31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
-On behalf of Senator Lewis, I present the following petition from 12 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
Telephone users outside major metropolitan telephone districts, particularly those conducting businesses outside those districts, suffer an unfair burden for fees charged for calls.
The system of charging for calls on the basis of distances between non-adjoining zones instead of for the time of the call is unreasonable.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, should require Telecom Australia to meter all calls, including local calls, and charge a uniform rate on a time basis regardless of distance between calling parties.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That it is necessary for the Commonwealth Government to renew for a further term of at least 3 years the States Grants (Dwellings for Pensioners) Act 1974-77, renewed for one year expiring on the 30 June 1 978.
The demand for dwellings has not slackened as the waiting list (all States) of 12,060 single and 4,120 couples as at the 30 June 1977, showeth.
Your petitioners respectfully draw the attention of the Commonwealth Government to the Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Aged Persons’ Housing 1975 under the Chairmanship of the Rev. K. Seaman (now Governor of South Australia) which recommended additional funds to State housing authorities to meet the demand for low-rental accommodation in the proportion of $4 to $ 1 with the proviso that the States do not reduce their existing expenditure and
That the Act include married pensioners eligible for supplementary assistance and migrants as specified by the Seaman Report and that particular consideration be paid to the special needs and requirements of the prospective tenants in the location and design of such dwellings.
Futhermore, your petitioners desire to draw the Government’s attention to the hardship of many pensioner home owners caused by the high cost of maintenance.
The Social Security Annual Report 1976-77 shows that 24.6 per cent, or 283,000 home owning pensioners, have a weekly income in excess of the pension of less than $6 per week.
Your petitioners strongly urge the Commonwealth to establish a fund whereby loans can be made to means tested pensioners for the purpose of effecting necessary maintenance to their homes. Such a loan to be at minimal interest rates sufficient to cover administrative costs and to be repaid by the estate upon the death of a single pensioner before probate or upon the death of the surviving spouse in the case of married pensioners or where two pensioners jointly own the dwelling. Administration to be carried out by local government bodies.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Withers and Senator Primmer.
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.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Peter Baume, Senator Carrick, Senator Button, Senator Scott, Senator Jessop, Senator Lewis and Senator Webster.
-I give notice that, eight sittings days after today, I shall move:
That the following regulations be disallowed:
the amendments of the Naval Financial Regulations contained in Statutory Rules 1977 No. 278 and made under the Naval Defence Act 1910; and
the amendment of the Air Force Regulations contained in Statutory Rules 1977 No. 279 and made under the Air Force Act 1923.
-I give notice that, eight sitting days after today, I shall move:
That the amendment of the Defence Force (Salaries) Regulations, contained in Statutory Rules 1978 No. 3, and made under the Defence Act 1903, the Naval Defence Act 1910 and the Air Force Act 1 923, be disallowed.
– I give notice that, eight sitting days after today, I shall move:
That sub-section (2) of section 42 of the Physiotherapists Registration Ordinance 1977, contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 60 of 1977, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910, be disallowed.
-Is the Minister for Science aware of an article entitled ‘Antarctica AwakesMinerals for the 21st Century’ which appeared in the November 1 977 edition of the publication Australian Mining? I ask the Minister whether he is aware that the author in his article stated:
A committee of government geoscientists has reported to the Australian Government on the necessity to launch search programs round the sub-Antarctic islands.
It goes on to indicate that the committee has urged the Government to spend initially $14m on seismic and geological survey work. Is that report correct?
-My answers to the questions asked are no, no, and I am not aware of the situation.
– I ask a supplementary question. Is the Minister saying that he has no knowledge of the report to which I referred in my question? Is he telling the Senate that he is simply unable to say whether he has received such a report? Can he confirm whether or not he has received a report?
-The honourable senator asked me whether I was aware of an article in a paper dated November 1977. My answer to that was no. The honourable senator then asked me whether I was aware of what was contained in the article, which he read at some length, and my answer to that also was no. He then asked me for further information but I was unable to give it as I did not have the article readily in my mind. The honourable senator is very active in this place in suggesting that Dorothy Dix questions are put to me. I do have a great deal of information on this subject and if the honourable senator or you, Mr President, would like me to give some information relating to Antarctic exploration I would be pleased to do so. However, the honourable senator’s question related to a particular article and the answer to the question is no.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he has received a telegram from the Association of Civil Marriage Celebrants of Australia regarding problems that have been created by the amendments to the Marriage Act which have been effective since June 1977. Is the Attorney-General aware that the members of the executive of the Association of Civil Marriage Celebrants have stated that they receive on average four reports of hardship per week caused by these amendments and that many of the couples involved are elderly people, some of whom are in their seventies? What comment can the Attorney-General offer on their suggestion that a statistical analysis should have been undertaken on the likely effect of the amendments and their belief that there is no proof available to suggest that a couple who give three days notice, as was required in Victoria prior to 1961, have any greater risk of marriage breakdown than another couple who give 40 days notice?
-The provisions of the Marriage Act to which Senator Martin and the Association of Civil Marriage Celebrants of Australia have referred was introduced into and passed by the Parliament about a year ago. I cannot remember exactly when it was although I remember representing my predecessor in the Senate on that occasion, so it was introduced within the recent period. The intention of the legislation was to ensure that people did not enter into marriage in too great a rush and that they had time to think about it and prepare for it. The particular amendment was associated with other amendments which also were designed to assist marrige preparation. The Government has included in the Budget this year grants for marriage preparation courses. The matter has to be looked at in that context. It is fair to say that in some respects it was an experimental approach by the Government and certainly the Government would be prepared to consider the effect of the amendments and carry out surveys to see whether they are successful. I am aware of the dissatisfaction with the amendment referred to and dissatisfaction has been expressed by a number of people, including the Association of Civil Marriage Celebrants which, as Senator Martin said, has brought it to my attention. I am prepared to keep the matter under review and to carry out an investigation to see whether there is any evidence that the policy is either successful or causing hardship, as has been alleged.
– My question, too, is directed to the Attorney-General and I preface it by saying that I and, I assume, many other senators have had representations from bodies such as the Australian Copyright Council and the Victorian Council for Handicapped Readers pressing for reform of the copyright law in Australia, particularly as it relates to reprographic reproduction or photocopying. When does the Government intend to take action upon the report of the Franki Committee which was tabled here on 9 December 1976?
– I cannot give any specific indication as to when legislation in regard to this matter will be forthcoming. It is a very difficult and very technical subject on which I have had voluminous representations, all diametrically opposed. I think these representations have come from almost every member of Parliament as well as from large numbers of organisations. I have been looking at the matter to see whether there is any way of resolving this very great conflict of interest that seems to have emerged. I am still pursuing that line. At this stage I am not able to say when legislation on the matter will be brought forward. But I can assure the Senate that it is a question to which I am giving attention. It has not been overlooked by any means and I am hopeful that there will be some way in which this very considerable conflict can be resolved.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and
Resources. I refer to a report in the Melbourne Sun newspaper of 27 March which refers to the import ban placed by the United States on products made from kangaroo hides. I ask the Minister: Is it true, as alleged in the report, that the Australian Government has placed pressure on the United States to have the ban lifted? Has the Minister any information which contradicts the belief of the United States Fisheries and Wildlife Service that red, eastern grey and western grey kangaroos are threatened with extinction? Will the Minister assure the Senate that the Government will not support the lifting of the import ban until such time as it has scientific proof that these species are not endangered?
-Because of the technical nature of this question, Senator Missen was good enough to give me a warning that he would be asking me about the matter. My colleague in the other place has provided me with the answer. There was concern to ensure the satisfactory conservation of kangaroos, and the export of kangaroo products from Australia, as the honourable senator would know, was banned in April 1973. These bans were lifted on a State by State basis, starting in February 1975, after the then Commonwealth Government and the States agreed on kangaroo conservation-management programs.
However, in January 1975 the United States, previously the major market for kangaroo products, imposed a ban on such imports under the provisions of the United States Endangered Species Act, claiming that three species- the red, the western grey and the eastern grey- were threatened with extinction. I can inform the honourable senator that the view of the United States authorities conflicts with the scientific advice and evidence provided to State and Commonwealth governments and with the opinion of international organisations, including the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, which body endorses the Australian Government’s view.
In February 1976 the United States Government advised that it would relax the ban if Australia presented to the United States evidence of State kangaroo conservation and management programs developed in accordance with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service’s guidelines and certified by the Australian Government. Australia duly provided the certification and documentation requested by the United States on kangaroo management and conservation programs. Despite this, however, there was no United States response to the Australian arrangements and no steps were taken towards relaxing the import ban, as had been undertaken.
In October 1976 and again in October 1977 Australia made formal representations to the United States State Department requesting the United States to take the necessary steps towards lifting the ban. The representations informed the United States that the Australian Government did not consider the species of kangaroo previously mentioned to be endangered. Australia was informed in December 1 977 that the United States was prepared to re-examine its ban on kangaroo product imports. Discussions on the matter are continuing between the Australian and State governments responsible for conservation and between Australia and the United States authorities. I think that answers all the honourable senator’s questions. Should he desire further information on the subject, if he lets me know I shall ask my colleague to provide it if possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services. He will recall that I asked him a question several weeks ago regarding the appointment of Mr Wollaston. Is it government policy in disposing of Commonwealth property which is declared surplus to Commonwealth requirements that former owners or government instrumentalities are given the right to repurchase or acquire the property and that all other disposals are carried out by public sale, auction or tender? Were these procedures established prior to or since the appointment of Mr Wollaston? Can the Minister say whether these procedures are now government policy and are followed in every circumstance?
-There is a long-standing government policy which goes back almost to Federation. Property falls into two categories. I am calling on memory and if I am incorrect I shall correct my reply later in the day. If the Commonwealth within seven years of its acquisition no longer wants property which was compulsorily acquired it is first offered to the person from whom it was acquired if that person can be found. There is a distinction between property required by the Commonwealth and that required by departments. If a department no longer has a requirement for a particular property all other departments are first asked whether they have a requirement for it.
If the property has not been compulsorily acquired and there is no requirement to offer it back to the original owner, the long-standing policy has been firstly to offer it to the State government. As the honourable senator would no doubt know, many Commonwealth properties were passed by State governments to the Commonwealth at the time of Federation. These included buildings such as post offices and customs houses. It is always felt to be an obligation that the States should have an opportunity to get that property back. If a State government has no interest in the property it is then offered to the local authority in the shire or municipality in which the property is situated. If the local authority expresses no interest it is generally put up for public auction. Mr Wollaston has had nothing to do with the designing of these policies. As far as I am able to discover, they are of ancient standing.
I have had representations from a number of local authorities that they should be given equal priority with State governments. I can understand that occasionally there are competing claims when a local authority and a State government both want the same building for different purposes. I have told local authorities that I am prepared to look at the matter. At the moment I am having inquiries made as to whether the long-standing priorities ought to remain, particularly in relation to State governments and local government bodies.
-The Minister representing the Minister for Health will no doubt remember that late last year I asked the Minister in the interests of the health of our community to seek consideration by the Treasurer of a differential excise on beer with a low percentage of alcohol. The Minister is also no doubt aware of the reply directed to me yesterday in which the Treasurer said in part:
I have no fixed views on whether this revenue should be raised by some differential excise relating to the alcohol content of the beer produced.
As the Treasurer has no fixed views on whether revenue should be raised by a fixed excise or a differential excise for low alcohol beer, will the Minister ask the Minister for Health to make recommendations to the Treasurer about the alcohol percentage in beers which the Department of Health feels should be on the market? Does the Minister feel that the health of our community is more important than the protection of the excise that the Government presently receives from beer sales?
– I recall the question raised earlier by Senator Townley and the response from the Treasurer. I shall draw to the attention of the Minister for Health the honourable senator’s suggestion of recommendations to the Treasurer on this matter. I think we should also use the recommendations of the Senate committee’s report on these matters as a basis for discussions on the health of the Australian community with regard to this problem. As to whether I believe that the health of the community is more important than the excise that is received, I agree that the health of the community is of paramount importance. It could probably be argued whether the excise that is received is financial compensation for the health costs that are incurred because of many of the problems that exist in our community. I will draw the questions to the attention of the two Ministers concerned to see whether any further information or response can be given.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs table in the Parliament for the information of honourable senators the letter sent from a Mr Jess in Melbourne to the Treasurer on the matter of insurance of properties of Aborigines, a copy of which was made available to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs?
– It will be understood that the question raised by Senator Cavanagh relates to a question on notice- I think it is question No. 45- which was referred to earlier this week by the honourable senator. As I have already done, I shall draw to the attention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs the honourable senator’s request for an early response. Whether the question on notice actually involves the letter concerned I do not know, but I shall seek a response from the Minister with regard to tabling the letter.
-My question which is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services relates to the absence of an Australian Government Publishing Service bookshop in the city of Newcastle. In view of the fact that the population of the Hobart statistical division, in which there is an AGPS bookshop, is 162,000 people and that the population of the Newcastle statistical division, in which there is no such bookshop, is 362,000 people, I ask the Minister whether he is aware that some people in Newcastle are having difficulty in obtaining government publications, reports of Senate committees and similar documents. Is he able to advise whether there is an agency or any other arrangement available to the people of Newcastle to assist them in getting AGPS publications? If not, will he give consideration either to the establishment of an AGPS bookshop in Newcastle or to the establishment of some appropriate agency arrangements which will suit the convenience of the people of this industrial city?
– I think the comparison between the statistical division of Hoban and that of Newcastle is unfortunate.
– It is a matter of quality.
– I am not prepared to enter into that dispute. I remember a Labor Minister who was also the member for Newcastle who once said that there were more votes in Newcastle than there were in Tasmania. That was the sort of statement that won us five seats from Tasmania in the House of Representatives. I do not think that is a good opening statistical comparison. One of the major reasons why there is an Australian Government Publishing Service bookshop in Hobart is that Hobart is still the capital of Tasmania. The bookshop is there to serve not only the statistical division of Hobart but also all the people of Tasmania. I will ask my Department to look at this proposition of whether there ought to be an AGPS bookshop in Newcastle, and what the likely demand might be and I will inform the honourable senator of the result.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science. I refer him to the adjournment debate which took place in this chamber on 1 5 March last during which the Minister referred to a successful Australian trading company- Commercial Bureau Australia Pty Ltd- as being ‘a company which might do little credit to Australia’. I ask the Minister: Is the company to which he referred the same company as has recently been instrumental in concluding negotiations for the sale to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics of highly modern isotope onstream analysis equipment for the Australian Mineral Development Laboratory? To the Minister’s knowledge, is it the same company as negotiated the export to the USSR of concrete pipemaking technical equipment for the Rocla group of companies? Is the Minister aware that further sales to the USSR in both these areas are pending under the auspices of Commercial Development Australia Pty Ltd? Is the company to which he referred so disparagingly the group which, between October 1976 and September 1977, negotiated contracts worth more than $ 1 m for the sale to the USSR of 90,000 tons of Australian beef? Is it the same company as in June last year sold to the USSR more than 6,000 tons of Australian butter, which was the first sale of butter ever in this new market area? I ask the Minister in his capacity as Minister for Science whether he should not be aware of this rather unusual export of Australian technical and scientific equipment to a new market area. I ask also whether as a member of the National Country Party he might consider ceasing to disparage by innuendo a company which is clearly doing so much to help Australia’s struggling primary industries.
– The honourable senator has asked me eight questions. Because of the comments that are made by the Opposition in regard to the length of replies that I make to questions asked in this chamber, I do not think that honourable senators opposite would wish me to answer in detail each one of those eight questions. However, if Senator Primmer would care to consult with his Leader about comments that his Leader has made regarding the length of my replies, and if his Leader has no objection I would be quite prepared to answer Senator Primmer ‘s questions at length. However, that would occupy a large part of question time.
The honourable senator commenced by asking me about an answer I gave, I believe, on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry in relation to a particular trading company. The honourable senator alleged that I made some remarks on behalf of the Minister in another place in relation to the credibility of that company. I am not aware whether it is the same company as conducted a number of trading transactions which, so far as I know, do not have any great scientific base. The honourable senator referred to one transaction relating to concrete pipes and another relating to an Australian development company. The honourable senator also asked me about another company which has contracted to sell butter to Russia. I am not aware whether that company has entered into such contracts. I shall attempt to obtain that information for the honourable senator as soon as possible.
asked me in my capacity as Minister for Science whether I should not be aware of those commercial undertakings. I think it is a fair comment that a proper reading by members of parliament of these scientific matters will bring them great knowledge in relation to scientific matters but not necessarily knowledge in relation to commercial undertakings by particular private companies. The honourable senator asked me whether as a member of the National Country Party I should be aware of these matters. The National Country Party is very aware of the drastic steps which were taken by the Labor Party to downgrade rural industry while it was in office, and against which the National Country Party fought so vigorously for three years. The National Country Party, as a partner in this outstanding Government, has been responsible for the correction of some of the crucial errors, such as the increased interest rates and the abolition of the superphosphate bounty, which honourable senators opposite during their term of office visited upon the farming community. I would like to take these matters up but I can see that the Leader of the Opposition is getting agitated at the length of my reply. I know it is a Dorothy Dix question.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, refers to passports held up in the recent New South Wales postal strike. Is the Minister aware that $20 was charged for replacement passports of three months duration, the issue of which was made necessary because of the protracted industrial dispute in one of this Government’s departments? Can the Minister say whether a decision has been made that the $20 charges should be refunded to the persons so inconvenienced as the necessity for replacement passports was completely beyond the control of the passport recipients.
– I have no direct information on this matter. I shall seek it from my colleague in the other place.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I refer to the report that the Australian Wool Corporation, as a result of prior agreement with the Government, has borrowed $100m overseas to finance its stockpile. I ask whether the $ 100m overseas borrowing by the Corporation will have exactly the same effect on the balance of payments, the money supply and every other significant economic indicator as would $100m borrowed overseas by the Government. Will the Corporation repay to the Government as a result of this loan $100m from previous borrowings from the
Government, thereby cosmetically reducing the ballooning 1977-78 deficit by $100m? If so, is that the reason why the Government reversed its previous policy of disallowing overseas borrowings by the Wool Corporation?
– I think this question requires some specific and technical details. It would be best if the honourable senator put the question on notice.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Further to my question without notice on 14 March concerning the sequential complete loss of power of the three jet engines on a 200- series Boeing 727 in the United States, I ask the Minister: Has any additional information as a result of the investigation into the incident yet been made available to either the Department of Transport or our internal airlines?
– My recollection is that in responding to Senator Collard ‘s original question I indicated that if there were any subsequent information I would seek it out and make it available. I have a briefing with the following information. On 21 March the Government received advice from Boeing that the cause of the triple engine flame-out on the National Airlines Boeing 727 en route from Fort Lauderdale to New York on 27 January had been attributed to a fuel management problem. The flight engineer, after reflection, indicated that he had left all the fuel boost pumps off and the engines quit when a vapour lock occurred following fuel heat and engine anti-ice being applied. The United States National Transportation Safety Board has accepted this explanation for the incident and as a possible explanation for several other reported incidents of erratic engine operation. That, of course, raises vital questions of procedure for the future. This information was assessed by the Government and the Government is satisfied that if normal operating procedures are followed with the Boeing 727 there will be no flame-out problem. Boeing is, however, reviewing the operational procedures and should any revisions be forthcoming they will be implemented by all operators.
-Is the Minister for Science aware that America has set aside a sum in excess of $US10m for a four-year program to test a 10- megawatt magneto hydro-dynamic generator?
Can the Minister advise whether his Government has done any research in the field of magneto hydro-dynamic power generation. If the answer is in the negative, will he advise the Parliament why research in this important technology has been neglected by the Government?
– The honourable senator asks whether I am aware of a contract for $ 10m being let in the United States of America for research into a particular type of generator. I do not know of the contract in the United States relating to research into power generation. I do not know of anywhere within the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation or within my own Department where power generation of this type is being researched. If there is a basis for it and it should be done I shall certainly look into the matter and obtain an answer for the honourable senator as soon as practicable.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral whether he will examine the possibility of action in co-operation with the States and Territories to ban the sale, possession and use of hand guns except by certain organisations and law enforcement and other similar agencies.
– This matter in fact has been investigated by my Department and by my predecessors from time to time. The position is that the Commonwealth has no legislative power to control the sale, possession or use of hand guns except in the Territories. However, the Northern Territory is approaching selfgovernment so our power will be limited there in future. As far as the Australian Capital Territory is concerned, any enactment would necessitate ascertaining the views of the Legislative Assembly. The Commonwealth has raised the matter of uniform legislation with the States at standing committees and meetings of Attorneys-General but little or no interest has been shown in the question by the States.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science in connection with the proposal to build or acquire a polar vessel for Australia’s needs. Can he inform the Senate of progress made so far in the design of a suitable polar vessel to serve our Antarctic bases and other related needs? What are the principal design features of the ship? What is the range of purposes that this ship will be required to serve? When is it anticipated that a polar vessel will be commissioned, and finally, what is the estimated cost of this vessel?
