After all, if people are running wires around one cannot automatically assume that the action is innocent. They may not be planting a bomb, but, who knows, they may be planting a listening device. In the light of the conversations that I have had with the Minister concerned I can only say that anyone with a listening device could have some very entertaining evenings.
The other aspect to which I want to refer is concerned with the very relaxed way in which we behave in this building. I came back for this session with shoes polished, hair brushed and ready for action only to find all of my furniture and files out in the corridor. That was the end point at which my office was being partitioned- a job which I would say took slightly more labour than the erection of one of the pyramids. But that was the final point at which my office was being put into a fit condition for a decent Whip to occupy, and now, of course, a decent Whip does occupy it.
– Better than those indecent Whips of the past.
-That is right. In any event, the point I am making is that my papers were sitting in the corridor. I cannot find anything in my papers so I doubt whether anyone snooping would have much luck either. However, the fact that it is quite satisfactory for my files and papers to be piled out in the corridor underlines the point that we ought to have some control over who is walking up and down the corridors. Control over the corridor outside my former office is fairly limited because it is at the foot of the stairs to the Press Gallery. Fortunately the people in the Press Gallery are so marvellous that I am sure they would not look or pry and I see that the sole representative of Australian Associated Press Pty Ltd in the Press Gallery nods his head in confirmation. But the fact is that we leave our offices open and we leave papers on our tables. We know of at least one occasion on which someone was found, I believe, in the office of the then leader of honourable senators opposite.
- Mr Whitlam ‘s office.
-Mr Whitlam ‘s office. These things can happen. They have happened, and I for one believe that in this area where our offices lie it is highly desirable, quite apart from safety, that there should be what is generally termed security. There ought to be sufficient privacy for us to continue to live in a reasonably relaxed manner and to treat our offices as our own place where we do not have to lock everything up and behave in a stupid manner. I commend you and Mr Speaker for taking these decisions. I commend you for preserving public access to the Parliament, and I know that it would always be insisted by members just as it would be by the Presiding Officers that public access to this chamber, King’s Hall and the other chamber should be preserved.
What we have to do is see what sensible arrangements can be made. I express one reservation which I have about the ability of you, Mr President, and Mr Speaker to carry out the serious obligations which you have and from which you cannot escape; that is that any measure which you adopt, such as keeping watch on doors and the issuing of passes, will not of itself be a guarantee of effectiveness. We had an example of this given in the debate by Senator Colston who told us of somebody, a servant of a parliament, if I understood his account, who stabbed Mr Verwoerd. Obviously that sort of thing, as Senator George’s amusing quip made plain, is not prevented by the fact that people are wearing badges. I ask you, Mr President, and Mr Speaker to bear in mind that security has wider implications than simply what happens in this place. I suppose that only 0.00 1 per cent of the population of Australia would wish to do anything violent in this chamber. That tiny percentage of people will be far less restricted by the sort of measures which you have imposed than will the thousands of innocent people who seek to use this building.
The point I leave for your consideration is that it seems to me that the person you have appointed to be in charge of security ought to be conscious of the fact that he is but one tiny unit in the whole of Australia and that this issue of security here is part of a much wider problem. I do not know where you go from there but it appears that merely to concentrate on machinery measures, as effective and necessary as they might be, may mean that we miss the really serious case which is likely to come up, we hope, only once in a while. I do not support the amendment moved by Senator Button, not because I disagree with the reference of this matter to the Committee of Privileges but because I think there is a suggestion in the amendment that the measures which you have taken are not agreed to at this stage. I do not think honourable senators generally, and certainly honourable senators on this side of the chamber, would wish to support an amendment which in any way casts doubt on what you and Mr Speaker have done to date. However, many honourable senators will agree with the sentiments expressed by Senator Button when he led for the Opposition when he said that as he understood the traditions of Parliament, the rights and privileges of members of Parliament are peculiarly matters for the Parliament to consider and there should not be an infringement of those rights and privileges- whatever that infringement might be- without proper consultation and discussion with the members of Parliament’. That idea was put forward by Senator Colston in the chamber a little while ago and would have broad appeal.
What we are seeking to do when looking at our privileges as members of Parliament is simply to ensure that we retain the freedom to carry out our duties as elected representatives. That is the traditional approach to privilege. We are not to be prevented from getting to Canberra, from getting into this place or from exercising our rights within this place as members of Parliament. That is the heart of the privilege to which Senator Button was referring. I agree that when we impose a system of controls we are of necessity raising the possibility of some restriction of that freedom of which members of Parliament are very jealous. So I think there is a case for the whole matter to be looked at by the Committee of Privileges. I do not believe that would in any way subvert what you, Mr President, and Mr Speaker are trying to do. It would simply ensure that all members of Parliament were satisfied that the Parliament, as well as its Presiding Officers, was able to ensure that none of our traditional rights and privileges was in any way being infringed. I do not pretend that the Committee of Privileges will have an easy job. Senator Colston’s suggestion that we, as well as everyone else, should wear passes is one which he will have great difficulty selling to his colleagues on that side of the chamber. I share with him the view that I do not care whether I wear a pass, but I have a poor record for leaving behind my comb and other things such as credit cards which I wish to carry about in my wallet. I admit that it would probably cause me some personal inconvenience when I had to go back perhaps to Perth or alternatively only to Campbell to pick up the badge which I left behind. With that qualification I suggest that there may be additional measures of the sort which Senator Colston has raised which are reasonable. For the reasons I have outlined I move as an amendment to the amendment moved by Senator Button:
After ‘matter of, insert ‘the appropriate means of ensuring’.
That means that if the two amendments were accepted the motion as amended would read:
That the Senate take note of the statement, and that the matter of the appropriate means of ensuring the security of Parliament House be referred to the Committee of Privileges.
The difference between what I am proposing and what Senator Button is proposing is that the further amendment makes it clear that the Senate is not querying the need for appropriate means of security or what has been done already but is giving the Committee of Privileges a chance to look at the matter generally and to report back to the Senate. That is a sensible procedure which may well iron out some of the difficulties which have been raised in the course of this debate.
-Is the amendment moved by Senator Chaney seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– I wish to speak briefly on this subject and express some satisfaction that in the fortnight of the Easter recess Senator Chaney, Senator Peter Baume and at least some other Government senators have accepted that the suggestion in the Opposition’s amendment that this matter be reviewed by the Committee of Privileges is a worthy suggestion. I must say that after reading Senator Chaney ‘s further amendment and comparing it with Senator Button’s amendment, and not being so brilliant in English and semantics as is Senator Chaney, I find great difficulty in detecting the distinction between the two, but I will study them further and see what I can find. There are two aspects which have arisen in the debate on your statement, Mr President, which have caused some misunderstanding. These security changes that you and Mr Speaker made were made in such a way that when they were introduced no one knew what was going on.
We had extraordinary security precautions here on the day of the opening of Parliament which seemed to be changed at various times during the day and night, if the experiences of Senator Primmer and others who spoke on this subject are accurate, and I am sure they are. We had changes introduced in an atmosphere of almost hysteria in this country and the security provisions that were made at the opening of Parliament quite frankly gave one the impression of great ineptitude on the part of those who introduced them. At the opening of Parliament on the Tuesday it was almost impossible to get into the place. In fact another honourable senator and I were refused admission. However, when we arrived at the front door of the Parliament the next morning there was literally no one there. We strolled in apparently unobserved by anybody. It was in this atmosphere that the changes were introduced. The fact that the changes were introduced without details being given to anyone, including the people who have to take part in the performance of security functions around the place, resulted in this uncertainty and the feeling that we did not know what was going on.
The second aspect that has caused problems, I am sure, is the fact that the second set of security provisions- the ones we have now- were introduced without consultation with the Parliament and without consultation with even a committee of the Parliament like a Privileges Committee. In the four years that I have been in this Parliament many people have spoken on the lack of security in our offices and in the building generally, particularly late at night and early in the morning, about doors not being locked and about people seemingly being able to wander in and out at will. We have had complaints in this chamber- indeed we had quite a vigorous debate on this in this chamber- that someone had stolen a report from an honourable senator’s office. For all that time various people have been expressing concern about the lack of security in this place but nothing has been done.
What is happening at present arose out of an incident which occured in Sydney. It arose on the initiative of a Prime Minister whose reaction to the incident at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting in Sydney was highly criticised by all sorts of people around the country. Ex-intelligence officers like Major Peter Young, and Professor Geoffrey Fairbairn, who is considered, certainly by people opposite, as an expert on terrorism, criticised the initiatives of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) as being an over-reaction, heavy-handed and possibly ineffective. Yet they were initiated in this Parliament by this same gentleman. One understands, though one does not know for sure, that in fact you, Mr President, and Mr Speaker watered down considerably the provisions that the Prime Minister wanted to introduce. For that I am grateful, as I am sure everybody else is grateful.
On the matter of security, I must say that I have no objection to a security system in this place which keeps tabs on people who are wandering around the private sections- not the public sections like Kings Hall- of this Parliament and limits the possibility of their wandering at will in and out of my office or anybody else’s office. If the best method of doing so is the use of identification badges, I will accept that. But we have not discussed in this place whether that is the best method. We have not had the advice of a committee like the Privileges Committee as to whether it is the best method. It is very likely that it is the best method. But it is wrong to introduce a method like that, saying: ‘This is what you will have; it is effective’, without having some evidence that it is effective. I accept the fact that employees at airports must wear identification badges to protect my safety and the safety of everybody else. I really do not object if that is the best system of keeping tabs on people in this place. I hope- and I seek an assurance that this will be the case- that areas such as Kings Hall and other areas which are traditionally accessible to the public shall remain so, with as little limitation on the movement of the public as possible.
I must add that I have no objection if people who wish to see me must first contact me or my research assistant from the front door of the House and ascertain whether I am able to see them. I do not appreciate, and have not appreciated in the past, people who are drunk, or disturbed or even just irate, walking into my office unannounced. This has happened in the past.
– We all send them there.
-I am sure that Senator Withers directs them all up to my office. As I say, this has happened in the past and I do not think it should happen in the future. It is not a matter of privileges or rights or anything else. I think it is a matter of common efficiency that people should not be allowed to wander around this place in any sort of state and be able to burst into my office and start haranguing me or praising me, should that unusual circumstance arise, or anything else. I am not so much concerned with the so-called privileges and rights of members of parliament as they affect me, provided I am able to work efficiently and provided I have proper access to the Parliament, to have freedom of speech and access to the people whom I am supposed to represent. But, as I said before, I am very concerned about the methods that were used to introduce the measures we have now. I think this is the crux of the problem. This is what is referred to in Senator Button’s amendment and I am pleased to see that Senator Chaney and his colleagues, whoever they are, have accepted the fact that this is a matter of concern.
As I said, these security measures were introduced at an abnormal time in an atmosphere of hysteria and at the behest of a Prime Minister who was trying to flog every bit of political mileage he could out of the incident that occurred in Sydney. I am glad, Mr President, that you and the Speaker watered down the provisions he wanted. This is to be welcomed. But the fact remains that the changes were made without reference to the Houses of the Parliament and without reference even to the Privileges Committee or any other appropriate committee of this Parliament upon which we can all be represented. A precedent has been set whereby, in future, an Executive which may have compliant presiding officers in this place can extend the security measures and interfere with the functioning of this Parliament and with the so-called rights and privileges of the Parliament on the pretext that it is protecting the members of the Parliament or that it is protecting the staff of the members of Parliament. No one in this place seems to like to admit that they are a bit worried about themselves but they are all terribly worried about their staff. We all accept the risks inherent in being parliamentarians. We have all suffered verbal abuse. I have even seen a senior parliamentarian physically assaulted.
– The Prime Minister is assaulted regularly.
– He was physically assaulted by one of your supporters, senator. But we must be very wary of using emotive occasions and emotional arguments like that to suddenly introduce drastic new measures which, on consideration, may be necessary but which I believe mostly will be unnecessary. I think such measures as are introduced should be scrutinised by a committee- and I think the Privileges Committee is probably the most appropriate committeewhich contains representatives of all parties in this Parliament so that we can somehow protect the democratic processes and practices of our parliamentary democracy. If any attempt is made by an Executive or by presiding officers to interfere with the proper functioning of the Parliament, appropriate publicity can be given to it and pressures applied so that changes cannot be made under those circumstances. The changes should be made in a calm and unemotional atmosphere, not as a result of an hysterical reaction as is the case with these changes. This is the worry. I accept the fact that we cannot debate and broadcast to the world the minutiae of every security arrangement that has ever been made in this place. But neither should the security procedures used in this place be the prerogative of the Executive or, in my opinion, of the Presiding Officers alone.
I have said that on the surface I have no particular objection to the present security measures that have been introduced, although I am still uncertain as to exactly how they are supposed to operate. Therefore I express concern. Until I am quite clear on what is supposed to happen, I cannot express approval or disapproval. There seems to be a great difference of opinion around this place as to whether a constituent who comes to visit me, or any other member in this place, needs to have a pass to get from the front door to my office or the office of any other honourable member. There seems to be a great difference of opinion amongst attendants and others as to whether someone has to go to the front door and conduct that visitor to my office or the other offices and whether that visitor in fact has to declare his name and address. That is one issue on which I cannot get a clear answer from anyone. This sort of thing has to be made perfectly clear, apart from anything else so that people are not inconvenienced and harassed too much in this place.
I hope that the amendment moved by Senator Button is carried. From a cursory look I see that the amendment moved by Senator Chaney would have the same effect. I hope that the Privileges Committee can do its job and look carefully at what has been introduced and that any future measures will not be introduced without the Committee of Privileges followed by the Parliament, as much as possible, looking at them carefully, not only to protect us but also to protect the Parliament as an institution, the democratic process and therefore our constituents who also need protecting if we are to retain our present system.
– I shall say a few words in regard to this matter. As we realise, the statement which the President made to the chamber on the question of security in the Parliament building is an important matter. At the time the President made the statement it evoked some criticism and concern on the part of honourable senators, particularly Opposition senators. We were thinking of the incident at the
Hilton Hotel which caused a great deal of concern in this country. It provoked a need to review again the question of security of the Parliament, among other institutions.
I face this matter and the actions which are being put into effect with, at first glance, a feeling of some concern. One regrets very much that it should be necessary to take additional steps in adding security to the country as it may appear to put some sort of barrier between members of parliament and the public. It is very important that we ensure that these actions do not put any real barrier between them. I am sure that is the intention of the Opposition amendment and the amendment of the Government. I shall deal with those amendments first.
Senator Grimes said that he can see no difference between the amendment moved by Senator Button and that moved by the Government. It would be very nice if that were so but I think there is a difference. It arises in this way. Decisions about the control of Parliament House are within the power of the President and Mr Speaker. They are the officers elected by us for the purpose of ensuring proper control and management. The Parliament buildings should not be run by the Executive. They are run by the elected officers of the Parliament. It is important that we should not suggest in any motion we carry that we are derogating from that responsibility. It is their responsibility essentially. It is on that basis that the President made his statement, appointed an officer and carried into effect certain plans in regard to security.
