31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 3.S p.m., and read prayers.
Aboriginal Land Rights in Queensland
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
. 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 i.e. enact an Aboriginal Land Rights Act for Queensland;
That the Federal Government support the abolition of the Aborigines Act (Queensland) 1971 and the Torres Strait Islanders Act (Queensland) 1971 and take such action as they may deem necessary to ensure that the provisions of the Queensland Discriminatory Laws Act 197S and the Racial Discrimination Act 197S be enforced in so far as they relate to Aborigines and Islanders;
That the Federal Government assume responsibility for Aboriginal Affairs in Queensland under the powers given them by the Referendum of 1967. The State Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement Queensland should be abolished and Aboriginal and Island reserves in Queensland should have the choice to be self-governed with local government status.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Aboriginal Land Rights in Queensland
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
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 i.e. enact an Aboriginal Land Rights Act for Queensland;
That the Federal Government support the abolition of the Aborigines Act (Queensland) 1971 and the Torres Strait Islanders Act (Queensland) 1971 and take such action as they may deem necessary to ensure that the provisions of the Queensland Discriminatory Laws Act 1 975 and the Racial Discrimination Act 1 975 be enforced in so far as they relate to Aborigines and Islanders;
That the Federal Government assume responsibility for Aboriginal Affairs in Queensland under the powers given them by the Referendum of 1967. The State Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement Queensland should be abolished and Aboriginal and Island reserves in Queensland should have the choice to be self-governed with local government status.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
. We support the construction of the City Bus Interchange as part of the plan to upgrade Canberra’s public transport system.
The facility will provide bus users with long overdue protection from Canberra ‘s extreme climate.
It will also provide an information bureau and other amenities for bus users and drivers.
That the proposed site at the corner of London Circuit and Northbourne Avenue is the most central for the majority of bus users.
The site also gives the speediest bus access to Northbourne Avenue, the major traffic artery.
It is envisaged that the Interchange, by encouraging greater use of public transport, will help to reduce car congestion, noise and exhaust pollution in Civic.
We support first class landscaping around the buildings to ensure they blend in with the present environment.
Your petitioners ask that the Senate urge the Minister for the Capital Territory to take action in relation to the construction of the City Bus Interchange.
Petition received and read.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate of the Commonwealth in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
. We support the construction of the City Bus Interchange as pan of the plan to upgrade Canberra’s public transport system.
The facility will provide bus users with long overdue protection from Canberra ‘s extreme climate.
It will also provide an information bureau and other amenities for bus users and drivers.
That the proposed site at the corner of London Circuit and Northbourne Avenue is the most central for the majority of bus users.
The site also gives the speediest bus access to Northbourne Avenue, the major traffic artery.
It is envisaged that the Interchange, by encouraging greater use of public transport will help to reduce car congestion, noise and exhaust pollution in Civic.
We support first class landscaping around the buildings to ensure they blend in with the present environment.
Your petitioners ask that the Senate urges the Minister for the Capital Territory to take action in relation to the construction of the City Bus Interchange.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
To the Honourable the President and Senators here assembled. We the undersigned humbly pray:
. That the Government ensures Item 6469 is not removed from the standard Medical Benefits Table.
That this item under which an estimated 49,145 contributors claimed in the 1976-77 financial year, covers a legal and medically approved procedure.
That the removal of this item from the schedule would destroy the concept of universal health insurance, and would have the most serious repercussions for women and their health
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Senate Messner- I present the following petition from 12 citizens of Australia:
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 Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully showeth:
On 14 February 1975, the then Australian Government deprived the Officers and men of the Australian Citizen Naval Military and Air Forces of the distinctive and historic Decorations and Medals for long service and good conduct, namely the Reserve Decoration, the Efficiency Decoration, the Air Efficiency Award, the Efficiency Medal and Long Service and Good Conduct Medals, awarded for long and meritorious voluntary service in the Citizen forces:
The proposed substitution of the National Medal for these Decorations and Medals varies the principle of selective recognition of efficient voluntary service in the Citizen forces in that it recognises the period of service only and embraces also full time service as well in the defence forces as in the police, fire brigade and ambulance service.
This deprivation caused and is continuing to cause serious discontent amongst personnel of the Citizens Forces who willingly and cheerfully give of their spare time outside their normal full time civilian careers, to serve Her Majesty and Australia:
The Reserve Forces of Australia have been recognized by the present Government as a valuable- and costeffective component of the Defence Forces. Anomalously, whilst the Government is actually supporting recruiting for these Forces it has imposed and continued this deprivation which as foresaid has depressed the morale of the Citizen Forces:
Her Majesty has not cancelled the said Decorations and Medals.
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, Citizens Military Force (Army Reserve) and Citizens Air Force.
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 Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully sheweth:
1) On 14th February, 1975, the then Australian Government deprived the Officers and men of the Australian Citizen Naval Military and Air Forces of the distinctive and historic Decorations and Medals for long service and good conduct, namely the Reserve Decoration, the Efficiency Decoration, the Air Efficiency Award, the Efficiency Medal and Long Service and Good Conduct Medals, awarded for long and meritorious voluntary service in the citizen forces:
The proposed substitution of the National Medal for these Decorations and Medals varies the principle of selective recognition of efficient voluntary service in the citizen forces in that it recognizes the period of service only and embraces also full time service as well in the defence forces as in the police, fire brigade and ambulance services:
This deprivation caused and is continuing to cause serious discontent amongst personnel of the Citizens Forces who willingly and cheerfully give of their spare time outside their normal full time civilian careers, to serve Her Majesty and Australia:
The Reserve Forces of Australia have been recognized by the present Government as a valuable- and costeffective component of the Defence Forces. Anomalously, whilst the Government is actually supporting recruiting for these Forces it has imposed and continued this deprivation which as foresaid has depressed the morale of the Citizen Forces:
Her Majesty has not cancelled the said Decorations and Medals.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray.
Your Honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals for Long Service and Good Conduct to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Army Reserve (C.M.F.) and the R.A.A.F. Citizens Air Force.
– A petition has been lodged for presentation as follows:
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 showeth:
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, Citizens Military Force (Army Reserve) and Citizens Air Force. by Senator Guilfoyle.
– I inform the Senate that at 7.30 this morning the thermal alarm system in Parliament House detected a fire in the area occupied by Library staff on the ground floor of Parliament House. The Australian Capital Territory Fire Brigade was quickly on the scene, but the Deputy Housekeeper was the first to locate the fire and, with a hand-held extinguisher, he was able to extinguish it. The cause of the fire is not known, but inquiries to determine this are proceeding. I am sure honourable senators will join me in congratulating the Deputy Housekeeper, Mr Ray Dean, on his prompt action in putting out the fire.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
-Mr President, I was just meditating on the possibility that if this place had been burned down we might have had a new and permanent Parliament House at last. My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and refers to the discussions which took place between Queensland Government Ministers and Commonwealth Government Ministers last night. Is it correct that the Queensland Government intends to legislate to provide for leases to the councils of
Aboriginal settlements in Queensland? In view of the fact that much of the land concerned is traditional Aboriginal land, has the Government received undertakings regarding the terms and conditions of the proposed leases?
– In a joint statement which was issued by the Prime Minister and the Queensland Premier last night one of the matters that was stated was that leases would be arranged for the Aborigines in the two areas concerned. The Queensland Government has offered to consult with the Commonwealth Government on the terms of the legislation required to provide for self-management through the operations of local government in order to achieve mutual agreement between the relevant Ministers. In the context of that agreement, the Queensland Government plans to grant to each local government authority a special lease of the area to secure the preservation of the people’s traditional rights and the use and occupancy of the land. As far as the Commonwealth Government is concerned, there will be close consultation with the Aboriginal people at both of the communities which we have been discussing. The Ministers believe that the legislation which will be introduced into the Queensland Parliament, probably next week, will be within the terms of the agreement reached with the Commonwealth Government yesterday.
– As a supplementary question, Mr President, I again ask the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs: Are we to understand that the agreement- if we can call it an agreement- is only one of the principles and that the details of the manner in which the Queensland Government will exercise its rights under its laws in the reserves is yet to be determined?
– We understand from what was stated yesterday that the agreement which the Queensland Government has entered into with the Commonwealth Government is one under which there will be consultation on matters relating to the legislation which will provide for the leases and on all of the matters which were the subject of the mutual agreement. This is part of the way in which the Commonwealth Government did negotiate and reach understanding with the Queensland Government yesterday, namely, that whilst the legislation needs to be introduced in the Queensland Parliament, there will be consultation and agreement with the Commonwealth Government on these matters.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence and again relates to the German manufactured Leopard tanks which are being supplied to Australia. What is the quarterly allowance of practice ammunition for each tank crew? How does this practice allowance compare with the quarterly allowances of practice ammunition allocated to each tank crew in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces equipped with Leopard tanks? Do overseas suppliers of this ammunition advise a delay in supply of about two years, and is it correct that the orders for this ammunition now placed with Australian Government factories involve a delay in supply of about three years? Did de Havilland Australia make an offer to the Department of Defence for the production of practice shot with a delay time of only nine months and did the Department of Defence reject a proposal in offset arrangements that Vickers-Ruwolt manufacture 3,000 sets of tank track with assembly at the Department of Productivity factory at Lithgow?
-I am advised by my colleague in the other place as follows :
Ammunition is not allocated quarterly but rather is allocated on an annual basis and in block, in this case to the First Armoured Regiment. There are currently three types of Leopard Tank practice ammunition and the combined allocation to the First Armoured Regiment for the 1978-79 training year is 1,830 rounds which equates to 35 rounds per tank. It should be appreciated that at present there are more tank crews than tanks. In addition individuals could also use practice ammunition whilst undergoing courses at the Armoured Centre.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. With respect to the Minister, I am wondering whether this is not exposing our nation to people who may have vested interests in this country.
– Speaking as an ex-sergeant.
– No, I am serious. This would give them an opportunity to appreciate and understand how denuded we are in regard to our defence capabilities in this country, and I ask the Minister to consider the answer in the light of what I have said. If we have only limited rounds of ammunition for the purpose of practice, I hate to think what we have for the purpose of the genuine defence of this country. I am quite serious about this matter. I am concerned that the disclosures by the Minister- not that he would do this intentionally- might encourage other countries which have an interest in this country.
– Order! The matter raised by the honourable senator does not constitute a point of order.