-Mr President, you will acknowledge that the question asks for a great deal of information. I think it may be more appropriate that I put the answer on paper for the honourable senator. I know of his great interest. As I have said before, Senator Devitt is the only member of the Federal Parliament ever to have set foot on an Australian base in Antarctica. That must stand to his credit during the whole of his lifetime. I think it is a great credit to him. He is interested in the production of a vessel for use in servicing Antarctica. He is well aware that we have two vessels leased at present and that their life is running out. The Government has decided that it will look into the production of an Australian vessel for this work. Since that decision was taken, $50,000 has been made available this year for a start to be made on the design requirements of the vessel.
The shipbuilding division within the Department of Industry and Commerce has taken on some responsibility to attempt to assess the requirements peculiar to Australia as compared with those of other countries. South Africa has just received a polar vessel from Japanese shipyards. A number of polar vessels are being produced at present which may perhaps suit the Australian situation. But we have an uncommon situation in relation to the volume of supplies that we need to transport to our three permanent bases in Antarctica as well as to serve Macquarie Island. The ship is required for the transfer of scientists and a sizable number of people who must be transported to Australian bases during the very short summer that is available to us for navigable operation. The present requirements of Australia, which differ from those of overseas countries, have been assessed by the Antarctic Division within the Department of Science with the aid of advice received from other areas, such as universities and other interested bodies. The principles of design of such a vessel involve an uncommon proposition, because Australia has decided to go into marine science research in quite a large way. This is a matter which needs a very basic decision.
Before I became Minister the assessment had been made that a vessel which could relieve bases could not be designed to undertake work required for marine science and oceanography which, as I understand it, demands a fairly stable platform. This presents a difficulty in deciding between a rounded bottom ship like that in which the honourable senator proceeded to the continent and the type that is required for proper oceanographic studies. This requirement has to be evaluated. The estimated cost some years ago of such a vessel was in the vicinity of $30m. It is suggested that it can be produced for $20m, but undoubtedly the satellite tracking equipment which, as one can imagine, is expensive, and the geological and geophysical equipment required on such a vessel, would all add to the cost. It is my understanding, from the figures that I have seen, that the cost of this scientific equipment has not been added to the basic cost of the vessel.
There is great interest in this matter, and while the Government has been considering a replacement vessel I have been approached by several private organisations which are interested in producing such a vessel and leasing it to the Government. It has been suggested to me that if the Government were to be alert to the world shipbuilding situation and to enter into the manufacture of such a vessel now it could be produced for perhaps a third of its cost in three years time. That figure stands. It has been suggested to me in recent weeks that in various oceanographic shipyards such a vessel could at present be produced for $ 12 m. The Department of Science is studying all these matters. The amount of finance that is available to the Government at present is important as are the competing interests within the community for the allocation of such capital. My Department and the Government will, I hope, produce a proper assessment of the situation within 1 8 months.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer whether the Australian Statistician announced yesterday a strong rise in retail sales in February? Is this the result of the new taxation scales which commenced on the first of that month? Does this further demonstrate the correctness of the Government’s mix of economic measures which are aimed at stimulating the economy?
– It is a fact that yesterday some very heartening increases in retail sales for the month of February were announced.
– Have you not read the Myers report?
-I said heartening, yes. I take it that on both sides of the chamber everyone will be delighted that there should be an increase in retail sales, because that is the precursor of increased demand and therefore an increased potential for employment. I have no doubt that what will flow from this will be encouraging signs that re-employment of a significant kind is now starting in Australia. But let me put it in perspective. The preliminary estimate released today, I believe, indicated that in fact seasonally adjusted the value of retail sales increased by 3.3 per cent or $65m in February, compared with a decline of 2.3 per cent in January, a rise of 1.7 per cent in December and an average monthly rise of 0.7 per cent in the first 1 1 months of 1 977. Over the year to February retail sales increased by 1 1 .2 per cent. I think that is something to be taken into account. There is need for caution in the interpretation of the early estimates of retail figures. I think it is important to realise that in the three months to February retail sales were 2.6 per cent higher than those in the three months to November, and that is indicative of real growth in that period.
I believe we can feel some cautious optimism; one should not feel buoyant optimism in respect of these things. As honourable senators know, about $26m additional purchasing power a month has been injected into the community from 1 January. There is an indication that some of it has gone to savings. There is a clear indication that some has gone to increased retail sales. We will need to look to the future to see whether the sustained application of purchasing power means that sustained demand across the counter will result in a sustained need for more employment and that of course will be a healthy thing.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. By way of preface let me say that I interpret the rejection yesterday of proposals to establish joint committees on employment as meaning that he is the generalissimo of manpower policy. If that is the case, I ask the Minister- and this is the third occasion on which I have raised this matter: When will we get some rationalisation or consistency of policy between the ministries of Productivity, Immigration and Ethnic Affairs and Mr Street’s Department to resolve the impasse with the rubber manufacturers as to whether we fill the gaps with tyre builders who have been through a mini National Employment and Training scheme or, as the multi-nationals imply, by recruitment from overseas? This is something which should not take six weeks to resolve.
-Senator Mulvihill asked me a question earlier in the week in relation to this problem in the rubber manufacturing industry. I regret that I have not been able to obtain an answer yet. I will see whether I can activate an answer.
– I was blaming your colleague, not you.
-He has had another major matter on his plate for the last day or so, as the honourable senator would probably know.
– Caused by Senator Mulvihill ‘s colleagues.
– Yes, by another union. I will remind the Minister of the question and endeavour to get an answer next week.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport been drawn to advertisements for a reduced air fare by East- West Airlines on the Sydney-Alice Springs route? Can the Minister inform the Senate of the background and purpose of this fare reduction? Can it be anticipated that other airlines will follow suit by reducing their fares to afford some further relief to the people of the Northern Territory?
– I have some information on this matter. I am advised that my colleague the Minister for Transport approved the introduction by East-West Airlines of a promotional fare on the Sydney-Alice Springs route, that is, a fare that has some qualifications attached to it in the nature of travel. The return fare is $ 1 60 which, taken in isolation, is $ 100 less than the current operating fare of $260 charged by Trans-Australia Airlines and Ansett Airlines of Australia. As I have pointed out, the EastWest Airlines fare is subject to qualification. The conditions attached to the fare are that it will apply only to return trips and that there must be a stopover of at least a week. So when making a comparison it is fair to consider those conditions. The Alice Springs fare was approved on a six months trial basis thereby giving an opportunity to monitor its effect. After six months East- West Airlines is to report on the results. No assurance has been given that there will be approval of a continuation of the fare beyond six months. The new fare is intended to be innovative and of benefit to the consumer as well as to help generate traffic. It should assist the economy of Alice Springs and the Northern Territory by promoting tourism. In the event that Ansett Airlines and Trans-Australian Airlines seek to match the reduction, their applications will be fully and properly considered.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. Was the Industries Assistance Commission asked by the Labor Government in March 1975 to inquire into and bring down recommendations on the future of the Australian whitegoods industry? Was a draft report on the reference published in December 1976? As so many Australian workers are engaged in the industry and because of a natural concern about the delay that has occurred in the presentation of the final report- over three years have elapsed since the reference was sent to the IAC- can the Minister say whether the Government has received the final report from the IAC or give any indication of when it is likely to be tabled in the Parliament?
– I do not have the facts on this matter but I accept those that have been given in the question by Senator Douglas McClelland. I will have to refer the matter to the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs and will endeavour to obtain an early answer from him.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry who will be aware of the current dispute in South Australia and Western Australia affecting live sheep exports to the Middle East. He will be aware also of the threats which these current bans pose to the livelihoods of many thousands of Australian farmers and to Australia’s reputation as a reliable trading partner. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether there is any substance to claims by meat workers that a continuation of current live sheep exports to the Middle East will seriously jeopardise their employment prospects in meat processing works? Instead, is it not true that current livestock export bans are seriously prejudicing employment prospects for other workers and trade unionists within the general meat and livestock industry?
-The Government’s attitude towards the current dispute in the live sheep export trade has been spelt out very clearly by the Minister for Primary Industry and certainly by the Prime Minister. It has been pointed out that one of the few bright spots for primary producers in a generally very depressed rural industry has been the growth in market possibilities for live sheep exports from this country, particularly to Middle Eastern countries. I am advised that in volume terms the Middle East trade has been most encouraging over the last few years. There has been in excess of a fourfold increase in live sheep exports in five years to over four million head of sheep. For mutton and lamb the increase has been fourfold to about 70,000 tonnes. For beef and veal the increase has been 17-fold to 36,000 tonnes.
In monetary terms, exports of carcass meat to the Middle East between 1972-73 and 1976-77 increased from $13m to just over $100m and exports of live sheep have increased from $9m to $46m. So the trade has been carried on against a background of gradually declining total flock numbers. This decline has resulted from the slaughter of sheep and lambs and the adverse seasonal conditions that have plagued primary producers.
Whilst the total flock has declined in the period 1975 to 1977 from 151 million sheep to 136 million, live exports of sheep in the same period increased from 1.3 million to 3.3 million. In the same period, the number of wethers in the Australian flock declined only from 37 million to 35 million. In fact the percentage of wethers in the total flock increased marginally from 24.4 per cent to 25.5 per cent. Clearly then, the considerable increase in live sheep exports to the Middle East has not been a major factor in the reduction of the national flock or the number slaughtered. Hence there has been no real impact on employment considerations in meat processing works.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I draw the attention of the Minister to an article in the Melbourne Age which stated that Australia had abstained from a United Nations Human Rights Commission vote which declared that Israel was guilty of war crimes and supported Palestine Liberation Organisation military action to gain its objectives, while the United States, Canada and Britain voted against the resolution. If the report is true, will the Minister state whether or not this is Government policy for future United Nations votes on these issues?
-If the report is correct, I express surprise. I shall certainly seek the information from my colleague in another place for the honourable senator.
-I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. Following the answer given to Senator Melzer yesterday on the transfer of Public Service staff to Canberra, can the Minister advise, or would he have the Minister whom he represents ascertain, whether the National Capital Development Commission or the Department of the Capital Territory have estimated the total population increase likely in the Australian Capital Territory in 1978-79 as a result of the 500 transfers mentioned, and based on normal projections for the transferees, their immediate families and the normal ancillary back-up provisions? Also, taking all other factors into consideration, what total population increase in Canberra is projected for the year 1978-79?
– I had with me yesterday a note relating to the general situation in the Australian Capital Territory. I think one point behind the Government’s thinking about the transfer of these particular departments was to bring about some increase in housing activity and in retail trade generally in Canberra. The honourable senator has asked me specific questions about the projected population in the Territory over the next year or so. I regret that I am unable to give him accurate figures but I shall attempt to obtain them from the Minister for the Capital Territory.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, refers to the decision of the Government to grant a visa to Mr Valadimir Kuzin whose history as a KGB agent has been well documented, as has his history of using international organisations as a cover for his operations. The Government has agreed to issue a visa to Mr Kuzin, who is head of the Foreign Relations section of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics State Committee for Science and Technology, to visit Australia this month for trade talks. Will this officer be engaged in talks relating to fishing in Australia’s extended economic zone and will those talks involve consideration of the Soviet fleet acting as an agent for Australian coastal surveillance?
-I know nothing about the gentleman or the allegation that he is about to receive a visa. The honourable senator’s question covers a number of the portfolios held by my ministerial colleagues. As I understand it, visas are issued by the Minister for Immigration and
Ethnic Affairs and I shall make inquiries of him. As to the problems of fishing and surveillance, I shall take up the matters with my colleagues, the Minister for Primary Industry, Mr Sinclair, and the Minister for Defence, Mr Killen, respectively. I shall get such information as is possible for the honourable senator from a number of Ministers.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Yesterday the Minister representing the Minister for Construction in answer to a question informed me that in accordance with the Prime Minister’s announcement on the transfer of public servants to Canberra, 500 positions from the Department of Defence, the Department of Transport, the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations and the Department of Construction would be relocated in Canberra. Is it intended to close the Victorian office of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs? If so, how will the Department’s affairs in Victoria be administered? Will those people presently employed by the Department continue to be employed by that Department?
– I am unable to provide the information sought. I shall refer the question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and get an early response.
-On Wednesday the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations was good enough to answer a question I asked with regard to union bans on oil tankers. He said that the Department of Employment and Industrial Relations did not have readily available information as to the current and recent bans. Will he consider with his colleague the establishment of an office within the Department which has the responsibility of recording on a current basis, week by week, significant industrial disputes of this character which have a substantial detrimental effect upon our trade so that the Department and, particularly, the Industrial Relations Bureau with the responsibility of enforcing awards will have this on-going information on which to base its administration?
– In answer to Senator Wright’s question a couple of days ago with regard to bans by the Seamen’s Union on oil tankers and bulk carriers, I thought I said- if I did not I intended to say- that the Department did not have detailed information on the costs of the bans. The Department certainly monitors very closely strikes, bans, boycotts and so on as they occur around Australia. It was in relation only to their costs that I could not answer the question. However, I think Senator Wright is seeking to improve departmental arrangements and procedures in relation to the question of costs. I shall pass that aspect of the question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and ask him to investigate whether there can be any improvement in procedures whereby this information could be more immediately available.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Science been drawn to the report of an infestation of Australian sheep by a parasite known as the barberspole worm? I understand that this worm acts like a leech on the inner wall of the stomach of the sheep. In view of the warning that the barberspole worm is reputed to have built up an immunity to treatment by most drenches and other forms of stomach worm treatment in sheep and that it could in certain circumstances decimate the Australian sheep population, will the Minister initiate an inquiry by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation into the incidence of the parasite and take whatever action is necessary to deal with the matter?
-The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is involved in many areas. For instance, its Entomology Division has an on-going interest in attempting to ascertain the likely insect pests within the community which need to be eradicated and the various ways in which this should be done. It has been found that with the introduction of chemical methods to try to rid particular parasites from sheep and other stock there has been a buildup of chemical residues within the stock and this could become harmful to our export market. My attention has not been drawn to this problem. 1 shall immediately refer the matter to the CSIRO and have it investigated to see whether the possibility exists that this pest could be harmful to our indigenous sheep flock. At the earliest opportunity I shall obtain an answer for the honourable senator.
-Yesterday Senator Missen asked me about a number of questions he had placed on notice relating to public access to reports, submissions and other documents. I have since checked the Notice Paper in relation to those questions, two of which referred to my refusal to make certain information available not, I gather, to Senator Missen, but rather to a citizen who had written to me. I have asked my Department to seek out the relevant files to allow me to provide Senator Missen with a prompt answer. I hope to be in a position early next week to give a detailed reply. As I recall the position, however, the Commonwealth Police report was a report to me relating to police inquiries. It has never been the practice of the police to make their reports public for a variety of reasons. From memory, in this case the investigation was still proceeding and inquiries could well have resulted in criminal charges being laid. Obviously, it would not have been in the interests of justice to make such a report available at that stage.
In relation to the question of the reports from the interdepartmental committee inquiring into museums, national collections and public libraries, this is now a matter for the Minister for Home Affairs. At the time I refused to make the report public, the Government had not made a decision on it. The question of the release of the IDC report is now a matter for my colleague the Minister for Home Affairs, with whom I am now consulting in relation to Senator Missen ‘s questions. I merely add that the honourable senator would well know that the Government is committed to introducing a freedom of information Bill. It is now considering a draft Bill.
-Yesterday Senator Wriedt asked me a question relating to the activities of the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation with regard to mining homes in Tasmania. I said that I would seek the information. I now have some information. I am advised as follows: The Commissioner of Taxation has confirmed that the Australian Taxation Office is presently engaged in a review of the values for income tax purposes of houses provided for employees of mining companies in Tasmania. The chief valuer of the Taxation Office in Tasmania is to make a tour, commencing on 10 April 1 978, of a number of mining towns. In the course of the tour, which is to take in Rosebery, Zeehan, Queenstown. Savage River and Luina, it is proposed that he will, by prior arrangement, have discussions with representatives of the mining companies concerned, before making new valuations for the purposes of section 26 (e) of the Act. It is not considered that the proposed action amounts, in effect, to increasing the rents paid by the employees. Its purpose is to adjust. where necessary, the values of the premises to be adopted in assessments of the employees.
It is not envisaged that the values determined will necessarily amount to a doubling of the values adopted hitherto. The revised values will be those considered appropriate in the circumstances of each of the employees concerned. I understand the Commissioner has informed the Treasurer that the mining companies were advised as early as October 1977 of the need to update these values. Negotiations with representatives of the companies have proceeded since then with a view to settling appropriate values. The Commissioner has indicated that the effective date for the commencement of any new values will be 1 January 1978 and the companies have been advised accordingly. Honourable senators will appreciate from what I said earlier that this is a decision taken in the normal exercise of the Commissioner’s statutory functions and is not a decision of the Government.
It is not thought that the proposed action will be a direct disincentive to persons living in areas such as the west coast of Tasmania but, in any event, a failure to ensure compliance with the requirements of section 26 (e) is not seen as an appropriate way of providing an incentive for persons in those areas, because it would give rise to inequities and anomalies in the income tax treatment of different employees. The provision has the effect of maintaining equity between employees who receive their income in cash and provide their own accommodation and those who have accommodation provided for them. If Senator Wriedt wishes to seek any further elaboration, I would be pleased to get it for him.
-During Question Time earlier today Senator Primmer commenced a question to me relating to a particular trading company by saying that I had made some disparaging remark about the company. During my answer I said that I was not aware of the substance of his allegation which he suggested appeared in the Hansard of 15 March. I have looked at the Hansard of 1 5 March and, to the best of my knowledge, I have made no criticism of any trading company. The matter appeared to me to be reasonably serious. The subject matter which was raised originally by Senator Primmer during an adjournment debate related to meat trading and export from his own district. It might be recalled that he made some very serious allegations against members of the State parliament and honourable citizens from the Western District of Victoria. Senator Primmer was invited either to prove his allegations or to retract them in an honourable way. That has not been done.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr President. I understood that the normal procedure followed in the Senate is that you call on Ministers to give supplementary information in relation to questions asked earlier during Question Time. But what we are hearing now is what might be called, if one were generous, a point of explanation. Senator Webster is beginning to debate the substance of the original discussion that took place in the chamber the other night.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. If I may make an observation from the floor of the Senate, it seems to me that perhaps Senator Wriedt has some substance in the point of order that he has taken. But the matter can be easily overcome by the Minister’s asking for leave to make a statement, and I think he is entitled to ask for leave to make a statement.
– If further elucidation is desired in relation to a question asked earlier during Question Time, that elucidation can be given. That has been done. But that elucidation must be further information in reply to a question asked earlier, otherwise, as Senator Sir Magnus Cormack suggests, it is necessary that leave be sought to make a statement.
– Thank you for your ruling, Mr President. In fact, my remarks are in elucidation of the question which was asked earlier. I put it to you, Mr President, that Senator Primmer alleged at the outset of his question that I had criticised a company. The point I was making was that my reply to his question was based on my memory of the Hansard of 15 March to which he referred. I have been unable to find in the Hansard of 15 March any criticism by me of a company. I simply make the clear suggestion to the Senate that an allegation such as that should be withdrawn unless the words that are alleged to have been used can be pointed out in that Hansard.
Bill returned without amendment.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives with amendments.
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 Webster) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
To date there have been three Acts authorising softwood planting agreements between the Commonwealth and each State. These were: The Softwood Forestry Agreements Act of 1967, which marked the commencement on 1 July 1 966 of an expanded softwood planting program in the States; the 1972 Act, which terminated on 30 June 1976; and the 1976 Act, which covered the one year period to 30 June 1977. The purpose of the previous softwood planting agreements was to increase softwood plantings by the State governments to a level related to Australia ‘s future needs for forest products.
In the 11 -year period covered by the three Acts, total loan payments of approximately $54m were made to the States. This enabled purchases of land as well as the establishment and tending of about 100,000 hectares, of new softwood plantations. In the one year period covered by the 1976 Act, the Government initiated a review of the need for further assistance to the States for new planting. In that time, the Bureau of Agricultural Economics and the Forestry and Timber Bureau of the Department of Primary Industry carried out studies on different aspects of the program. The BAE concluded that it should be in Australia ‘s economic interest to become self-sufficient in most forest products. The studies indicated that softwood plantation forestry would be an economic land use.
The original BAE study which was published in December 1976 and a more recent study indicated, however, that a continuation of planting at the relatively high levels supported under the previous agreements would lead in the long term to an oversupply situation. A major factor contributing to the reduced planting levels considered necessary was the substantial downward revision of population forecasts in Australia. On the basis of available information the Government concluded that further agreements along the lines of those authorised by the 1967, 1972 and 1976 Acts were not justified at this time. It considered however that it should continue to provide finance to meet the same proportion of the States’ maintenance expenditure on the total area of softwood plantations established in the 1 1-year period, as the area of Commonwealth assisted plantings bears to the total area of planting in that period.