The amendment moved by the Opposition appears to take away that responsibility from the President and Mr Speaker. It said that the matter of security of the Parliament should be referred to the Privileges Committee. It suggests that the Privileges Committee is to have full responsibility ibr determining the control of security. Probably that is not the intention of the Opposition. Of course, it is not in any way the full role of the Privileges Committee. The amendment moved by Senator Chaney makes this clear. The proposal is that we take note of the statement the President made and the procedures will be implemented. The appropriate means of ensuring the security of Parliament should be referred to the Privileges Committee. In considering the appropriate means the Committee could look at the privilege aspects of this matter to see where the implementation of these procedures could impinge upon the proper rights of members of parliament, and, even more importantly, the proper rights of members of the public to have full access to their members.
I think therefore that Senator Chaney ‘s amendment is more appropiately worded. It will ensure that the Privileges Committee looks at that aspect of the problem, namely, the privileges aspect which is within its responsibility. It does not derogate in any way from the proper role of the President and Mr Speaker. Some criticisms have been made to me outside the Parliament. People fear that if we surround ourselves too much with an apparatus of control people who come into the Parliament will be inhibited.
– They will be.
-I did not say they will be. I hope they will not be, but we must bear in mind that there may be some intimidation in people’s minds. Perhaps this will be wrong but it may happen. People who come to see members of parliament may not want their names to be recorded. On some occasions illegal migrants may come to see a member of parliament. They come to see us on occasions in our offices in the States. They may come here for advice and consultation and to request action. Consequently, one could imagine that they would not want the records taken to fall into the hands of Executive Government.
I do not believe that would be so but we need that assurance. The Privileges Committee can, I trust, give the assurance that there will not be any misuse of the records kept for the purposes of ensuring the security of people in this building and that they are not intended to be a form of excessive surveillance of members of the public. That is one criticism that I have heard. It is an aspect that the Privileges Committee should look into to make sure that there is no suggestion that and no way in which the recording of names and passes could be misused. Likewise, it is very important that there be parliamentary control and knowledge of the security system which is being brought into operation. From this point of view, as Senator Chaney pointed out, it is important that the senior members of the Privileges Committee should be aware of the system and be in a position to monitor from time to time the aspects of security which concern us. These problems will change from time to time and other problems may arise. Members of the Privileges Committee would be able to advise the President and Mr Speaker on situations that could create new problems.
There are some problems in regard to the wearing of labels. I imagine that our wives who come here on social occasions will not find it delightful to come into the building wearing a placard which probably will not accord with the colour of their dresses.
– What is wrong with that?
– I am surprised to hear Senator Walters say: ‘What is wrong with that?’ A clash of colours would be an outrageous thing to expect a wife with any dress sense to put up with. That is a small matter. Perhaps the wearing of passes is not necessary. Members of Parliament are not expected to wear these placards. We are in a privileged position. Perhaps our wives are better known in many cases than members of the Senate themselves.
– They are better looking.
-Senator Withers said that they are better looking. He was referring to my own wife and his wife. I agree entirely with that observation. But perhaps we can go too far in requiring the wearing of these badges. I agree that it is a very common practice for employees in all kinds of organisations to wear name tags. Each day that we travel to this place by air we see that the employees are labelled in this way. It may be that in those places where questions of security could arise critically, that practice has to be adopted to a very substantial degree. Once again, I think it is a matter involving the privileges of members of Parliament and others in this building which ought to be looked at carefully by the Privileges Committee.
On all occasions there has surely to be a balance between security and the liberty of the subject. Where there is a conflict, certainly the weight should be for the liberty of the subject. In my opinion, that is of great importance but, likewise, security is of great concern, because within that freedom we are able to exercise our rights and perform our duties as members of parliament.
I see a problem arising in respect to the mechanics involved in people coming into this building, meeting a senator and then going somewhere else. Already today I have seen that sort of situation arising and presenting something of a difficulty. Obviously a great deal of extra work is created for the attendants. If someone comes into the building and says that he wants to see Senator A and then wants to see someone else and so on, I am not at all sure what is the duty of the senator who first saw that person. Is it his job then to see that that person gets to the member or the Minister on the other side of Parliament House? It may be that the time of members of this Parliament will be greatly taken up if they have to take people backwards and forwards -
– They will become couriers.
– They will become couriers, as the honourable senator says, taking people backwards and forwards. Alternatively, the members of the staff of this Parliament will be very busy if they have to pick up people and take them away. I do not know whether, once a person has seen the member of parliament he came to visit, he is then to be considered safe and therefore able to move freely. But if he is not considered to be safe, I see a problem arising in regard to the time of members of parliament, which is very limited and which is greatly taken up in attending to all kinds of activities, being further taken up with people who want to see more than one person. They come here with multiple purposes. Sometimes they want to make representation to a dozen members of the Parliament. It will create a problem if those members have some responsibility for the continuance of that person on his or her way. These, I believe, are problems which must be weighed and balanced. No doubt sensible proposals will be made.
It is important, as the President said in his statement, that the pass system does not alter the existing freedom of movement, or the existing restrictions upon movement within the building, of persons permitted to enter the non-public areas. I think we have to bear in mind that this not an easy building in which to have a security system. When we have a new and permanent parliament house- I trust under your presidency, Mr President, that will be soon and that we will proceed with it- no doubt the arrangement could be made which would make it much easier to impose a sensible security system. The situation is more difficult in this rather old, rambling building, in which members and senators can well get lost and go to the wrong places if they are not careful, naturally makes it very difficult for members of the public. If they stray in the wrong direction they are pulled up and embarrassed. That is a situation which I think should be avoided as far as possible. That will require the attendants and those people who have some responsibility in regard to security being ultra careful about the degree of courtesy that they use when they deal with persons in the building and therefore ensuring that nothing is done to restrict the opportunity of the individual to come here and lay his complaints before members of parliament, to be heard and therefore to make a better use of the Parliament.
There is in this country a great deal of disillusion about parliament. There is no doubt about that. That is only partly due to the way in which it is reported by the Press. Parliament is looked on as perhaps an aloof separated organisation in a very aloof separated city. I say that with all respect to Senator Knight. In the public’s eye it is a rather aloof and distant place. I feel that if the parliament is to recover some of the respect and feeling of usefulness which the public very often does not consider it has, we have got to be careful when we make decisions in regard to the security of the Parliament that we do not prevent that. On the other hand, we have got to be positive. We have got to take some real steps to inform the public better about the Parliament, but that will be the subject of another debate at another time. All I say at this point about the security of the Parliament is that we should do nothing which may inhibit free contact between members of the public and members of the Parliament.
On the occasion when this matter was previously being debated in the Senate, I felt, particularly from the remarks of Opposition senators, that there was perhaps a little in the nature of hysteria in regard to the proposals which were made. I heard one honourable senator make remarks about fire dangers and the danger of closed doors. I would not include that in my remarks about hysteria. About a year or two ago I discovered from my questioning of officers of the Parliament- I was particularly concerned then about the air conditioning system and the lack of activity in that regard- that great concern was expressed in correspondence from the unions about the fire dangers and the problems which people working in this building could well suffer. I think perhaps that is not a very great danger but it is a problem. Naturally, with the closing of doors in order to restrict entry and exit from this building, one has to be concerned that there are ample entrances and exits for people in the case of fire. However, that is probably not a great problem. Naturally, restricting the number of entrances to a building such as this is a matter which is in the public interest. The number of people who can be placed at the entrance doors is limited. The number of locations at which we can leave our message system instruments is limited. Therefore I think one has to weigh together the two aspects of the number of exits and entrances and also the fact that we could overstaff the Parliament if we are not careful by having people on duty all over the place.
I believe that the statement which you made, Mr President, represents a fair and sensible attitude towards the matter of security. I think therefore it has the basic support of members of the Senate. I think a number of us have expressed reservations about the details, and we believe that it would be wise if security matters were looked at by the Privileges Committee also- the Committee which is responsible to the Parliament to ensure that the rights and privileges of its members and of the public are preserved. For that reason I support the amendment moved by Senator Chaney which I hope will be carried by this chamber.
Sitting suspended from 5.58 to 8 p.m.
– The Senate is considering the statement which was put down in this place by you, Mr President, and in the House of Representatives on 2 March and the debate which has taken place on several occasions since then. It is true to say that some concern has been expressed at the manner in which matters involving the security of this place and of those who work in it- of course, that includes members of parliament-, have been put into effect. Justification for the debate that has taken place over the last month is now borne out by the amendment which was moved today by an honourable senator on the Government side. It seems to me that that amendment has taken into account and consideration the relevant criticism which was expressed by my colleagues in the Opposition on the occasion when this matter was first debated in the Senate.
We have to ask what is the purpose of the security proposals. Are they to protect the institution? Are they designed to protect the staff or to protect members of parliament? It is relevant that we consider whether those objectives will be achieved by the methods which have been outlined and by the administative steps which have been put into effect. First of all I think it has to be said that the institution, that is, the building and the facilities which are here, is probably indefensible. Whatever steps are taken, I doubt that we can say with any degree of certainty that the building could be completely and utterly protected unless we were to withdraw the rights of citizens to visit this place. Maybe I am influenced by some of the more dramatic events which have occurred overseas and by the way in which the ingenuity of man has been expressed in the entertainment which is given to us regularly at theatres and on the television.
It seems to me that if somebody really sets out to do damage, it is very difficult for those in authority to protect a building or an institution. Of course, we are all committed to the principle that we protect the staff. But I wonder whether we are not elevating that principle to too high a degree. Let us face it, the staff is scattered in cities and towns throughout the length and breadth of Australia. The staff in those locations do not and will not enjoy the protection which it is suggested the staff here may enjoy from some untoward incident. If we are concerned about protecting the staff then surely we should be concerned about protecting also the staff of the Department of Social Security or of the Taxation Office and of the other Public Service instrumentalities. I wonder to what extent that principle has relevance when we consider the way in which the whole operation has been put into effect.
That finally brings me to the members themselves. Many members have disclaimed any personal desire to be protected. They consider that there is no obligation to protect them and they do not want to be put in a premier position or into a position in which they are protected from citizens, whoever they may be. After all, to some extent that would be without purpose because we are here only three or four days a week, depending on the sitting times. The moment we leave this place we are prone to be subjected to any incident whatsoever. I do not believe that that situation has any priority in a question of the security measures which have been projected and which have been taken so far.
It has to be recognised that times have changed. In saying that I am influenced by the fact that we are living in a period of history where events and individual acts of terrorism are becoming commonplace. So one cannot be blase about the matter. One cannot take an offhand point of view. But I think it behoves us, and particularly those who wield executive power and who hold the power, to act in such a way as to avoid the sort of public reaction which provokes people to acts of terrorism. I would like to see more thought given to that aspect instead of emphasising the protection of this place. During the brief few years that I have been here we have had demonstrations about the war in Vietnam. We have had demonstrations about conscription. I can remember occasions during the first few months I was here when conscripts were seeking to express a point of view to the AttorneyGeneral and to the government of the day. We had the black embassy when people pitched tents on the front lawns of Parliament House. We have had other demonstrations, deputations and delegations. We have the annual pilgrimage to Canberra by senior citizens, our pensioners.
Whilst some strongly held views have been expressed about some of those issues, the point has never been reached where the rights of those citizens, to represent themselves in this place and in various ways through members of political parties, have been affected because we have seen fit to take the sorts of steps which have now been taken. We take issue at the manner in which these arrangements have been introduced. I think it is true to say- Senator Missen correctly underlined this fact and other speakers referred to it- that there is an alienation in the Australian community about the use and abuse of arbitrary power. I find it incongruous for somebody like Senator Sir Magnus Cormack to give unqualified support for what has been done at the request of the Executive or of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) when Sir Magnus, in this place and in articles, has attacked the excessive use of executive power.
One question with which members of all political parties should concern themselves is the use of this power and the degree to which there is growing alienation of sizable sections of the Australian community because of the way in which those who hold power exercise that power. It seems to me that it is part of the responsibility of those who have power to exercise it in such a way to show that they take into consideration the minority views which exist within the community. This is one of the surest ways to avoid the sorts of unfortunate and dreadful incidents which have taken place in recent years. I do not refer particularly to our country but to the world scene. I think we have all been appalled at the development of terrorism, and we all deplore it. Of course, it happens in other countries. My colleague Senator Colston referred to one or two incidents that have taken place in the parliamentary scene, but in Europe attempts to kidnap or murder industrialists have been made by those whom now we have to recognise and identify as being alienated from the society in which they live.
I doubt whether any of the security proposals, taken in isolation, will achieve the results suggested by the Presiding Officers or by the Prime Minister. I would prefer to see the exercise of legislative power. I do not believe the real power resides in Parliament, but others believe that there is some purpose in the parliamentary process and that governments in fact do exercise the major power. To that extent a degree of responsibility rests upon the government of the day. Are we to take steps which reflect the public consensus or are we to be provocative? We may well be provocative on the question of uranium. It must be conceded that it is an issue on which there are strongly held views within the Australian community, as there were on the war in Vietnam. If governments blithely ignore these strongly held views, it is likely that confrontation will lead to further alienation. I trust and hope that events do not lead to what has happened in other countries on other issues. But be that as it may, I cannot conceive that we have taken these rather extraordinary steps. I hope that some of the more senior members of the Government who have been concerned about the use of arbitrary power and the rights of Parliament express wherever they can the need to preserve, as far as is practicable, the rights of members of parliament and the rights of citizens to assemble and to present a point of view. I am sure that if there had been a proper parliamentary debate on these matters before the arbitrary decision was made much of the concern and many of the difficulties that members have experienced could have been avoided.
I happened to be in the position today of being seriously embarrassed. Several weeks ago I invited an important official from a foreign embassy to lunch. He was not permitted to come to my office in order to have lunch with me today. I was required, so an attendant said, to go to King’s Hall, get a badge and personally escort my guest to the dining room. I do not consider that it is part of my responsibilities to be a courier for any person. I should not be rung up by an attendant and told that it is my responsibility to go to King’s Hall and identify a person and escort him into the building. Nor do I consider it the responsibility of the Presiding Officers to say whether we shall or shall not wear a badge of office. I can remember within the last couple of years an issue arising in this place about members wearing badges displaying the words Bight the Wrong’ and ‘Fraser Must Go’ and whether those sorts of badges should or should not be worn within the Parliament. Now it has been suggested seriously that we should wear badges of identification. I believe that such a requirement would be an infringement. I might be wrong in that judgment but I am entitled to express that view before somebody makes the decision. I regard freedom of movement in this place as one of my privileges that ought not be jeopardised without my being consulted. That is the issue that has to be considered.