-I point out to the honourable senator that I am talking about practice ammunition and not real ammunition. The answer continues in relation to the second question:
It is not possible to be definitive as to the allocations of Leopard Tank practice ammunition made by NATO Armies. In any case a comparison would be misleading having regard to their different training requirements stemming from their NATO obligations.
The third question is answered as follows:
The quoted delivery time for supply of practice tank ammunition from overseas varies from 14 months to 4 1 months depending upon the source of supply and the type of ammunition. Orders were placed with the Australian Government factories in September 1976 to establish a capability for the manufacture of certain types of tank ammunition. This involves an examination of manufacturing techniques used overseas and the installation of new manufacturing machinery in the local factories. At present the first delivery of this ammunition is planned to commence during 1 980.
That is as I am advised by the Minister for Defence. As to the fourth question:
De Havillands Australia did make an offer for the production of practice shot projectiles only, to the Department of Defence. This would have required separate arrangements to be made for the manufacture and filling of cartridge cases in Government factories. A lead time of almost two years from date of offer was involved although this was subsequently amended verbally in a conversation with an officer of the Department of Administrative Services to ‘nine to twelve months’. The distinction between the De Havilland offer for projectiles and the subsequent order for complete rounds, placed with the Government factories, because of the need to employ existing staff, should be noted.
In relation to the fifth question my colleague has advised:
Vickers-Ruwolt made a series of proposals to the Department of Defence, the latest being in August 1 977, for the manufacture of tank track sets with the partial involvement of the Department of Productivity Lithgow factory. The offers were essentially related to the provision of high usage spares for future use by the Australian Army and not as a tank offset arrangement for supply to Europe. The offers were rejected as being too expensive in comparison with prices quoted from Germany. The Government, through the Department of Productivity, is currently seeking to negotiate a licence from the German manufacturer for Australian sourced tracks, possibly through that Department’s factories which have offered the best prices.
– I preface my question to the Attorney-General by reminding him that the agreement reached between the Queensland Government and the Australian Government now gives to the Aborigines of Mornington Island and Aurukun less control over their communities and lands than they had prior to the original confrontation between the two Governments. Can the Minister inform the Parliament whether it will be possible for the Australian Government to fund a case on behalf of Aborigines and their title to land rights in Queensland to the International Court of Justice? Can he also inform the Parliament whether, in view of yesterday’s decision, it will now no longer be necessary to introduce in this chamber a Bill for an Act to amend the unproclaimed Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976?
– I have considerable doubt as to how far the question relates to matters within my portfolio. I suggest that the honourable senator put the question on notice.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. I preface my question by saying that it has been alleged that during recent weeks more than 6,000,000 lb of peas and beans have been imported from New Zealand. It has been further alleged that they are being placed in Australian shops on a basis which must be regarded as dumping, at 40 per cent below the ruling Australian price under the brand name ‘Logan Farm’. Can the Minister advise whether the allegations are correct? If they are correct, what corrective action has been, or will be, taken?
-My colleague in the other place has given me the following briefing information:
The information available to Australian officials who are maintaining a watch on imports of frozen peas and beans from New Zealand indicates that imports have been increasing rapidly in recent months and that some of these are being sold at prices considerably lower than current Australian prices. However, information is not sufficiently complete at this stage to confirm the figures cited by the honourable senator. There is a long history of co-operation and consultation between Australia and New Zealand on trade in frozen peas and beans involving the industries as well as governments and there has already been consultation concerning recent trends. Officials on both sides are currently working with the respective industries to obtain the full facts of the situation. I finally advise the honourable senator that this matter will be discussed further at the meeting to be held later this week on the New Zealand- Australia Free Trade Agreement.
– My question is addressed to you, Mr President, in your capacity as Presiding Officer. I refer to your statement made shortly before Question Time about the fire in the Parliamentary Library. Is it a fact, as reported, that the Australian Capital Territory Fire Brigade was delayed in its entry into Parliament House because its members did not have security passes?
– I inform the honourable senator that, as I have already stated, the fire brigade was here promptly. By the time the brigade got here the Deputy Housekeeper had extinguished the fire. I have not heard anything to suggest that the fire brigade officers were impeded in their entry to Parliament House. The honourable senator’s question seems to have a humorous tone.
– I ask a supplementary question, Mr President. Will you make inquiries regarding this matter because it was reported as a matter of some seriousness?
– I doubt the seriousness of the question but as a matter of interest I shall ascertain whether there were any delays. I believe it is utterly ridiculous to suggest that security passes should be issued to personnel of fire brigades.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry been drawn to the fact that at a dinner held in London recently to mark the centenary of Andre Simon, the foundation President of Britain’s Wine and Food Society, an Australian red wine, Lake’s Folly Cabernet 1968 was acclaimed to be a better wine -
– That is advertising.
-I understand that it is a Victorian wine, which is most unusual. Is the Minister aware that it was acclaimed to be a better wine than the top French claret- I might seek Senator Wheeldon ‘s guidance on the pronunciation Gruaud La Rose 1967 Bordeaux? Is the Minister aware that the wellknown English wine consultant, Serena Sutcliffe, has referred to the Australian wine as one of the top 10 reds in the world? In view of this magnificent international acceptance of an Australian wine, which is only one of many of similar quality, will the Minister ask his colleague in another place to investigate ways and means of providing finance to the wine-making industry or the Australian Wine Board to promote export sales of our red wines?
-The honourable senator from South Australia certainly has the wine industry at heart and I am aware of the outstanding way in which he has pursued his interest for the support of the wine industry in South Australia. He asks me whether I will seeks ways and means of having finance provided for the industry or for the Australian Wine Board. I will certainly refer that matter to the Minister whom I represent. In the first part of the question he asked about a certain wine which was said to be better than some top French wines. I do not think that that is anything new. Many of Australia’s wines have been said to be at least of the same quality as many of the historically acclaimed brands of French wine. He mentioned Lake’s Folly. He will be interested to know that Max Lake, who prepared this wine, is a surgeon who originally came from New South Wales. I know that those honourable senators opposite who are making such a noise will be interested to know that he taught Senator Baume.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I refer to your rulings in this chamber on numerous occasions in which you have suggested that honourable senators restrict the length of their questions. That ruling is complied with fairly well. You have also asked all Ministers to be equally brief. I draw to your attention the fact that a lot of material in the reply being delivered by Senator Webster is quite irrelevant to the question, and I ask you to look at this matter.
– I have allowed the Minister to reply in the manner he chose. Senator Webster, have you finished?
– Yes, Mr President, so long as the Hansard reporter heard my last few remarks, that Mr Lake is a surgeon from New South Wales and that he instructed Senator Baume when he was a student.
-The AttorneyGeneral may remember that last week I asked him whether it was a fact that the Government was recording overseas telephone calls and monitoring overseas cables. Has he yet been able to find out whether the matter which was reported to me was correctly reported and whether in fact such activities are taking place?
– Unfortunately, I have not yet obtained the information that Senator Wheeldon requested. I will endeavour to accelerate the attention that is being given to this question. I regret that I do not yet have the information.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. Recent Press reports allege that the attempts of Soviet workers to organise themselves into proper trade unions and for them to be recognised as such by the International Labour Organisation have been met by severe repressive measures by the Soviet Government. Could the Minister approach the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and inquire whether he is aware of the situation? If so, would the Minister, in view of Australia’s membership and continuing substantial financial support for the ILO, ensure through our representatives on that body that the ILO would investigate and act positively in favour of Soviet workers’ rights and interests?
– I am sure that the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and all honourable senators would be most interested in the information conveyed by Senator Lajovic in his question about attempts by Soviet workers to form trade unions. The honourable senator asks whether I will convey this question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations and to seek to obtain through our membership of the International Labour Organisation, some support for this attempt by Soviet workers. I will certainly convey the question to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations from whom I would expect the very greatest interest and attention.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Science in the first instance; alternatively, I direct the question to the Minister in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware of a recent report about a pest by the name of servan ‘i grapier which entomologists uniquely describe as a gum leaf, grass root eating grub, capable of devastating vegetable crops and pastures if protective measures are not taken? I am reliably informed that current pesticides are inefficient in controlling or eradicating this menace. Will the Minister give this matter his urgent consideration to ascertain: (a) where this pest has been sighted in Australia; (b) the dimensions of any infestations; and (c) what measures may be taken to deal with this serious threat to vegetable crops and pastures?
-Mr President, I find myself in a very difficult situation. I do not seek your help in this matter but you have heard the points of order raised by Senator Keeffe and regularly by the Leader of the Opposition that questions posed to me on scientific matters are too long and that the answers I attempt to give to those questions are too long. In this case, the honourable senator asks for some outline of the extent of this pest. I take it that the honourable senator has asked a serious question. He asks where the pest has been sighted, where the infestation has occurred and whether measures could be taken. I bring into the Senate a great variety of information to assist honourable senators. I have several pages of information on this matter. It has taken some time for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation to investigate the problems in relation to this important matter. I wonder whether you, Mr President, would prefer me to outline all these problems to which the honourable senator was relating his question. He was asking where the pests have been sighted and where the infestation occurs. On the other hand, it may be more appropriate for me to ask the honourable senator to place his question on the Notice Paper and I will obtain a written answer for him.
– In respect to lengthy questions, as Senator Keeffe pointed out, I have sought the co-operation of honourable senators to keep questions as brief as possible. I have asked that replies be directed to the points raised. I go no further than that. In that way honourable senators will be able to ask more questions in an afternoon than would otherwise be possible. If the Minister felt that he could refer succinctly to the basic points in the question and then offer to give the honourable senator a more detailed reply, that would enable us to achieve the objective we all seek- that is, to allow honourable senators, so far as possible, the facility of asking a question at least every two days, if not every day.
– In this instance, it is more difficult to pronounce the word than it is to give the answer. So I will leave the answer until another day.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs concerning the discussions yesterday between the Federal Government and the Government of Queensland about the Aboriginal communities of Aurukun and Mornington Island. Can the Minister confirm that if the proposed legislation and lease arrangements do not meet the wishes of the Aboriginal people of Aurukun and Mornington Island and if no acceptable arrangements- that is, acceptable to the Aboriginal people of the two settlements- can be reached, the Commonweatlh will acquire the land to ensure self-management of Aurukun and Mornington Island by the Aboriginal people?