The effect of this Bill is to authorise agreements between the Commonwealth and each State covering the tending in the five year period, commencing on 1 July 1977, of the Commonwealth assisted proportion of new plantings. The agreements provide for the full costs of tending plantings to be met except in 1977-78, when, because of the need to curtail government spending, total payments to all States will be limited to $4.2m. The Government has accepted the principle that as much softwood planting as possible should be carried out on previously cleared land. In the agreements authorised by the 1976 Act, assurances were sought from the States to this effect.
Because of the necessity for financial restraint, the Government was not prepared to fund land purchases in the first year of the proposed agreements. It has been indicated to the States, however, that the Government would be prepared to review the situation prior to the commencement of the second of the five years covered by the proposed agreements. This review will be made shortly. The assurance of continuing finance for the tending of plantings financed previously by the Commonwealth will assist the States in maintaining employment at present levels in the rural areas in which plantations are established. The tending of plantations as planned will ensure the healthy development of the resource base for future forest product industry development and expansion and the creation in the longer term, of substantial employment opportunities. I commend this Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Mulvihill) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 6 April on motion by Senator Guilfoyle:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Gietzelt had moved by way of an amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘the Bill be withdrawn until it has been referred to the current meeting of the National Aboriginal Conference in Canberra and then redrafted to-
take into account their suggestions;
make provision for acquisition of reserves existing at 3 1 March 1 978 and vesting them in the relevant Aboriginal and Islander communities; and
give effective control of reserves to the Aboriginal and Islander communities living on those reserves ‘.
– I was debating this Bill last night. I went into some detail in regard to the situation at Aurukun. I point out again the great clamour by some people to support this legislation. It was created by the Liberal-National Country Party Government and substantially has been supported by the Opposition. In my view, from what has been said, they are supporting a state of conditions in the area that is not the best for the people in the missions. Therefore, I think it is a matter of using common sense. It is nice to do things in order to pander to certain people or to try to create the impression in the minds of the public that you are a great public spirited benefactor with a warm human heart. What really counts is whether a person is doing the right thing or the wrong thing.
Many honourable senators were not in this chamber last night. The same situation applies now. Probably some honourable senators who were not here last night are here now. If anybody tells me that the situation I am about to relate is desirable I will be amazed. As I said last night, the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islander Advancement made a speech on the matter and gave quite a lot of detail. He is a man for whom I have a high regard. He said that a health report on the Aurukun community showed that in 1973 48 per cent of children were greatly under weight for their age.
– I regret I have to raise a point of order. I think Senator Wood indicated he read from this document last night. The excuse he is giving for reading it again is that perhaps some honourable senators are present now who were not here last night. It is not necessary for him to do so. The Hansard record is clear. Also many of us listened to what he had to say last night although we were not present in the chamber. If he persists in doing what he is doing at present he could be accused of tedious repetition. I am sincere in raising this point of order. I do not think it is necessary for him to go over matters which he debated at length last night.
– In reply, I put the point to you, Mr President, that it is recognised, even in political campaigning, that one does not drive a nail home with one punch; it is done with a succession of punches. It does no harm to repeat a very good point. As this debate is of very great importance to the welfare of the people of Aurukun and as this Parliament has to make a decision, I see nothing wrong in repeating an argument. So far as I am concerned I have an hour to speak -
– No, you have not.
– Yes I have, and half an hour has gone. I see no reason why this very important meat in the argument should not be repeated.
– Will you repeat the interjections?
– Yes, I shall repeat the interjections if Senator Chaney wants me to. I think the interjections were a bit on the foolish side.
– Why do you not read it from Hansard and be done with it?
-In March 1973 the health report on Aurukun -
– Order ! I wish to reply to the point of order raised by Senator Georges.I call on Senator Wood to continue his remarks but not to repeat more than he has to in order to make his point.
– Thank you, Mr President. As I said last night, these people have made a mountain out of a molehill and they have caused such a disturbance that the poor people of Aurukun are almost in the teeth of a cyclone at this very moment. I repeat that the people here who are saying that the Aboriginal people are so well looked after by this Uniting Church, and the Presbyterian Church before it, should consider that in March 1973 the health report at Aurukun stated that 48 per cent of the children were much underweight for their age, 24 per cent also had anaemia and there were bad infestations of parasites. Checks made in May 1975 disclosed that less than half of those children were showing even the standard weight increase. Reports of malnutrition at Aurukun were so grave that the head of the Aboriginal health team, Dr Musgrave, went there to check for himself. He reported:
The situation at Aurukun is very bad and malnutrition especially is a serious problem . . . Fruit arrives only once a week and there is no milk supply at all . . There was hardly any food in the store . . The headmaster complained that the breakfast for children comprises damper and tea, and there was no lunch except mangoes, and this affected their alertness at school … It seems likely the standards of health, mental and physical, will continue to deteriorate, as will the social climate. The remedy must lie in the development of well defined policies for the future advancement of the people living at Aurukun.
The purpose of this debate is to find out whether this legislation is in the best interests of the Aurukun people. My view is that it is not. Today the Uniting Church is a continuing church and is carrying on work in the area. After two extensions the State Government eventually came to the conclusion, because there had not been an improvement in the health and conditions of the Aboriginal people, to take over the missions. The State Government has a much closer interest in the areas within its State. Every honourable senator here knows that throughout the States there is always the charge: How can the people in Canberra know so much of the detail of the distant areas of this Commonwealth? It is a very large country. People in Canberra are far from the people at Aurukun and other areas in the Commonwealth. Therefore I believe that in many respects closer attention can be given by State authorities. Some people in this chamber think that the Federal Government has not done a good job. I remind them that Senator Bonner said: ‘God help them if they have the same conditions as the people on Federal mission areas in the Northern Territory’. He said that because he thought things were so bad. As I said, the Uniting Church is a continuing organisation. It is nice of the Uniting Church to say that people should have their democratic rights. That is right; let them have their democratic rights. But people who often talk about democratic rights are not the best at practising this philosophy.
– Like Mr Petersen. He is a good example of the very thing you speak about.
- Mr Petersen is the best leader in Australia and that is why you people are so shirty about him- because he is too good for you. The Uniting Church is talking about standing up for the democratic rights of these people. What democratic rights did they give them some time ago? Honourable senators will remember that three churches had a poll on whether they would unite. The Aurukun people decided overwhelmingly to stay with the Presbyterian Church.
– Not the Uniting Church, the Presbyterian Church.
– Yes, and in many areas the Presbyterian Church has continued to operate. What did these great democrats, the Uniting
Church, do? Did they take any notice of that vote? No fear; they just grabbed them and put them under their wing. The Presbyterian Church was left out in the cold. These are the people who talk about standing up for democratic rights. Let me take my own case. For some 70 years, from my Sunday school days until the formation of the Uniting Church, I attended the Presbyterian Church. That my contribution to the plate was not just a silver coin was well known. That my donations were made to various causes was also well known. Moreover, I was a regular attender, every week, at church. When it came to the vote on whether they would unite, and I asked for my ballot paper they said; ‘Oh no, you can’t have a vote. ‘ That was because I did not go along once a quarter and take communion. Most of the communicants attended only once a quarter, but I attended every week and helped to keep the church going financially and otherwise. That is the point I am trying to get at. These are the people who talk about standing up for democratic rights. If you believe these things, practice them. How can we take notice of the Uniting Church when it comes out with this sort of talk, that it is standing up for democratic rights?
I repeat, that the church has become permeated or infected with a strong socialist streak amongst its Ministers. There is no question about it. I repeat, what about the batch of 12 or 14 of them who signed a statement in the Press, on the occasion of the first double dissolution, ‘Supporting the Whitlam Labor Government ‘? I do not care how people vote. That is their democratic right, but I do not believe those who profess to be churchmen should use their church to direct people on a political basis. Most decent people would agree that that is entirely wrong. So far as I am concerned the Uniting Church is not to be trusted in this matter; I do not trust it at all. The Reverend John Brown has gone up there. He really operates from Sydney. That is very close, is it not? He is a rabid socialist. There is Noel Preston, and a lot of others. There is no question about it. Let us be sensible. Honourable senators opposite know that what I say is true.
As far as I am concerned, the sort of thing that is going on is racial discrimination; it is apartheid. If we are going to keep people apart, if we are to have separate areas for some people as distinct from others, what sort of Australia will we ultimately build? If we are all Australians we should have freedom to move; there should be no restriction on people so far as this country is concerned. I think that to suggest otherwise is to suggest apartheid or racial discrimination, or whatever name one likes to call it. It is all right for the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General and Mr Viner to condemn apartheid elsewhere, but there is no question that we are operating it in this country.
If we want to go into the matter further, let us look at what is being done on the Aboriginal question, one on which, of course, people can become very emotional. We have to be sensible and consider the effect of what we are doing upon the distant future. We are operating on a certain basis as far as the Aboriginals are concerned. We are giving to people who are not true Aboriginals or full Aboriginals concessions that are not being given to our own Australian white people or to migrants. Why should people be treated differently? Senator Cavanagh would know as a former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that the Aboriginal legislation we passed provides that one is an Aboriginal if one claims to be an Aboriginal. One would not regard people in any other country as belonging to that country if one of their parents had married into another race and they were half of one race and half of another race, or one-quarter of one race and three-quarters of another race. There is no way in which one would call such people Italians, Greeks, English and so on.
– I do not care what they are.
– One would not speak of them as such. I am not speaking in a disparaging way about people. But one does not refer to them in such a way. Once they are not full bloods of a particular race they no longer belong to that race.
The Parliament was stupid enough to pass legislation which provided that people who claimed to be Aboriginals were Aboriginals. Honourable senators know as well as I do that many of the people who are squawking and yelling about Aboriginal rights are not full blood Aboriginals. Some of them are about threequarters or seven-eighths white. How can they be classed as Aboriginals? As far as I can see, practically everyone who gets up and yells that he is an Aboriginal and that he speaks for Aboriginals is not an Aboriginal. The Parliament by passing that legislation has done a very great disservice to our other Australians.
The young people who live in Senator Cavanagh ‘s State as well as the young people who live in the other States wishing to borrow money with which to build a home have to pay interest rates of 1 2 per cent, 1 3 per cent or 1 4 per cent. However, people with only a skerrick of
Aboriginal blood in them who claim to be Aboriginals can obtain a loan from the Commonwealth Government at 2 per cent. Do honourable senators mean to tell me that this is fair to the other people? These other people, through taxation, are subsidising the people who receive these low interest loans. Let us take a person who claims to be an Aboriginal and who may be seven-eighths white. He may want a loan to start, for example, a taxi service. He can go to the Federal Government and obtain finance at 2 per cent interest. But what about another man? If he buys his taxi on time payment he pays a fairly hefty rate of interest. Do honourable senators mean to tell me that that is a correct situation? A man running a business may have to compete with an Aboriginal businessman who has been financed in this way.
Apparently the Labor Government, before Senator Cavanagh was Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, was very easy in the way it handed out money. I remember reading in the Press about one chap from Mount Isa who I think received $70,000 for use in his business. I think that the authorities have been looking for him ever since to get back the $70,000. That is the sort of thing that is going on under the racial discrimination that exists at the moment. Aboriginals stand to receive some hefty royalty payments if minerals are found on their properties. When we consider that they could receive perhaps a 30 per cent royalty payment on uranium and so on, we can see that these people whom we are subsidising today will be the millionaires of the future. The people who are subsidising them today will be the suckers; many of them will be on the breadline. Indeed many of them are on the breadline today because of unemployment and so on.
– Their ancestors were here before yours.
– But the point about it is that we all are Australians. The other Australians whom the honourable senator despises- the white Australians and the migrants- have paid money to buy their land and they are entitled to the same rights as anybody else.
– What an extraordinary argument.
– Yes, they are. But anybody else would not be paid a royalty if oil, uranium or gold were found on his property. Those minerals would belong to the state. I ask: Why the difference? Why this discrimination?
– We took it from them.
– It is not a matter of taking it from them. It is a matter of our taking Australia as it is today. We are all Australians and all Australians should be entitled to the same thing. Are we to have this country divided -
-Get Mr Fraser to dispose of Nareen and give it to the people who need the land.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) Order! Senator Wood has the call
-The vapourings that are coming from the South Australian corner are really beyond comprehension. What I am trying to ask is this: Are we going to divide Australia with the silly attitude that we have?
– You are trying to.
-I am not. I believe in integration. I believe that we should mix with each other and get to know each other so that over a number of generations the people will become a complete whole as Australians. That is my view. I do not discriminate in any way in respect of people, whether they be black, brindle or white. I have some quite good friends in the northern areas of Australia. A number of people from the South Sea Islands live in my area. Many of these people, who were brought to Australia many years ago, are very worthy citizens. I can claim friends among some of them. As far as I am concerned, if people are prepared to be decent, to get in and work and to enter the community they are entitled to be considered on the same basis as anyone else. I believe that this Government and other governments are making a great mistake in dividing this country.
The matters I have mentioned in respect of housing loans, business loans and minerals indicate that racial discrimination against white people, migrants and any other people in this country is apartheid. It is all right for Malcolm Fraser -
– That is absolute nonsense.
– It is not nonsense- it is apartheid. One cannot get these things and therefore it is apartheid. You are now a party Whip and you are probably becoming a ‘yes ‘ man
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! If Senator Wood addresses his remarks through the Chair I do not think he will get into confrontation.
- Mr Deputy President, I will address my remarks through you. I want to say that this discrimination between the two groups is apartheid. When Mr Fraser wants to big-note himself overseas as a great international person and authority, as Mr Whitlam did, he talks about opposing apartheid. But when we see it operating in this country- and it is operating- it makes one realise just how stupid and hypocritical people can become on these.questions.
This legislation is one of the silliest things I have ever seen. The Government has been trapped by an emotional situation. People in the Government are trying to big-note themselves. No doubt they are trying to win the Aboriginal vote. That is the basis of this political business. I am not a fool in politics. However, sometimes there can be a backlash from those involved in the other side of the apartheid question that may make a government very sorry. I believe we should all adopt a human approach to the needs and requirements of every Australian citizen. I also believe we need to give encouragement to the true Aboriginal people of this country. These people are not kicking up a fuss and making demands. It is not the full bloods but the other ones who make the demands. I believe that every encouragement should be given to bring these people to the stage where we all can mix freely and easily and understand each other. We should all be regarded as Australians in the true sense of the word with everyone living together and working together for the good of this country and its people. I do not believe in a system of apartheid in which people are kept separate and people butt into other people’s business. I am quite convinced that the people of Queenslandand I have seen reports of the reactions of the people concerned- agree that it is far better to leave this matter in the hands of the State Government. Just yesterday I had contact with somebody associated with the northern section of the women’s organisation in the National Country Party and I know the feelings of these people about the perks that are being given out to those who claim to be Aboriginal. They are very concerned about it. The sooner we recognise the need to treat everybody as an Australian the better it will be for this country and our people. If we do not recognise that need and change our silly attitude about regarding as Aboriginal anybody who claims to be Aboriginal, we will be building up a troublesome problem for the years to come.
-I wish to speak only briefly on this matter. Like Senator Wright, I do not claim to be an expert on either the affairs of Aborigines or the constitutional problems of this country, but there are various aspects of the legislation and the manner in which it has been handled and brought to this Parliament which disturb me. I would like to speak about those matters. It is very sad-it is a quite disturbing situation- to be in Australia in 1978 and find that people such as those at Aurukun and Mornington Island are disturbed and worried by the thought that their administration may be taken over by one of our State governments, a government elected by the people of that State. It is equally distressing that a body such as the Uniting Church in Australia, a respected body despite some of the things Senator Wood said about it, should feel the need to pressure this Parliament and members on both sides of the Parliament by telegram and other means into passing legislation, which the Church has not seen, in order to protect the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island, who have been under the Church’s pastoral care, from a State government which allegedly represents the people of that State.
It is sad- in fact, it is pathetic- that an Australian government should have to declare urgent a Bill such as this, push it through the lower House of the Parliament and then insist that it be passed by the Upper House to overcome and short circuit an action which it believes the Queensland Government may take and which would have a serious effect on the Aboriginal community. I might add that the Federal Government is made up of members of the same constituent parties that make up the Queensland Government. A spectacle such as this can give little joy to the citizens of this country generally and certainly will give little joy to our Aboriginal citizens who may be looking to the democratic processes of this country to protect them and as a means for their further development. It seems to me that whenever legislation of this nature comes into the Parliament we get the sort of speech from Senator Wood which we have just heard. That type of speech does not help the situation much and did not, for instance, when some time ago we debated the anti-discrimination Bill.
This debate here and in the other place has been helpful in that it has clarified some of the history of the present situation at Aurukun and Mornington Island in particular and in Queensland in general. It certainly has clarified my thinking. In view of the version just given by Senator Wood of the history of what has happened at Aurukun and the reasons for what has happened with very little evidence being produced to support what he said, I believe that I should bring together briefly some of the evidence we now have about what has happened in the area and why this legislation is before the Parliament so that we can get a clearer picture and I can counteract some of the things that
Senator Wood has said. Two weeks ago in this place we debated a matter of public importance on this subject. Honourable senators on both sides of this chamber then agreed that something would have to be done in view of the Queensland Government’s threatened action to take over the administration of Aurukun and Mornington Island. We all had a fair idea of what was going on. We all had our own ideas on how the situation had developed but this debate has brought forward more information about what is happening. Largely one can thank for this not only Senator Martin who produced a large number of documents and dug out a lot of information, but also Senators Cavanagh, Keeffe and Collard.
The first thing of importance concerning the take-over of Aurukun and Mornington Island, and it is historically the first thing, is the finding of bauxite in the area. We know from the words of Mr Bjelke-Petersen when he introduced the Aurukun Associates Agreement Bill into the Queensland Parliament in December 1975 that he and his Government had had a great interest in the bauxite in the Aurukun area and the potential mining of it since 1968. He mentioned this not only in the debate but also outside and has been quoted in the Press as saying the same.
– Do you mean to say that the members of the Government or the Government on behalf of the State had an interest in it?
– He was saying that the potential of Aurukun had been well known to the Queensland Government since 1968 and that that Government had had an interest in developing mining in that area since 1968. 1 am using it merely to go on and develop another point. Still on the issue of bauxite, we know that in December 1975 the Queensland Government rushed through a Bill to legalise the agreement between the Queensland Government and Aurukun Associates. The Aboriginal people at Aurukun were not consulted on the matter, nor was the Presbyterian Church which was administering the settlement of Aurukun. We all remember the considerable controversy at that time over this precipitate action of the Queensland Government.
We then come to the second important factor, the development at Aurukun, in common with many other Aboriginal settlements in this country, of a movement towards decentralisation on the reserve, the outstation movement, with clans and various Aboriginal groups leaving the main settlement to which they had been attracted by the setting up of missions many years ago, establishing their own settlements and going to the land they felt was important to them, in some cases to get away from problems which had arisen in the old mission settlements and perhaps in some cases to sit and think and work out for themselves just where they wanted to go. This movement is not confined to the Aurukun region. Any one who has been to Groote Eylandt and has seen how the clan groups at Umbakumba have moved to other areas, as have groups in the Northern Territory and Arnhem Land, will know that this movement is not confined to Aurukun.
We know that the Presbyterian Church before it became pan of the Uniting Church had agreed to the policy of self-determination for Aborigines to get away from the previous paternalism and to allow Aborigines to sort out and develop their own affairs. For a long time many of us- certainly the spokesman for Aboriginal Affairs on this side, as well as Senator Bonner and others more knowledgeable than us- knew that the Queensland Government disapproved of this trend. I can remember in the debate on 6 April some honourable senators being surprised at the remarks of Mr Killoran, the Director of the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement in Queensland, in February this year that he had only then suddenly discovered that the outstation movement was occurring at Aurukun and that there were outstation developments. We are therefore grateful to Senator Martin for bringing before this House documented evidence that Mr Killoran had known about this since 1975, had had frequent correspondence with the Uniting Church about it since 1975, had frequently expressed his disapproval of such action and at one stage had declared, quite wrongly as was shown later, that the outstation movement and the development of clan and family groups away from the settlement was illegal because it was against the policy of the Queensland Government.
So we have two factors. The first is that there is bauxite in the area. The Queensland Government is interested in mining that bauxite and has taken steps to develop mines. The second is that the Aboriginals in the area were developing a decentralised movement- a movement away from the main mission station into clans.
Then we come to the problem of the Queensland Government wishing to take over from the Uniting Church the responsibility for the administration of the mission station. Here we have a mixed story, depending on the source that one seeks. The first time I became aware, and that most people in this chamber became aware, that the Queensland Government might be interested in taking over the administration of Aurukun and Mornington Island was in June last year when there was considerable publicity about it. There was also considerable public reaction and the Queensland Government backed-off at that stage. The publicly stated reason given by the Premier of Queensland and the then Minister for Aboriginal and Islander Advancement about the need to take over that settlement was that there was a problem there with law and order, a problem with disturbances.
We know that in 1973 and 1974 and part of 1975 there were some problems at Aurukun. But what has since come to light from evidence given on both sides of this chamber and the other place is that the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island had been concerned about the problems of law and order- and that is a State Government responsibility- at their settlements since 1971 and had made repeated requests to the Queensland Government for police stations to be built and policemen to be stationed on their not inconsiderably-sized settlements. We know that that request was refused repeatedly. The people were concerned about law and order; they had requested the assistance of a policeman to help them maintain law and order; and the Queensland Government had refused this request.