The whole issue of security has arisen because somebody in the Government, some person in authority- it may well have been the Prime Minister but I will not condemn him for it because I do not know- very foolishly made a decision to hold an international conference in an area of Sydney that must be regarded as one of the most congested and least able to be protected. I deplore and condemn unequivocally the fact that a bombing took place and that innocent people lost their lives.
– You did not say this before it happened.
– But I could not think of a worse decision.
– In hindsight.
– Not in hindsight; at any time. In Canberra it could have been organised in a way in which maximum security could have been preserved, particularly in the light of so many instances of attack upon those who represent the country of India and those who hold strong views about Lee Kuan Yew. These are provocative areas. From international experience, we must have known that there was a likelihood that some incident would take place. One need only look at the way in which public figures have been attacked. President Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, the leader of the Japanese Socialist Party was stabbed to death. Another incident involved the Prime Minister of South Africa. Time and again public figures have been subjected to attacks from which they were allegedly in a position to be protected. President Kennedy was a man who would in normal circumstances have been as safe as any citizen could be. Yet he was assassinated in his own country, despite security arrangements for his protection.
Following those killings, the Hilton incident or countless other incidents, have we ever seen action taken by those in authority to reprimand or in any way to penalise those who failed in their jobs? We have not been told, for example, whether the persons responsible for the security of the Hilton Hotel and the failure to protect the international visitors there ever had disciplinary action taken against them. One can go through incident after incident only to find that for some unknown reason no steps have been taken to bring home to those who must be charged with the responsibility of protecting these people -
– That was the New South Wales Police. They were the people who fell down. Get your facts right.
– It is very easy for a member of a Government party to try to put the blame on the New South Wales Police Force because New South Wales happens to be currently under the leadership of a Labor Government. But that is not what we are concerned about. The fact is that regardless of whether the Commonwealth Police, the security organisations or the New South Wales State Police were responsible, we know not of any disciplinary action taken here or anywhere else in the world. The fact that these incidents take place highlights how difficult it is for us to establish in Parliament in Canberra a system that will protect the institution, the staff and the members of the Parliament.
I think it is part of our responsibility, as Senator Missen has rightly said, to create the conditions that will enable citizens to have unhindered use of this place and unhindered use of us. But to do that we need to create a political climate. I doubt whether that political climate has been created. I think that it is part of the responsibility that rests within the Parliament to ensure that that climate is created; that citizens feel that they can come here unhindered, unnoticed and unregistered. I am told that if somebody wants to see me, as a member of parliament unannounced, that person has to register at the front desk and then- according to what I have been told today- I have to leave my place and escort that person. As Senator Missen correctly said, there are many occasions when persons come here to see Opposition members about a particular issue and then require the right to interview members of other parties, the Government parties.
These sorts of matters have not been thought through sufficiently. In our desire to increase the security of this building we have overlooked some of these important fundamentals. I do not say that I have the answers to them. But surely they are. matters that ought to come within the purview of the Privileges Committee. They are matters that ought to be examined very closely. Members who have enough to do here with inadequate staff should not be required to use their time and energy in accompanying people from one place to another. Yet that is what has been suggested. I imagine that, first and foremost, the principle that has existed since Cromwell’s time of the citizens having free and unfettered rights to the King’s Hall and to their members of Parliament must be preserved at all costs. I have had occasion, particularly after I was elected to the executive of my Party as a shadow Minister, to have discussions with a wide ranging group of people. Those people would not have been prepared to discuss matters with me here over a meal, purely on an advisory basis, if they had been required to be identified at the front desk.
– But you could meet them elsewhere.
– I am just asking the Government senators to consider that situation because it might well be that they could be placed in that position at a later time. Such is the pendulum of history. As Senator Withers correctly said a few weeks ago when we were talking about staff, it is not until we lose something that we realise what we have lost. A great number of people want to see us for a whole variety of reasons. Senator Missen correctly put his finger on the position when he mentioned the new Australian or migrant element in our community. I have spoken to a few people about the current problem that exists in Sydney. How easily these people are led by professionals about what they should and should not do to those who allegedly are in authority. How easily they accept advice and do what they are told will be in their best interests. Honourable senators will concede that because of language and cultural difficulties and differences many people are easily influenced. Yet they are the people who all of us in our respective political positions and parties want to help. No impediment should be placed in front of these people. Just imagine if some person with a language difficulty came to this place to talk to any Government or Opposition senator today about the problem I mentioned. Imagine how they would be affected by being required to go through the processes which have been put into effect.
Mr President, I do not doubt your sincerity, or that of Mr Speaker, in taking the steps that you did. I doubt the wisdom of implementing the procedures in the way in which this was done. I shall give an example to illustrate my point. On Friday last a memo was sent out by the Usher of the Black Rod- I gather it may have been put in my office on Friday; it certainly was there when I arrived this morning- telling me that ministerial and senators’ staff and officers of the Senate department and so forth and so on would be required as from yesterday, to carry out certain procedures. It happened that my staff member drove from Sydney this morning and had some difficulties. I did not know of the memo until I had opened my correspondence. He certainly did not know of it. I was at a meeting of my Party Executive at the time. If there was some urgency in these matters at least a telegram could have been sent to us in Sydney last week. These procedures could have been introduced following the conclusion of this debate. These sorts of irritants could have been avoided. They should have been avoided. I am sure that through the experiences that we are all having- I include you, Mr President, and Mr Speaker- we will become aware of more and more of these difficulties which will accrue in the implementation of these security arrangements.
I conclude by emphasising the point that I find myself in complete agreement with Senator Missen: We must create the right political climate so that every citizen who wants to see us, rightly or wrongly about any issue, can see us in this place. Whatever steps are necessary to protect the security of this place must not impinge upon that fundamental right.
We recognise that if people have ulterior motives in their minds in respect of this building, the staff or members, the steps that have been taken can in no way be substituted for the right of the citizens to see their members of parliament. If somebody has it in mind, if the climate of confrontation and dissatisfaction has been created to a major degree about the way in which the Government or the Parliament is operating, a premeditated action can and will take place. No matter what security measures we may take here, such as the wearing of badges and putting more attendants and police in King’s Hall, none of these steps will prevent a tragedy if the climate is such as it has been- and Government senators certainly recognise its existencefollowing the events of 1 1 November 1975 when passions were aroused. That sort of climate should be avoided by the Government if it is really sincere about protecting the institution and those who work in this building.
I think it would be true to say that we are satisfied that Government senators have conceded their support for the Opposition amendment because it meets to some extent the disagreements that we have expressed in this debate. I hope that the Senate will adopt the compromise proposition. I personally am prepared to support it because I think it will give to a Committee of the Parliament an opportunity to put into effect the basic aims of protecting not only the Parliament but also the rights and privileges of members.
- Mr President, the Senate is debating your statement on security in Parliament House and two amendments to it, one of which I rise to second. The argument before the Senate appears to fall into three areas. The first is whether there is a need for security in Parliament
House- perhaps for better security than we have had- and a number of honourable senators have addressed themselves to that question. Secondly, there is the separate question of the general processes by which security should be achieved, and there are differing opinions as to which methods may be appropriate or inappropriate. Thirdly, there may be some particular issues which have been associated with the initial implementation of the measures which you have announced in your statement. They are all really separate questions.
Turning first to the general proposition that there is a problem of security, a legitimate area of concern for a presiding officer- one in which he may choose to move- I think that we can answer at least some of the concerns which honourable senators have. As I have listened to the debate, it has appeared that most honourable senators have acknowledged by means of anecdotes and of examples of events elsewhere, that they recognise the inadequacies of the security measures that have been taken in this place. I look in the galleries and I am reminded that we in the past have made provision for security. We have an excellent staff of people who are placed around Parliament House for no other purpose than to help to ensure a degree of security. But that does not stop us, perhaps stimulated by events earlier in the year in Sydney, from pausing to examine once again the kind of security risk that we face.
Mr President, we do not do it in any sense of hysteria or great self-pity, but it is worth asking whether there is a risk. As Senator Gietzelt has pointed out, given the events of the times, given the feelings of the age in which we live, one may well ask: Is there a risk to which we should be responding? I think one has to agree that there is in the world today an increasing security problem, in that in the political arena violence is being used, not merely sporadically and fortuitously but now systematically. I was interested in the example given by Senator Colston, in his very balanced presentation, of the stabbing of a Prime Minister of South Africa. That kind of event, the sporadic act of a person who may be deranged, is very difficult to guard against. What I am concerned about is the rising incidence of violence and terrorism as a strategy, a tactic, a means of achieving and using power in today’s world. We have examples all around us. I am not attempting, Mr President, to enter upon an unauthorised cognate debate but if I might turn for a moment to the Prime Minister’s statement on protective security and counter terrorism, I would note that it contains a summary of the number of incidents over the last few years which provides a measure of the extent to which terrorism has increased.
The Prime Minister said that according to evidence given recently to a United States Senate Committee, in the last five years there have been around the world 1800 major acts of terrorism, which have resulted in 512 deaths, 551 injuries and 363 kidnappings. We need simply to remind ourselves of what has happened in Italy, one of the few democracies in the world- perhaps 25 in number, and which probably only 18 would satisfy our requirements for proper parliamentary democracies. In Italy, in the centre of one of its largest cities, the kidnapping of one of the leading political figures of that country occurred. Terrorism has become fashionable. I see no reason, if one is to make a reasoned assessment of what is likely to happen here, to make any other assumption than that in the years that lie ahead we will see more, rather than less, of a certain kind of activity, After all, we are close to the rest of the world, we are part of the world, and there is no reason why we should imagine that we shall be insulated from events that are happening elsewhere.
If there is a need for security in the parliaments of other countries, a need for security in other countries generally, why would there not be a similar need here? For example, internationally known senior terrorists have, in the last three or four years, been identified in Australia. On at least one occasion a major figure in an international terrorist organisation was discovered here and was deported. That took place, of course, before the visit of General Moshe Dayan to this country. That particular person was identified here. There is no reason to believe that we will be free from terrorist activity. To that extent, the events that took place at the Hilton Hotel did no more than bring us back to a sense of the realities of today. I am not going to argue with Senator Gietzelt. I am not concerned at this stage with where the responsibilities may have lain. That is another question, which will be answered by authorities in New South Wales and the Commonwealth. It is a rather fruitless argument for us to go into at the moment.
Moving on to the question of security in this country, wherever I go now I am involved in answering questions, identifying myself and submitting to appropriate security arrangements. Senator Chaney reminded us that last week, when he visited an office building in Melbourne, he had to go through the same kind of procedures as you have instituted in this building now, Mr President. When I travel on Australia ‘s airlines I must be prepared to meet their security requirements. In Adelaide two days ago I was not allowed to take my tape recorder aboard a plane until I had operated it, until the security officers could be sure it was indeed a tape recorder and not some kind of bomb. I notice that people who work for airlines and in airports wear the kind of identity disc which you, Mr President, have now introduced to Parliament House.
When I visit government departments, for example, the Department of Foreign Affairs, I have to go through identification procedures that are perhaps more stringent than have been introduced here. When I worked in a hospital in the United States I was surprised at first to discover that one had to have identification. I was told that after the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas he was taken to the South Western Medical Centre, a major medical centre and very fine medical school. It became clear in the course of the later debriefing that one of the major failures in that situation had been the total inability to control entry into the emergency department of that centre, or to control therein the movement of people generally. There was no information available at that stage as to who did and who did not belong. In that situation it made a lot of sense for the hospital in Tennesee for which I worked to insist that we also should be identified by means of the kind of tags that you, Mr President, have introduced here. I understand that tertiary institutions in this country now are insisting upon the adequate identification of their students in certain situations.
Of course, when I visit the parliaments of other countries I find that they make no bones about and no apologies for the kinds of security arrangements that they regard as routine and necessary. If we think that our Parliament is security conscious obviously we have never been to Israel and tried to enter the Knesset, which is the parliament of one of the few parliamentary democracies in the world. To enter the parliament building in Israel one has to go through a police checkpoint. Even inside the building bullet proof glass is placed in front of the galleries. One may say that is taking things a bit far but the political life of that country is, as I think everyone will agree, vigorous and active. All that those security arrangements are doing is to give to the institution of parliament the capacity or the greatest possible chance to carry on its function and work without the systematic use of terror to disrupt what it is seeking to achieve.
When I visited the House of Commons I saw what I considered to be some security arrangements. Searches of bags and parcels were made. They were similar to those that you, Mr President, have introduced now into this Parliament. One could keep describing how what you have done really has been to bring us into line with the practice in many countries and many parliaments overseas and to bring us into a greater realisation of what are the realities facing us and of what are the likely problems we will have to face in the future.
I would like to take up a point raised by Senator Colston in his contribution to this debate. The honourable senator made the point- if I misquote him I do so unintentionaly- that he saw no reason why everyone should not wear badges if in fact they have to be worn by the staff.
– Some type of identification.
-Some type of identification. I want to place on record that I think the honourable senator is absolutely correct. I see no reason why the elected members of parliament should insist that they be put in a category different from that of other people who use this building. I note that Senator Withers has obtained for himself the same type of identification that is now used by all his staff. But on reflection he is absolutely right and I believe that we are absolutely wrong not to have done the same thing. I think it is a conceit on the part of members of the Parliament to think that we are in some way superior or that in some way we should not share in this process which, after all, is designed only to help us and the Parliament and to protect the national polity and the institution which we think is important. I notice, Mr President, that in your statement you said:
Persons permanently employed in the building and others who need regularly to come to the building will be issued with photographic identity passes.
Later on you said:
Passes are to be worn by the pass holders.
If when we get into questions of process we agree upon an adequate means of identification, let us also agree that those processes should be followed by everyone who uses Parliament House, from the Prime Minister down to the people who clean the building and look after us in so many other ways. There is no reason in my mind why we as elected members should not have to follow the same processes as everyone else.
– You will want guards on our homes next.
– It has nothing to do with guards on our homes. Mr President, if you have decided that certain procedures are necessary for the proper protection of this Parliament those procedures should be followed by everyone, including the politicians. To me, the matter is as simple as that. The next matter that has been raised is the process by which security might be achieved. There has been some discussion in this place about this matter. A number of honourable senators have expressed some concern that some processes which you, Mr President, have introduced may not be perfect. But I doubt, Mr President, whether you have ever suggested they will be perfect. I doubt whether anyone has ever said that this is the final answer. If we are to be serious and fair dinkum about our desire to bring about some adequate form of security I think we have to look at the processes that you have introduced and accept that there will be costs as well as benefits and that some of the costs may be the costs to convenience which some honourable senators have drawn to our attention during this debate. I am perfectly prepared to consider accepting those costs if I can see that the benefits that I am likely to gain are worthwhile I do not pretend, and I do not think that any reasonable person would pretend, that Mr President can introduce into the Parliament a set of procedures designed to achieve a desirable end without those procedures possibly having some other effects which may be inconvenient or which may require us to modify some of our traditional practices. That does not concern me. After all, Mr President, we can ask who is it we are protecting? It is not just the members of parliament. We have a responsibility to protect those who work with us and for us. We are responsible, and no one else is responsible, for the safety and well being of all those who are employed in the Parliament. If we do not carry out this task we will have been recreant because we have the responsibility.