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has already stated publicly that if the proposed legislation and the lease arrangements which will be legislated for by the Queensland Government are not satisfactory to the Commonwealth, the Commonweatlh will use its constitutional powers of acquisition in order to ensure that the rights and interests of the people of the two communities are fully protected. This was an undertaking that we gave some days ago, and it is an undertaking to which we are still committed. The people of the two communities concerned will be closely consulted in the course of negotiations on both the legislation and the lease arrangements. I state again for the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that if the agreement which was reached yesterday does not produce legislation which is acceptable to the Commonwealth after consultation with the two communities, the Commonwealth will then use its powers of acquisition to ensure that the rights and interests of the people are fully protected.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Science. I am sorry to give him such a busy time on such a relaxed afternoon. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the report in this morning’s Press that Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation scientists have established the fact that Canberra’s infamous bush flies are blown annually by prevailing winds from Queensland? What steps has the Minister taken to protect the national capital from this pest and other pests from Queensland.
-Undoubtedly this is one of the first questions today the subject of which worries the honourable senator who asked it. I appreciate that in this session this is the greatest interest he has. I appreciate being asked this question at Question Time because the matter of the bush fly is a particularly important matter. I am sure that all honourable senators would like a lengthy discourse about how the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is working biologically to rid this country of this menace. Perhaps the honourable senator was not here when I gave some information relating to the use of -
– The dung beetle.
-The dung beetle, as Senator Wright has mentioned. We are attempting to see whether the dung beetle can work in Tasmania, as a matter of fact. It has worked very successfully in warmer climates. We hope that eventually we will be able to rid the country of this menace. The honourable senator asked whether there was any possibility of ridding Canberra of some similar pests. I can say only that this is a matter which has been in the hands of the Australian electorate for some time. I have noticed that within the last few years the electors are starting to rid this country of some of the pests that have worried us for a number of years.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to an article in today’s Courier-Mail which reports Mr Bjelke-Petersen as having said that the Uniting Church in Australia would remain to give pastoral care to Aurukun and Mornington Island Aborigines but it was not expected to have administative control as at present? Can the Minister confirm whether that is correct under the terms of the agreement that was reached by the Commonwealth and the State Government? Has the Minister seen in the same report the statement that the Federal Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Mr Viner, said that the Uniting Church would retain its close relationship with the Aboriginal communities? Can the Minister confirm whether that is correct? Has the Minister seen also in that article virtual editorial comment that the statement of Mr Viner contrasted with the statement by Mr BjelkePetersen that the Church would have no administrative responsibility’? Can the Minister confirm that it will be up to the Aboriginal community council to decide what role the Uniting Church will have in future at Aurukun and Mornington Island under the terms of yesterday’s agreement and that in fact there is no conflict between the statements made by Mr Petersen and Mr Viner on that agreement?
– Under the arrangements which were reached yesterday between the two governments the future role of the Uniting Church and its staff at both communities will be a matter for the communities themselves to decide. There are already incorporated bodies in each community which are carrying out important functions with financial support from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I fully expect that these bodies, as well as the proposed new local government authorities, would want to continue their close association with the Church. These arrangements will be developed in the future as we see the new legislation and the communities are given the role of self-management which has been sought by them and which has been supported by us.
As far as conflict in the statements which were referred to by Senator Martin is concerned, it would seem to me that people are unduly wishing to contrast and find conflict in statements which ought to be clear from the agreement which was publicly stated after the meeting yesterday between the Premier of Queensland, the Prime Minister and the Ministers concerned. To be stating at this stage that there is conflict, when we have not yet seen the legislation and the consultation which has been referred to has not taken place, seems to me to be looking for problems in something which at this stage appears to have been resolved by both governments. We hope that this will result in future selfmanagement for the communities concerned, as has been requested by them.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Did I understand the Minister to say in response to the question from Senator Martin which she has just answered that the agreement reached yesterday between the Queensland Government and the Federal Government included some provision whereby the Aboriginal communities will determine the role played by the church authorities at Aurukun and Mornington Island? Am I correct in understanding that the Minister said there was some provision in the agreement to that effect?
– It may be acceptable if I were to incorporate in Hansard a copy of the joint statement by the Prime Minister and the Queensland Premier arising from the meeting yesterday and the discussions the day before. What was basic to that agreement was that we were seeking to achieve self-management for the Aurukun and the Mornington Island communities. This was to be achieved through the creation of a local government authority for each community with a local government council comprising existing councils until the next local council elections which will take place in April. Then, in order to support the communities, there will be for each community a co-ordinating and advisory committee to the council composed of people representing the authorities delivering services, including one representative from the Commonwealth Government Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I previously stated the matters with regard to consultations and the legislation for the special leases but I believe it would be appropriate, in view of the questions that are being asked, that I seek leave to incorporate this joint statement in Hansard.
– By having that statement incorporated, Mr Deputy President, how will we have an opportunity to debate it? Would it not be better for the Minister to put down that statement at the end of Question Time so that we can take note of it and place it on the Notice Paper?
– The Opposition is not objecting to the document being incorporated.
The document read as follows-
JOINT STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTER AND THE QUEENSLAND PREMIER
Recognising our mutual obligation with regard to the wishes and the welfare of the Aboriginal peoples at Aurukun and Mornington Island, the two Governments after long and earnest discussion, have reached the following agreement that in order to achieve self-management for Aurukun and Mornington Island communities:
a local government authority for each to be created on the boundaries of the existing reserves;
the local government council will consist of the existing councils until the next State Local Government council elections which will take place next April. These councils will be the managing authority;
in order to support the communities, there will for each one be a co-ordinating and advisory committee to the Council consisting of people representative of authorities delivering services including one representative of the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
The Queensland Government has offered to consult with the Commonwealth Government on the terms of legislation required to provide for self-management through the operations of local government, in order to achieve mutual agreement between the relevant Ministers. In the context of that agreement, the Queensland Government plans to grant to each local government authority a special lease of the area, to secure the preservation of the people ‘s traditional rights, use and occupancy of the land.
The Premier of Queensland after conferring with his Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs (Mr Porter) and his Minister for Local Government (Mr Hinze) believes that action in terms of this agreement could be introduced next week into the Queensland Parliament.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. With the need to encourage petroleum exploration, on-shore as well as offshore, coupled with encouraging signs of further potential fields of both dry and liquid hydrocarbons on-shore, will the Government give serious consideration to applying the same tax incentives for on-shore exploration as were introduced for off-shore exploration in the last Budget which, along with other Government policies, have already encouraged a big upturn in off-shore oil exploration?
-I think that question really ought to be directed to the Treasurer. It involves matters which are taken into consideration when the Budget is being framed. I will see that the Treasurer is informed of the honourable senator’s question.
– My question to the Minister for Social Security refers to an allegation made by Senator Harradine in the adjournment debate last night to the effect that the Working Women’s Centre is a proponent of and an agent for Dr Bertram Wainer’s fertility control clinic in Melbourne. Because this allegation maliciously and mischievously implies that the Working Women’s Centre gains some sort of agent’s fee or commission from Dr Wainer’s clinic, I ask the Minister to confirm the fact that the Centre receives no payments from the clinic for making information of this kind available to those women who seek it.
– I am unaware of the activities of the Working Women’s Centre or its source of income, with the exception of grants which have been made from the Commonwealth Government.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry whether it is correct that only 6,000 tonnes of beef has been sold to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Eastern Europe from an expected 1 10,000 tonnes for the year. Have sales to the United States of America for the five months, November to March, averaged 32,000 tonnes a month? To keep within the quota limits applying to the United States market, will monthly sales for the rest of the year have to be restricted to 20,000 tonnes? What action, if any, has the Government taken to secure a sale to the USSR or some other market to avoid the severe beef price reduction which would follow the diversion of 12,000 tonnes a month from the United States market?
– I am unable to verify the figures suggested by the honourable senator as being the sales made to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Eastern Europe and the United States. My understanding is that the market for beef in the USSR is not very prospective at this moment but I know that the Minister is well aware of this fact and is taking all steps to see whether extra sales can be generated. I believe the general comment made by the honourable senator relating to sales to the United States is correct. I am unable to verify the actual figure of monthly sales to the US, but I will take the honourable senator’s question as on notice and gain an answer for him as quickly as possible.
-My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, refers to the microfilming of company records. I ask the Attorney-General whether any provision now exists in Federal law to allow microfilm copies of company records to be accepted as legal evidence of the information contained in the original document. The Attorney-General may remember that a senator from my State, former Senator John Marriott, in 1973 brought this question to the attention of the then AttorneyGeneral who promised to look into the matter.
– It was passed last week.
-I do not know whether I am answering one or two questions or whether somebody has provided an answer for me. Senator Walters asks whether there is any provision in Federal law to allow microfilm copies of company records to be accepted in evidence. The short answer is that there is no provision in Federal law which specifically provides for the admissibility of such evidence. However, certain States have evidence laws which do provide for this. Federal courts are required to apply the law of the State in which they sit. Accordingly, in the exercise of jurisdiction by some Federal courts and the exercise of Federal jurisdiction by State courts which have this provision, the admissibility of microfilm copies is provided for and they may be given in evidence. The question of amending Federal law to provide for the admissibility of microfilm copies not only of company records but also of records and documents is under consideration. I have in mind a general consideration of Commonwealth evidence law and I am. considering specifically whether I should give a reference to the Australian Law Reform Commission to investigate this area.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Science, is prompted by complaints made to me from time to time about the lack of detailed statements and general information from the Antarctic Division of the Department of Science concerning the Division’s activities. The main basis of the complaint is that to a very large extent public relations seems to be left to some other agency or private citizens interested in the Antarctic rather than emanating from the Department itself. I ask the Minister: Is there any reason why appropriate official statements on Antarctic activities should not be made and information provided so that the public may be better informed on the role and functions of the Division?
-The main thrust of the honourable senator’s question is whether the Antarctic Division has a public relations section. The honourable senator may know that the Division has no public relations section. Any work that may be required generally is carried out by the executive officer of the Department when the need arises. It is felt that there is a public awareness of the activities of the Division during the months when vessels are plying between here and the continent. As the honourable senator will be aware the Division has a photographic section which is used a great deal in public relations functions, such as photographic displays and like activities. There is, of course, a publications officer within the Division and he acts in many instances, depending on requirements, as a source of dissemination of information.
The honourable senator asked about the possibility of official statements relating to the Division being made available. Generally it has been the case that official activity has been notified either by Dr Garrod, the Director of the Antarctic Division, or by Dr Farrands, the Secretary of the Department or by myself. The honourable senator will acknowledge that, on many occasions when there are official statements to be made on behalf of the Division, I have attempted to bring those to the Senate at the earliest opportunity. The answer is that there is no actual public relations section. I think the honourable senator made a good point when he suggested that it may be wise to attempt to have such a section. I shall look at the staff numbers to see whether that which could be required by the Division could be provided.