The Queensland Government’s attitude in this regard is in contrast to its attitude to other settlements in Queensland such as the one at Cherbourg. Honourable senators who have been to the Cherbourg settlement know that considerably more capital has been spent on it than on either Aurukun or Mornington Island settlements. They also know that there is a police station at Cherbourg, even though the settlement is close to a European settlement, which also has a police station. Yet the people of Aurukun and the people at Mornington Island in particular, far from European settlement and who had been seeking police assistance regarding their law and order problem, in fact had been refused this right. They are still being refused this right- a right which certainly would not be refused to an equally sized European settlement. So the excuse given in June 1977 that law and order was the problem does not seem to hold water. Law and order is a State responsibility. The people were aware of the problem and sought State assistance to solve it. The State did not need to take over the administration in order to solve the problem.
Then this year we had the further attempt by the Queensland Government to take over the administration of Aurukun and Mornington
Island. This time the stated reason of the Queensland Government and of its Minister. Mr Porter, was that there had been a breakdown in standards as regards health and education on the settlements. I repeat: As in the case of law and order, education and health on those settlements are State responsibilities. There was considerable debate as to whether these problems were as bad as had been stated and whether they were so bad as to require this drastic Queensland Government action. There was considerable debate as to whether these were the real reasons. The Queensland Government said that it was nothing to do with bauxite: It was to do with health and education. But Senator Wood blew the gaff on the whole situation during Question Time in this chamber when he said that the real reason why the Queensland Government wished to take over the settlements was that the outstation movement and the move towards selfmanagement in the area was in fact apartheid, that the Queensland Government disapproved of it and it was not going to tolerate this sort of development on the settlements.
This is an area rich in bauxite. The Queensland Government was so keen to develop the mining of bauxite in the area that it rushed an agreement with a multinational combine through the Queensland Parliament. Yet for all this time the Queensland Government has been giving different reasons as to why it wants to take over this area. There is very real resistance from the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island, as well as very real resistance from the Uniting Church. The situation now is that the people have had to come to the Federal Government to protect them from the actions of the Queensland Government.
The Queensland Government’s actions are aimed at facilitating mining and preventing this self-determination. The stated aim of this Bill is to prevent that sort of thing happening and in fact to enable the people to have some say in their own future, their own management. To equate legislation like this with apartheid, as Senator Wood has tried to do, is just a travesty of truth. In fact a more accurate analogy might be drawn between apartheid and the actions of the Queensland government in over-riding the wishes of the community, in refusing to concede that they are equal citizens in this country, by having on its statute books discriminatory legislation affecting the lives of Aboriginals in many ways and by covering its actions and intentions in this matter with deception. The language of Senator Wood in describing his colleagues and the Uniting Church as socialists and Whitlamites and a number of other things might be amusing and might be interesting, but it is very hard to imagine the Minister for Social Security, Senator Guilfoyle, as a latter day Rosa Luxemburg, or someone like that. However, it does not help us to look at the problem rationally and it certainly does not help me in my consideration of what is a very difficult piece of legislation.
I come now to the Opposition’s attitude to this Bill and the reasons why we have moved this amendment. During the Easter recess it seemed that Mr Bjelke-Petersen was in fact going to carry out his threat and take over the Aurukun and Mornington Island settlements by 1 April. The disapproval throughout the country and the almost unanimous disapproval in this Parliament of that action was really quite remarkable. I do not think there has been an issue in recent times when there has been such unanimous disapproval within the community, within the media and within the Parliament.
The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Bill Hayden, and the shadow minister for Aboriginal affairs, Dr Doug Everingham, called for urgent and early legislation, and if necessary, for the Parliament to meet before 1 April so that urgent legislation could be drawn up and passed, under the powers provided in the Constitution by the 1967 referendum, to try to prevent this precipitate, unpopular and unjust action of the Queensland Government. At that time we saw that there was an urgent situation and at that time we thought that urgent action would be needed. Since then, the Queensland Premier has temporarily withdrawn his threat of precipitate action. Despite this, complex legislation was introduced into the Lower House and declared urgent. The legislation affects statutes not only of this Parliament but also of the Queensland Parliament. We have not been given a reason why this precipitate action has been taken in view of the fact that the Queensland Premier has withdrawn his threat to take over the settlements for some months. We should have at least been given a reason why this legislation is urgent.
If the Queensland Premier had publicly threatened the Australian Government that he would change his present policy and do what he threatened to do previously, we may have viewed the matter differently. But we have not been given any information that that is so. The people in Aurukun and Mornington Island have not had the opportunity to seek advice on the legislation. Although the Uniting Church is obviously concerned about the potential actions of the Premier of Queensland, it has not had a detailed look at this legislation. In fact, the Opposition has had limited time to consider the legislation and how it will affect other legislation, future relationships between the Australian Government and the Queensland Government and the rights of the people at Aurukun.
Senator Wright raised considerable doubts and objections to the legal and constitutional aspects of the Bill, something which is beyond my capacity. He said that he has had some difficulty because of the lack of time and the need for advice to look at the legality and constitutional validity of the Bill. As stated by Senator Gietzelt, Senator Keeffe and Senator Cavanagh, the Opposition has grave doubts about whether the Bill will achieve everything it is attempting to achieve and whether, in fact, it may not make things more difficult on the Aboriginal settlements in Queensland or on those Aboriginal settlements which choose to come under Federal legislation. It is for this reason that the Opposition supports the amendment moved by Senator Wright to follow the normal processes of the Parliament and adjourn debate on the Bill so that we can consider it properly. Senator Gietzelt has moved an amendment to withdraw the Bill to that we can consult with the representatives of the Aboriginal community and others to take into account any suggestions they make. This would also assist the introduction of legislation to make provision for carrying out our Party’s policy and the recommendation of Mr Justice Woodward; that is, the provision of proper land rights for Aboriginals.
Senator Wright announced that he will move that this legislation go to a select committee of the Senate. I doubt the usefulness of that mechanism in the present circumstances. At some time we may need to pass the urgent legislation which we thought was necessary during the Easter recess. We know that at times Mr Bjelke-Petersen acts precipitately, but Senate select committees take time and we may not have a month to wait. This mechanism could hold up necessary legislation. Mr Bjelke-Petersen is well known for taking precipitate actions and for taking revenge on people who annoy him. We found out this morning that Mrs Rosina Colless, one of four people appointed by Mr Bjelke-Petersen to the Aboriginal and Islanders Commission to advise the Government, was sacked without a reason being given. I suspect the reason was that last week she criticised the State Government over its actions at Aurukun.
Rather sadly, this legislation has been introduced to protect people in a State of Australia against their own Government. The legislation is complex. It affects statutes of both this Parliament and the Queensland Parliament. Yet, in the absence of any evidence of urgency, the Government has introduced it without giving the people affected, the church, the Aboriginals or the Opposition, sufficient time to consider its ramifications. The normal parliamentary procedures in the other place and in this place have been short-circuited in order to push this legislation through. Grave doubts have been expressed by supporters of the Government as to the legal niceties of the Bill. Grave doubts have been expressed by the Aboriginal community and the Opposition as to the effectiveness of the Bill. It is for this reason that I believe the amendment moved by Senator Gietzelt to enable a proper study of the Bill and proper consultation with those affected by it should be supported.
– I support the legislation before the Senate and oppose both the amendments to the second reading. I cannot accept the first amendment for the reference of the Bill to a committee before its passage for reasons I shall make clear shortly which relate to the importance of passing the Bill without delay. It will become quite apparent in my speech why the Australian Labor Party amendment is unacceptable to me. I emphasise that I am supporting what I see as a limited piece of legislation. The limits are clear from the speeches which have been made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) in the House of Representatives and the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) in this place. This Bill relates solely to the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities on Aboriginal and Island reserves in Queensland to manage their own affairs. Although it involves some complexities, that is the simple and sole objective of this Bill.
I shall comment briefly on a couple of points made by Senator Wood. He placed some emphasis on what he saw as a poor history of health care and a number of other things on the Aurukun reserve. That attitude was put forward today and last night as something which ought to cast doubts upon a Commonwealth move into this area. It is important for the Senate and the public to recall that the incidents about which Senator Wood is concerned, cases of poor health and administrative problems, have taken place under a system which is basically controlled by the Queensland State Government. I refer to the Aborigines Act of 1 97 1 of that State. Section 1 5 makes it quite clear that the GovernorinCouncil who acts on the advice of the Queensland Ministers, may place the reserve under the management of a religious organisation. The same section provides that a person in charge of that religious organisation should be regarded as an assistant district officer in relation to the reserve. It also provides that an assistant district officer is, in the administration of the Act, subject to the Minister and to the Director.
Section 7 and section 10 of the Act make it quite clear that the Director has the power to do as his title suggests, to direct. Apart from the fact that the State is engaged in the provision of the fundamental services on the reserves, the State Government has maintained the power to direct. The role of the manager is limited by that power. Therefore, it seems to me to be quite irrelevant to raise past deficiencies and to suggest that in some way they indicate that it is the State which ought to be confirmed in its management of the reserves. I also reject completely with some regret the suggestion by Senator Wood that this legislation is currying favour with the electorate. If that is Senator Wood’s view then he does not move about in my electorate. My view is that the electorate substantially has lost interest in Aboriginal affairs. I believe that for a long time there was substantial political pressure on governments to be active in this field. But at the moment the public is far more aware of failures than of successes in the field of Aboriginal affairs administration. It is my conclusion that the public has become impatient with the expenditure of government funds and with the Government for giving attention to this issue. I do not agree with that section of public opinion which I have struck in my State and in the other States of Australia. But I think we have passed the period when any cheap votes are to be picked up in this field. I therefore support the Government on the basis suggested by Senator Wood, namely, that it is trying to do what is right in the particular situation. I hope that the Australian public will examine carefully what the Government is doing and will accept that its motivation is to do what is right and also that what it is doing is right.
There is a dispute about the timing of this legislation. We have amendments before us which propose that the legislation should be sent to committees and we have had arguments put to us as to why the legislation should be delayed. All those arguments are arguments of force and substance. I accept that the reasoning put forward by Senator Wright in that regard is strong and well founded. The idea of consultation with the National Aboriginal Conference immediately appeals to me, as it appeals to Senator Wright and to many honourable senators opposite. One simple fact makes that course of action impossible and that is in the last few weeks undertakings have been given to those communities at Aurukun and Mornington Island which I do not think the Parliament can see dishonoured. That is the simple fact which causes me to put aside what I see as sensible arguments put forward both by honourable senators opposite and by some of my colleagues on this side. Any deeper examination of the legislation is something that will have to be subsequent to and not before its passage. I concede that in most circumstances I would prefer that order to be reversed. For the record I refer to a telegram given to me by Senator Neville Bonner which he received yesterday from the Chairman of the Aurukun Council. It reads:
We the council of Aurukun request you most urgently to pass legislation today.
A similar telegram was received by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I say to the members of the National Aboriginal Conference who are in Canberra, and who have requested us to delay the legislation, that I and I am sure the Government, is not agreeing to that request simply because it has made commitments which it would be quite wrong for it now to break. There has been some discussion in this debate about whether the Aurukun community has changed its mind over the past few years. I am indebted to honourable senators from Queensland, who have a far more detailed knowledge of the situation than I, for casting some light on the complexity of facts in that State. It may be of interest to the Senate and to the Parliament if I refer to the report of the ombudsman or the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administrative Investigations, which is his title in Queensland. The report was made in 1 976 upon the facts surrounding the attitude of the Aurukun people to the proposed mining venture. I will quote very briefly from it. On page 2 of the report the Commissioner states:
The Presbyterian Church has a seventy year involvement with this Mission and its healthy, widespread influence is reflected in that the Aurukuns referred again and again to the Church as ‘The Mother’. Unquestionably, the people now have no wish to remove themselves from this influence.
Within the past few months some Aurukuns petitioned to have the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement replace the Church in the active management and control of the Mission, but allowing the Church to continue to care for their spiritual needs.
In view of this contradiction, I asked the Councillors for :in explanation. They replied, quite simply, that the people hud changed their minds since lodging the petition.
Again, I have to agree that it is not helpful to the Parliament to have changes of mind and of position. But I think those findings of the ombudsman are of some assistance to us in at least determining the general attitude of the Aborigines to the Church which has been referred to in rather different ways by different speakers in this debate.
I express my disappointment at the attitude of the Opposition to this legislation. Reference has already been made to the fact that the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Bill Hayden, on Monday of last week, 27 March, issued a statement which sits very oddly with the position at present adopted by the Opposition. Mr Hayden at that time asked the Prime Minister to recall the National Parliament in that week for the speedy passage of legislation. He suggested that the House of Representatives should pass the legislation on Thursday, that the Senate should pass it on the Friday and that the legislation should then immediately be proclaimed. What sort of consideration of the Bill would that have permitted the Opposition? What sort of consideration would that have permitted this chamber, which has had two full days to consider the legislation after receiving somewhat better notice? What sort of legislation was the Leader of the Opposition calling for? I quote from his Press release which states:
The Opposition will support passage the same day of suitable and fair legislation to ensure the Aboriginal communities of Aurukun and Mornington Island remain able to determine their own future.
I particularly draw the Senate’s attention to the words: ‘Legislation which will ensure that they remain able to determine their own future’. I would think that that is precisely what this legislation does. An understanding of this legislation requires some broader understanding of the context in which it is enacted. If I have some difference of view from Senator Wright on this Bill then it rests on a different understanding of the position which we are trying to tackle. The Commonwealth has, since the 1 967 referendum, had agreements with all States except Queensland that it should be responsible for policy, planning and co-ordination of Aboriginal affairs. Queensland is the sole exception to that agreement. The Commonwealth, since 1 967, has assumed total responsibility for policy planning and co-ordination around Australia. It has in each State encouraged the maintenance of State responsibilities. In no State does the Commonwealth provide the executive means of delivering what are regarded as the necessary services to Aborigines.
Quite the contrary. Health, education, welfare, housing and law enforcement are all managed by the States. I do not quarrel with that; I think it is right and proper. That situation applies right around Australia, in each of the six States. It is a position which I hope will continue to apply in all six States, including Queensland. There are reserves in Queensland and in other States. These areas of land have been set aside for Aboriginal communities to live on. In every State, but Queensland, to a great extent Aborigines regulate their own affairs. That is why I put aside what seemed terribly weighty pleas by Senator Wright that we should not create Alsatias in Australia, that we should not have these pockets where people elect to be different and separate and to have their own law. The fact is that at the moment we have reserves right around Australia and of course we have had them for the whole of Senator Wright’s considerable life time.
The other thing I mention is that we have a firm Commonwealth policy that the Aboriginal people should be allowed self-management. For hundreds of years in general the Aboriginal people have been directed as to how they shall live, where they shall go and what they shall do. A total failure in the main of those policies is known to all of us. We know of their scandalous history- I tend to agree with Senator Wright that perhaps it does little good to rake over that scandalous history- to which some honourable senators have referred in horrifying and graphic terms. But the purpose of the present move is no more than to protect that concept of selfmanagement, that Aborigines be allowed to make decisions for themselves.
I listened very carefully to the argument set out by Senator Wright last night, which appears at page 957 of Hansard. I simply say to him that I believe that what we are doing now is not a challenge to the unity of Australia. It is not a challenge in the same way as the closed religious orders which operate in my electorate are not a challenge to the unity of Australia. It is not a challenge in the same way that the communities of the universities which make their own laws for application on campus are not a challenge to the unity of Australia. I do not believe that the alternative lifestyle communities that are growing up in this country are in any sense a challenge to the unity of Australia. They are all part of a free society in which people can opt for their own way of life.
I say also, in contradiction to my colleague who sits next to me, Senator Wood, that I reject very firmly the suggestion that land rights is some form of apartheid. Apartheid is the concept of enforced separation based on racial inferiority. What we have in Australia is a system of choice, a system under which Aborigines are for the first time being given property rights. Like other property owners, they are entitled to exercise those rights. Those people who say that Aborigines are being given special privileges regarding this land ought to note that we are trying to protect a special sort of relationship with land which carries with it also some severe disadvantages. If Senator Wright has the good fortune, for example, to own a rural property from which he can eject trespassers, he also has a right to sell it, to take his proceeds and to spend his life in the South Seas, on the Bahamas, or at the casino in Hobart. Because of the special title that we have with land for Aborigines, they are restricted in that way. The land is held by trustees and cannot be alienated. So the whole argument becomes far too confused, and the use of the word ‘apartheid’, in my view, is an attempt to appeal to the worst instincts in this community. I regret very much that an honourable senator from my Party should put forward that assertion.
I think I have made it clear that this legislation is not introducing something which is new. At the moment under Queensland legislation land councils exist, and those councils have a set of rules which are quite separate from the general laws which apply throughout Queensland. I have with me a copy of those rules, and an examination of them discloses that under existing Queensland State law all sorts of specific separate provisions apply to the reserves only. They are called the Aborigines Regulations of 1972. They read in part:
That is the existing law. Therefore I say to those people who have been concerned at the argument put forward by Senator Wright: In what way are we introducing some new separation, some new Alsatia? We are simply saying that the people who live on those reserves should be allowed to have a regulation which is chosen by them and not imposed upon them without their having any choice.
There are two other major areas of concern, and they are important. The first is the area of States rights and the second is that the Bill does not go far enough. As far as States rights are concerned, I have already referred to the 1967 referendum which clearly imposes on the Commonwealth responsibilities in this field. It gave us the power to enact special laws for the people. That was followed by agreements made with five States which gave us all of the policy responsibility in this area. Because I do not think the details have been brought forward in this debate, I shall seek leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard a table showing the voting results in that referendum in 1967. There can be seen what must be most massive majority in the history of referenda in Australia. The figures bear out the overwhelming public support in 1967 for an assumption of Commonwealth responsibility. Those figures underline the fact that we must act in situations such as that which we face now. I seek leave of the Senate to have that table incorporated in Ilansard.
The table read as follows-
– I want again to refer to Senator Wright’s speech, because I believe that in a sense it does show the difference that lies between us- that is, I think most government senators- and Senator Wright on this occasion is a difference of judgment. Page 961 of yesterday’s Hansard shows that Senator Gietzelt directed this interjection to Senator Wright:
What was the purpose of the referendum if it was not to give to the national authority power to legislate?
Senator Wright replied:
In case of need of course, but who would, upon the present evidence, say that there is need?
So I say that in my view which is not that of Senator Wright, we have reached a point where there is a present need. Therefore, that is the difference- a difference of judgment.
The legislation has been carefully drawn to save existing State laws. I draw the attention of the Senate to clause 9 (2) which makes it clear that while laws can be made to cover a great list of items that the proposed section of the Act is not to be ‘construed as preventing anybody, authority or person other than the Council for a Reserve’ from providing services. That provision is in the Bill as an express saving of the right of the State to continue to carry out its constitutional responsibilities in these areas. If a subsequent examination of this legislation is made, I think the question to be examined carefully is whether there ought to be a specific clause designed to save State laws.
I refer, as an example of what I am talking about, to section 30 of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act which we passed in 1976. That Act specifically points out that by-laws made by associations do not affect other laws. A simple clause of that kind would not work in this legislation which does affect some other laws, but a saving clause carefully drawn might do something to ease the concern of those who are worried about this aspect of the Bill. I take comfort in the views expressed by the officers of the Attorney-General’s Department who have advised on this matter. Their advice was that the meaning of the Bill is what I myself took it to be when I first read it, namely, that State laws will continue to operate and other laws such as the criminal law, traffic law and other matters which are of concern to some honourable senators, will continue to apply to reserves in exactly the same way as they do now.
One other very important matter I think needs to be in our minds at this time, and that is that we are looking not just at State rights but also at a situation in which we depend upon State services. We have a dependence on the States in this area, and therefore we are dependent upon the goodwill of State governments, including the State Government of Queensland. I hope that we can rely on the Queensland Government to behave with decency in this area. I certainly expect it to do so. I am sure that the Queensland Government is made up of men who have the best interests of the Queensland community at heart. I underline the fact that the services which are required by those communities are basically in the hands of State officers and State officials. Therefore those men have the power to subvert any attempt by the Commonwealth to grant selfmanagement in any short period. So, in my contribution to this debate, I simply acknowledge the reliance and dependence we have on State goodwill. Therefore I welcome the offers of negotiation and of conference which were made by both the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the last couple of days.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m.
– I concluded my remarks before the suspension of the sitting for lunch on the general subject of the reliance of Aboriginal welfare on State services. I was making some sort of plea for State co-operation. The other matter I wish to mention in regard to the extent to which this legislation impinges upon Queensland is the possible overriding of State legislation which has received some attention in this debate. I think the sorts of examples which have been given, such as that which suggested that the reserves would have their own traffic laws set up in contradistinction to the general State traffic laws, are extremely unlikely. There are three safeguards against that sort of legislation. Such legislation, I agree, would be unwise. The safeguards are: Firstly, the good sense of the councils themselves; secondly, the fact that the Commonwealth Minister must approve any proposed by-law; and thirdly, any proposed by-law is subject to disallowance in either House of the national Parliament. For those reasons, one can be reasonably confident that the by-laws which will be made by councils will be those which will relate to their domestic management and not those which cut across general State law.