We have been told how bad security is in this building. Senator Button told us during his contribution in the opening debate that responses to bomb threats are totally inadequate. If the honourable senator can say this he should take the next step and ask who is being endangered? The answer is not simply the senators and members of the other place but every person who works in the building. If we do not take into account that we are answerable for all these people I believe we will bear a heavy responsibility.
That leads me to the next point- the question of who is responsible in this area. It seems to me there is no doubt that the responsibility for the security of this building rests with the Presiding
Officers. I have heard much discussion today about the role of the Executive in this matter. I am not aware that the Executive has tried to usurp or take over the role of the Presiding Officers. I am not sure that the Presiding Officers would allow it. After all, Mr President is responsible to us in this chamber. I was interested to hear Senator Gietzelt remind us of the days of Cromwell. The honourable senator might remember that during those days Speaker Lenthall was the Speaker of the House of Commons. He might recall also that on 4 January 1642 King Charles I came to the House of Commons to arrest five members. Mr President, you certainly would know and most honourable senators would know of Mr Speaker Lenthall’s reply to the King on that occasion. He told the King:
May it please Your Majesty, I have neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak in this place, but as the House is pleased to direct me . . .
That brings me to the point that you, Mr President, in making the statement, were acknowledging to us that it is to this chamber that you are responsible and you were seeking from us the expressions of opinion which this debate has brought forward. You have made it quite clear that you are looking for the involvement of the Senate and to contributions by honourable senators to assist you to carry out the difficult job of ensuring security in Parliament House, I acknowledge that this is an area of considerable difficulty and an area of shared responsibility. In a sense the Senate has indicated during the debate that it would like to share with you some of the tasks involved in fulfilling this duty to protect the Parliament. The amendment moved by Senator Button, had it been agreed to as it stood, could have led to the Committee of Privileges considering whether there was a security problem or whether security here required attention.
Mr President, the further amendment which has been moved by Senator Chaney and which I have seconded narrows slightly the ambit of the Committee’s consideration to seeking from it a consideration of the means by which we might best achieve the kind of security arrangements which you are seeking and which would be best for the Senate. It is for this reason that we have moved the further amendment and we welcome the expressions of support which it has received from both sides of the Senate. There will be teething problems, there will be change, but I believe that the arrangements which you have introduced are a beginning. They are a considerable extension of anything we had to this date. However, I would not want to think that the problems of providing security to the Parliament had been resolved. I would prefer to think that you had started a process and that we will examine what comes from it. If some of the disabilities are as great as some honourable senators consider they will be, then perhaps some change will be necessary. For the moment, I welcome your statement. I welcome the move to improve security in this place. I welcome the opportunity to involve a committee of the Senate in the process by which security will be improved. I hope that we will see a gradual development of a better system of security in this Parliament not only for those who are elected and serve in the chambers but also for those several thousand people who work in the Parliament or who visit the building regularly.
– I have listened carefully to Senator Baume but I am afraid that he did not strike in me a responsive note. It seems that he, like many members of the Government parties, has accepted a decision without carefully considering the consequences of it. It is extraordinary that members of the Liberal Party, who profess to be champions of the individual, so easily accept decisions to limit the rights of individuals in this place. I am not talking only of members of Parliament. I am talking also of everyone who works within this Parliament, whether he works below or above us, whether he works in Kings Hall or in the offices. I refer to them all. It is extraordinary that the Liberal Party should so easily accept a decision which puts a limitation on people and leads to the apparent identification of people as they move from place to place in order to carry out their duties, whether they be members of Parliament, the staff of members of Parliament or Pressmen. It identifies them. It imposes upon them a pass system to which I would have thought members of the Government parties would have been the first to object.
Parliament House should be the last place in which such measures are introduced. I have heard about the need to have a pass system in the Department of Defence. I have heard of some commercial building in which a pass system has been instituted. That may be so. I know of certain areas of Australia which people cannot enter without the permission of those who control those areas. The big companies which control areas such as Weipa also control the right of people to enter and leave those areas.
– Aboriginal reserves.
-Yes. There are such areas and there are such measures. Surely in the past we have not condoned those measures. There has been much opposition to them in this place. Yet over the past few weeks we have accepted lightly measures which limit us and limit the freedom of people to operate and associate. This is what we have done and it is why I believe that the Presiding Officers, who apparently have these powers- I am not certain from where they derive- have instituted a decision and progressed along that path without reference to the two Houses of Parliament and without any consideration being given to the views which might have been expressed in the debate which is now taking place. Mr President, I do not doubt that you will consider what has been said here but the decision which has been made will be hard to reverse no matter what is said because the decision has already been implemented. Already people have been appointed, already systems have been installed, already instruments have been ordered and already expense has been incurred. Despite what is said in the debate in this chamber it will be difficult to reverse any decision which has been made.
Irrespective of the powers that the Presiding Officers have, surely they should consider that the powers flow from the House and from the Senate and that they are responsible back to those two Houses. I do not wish this to appear to be a reprimand. I understand exactly the pressures under which the two Presiding Officers operate. They are pressures which have been imposed upon them. I asked you a question on the first day that the security measures were imposed because, together with Senator Grimes, I was one of the first people to enter Parliament House on that day. We were told by young police officers that we were not allowed to enter without a search or without a pass. Of course, we objected to that. The attendant at Parliament House to whom we were well known came forward and said: ‘No, that is not the situation’. He said that we were to be allowed to enter without obstruction and that if we carried anything that had previously been out of our possession for some time we would be asked to allow that to be searched.
This was a reasonable proposition in the circumstances. But who gave the first instruction upon which the two young officers worked? My understanding is that it was the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). It is also my understanding that the previous night there was a discussion between the Prime Minister, who represents the Executive, and the Presiding Officers. My information is that the Presiding Officers rightly said to the Prime Minister that the security of and the responsibility for this House rested with the Presiding Officers and that it was they, not the Prime Minister, who would determine exactly what measures would be carried out to protect this place and the people who operate within it. But that pressure resulted in a compromise. The executive, through the Prime Minister, was insisting on exaggerated methods of defence of this place. The Presiding Officers were rejecting anything likely to impede members of this place and the public who come to it. But instead of the Presiding Officers obtaining their will, it is my belief that in order to solve the impasse they had to accept a compromise. These procedures here are a compromise.
I am saying that as a result of the debate that has taken place in the Senate and the amendment which was proposed by the Opposition and subsequently added to slightly by the Government, there will be a re-think on what has happened. There needs to be a re-think because what we are witnessing in the Parliament today is an invasion of this place by the bureaucracy. Make certain of this: The bureaucracy really likes to get into this place. The bureaucracy would really like to interfere with the procedures and the running of this place. The security measures which have been set up here place us in the hands of the bureaucracy, irrespective of the desire of the Presiding Officers for it to be otherwise. What has been the result? The result has been the appointment of a security officer for the purpose of carrying out the responsibility of the Presiding Officers.
– But responsible to the Presiding Officers.
– No doubt he is responsible to the Presiding Officers. Nevertheless, let us see from which area the appointed person came. There is no doubt that the Presiding Officers will assert that that person and his staff will be responsible to them, and to them alone. But how can we be assured of this? How can we be assured that the people appointed will not have some liaison in some way with what is called the Protective Security Co-ordination Committee? What assurance can you give us, Mr President, that those appointed to carry out the security requirements you have laid down will not liaise in some way with this outside organisation? How can you assure us, Mr President? I know that this Protective Security Co-ordination Committee is supposed to come under your jurisdiction and the jurisdiction of the Minister for Administrative Services.
– You think it is evil.
-It is not a matter of being evil. This is a matter about which I have doubt. We have seen security forces operating in other places, overseas and within the Australian States.
– The whole six of them.
-Of course Senator Withers has nothing to fear.
– No, I have no secrets.
-It is not a matter of having no secrets. Senator Withers represents the conservative position in this country and it is fairly evident that the security services of this country protect the conservative position and place everyone else under suspicion.
– That is the greatest heap of bulldust since Marx first enunciated his Mein Kampf or whatever it was.
– I suppose that when the honourable senator puts me in the same category as Marx he elevates me somewhat, even though I might not entirely accept some of the propositions of the person to whom he refers.
– Who protects the guardians? That is the oldest Greek aphorism of all time.
-Since the honourable senator mentions the Greeks, let me remind him of what happened in Greece when an overzealous security force, endeavouring to protect the conservative elements, used the very system that was set up to protect Greece in order to subvert Greece. That happened only a few years ago. All I am saying is this: Be careful of security and those appointed to maintain security and be careful of those who become over-zealous in the course of their work. Even today we notice that there is an over-zealous application of the rules which the President has imposed upon us.
I was diverted somewhat by an interjection from Senator Withers. He so often is capable of doing this in a sneering way. I should not have been diverted and I want to get back to the seriousness of what is being done. I do not want to place any member in a privileged position above any other person who works in this place. If a pass system is to be imposed in this place and if attendants within this chamber are forced to wear a badge- and I now see an attendant wearing such a badge- then all of us in this place, the President, the Clerks, the people in Hansard, the members and the attendants should wear such a badge. If that is to be the case then all who enter this place should come under close surveillance when they sit in the gallery opposite and in the
President’s gallery. Mr President, at the present time there are two people in the President’s gallery as your guests. They are required to wear passes but it should only have been sufficient for them to have your invitation into that place. This is the ridiculous position in which we find ourselves today. An adviser to the Minister wore a pass while he sat in this House.
We have come to an absurd position, have we not? We have placed ourselves in this position because we have accepted a system which demands identification at all times. A person must carry identification at all times. A person who is known to an attendant at a doorway still has to have the identification. In other words, Mr President, we have placed ourselves in a position of having the responsibility to identify ourselves at all times. For some of us, privileged members of parliament, this identification is by way of recognition, but for all others it is by way of a pass.
I know, Mr President, that in the time of a President who held office before you there was security in this place and the welfare of each member and the staff of each member was considered. I believe that security to have been effective but it was not evident. What you have imposed upon us is security which is evident at every turn and which alters our environment substantially. It is no use Government supporters objecting to pass systems in other countries, systems of identification in other countries, systems of security in other countries, if they begin to impose upon us a semblance of those very systems.
Mr President, the amendment which we propose and the additional amendment which the Government proposes, taken together, will be what the Senate will accept. They will enable the Privileges Committee to examine every decision you have made. I trust that on the basis of that consideration by the Privileges Committee certain changes will be made. For the sake of our well being- I believe that it depends upon our attitude to freedom of movement and associationwe should quickly consider whether it is necessary for a person having reached his place of operation to continue to wear his pass. Is it necessary? If it is necessary for people to be identified to come into the building, if it is necessary for people to be identified as they move from point to point, is it further necessary that in the place in which they work whether it be the refreshment rooms, an office or the Senate itself, they should display their identification as though they were inmates in a prison or a similar environment?
This requirement imposes upon us a continual fear that some action may be taken against this Parliament and against the staff. It is a continual reminder. I do not think that we can work in such a climate. If it is necessary that people be identified and have some means of identification upon them, by all means let us go along with that. But the identification should be produced on request. There are many times when a request will not be made. It should not be necessary to be identifiable at all stages. If it is necessary for the staff to wear passes, if that judgment was made and we adhere to that decision, let us all wear passes. Let us all be obnoxious to one another, not just some of us. It has been said that members of Parliament, having been elected, accept the risk of being public figures. They are not worried about themselves. I have said this myself before. Since when has a politician been so concerned about his safety that he needs to be protected in the way that has been devised? We all disclaim it, we are not worried about it and we accept the risk.
In order to justify what we are doing we say that this action is for the protection of our staff. Has anyone bothered to ask the staff themselves what they would like? Has anyone consulted the staff or the organisations and associations which represent them and asked: ‘What is your requirement?’ Perhaps they are just as courageous as we are. Perhaps they accept the risk of working in Parliament House and they are not concerned about the threat which may be posed against them or which may be made indirectly against them because of the politicians for whom they work. Has anyone asked the staff what they would like to do? No one has. This measure has been imposed upon people without consideration.
I shall return to the point which I consider most serious, that is the fact that we have introduced into this place a system of security. We have appointed a security officer. He has appointed staff. We should know exactly who those people are and where they come from. Who are they? What is their background? Are they here to protect the security of this place or are they here to report on various people? There is paranoia on the Government side. I can see the sneer on the face of Senator Withers already. I should not be surprised if, in order to supervise what is supposed to be the safety of this place, the intelligence organisations we have set up because of the over-reaction of the Prime Minister were very interested in a person who seeks to see me, in the literature I receive from various organisations and even what books I read and report this information. Honourable senators should make no mistake. The files that exist in New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland would give some validity to what I am saying. We should not give up our own rights lightly.
Senator Withers may give them up. Today he flashed a badge and said: ‘Look, what my staff are prepared to wear, I am prepared to wear. ‘ He should have taken the opposite view and said: What I am not required to wear you should not be required to wear.’ Perhaps he can work con.fortably in an office where people are floating around with badges and numbers.
– It reminds me much more of what your Government tried to do.
– I do not know what I was supposed to be trying to do. All I can say is that I seem to have more of a sense of what is free than some honourable senators on the Government side. They are supposed to be the exponents and the champions of freedom.
– What would you say if the Prime Minister of Yugoslavia refused to set foot inside this Parliament to see the Prime Minister of Australia unless he had a bodyguard of six men with him?
– I would say to him: Stay outside’. I would say to a person who sought to enter this place with an armed bodyguard: ‘ It is best that you stay outside ‘.
– Why did your Government not say so?
– I do not know that the situation arose. That is the advice I give to you. I am concerned about whether there will be any liaison between the Protective Services Coordination Centre and those who are appointed to implement security measures in this place. I would like to be assured that that will not be the case. I am told that the head of the Co-ordination Centre was Mr Fleming. Mr Fleming was Librarian in this place. He subsequently became National Librarian. Many of us came to know him well. I believe that Mr Fleming in his new role had a particular responsibility for security and reporting to the Prime Minister and intelligence organisations on security matters. I am told that his place is to be taken by Mr Roberston. Mr Robertson will not invite the same sort of confidence that Mr Fleming invited.
If Mr Robertson is to be the head of the Protective Services Co-ordination Centre, I want to be assured doubly that the security of Parliament House and those who are appointed to supervise and implement it are not in any way associated with any outside security organisation except the Protective Services Co-ordination Centre which is a brainchild of the Prime Minister and whose next appointment after Mr Fleming will be Mr Robertson, the former head of the Australian Security Intelligence Service. His role under a Labor Government was a questionable one. If it was questionable under a Labor Government I do not doubt that that is a qualification which Senator Withers would accept.