– I ask the Attorney-General and Minister representing the Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs: In view of the difficulties which have recently been experienced in maintaining export contracts, the importance of export trade to our economy, and the damage to our international trading reputation due to our failure to maintain delivery schedules because of industrial troubles on the waterfront, will the Government give consideration to introducing legislation under section 51(1) of the Constitution which gives the Government power to enact laws with respect to trade and commerce with other countries, thus enabling exporters to fulfil their international commitments? Can he indicate whether the Government has in contemplation any legislation in this regard?
– Why don’t you thank Bob Hawke for fixing the matter?
– I heard some interjection that we ought to be thanking Bob Hawke. We should also be thanking certainly the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations for the tremendous and tireless work he has put into trying to achieve agreement in this matter between the unions and their interests and the farmers and graziers and their interests. I am certainly not in any way reflecting on the efforts Mr Hawke has made in that regard as well. The problem which has been facing the Minister and the Government and, indeed, the people of this country, for the last two or three weeks has been a particularly serious and a particularly worrying one.
The problem did indicate a weakness in our existing legal structure in that the ordinary provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which of course can deal only with industrial disputes, cannot be applied to that situation because it was not an ordinary industrial dispute. That is why the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, as well as other people- I readily concede they included not only Mr Hawke, but also other people- had to take on a role of negotiator and conciliator, to bring the parties to agreement.
-It is not a bad feature that the Minister took on a conciliatory role.
– It is a good thing.
– Yes, it was a good feature. At the same time the Minister is very busy with many other things, and it means that this practically dominated his work for that long period. As I said, the situation did reveal a deficiency in our conciliation procedures in that they were not applicable to that situation.
So the point which Senator Tehan raised is an important one. Certainly I shall consider it and shall refer it to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations to see whether there are some ways and means of achieving suitable legislation to close that gap which has been revealed. That is not to say that it would be appropriate to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to deal with a matter such as that. Certainly there does seem to be under section 51 ( 1 ) of the Constitution, as suggested by Senator Tehan, ample constitutional power for the Parliament to pass legislation in regard to conciliation procedures in this area. I certainly shall give consideration to this suggestion.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Science and refers to a dispute which has broken out between the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation about the filling of a vacancy in its Melbourne regional headquarters by transfer rather than by an appointment which had been unanimously agreed upon by a selection committee. The Minister will know already, through matters raised in the Parliament and in the Estimates Committees, of the concern that staff associations have shown about the staff ceilings and the failure to fill vacancies. It would seem that in this case satisfaction might have been achieved by allowing the ordinary processes of filling vacancies to continue. I ask the Minister: What consideration has been given to returning to the normal procedure in the Department, which has been advocated by the union, and what can be done in that respect?
-As the honourable senator will know, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation is a statutory authority and, on that basis, to a large extent its management is free from parliamentary and ministerial control. The management of CSIRO has taken the view that the decision it made in this instance is within its management prerogative and does not contravene any agreement on staffing arrangements made within the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association. I can advise the honourable senator that arrangements have been made for the management of CSIRO to meet the ACOA on this matter and, pending that meeting, it might be wise to let the matter rest.
-Mr Deputy President, I ask that you convey my question to the President.
It relates to the delivery of newspapers to Parliament House. I cannot recall ever receiving my copy of the West Australian before midafternoon on the day it is produced, and for some reason Wednesday’s edition arrives on the afternoon of the day following its production. I have not yet received either yesterday’s or today’s editions. I believe this to be a question of priorities in the transport and delivery system. Connecting planes leave Perth well after the newspaper is produced and they arrive each day in Canberra quite early in the morning. I ask whether the President will investigate this matter with a view to helping those of us who regard the West Australian as a valuable source of information.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) I will convey the honourable senator’s question to the President.
– My question to the Minister for Social Security is prompted by a letter from Les Butler, the highly competent secretary of the Hospital Employees Federation No. 1. He has some misgivings about the administration of the Mount Wilga Rehabilitation Centre, with particular reference to physiotherapists.
– You must be up for preselection.
– I might say to Senator Withers that no doubt Mr Butler will jump through fire, as did Mr Snedden ‘s supporters on another occasion.
– I wonder whether the honourable senator meant to base his question on occupational therapists and not on physiotherapists?
– Yes, that is right.
– I am aware of some matters that have arisen with regard to occupational therapists, and I believe that complaints were made by some individuals in that connection. There have been three resignations by occupational therapists from the centre at Mount Wilga. I am advised by my Department that the matter is well in hand and that there is now no significant disruption to the high standard of service given at the Mount Wilga Rehabilitation Centre. I understand that there have been no complaints from Mount Wilga ‘s sister centre in Sydney, the Queen Elizabeth Centre, which virtually is under the same administration as the
Mount Wilga Rehabilitation Centre. My Department is unaware of any criticism from the Cumberland College, which was part of the problem that was the subject of Senator Mulvihill ‘s representations. I think the honourable senator and the union to which he referred were also concerned about the awarding of certificates. I am having investigations made into some of those matters and I will see that further information is given to the honourable senator. As far as the services at Mount Wilga are concerned, I understand from my Department that there is no disruption to them.
-And the Cumberland College is supplying students to the institution?
– The advice I have is that the Department was not aware that students were not accepted at Mount Wilga. I understand that there is no real difficulty about that. I will see that a proper reply is given to the honourable senator on the matters about which he is inquiring.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Education and refers to the report of the committee appointed to examine the desirability and feasibility of introducing a system of loans for Australian post-secondary students. The report was presented to the Minister in May 1977. Is it a fact that the committee recommended that a system of loans for needy students at the post-secondary level of education be established as a supplement to existing grants schemes? Is it also a fact that such tertiary loan schemes work with significant popularity and effect in Canada, the United States and Scandinavia? Has the Government considered establishing a loan scheme for Australia’s tertiary students? Does it have any plans to do so in the near future?
– It is true that the Government set up some time ago a committee to inquire into student loans, essentially as supplements to the allowances paid. The committee reported last year. In essence the report was in two segments. The first segment recommended that there should be a relatively small series of loans by way of emergency loans that could be used through the various institutions to meet crises. That kind of system has been in operation for quite some time. I think it has absorbed something like $4m. It rejoices in the trade in the name of maundy money. It has a useful role. The committee recommended secondly that there should be a system of loans to students, the institutions themselves being basically the arbiters as to who should or should not get a loan and the private lending institutions being consulted in this regard. Last year the Government decided to receive the report and study it but not to incorporate its recommendations in the current Budget. This matter will be considered by the Government in its future deliberations. One of the things that would be necessary is fairly extensive consultations with private lending institutions because this matter is not a simple one. It involves a fairly complex degree of arrangements. I have nothing to report at the moment. This is essentially a policy matter but, of course, it is under continuous study.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I am trying to clarify a reply I received to question upon notice No. 45. 1 refer the Minister to the answer, which states:
The intention to negotiate bulk insurance was initiated in 1975 by the Department during the former Government’s term.
Since the Ministers of the former Government who held the portfolio for Aboriginal Affairs during 1975 are unable to recollect the initiation of bulk insurance discussions, will the Minister say whether the Department initiated this matter under ministerial direction, with ministerial approval or with ministerial knowledge? Who was the Minister when the Department initiated the move for bulk insurance?
– I am not able to give that information on behalf of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I will certainly seek for the honourable senator information as to whether he was the Minister responsible or whether it was under his ministerial direction, approval or knowledge that the matter of bulk insurance was initiated in the Department. I will see that the honourable senator is advised whether the matter needs to be brought to his recollection or to that of the Honourable Gordon Bryant.
- Mr Les Johnson was Minister in 1975.
– I will look at that point as well. I will check the facts given in the answer and provide to the honourable senator whatever further information I can.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer by saying that no doubt the Minister is aware of the questions that I have directed recently to the Minister for Social Security in relation to the difficulties in determining whether pensions paid overseas should indeed be paid. I now ask: Is the Minister able to say whether taxpayers are able to claim deductions for dependants who live overseas? Who determines whether those dependents are still alive and whether they are still dependent? Will the Minister ask the Treasurer to examine whether it is fair and sensible to allow such deductions for people resident overseas?
– I am aware of the question directed by Senator Townley to my colleague the Minister for Social Security on one aspect of the matter. As to the specifics of the question I imagine, but I am not precisely equipped to say, that a taxpayer in Australia can claim for dependants who are abroad. That could be inaccurate. I cannot answer as to what checks, if any, are made to determine the validity of the claims. The matter is significant. I will ask my colleague the Treasurer to find the information and let the honourable senator have it.
-Is the Minister for Education aware that the majority of texts on educational psychology booklists in Australian colleges of advanced education seem to be American in origin and relate to American conditions, needs and issues? Does the Minister approve of this, bearing in mind that Australia is not yet an American State and in any case it has social, educational and cultural issues and needs different from those of the United States of America? If he does not approve, can the Minister say what, if anything, he can do to correct this situation? For example, is he prepared or able to encourage positively research into Australian schools and student behaviour so that texts relevant to Australian conditions can be prepared and published for the benefit of future Australian teachers and school children? I conclude my question by saying that I realise that CAEs are autonomous, but my question has been prompted by grumblings of discontent from some students of some CAEs at the apparent irrelevance of the texts that they are given in their courses to their future occupation.
– The real nub of the question is whether the majority of the textbooks available in colleges of advanced education are of American origin. At this moment I do not know but I will certainly find out. It is true, as the honourable senator states, that because CAEs are autonomous- as she would wish them to be- the question of what texts are in their libraries and are prescribed for students is a matter for the colleges themselves. I would be surprised nevertheless if, in a subject that I once had a little to do with in looking at textbooks, there were not a wider range both of prescription and of choice. I acknowledge the stress in the honourable senator’s question on the need to have texts that are more relevant to authentic Australianism. Without any form of jingoism, I believe that one should try as far as possible to reflect the social practices of our own country rather than those of some overseas country.
As to the final part of the honourable senator’s question, there is a continuous stress by my Department, and indeed by me, to seek research done by Australians into Australian educationparticularly into social science and social educationto see whether material of authentic Australian origin is available for students. The work that is done by the Education Research and Development Committee is of enormous importance. The honourable senator may wish to obtain from the Journals, Records and Bills Office or the Parliamentary Library reports which will show the wide range of probing that is being carried out in this matter. The honourable senator will be aware that the Curriculum Development Centre through its materials is also doing this. The question is of significance. I will take up the matter and ask my Department in the first place to examine it, refer it to the Council of Advanced Education and perhaps to the Tertiary Education Commission. I would hope that high quality Australian material is being used wherever possible and by way of comparison.