In the time which remains to me I touch on the other major issues which I mentioned earlierthe complaint that this legislation should go further. The National Aboriginal Conference and the Opposition have been critical of the legislation because it does not go far enough.
They suggest that the Commonwealth Government should be prepared to resume the reserves, to take them over from the State totally. I think for a number of reasons that course at this stage would be most unwise. The first reason is the simple matter of cost. It is well known to all honourable senators that the Commonwealth cannot resume without paying fair compensation. We are being called upon by those who suggest the provisions of the Bill should go that far to buy the Queensland reserves from the State Government. Senator Lawrie, in a speech in 1974, said that there were 7 million acres of reserves in Queensland. Quite obviously one would be looking at a substantial sum of money if the Commonwealth contemplated resuming the reserves. The money would simply be paid to the State of Queensland at a great cost to the Commonwealth. It would not benefit the Aboriginal people in any way. I think for that reason alone this aspect is something that we should approach with caution.
The major reason why I would not advocate the extension of the provisions of this Bill to include the resumption of reserves is that we would be inviting substantial confrontation. Already we have the spectre of confrontation over this Bill. We have had a quite unsatisfactory couple of weeks in which an attempt at negotiation was destroyed by, I believe, the crowing of the Premier and an attempt to get the parties talking- the Queensland Government, the councils and the Church- foundered. As I said before lunch, I hope there will be co-operation between these groups.
Let me hark back to the somewhat pessimistic comments that I made earlier in my speech about the general attitude of the Australian community to matters relating to Aboriginals and to Aboriginal policy. For the Commonwealth to take the drastic step of resuming the reserves, unless it could be clearly demonstrated that no other course was available to it, would, in my view, exacerbate the bad relations which exist in some places. I think such action would be an invitation to a most destructive attitude on the part of State governments and particularly the Queensland Government. For reasons which go through my whole attitude to this question of race- I believe that to have a good community we need to have good co-operative relations- I say very firmly to the Opposition and to the National Aboriginal Conference that they should not advocate that sort of drastic action at this stage. They should concentrate on what has been the issue in this period of conflict, and that is the right of these communities simply to manage their domestic and community affairs. That is the issue with which we are faced. Negotiations have not succeeded on this issue and, indeed, have not been really offered in any sensible way. It is that limited issue with which we seek to deal now. If there are people who are impatient about the rate of progress, I simply say that they should bear in mind that we are trying to ensure that the Australian community maintains sensible relationships between communities. I have made it quite clear that I see decent, reasonable and honourable behaviour by the State Government as essential to our success in this exercise. I have already said that I ask members of the Queensland Government to try to deal with the Commonwealth in a spirit of conciliation, in the spirit that we wish to help the Aboriginal people to lead the lives that they themselves wish.
I am a little saddened by the matter which was raised by an honourable senator opposite of the reported dismissal of Mrs Colless from a committee of inquiry which the State Government had established. I think if it is true, as has been alleged in this place, that she was removed from that committee because she had expressed attitudes which were not favourable to the State Government, it is a reflection of an attitude we must put behind us, the attitude that if Aborigines are saying things which we do not like to hear we will shut our ears and try to keep the Aborigines quiet. In the very difficult thicket in which we have found ourselves at the moment I ask the Opposition to face up to the complexities of the situation which the Government is faced with at the moment. Members of the Opposition should not use their feelings in this matter to make a difficult situation worse. We should, with the utmost spirit of co-operation, press on with this legislation and see what we can do to improve the position in Queensland.
-in reply-A large number of senators have spoken on this Bill yesterday and today. I think there has been a fair and sincere debate on the Bill which we have introduced to give to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities the right to manage their own affairs. The speeches that have been made have contributed enormously to our knowledge of and information on matters that need to be discussed. It is fair to say that all members of the Opposition have shown their sincerity and their interest in the welfare of Aborigines. I feel that much of what has been said has placed on record our good faith to improve the opportunity of self-management for these people and the opportunity to use their right to exercise their own responsibilities in the matters which are covered by the Bill.
Senator Gietzelt, who led for the Opposition, advised us of the amendment which is to be moved by the Opposition. He and other speakers questioned why the Bill was being dealt with at this time and why we should be endeavouring to have the Bill passed, without, as they claimed, the consultation that could have been held with the councils and without the opportunity of further discussion through the Parliament. Right at the outset I say to those members of the Opposition and of the Government parties who have questioned the propriety of proceeding at this stage that we regard the passing of this legislation as an act of faith between the Government and the Aborigines. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) was strongly urged by the Aborigines in both communities to see that legislation to protect their position was passed this week. The Minister undertook to pursue the legislation through the Parliament as an act of faith. As far as the Government is concerned, we will uphold that commitment to see that the legislation is passed. We will not seek an opportunity for further consultation or in any way delay the passage and the proclamation of legislation to fulfil the commitment that was made.
Mr Viner was asked whether the legislation could have come into force on Monday or Tuesday of this week. There was a feeling of urgency amongst the Aboriginal communities that they would not feel protected until the Bill was passed. Mr Viner explained to meetings at Aurukun on 30 March and at Mornington Island on 1 April that he would be reporting the communities’ views to Cabinet on the following Monday and that the decision on legislation would then be taken. It is well known that Cabinet supported the submission that was made by Mr Viner. The communities have been under some sense of urgency and pressure for months and were uncertain about whether the Queensland Government would take them over. They felt the pressure especially in recent days and since 13 March have been asking that the Commonwealth resolve the issue. That is why we have proceeded with the legislation in the way in which we have. Whilst the point about consultation with the National Aboriginal Conference is well taken, it was felt that further consultation could appear to be procrastination. Mr Viner spent some time with the Conference yesterday and took the opportunity to explain matters relating to the legislation to the Conference. It is believed that that consultation was useful in explaining the scope of the legislation and the objective of the Government of seeing that it was passed this week.
We heard some most interesting speeches and information from honourable senators, such as that from Senator Martin. She placed on the record a great deal of detailed correspondence that has been exchanged which is relevant to this matter. We heard from Senator Keeffe of his concern about the lack of consultation with the NAC. He needed some assurances about some aspects of the Bill. Perhaps some of these matters will arise as we proceed through the Bill in the Committee stage. Those who heard Senator Bonner’s speech yesterday would be aware of his intense feeling of urgency about the passage of the Bill and his feeling of satisfaction that the Aborigines in Queensland will now have legislation which will enable them to take that further step in the management of their own affairs. I think his personal experience of some of these matters gave us an insight into what the passage of this legislation will mean to all Aborigines in Australia.
Senator Robertson spoke to us with great knowledge also and raised one or two matters on which I feel I should comment at this stage. Perhaps they may be discussed further. One point raised by him related to the moneys that will be allocated to the councils to enable them to conduct their affairs. Senator Robertson asserted that no indication had been given by the Minister as to what moneys would be allocated to the councils. In response to that point I say that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs said on 22 March, and again in the second reading speech on this Bill, that the Government was ready to provide to the communities and the Church the funds necessary to ensure maintenance of existing services if the Queensland Government terminates its support. That statement was made without equivocation because that assurance needed to be given to the communities and to the Church.
Throughout the second reading speech and in any public statements that have been made we have stressed the fact that we hope for the continued support of the Queensland Government in the supply of services to the communities concerned. But when the Minister was speaking on 22 March he felt that an assurance needed to be given that the Commonwealth Government was ready to provide to the communities and the Church the funds that are necessary to ensure the maintenance of services if the Queensland Government does not continue to support them.
Senator Robertson made comments about education. It was suggested that perhaps there was a need to have an education system that met the needs of the community. It should be placed on record that Aurukun has a State school which provides bilingual education with the help of linguistics services subsidised by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. This school employs Aboriginal teaching assistants. I think we would all acknowledge the need for adequate and suitable education systems for the communities and we hope this will be able to be achieved with the cooperation of the Queensland Government in the future.
Senator Wright arrested our attention on a number of matters of constitutional concern and matters of legality which he raised in his speech last night. I think I should respond on behalf of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to one or two things. In one comment Senator Wright criticised the Minister’s intention to declare Aurukun and Mornington Island reserves at once without taking any more precautions to see that he has correctly and carefully got from the people their individual judgment on that matter. What the Minister said was that he would act without delay. He discussed the communities’ needs with senior representatives of the communities who reported community views on the matters on 16 and 1 7 March.
I think it was Senator Chaney who mentioned the telegram that has been received which has urged that we pass this legislation. I believe that what has already been indicated with regard to the visit of the Minister to the communities on 30 March and 1 April and the experience of those other senators and members who have reported on their visits give us strong indications of the communities’ desire to have legislation to enable them to proceed to self-management. Mr Viner is informing both communities about the Bill. As 1 said, he took an opportunity to discuss it with the NAC yesterday. I believe that the Minister and many other members and senators feel assured that both the councils and the community residents unanimously wish this legislation to apply to them. The Minister will do all that he believes is necessary and proper under the legislation when it is passed, to see that the things that we believe are important are taken into account as the legislation is used.
Senator Wright also criticised the ambit of the Bill and said that it gave the councils great powers comparable with the scope of the powers of Federal and State governments. He raised many concerns that he had with regard to bylaws and other matters. Senator Chaney, in his speech today, dealt with many of the matters of disquiet to some of the other speakers in the debate. Some things that I may have felt I should mention have been covered by him in response to some of the things that were raised during this debate.
Summarising at the end of the second reading debate, we are claiming on behalf of the Government, and certainly on behalf of the Aboriginal people, that the passage of this legislation is a matter of urgency. The act of faith that I mentioned is perhaps an overriding concern to the Government because a commitment given not lightly by government to Aboriginal people should not be misconstrued. We believe that if we were to talk of consultation before passing this Bill, if we were to talk of more consultation and analysis of some of the ambit of the Bill, it could appear that we were reluctant to see it passed and become one of the pieces of legislation of primary importance in this country.
For the reasons of concern that I have mentioned and that have been expressed by members and senators, I wish at this stage to indicate a course of action that would be acceptable to the Government. The Government is aware of the concern of members of the Opposition with regard to the Bill. It is aware that a number of Government senators have suggested that, in view of the questions and difficulties which have been raised as to the details of the Bill, and the matters that have been raised by the National Aboriginal Conference and others with regard to its scope, a detailed analysis of it at some stage should be arranged. We believe that the best way to do that, to keep the faith of which I spoke, would be to have it passed today, then have a committee of the Senate look at it as closely as a committee is able to do and report. We stress that that should be done after the Bill is passed.
The Government believes that if the Bill is passed speedily-remembering that it will be put into effect immediately- ,na will give a sense of security to the Abor gines, which we believe is important. But we do nor run away from the fact that a Bill can be analysed, that it can be improved. Therefore, I speak on behalf of the Government when I say that it would expect that after the third reading a Government senator would move that the Bill be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs for urgent investigation and consideration of many of the matters that have been raised, as well as any others which it saw fit to raise, and then report back to the Senate.
The Government is concerned that it should have on the statute books legislation that does what the Government wishes done for the Aboriginal people. It also wants the Aboriginal people and other groups in the community to have an opportunity to express their thoughts on the legislation. A Senate standing committee is an ideal vehicle for such consideration. It comprises senators from both sides of the chamber, senators who are well equipped to conduct an analysis of the Act and to use that forum for public discussion. I believe that we would then have achieved what has been sought throughout this debate, an analysis of the measure, time for consultation, public discussion and consideration of all those aspects that have been raised on both sides of the chamber.
In replying to the second reading debate, I indicate that after the third reading it is expected that the measure will be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. It simply remains for me, as we move into the Committee stage, to express the hope that there will be discussion of the Bill but that it will be understood that, after the third reading, that other motion will be moved.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Gietzelt’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Pursuant to notice I move:
I need not elaborate upon the arguments that I submitted for this proposal. I am grateful to the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) for having indicated that if the Bill is passed she will accept a motion to refer this legislation to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs for ex post facto examination. But that is an entirely different thing from the Senate’s participation, through a select committee, in the formulation of an appropriate measure before the Bill is passed.
The proposed appointment of a select committee is in no way designed to delay the passage of the Bill. It is designed only to give appropriate consideration to the Bill. Honourable senators from both sides of the chamber, particularly Senator Grimes and Senator Chaney, have referred to the great help that has been given in the debate by various senators bringing before the Senate different instalments of facts and documents. During the second reading debate we had quite a difficult task in that respect. A Senate select committee would have a much better opportunity of assembling those matters in a more complete form and getting to a real understanding of what each one means.
I will give just one instance of the difference. I think that sometimes members of Parliament are treated the utmost disrespect when people communicate by telegram a point of view which the member of parliament has no opportunity of examining or justifying. This is the case, too, when a senator comes forward with a statement from a Minister such as Mr Charles Porter from Queensland who documents a whole series of government steps of consideration and another senator brings forward a different matter, as Senator Grimes did this morning with regard to the attitude of the Aboriginals on Aurukun to the Church in 1 976. On a matter of that sort in which the opinion of the Aboriginals can be so malleable and different in terms of time and circumstance it is only a committee that can form a judgment.
I would like to refer to another point that I will not labour on this motion because if I am defeated it will have to be examined much more fully during the general Committee debate that will follow. There is the question of the true effect of this legislation not from the point of view of any legalistic or technical constitutional contentions, all of which I disclaimed last night, but in accordance with proper constitutional principlenot specific constitutional cases. I want the select committee to examine what sort of a body will have what ambit of power under by-laws and then what will be the effect of those by-laws, firstly, in relation to State legislation and, secondly, in relation to the continuance by the State of the provision of essential services. Finally, I want to know the implications of this Bill from the point of view of involvement of Commonwealth activity. State being absent, what will the Commonwealth do in respect of funding; what will it mean from the point of view of actual arrangements for education and health?
The question of blame was raised during the second reading debate. I heard Senator Grimes make reference this morning to the fact that it is the responsibility of the State to overcome the problems concerning the poor condition of health of Aboriginals and the unsatisfactory education standards of Aboriginals. So be it. But the State has delegated the management to the Church. If the Commonwealth has to take up this matter what arrangements does it propose and what will it do in respect of funding? These are the reasons why I think a committee should be appointed. Of course, such a committee would take into account the opposite point of view that is emphasised by the Opposition, namely, that the Bill does not go far enough, and that is all involved in the question that is being advanced in some of the amendments that have just been circulated, as I hastily read them. That is to say. the proposition is to come before us, which we will have to debate here this afternoon on the information that we have- I hope we will purposefully- that by-laws are to be sent only to the Minister and that on reaching him he will have no power of approval or disapproval. His job will be to lay them on the table of this chamber. As I understand the amendments, the regulations are not regulations subject to the disallowance by the Senate. They do not come within the Acts Interpretation Act and we will not have the power of disallowance.
These views are being put forward by the Opposition, after some consultation with the Aboriginal community, as indicating the shortcomings of the legislation. If we have a real spirit of purpose to get a Bill that best conduces to the welfare of the Aboriginal people it is our job as a Senate to send off a committee patiently to consider all these issues deliberately, over a period, and come back with a report. I hope, therefore, that the Senate will accept the motion for the select committee.
-Is the motion seconded? There being no seconder, the motion lapses.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
In ihis Act, unless the contrary intention appears-
Aboriginal Community’ means a community for Aborigines established, or deemed to have been established, under or by the Aborigines Act;
Aboriginal Reserve’ means any land that is a reserve for the purposes of the Aborigines Act;
Islander Community’ means a community for Islanders established, or deemed to have been established, under or by the Torres Strait Islanders Act;
Islander Reserve’ means any land that is a reserve for the purposes of the Torres Strait Islanders Act:
– As the Opposition does not intend to take unnecessary time, I suggest that we take the Opposition ‘s first four amendments together.
– Is it the wish of the Senate that we take together the first four amendments to be moved by Senator Gietzelt? There being no objection, that is so ordered.
– I move:
These four amendments deal with definitions and have the effect of fixing in time the legal definition of an Aboriginal or islander community or reserve and to define specifically once and for all what communities are the subject of this legislation. If we look at the legislation we are entitled to draw inferences regarding the definition of ‘reserve’. It is said that a reserve is land but then, when we look at the definition of land, this is also what a premise is said to be. We need to be clear when providing definitions. The Opposition believes that it is necessary for it to move the amendments so that the Queensland Government cannot change the definitions referred to in this Bill- at present it has the power to do this- and cannot take steps which would nullify to a major degree the purposes of the legislation we are discussing.
We are faced with the fact that the Queensland Premier can not be trusted to keep out of Aurukun and Mornington Island. Even in today’s Melbourne Age he is reported to have said that he has a secret plan and is going to take extraordinary steps within his province or within the power of his Government to circumvent what this legislation seeks to do. He has put that intention on public record. There is no doubt that he would have a copy of this legislation. He has stated that his legal advisers are working on it with a view to working out a counter-offensive to ensure that his philosophy on Aborigines and islanders prevails. On the one hand we are being told that the Government requires the urgent passage of this legislation in order to circumvent any action that the Queensland Government may take but on the other hand there is sufficient ambiguity in the definitions in the Bill to raise considerable doubt in our minds whether the intentions of the Bill will be realised anyway. The Queensland Government has the simple stratagem at its disposal to de-gazette the reserves or even to change definitions in order to create difficulties with clause 3 of the Bill.
The purpose of our amendments is simple. It is to define what should be already defined in the Bill, to anticipate the probable reaction of the
Queensland Government and to go some way towards protecting the communities or reserves concerned against any unilateral exappropriation by the Queensland Premier. Our purpose is to close what appear to be loopholes in the legislation, and this is what motivates us in all the amendments we propose to move. It was conceded by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) when replying to the second reading debate, and even by Senator Wright in his contribution a moment ago, that the Opposition’s endeavour in the debate has been to assist the Government, not to hinder it. Our aim is to strengthen the legislation to put it beyond any legal, moral or political challenge. Whilst to a large extent the Government has been accommodating the views that the Opposition has expressed in this debate and, I imagine, has been taking into account the views of its own senators who have spoken, it has set in train a further review which only highlights our concern that the Bill in some important areas lacks sufficient substance to withstand any challenge that may be made.
If we had a different situation in other States and the States were co-operating with the Federal Government in pursuance of the Federal Government’s legal and moral obligations towards Aborigines we would not be so concerned, but we have on the public record that the challenge is under way and the fight is on. We have been forewarned of what is contemplated by the Queensland Government and, if it is able to move next week or the following week particularly when the Federal Parliament is not sitting, it could make a complete mockery of the intentions of the Government and the concensus that has largely developed in the national Parliament on this important legislation. So what we say in respect of these first four amendments is that the integrity of the Parliament is at issue and the amendments ought to be given some mature consideration in view of what I hope is accepted by the Government as our genuine belief that the amendments will assist in providing the legislation with the safeguards which were mentioned in the second reading speech and the preamble to the Bill to preserve the Federal Government’s obligations to the Aborigines and islanders of Queensland.
– I wish to speak only briefly on these amendments. I am sure that they are well intentioned amendments and I understand the purpose of the Opposition in moving them, namely, that if we fix a date and if reserves are of that size and nature at that date. they will continue to be recognised despite whatever the Queensland Premier manages to do. If the Premier is disposed to destroy the reserves, to make them cease to exist as reserves, to reduce them in size or to do anything of this nature, that is serious and drastic action which, I suppose, would have its own curious political consequences. But I am not sure that this legislation can provide entirely for whatever reaction the Premier might have.
As far as I can see, when these amendments were moved in the House of Representatives they were not explained fully at all. The Minister, Mr Viner, in his reply, said on behalf of the Government:
Like the honourable member for Dundas, I was surprised not to hear any arguments why the Government should accept the amendments proposed by the Opposition. There are serious legal defects in the argument which, if allowed to be carried, would throw into jeopardy the constitutional validity of this legislation. I am not going to tell Opposition members how to do their legal homework but I can assure them that if the Committee carried this amendment without passing other amendments, the Bill would fail.
I should certainly like to hear whether there is anything the Minister for Social Security can add as to the way in which this failure would be caused. I can imagine some difficulty arising from the carriage of amendments in this form, namely, the attempt to specify that reserves shall be in existence at a certain date. It may well be that the reserves will vary in their size and nature. For example, under clause 15 of the Bill which we propose, there is a right for the Commonwealth, if it acquires land, to apply that land for the purpose of enabling the council to perform its functions. Presumably this would add land to the reserves so the reserves would not be the reserves as at 31 March. I am not sure whether that is the point the Minister had in mind or why he foresaw particular difficulties.