The measures which have been introduced may appear in the light of recent events to be justified. My view is that they are an over-reaction. This place should have been the last to react to such threats. In fact, we should have opposed threats to our safety here by doing less than we are doing at present. We should have set an example by doing only those things that were required under the rules that exist at present. If the rules which cover the protection of property in this place were lax, new rules should have been implemented. I do not think it was necessary to apply the regulations which your statement, Mr President, supports. The need for the Parliament itself to set an example and to resist strongly any change in our social environment is a great need indeed. We should be setting an example opposite to that which we are. We should be setting an example that gives a lead to other organisations. What we do here will encourage other organisations to apply similar security measures. What will happen under threat from terrorists, no matter how dangerous their action may be, is that we limit our freedoms. That means, of course, that the battle we fight by our own actions is lost.
– I find myself adopting a very unusual role tonight. I wish to speak about not what is in your statement, Mr President, but what it is lacking. I suppose if I were asked initially what attitude I take, I think I would follow Senator Cavanagh by simply referring to De Gaulle at the time of Algerian independence. He walked into the casbahs of major cities such as Oran and said: ‘If I am to die, I will’. He made his speech. I would refer also to British Secretary Callaghan who went both to Bogside and to the Shankhill Road districts. Nobody gunned him down. If your number is up, it will be up. As I said at the outset, I questioned what is lacking in the statement made in all good faith by our worthy President. But I am probably the only senator who has met terrorism face on. What I got out of it was a court action in New South Wales. As a matter of fact, whatever system of security is devised for the Parliament, we still have to face up to the situation that Senate committees are mobile. They go out into the field. They grapple with issues about which people have strong passions. On one fateful day in the 1973-74 period I was put in the position when attending a committee meeting in New South Wales of being faced with an ambush by three potential terrorists of the Right. What did I get out of it? I forced one of those aggressors into the committee room so that he could express the same threatening sentiments that he made to me outside the room. Due to the action of that evil trio, Messrs Barkovich Les Shaw and Bilinsky, a solicitor, I found that at five o’clock that evening I was facing a $30,000 writ.
What did this Senate do? The Senate Privileges Committee did nothing. The majority of the members of that Senate committee did nothing. That sort of thing could happen again, and it will. No matter what honourable senators may do inside the Senate chamber, any senator like me could be faced with a similar situation. I think Senator Georges was something of a prophet in what he said. It is remarkable that these aggressors are always from the far Right and not from the far Left. If Senator Wheeldon were in the chamber he would tell the Senate about the epithets hurled at him on the various occasions that he left that committee room and went into the corridor. Of course, I am not the sort of person who turns the other cheek. What did I find? The processes of the law in New South Wales under a Liberal State government were directed at me, a socialist senator. Senator Withers knows that when the Labor Party was facing a crucial national election in 1974 those people, who are enemies of my Party, forced me to incur legal expenses to brief counsel in a Supreme Court action. It is of no use Senator Withers saying to me that he will defend us. What immunity from an assault charge do I or any other senator have if we try to defend ourselves in such a situation? I hear complete silence from government senators.
I listened to Senator Chaney talking about what Senator Colston had said. I wonder whether his mind turned to the Gethsemane ordeal through which I went? I received no sympathy from any honourable senator who is a member of the Privileges Committee. Because I am a very peaceful sort of a person this was suggested to me: ‘Look, if you do not go on with the matter before the Privileges Committee, these people will not go on with the action in the Supreme Court’. I wonder! Only for the fact that we have a socialist Attorney-General in New
South Wales, the Hon. Frank Walker, this matter would have hung upon me for the next 10 years. I can assure the Senate that I would not have lost any sleep because what I did was right. With all due respect to you, Mr President, I wish to point out what really worries me about the security system. This chamber will be stuck with me for another six years.
– Yes, I know that is worrying Senator Withers and a lot of other honourable senators. What is going to happen? Such an attack could occur in the corridors of the establishment in Perth or in Brisbane. If somebody waylays me, do I cry out for Mr Robinson or Mr Fleming and be gunned down or poleaxed? What am I supposed to do? If I retaliate I will be faced with a court action in a non-Labor State. If I defend myself in such a situation in Queensland, do honourable senators think that the Queensland Premier would help me? What would happen to me? There is no question about what would happen. I have such a fear of the Queensland Government that when I am in Coolangatta I cross the border to Tweed Heads to make a telephone call because I know that the Queensland Premier would be tapping my telephone. That is how I feel about the situation.
The point I am making is that what is proposed by the system of protection is just a paper tiger. With all due respect to you, Mr President, nobody has suggested to me or to any other honourable senator what his position would be in that sort of a situation. If Senator Gietzelt as a member of a committee is confronted by some right wing extremists, what should he do? He runs the gauntlet of facing costly litigation. I can tell the Senate that I have put a case to the Federal Attorney-General (Senator Durack). I have waited and waited for redress. I had to lay out money to defend myself. Fortunately the matter did not go much further when the Labor Government took office in New South Wales. I understand that the evil trio who assaulted me have fallen out among themselves. My extremely eloquent colleague, Senator James McClelland, exposed Les Shaw. He fell out with the other people involved but the fact of the matter is that I am out of pocket because of a peculiar legal system. Far be it from me to criticise any judicial system. I do not want to do that, but it is a case of Hamlet without the prince.
What will be the situation pertaining to members of Senate committees during the next six years that I will be a member of the Senate? What will be the situation if somebody ambushes me? That may happen. I agree with Senator Baume when he says that we are going to have more terrorism. But what do we do in such a situation? Should we all pack magnum 45 s like Clint Eastwood? What do we do to defend ourselves? I do not know, and so far none of the learned intelligentsia on the government side has suggested what we should do. Without trying to anticipate what Senator Durack is doing or thinking about the matter, I simply point out that I have made a claim for reimbursement in a test case in the matter of senators defending themselves in cases such as that in which I was waylaid by people who made threats outside the precincts of the Senate committee room but who would not repeat those threats inside that room. I repeat that when I directed one of those people into the room the attitude taken by his legal adviser was that that constituted assault. I mean, it did not go that far, but I am sure that learned legal luminaries like Senator Withers know that the lead up play costs money.
What will happen in the future? Are all members of parliament to be covered by insurance so that they have the choice of grabbing at someone who has a knife or a gun before they are stabbed or shot? I entered this debate as a sort of parliamentary Diogenes. I want to get at the truth. I want to find out just what ‘protection’ means in that sort of a situation. I am told that Senator Durack will give me an answer this week or next week about my position in regard to the legal costs I incurred in defending myself. I could easily have been gunned down. There is no question about that. Any honourable senator could ask the New South Wales Special Branch about the type of people with whom I was dealing. That was not the first time that I had to deal with some of these people of the far right. I am ready like De Gaulle or Callaghan or anyone else. If someone wants to gun me down outside this building, it is written in the book; it will happen.
We should not have any false ideas about the security system. I do not know how much it will cost to implement. I am not all that worried about whether or not I have a name tag on my lapel. But I am a person who came face to face with naked terrorism in Sydney. I can assure the Senate that not much was done by the authorities in Canberra. I was kind enough not to proceed with my action before the Privileges Committee. It would have been a useful exercise to carry on with that action. It should not be forgotten that although a Labor Government was in power the Privileges Committee was dominated by nonLabor senators.
-It was. Senator Townley was the Chairman of the Committee whose hearings I was attending in Sydney. He said to me: ‘Senator, what happened outside the Committee room was up to you’. Senator Rae is regarded as a Liberal with a small ‘1’. It could happen to him. It could happen to any of us. The reason I intervened in the debate was to make this plea: What will the Government do for me and for people like me in the next six years when I am under seige from extremists of the far right? I add this postscript which I hope is germane to the debate: Will the Attorney-General clear the air in relation to how I stand about legal costs which I have not paid. I tell the Senate now that I do not intend to pay those costs. If somebody has to pay them, I want the State to pay them. I was doing my job as a senator and I was subjected to pressure from extremists of the right.
-We are debating a proposal which has been laid down in a statement given by the President. I commence by making it quite clear, as my personal view, that I totally support the absolute integrity of the proposals stated by you, Mr President, and the actions which you have taken. Any further comments or any motions which are carried are not in any way a comment upon the proposals but are looking further, from the short term to the longer term, at the involvement of people who are members of parliament as a further consideration of the matter. It has been interesting in the debate to listen to some of the contributions which various people have made. I well recall Senator Mulvihill ‘s problem and I sympathise. While he was speaking I tried to correct something by way of interjection and I take the opportunity to do so now.
When Senator Mulvihill talked about referring a matter to the Senate Privileges Committee I think he was mistaken. Perhaps he was referring to another committee which was a select committee. It had an independent chairman and an equal number of then Australian Labor Party Government and Opposition Liberal and Country Party senators. I do not think the honourable senator was referring to the Privileges Committee. If I am wrong perhaps the honourable senator can correct the situation by way of personal explanation. But I think what I have set out is the situation. I do not think Senator Mulvihill was accurate in talking about the Privileges Committee. There is universal concern to ensure the security not only of individual members of parliament and of the institution of parliament, but also of individual people who work within Parliament House. There are a large number of such people. I noticed this morning that one of the most recent passes issued was numbered something over 5,000. That is a fair indication of the number of passes which, at this early stage, have been issued to people who enter Parliament House.
I also point out that the last figures which I have- they may be for the year before last; I think perhaps they are- show that over three quarters of a million Australians visited their Parliament House. I emphasise the words ‘their Parliament House’. Parliaments exist only as long as people feel that it is their parliament and that they are involved. One of the concerns I have and which I feel very strongly is that while we are expressing our concern for security we should not in any way be detracting from the people’s opportunity to enjoy, to participate in and to take whatever attitude they will about, but to feel involved in the operation of Parliament House. It is only through the people that parliament has any reason for its existence. Therefore I feel parliament is different from a commercial enterprise which has a different right to protect its security. Were I running a security risk industry such as a petro-chemical company where, if children were allowed in with boxes of matches, I could see that my investment might go up in flames, I would be quite happy to go along with strict security. But where we have a parliament which perhaps could be described as a place where there is government of the people, by the people through their delegates, the people should be able to feel involved and see what is happening within that parliament house. Equally, there is the aspect that the members who are the delegates of the people should have the absolute right of entry and exit from that parliament house.
One of the misfortunes of the world has been the growth of international terrorism. Some people in some parts of the world- in a fairly significant number of parts of the world- have taken it into their minds to abuse the freedom which exists in a number of countries and to impose terror and restrictions which will lead to the achievement of their objectives. It is that latter part about which I wish to make my point. Terrorist activity is not only the immediate threat. Unless a particular and immediate demand is acceded to, terrorists will do something or, alternatively, they do something and then make a threat and claim credit so that they can make a further threat to achieve their demands. That is one aspect. The other aspect which is perhaps even more important in relation to what has been going on in the world is that a lot of people who are behaving in this type of way are doing so with a view to rattling the free societies of the world. They are doing that with a view to destroying freedom and imposing systems of authoritarianism so that they can take over the control of those authoritarian systems. I regard this as the most important point when we are considering imposing systems to secure the parliament and the people who work here. If we over-react we will do what the British Government did in the 18th century in relation to the American colonies: We will cause people to rebel. We will do what has been done by every authoritarian regime over the centuries. We will create the opportunity for those who would like to take over the authoritarian system to do so. We will create within those upon whom the system is imposed a resentment which will lead to rebellion.
I am not suggesting that the measures which have been taken are likely to create that result. Any time we impose restrictions in the name of security, let us be quite sure that there is adequate justification not only in fact but also known to the people upon whom they are imposed. My complaint tonight is that I do not know why these security measures should be imposed. If it is because of one lunatic bomb outside the Hilton Hotel, then I do not think that is justification. If it is something more than the bomb scares which have taken place over many years on aircraft on which I have been flying or at Parliament House which I have been attending for many years, then I would like to know. Not only would I like to know as a representative of the people but also the people are entitled to know the justification. I am not suggesting that there may not be justification. I know how strongly I resented the actions which were taken by a former Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, whom I regard as a disgrace to the Parliament. I realise that my friends on the Opposition side of the chamber will not agree with me. I regard the actions which were taken by the former Attorney-General Senator Murphy, as a disgrace to the history of Australia. I do not want to see any more actions such as that taken in this country. I feel we must be very conscious of the fact that that sort of action can create division. It can create resentment and it can create eventually rebellion.
I simply indicate that authoritarianism has its costs. Security is important but so, too, is freedom. Freedom must always involve risks. It is a matter of achieving a balance. If we are to preserve a free society, the Parliament, above all else, must give a lead in preserving that free society. Some of the things that are happening in this country today appal me. Some of the things that are happening from the point of view of the imposition of an authoritarian attitude by governments make me feel that our freedom and the preservation of our democracy may be at risk.
We have enjoyed a rare opportunity in the world of today. I believe that Australia is one of the countries that can give a lead to the world of today. We happen to be far enough away from the problems of Europe, the Middle East and a number of other areas of the world to be able to say that we do not have to follow their lead. We do not have to impose the security which is of necessity imposed in a place that has suffered what the Munich Olympic Games suffered. Of course a country would be security conscious if it had been through that. Of course one would expect the Knesset to have security precautions far beyond those which prevail in other countries of the world. But do we have to have them in Australia? Do we have to impose them in our free society where we are able to enjoy some of the freedoms which are not enjoyed but longed for in other parts of the world?
If there is any real sign of the spread of international terrorism to Australia, then I believe that the people of Australia are entitled to know from their Parliament what those signs are. I believe they are entitled to know whether there is a real reason for expecting a spread to this country of international terrorism. If there is no basis upon which we can say that international terrorism has spread to this country, we face no greater risk than did the United States of America when John Wilkes Booth perpetrated his crime or other famous actions were carried out by people who could only be regarded as individual aberrations in the life of a society. There is no way in which we can protect absolutely every person in a community at all times. We all know that murder, muggings, holdups, rapes and other types of attacks on personal freedom and liberty and the right to the preservation of personal integrity, take place; but what we try to do as a society is create a balance. A police state has never achieved the preservation of individuals any more than has a system in which there is a balance.
In all, I regret that a majority see the need for these steps to be taken, but I bow to the attitude adopted by the majority. I simply take the opportunity to express my concern in principle that these steps are necessary in a free society which is today a treasure to be preserved rather than to be plundered. A free society is something which in every possible way we should attempt to uphold and preserve with its full freedoms. In no way am I suggesting that one should be absurd about this and expose people to undue risk; but if we have reached the stage in Australia where these measures must be taken, I think the people of whose Parliament we are simply the trustees for the moment are entitled to know what is happening to our society so that they, too, can participate in a means of overcoming the changes which have come about in our society, and can attempt to avoid entrenching themselves in that society. It is a society which has been peculiarly free of violence or war on its soil throughout its history other than perhaps- I say this in deference to my colleague Senator Bonner and everything he stands for- during its period of early settlement. Our society has developed remarkably free of civil war and war on its territory. I think we have the opportunity to lead the world back to a system of freedom, sanity and balance. I do not like to see anything happening or any steps taken which simply have us following the worst of what is happening elsewhere.