– Recently, Senator Ryan asked me a question about what steps the Government was prepared to take to ensure the implementation of the guidelines for ethnic broadcasting and in particular the guidelines which require broadcasters to avoid political partisanship. I wish to give information on this matter. Before dealing with the honourable senator’s specific query, the point should be made that ethnic broadcasting now is the responsibility of an autonomous authority, the Special Broadcasting Service. Therefore, it is that authority, rather than the Government which should ensure the implementation of the guidelines. The legislative amendment establishing the SBS was specifically intended to remove any party political considerations from the administration of ethnic broadcasting. On receiving a complaint in writing concerning the program mentioned in the Nation Review article, the management of Radio 2EA contacted the co-ordinator of the language group concerned seeking an explanation. As a follow-up, the management of Radio 2EA will be holding a meeting with all broadcasters from the group concerned with a view to stressing that the guidelines approved by the Special Broadcasting Service should be upheld.
- Mr President, I now advert to push button telephones about which I lacked information yesterday. Senator Townley asked me a question in which he referred to certain matters relating to costs and sales of push button telephones. I do not have all the information sought but I can respond to most of the question. In respect of costs, it is true that a subscriber who elects to have a push button instrument will be required to pay a once only additional installation charge of $50 and also an additional annual rental charge of $24. Senator Townley was also interested in the market penetration achieved by push button telephones compared to the traditional type of telephone. I am advised that indications are that sales have not been as strong as was originally estimated. However, I will seek some more definite information, together with some explanation why sales have not reached expectations. I will pass this information on to the honourable senator as soon as possible.
– I have received a letter from Senator Wriedt proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:
The effect of the ‘new federalism’ on Commonwealth/ State financial arrangements.
I call upon those senators who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of senators required by the Sessional Orders having risen in their places-
– The Opposition raises this matter of Commonwealth-State financial relations because we believe that it is a matter of utmost public importance. As I shall demonstrate during the 30 minutes of my address, we can see the difficulties into which the States are becoming locked as a result of Mr Fraser ‘s new federalism. Since the introduction of uniform income tax in 1942, Commonwealth-State financial relations have been dominated by the search for an adequate formula to determine the level of financial assistance from the Commonwealth to the States. Initially, Commonwealth grants were related mainly to the amounts of income tax collected by the States prior to 1942. By 1959, the inadequacy of that method led to the adoption of a new formula for financial assistance grants to the States. Notwithstanding constant variations, the matter was still being argued about in the mid-1970s.
It is now clear that there is no magic formula which will be satisfactory for any long period. Changing conditions, adjustments of relativities and variations to State finances ensure that the level of Commonwealth grants to the States will remain a political issue and not one susceptible to determination by a formula. Each attempt to lay down some guidelines will be judged on the results it produces and not on the theory behind it.
Although couched in terms of power and responsibility, the much trumpeted Fraser federalism is really an attempt to vary the basis of Commonwealth-State financial relations. Since 1942 the Commonwealth has given little support to the notion of a State income tax. The matter was canvassed by Sir Robert Menzies in the early 1950s but was dropped when no arrangement satisfactory to the States could be reached. Under Mr Fraser ‘s new federalism, the notion of a State income tax has been revived. Indeed, the development of a State income tax is central to the whole of the new federalism policy. There is a striking difference between the approach of Sir Robert Menzies in the early 1950s, because of the reluctance of the States to accept the responsibility for raising their revenues in that manner- that is, by a State income tax- and the approach of this Government.
Under this Government, the Commonwealth has taken a different attitude. It is determined that the States will introduce a state income tax. For that reason, it has approached the matter in a much more subtle manner. The new federalism policy in the document issued by the LiberalNational Country parties in 1 975 called for the introduction of a State income tax in the following terms:
The Liberal and National Country parties propose to ensure the States permanent access to revenue raising through personal income tax. The new system is intended to ensure that the States will have substantially the financial capacity to meet their responsibilities.
It was never intended that this system would be introduced immediately. The policy called for a transition period during which a new formula for determining the level of Commonwealth grants to the States would be in operation. That formula linked Commonwealth general revenue payments to the States to the level of Commonwealth personal income tax. This had superficial attraction for the States, because personal income tax was a tax which had a large inbuilt growth rate, and access to growth taxes was one of the main demands of State governments over many years. What the States overlooked were the consequences of the introduction of tax indexation, and the Commonwealth reserved power to increase personal income tax by way of levies in which the States do not share. To date we have not yet passed Stage 2 of Fraser federalism. That, of course, is the stage which deals with the introduction of State income taxes. However, with two years’ experience of it, some judgment about its effects can already be made.
There are four major effects of Fraser federalism with which I wish to deal: Firstly, there has been a significant reduction in real terms of the level of Commonwealth assistance to the States; secondly, the burden of maintaining employment has fallen to State governments; thirdly, State finances have become uncertain; and, fourthy, federalism has contributed to economic stagnation. I want to deal with those points individually. Firstly, I refer to the point concerning the reduction in State revenues. The first two years of Mr Fraser ‘s federalism have effectively cost the States an amount in excess of $360m. That amount is the value of the reduction in real terms of Commonwealth payments to the States during this financial year and last financial year.
From time to time in this place I have tabled and have had incorporated in Hansard Table 2 from last year’s Budget Paper No. 7 which shows the amount of Commonwealth payments to the States over recent years. I again seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard an extract from that table showing total payments from the Commonwealth to the States for the years 1973-74 and 1977-78, and the percentage increases in those payments in each of those years. I must apologise to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) because I have not had the time to seek his concurrence.
The (able read as follows-
-Taking 1975-76 as the base year, during that year an amount of $8,555m was paid by the Commonwealth to State governments. In 1976-77 that amount was increased by 6.9 per cent to $9, 147m. This year it is expected to increase by 1 1 .6 per cent, which would result in payments by the Commonwealth to the States of about $10,207m. These payments are substantially below the amounts that the States would have received had payments kept pace with inflation as measured by the increase in the consumer price index over the two financial years. I again seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard an equally brief table setting out the increases in the CPI for the financial years ending June 1973 through to 1977.
The table read as follows:
-Had payments to the States kept pace with inflation, payments in 1976- 77 would have been $9,70 lm. That figure is arrived at by increasing the previous year’s payments by 13.4 per cent, which was the increase in the CPI for that year. At this stage we do not know what the increase in the CPI for this financial year will be. The increase from December 1976. to December 1977 was 9.3 per cent and, although that figure may fall marginally by the end of the year, the end of the year figure is not likely to differ substantially from that percentage. If we assume that there will be an increase of 9 per cent in the CPI during 1977- 78, the amount of $9,70 lm, to which I referred earlier, should have been increased to $ 10,574m. The difference between that figure and the amount which it is estimated at this stage that the States will receive is no less than $367m. I emphasise that that is the additional amount which the States are receiving below what they should have received had the CPI increase even been maintained in Commonwealth payments to the States.
In using that figure of $367m I am almost certainly being generous to the Government. Prior to Mr Fraser’s new federalism, increases in payments to the States have exceeded increases in the CPI as can be seen from the table which has been incorporated in Hansard. In the three years under the previous Government, increases in payments to the States exceeded increases in the CPI and it is only now emerging just how well the States did under that Administration, notwithstanding the complaints of certain States. It is fair to estimate that had the old formula for determining Commonwealth grants to the States remained in operation, payments to the States would have exceeded increases in the CPI. At the very least the States have lost an amount of $367m in real terms which I am sure the Senate will agree, is a very significant sum of money. Measured by the yardstick of cash received, the States have done very badly under the current Government.
Let us look at the effects of federalism on employment. Notwithstanding the Government’s promise that it would restore jobs for all those who want to work, unemployment has increased in every year in which this Government has been in office. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table setting out the number of civilian employees in Commonwealth, State and local government instrumentalities for the years between June 1972 and 1977.
The table read as follows-
-That table indicates that in June 1975 the number of civilian employees in Commonwealth organisations totalled 398,000 and by June 1977 that figure had actually declined to 389,000. Over a comparable period the number of civilian employees in State Government authorities rose from 757,000 to 95 1,000. 1 seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a table which sets out the percentage number of civilian employees and changes in employment in Commonwealth and State organisations for the years between June 1973 and June 1977.
The table read as follows:
-This table shows that for the year ended 30 June 1976 Commonwealth employment actually declined by 1.8 per cent and there was a further decline of 0.5 per cent for the year ended June 1977. By contrast, State government employment for the year ended June 1976 increased by 21 per cent and there was also an increase last financial year- although a greatly reduced one- of 3.5 per cent. The Senate will recall that in the arguments prior to last year’s Premiers Conference, the Commonwealth was consistently berating the States for failing to keep down the number of employees on their payrolls. Again and again the Commonwealth exhorted the States to follow its lead in reducing the size of the public sector.
Let us look at the consequences which would have followed had the State governments accepted that suggestion. By the end of June 1 975 State government authorities were employing 757,000 people. Had the States followed the Commonwealth trend- that is, by actually reducing the number of its employees by 1.8 per cent- total employment in State government bodies would have declined to 744,000 by the end of June 1976. A further decline by half of 1 per cent would have reduced State government employment to 740,000 by the end of June 1 977. In other words, had the States adopted the Commonwealth policy, unemployment in this country would now exceed 600,000. It is now recognised that the level of unemployment is basically a Commonwealth responsibility The Commonwealth has control of the economy which effectively determines the level of unemployment. Without Commonwealth co-operation, State governments can do very little to prevent the growth in unemployment if the Commonwealth chooses to allow that to occur. In this case, notwithstanding reductions in Commonwealth payments of more than $367m, State governments have effectively been able to create jobs for an additional 2 10,000 people.
In the light of those figures, no Commonwealth spokesman, particularly the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs (Senator Carrick), should ever accuse State governments of never playing their part in the fight against unemployment. They have done more than anyone could have expected. They have shown to the Commonwealth that unemployment can be beaten, but the Commonwealth has chosen to ignore that lesson. Of course the question immediately arises: How have the States been able to do this? The answer can really be provided only by the State treasurers themselves. But it can be asserted with some confidence that they have financed their activities partly by increased taxes but more importantly by dipping into reserves which they were able to create due to the support they received between 1972 and 1975. It can also be said that unless Commonwealth payments to the States are increased substantially, State governments will not be able to maintain their current levels of outlays. Already South Australia and Tasmania are running substantial deficits this year. In the case of South Australia, its deficit is caused by the cost of the State unemployment relief scheme to which the Federal Government has consistently refused to contribute. New South Wales has been dipping into the reserves of the statutory authorities but these tend to be ‘one off’ operations which cannot be repeated because the reserves will be exhausted. At this stage most State governments must be expecting very little growth in their employment in 1978-79. This can only put further pressure on the job market.