I think it is very difficult to work on a basis that some drastic and extraordinary action will be taken by the Queensland Government which would destroy or remove the reserves. We would then be in a different ball game. We would have to consider some different situation altogether. This Parliament is capable of dealing with such a situation but I think it is very difficult to try to cover it in advance in the way in which the Opposition has proposed. It may be that this is the reason why the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs sees difficulties. I should certainly like to hear whether this is the case. I should think that in the investigation into this Bill, which we will subsequently carry out, these sorts of matters can be looked at in considerable detail, drawing on all the knowledge that the Minister’s advisers have.
It would be useful to know whether any further information can be advanced about this matter.
– At the outset, I should say that the Bill aims to prevent the Queensland Government from doing what it has announced it will do and that is to take over the direct administration of the two communities. If the Queensland Government takes action to change the status of the reserves, the Government will be able to consider the position at that time and decide whatever future action of a legislative kind or any other kind is appropriate. To remove land set aside for Aboriginals for some 70 years, when it is still occupied and used by the Aboriginals, is a major step. I think Senator Missen alluded to that aspect in his comments. We would hope that the Queensland Government would not lightly make a decision of that kind.
asked me to comment on the remarks made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) during the Committee stage of the debate in the other place. I should say firstly that we recognise that the Opposition’s amendments Nos 1 to 4, defining communities and reserves in terms of those existing at 31 March 1978 under the Queensland legislation, are apparently intended to ensure that any subsequent changes in the status of communities or reserves will not affect the operation of this legislation. I think that is the purpose of Senator Gietzelt ‘s amendment. My advice is that if the changes suggested in the Opposition’s amendments, particularly those in relation to reserves and which seek to freeze the status of the land at a particular date, were brought into effect, they could raise constitutional difficulties and invite constitutional challenge. This could result in the whole of this Bill being set aside or struck down. That is the danger of introducing amendments of that kind. The reserves are Queensland Crown land and we cannot interfere in the use of that Crown land through our legislation without entailing acquisition of land and the provisions which cover that. It will be recalled that the Minister, in his second reading speech, said that: the Commonwealth may, if it becomes necessary in order to give effect to the purposes of the legislation, make available to councils land acquired by or otherwise vested in the Commonwealth; and in the case of acquisition, the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act will apply.
I think that covers the point that was quite genuinely raised by the Opposition. The Opposition wants to see some protection of the reserves as we now know them in case of action by the Queensland Government to change the nature of them in order to set aside the intention of our legislation. We feel we cannot accept the amendments of the Opposition. If we were to do so, we would invite constitutional challenge and it would appear that we were endeavouring to acquire land without using the provisions of the Lands Acquisition Act and without making provision for just terms being set down. I say to Senator Missen that that is the reason why the Minister in the other place made those comments. It is because of the threat of constitutional challenge to a provision of that kind in Commonwealth legislation which would be dealing with Queensland Crown land. That is the explanation that I have on this matter.
– In those circumstances I wonder whether the Minister might explain, if the Government accepts the principle that the Queensland Government has an opportunity of a legal challenge and might avail itself of that opportunity in what circumstances the Government believes that we can get the co-operation of the Queensland Government, particularly in view of what has been said in a public statement by both the Queensland Minister, Mr Porter, and the Premier himself. It seems that whatever course of action is available to us, whether it be moral persuasion, co-operation or some form of dialogue that might be developed, or legal challenge, we are probably only putting off the day of reckoning in respect of the differences in emphasis between us and the Queensland Government.
After all, yesterday I heard Government supporters saying that they supported a policy of assimilation for Aborigines. That flies in the opposite direction to the Government’s stated policy of self-management. One cannot have an assimilation policy as well as a policy of selfdetermination. So it seems- and I should like the Minister to comment on this-that the next two or three weeks, probably into next month and even until the Parliament goes into recess, we may find ourselves involved in non co-operation and delaying tactics. When we find that the national Parliament has to resort to more determined action we may still be subject to legal challenge. This is what lies in the back of the minds of members of the Opposition. We have to determine as soon as possible just what we are aiming to achieve. That is expressed in the amendments which the Opposition introduced for consideration by the House of Representatives and the Senate. We should resolve the matter and not leave it in limbo, which seems to us to be the inevitable result.
– I make the briefest comment: Our objective is to get a law, within the constitutional powers we have, to enable selfmanagement of these Queensland reserves to take effect. If we were to proceed with a Bill about which we had doubts as to its constitutional validity, I think we would be further away from our objective. I remind the honourable senator that the aim of this Bill is to prevent the Queensland Government from performing its stated intention of having direct administration of the two Aboriginal communities. It is for this reason that the Bill has been written in this way. The best advice from our Commonwealth legal advisers is that this Bill achieves the purpose which I have stated.
– I am sorry that I did not hear the Minister’s reply. I was called out of the chamber. I do not want to take up the time of the Committee unnecessarily and I shall be very brief. I shall be pretty silent on the remainder of the Bill. In the second reading debate I pointed out the fears I had about the ability of the Queensland Government to alter the operation of this Bill. That is the very thing which is sought to be overcome by the four amendments which Senator Gietzelt has moved. I should like the Minister’s confirmation or contradiction on this point. The definition of an Aboriginal community in the Bill states:
Aboriginal community’ means a community for Aborigines established, or deemed to have been established, under or by the Aborigines Act
The definition of an Aboriginal reserve states:
Aboriginal Reserve’ means any land that is a reserve for the purpose of the Aborigines Act
That also applies to the Torres Strait Island reserves. The definition of the Aborigines Act states: the Aborigines Act 1971 of Queensland or that Act as amended and in force at any relevant time -
Therefore it can be amended at a relevant time- if that Act ceases to be in force and another Act is substituted for that Act- the substituted Act or that Act as amended and in force at any relevant time, and includes- any regulations and other instruments (including by-laws) as in force at any relevant time under or by virtue of the Aborigines Act 1971 or that Act as amended and in force at any relevant time, or under or by virtue of the substituted Act or that Act as amended and in force at any relevant time.
That definition applies to the Aboriginal communities and reserves- it also applies to the Torres Strait Island communities and reservesunder the Aborigines Act at any relevant time. The Premier of Queensland said that Mr Fraser has one foot on the sticky paper and he is waiting for him to get the other foot on. Immediately this Bill is passed he can, by an alteration of his Act which is the only definition we have of what is an Aboriginal community or reserve, exclude any community which this Bill is intended to cover. I am reinforced in that opinion by former Senator Lawrie who was a Country Party senator. I quoted last evening what he said in relation to Aboriginal reserves. He said:
They are marked as reserves for the use of Aboriginal inhabitants of the State, and that can be varied by Act of Parliament from time to time. They are not in perpetuity; they do not go on for ever. They are still the property of the State of Queensland.
If the Act which defines an Aboriginal community or reserve is changed next week by the Queensland Parliament, what will be the effect of this Bill on any present reserve which may not be a reserve next week? Those are the very things that the four amendments seek to overcome. They seek to declare what is now a reserve or a community and what shall remain a reserve or a community no matter what happens in Queensland.
-In relation to clause 3 I think some explanation of the Queensland Act is due. There was an inordinate amount of criticism of it during the second reading debate and criticism of the Queensland Premier and the Queensland Government. We may think that the Aborigines Act is good or bad. But a good law is a law made by a community for that community and one which that community will observe. The Queensland Act was prepared by the Aborigines. Whether we think it is good or bad makes little difference if it is a law that the Aborigines want. It was not only prepared by the Aborigines, it was also approved by them. The law is updated every six months in consultation with the Aborigines. The Queensland Premier himself promised the Aborigines that they could have the Act altered, amended or even abolished if they so wished. At this very minute the Act is undergoing a complete updating in full consultation with the Aborigines. It should be understood that whether we think the Act is good or bad, it is an Act made by the Aborigines for the Aborigines and we should respect it.
– I must speak again because Senator Sheil ‘s words frighten me more. What he said is correct except that the Act is not made by the Aboriginals, it is made by a decision of Parliament. It has been changed on the advice of the Aboriginal Advisory Council. That is what Senator Sheil meant. The Aboriginal Advisory Council has been involved in long discussions in this place. Senator Keeffe said that there have been no free elections for many years and some of its members seem to be under the control of appointees of the Premier of Queensland. Honourable senators will remember the long debate about Les Fisher, the chairman of the Aboriginal Advisory Council who, at all times, makes statements in support of the Premier.
He made a Press statement in relation to this Bill telling the Federal Government to keep out and that the Aboriginals want the Queensland Act to continue to apply. Honourable senators can visualise that the Advisory Council could be called together and arrangements made to change the Act to exclude the two communities which are dissatisfied with the Act. I do not know whether Senator Sheil knows anything in particular about this matter. He suggested that the Premier of Queensland can justify an alteration of the Act on the advice of the Aboriginal Advisory Council. I would seriously query whether that Council represents Aboriginal opinion in Queensland.
– I shall not recite everything I said earlier but I want Senator Cavanagh to know that I said that the purpose of this Bill is to give an opportunity for self-management of the two communities concerned. I pointed out to Senator Gietzelt and the Opposition that if we were to accept his amendments, in particular those in relation to reserves which seek to freeze the status of the land, they could raise constitutional difficulties and invite a constitutional change which could set aside the whole of the Bill now under consideration. That is one of our concerns. It must be remembered that these reserves are Queensland Crown land. We cannot interfere with the use of Crown land.
I also pointed out that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) said that if it becomes necessary in order to give effect to this Bill, the Commonwealth Government will make available to land councils land acquired or otherwise vested in the Commonwealth. In the case of acquisition the Lands Acquisition Act will apply. If we were to accept the amendments introduced by the Opposition it could be construed that we were trying to acquire land without any provision for just terms. That is another of the concerns we have in considering these amendments. At this stage we cannot anticipate action which may be taken by the Queensland Government but I think I can say on behalf of the Government that if Queensland takes action to frustrate the objectives of this Bill the Government will consider whether amendments are necessary or whether any other action is necessary. This Bill has the stated purpose of giving the right of selfmanagement to these communities and the opportunity for them to choose to exercise it. If, as a result of future developments which I cannot anticipate at the moment, it is necessary to take further action we will consider whether any amendments are necessary.
That the amendments (Senator Gietzelt’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator the Hon. T. C. Drake-Brockman)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I raise an entirely different matter. I refer to the definition of ‘Council’ on page 2 of the Bill where it states:
Council ‘, in relation to a Reserve or Community, means-
except in a case where paragraph (b) applies . . .
Will honourable senators please note that exception. It is not the ordinary clause with two alternatives. I shall abbreviate the definition for speed. Council means the Council established under the Aborigines Act. Paragraph (b) in relation to Council states:
One has to go to clause 6 ( 1 ) to find out what that definition means. Clause 6(1) states:
If, at anytime-
there is not in existence for a Reserve to which this Act applies, … a Council of a kind referred to in paragraph (a) of the definition . . .
there is in existence for a Reserve to which this Act applies … a Council of that kind, but the Minister is of the opinion that he should exercise his powers under this section to declare another body to be the Council for the Reserve … the Minister may, by notice published in the Gazette, declare a body . . . to be the Council . . .
If one refers to the regulation powers one finds specifically that one of the regulation powers in clause 17 is:
the constituting of bodies for the purposes of section 6;
It is the body that is declared by the Minister. He can create it and identify it. It can be the body which puts to him a request, purporting to be representative of a substantial body of the wishes of the Aboriginal community, and upon that he makes the declaration. So the definition in (b) relating to Council would be about the most illusive definition that one could ever encounter. It first of all means what one thinks it means, that is, the duly constituted Council under the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act. But this cannot be the case if no such Council is in existence. Then in the terms of paragraph (b) it means the body that the Minister creates and declares, because clause 6(1) states:
If, at any time-
there is in existence for a Reserve . . . a Council of that kind, but the Minister is of the opinion that he should exercise his powers … to declare another body . . .
– That is what Mr Killoran is doing in Queensland now. We want to copy it.
– One can be too smart in regard to these matters. This is a serious matter, in my view. The Minister is given completely unqualified executive power himself to create a body, declare and identify that body and publish it in the Gazette as ‘the body’. He can then proceed to make a declaration under proposed section 5 as though he has an expression of view from a body authorised by the Aboriginal community. I would have thought that that may have put the chamber aghast. Show me where I am wrong in my interpretation of that in relation to proposed section 6(1) (b) which gives the Minister the complete right to ignore the existence of a council, constitute another body, declare that to be the council, and then act upon the application of his own created body.
– Clause 6 allows the Minister in a situation where a council ceases to exist to establish a new body, either under the regulations or under other legislation such as the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act. Clause 6 is written in such a way that that may be the way in which the Minister is able to act. It should be said that the whole purpose of this legislation is to give the Aborigines selfmanagement. Its purpose is to provide for consultation with the Aborigines at any time. It is drafted in such a way that the wishes of the Aborigines in relation to these matters will be taken into account by the Minister in any of the declarations or the decisions which he must make. That is the purpose of clause 6. If it is necessary for the Minister to establish a new body under regulation, if another body has ceased to exist, he has power to do just that under this clause.
– I rise mainly to convey to Senator Wright the fact that my interjection was in no way a criticism of him. I am thankful for what he has brought to the notice of the Committee. It seems that the situation is more serious than anyone expected. One of the problems is that the second reading debate was not adjourned for a sufficient period to allow us to get some legal assistance in relation to the interpretation of this clause. The Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) says if it is necessary the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will take into consideration the wishes of the Aboriginal people. There are two things which should be remembered. That sort of situation is similar to that which exists in relation to the Aboriginal Advisory Committee, which at the present time is a hand-picked committee by either the Premier of Queensland or Mr Killoran. The Federal Minister can be put in the same sort of situation on those occasions when he disagrees with the expressions of opinion made to him by the people’s elected council. He can elect his own council for the purpose of gaining an opinion.
The Minister for Social Security assured us that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs will act in accordance with the wishes of the people. But, as I said during my contribution to the second reading debate, his whole history indicates that he is unlikely to act in that way. The National Aboriginal Consultative Committee, which was an Aboriginal elected body and which was truly representative of the Aboriginal people, now is only an Aboriginal council which has no greater powers than to appoint five members to a body to which the Minister also appoints five members. So that situation which exists in relation to the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee indicates further the determination of the Minister, if the necessity arises which he found did arise in the case of the National Aboriginal Consultative Committee when it was critical of his administration, to hand pick his council for the purpose of advising him on regulations and alterations. We are giving to the Minister a terrific power to act contrary to the wishes of the Aboriginal community.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
1 ) Where-
-With the concurrence of the Committee, I propose to deal with the four circulated amendments to clause 5 because they all deal with a common principle which we want to establish and which I submit, on the basis of the point that has been raised by Senator Wright in the previous discussion, would at least to some extent restrict the powers of the Minister. In effect the amendments propose that the words ‘the Minister may’ be substituted for the words ‘the Minister shall, within 30 days after receiving the request or being so satisfied, as the case may be ‘. I believe there is some substance in the matter that was raised by Senator Wright. Faced as we are and restricted as we are with difficulties in relation to the passage of this Bill, it is rather difficult to find a formula with which to deal with the very valid points that Senator Wright has raised.
Nevertheless, the four amendments, which are identical, have as their objective the placing at least of a restraint of sorts upon the Minister, in that he will be required to make a decision within 30 days. Whether that decision be good or bad, he would certainly be obligated to seek the opinion of others in the process of making such a decision. Under the legislation as it now stands, he could just leave the matter in the too-hard basket and sit on it for unlimited time. That is hardly the way in which this fairly responsible Minister would deal with a matter. But we know that Ministers change and governments change. The Bill as it is presently drafted vests in him an unfettered power which ought to be subject to at least some control. In many ways I would prefer to put many of these matters under the control of the Parliament, but we do not have that prerogative at the moment.
However, in applying myself particularly to the views expressed by Senator Wright, he may see that there are in clause 5 at least some opportunities for us to suggest to the Committee a method of placing a minor restriction on the Minister. After all, a period of 30 days would at least allow for public debate and for contending points of view to be publicly placed before the Minister and even before the Parliament. That would allow for some amelioration if he believed that he did not have to act. Of course, that is what is proposed in the legislation. Accordingly, I move:
– I wish to speak for just one minute, seeing that my name has been mentioned. It would be completely opposite to the opinion I hold in relation to the proper course to follow to entertain the idea that the Minister would be under a mandatory direction to accept a request for a declaration under this clause and to act upon it within a certain time. I point out that it would be most invidious if that stipulation were applied to the case of an actual council. But if a body created by the Minister himself which is called a council only for the purpose of coming within the language of the Bill is to be given the power to request the Minister and then to compel him to act, the ludicrousness of the situation makes the thing so invidious as not to be entertained. It is not my view at all.
– For the guidance of the Committee I point out that we are encompassing amendments 5 to 8.
– The amendments are not acceptable to the Government. I doubt from the remarks that were made, that the Opposition understands the effect of its amendments. The effect of the amendments, if carried, would be to put the communities in a most unenviable situation. We may have a situation, for instance, where a council would not reflect the wishes of a substantial majority of the community. If it were a mandatory requirement for the Minister to accept that, this could well be against the wishes of the entire community or the substantial majority of it. The provision would not, if it were made mandatory, remove the requirement that the Minister must be satisfied in that situation that a substantial majority of the adult aborigines were in favour.
– But he does not have to be satisfied of that under paragraph (a).
-It would be undesirable for a council to be able to have a mandatory power to require a Minister to do certain things. The honourable senator, I think, is paraphrasing the matter a little better than I am able to do. The other thing that perhaps could satisfy the Opposition even further is that a council of an Aboriginal reserve is a council construed under the provisions of the Queensland legislation which provides for an election. If, for example, there were changes in Queensland legislation which did not provide for an elected council but provided for an appointed council, the Minister, if the amendments were to take effect, would be required, by way of a mandatory act, to do what a council asked him to do irrespective of the fact that the council was not elected but was appointed and may not reflect the wishes of the majority of the community. By putting that point to the Opposition I hope it will see that the amendments that have been moved are not ones that will act in the best interests of the majority of a particular community.
– It seems to us that these clauses are attempting to establish principles of selfmanagement. That is how we understand the legislation. That principle has to be determined very clearly. We see the purpose of these clauses to give the Aborigines and the Islanders control of their own affairs- the day to day matters, the routine matters, the administrative matters and the matters affecting the whole gamut of local affairs. We are concerned whether the legislation achieves that objective or whether in fact at a point of conflict the Minister can just decide not to act on any conflict that may eventuate. We have seen, from what has been said in the second reading debate, an evolution in attitudes not only in this Parliament and the Australian community but also amongst Aboriginals and Islanders. We are concerned, in the points of conflict that may arise, that the Minister, because of the difficulties of interpretation or even of changing attitudes, can determine to take no action at all and not resolve the matter to the satisfaction of the community. That is the point we feel ought to have some limitations placed upon it.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 6 (Declaration of Aboriginal Councils or Island Councils for the purposes of this Act).
-I have drawn the Committee’s attention to the obnoxiousness of paragraph (b) of sub-clause 1 of clause 6. 1 only rise under this clause to indicate that I do not intend to repeat what I said previously when referring to the definition.
Clause agreed to.
– I move:
Sub-clause (4), as it stands, seems to envisage the subdivision of the reserve into parts controlled by the councils and parts not controlled by the councils. In other words we are concerned with the division of responsibilities as well as divisions of the reserve itself. We believe, if there is to be any genuine act of self-determination, the powers of the council which has been elected or appointed under this legislation must extend over all of the reserve land. That is the way we understand the purpose of the legislation. We would like the views of the Minister. We do not believe a situation should develop where one part of a reserve remains under the control of the council and another part does not.
– Do I take it from the Minister’s silence that she does not think the amendments are significant and does not intend to reply? I think the point stressed is whether the reserve is where the Aborigines live or whether it is the settlement as defined under the legislation. Senator Gietzelt has pertinently asked whether we are to have one area of reserve under the control of the council and another area under the control of someone else. This is important with respect to outstations. The Minister, by not replying, is not acknowledging the mischief that it is intended to rectify by the amendments.
– I respond to Senator Cavanagh and to Senator Gietzelt by pointing out that the Opposition’s amendments to subclause (4) would allow a council of a community to be given additional functions by regulation in relation to Aboriginals or Islanders who happen to be anywhere on the whole of the reserves rather than residing in the community. It would therefore be possible for groups of Aboriginals on reserves who might be living far from the community to find themselves subject to a community council on which they are not represented. If they are not represented they would not have participated in electing members of the council, the council would not have been established to manage the part of the reserve where they live and they could consider that the council should not have any say in their affairs. The effect of the Opposition’s amendments would bring these people into the ambit of the council’s decisions. It is for this reason that the Government does not see the amendments of the Opposition as ones that could be accepted or supported because the people who are living outside the particular community could find themselves subject to a community council on which they have no representation.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
– I move:
As was indicated in the second reading debate, services and responsibilities are very important matters from the point of view of Aboriginal communities. I was somewhat shocked to hear Senator Wood suggest that one of the reasons why we have an intransigent position with the Queensland Government in regard to selfmanagement and the problems of Aurukun and Mornington Island is because of the failure to provide community facilities which clearly fall within the province of the Queensland Government. To some extent there is financial assistance from the Australian Government. The provision of services and their relationship to the councils and to the communities has to be carefully examined. We have to see whether we can provide the services in a way that does not affect the rights of the councils or the Aborigines on the reserves. The purpose of our amendment is to offer some protection particularly to the remote Aboriginal communities which may be dissatisfied either with the nature of services delivered or the manner of their delivery. We are concerned particularly with the remote settlements.