Mr President, I reiterate what I said at the commencement of my speech, that is, that I accept entirely that it was necessary that interim measures be taken by you. I accept entirely the fact that the Presiding Officers were faced with an immediate situation in which they needed to introduce a system which would satisfy some of the stronger demands from some of the members of this Parliament. I acknowledge that those demands vary from one extreme to the other, as one might expect about most of the things that take place in a parliament. That is what a parliament is all about. It is representative of the crosssection of attitudes of the community. I take the opportunity to put in my plea. Let us not impose forever measures which simply write off one further aspect of a free society and impose one further aspect of a controlled or authoritarian society when perhaps we should be trying to move in the opposite direction. I support Senator Chaney ‘s amendment. It will create an opportunity for further consideration and debate amongst that cross-section about which I have been talking- the cross-section of the Parliament and the cross-section of the community which is reflected in the Parliament. I think it can do nothing but good and do nothing but assist you Mr President, in your further consideration of the measures to be taken. I support the measures which you have taken and I support the amendment moved by Senator Chaney.
- Mr President, the Senate is debating the statement about Parliament House security which you yourself put down on 2 March. Senator Button has moved as an amendment to the motion that the Senate take note of the statement:
At the end of the motion add ‘, and that the matter of the security of Parliament House be referred to the Committee of Privileges.’
To that a further amendment has been moved by Senator Chaney. In this debate on 16 March Senator Primmer spoke of his experience in gaining admittance to Parliament House to attend a social function on the eve of the opening of the present Parliament. He used an entree card. He said that the person on duty at the door said to him: ‘You will not enter here without an entree card ‘. As has been said in the course of the debate, if that is the only ticket one needs to get into Parliament House one could give.it to anybody. So there is no security if an entree card can secure one’s admittance. At times up to 1,000 people attend social functions in this building. It will put the Government to a huge expense if every person who accepts an invitation has to have his or her photograph taken and placed on an identity card such as those we see being worn by the attendants here today. If an entree card is all that is required, how can we be sure that the person with the entree card is the person who is legitimately entitled to have it? That is one grave weakness in the security of this building.
On the same night I had an experience similar to that of Senator Primmer, but I was lucky. I came in the entrance on the Senate side of Parliament House. I had my wife with me. It had been usual at other functions which we had attended in this Parliament since I have been a member that we had not needed to have in our possession our entree card. On this occasion we had left it at home. It was only our good fortune, I suppose, that the attendants on the door were able to verify who we were to the person who had the log book writing down everybody’s name and we were admitted to Parliament House. But had I not been admitted on that occasion I think there could have been a grave dispute at the door. I have always understood that an elected member of Parliament is entitled to enter this place at any hour of the day or night, any day of the week, and that nobody could impede his progress. Had the officer at the door, despite his instructions, tried to impede me there would have been trouble.
Many words have been spoken during this debate on the protection of the people who occupy the Parliament, whether they be elected members or the staff. I am interested to learn whether there is any concern for those same people when they leave the precincts of this place late at night after the adjournments. I refer to the use of taxis for the transport of members and staff away from this place at night. I should like the Minister for Administrative Services (Senator Withers) to tell us whether those taxi drivers will be vetted for security and whether they in turn will have to wear labels on their lapels, the same as the attendants of this Parliament have to wear, so that when members of Parliament leave the precincts of this place they will know that there is nobody in the taxis who is going to try to do away with them or do them an injury. It has been pointed out by many Government speakers that we have to protect the members of Parliament and the staff. It will be interesting to know whether the taxi drivers will be furnished with identity cards whilst the reliable and legitimate drivers of Commonwealth cars are sitting home at night and the Commonwealth cars are locked up in the garage- cars that the taxpayers of this community pay for. Those cars are left in the garage while the Government of the day sees fit to hire private cars and taxis to do the work which the Commonwealth drivers are employed rightfully to do. I have maintained in this Parliament on many occasions that they are the people, the trusted employees of the Commonwealth, who should be transporting the members of this Parliament to and from this place and transporting the staff who need to be driven home at night when this Parliament sits late, not taxi drivers.
A lot of taxi drivers are public servants who have done a day’s work in a public office for their pay. They go straight home, change their clothes, have a quick cup of tea and get behind the wheel of a taxi and do the work of the Commonwealth drivers. I have always maintained, and I always will, that they are the rightful people who should be transporting us. Of course they can be relied upon. If they hear any comments or statements made by members of Parliament on the way home they treat them as secret because they are bound that way- not so a taxi driver. I will be interested to hear the Minister say how he will ensure that every taxi or hire car driver who transports us to and from this place, particularly late at night, can be trusted and whether they are going to have their photographs taken and put on an identity card so that each and every personnot only the elected members but also the staff- can identify the driver.
We are now within five weeks of it being five years since a committee was established to consider measures of adequate security for this Parliament House. It took that committee three years to deliberate and to compile a report. Another 17 months went by before the report was given to members of the Joint House Committee to read so that at later meetings the Presiding Officers could have the benefit of the views of the Joint House Committee on the recommendations contained therein. Mr President, as you are aware, that later meeting to allow Joint House Committee members to make their views known did not take place before the decision was taken, as you have outlined in your statement, on Parliament House security. As the report is stamped ‘Confidential ‘ the members of the Joint House Committee- I am one of them- are prevented from quoting from it in this debate. So the other members of the Joint House Committee and I are inhibited in taking place in a full-scale debate because of the confidential nature of the report. As I said, the committee on security was set up by the Presiding Officers and other people in the Parliament nearly five years ago. It took the bombing at the Hilton Hotel to generate some action.
As has been asked by honourable senators here and often asked in the Press: Why was the action taken? Because the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) wanted to big-note himself and make an issue of what he would do for security. He even went so far as to take over the Army of this country. We saw the television skits showing Army tanks and everything lined all the way from Sydney to Bowral. What could they have done? Absolutely nothing. But it was good publicity directed at people who are ill-informed, who have not been in the Army or who would have thought that those people sitting up on the tanks with their gun turrets swivelling around could have protected all the Prime Ministers, Ministers and VIPs from all over the world who came to visit Australia. As was pointed out by Senator Gietzelt here this afternoon, that Commonwealth Heads of Government Regional Meeting could have been held here in Canberra where it should rightfully have been held. Here the representatives could have been safeguarded without the enormous cost to the Australian taxpayer. We will be trying to ascertain the actual cost when we are considering the Estimates in a few weeks time. We will then try to find out what that publicity venture really cost the taxpayers of Australia. The main reason why we are now debating the security of Parliament House is the unfortunate bombing at the Hilton Hotel which every right-thinking Australian deplores. We deplore the fact that two men working on a garbage truck and a policeman lost their lives. It should never have happened. I venture to say that it would not have happened had that conference been held here in the national capital.
I have spoken about the confidential report. It is of the utmost importance that the amendment moved by Senator Button be agreed to and that that confidential report should be made available to the Privileges Committee for its perusal, consideration and guidance when it considers the substance of this debate. I am sure it will be most helpful. I am sure that the members of the Privileges Committee will agree to the confidential nature of the report just as members of the Senate House Committee did. I could say much about it here to bolster my argument tonight but I am not prepared to do so because I respect the confidentiality of the report. I hope that the Senate will carry the amendment moved by Senator Button so that the Privileges Committee will examine that report and then give the Senate recommendations as to what we should be doing for the real security of this Parliament House. I make those remarks without any reflection on you, Mr President, or Mr Speaker. I think you were probably hurried along in your determination to deliver this statement, as has been said by me and other speakers previously, because of the Hilton bombing. The report I mentioned took a number of years to prepare. There was no haste by the Government to implement it until this unfortunate happening. It is for those reasons that I think the Senate in its wisdom should see that this matter is referred to the Privileges Committee for its consideration.
– I want to make only one short statement with regard to this matter. If it is referred to the Privileges Committee, and I think I am a member of that Committee, I do not feel that my mind is closed on any issue that is being debated. But I could not be in attendance for a major portion of this debate and hear some of the submissions that have been made and remain silent. This building is the place where Parliament meets and where members of the Parliament work. In it they have interviews with electors. It seems to me therefore that one of our first duties is to preserve so far as we can the security of this building as a place where all who have lawful occasion to enter it are safe to do so. It seems to me that we should recognise that this building is to be occupied and used by diverse people of various inclinations, persuasions and experience. There may be extremists who are among the membership of this Parliament and have access to the building; and there may be people in association with any member of parliament who are irregulars in the sense of their behaviour. Therefore, surely in the interests of the great majority of members, and the staffs who work here, the best system of security for the safety of the building and its occupants should be accepted automatically.
I have heard argument that there has been no murder in this place; that there has been for a long time no assassination of political figures in Australia- physically- but we would all be very dumb if we did not see the trend of attacks upon political figures. The mere presence of members of Parliament in this building is apt to attract to it, as a chief focal point, those who are minded to use violence or terrorism as a means of expressing their will against elected representatives. Therefore this place is one of peculiar vulnerability from the point of view of being a focal point for the operations of silly or suicidal people, or deliberate terrorists who, much to my chagrin, have been operating almost unchallenged so far as many bodies in the world are concerned.
Therefore, automatically, I would think that instead of criticising the establishment of a system of security, we should be criticising the long delay in taking the first step towards its establishment. When I hear people say that the introduction of a pass system of the sort that has been referred to is an infringement of our freedom, or the freedom of our electors who have lawful occasion to come here, the most parallel precedent in history that I can bring to mind is the debates in the House of Commons when Canning and Sir Robert Peel were introducing legislation for the establishment of a civilian police force.
At that time the members of the House of Commons, on dispersing each night would in ones and twos call, ‘Who’s going home?’, so that five or six members could band together and go safely through two corners of the streets of London and escape the violence with which they could be attacked. There were at that time, 150 years ago, vehement cries of invasion of freedom, because the House of Commons was proposing to establish and support a civilian police force. Churchill put the matter into proper perspective when, in criticising Hitler so trenchantly for his mobilisation of a national police force purely for propaganda and murderous purposes, he said: ‘Here for so many years we have had a police force and it is a friend of every member in the community except the lawbreaker. ‘ That is in line with what Robbie Burns said: ‘There’s none ever feared that the truth should be heard save him that the truth will indict.’ That is not quite apt, I know, but Robbie Burns is such an attractive person to quote that it adds a little lightness to what I think is an otherwise tedious subject. So I say, prima facie, a system of security is overdue and, from what I can see, so far from infringing freedom it strengthens the freedom of members who have lawful occasion to come and go. The only thing I want to add is in relation to some comments that fell from my colleague, Senator Baume, to the effect that he did not see why the same pass system as applies to the public should not apply to members of Parliament. It would be a poor commentary upon the custodian officers of this Parliament if they were not able, after one or two visits, to recognise a member of Parliament. I would hope that those who were elected would make at least one or two visits to this place within the fortnight after their election. It would be a poor commentary upon the custodians if they could not recognise the member concerned merely on presentation. Why we should require a signature or photograph from him I do not know.
Furthermore, it is open to the objection that if an official has the authority over a member to exercise a discretion as to whether he has been properly identified, it would probably be a misplacement of his power and authority. So to my way of thinking, a wise discretion has been exercised so as not to offend members of Parliament, not to expose them to the offence that Senator McLaren mentioned- and I think he said also that Senator Primmer had referred to it- and so that members should be able to be come and go and be recognised by the custodians of this place. This system, I should think, should relieve you, Mr President, of the necessity of having to employ internally quite a few officers, who would accordingly become redundant. There will be those, of course, who will think that the Treasury should go on pouring out money upon useless occupations. The last time I heard the number employed in this place it was the horrific figure of 463, and when my Leader tells me -
– So I understand.
– He suggests that it is now possibly 700, and one honourable senator has mentioned 1000. For God’s sake please let us remember that we are trustees of the public money and that if internal security requirements can be reduced by reason of this system of external surveillance, let us remember that we would better represent the taxpayer by relieving him of the burden of the unnecessary expense involved in footling about with the imaginary idea that he is to be handicapped when he comes here on lawful occasions to see his elected member.
Finally, there is the question of confidence in relation to this matter. First, if an elector comes here to see his member, and says who he has come to see, as I understand it the record is that of the Presiding Officers and is not available to the Government. Secondly, if there is occasion for an elector to see his member with complete anonymity, the accomplishment of that is not the peculiar function of Parliament House. If a member wants complete suppression of information concerning those who interview him, he will surely have enough judgment and discretion to ask the elector to see him in a place that is not quite so public. Therefore, the protection of the members of Parliament working within this place, of their staffs and of the people they represent would be best served by an appropriate system of security which I think has been introduced long after it was due.
– I take it that I am the last speaker in this debate. A large number of issues has been raised by various honourable senators. I think that I have listened in this chamber to most of them. A great variety of opinions has been expressed. I would like to refer to a number of matters which seem to have exercised the minds of honourable senators. The first matter to which I wish to refer is that of timing. Senator McLaren informed the Senate tonight that these arrangements were started some five years ago. I am grateful to the honourable senator for having given that information to the Senate. As you know, Mr President, I have been a party to some discussions with you and Mr Speaker over the last 18 months or so on this very subject. The suggestion has been made by more than one honourable senator that the security arrangements were dreamt up by you and Mr Speaker at the instruction of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) because the Prime Minister panicked after a bomb went off at the Hilton Hotel. I ask those honourable senators who advance that ridiculous theory to read Senator McLaren’s speech. Those honourable senators who put that quite ridiculous view have it out of Senator McLaren’s mouth that the Presiding Officers and the Joint House Committee have been looking at this matter for some five years.
– My complaint is that it took so long.
-Senator McLaren is complaining that it took so long. Mr President, I hope that we never hear raised again this ridiculous theory that the Presiding Officers have panicked or have been panicked by a certain incident that occurred at a certain time this year.
– Was there not a meeting between the Prime Minister and the Presiding Officers?
-Mr President, I do not know when you, Mr Speaker and the Prime Minister meet. That is none of my business. If you, the Prime Minister and Mr Speaker wish to disclose that, that is your business. However, there has never been any secret of the fact that Mr President, Mr Speaker and I met on this matter some 18 months ago. Why did we meet? If Senator Georges looks up at the right-hand corner of the Public Gallery he will see a Commonwealth policeman for whom I am administratively responsible. I do not believe that any honourable senator has yet raised a complaint about members of the Commonwealth Police Force being on guard outside Parliament House or around about the doors of Parliament House or inside the building or in our galleries. I do not think anybody suspects them of evil intent.
– But they do not stop people, do they?
-I am just trying to explain why I was in conversation with the two Presiding Officers. As has been said time and again, security is indivisible and there is a certain role within this building for officers of the Commonwealth Police Force. Therefore, it is enormously important that there should be the closest cooperation and liaison between the Presiding Officers who are responsible for and have authority over the attendants and myself as Minister for the time being who has authority over the Commonwealth Police through its Commissioner and his officers. Naturally the Presiding Officers and I discuss ways in which we can help one another.