The third part of my speech concerns the uncertainty that has been created by this new federalism policy. Another striking result of that policy has been the uncertainty which has been introduced into State financing. A series of Premiers Conferences at the beginning of 1 976 hammered out a new formula for determining the level of general revenue assistance. The States would have received in any one year- this was the arrangement- 33.6 per cent of total income tax collections in that year; that is, income tax collections by the Commonwealth Government. At the end of the first year of this new federalism, that formula had collapsed due to the fact that five of the six States had to rely on a guaranteea basic guarantee- to ensure that their general revenue payments did not fall below those which obtained under the old formula, which was usually referred to as the ‘Whitlam formula ‘. In order to save the new federalism, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) offered a new formula so that the States now receive 39.8 per cent of the previous year’s income tax collections. This was the result after six Premiers Conferences in 18 months. The Commonwealth had turned the annual wrangling about finances into a quarterly event. There is little confidence that the new formula will be maintained for any substantial period of time.
The tax changes introduced last February will be very costly for the States unless the formula is adjusted at the next Premiers Conference. Even if there is no adjustment, the States estimate that they will be only marginally above the guarantee next financial year and will have to rely on the guarantee in 1979-80. As that is the last year in which the guarantee operates, the future for the States after the year commencing 1980-81 is uncertain. This fact is known by all State treasurers. Under these circumstances there are only two alternatives- Either the States will have to raise their own income taxes or the whole basis of Commonwealth payments to the States will have to be altered. At this stage the States have no idea what the future will bring. The Commonwealth has not spelt out its intentions. We can be sure that there will be some significant change but at this stage no one knows what it will be. One thing is clear: The policy adopted by the present Government has not removed the arguments about money; it has merely increased them.
The fourth point I raise concerns the economic stagnation that we are experiencing and to which the new federalism policy has substantially contributed. An examination of Table 2 which I had incorporated in Hansard earlier shows that specific purpose payments for capital works have declined substantially in cash terms in the past two years. Increases in Loan Council borrowings for capital works have also declined in real terms. The same table reveals that total funds for capital purposes- that is, Loan Council funds and specific purpose payments- have declined in cash terms also in the past two years. The effect of these measures is that substantial opportunities to develop much needed services at cheaper prices have been forgone. The building and construction industry has suffered a savage decline, contributing greatly to the growth in unemployment. Substantial development by the private sector will be curtailed for years in the future due to the lack of appropriate infrastructure. The effect of lack of funds flows on to suppliers of goods and services and to State governments in a number of ways. Contracts for many parts of the private sector are no longer forthcoming and the increased unemployment further depresses the market on which the private sector depends. A vicious circle is created, which cannot be prevented by attempts on the part of the Government’s economic spokesmen to talk up the economy.
Because it has resulted in uncertainty, inefficiency and lost opportunity, the Fraser federalism must be judged to be a failure. In a way it was bound to fail unless the economy picked up, because the policy is very closely tied to the Government’s economic management. The economic policy and the federalism policy failed because of shortsightedness on the part of the Government- a clash between ideology and good management and the general lack of credibility. Nowhere is the Government’s shortsightedness more clearly illustrated than in its cutbacks on capital works. The long-term needs of the Austraiian community are ignored while the Government fiddles with the short-term issues. The level of current expenditure increases, but the value of the projects achieved by that expenditure declines. This promotes inefficient use of resources and ignores the need for long-term planning. This shortsightedness on the part of the Government has caused a decline in investment in urban infrastructure which led to urban issues being highly criticised some years ago. Ideology does not go well with good economic management. There is little sense in giving tax cuts to people- who will save the cash, perhaps spend it on overseas trips or invest in imported luxury items- while at the same time denying tax benefits to the consumers who would pour their money back into local industry. There is not much sense in cutting back government spending, which is the one sector of the economy capable of growing substantially in the current climate, to boost a private sector which cannot expand unless demand, either by consumers or by government itself, picks up.
At a time of high unemployment there is not much sense in promoting investment in labour saving devices. The Government is committed to reducing the size of the public sector, which includes the State government sector, but at the same time transferring additional responsibility to State governments. It is no wonder the States are heading for a crisis. There is a similar picture in relation to federalism. The Prime Minister and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs, by referring to general purpose revenue, continue to say that the States are doing well. General purpose revenue funds represent approximately 40 per cent of Commonwealth aid to State governments. The remaining 60 per cent is comprised of specific purpose payments and Local Council allocations. These latter areas have been cut in two successive Budgets with the result that Commonwealth aid to the States has declined in real terms. There are future needs brought about by the uncertainties created by this policy. Those needs, however, would be grounds for a debate separate to the matter of public importance we are new debating.
I conclude my remarks by indicating that, with States dipping into reserves, State income taxes are inevitable in the near future unless Commonwealth policy changes. Some State governments, particularly New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania, have declared that they will not be a party to the introduction of those taxes. Yet one finds it difficult to envisage a position in which those three State governments will be able to maintain the services which they are expected to maintain by the people living in those States unless they in some way increase their revenue. Of course the intention of this Government to give the States the power to impose State income taxes over and above Commonwealth income tax is what the new federalism is all about.
There will be no reduction in the powers of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth will maintain those powers. The only power it wishes to give to the States is the power which we know no State government really wants, and that is the power to collect income tax from the people in those States. So far federalism has done nothing to provide for their long term needs. The governments of Western Australia and, in its more rational moments, of Queensland both want long term investment in resource development. New South Wales is seeking to reduce its unemployment and to upgrade its transport services. Tasmania and South Australia realise that their future lies in the expansion of their economic bases. Victoria is seeking stimulation for a range of activities throughout the State. None of these various needs has been met under this new federalism policy and none of them looks like being met in the foreseeable future. There are no easy solutions- I accept that- but it can be said with certainty that the new Fraser federalism is certainly not one of them.
– A little reflection on what Senator Wriedt has said will indicate from the facts that are available that every one of the arguments he has put forward will be destroyed. He has invited us to compare the three years of Whitlam centralism and the performance of the Labor Government with the two years of the Fraser Government ‘s new federalism and its performance. I could not be more delighted and more proud to do so. Let me start by saying that the grass on the other side of the fence always looks greener.
I will take the Labor Government as my witness and refer to the year of the Whitlam Government’s regime which Senator Wriedt proudly says was the most fruitful because public funding, according to the table to which he referred, rose by some 50 per cent. I refer to what the Labor Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, said in 1974, at the peak of the financial performance of the Whitlam Labor Government. Let me state how he, a Labor Premier, viewed the centralist system from inside it and what he saw as the solution to the problem. That ought to be a fair enough comparison even for Senator Wriedt. The Adelaide Advertiser of 1 7 June 1974 reported Mr Dunstan ‘s address to the annual State convention of the Australian Labor Party. The report states:
Mr Dunstan said the Federal Government’s policy was forcing State Governments into regressive tax measures.
The Premier said that centralism, the policy which Senator Wriedt is now offering, was forcing the States into regressive tax measures. The report continues:
Centralised decision-making from Canberra could spell disaster’ for industries and workers in South Australia, he said.
This, of course, is the policy that Senator Wriedt now sees as being important. The report states further
Difficult though it may be to apply still further increases in the fields of State taxes, we will be forced again this year to levy additional revenues to finance services of an adequate standard ‘, Mr Dunstan said.
A week ago Mr Whitlam had informed him -
That is, Mr Dunstan:
The State has no means of reducing its expenditure markedly from revenue sources . . .
I believe it to be essential for the Labor Party to decide in Federal conference that the formula for provision of money to the States from Federal income tax should be an adequate and fixed percentage of income tax revenues to be returned to the States ‘, Mr Dunstan said.
Here is an example of the case being argued in 1 974, the period of the Garden of Eden, according to Senator Wriedt. The centralist policies that Senator Wriedt now sees as important were being argued against then. It was argued at a time of the greatest increase in public funding in Australia’s history combined with the greatest unemployment- in that period 187,000 people were out of work- caused by the policies of the Whitlam Government. It was the time of the greatest rise in inflation and interest rates and this is what Senator Wriedt is advocating that the people of Australia should adopt. This is the result of practical centralism.
Perhaps Senator Wriedt should be reminded that in that time local government rates were forced up by as much as 30 per cent to 33 per cent. All local government bodies said that as a result of the centralist policies of the Whitlam Government and despite the extra revenues, as a result of an increase of 33 per cent in rates, they were barely able to maintain existing services. That is the centralism that is being advocated by Senator Wriedt. I want to present the two sides of the case quite dispassionately although I want also to present the facts of what happened to the States. Quite clearly under centralism, which is the alternative, trading must have been better. Their buoyancy of funding must have been better. They must have been able to do things although Mr Dunstan argued against everything that Senator Wriedt now says is necessary.
It is interesting to look at the States ‘ deficits in 1973-74, the first year of the Whitlam Government. In New South Wales, there was a deficit of $16. 4m; in Victoria, it was $2. 6m; in Queensland, $1.5m; in South Australia, $3.4m; in Western Australia, $5. 7m; and in Tasmania, $3.2m. The whole Federation was in absolute pawn to the Commonwealth. Let us go to the second year and see what happened then. The situation was a little worse. New South Wales had a disastrous deficit of $40m, Victoria a deficit of $15. lm, Queensland a deficit of $8.3m, South Australia a surplus of $8.4m, Western Australia a deficit of $9.2m and Tasmania a deficit of $ 13.6m. These are the years to which Senator Wriedt said we should return because they were the good years of centralism.