The amendment provides that the Minister must consent to agencies other than the councils providing services listed in clause 9(1). The services listed deal with facilities that are normally provided by local, State and Federal authorities in Australia- for example, health, sewerage, water and electricity supply and communications. Normally these are a Federal as well as a State responsibility. So the effect of this amendment would be to guard against unscruplous administrative harassment on the part of any authority, but more particularly, as we are dealing with problems in Queensland, by the Queensland Government, and making the continued provision of services conditional upon the consent of the minister responsible for Aboriginal affairs in that State. Surely in this area there ought to be a recognition by the Minister, the Senate and the Government generally that where there is a problem with an agency appointed by the Queensland Government which does or does not carry out its obligations properly, consent should be reserved.
This has been expressed in many other provisions of the legislation. The consent of the Federal Minister can be sought in order to provide, particularly in the outback communities, the sort of services which are expected in a modern community even though they may be designated a remote community. Nevertheless there are problems. Should they arise, as undoubtedly they have arisen in the past and undoubtedly will arise in the future, we ought not to leave that responsibility in the State province but rather give those communities the opportunity to seek the protection of the Federal authority.
-I should like to query this clause in one respect. I do not think that the amendment of the Opposition necessarily meets the problem. In my mind there is a little obscurity following on from clause 7 which we have dealt with. In it power is given to the councils to manage and control the affairs of the Aboriginal or Islander community. It is not absolutely certain as to where that begins and ends. The Opposition has said that it confines its arguement to services which might be provided by the State. I would imagine that services also could be provided by other organisationsvoluntary and charitable organisations and so forth- in the community. It seems to me that if the council is to control the community and manage its affairs, it perhaps should have some say in the provision of other services by organisationsnot just by the State but by other outside organisations. Of course in this regard the proposed amendment does not cover the situation and it gives power only to the Minister. It does not allow the community to make a determination about whether it wants a particular service- for example, if the service were provided under unreasonable terms or for some type of activity to which the council was strongly opposed. I am not sure that this situation is entirely satisfactorily covered. Maybe this is a matter we have to look at carefully in the future but I do not think the amendment moved by the Opposition covers the situation.
– In regard to what Senator Missen has just said, I do not know whether there is some confusion. Clause 9(2) is not to permit other services in with the permission of the council as the council wants it; it is to permit other services in whether or not it wants them. The amendment puts a prohibition there to stop other services from coming in. No one can complain if the service is beneficial to the Aborigines but as providers of a service do not have to ask a council ‘s approval some services that could be to the detriment of the community could come in. A service could be provided by a religious faith such as the Indian Ananda Marga movement. A bookmaker could offer a service. A local publican could offer a service which the Aboriginals do not require and do not want. Much to the concern of Senator Wood, who would have a fit if he knew, even the Communist Party could go in and offer to organise the Aborigines there. It may be that some services are not desired there and this provision prohibits the council from stopping the supply of a service. The Minister would take a particular interest and ensure that only services that are of benefit to the community would be permitted. He would veto the supply of other services.
– The amendment to clause 9 moved by the Opposition is not acceptable to the Government. If” it were to take effect it would give the Minister power to determine whether, for example, a State government department continued to provide services to a community. Clause 9 (2) is intended to indicate that State departments and other authorities are expected to continue to provide services to Aborigines at these communities that they provide to other citizens in Queensland. The additional ministerial power which the amendment would provide would be inappropriate and would be an unnecessary intrusion into areas of State responsibility. We have said throughout this debate, and in particular in the second reading speech, that State Government Departments should continue to provide the ordinary community services available to all other Australians. In all States- I think Senator Chaney made this point stronglysuch services as education, health and community welfare are provided by State governments and it would be expected that they would be provided to Aboriginal communities. We see no reason why these services should not continue from the State Government. We believe that if communities choose self-management those services would be able to be provided by the State Government as they are in the rest of the community.
Sub-clause (2) has been the subject of some comment. Nothing in that sub-clause means that the communities may not provide additional or supplementary services in areas such as health, education, and those other services that are mentioned, where the State may also be providing services. In other words, what was suggested, I think by Senator Missen- that if the community decided that additional or special services were required in some of those areas there is nothing in sub-clause 2 that would prevent them from providing those additional services.
The only other general comment I would make on this clause is that I am advised that it gives specific authority to a council to provide, or make available, or arrange to provide or make available for Aboriginals or Islanders services relating to those areas that are specified. It is not to be construed as giving a council exclusive authority to provide those services. It should be noted that in this clause the key word is ‘services’. The clause does not give powers with respect to housing, health, education, sewerage and so on but does give authority in regard to the provision of the services that I have mentioned. The amendment proposed by the Opposition is not acceptable for those reasons.
Clause agreed to.
– I move:
I think the Senate and the Australian community ought to be aware that the establishment of these councils is in fact the establishment of a great number of what are in effect self-management organisations and local government authorities, insofar as they will be endeavouring to fulfil the obligations of local communities to run their own affairs, subject of course to some control. As we know, local government authorities are subject, in varying degrees in the six States, to the control of the State Minister for local government, and that the local government authorities in the territories are subject to the control of the Parliament.
By-laws are subject to some exercise of power by a higher authority. We believe that in those circumstances where by-laws are passed with relationship to the affairs in the local community, they should in the first instance be made available to the Minister and in the second instance to the Parliament, to ensure that they represent the views of the Council which claims to represent the views of the local community. I formally move that amendment, the effect of which would be that the by-laws would in the first instance be submitted to the Minister and in the second instance would be subject to the approval of the Parliament.
– The amendment is not acceptable to the Government. Clause 10 gives the councils independent by-law making power since the existing by-laws will cease to take effect under clause 14. The provisions generally follow those of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act. The effect of the amendment proposed by the Opposition would be to remove the requirement for ministerial approval of bylaws and to remove the restriction that by-laws apply only to Aborigines and Islanders. Under the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act the
Minister must approve by-laws, and the application of by-laws to non-Aborigines, I am advised, could raise constitutional doubt. Moreover, it is not necessary for the purpose that is intended in the Bill. For those reasons, the amendment is not acceptable to the Government.
-The enormity of both the Bill and the amendment is illustrated by the discussion of what is here proposed. The Bill provides, under clause 10 that the Council for a reserve may make by-laws for purposes connected with its functions. I have abstained from the discussion of clauses 7 and 8 in regard to the functions, in the interests of time and of avoiding repetition of what I said last night, but permit me to remind the Committee that those functions are the management and control of the affairs of the Aboriginal community. That includes operations on its roads, and the order and good government within the police concept of the reserve and, generally, the government of the community.
Then clause 8 says that the Council shall be responsible only to the Aboriginal community for the conduct, discipline and well-being of the community. Having dealt with those administrative and executive functions, and having amplified them by way of clause 9, we now proceed to clause 10, which gives the Council legislative functions in connection with a reserve. The power in the Bill, as expressed, is unqualified. As the Bill reads, I suggest that a vacuum is created by clause 14, which by its very force says that the State by-laws in force under the Aborigines Act do not apply to a reserve to which this Act applies. So immediately the Governor-General gives his assent to the Bill a vacuum will be created in relation at least to by-laws.
Then one asks whether other laws, the substantive laws of either State or Commonwealth, continue to exist. Suppose they do. Can the Council make by-laws inconsistent with them? I suggest that it is fairly clear that it can; that the Council can make by-laws that will be completely inconsistent with any State or Commonwealth law, until the Minister signifies his disapproval. The mere fact, as is noted in the Attorney-General ‘s notes, wherein it is said that the by-laws are not intended to replace the general criminal laws, as seen from sub-clause 1 of clause 10, which provides a maximum penalty of only $20- that I regret to say, does not persuade me. I emphasise that it has no persuasive effect so far as I am concerned. I do not think it is a rational argument at all.
An Aboriginal community may specify for murder a penalty of $20 or less. I am not reflecting on them. I am simply stating that I do not know what their idea is. More to the point would be to note section 30 of the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act, to which Senator Chaney referred earlier. That is the general legislation. We have before us a particular Bill. Under the general legislation it is provided that, subject to this Act an Aboriginal Council may make bylaws not inconsistent with any other law in force in the area of the Council for the purposes connected with its function. Those words, ‘not inconsistent with any other law’ have no doubt been deliberately dropped from this Bill.
– They would have to be.
– As the honourable senator says, they would have to be. Once we get into arbitrary interference of this sort there is no doubt about what constraints we put on ourselves. I have seen that in regard to cattle trucks. The position is that here you have, confessedly, a situation where you are giving the Council the right to make by-laws for the control and management of its own affairs or, to use another expression, for the control of its affairs or, to use yet another, for the conduct, discipline and wellbeing of the Aboriginals within that reserve or community. Deliberately dropped from the general legislation are the words ‘Not inconsistent with any other law in force in the area of the council ‘. So here we are erecting an Alsatia so far as State and Federal laws are concerned.
Honourable senators should always remember what I said as to the definition of ‘council ‘-not a true council but a body created by the Minister on his own initiative for his own purposes. The council is to be his own body. It will have power to make by-laws untrammelled by the existence of other laws which are inconsistent with them. So a council can give a complete go-by to the whole system of State and Commonwealth law just by saying: ‘We pass a law that in this community the welfare of the community is best served by saying that residents shall conduct themselves according to the standards of behaviour approved by the council. All other laws within this community are rubbed out. That is all’.
– Not with those words.
-Those words will do for the purpose of getting a general understanding. At the present time the Minister says: ‘But not without my approval shall you make new laws’. Then he goes on to add: ‘If I approve I will put them before Parliament and either House of Parliament may disallow them ‘. As I understand it, the purport of Senator Gietzelt ‘s amendment is to remove that control, that is to say, the control of the Minister to approve and the power of either House to disallow.
– Oh, no!
– Yes. Therefore we will get a complete Alsatia which is quite obnoxious.
– I move:
Leave out the sub-clause ( 9 ).
We believe that this is a very important matter that ought to be considered even though I realise that the Committee is racing against the clock in respect of dealing with this legislation. We are dealing with an attempt, through the legislation, to say that a by-law does not apply in relation to a person who is not an Aboriginal or an Islander. This provision seems to us to ignore completely the vital recommendations that were made by Mr Justice Woodward in his report in which he dealt so eloquently with the problems of Aboriginals. Like him, we are of the opinion that unless Aboriginal communities have the power to require non-Aboriginal residents or visitors to observe standards of behaviour- normal standards of behaviour- which are acceptable to those communities, social disintegration may well take place.
It seems rather absurd to think that a code of behaviour which is applied to those who live within the reserves, those who are subject to government by a council, should not apply to all of those who come onto the reserves. Surely we must recognise the fact that under the Queensland legislation permits are issued to enable people to go onto the reserves. The whole history of whites and blacks in Australia indicates that it is the behaviour of whites that is open to a great deal of question. Surely I do not have to remind the Committee of the appalling inroads that alcohol has made in Aboriginal communities or the unwanted sexual advances that have been made by non-Aboriginal men upon the traditional Aboriginal culture. We believe that non-Aboriginal guests in an Aboriginal community should be expected to observe the traditions, the by-laws and the codes of that community just as a visitor to Canberra, for example, is expected to accept the by-laws that operate here. It is no excuse for someone from Queensland, Western Australia, Victoria or New South Wales who breaks the by-laws in Canberra in respect of littering to say: ‘I am a visitor here, therefore I am not subject to the by-laws or the ordinances that operate ‘.
Why is there a policy of discrimination or differentiation in respect of Aboriginal reserves? We are at a loss to understand why the Government should persist with the view that the bylaws which operate for all people who are resident on the reserves and all the Aborigines and Islanders who visit the reserves should not apply to someone of another culture who comes onto the reserves. These people shall not be subjected to the same standards which are applied to those who live on the reserves. This seems to us an absurd proposition. In many respects the fact that there are to be exceptions to the rule is against the whole tenor of the legislation. If I have to use a euphemism, I would say ‘When in Rome do as the Romans do’. That is the sort of approach that ought to be applied in this case. We seriously put the view to the Ministerperhaps more seriously than we have done in respect of all the other amendments- that this amendment is worthy of more mature consideration by the Government.
– I want to make a brief comment about this amendment. I agree it seems odd that a white man who goes on to a reserve administered by a council for which, of course, he does not vote may not be under the control of that council in terms of behaviour. No doubt he is under some control if he breaks existing criminal law. If a group of bikies were to ride onto a reserve and create perhaps an undesirable situation, it would be surprising if there was no control in such a case.
I do not think that the objective of the Opposition is necessarily achieved by just deleting subclause (9). I think the Opposition is ignoring the fact that practically the whole of the clause, including sub-clause (9), is lifted almost entirely from the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Bill which this Parliament passed in 1976 but which has not yet been proclaimed. I do not recall that there was opposition to this proposal when that legislation was being considered. Clause 30 (9) of that legislation states:
A by-law does not apply in relation to a person who is not an Aboriginal
If we accepted the amendment we would have a situation in which the law passed in 1976 would be inconsistent with the provisions of this legislation. A provision in legislation passed by this Parliament less than two years ago is contained in the legislation we are now considering. I agree that it is not altogether satisfactory just to say this provision does not apply. Perhaps more should be done to investigate this matter. I do not think the amendment seeking to omit the sub-clause will achieve its purpose. It will leave our statutory law in a most curious position.
– I referred earlier when speaking on this clause to the constitutional doubt that would be created about a Bill of this kind if it were to provide for people other than Aborigines and Islanders. The advice that the Government has is that it could raise constitutional doubt and a provision of this kind should not be believed necessary simply for the reasons expressed by Senator Gietzelt. Senator Missen referred to the basic matter of representation. This is a Bill which deals with the selfmanagement of these communities and whilst no one would argue that there will be nonAborigines living in or close to the communities there are other ways in which the Opposition’s requirements could be met. For instance, if a person is employed on the community there could be requirements written into the terms of his employment regarding any matter which is considered necessary. It could be that permits which are given to people to enter and be on the reserve are issued under certain conditions. I would have to say that the real difficulty that the Government finds in accepting an amendment to remove sub-clause (9) is the constitutional doubt which it would raise.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 1 1 agreed to.
1 ) Where-
– I move:
This is probably the most fundamental amendment which the Opposition has. The first two parts of this amendment seek to give a council control over entry to or residence on a reserve. Unless this is done the Bill will fail to establish the right of Aboriginal councils to restrict entry, particularly of non-Aboriginals, on their reserves. The Opposition believes that the Bill is badly drafted for once again it appears to rely entirely on the Queensland Aborigines Act and the Queensland Torres Strait Islanders Act to establish the principle for the issue of permits. However, the future of the Queensland legislation is under review. It expired in the first instance at the beginning of this year but has recently been re-gazetted but, as we understand the statements of the Premier of Queensland, those Acts will be effective only until 30 June and it is not possible for a further re-gazettal to take place.
The Opposition has two objections to relying upon the Queensland Acts and I put it to the
Committee that they are substantial objections. Firstly, it would leave the effect of the Act we are discussing contingent upon the Queensland Premier not altering the regulations under this legislation. It would be possible for the Premier to subvert the intention of this Parliament by a simple administrative device. Secondly, the Queensland legislation, which expires in less that three months and may not be continued in the form in which it now operates, complements this clause. This is a bad situation.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator DrakeBrockman) It being 4.30 p.m., under sessional order I put the question:
That the Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the negative.
– It is simply bad law for this clause to rely almost entirely on Queensland Parliament Acts whose future is so uncertain. It has been argued in another place that the provisions of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act 1 975 cover our objections to this clause and my colleagues in another place raised this very matter. The definition of ‘Reserve’ on page 2 of this legislation relies upon Acts of the Queensland Parliament. This leaves the whole system of Aboriginal regulation of entry to reserves vulnerable to sabotage by the Queensland Administration and uncertain because of the doubts about the future of that legislation. It seems to us untenable for Aboriginal communities to be further distressed by this uncertainty and confusion. The effect of our amendment is simply to clear up this confusion, to make the legislation stand on its own and to protect it from legislative and administrative sabotage by the Queensland Government.
We have been debating problems arising from this Bill. The debate has shown that there are difficulties with the legislation, but every amendment which the Opposition has moved so far has been defeated. However, the fact that we are requiring the legislation to be considered and possibly further examined at the third reading stage only highlights that there are defects in this legislation. If that was not so the Government would feel confident that all the difficulties that have been raised in the debate had been overcome. Clearly the fact that the Government acknowledges that the matter needs to be referred to the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs is indicative of the existence within the legislation of certain deficiencies which need to receive further consideration. It is the integrity of this Parliament that is at stake. The legislation as it stands provides a perfect opportunity for the oft-stated claims of the Premier of Queensland and his Minister that Queensland will challenge the legislation. This could hold the Parliament and the public up to ridicule and get the Federal Government involved in a legal gymnastic exercise which, it seems to us, will start next Monday.
The amendments that we propose put into clear unequivocal language the intention of clause 10 but we do not believe that that intention is achieved by the clause as it now stands. It confers on Aboriginal communities no more rights than are possessed by any other Australian landholder although it does offer real power to those communities which, surely, is important. As I mentioned earlier, the word ‘premises’ appearing in both the Federal and State Acts means ‘land’. We non-Aboriginals have in our law and our traditions the right to deny people access to our premises. Surely that right ought to be written into the legislation and given to the Aboriginal communities so that persons living in those communities who regard the land as their premises have the right to determine entry. It is not extending to Aborigines what is not already the legal and established right of other Australians.
I think this amendment ought to be considered in the light of that conclusion. I think it is the responsibility of the Parliament to ensure both the effectiveness and the integrity of this legislation. I do not think that I can understate the importance of this amendment. I should like the Minister to look carefully at what we are saying and to give Aboriginal communities the right to decide who shall come onto their reserves, who shall live on their reserves and what shall take place on those reserves.
– Clause 12 re-inforces the council’s power to authorise entry of people. It ensures that any person authorised entry by the council cannot be removed by another authority under any other legislation. I think that is the point that Senator Gietzelt was making. That is the intention of clause 12. It ensures the power of the councils to authorise entry and it also ensures that any person authorised entry by the council cannot be removed by another authority.
The Opposition’s amendments have been moved to seek to ensure that only councils or the Minister can authorise entry. There could be some constitutional doubt about this matter and the second proposed sub-clause is unnecessary since the Aboriginal rights are already protected under the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Discriminatory Laws) Act. Under the Queensland legislation, the councils can revoke permits issued by the director. This Bill does not affect the power of the director to issue permits if application is made to him. Nor does it affect the power of the council to revoke any permit issued either by the director or by the council. It is for the reason that the whole intention of this Bill is to re-inforce the council ‘s power that we believe that the Opposition amendments are unnecessary. They are therefore not accepted by the Government.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 and 14 agreed to.
– I move:
These amendments are designed to strengthen the relative provisions of the Bill relating to the acquisition of land by the Commonwealth for Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. The terminology used in both of these sub-clauses does not provide, as many of the Aboriginal communities believe, for ownership of land, particularly in traditional tribal areas. Mr Justice Woodward, the Chairman of the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission, said in his report:
I have no doubt about the nature of the title -
He was referring to the title of land which should go to Aborigines- which should be granted. In spite of a number of submissions to the contrary effect from pastoral and other interests in the Northern Territory, I regard any form of leasehold title as inadequate to satisfy either the announced intentions of the Government or the expectation of Aborigines. I am conscious of the fact that there is a general trend in the community towards leasehold rather than freehold titles, but I accept the submission of the Central Land Council that any form of leasehold title would simply not be acceptable to
Aborigines ‘ as a satisfactory or proper solution to their aspirations ‘ in the case of reserve lands.
I do not have time to refer to the editorials in the Age or the Sydney Morning Herald about this whole question of title to Aboriginal lands, but notwithstanding the trepidation the Australian Government has about land rights, I find it rather unusual that a member of the Labor Party should be calling upon the Government to apply its own policy which was expressly established in its Aboriginal program. The Government accepts the principle of land rights but this legislation does not fully cover those eventualities. As these sub-clauses stand at the moment, Aborigines may be granted the use of tribal areas by the Commonwealth; they do not provide for ownership.
I know that this is neither the time nor the place to argue the question of ownership, but I have just been handed petitions from 594 Aborigines. I do not propose to submit them because, as I say, this is neither the time nor the place to do so. These petitions are from people at Aurukun, Kowanyama and Mornington Island and they request that the Federal Government recognise land rights in the States such as Queensland in a similar manner to the recognition of land rights in the Northern Territory, that is, to enact an Aboriginal Land Rights Act for Queensland’. I am told that this petition has now been signed by 14 out of the 15 chairmen in the Aboriginal communities in Queensland. So, starting with the Woodward Commission and going right through to the present day, there has been an appreciation by the Aborigines of the need for land rights to be recognised as an essential right. As this Bill stands at the moment, there is no provision for the transfer of titles to Aborigines. This submission by the Government could have disastrous effects. It will certainly be a disappointing response to the general demands by Aborigines in recent years and to the acceptance of the principle which has been applied in the Northern Territory.