It is also true that I am responsible for the Protective Security Co-ordination Committee. For some reason or other Senator Georges sees this body as some terrible monster that has been created. I believe the Committee consists of seven or eight people. Its major task in life is to co-operate and liaise with State police forces. If Senator Georges wants an indication whether it is playing an evil role I suggest that he should ask Mr Wran, Mr Dunstan or Mr Lowe. They can say publicly that not only the Liberal and National Country Party Premiers but also the three Labor Premiers have been pleased to cooperate with and have confidence in the Protective Security Co-ordination Committee. Their State Police Commissioners also have confidence in the Committee because it is purely a coordination body. It does not have executive authority. It operates as a link between the Commonwealth Police and the State police forces in the field of VIP security. The Committee has no sinister role. It is for that reason that the Committee’s advice was sought by the Presiding Officers. There is no secret about this matter.
The Committee made certain suggestions to the Presiding Officers. I do not know in toto what those suggestions were. I do not interfere at that level. No doubt the Presiding Officers accepted some suggestions and rejected others. The Committee is responsible for the security not only of the Governor-General and the Prime Minister but also of the Leader of the Opposition, exPrime Ministers where need be, visiting dignatories to this country, heads of state and heads of government. It has a responsibility to see that the various law enforcement agencies, particularly the Commonwealth and State police, are well briefed on itineraries. The Committee liaises to make certain that things work as well as they can in this area. It has no evil executive responsibility; it keeps no dossiers or records; and it does not spy on people or do anything like that. I point out to Senator Georges that the Committee does what its name says it does- it is a co-ordinating committee without executive authority.
Much has been said today about so-called freedoms within this building. I know, Mr President, that during the 12 years I have been on and off here- more on than off- that this has been a fairly easy going sort of a place. However, I know from my own knowledge that people do not wander at will in and out of the West Australian Parliament. Admittedly I am now recognised by the attendants of the West Australian Parliament and have been for some time. But normally if one goes to the front door of the West Australian Parliament an attendant says most courteously: Good afternoon sir, can I help you?’ One says: Yes, I wish to see Mr Bloggs who is my member’. The attendant says: ‘Is he expecting you?’ One says that he is. The attendant asks: What is you name?’ One tells him and he rings up the member and says: ‘Mr so and so is here to see you’. He puts the telephone down and says: Come this way, sir, I will show you up to Mr Bloggs’ room’. The attendant then takes one up to the room.
– Is that not the procedure here?
-It has never been the procedure since I have been here. People wander in and out of this place, through the corridors and up and down the front steps. Tourists are escorted around and around this place. This is a totally different operation.
– You wander in the side door in West Australia.
– One cannot just wander around inside at will in Western Australia. Recently I went to the Victorian Parliament to see some colleagues of mine. I went through the front door and an attendant looked at me. I said that I wanted to see Mr so and so and Mr so and so. The attendant asked for my name and I gave it to him. He rang up and one of the members of parliament whom I wished to see came out and greeted me and off I went with him. One does not see people wander around willy-nilly in the State parliaments. I suggest that any honourable senator who has been to the House of Commons or the Congress of the United States of America in recent years -
– This has been the procedure here for years.
– I am just saying that this place is an oddity among parliaments in that sense. It is an oddity in a number of ways. People have had the right to wander in and out of this place. Security can mean many things. It can mean the protection of individuals against odd people who wish to destroy them. It can also mean protection against interference of one’s papers and one’s person within the building. I remember an occasion on which Mr President O ‘Byrne made a statement from the chair in which he warned certain photographers and I think members of the Press not to interfere with the free passage of senators in Senate corridors. I remember him, to the ‘hear hears’ and the approval of the Senate, making a very strong statement that honourable senators and members had the right to come into this place, to go to their rooms, their party rooms or to wherever they wished and were not to be accosted in the corridors by members of the Press, photographers or anybody else. That also is part of the security system which operates in this place. Last year my colleague Senator Sim complained in the Senate about what he claimed to be the loss of papers from his office. That is not a new complaint in this place. There was once a member of the Press Gallery who was disciplined by the Presiding Officers for being in the office of the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, without, in the opinion of the Presiding Officers, proper excuse. So this is all part and parcel of our security arrangements. These are the factors which Presiding Officers have been taking into account, certainly over the last 18 months that I have been involved with them in a peripheral sense attempting to assist them to carry out their tasks.
Mr President, I have spent most of the recess in and around this building while people were being photographed and being issued with passes, and apart from members of Parliament I am not aware of any complaints that have been made about the system which you and Mr Speaker have introduced.
– You have not given them an opportunity.
– I have had no member of the Press Gallery come to my office and say either to me or to a member of my staff what a bad thing it is. Despite the fact that I do not read their journals, look at their films or listen to their radio, I see a number of them flitting into my office and would have thought that if they were enraged about it I would have known of it. I certainly have not picked up any complaint around this building from members of the parliamentary staff. They are a long-suffering, uncomplaining group of people. They ought to be, considering the people they work for and those up with whom they must put. They are uncomplaining, long-suffering people. I would have heard a whisper around the corridors if they had been upset. I have come to the conclusion that most people- the overwhelming majority- who work in this building possess an enormous amount of common sense and most of them regard the present system as being a contribution to their safety. It is a great thing about a democracy that the majority tends to be right.
– They were not even consulted.
-One of the great attributes that people on my side of politics have is that we can sense what the public wants. I can refer to the 1975 and 1977 elections as proof of the pudding. We were able to sense it then and we know what happened. I moved the original motion that the Senate take note of the paper and Senator Button moved an amendment to which a further amendment was moved by Senator Chaney. The Government supports the amendment as amended. The only objection that I had to the original amendment moved by Senator Button was that it appeared to suggest that the whole question of whether we ought to have introduced security measures was to be canvassed. What the motion will do if both amendments are carried is empower, and quite rightly in my opinion, the Committee of Privileges to look at the appropriateness of the present measures.
A lot has been said in this debate about the powers and rights of Presiding Officers. I am one of those who believe that the Presiding Officers are only the servants of the chambers over which they preside and whereas by long-standing custom certain matters are delegated to the Presiding Officers, they are delegated basically on a day-to-day basis and do not become entrenched as powers of the Presiding Officers. Occasionally there is a tendency for people to believe that certain powers have become entrenched and that the chambers have lost those powers because the Presiding Officers have had them for so long. It is for that reason that where the privilege of the chamber is involved it is a matter for the chamber as a whole. The Committee of Privileges of this chamber is one of the most ancient of any of the Committees of either House of the Parliament and, subject to the overriding jurisdiction of the chamber, the matter of the privileges of members of Parliament resides with the Committee of Privileges. I do not always agree with the claim of some members of Parliament that the priviliges of members are affected but I am prepared to concede that they may be affected, and because they may be affected and because the privileges of members are so important I believe that this matter ought to be looked at by this chamber’s own committee, the Committee of Privileges. That Committee, without Executive influence and without the influence of Presiding Officers, is there to protect the privileges of members. I am certain that it will report to the chamber fearlessly and honestly. As a result, that Committee and the whole chamber will become better informed as to how the system is operating. It is a vehicle from which we will get advice about defects and possible amendments to practices.
Mr President, I doubt whether you and Mr Speaker would claim that what has been put into operation is perfect. None of us on this side of politics claims infallibility or perfection. We strive for it and generally achieve it, but we do not boast too much about it. The Committee of Privileges will be a great aid to you in this operation. It represents a cross-section of the Senate. I do not know who even the chairman of the Committee is. It has not met for a long time to elect a chairman but it now will have to meet, elect a chairman and set about its task. We all know personally and well members of our own parties who are on it so there is a capacity for members and senators to have an input to that Committee both formally and informally. Therefore I welcome the amendment moved by Senator Button and additional gloss provided by the amendment moved by Senator Chaney. This not only will make the system better but also will allay those fears which have been expressed but which I believe to be unfounded. However, I am prepared to have them tested by the Committee of Privileges.
Amendment to amendment agreed to.
Amendment, as amended, agreed to.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Motion (by Senator Withers) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– To preserve my security I want to raise a matter this evening. My complaint is that I have not received a reply to question No. 45 which I placed on the Notice Paper on 21 February, the first day that the Parliament assembled. The question might arise as to why I am concerned that I have received no reply to question No. 45 when there are a number of other questions which I placed on the Notice Paper on the same date. But those questions do not have the same importance as question No. 45 and do not necessitate the immediate answer that question No. 45 does.
During the parliamentary recess, allegations of wrong doing by certain Ministers, certain members of the Liberal Party, the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and possibly other departments were conveyed to me. They were to the effect that benefits were given to companies which supported the Government, companies in which it was thought that members of the Liberal Party had some vested interest. If the facts as I have them are correct, this would dwarf the IBM-Facom affair into insignificance. In this case the action by Ministers is more blatant than the action of Ministers in regard to the computer contract. I thought my source of information so reliable that I believed there was justification for exposing the ramifications of the attempt of the Government to give some benefits to one of the companies supporting it.
Nevertheless, as individuals were mentioned, as Ministers were mentioned and as departments were mentioned, I thought I should get some verification of the facts before I exposed the question to the public. Therefore I put question No. 45 on the Notice Paper. I am now informed that if the question were answered truthfully it would verify the allegations that have been made to me and which at some time must be exposed to the public. As the question has been on the Notice Paper since 2 1 February, one must give consideration to whether one has the responsibility to make the wrong doings of those who hold office in this country or whether one should permit the Government to escape exposure of its wrong doings. At the present time it is doing so because of its refusal to answer questions. I think a member has a responsibility not to allow this situation to continue.
There is nothing in the question that requires research. It could have been answered the next day. The question is:
I know the answer is that tenders have not been called. I think my putting this question on the Notice Paper has prevented the calling of tenders and the letting of contracts- the matter mentioned in my last question. This was not done because the Government knew that its intentions had been discovered. Therefore it did not go ahead. But the question of whether tenders were called for the insurance of all assets on Aboriginal properties is something which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) could answer verbally. He must know, unless his memory is so very bad. This morining he could not remember the minute from Mr Dexter on the question of Aboriginal unemployment in the Northern Territory. But the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) can remember speaking about the matter with the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and with the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street). If the memory of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs is as bad as that, I would question his ability to remain a Minister of the Crown. If his memory is so bad, he could refer to his files or obtain an answer from his Department and the answer could be here in the morning. My question continued:
As honourable senators can see, the question sought details. It continued:
That is known in the Department. It is known by the Minister and it can be answered immediately. My question continued as follows:
That question requires a simple Yes or No answer. No research is necessary. The next part of the question reads:
As I say, it has come to my knowledge that tenders have not been called and that contracts have not been let. But the questions are these: Did a former federal member initiate this proposal by writing to the then Treasurer? Did the then Treasurer write to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and did the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs instruct his Department to drop what it was doing, to make up a list and to send it to a private insurance company? They are the questions for which I want answers. If the Minister is not prepared to give those answers speedily, I have a duty to bring up this matter- and I say this as a warning- at the first available opportunity, whether that opportunity be on the first reading of a money Bill, whether it be during a debate on a Bill relating to Queensland Aboriginals or whether, in desperation, it be during an adjournment debate one night next week. The matter will be exposed, whether the Minister desires to give the information or not, prior to the termination of this two week session of the Parliament.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (10.37)- Mr President, when I arrived in Canberra yesterday I was surprised to learn of the death of one of the Senate ‘s servants. When I use the word ‘servant’ of course I do so in its proper meaning. It is a much derided word these days. In reality, as I pondered on this, I thought I had better establish the facts in the context of this particular word because the word ‘minister’, for example, is simply the latin word for ‘servant’. The second thing is that as senators we describe ourselves as the servants of the people. Therefore we have people who are servants of the Senate.
I take this opportunity, Mr President, of directing the attention of honourable senators to one of their most devoted servants who died last Friday. I refer of course to Alan Francis Southwell whom many of us would have known and whom we would have seen attending upon the various committee rooms of the Senate. It was a rather sad event, as I discovered upon making inquiries. He was taken suddenly ill on Thursday night. He was taken to hospital and died there a few hours later, leaving behind him a widow and four children. Alan Francis Southwell, as you would know, as well as I, was a Senate attendant for nine years. I thought it was appropriate and proper at this juncture, before the Senate pursued its course any further this week, to say how sad and sorry I am- and I am sure that I have the support of all honourable senators who knew the late servant of the Senate- that he died so suddenly and left a widow and four children. I might add that his interests extended beyond the circle of his work in the Senate and his devotion to his own family. He spent a great deal of his spare time helping children in areas around Canberra to play football. He umpired their games on Saturday mornings and started a sort of little league of school children footballers in Canberra.
I thought therefore that you, Mr President, would welcome the opportunity- I hope I will be supported by other honourable senators- to express on this public occasion the sadness we feel that one who was in reality a part of our Senate life has died so quickly and suddenly and to convey our sorrow and sadness to his wife and family. I trust that you will see that any of the pangs and pains involved in these sudden events are eased within the limits of your capacity as the principal administrator of the Senate, in addition to your role as the officer who presides over the deliberations of the Senate. I hope that I will be supported in these expressions of regret on this occasion by other honourable senators who are aware of the loyal, effective and devoted service which this servant of the Senate gave to the Senate If I am supported I hope, Mr President, that you will take the opportunity to convey to the widow of Alan Francis Southwell our deep regret at his sudden death. I hope I shall be supported by Senator O ‘Byrne who is also an exPresident of the Senate.
– I wish to associate myself with the expressions of sympathy that have been made tonight by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. As a former Presiding Officer of the Senate he personally appreciated, as I did, the work contributed by the late Alan Southwell in the very thorough and efficient way that he carried out his duties as the senior attendant in charge of the committee rooms. We all have occasion to frequent those rooms. I have never known anyone to make a complaint about the way the rooms were prepared for the very important work of the Senate in its committee activities. I was most impressed with the kindness and graciousness of the words expressed by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. I appreciate very much the fact that he has drawn attention to Alan Southwell’s loyalty and devotion to his job in the Senate and also to his activities outside the Senate in his assistance to the youth, particularly of the Eastlake Football Club.
I was most impressed this morning at the funeral ceremony at St Patrick’s Cathedral to see that the guard of honour comprised the football team of which Alan had been the coach since these youngsters were six years of age. Because of his ability, kindness and very likeable personality and disposition, these children stayed together as a team. From the age of six years they have played regularly every year and were runnersup in the under-thirteen premiership last year. The team paid its last tribute to him. In my view the very large crowd of people who attended the funeral and the most impressive sight of these young people paying their last respects were a mark of the esteem in which he was held. It is very sad that a man of only 42 years of age had his life cut short in such a sudden way. It is those who are left behind to mourn to whom our deep sympathy goes. To his wife Dawn, his daughters Kerrie, Vicki and Brenda and his son Alan I extend my personal sympathy. I am sure that other honourable senators who knew Alan and the work he did here and who enjoyed his pleasant personality would, like you, Mr President, to place on the record of the Senate, through the medium of this adjournment debate, our appreciation of his work and our very deep sympathy to the members of his family who are left behind to mourn.