I pause here, because no doubt if he is attacking the new federalism he is saying that federalism is much worse than his practice of centralism. I am happy to report that in the first two years of the Fraser Federal Government every State in each of those two years was substantially able- by tens of millions of dollars- to cut taxes and to balance its Budget. Mr Dunstan and the other Premiers pointed out that in each of the three years of the Whitlam Government each of the States went into heavy deficit pawn and had to impose heavy taxes. We remember Mr Dunstan ‘s words that centralised decisionmaking from Canberra could spell disaster for industries and that the Federal Government’s policy was forcing State governments into regressive tax measures. Senator Wriedt invited us to adopt the Whitlam formula under which, in the years of the Whitlam Government, all the States were in pawn. All the States imposed more and more taxes and were limited in their delivery of services. During that period, in which there was the greatest expenditure of public funds, there was the greatest disaster, apart from the Depression, in Australia’s history. Everybody knows- indeed the then Treasurer, Mr Hayden, had to confessthat increased expenditure of money could create more unemployment. The then Treasurer knew that, yet Senator Wriedt is arguing that increased expenditure of money is a virtue. I remind honourable senators again that local government at that time was forced to put up its rates by 30 per cent or more and was scarcely able to keep up the delivery of basic services. These are the consequences of the centralist policies which Senator Wriedt is inviting us to follow now.
What has happened in our two years in government? The States have been able not only to cut a wide range of taxes but also substantially to balance their Budgets. Senator Wriedt made great play of the fact that South Australia had a deficit this year. I did not hear him refer to the announcement by the Premier that he had substantial reserves which were capable of meeting that deficit, that therefore he could finance it out of the reserves built up under the Fraser Government’s federalism. The same situation is occurring all the time. All States have been cutting taxes and balancing their Budgets. Let us look at the Federal picture. The Whitlam Government, in its three years in office, almost trebled the amount of take in personal income taxes, doubled the take in sales tax and doubled the take in customs and excise. It was the tax grabber. It forced the States to put up severely their taxes and charges.
What has happened in the two years of this Government? Each year massive tax cuts have been made by the Federal Government. Personal income tax has been indexed- something which the Mathews Committee recommended that the Labor Government do but which that Government refused to do. In our two years in government there has been a cut of some $ 1,000m in taxation, which means that that money has been going back into the pockets of the people. So what is Senator Wriedt saying? Is he saying that it is better to have Whitlam centralismthe socialist centralism- which trebles income tax, doubles sales tax and doubles customs tax and forces States into deficit and into putting up their taxes? Is he saying that it is preferable to federalism, under which the States are all in good trading positions and are able to cut their taxes massively?
Let us pause here because the gravamen of Senator Wriedt ‘s argument is that under federalism the States have been short of money and unable to discharge their functions. The States have had the opportunity to decide to do one of two things- either to use the money for widened or new functions or to cut taxes. So Senator Wriedt ‘s argument is destroyed immediately; there is no argument at all. The very luxury of decision-making by the States defeats that argument. The trouble with Senator Wriedt ‘s arguments, which he puts up day by day, is that he is delightfully selective. For example, when he wants to talk about statistics for the last year of the Whitlam Government and the first year of the Fraser Government he leaves in the $94m for the Regional Employment Development Scheme, conveniently forgetting that his Government had scrapped the scheme and it ought not to be counted.
When he refers to Tasmania and wants to show that we are cutting the allocation of money to that State, does he remind himself of the huge amount of money that the Commonwealth Government is giving to Tasmania by way of freight equalisation subsidy? Does he remind himself of the money that we gave and are giving to the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd, which I think the Tasmanian Government refused to give? Does he remind himself of the $40m-odd that went into Tasmania for the repair of the Tasman Bridge? These are little items of book-keeping which conveniently are left out.
Having given the picture of the comparison between the two eras, let me put the record straight and remind the Senate and the people of Australia that in 1971 all six Premiers asked the Federal Government to do precisely what Mr Dunstan asked be done in June 1974. He is reported as having said:
I believe it to be essential for the Labor Party to decide in Federal Conference that the formula for provision of money to the States from Federal income tax should be an adequate and fixed percentage of income tax revenues to be returned to the States.
All six Premiers came to the Commonwealth and said that this should be done. Of course, Senator Wriedt and his Labor Party are saying that it should not be done. He conveniently overlooks also that at the Premiers Conferences in 1976 and 1977 the Premiers, step by step, agreed to the essential structure of the federalist scheme. It contains all the essential elements, and some of the Premiers have even been kind enough to praise it as a far-reaching scheme.
- Mr Bjelke-Petersen has acknowledged the reform of federalism as such. Indeed, the Premiers have acknowledged that the decentralisation of power, which we are introducing at this moment, is of profound importance.
– What powers have been handed back to the States?
– I suppose it would be necessary to explain to Senator Gietzelt what powers have been handed back to the States because, in his cocoon of centralist socialism, he would be blind to anything else. He could not have escaped the fact that in regard to perhaps the most significant of all powers- that is, the seas and submerged lands powers- the Commonwealth, of its own initiative, through the Premiers Conference, has invited the States to share powers with the Commonwealth although the High Court ruled that powers lay with the Commonwealth.
I invite Senator Gietzelt and all others who have blinkers on to look to what is happening in one of the most exciting reforms in Australia’s history. Does the Labor Party say that it believes the State governments should be the pawns of the Commonwealth? It is diverting to remind the people of Australia what the then Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, viewed as the role of the States. Mr Whitlam said in his writings that it was the duty of all State Labor parliamentarians to work for the dissolution of State parliaments. In other words, the Labor Party believes in the dissolution of State parliaments. It believes in the abolition of the Senate, of course, because it is a States’ House. It sought, and Mr Whitlam has written of this, to amalgamate local government into some 60 or 70 regions all subservient to the Commonwealth. It saw, and Mr Whitlam saw, one Parliament only, one House, the House of Representatives in Canberra, with all power centralised in it.
The Labor Party sought the destruction of the States, the amalgamation of local government, and that is the thesis that Senator Wriedt today invited us to accept on the basis of the most brazen failures in performance that can be produced. The very tables that Senator Wriedt put in are evidence of his own destruction in terms of arguments. All the Premiers asked that they should have a fixed share of personal income tax. All the Premiers believe, and I think all Australians outside the doctrinaire Labor Party people believe, that the State governments as governments should be responsible for the moneys they spend, that good government is responsible government. All Australians, excepting the Labor Party, believe that it should be the right of the State governments to have flexible incomes so that they can make decisions of their own. I remind the Parliament again that for the first time in many years the States in the last two years have had the luxury of decision-making in relation to cutting taxes or increasing programs. In not one year of the Whitlam Government did that happen because the Whitlam Government would not wear it in a fit.
The fact is that the Whitlam Government produced a state of inflation running towards 1 8 per cent, interest rates rising through the roof, an alarming and sudden onset of unemployment caused deliberately by it. Now the Labor Party says that we should look towards its policies of financing and approve them. Why should we approve them? In our two years we have brought down inflation to somewhere about 9 per cent or below and falling. We have brought down interest rates substantially by at least 1.3 per cent and falling. We have reduced the need for local government to put up its rates by 30 per cent or more, and the average rating increase in the last year was about 9 per cent, and I hope falling. We have given to local government a massive new reform, and I will recite it. When the Labor Party was in power, in its centralism, its policy was simple. As I said, it was to invoke the Whitlam formula to get amalgamations into regions and subservience to the Commonwealth so that local government would do as it was told. Labor then gave some $79.9m to local government. In our first year of office we increased that amount by 75 per cent and by the second year the amount had risen to $165m, which is more than double what Labor was giving. In the next three years we are committed as a matter of policy not only to continue the linking of local government revenue to the taxation formula, that is the 1.52 per cent, but also to raise it to 2 per cent. I take it that the Labor Party is inherently opposed to the percentage linking of local government to personal income tax.
– Rubbish? Oh, I see. The Labor Party, on Senator Gietzelt ‘s statement, favours a percentage linking to personal income tax. That is important. For local government but not for State governments? Senator Gietzelt shakes his head. Where do we stand? It is a good principle, says Senator Gietzelt, because he knows, through his local government background, that he would be eaten alive outside- if he were considered to be consumable- by local government if he dared to say otherwise. He knows that local government regards what we have done as the greatest reform that has ever happened to local government. Now we have one of these wonderful exposes. It is a good principle to link the amount of money for local government as a fixed percentage to personal income tax. That is a good show for local government, with all the concept of growth and with all that it means in planning. But it is a bad principle, says the Labor Party, to do the same for State governments, even though the State Premiers all said they wanted it and even though Mr Dunstan said that that is what the Labor Party should do if it were not to destroy the States.
For what reason was this matter of public importance brought on today? I welcome it. If ever a party was accident prone it is the Labor Party. If ever there were a party that wanted to say ‘mea culpa’ and indulge in self-flagellation and masochism it is the Labor Party. How could the Labor Party come forward today and submit this matter of public importance? Let me add up what the Labor Party has said. It has said: ‘We oppose the Fraser Government’s new federalism. We believe that our centralism was right. ‘ The Labor Party’s centralism has been shown to be utterly regressive, condemned by all the State Premiers, forcing up State taxation, reducing the amount of activity in the States, destructive of local government, destructive of State budgets, destructive of the ability of the States to move in any way. And that is what the Labor Party is advocating. What is the Fraser Government’s record? Two years of clear demonstration, two years with all the States free to budget freely, free to cut taxes, free to make decisions as to whether to manoeuvre or not, and a local government reform which is acknowledged as historic and which is steadily bringing down rates. That is the comparison. We hear Senator Gietzelt saying: ‘Please do not say that I am opposed to a percentage linking for local government because they would get at me if I did. But in fact I oppose the same principle for State governments.’ Of course he does, because his partyand he was silent when I said it- is pledged to the destruction of State government. That is the reason for his silence.
In the last two years the revenue sharing grants to the States have risen very significantly. In the last year the total amount of revenue sharing grants received by the States has risen from $3, 676m to $4,336. 1m, an increase of 18 per cent in a year in which inflation will be running at 9 per cent or less. In the revenue sharing arrangements we have built in a real ability for increased capacity. A lot is being made of the fact that under the stage 2 system the States are going to be offered the ability, if they want to, to put on a rebate and reduce personal income tax so that one State can become more attractive than another; or they can put on a surcharge if they want to. I take it that the Labor Party is totally opposed to the idea that any State should be able to introduce an incentive rebate. It must be so because Senator Wriedt said that the Labor Party was opposed to stage 2; that the idea of the rebate was anathema and that it would oppose it. I think the people of Australia will be very interested to know that the Labor Party opposes any kind of incentive system in that regard.