This legislation regarding land rights for Aboriginal traditional areas and their normal rights pertaining to other members of the community does not satisfy Aboriginal wishes. Also, it leaves a major loophole in the legislation which clearly contradicts the previous legislation passed by the Parliament. Indeed it may hamstring the Commonwealth on future projects as to the question of ownership in tribal areas. The amendments I have moved are designed to provide ownership of lands for Aborigines whilst retaining the options open to the Commonwealth. We believe that it would be recreant on the Parliament’s pan if we were not to establish this principle.
– It is acknowledged that this clause does not provide for the acquisition of land. It was said at the outset of this debate that the special purpose of this Bill is to deal with selfmanagement of the communities. This clause, as said by Senator Gietzelt, does not provide for acquisition of land, but it does empower the Commonwealth to provide land should this become necessary. I have already stated what other actions might need to be taken by the Commonwealth some time in the future, depending on other circumstances. But this particular Bill is for the purpose we outlined in the beginning.
I do not wish to delay the Committee, but I think this should be placed on record: It was Mr Justice Woodward ‘s specific recommendation in his second report that titles should not be vested in community councils. He canvassed this possibility in his first report. But his specific recommendation in his second report was that it should not be vested in the community councils. The amendments moved by the Opposition seek to allow the Commonwealth to vest land in council. We believe that is inappropriate. The councils are not corporate bodies. It is the Commonwealth Government’s policy to have reserve lands vested in land trusts on behalf of those traditionally entitled to the land rather than in community councils. Whilst this is not the time or the place to have a long discussion on land rights or the acquisition of land, it is appropriate to say that what is suggested by the Opposition is that councils which are not corporate bodies should be vested with land. If Opposition senators had time to reflect upon such a decision they may have a different view. The purpose of this clause is that the Commonwealth may make land available to councils for carrying out their functions. The clause adequately provides for that to be done and the Opposition’s amendment is unacceptable.
That the amendments (Senator Gietzelt’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator the Hon. T. Drake-Brockman)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole, and agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Guilfoyle) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
-On the debate on the third reading of this Bill I draw the attention of the chamber to an article which appeared in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald by Mr Peter Bowers.
– We have all read it.
– Yes, all honourable senators have read it but apparently the point has not been emphasised in their minds. Once again we have a change of mind. According to the report by Mr Bowers- it seems to be well substantiateda little over a year ago the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) was in complete accord with Mr Bjelke-Petersen with regard to Aboriginal affairs. Now, apparently, the Prime Minister has changed his mind again. This indicates to me that we cannot rely on the legislation that is in the process of being passed at the moment. How do we know that there will not be a change in another few months? The report indicates quite clearly that this Government, under the leadership of the Prime Minister, has not had a definite policy on this matter and that somebody somewhere has managed to get him to agree to the legislation to which I am opposed and which is being debated in this chamber. This is a striking illustration of the change of mind that has taken place. We know that in 1 974 when the Whitlam Government launched some changes to matters affecting Aboriginal affairs the Liberal and National Country Parties were opposed to those changes.
– We are all out of step.
– Yes, honourable senators certainly have side-stepped. I am sure that the people of Australia do not know where honourable senators stand because they change step so often. It does appear that the Prime Minister changed his mind, as well as a lot of other people. We have now had this evidence given by Sir Peter Bowers in his article. We heard striking evidence during the debate, and the information came forward that Senator Bonner himself changed his mind after stating that the Queensland Government -
– It must be wonderful to be the only one who is ever right.
– Do not be such a crawler: You shot them all in Tasmania. At the time Senator Bonner complimented the Queensland Government. He was proud to have come from those missions and he said that he objected very strongly to the Federal people having anything to do with them. Now, of course, there is such a change of mind that the people of this country must be worried about whether anybody has any stability of thinking so far as legislation is concerned. I want to make it clear that there is evidence that the Prime Minister supported the views of those of us who are opposing the Bill today. Now we find that there has been a complete change. Where are we going to be if we have this continual changing of mind by the Prime Minister and the Liberal-National Country Party Government?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
-I seek leave of the Senate to have incorporated in Hansard a series of documents, copies of which are in the possession of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and which deal with an Argentinian political refugee. The documents are simply letters directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) and the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr McKellar), with attachments.
The documents read as follows- 7 April 1978
The Hon. Andrew Peacock, M.P., Minister for Foreign Affairs, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600
My dear Minister,
I enclose copies of documents served upon your ministerial colleague, the Hon. M. MacKellar, M.P., Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, relative to the efforts of Sydney Trade Unions to aid Miss Rosa Mohaded, 1/50 Wiley Street, Waverley, NSW, to have her sister, Ana Maria Mohaded, released from the Cordoba Penitentiary in the Argentine where she has been subject to severe political duress.
Both ACTU President, Bob Hawke, and NSW Labor Council Secretary, the Hon. J. Ducker, M.L.C., share my concern that we give much less compassion to Latin American cases involving political refugees status than we have to the stream of boat people who besiege Darwin.
Yours very frankly,
Senator for New South Wales 6 April 1978
The Hon. M. J. R. MacKellar, M.P., Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, Parliament House, Canberra, ACT 2600
Mr dear Minister,
Political Refugee Status for Argentinian National, Ana Maria Mohaded
Several days ago I served upon the Argentinian Ambassador in Canberra the attached document, Appendix ‘A’, wherein the sister of the above political refugee applicant made a personal request to the Argentinian Government for release of her sister from imprisonment on political grounds which was fortified by the issue of a certificate of solicitude which was in effect authority to enter political exile if another nation gave her entry.
In an exchange of views with the Argentinian Ambassador he made it abundantly clear that only Australian Government co-operation to treat Miss Mohaded as a political exile would result in her release.
Might I emphasise that I refuse to accept the direct imposition of people on the Australian Government without your own Ministerial evaluation, but on that basis I have yet to see flexibility in Latin American applicants suffering political duress approach anything like the incessant stream of boat people who claim to be escaping from a Left Wing Asian Government and in that context I enclose Appendix ‘B’ which shows that the girl in question must have encountered some very naive Australian Immigration Officer when interviewed as my stock question to such people would have been how much money had they made from blackmarket operations and been taxed on such money to rehabilitate their war-devastated homeland.
A mounting resentment is developing amongst Sydney trade unions (and I spoke at several meetings during the last break) that Latin Americans in countries with military juntas in control backed by their Australian relatives don ‘t get anything like the solicitude given to the boat people.
It is in that context and based upon Appendix ‘C’ I will be seeking your approval to meet a Sydney Latin American Community deputation in the next off week to discuss this aspect of political refugee policy.
I have also advised senior officers of the NSW Labor Council and unions with sizeable Latin American membership of ARV, AMWU, Rubber Workers Union that via the ACTU we will be forced to commence national agitation unless more evenhandedness is manifest.
Senator for New South Wales
Rosa Susana Mohaded 1/50 Wiley Street Waverley 2024, N.S.W.
The Embassador of Argentina Mr Armando Bulacia Canberra, A.C.T.
I, Rosa Susana Mohaded, Argentina Passport No. 9.349.462, sister of Ana Maria Mohaded (LC No. 13.178.906), who is being held in the Penitentiary of Cordoba since October 1976, would like to ask permission for my sister to leave the National Territory of Argentina. This option is provided for by article 10 of the law 2 1 650.
I enclose the ‘Certificate of Solicitude to leave the country’ issued by the Argentinian authorities, and also a covering letter to the above certificate, dated 17 October 1977, which refers to my mother’s application in the same cause.
ROSA SUSANA MOHADED
REFUGEE HID DIAMONDS INSIDE HER BODY
PERTH- A woman refugee from Vietnam flew into Australia recently with diamonds worth about $ 100,000 hidden inside her body.
King Edward Memorial Hospital for Women confirmed last night that the diamonds had been hidden in her body.
A newspaper report said that the woman had forced the diamonds into her uterus before fleeing from Vietnam.
The diamonds were discovered when doctors carried out routine medical checks on the woman after she arrived at Graylands Hostel in Perth.
Doctors initially thought that the lump in her uterus was a fibroid growth, but the woman told them about the diamonds.
According to the newspaper report, the woman ‘s husband said through an interpreter at the hostel that they had sold their three-storey house and building business and converted the money to gold leaf and diamonds.
The sister in charge at the hospital said last night that the woman was not at the hospital.
Asked whether the Vietnamese woman had had the diamonds in her body, she said ‘She did have them ‘.
The couple were selected by Australian Immigration Department officials in Malaysia and arrived in Perth on Christmas Eve.
-I direct a question to the Minister repesenting the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. It is based on a Press release of last week wherein the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs stated that, after consultation with the United Nations Refugee Commissioner, he had created an interdepartmental committee to consider the political refugee status of people entering Australia obviously on tourist visas and of those who present themselves at Australian ports for the same privileges. Coupled with an earlier assurance about the unique situation besetting Latin American nationals, I ask the Minister: In addition to the statement, what has been done to meet the situation that is confronting the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs now in respect of Latin Americans in gaols who are offered exile to another country but are not recognised at the moment by the Minister as genuine political refugee applicants.
– The people referred to in the Minister’s statement cited by Senator Mulvihill fall into the category of those who, not being outside their country of origin or normal domicile, would not qualify for consideration under the Government’s refugee policy. However, there is scope for compassionate consideration by the Minister of all applications for migration to Australia. He takes into account necessitous circumstances or any other factors that he believes should be taken into account. Support by relatives or charitable organisations would also be relevant to any applications. Such cases would need to be examined and decided on the individual circumstances surrounding them, including whether full interviews have been held, whether medical reports are available and whether the applicants are free to travel. When making the original statement the Minister for Immigration had in mind that he would arrange for any cases referred to him by the Latin American community to be examined as quickly as circumstances would permit and that he would give them compassionate consideration. 7 April 1978
The Hon. J. Ducker, MLC, Secretary, NSW Trades and Labor Council, 377-383 Sussex Street, SYDNEY NSW 2000
I enclose copy of a communication with attachments forwarded to the Hon. J. MacKellar, MP, Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, relative to the efforts of sections of the Sydney Latin American community to have Ana Mohaded freed from political imprisonment in the Argentine and allowed to join her sister in Sydney.
Senator for New South Wales
– I thank members of the Senate for their patience and co-operation today, and move:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.59 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
Have there been instructions issued since 1 July 1977 to the effect that Army Reserve units are to limit the number of training days for the 1 977-78 financial year; if so, what is the text of the instruction or instructions.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
General Officers Commanding and Commanders of Military Districts have been asked to observe more closely the average annual training requirement of 36 days determined by the Chief of the General Staff as being appropriate for reserve units.
This was the requirement on which estimates for the financial year 1 977-78 were based. The advice drew attention to the need for adequate control by commanders at all levels to ensure that any additional training was essential and that the average of 36 days training per man was not exceeded within their units.
The statistics given in answer to question 28 show that on average the number of paid training days for Queensland units were approximately the same as for all reserve units throughout Australia in 1974-75, below the average for all units in Australia in 1975-76 and above the average for all units in Australia in 1976-77.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to an alleged practice of regular or reserve armed forces members driving tracked vehicles backward so that the required distance or rime of use does not register or goes backward resulting in a requirement for servicing the vehicles at less frequent intervals; if so, has the Minister had the alleged practice investigated and what were the results of his investigation.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The allegation has been investigated and there is no evidence of the practice or any similar one.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 22 February 1 978:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
What has been the result of inquiries surrounding the World War I court martial of Gunner W. H. Vandertak.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The records related to the Field General Court Martial of Gunner Vandertak were most carefully examined. The officer performing the duties of Judge Advocate General advised that, in his opinion, there is adequate evidence to support the charges on which Gunner Vandertak was convicted and that he could find no basis for further review of the conviction or of the sentence in its final form.
Investigation revealed that Gunner Vandertak was released from treatment at the 4th Australian General Hospital on 23 August 1918 and subsequently discharged from the Army medically unfit on 7 7 Septem mber 1 9 1 8.
It was therefore deemed that Gunner Vandertak had been honourably discharged and that an entitlement to war medals does exist.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
-The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Authorities-Aboriginal Hostels Ltd, Aboriginal Loans Commission, Albury/Wodonga Development Corporation, Australia Council, Australia Post, Australian Broadcasting Commission, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority, Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, Australian Capital Territory Police, Australian Electoral Office, Australian Government Retirement Benefits Office, Australian National Railways Commission, Australian National University, Australian Security Intelligence Organisation, Australian Taxation Office,
Australian Wheat Board, Capital Territory Health Commission, Commonwealth Banking Corporation, Commonwealth Police, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Commonwealth Teaching Service, Darwin Reconstruction Commission, Defence Force Retirement and Death Benefit Authority, Defence Service Homes Corporation, Health Insurance Commission, National Capital Development Commission, National Library, Northern Territory Police, Office of the Commissioner for Community Relations, Office of the Governor-General, Office of the Insurance Commissioner, Office of the Public Service Board, Pipeline Authority, Qantas, Reserve Bank of Australia, Tax Agents Board, Telecom Australia, Trade Practices Commission, Trans Australia Airlines.
HMAS ‘Penguin’: Billeting of Personnel (Question No. 189)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 7 March 1 978:
-The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, upon notice, on 2 March 1978:
– The Minister for Veterans’ Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 14 March 1978:
What action has been taken by the Government to develop ‘a national philosophy which mobilises public opinion to recognise the discrimination suffered by the handicapped in our midst; a philosophy which motivates employers, trade unionists, the man in the street to play a role in overcoming barriers which continue to deny the handicapped many of the fundamental human rights’, in view of the Minister’s speech at Manila, in January 1978, concerning legislation for the handicapped in Australia, and the Minister’s reference to services for ‘severely disabled persons of working age ‘.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
In my speech at Manila in January 1 978 1 emphasised that in fact what is lacking in Australia today is a national philosophy which mobilises public opinion to recognise discrimination suffered by the handicapped in our midst. There is much work needed to be done in this field to correct this position.
To date preliminary steps only in this direction have been taken, but they have been quite significant ones. Amongst these have been recommendations made on a broad range of g revisions for the handicapped in, for example, the ( 197 1 ) Report on Mentally and Physically Handicapped Persons in Australia by the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, the (1974) Woodhouse Report on Compensation and Rehabilitation in Australia and the (1976) Martin Report on the Social/Medical Aspects of Poverty in Australia. All these Reports stress the need for a national focus on problems experienced by the handicapped, including difficulties in employment, housing, transport, access and in meeting many other obstacles created by, for example, unnecessarily rigid medical standards, social prejudices or simply a lack of community understanding. The Reports all recognise that the development of human potential is limited by available services, by existing social attitudes to work and, for many of working age, by the type of employment opportunities which are available.
In emphasising the desirability of encouraging increased awareness of the needs and abilities of disabled persons I am particularly conscious of the work of the National Advisory Council for the Handicapped (N.A.C.H.).
The National Advisory Council has been operational since 1 974- and has wide terms of reference. Amongst other things, it has recommended to the Government that for the International Year for Disabled Persons scheduled for 198 1, the theme ‘Access to Community Life’ be adopted, with education as an integral part of the program. The Standing Interdepartmental Committee on Rehabilitation which works in close association with NACH, is also currently examining in some detail federal policies on a number of issues affecting handicapped people including, in particular, the broad problem of access.
In addition, the National Advisory Council for the Handicapped has had discussions with the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Australian Federation of Employers Organisation and the Australian Council for Rehabilitation of Disabled, as a result of which it has been agreed to form a committee to examine all aspects of the employment of handicapped people. Both N.A.C.H. and my own Department are also observing closely the progress being made in South Australia by the Committee of Inquiry headed by Justice Bright, which is presently examining the rights of handicapped people.
The abovementioned steps are, of course, preliminary ones only in the Government’s efforts to motivate people to play a role in overcoming barriers which continue to deny the handicapped many fundamental human rights. As Government funding permits further significant steps will be taken in this direction in the future.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 14 March 1 978:
Will the Minister give details of: (a) Major new programs; (b) any great expansion of funds available to organisations; (c) increased rehabilitation services provided by the Commonwealth; and (d) any increase in pensions and benefitsparticularly those relating to handicapped people- which have been provided by the Government, in view of the Minister’s speech at Manila, in January 1978, concerning legislation for the handicapped in Australia, and the Minister’s reference to services for ‘severely disabled persons of working age’.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Items (a) to (c) Since regaining office in 1 975, the Government has introduced a number of significant new programs relating to handicapped persons, including broadened services and increased benefits for the individual, as well as continuing, but greatly enhanced subsidy programs for voluntary organisations providing special forms of vocational, training and accommodation assistance for handicapped people. These include the following:
Financial assistance to voluntary organisations- In the financial year of 1 975-76 $30m was made available to voluntary organisations under the Handicapped Persons Assistance Act. A triennium program was commenced in the 1976-77 financial year making available a total of $121m to voluntary organisations to be divided as follows: 1976-77-$30m;1977-78-$39m;1978-79-$52m.
Extension of funding arrangements- Because of the Government’s concern for the welfare and care of handicapped people, it has been decided to extend the threeyear program. This will help to ensure a rolling program of assistance for the handicapped and allow many eligible organisations to continue their long-term planning. However, no decision has yet been finalised regarding the amount of additional funds to be provided for the extended program.
) Changes in policy relating to rehabilitation servicesAmendments to Part VIII of the Social Services Act came into operation on and from 10 November 1977. The effect of these amendments has been to widen the categories of persons who may be provided with Commonwealth Rehabilitation Service (CRS) treatment and training free-of-charge. It is now possible for the Service to accept handicapped persons from within the broad working age group who are neither pensioners nor beneficiaries, but who would derive substantial benefit from the Service.
Priority will be given initially to the acceptance of disabled housewives within the working-age group. Such assistance as fares and subsistence, special transport, the provision as required or accommodation, etc., whilst undergoing treatment, necessary protective clothing, medical requisites for treatment purposes, and many other forms of assistance may be provided as necessary and without exception to the new eligibility groups. It is envisaged that the new service will develop as an intrinsic and well-defined part of community services for the handicapped in each State.
In addition, in the case of individual clients who are accepted for assistance of a non-vocational nature, consideration will be given to providing services which complement those of other community-based agencies for the handicapped. Persons may also now be accepted for rehabilitation with a view to providing them with parttime programs. These may be arranged at a CRS centre, through an appropriate community facility, or in the person ‘sown home.
Aids, appliances, and transport assistance- The provision of aids and appliances is extended to all cases covered under the new provisions with the proviso that the aid is essential to meet the rehabilitation objective.
The Government is also conscious that the existing sales tax exemption scheme on the purchase of new motor vehicles does not cover the special travel needs of many handicapped persons and in this regard my department is examining various alternative forms of transport assistance for handicapped people unable to utilise public transport.
Item (d) referred to increases in pensions and benefitsThe Social Services Act was amended in October 1976 to provide for automatic adjustment of pensions and benefits every six months in line with movements in the Consumer Price Index (CPI). The standard and married rates of pensions and benefits are increased every May by the increase in the CPI between the preceding June and December quarters, and every November by the increase in the CPI between the preceding December and June quarters.
Since this Government took Office at the end of 1975, basic pensions and benefits for disabled aged, widowed, sole parents and the unemployed have risen from $38.75 to $49.30 a week for a single person and from $64.50 to $82.20 a week for a married couple.
Also at the end of 1976, the means test, which took account of both income and assets, was replaced by an income test for pension purposes. This change was of great advantage to many invalid pensioners.
In November 1977, sickness benefits for the temporarily incapacitated were made available to women on the same basis as they are available to men. No longer do married women have to establish that it is not possible for their husbands to maintain them during a period of illness. If they have lost income because of illness or injury, and if the family income is below certain limits, sickness benefit is paid.
For the parents who have a severely handicapped child and who provide care in their own homes, the handicapped child’s allowance was increased from $10 to $15 a week from November 1976. In November last year, the scheme was extended to provide a payment of up to $15 a week where a parent or guardian is providing care for a substantially handicapped child and who is suffering financial hardship because of the costs of that care.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 15 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Week ending 4 February- 72 hours by 9 officers
Week ending 25 February- 105 hours by 1 5 officers
No overtime was worked during weeks ending 1 1 and 18 February.
asked the Minister for Social Security, upon notice, on 15 March 1978:
-The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Payments of unemployment benefit to persons mentioned in the representations from the Union have been brought up to date. In addition the work in the Townsville office of my Department, which handles the payment of benefits in the Bowen district is up to date, and new claims and continuation payments are being processed promptly.
Difficulties in processing work connected with unemployment benefits have been resolved. They arose in part to a breakdown of computer equipment in the Townsville office, and resulting delays.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 April 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780407_senate_31_s76/>.