– I wish to associate myself with the expressions of sorrow at the untimely death of Mr Southwell and the expressions of appreciation of the splendid services he rendered to the Senate. I join in tendering to his widow and to the members of his family our deepest sympathy. I shall convey the messages of sympathy and expressions of appreciation to Mrs Southwell. Mr Alan Southwell was born on 10 May 1935. He commenced service in the Public Service with the Taxation Office in September 1967. He joined the Senate on 1 1 August 1969.
For the past seven years he has assisted honourable senators in the setting up and general organisation of committee rooms, and with their parking problems.
Mr Southwell not only gave great service to this Parliament in his capacity as an attendant, but he was also renowned in the community as a coach and great follower of Australian Rules junior football teams. He was a consistent supporter of the Eastlake Australian Rules Football Club. His passing and his service to that club was marked by the team which he last coached attending his funeral service. Mr Southwell has also assisted honourable senators and honourable members from time to time in other sporting activities. Honourable senators and honourable members will remember him for his courtesy and the diligence with which he carried out his official and non-official duties. He left a wife and four children. Again, I join with all honourable senators in the sentiments expressed by the two honourable senators who have spoken tonight. I shall convey their messages to Mrs Southwell and the members of her family.
- Senator Cavanagh raised a matter with regard to a question which he placed on notice which is No. 45 on the Notice Paper. It was addressed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner). I shall undertake to refer again that question to the Minister and also draw his attention to the comments made and questions raised by Senator Cavanagh this evening. I hope that an early answer to this question will be made available for him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.49 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
Administrative Appeals Tribunal (Question No. 7)
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Stevedoring Industry Consultative Committee (Question No. 15)
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The following persons, together with an officer each from the Departments of Transport and of Employment and Industrial Relations, are standing members of the Stevedoring Industry Consultative Council chaired by Sir Alan Westerman, C.B.E.:
Mr M. N. Speyer, Chairman, National Council of the Association of Employers of Waterside Labour.
Mr D. M. Rice, General Manager Transport, Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited.
Mr N. G. Jenner, Chairman, Australian National Line (Australian Shipping Commission ).
Messrs C. H. Fitzgibbon and N. Docker, respectively General Secretary and Assistant General Secretary of the Waterside Workers’ Federation of Australia.
Mr P. Nolan, Secretary, Australian Council of Trade Unions.
Mr A. S. Mayne, Chairman, Melbourne Harbour Trust Commissioners and President, Association of Australian Port and Marine Authorities.
Mr A. F. J. Smith, President, Australian Shippers’ Council.
Mr G. T. John, General Manager, Victoria and Tasmania, TNT Transport System, and nominee of the Confederation of Australian Industry.
Mr S. H. McAllum, Managing Director, Refrigerated Express Lines (A’asia) Pty Ltd and nominee of the Australian Chamber of Commerce.
Deputy Public Service Arbitrator (Question No. 16)
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Fraser Island (Question No. 20)
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes. This matter has been the subject of communications between representatives of the Australian Government and the United States Embassy in Canberra.
The representatives of the Australian Government took the opportunity to explain the Government’s position on this issue.
Fraser Island (Question No. 21)
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Mr Cornuelle has twice requested an interview with me. On both occasions however, a meeting was not practicable. My colleague the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Trade and Resources has met with Mr Cornuelle on a number of occasions, most recently on 24 February 1978, to discuss in detail Dillingham Corporation’s claim for compensation. In these circumstances I consider that there would be little purpose in my also meeting with representatives of the company.
Uranium Enrichment Plant, Queensland (Question No. 23)
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Representatives of Urenco Ltd and Centec GMbH visited Australia in October 1977, on a fact-finding mission to inform themselves of uranium policies in Australia and to explore the possibilities of uranium enrichment collaboration with Australian interests. During the course of their stay the Urenco-Centec Group called on the Deputy Prime Minister and had discussions with the then Department of National Resources and other Commonwealth Government Departments, the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, various State Governments and Australian companies. A press article at the time of the Urenco-Centec visit reported that the Queensland Premier, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, had shown interest in the consortium’s visit and in the establishment of an enrichment plant in Queensland. Various State Governments have been interested in such a project.
Government policy is to encourage the processing of Australian raw materials to the maximum extent possible prior to export. The interest of the Urenco-Centec Group in examining the possibility for co-operative arrangements in regard to the enrichment of Australian uranium is entirely consistent with the Government’s policy.
In a statement on 24 October 1977 the Deputy Prime Minister said that the Urenco-Centec representatives informed him that they were very pleased with the reception they had been given by representatives of industrial and commercial firms as well as by representatives of the Commonwealth and State Governments.
In particular, they noted the mutuality of interests between the Australians they had met and Urenco-Centec in respect of safeguards and the promotion of non-proliferation.
They expressed their intention that on return to Europe they would be putting to the Boards of their organisations the desirability of proceeding with detailed studies on the possibility of Urenco-Centec becoming involved in uranium enrichment in Australia.
Withdrawal of Grant to Queensland (Question No. 24)
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Premier did write to me about the withdrawal of a gram to a particular Aboriginal organisation. I have advised, in reply, that the grant will not be withdrawn.
As details of correspondence between a Premier and Prime Minister are normally regarded as confidential I do not intend to release the text of the correspondence.
Army Reserve Units (Question No. 28)
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The average for the period therefore being 35.98 man days.
Statistics before FY 1974-75 would not be of any assistance for comparative purposes as they are distorted by National Service and its after-effects.
Social Workers (Question No. 31)
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Termination of Social Security Pensions and Benefits (Qestion No. 57)
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
HMS’Tiger’: Oil Pollution in Sydney Harbour (Question No. 69)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 23 February 1978:
How did HMS Tiger, a helicopter-carrying command cruiser, cause oil pollution in Sydney Harbour.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
HMS Tiger was pumping salt water from her stern gland compartments to the sea when a ballast line containing oil fuel was inadvertently connected to the pumping system. Pumping was stopped as soon as the oil was discovered.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 22 February 1 978:
– The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Timorese People Resident in Australia: Nationality (Question No. 83)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
AUS Student Travel Pty Ltd (Question No. 98)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
What was the exact indebtedness of AUS Student Travel Pty Ltd to Qantas Airways Ltd and to Trans-Australia Airlines at the time the scheme for repayment of AUS Student Travel debts was entered into.
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Qantas has advised that the extent of AUS Student Travel’s indebtedness to the airline under the Scheme of Arrangement is assessed at $873,094,61. Trans-Australia Airlines has advised that the extern of AUS Student Travel’s indebtedness to the airline under the Scheme of Arrangement is assessed at $482,376.
AUS Student Travel Pty Ltd (Question No. 100)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The chief Australian Electoral Officer will make his next determination in late January or early February 1979. He does not base his determination on projections, but on the latest available statistics from the Australian Statistician. I would not wish to speculate on what the results of the next determination will be.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
Does the Australian Government intend to continue its endeavours to assist the people of East Timor and their economy by offering financial and technological assistance to the Timorese in areas such as agriculture, fisheries and tourism.
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In my statement of 20 January 1978 I noted, inter alia, that the rehabilitation of Timor was an important ingredient in a practical contribution to the peace of the area. The statement also said that the humanitarian issues arising from the conflict in East Timor had been and remained a major concern of the Government. Accordingly the Government would consider requests from the Indonesian authorities for economic assistance to East Timor.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice, on 28 February:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Standing Committee of Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General is currently considering the form of a possible bill by which States could refer the necessary power. The matter is expected to be further considered at the next Standing Committee meeting later this year.
Ambassador to Paris and UNESCO (Question No. 106)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
Did the Australian Ambassador to France ask at any time to be relieved of his onerous additional duties as Ambassador to UNESCO.
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Ambassador has not at any time specifically asked to be relieved of his additional duties as Ambassador to UNESCO. The Ambassador has however from time to time drawn the Department’s attention to the increasing workload involved in supporting Australia ‘s participation in UNESCO. In particular, the political aspects of Australia’s role in UNESCO have assumed increased importance and it is appropriate that this should be recognised by the appointment of a separate Ambassador to UNESCO. This would also enable the Ambassador to France to concentrate his full attention on the important issues involved in our bilateral relations with France.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Ambassador to UNESCO (Question No. 108)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice, on 28 February 1978:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is at follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
A Psychiatric Ward is now available for the treatment of cases at Alice Springs Hospital, and will open following the appointment of suitably qualified staff. Some difficulty has been experienced by my Department in obtaining the latter, but a suitable candidate for the position of Specialist (Psychiatry) is in the early stages of recruitment. At present, psychiatric services are being provided on a monthly basis by arrangement with the South Australian authorities and with the help of general clinical staff at Alice Springs Hospital.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
Did the Prime Minister write to Ministers on or about 4 April 1977, stressing that plaques acknowledging any Federal assistance should be displayed at new projects; if so, why was no acknowledgement of Federal assistance included in the plaque displayed at the Gladstone Library and Art Gallery, which the Premier of Queensland opened on 24 August 1977.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I wrote to Ministers on 28 March 1977 concerning a number of matters related to public acknowledgement of Commonwealth assistance to State, local and voluntary bodies for building projects, including the matter of plaques.
I suggested to Ministers that they arrange, with the agreement of the recipient organisation, for the erection of suitable construction site signs or commemorative plaques on appropriate projects assisted by the Commonwealth. I also drew attention to instructions regarding signs and plaques issued to officers of the Department of Social Security at the direction of the present Leader of the Opposition while he was Minister of that Department in the former Labor Government.
The present Government differs from the former Labor Government in that it is not our wish or intention that plaques be erected on all such projects; recipient organisations will not be forced to accept signs or plaques under threat of the project not being approved or further payments being suspended.
Commonwealth assistance was less than 25 per cent of the total cost of the project.
Mr Alvaro SalazarArbelaez (Question No. 187)
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice, on 2 March 1978 :
What was the outcome of the appeal by Colombian national, Mr Alvaro Salazar, to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
On 30 December 1977 the Administrative Appeals Tribunal delivered its decision on an application by Mr Alvaro Salazar-Arbelaez for review of a decision of the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs to deport him from Australia. The decision was in the following terms-
The Tribunal affirms the decision of the Minister made on the 3rd day of November, 1977 that the applicant be deported from Australia.’
Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Project (Question No. 188)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 7 March 1978:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Records of the Authority in relation to the 99 deceased contractors’ employees are incomplete but indicate that workers from at least the following countries were included in the fatalities: Austria, Australia, Belgium, Estonia, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Spain, United Kingdom, United States of America, Yugoslavia.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 7 March 1978:
What financial gain is expected ultimately to accrue to the Government, pursuant to the 1977 Budget decision to sell land for Defence Service Homes at market value instead of at capital cost, as before.
– The Minister forVeterans’ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is too early to predict the level of receipts that will be obtained by the Defence Service Homes Corporation from the sale of land at current market values. It is not yet known when sales will be completed and the proceeds will be dependent upon ruling market values at the time the sales occur.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
– The Minister for Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
asked the Minister represent ing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The Foreign Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 14 March 1978:
Do any centres, referred to in the Minister’s statement of 10 February 1978, provide assistance for handicapped housewives, in the Australian Capital Territory; if so, what centres, and what facilities do they provide.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Although my Department does not operate a rehabilitation centre in the Australian Capital Territory, it provides, in conjunction with the rehabilitation unit of the Woden Valley Hospital, a comprehensive service to handicapped persons consisting of individual programs of treatment and training.
Legislative amendments were made to the Social Services Act in November 1977, enabling rehabilitation assistance to be made available to disabled persons who are not recipients of a Social Security pension or benefit or who are not intending to undertake gainful employment. It is expected that many disabled housewives in the ACT will now be eligible for free treatment under the sponsorship of the Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service.
In many cases, these people will be able to be assisted under CRS auspices, through remedial and training programs provided by the Woden Valley Hospital. Additionally any disabled housewife in the Australian Capital Territory in need of residential or long-term rehabilitation treatment, may be considered for admission where appropriate to a Commonwealth Rehabilitation Centre in Sydney.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice, on 14 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 15 March 1978:
What percentage of terminated unemployment benefit payments has subsequently had to be reactivated.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I am advised that this information is not available.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 22 February 1 978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows: (1), (2) and (3) The information requested is not available.
Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Community Health Service
-On 28 February 1978 (Hansard, page 139) Senator Cavanagh asked me, as Minister representing the Prime Minister, a question without notice concerning the Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Community Health Service. The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Premier did write to me about the withdrawal of a grant to a particular Aboriginal organisation. I have advised, in reply, that the grant will not be withdrawn.
As details of corrrespondence between a Premier and Prime Minister are normally regarded as confidential I do not intend to release the text of the correspondence.
Entry to Australia by Private Aircraft
- Senator Cavanagh asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs the following question, without notice, on 2 March 1978.
Would the use of a private plane to bring to Australia a person who had been refused a visa to enter the country be in breach of the immigration law? Would the owner of the plane, the person who chartered the plane or the pilot of the plane be in breach of the law?
The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The use of a private plane to bring someone to Australia whether or not that person had a visa would not, in itself, be an offence as the law now stands. If, however, the person brought to Australia sought to evade immigration controls, and the person bringing him here was a party to such attempted evasion, this would be unlawful. Sections 30 and 33 of the Migration Act 1958 are relevant.
Mr Milan Brych
- Senator Peter Baume asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs the following question, without notice, on 7 March 1978:
Would transport by the Premier of Queensland in any way absolve this man (Mr Brych) from complying with normal entry requirements or any special requirements which might have been laid down by the Australian Government.
The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government has now cancelled the requirement imposed as a pre-condition to Mr Brych ‘s entry to Australia.
Irrespective of the transport arrangements into Australia Mr Brych is required to meet the entry provisions of the Migration Act.
Income Security Review
-On 7 March 1978 (Hansard, page 36 1 ) Senator Grimes asked me, as Minister representing the Prime Minister, a question, without notice, concerning the Income Security Review. The Prime Minister has supplied the following information in answer to the honourable senator’s question:
In announcing, on 2 March 1978, the appointment of Dr Sidney Sax as Head of the new Social Welfare Policy Secretariat, I stated that the Secretariat will be responsible for the development of plans and policies and review of existing policies and programs in the broad field of health and welfare. The Secretariat will thus continue the unfinished work of the Income Security Review within the scope of these broader reponsibilities.
The new Secretariat, like the Income Security Review, provides advice to Ministers. This advice is not generally a matter of public record. This would not, however, preclude the Government from releasing documents where this is appropriate.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 4 April 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780404_senate_31_s76/>.