Members of the Labor Party talk about double taxation. They try to imply that federalism means double taxation. Federalism means, of course, reduced taxation and that has been the course of its journey in the past two years. Centralism means double taxation. Let me remind Opposition senators again that under Labor income tax almost trebled, and sales tax and customs duty doubled. There were huge increases by the States in all their taxes and charges. That is the Whitlam scheme that the people of Australia are invited to accept. It is the scheme that twice the people of Australia in historic record majorities threw out at the ballot box. Now the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, totally accident prone, comes forward and says: Have another go. Let us see whether we can get some mileage out of this’. He referred to the situation in South Australia but he was very quiet today about Tasmania. He said: ‘What about this $ 18.4m deficit?’ Did he note that in achieving it the Premier of South Australia cut taxes so that he had the ability to have no deficit if he wanted or to have a deficit. The honourable senator must know that the statement conveyed the information that out of the reserves built up during this Government’s time the South Australian Government was going to finance the deficit.
In my time in the Senate I have not seen a worse disaster area than the Labor Party. I welcome the fact that it has brought on this urgency debate because it gives an opportunity for me to show that its own people in their own States oppose centralism, that the Labor Premiers were thoroughly opposed to the centralism of the Whitlam Government and that the Whitlam Government’s centralism was disastrous. This debate gives a unique opportunity to the Federal Government to remind the people of Australia of the continuing success of Fraser federalism at Federal, State and local government levels.
– The impassioned defence of new federalism we have just heard came from Senator Carrick, who is the architect of that policy. He sold it to his Liberal Party Leader, Mr Malcolm Fraser, back in 1975 because some features of it appealed to Mr Fraser ‘s particular ideological prejudices. Senator Carrick then, by the very narrowest of margins- I understand by even a tied vote- managed to sell it to his Liberal Party front bench colleagues of the day. It was ultimately incorporated and was a major feature in the Liberal Party’s 1975 election rhetoric and policy documents. In 1977 there was not one line or one word about new federalism in the Liberal Party ‘s election rhetoric or policy documents. If the Liberal Party is as convinced of the wisdom and popularity of this policy as Senator Carrick ‘s remarks would have us believe, is it not strange that there was not a word about it in the 1977 election campaign?
Senator Carrick, in the web of fantasy which he has spun around himself on this issue, would have us believe that the State governments entered, in the financial sense, a golden age when the Fraser Government was elected and when the fiscal policies of new federalism became partially operative. He contrasted this to what he considered to the dark and bankrupt years of the Whitlam Government, when the State governments were inadequately funded. Unfortunately, the one-time Treasurer in the Fraser Government, Mr Lynch, within eight months of that Government taking office, on 1 8 July 1976 issued a statement in which he said:
Over the five years to 1 975-76, the annual growth in State budget expenditures had averaged over 20 per cent; it had exceeded the growth in Commonwealth budget expenditures (excluding payments to the States) over the same period.
At the same time, payments by the Commonwealth to the States had grown much faster than other Commonwealth outlays.
The last Budget of the dreaded Labor Government, according to Senator Carrick-
I remind Senator Carrick that the author of those words was the man who served as Treasurer in the Government for two years. Then the real killer came when Mr Lynch said in the same Press statement:
There had to be a slowing down in the rate of growth of Commonwealth payments to the States.
That is worth repeating. The words of the Treasurer in the Fraser Government were:
There had to be a slowing down in the rate of growth of Commonwealth payments to the States.
There the truth emerged. The Treasurer said that there had to be a slowing down in the rate of growth and there has been.
Senator Carrick would also have us believe that because of the fiscal generosity of the Fraser Government, State governments have been able to reduce taxes. He can, if he wants, cite one or two examples in which State governments have reduced specific taxes, but it is the aggregate level of taxation that is relevant. Unfortunately for Senator Carrick the facts, again, contradict him. I have an extract of an Australian Bureau of Statistics document entitled Public Authority Finance; Public Authority Estimates for 1977-78 which details the growth in total State government taxation over a period of years. In the 1975-76 financial year total State government taxation revenue was $3.37 billion. In 1977-78 the estimate is $4,179 billion. That is an increase of 24 per cent in two years. In the same period, if Senator Carrick ‘s estimates of consumer price index increases are to be believed, the CPI has increased by just over 22 per cent. The fact is that, since the Fraser Government’s new federalism became operative, State government aggregate taxation has increased at a faster rate than the consumer price index. Senator Carrick would have us believe, if we were sufficiently naive, that the financial provisions of the new federalism have been so generous that the States have been able to reduce taxation. In what I presume was a hasty, off the top of the head statement, Senator Carrick also claimed that local government rates were coming down. I am not aware of any local government authorities in Australia in which rates are coming down. If Senator Carrick could table a list of those authorities in which rates are coming down I am sure the Senate would be very interested to examine it. I am also sure it would not take very long to do so. It would be a document comparable to that small booklet published last year entitled The wit of Malcolm Fraser, which contained 45 blank pages.
Despite all of Senator Carrick ‘s bombast and belligerence the plain truth is that the Fraser Government’s federalism policy is in tatters, if not in ruins. The Government itself has tacitly acknowledged that fact. This issue which featured so prominently in the 1 975 Liberal Party election campaign got no mention in 1977. The failure or demise of new federalism had a certain inevitability about it. From the outset the policy was largely fatuous and nebulous. From the outset it contained elements of self-contradiction which became more damaging and, of course, ultimately fatal when its sometimes laudable objectives were tested by exposure to reality.
The central feature of federalism was supposed to be the devolution or decentralisation of power. In particular, the Federal Government was supposed to withdraw substantially from funding the public sector. It was that element of new federalism that appealed to the particular, or peculiar, ideology of the present Prime Minister. The consequential shortfall in State government revenue would be met either by reducing total public sector size, or the State component of the public sector, or by State funds raised by State income taxes. The discretion as to whether the shortfall was to be met by reducing expenditure or by levying a State income tax was supposed to be left to the States.
The major financial mechanism embodied in the new federalism was that, by a percentage share of personal income tax, the Commonwealth would continue to fund those areas of expenditure designated as general purpose payments but that the States would gradually take over what has previously been called specific purpose payments by the Commonwealth and would fund them through State income taxes. The State income taxes were supposed to operate from July 1977. They were not introduced by any of the States. Few people seriously consider that they ever will be introduced. In response to some of the noisy interjections which were coming from my left a minute ago, I cite the Premier of Western Australia, Sir Charles Court, who in his public posturings has been one of the major supporters of this federalism policy because he saw it as a way of increasing his power and his prestige. But when it actually came to picking up the financial responsibilities that went with it, Sir Charles, as State politicians and State Premiers are wont to do, backed down.
I have in front of me an article from the Sydney Morning Herald of 8 April 1977 headed Western Australia supports Fraser’s tax planbut not now ‘. It states:
The West Austraiian Premier, Sir Charles Court, is opposed to the States levying income tax surcharges in present economic circumstancesHe revealed his attitude in a confidential Telex message he sent on Wednesday to the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser.
So whatever Sir Charles CoUrt by his public posturing, would have us believe that he believes, when he sends secret telexes to the Prime Minister the truth comes out. The truth is that even Sir Charles Court is opposed to the State income tax. In the telex he said:
However, I must add that I do not think it would be proper for a State to impose its own income tax at present in view of the economic situation.
I suggest that, in the judgment of Sir Charles Court, the economic situation will never justify the imposition of a State income tax. The question must arise as to whether new federalism and State income taxes- like honour and integrity in government, jobs for all, the investment led recovery, the export led recovery and the consumer led recovery- should now be seen as Fraserian illusions or fabrications. Is the Fraser Government about to surreptitiously drop its new federalism into the political dustbin? There was nothing in Senator Carrick ‘s statement to clear up that question one way or the other. He gave us an impassioned, bombastic and highly innaccurate defence of past actions by the Liberal Party but it did not clear up that question. When will the national Government withdraw from the area of specific purpose payments and allow, or force, the States to fund them through State income taxes? There has been no answer to that question. I believe that there will not be an answer. One apparent objective of new federalism- freezing the growth of Federal Government employment- has been met. The Federal Government has reduced slightly the number of Federal Government employees since it has been in office but there has been a more than offsetting growth in State government employees. From the Australian Bureau of Statistics Bulletin 6212 issued on 3 April last we find that State and local government -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Senator Walsh, I think that you are reading your speech, and that is contrary to the Standing Orders of the Senate.
– I take a point of order. The Standing Orders have been amended to provide that shadow Ministers may read their speeches on any of the matters being debated in the Senate.
– In any event, Mr Acting Deputy President, I have a total of three pages of notes. If anyone thinks that I can speak for 15 minutes on three pages of notes he must think that I have microscopic writing and particularly keen eyesight. I am quite willing to table my notes if anyone wants me to do so. Let me continue. The ABS document shows that for two years, January 1976 to January 1978, State and local government employment has grown by 65,000. Federal Government employment has declined slightly. These figures do not exactly correlate with the figures presented by Senator Wriedt. The definitions and the time periods are slightly different. The document also shows that total private employment in that same two-year period has fallen by 62,000. Honourable Senators should remember that the private sector was supposed to be the engine for economic growth which would lead us to recovery once a Liberal government was elected. In fact in the two years the private sector not only failed to be an engine for growth under the policies of this Government, but also stalled and started running downhill. It is still going downhill and it will continue to go downhill as long as the thrust- to use the word used so often by the previous Treasurer- of the Government’s economic policy remains where it is. So Federal Government employment has been restricted and State government employment has continued to grow. It is just as well that it has, because it has managed to take up the slack caused by the continuing decline of the private sector.
I see that my time has almost expired. I must mention one thing. Senator Carrick was the most reckless and extravagant of all the prophets of the benefits of new federalism. On 27 April 1976, in answer to a question in the Senate, he asserted that total payments to the States- that is, total payments and not just the general purpose payments- would increase in real terms by something more than 58 per cent in the first three years of the Fraser Government. As Senator Wriedt has already shown, total payments to the States in real terms in the first two years- far from increasing- have fallen by 78 per cent.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired. Before I call on the next honourable senator I would like to say that there is no basis in the point of order raised by Senator Gietzelt. There is no difference between a senator and a Minister speaking in a general debate in this chamber.
– I am indebted to the Opposition for proposing this matter of public importance today and for reminding us of the tragedy of the Whitlam Labor Government’s dealings with the
States. It is well for us to remind ourselves every now and again of the intentions of that Government in seeking to destroy the relationships with the States and in fact their very existence. We all know that some years ago it was spelt out quite clearly by various spokesmen for the Labor Government, including the Leader at that time, Mr Gough Whitlam, and even by the Premier of South Australia, that it was their purpose to establish one centralised government in Australia based on one House of Parliament in Canberra and to seek the abolition of the States and to rule through regional councils established throughout the area of the Commonwealth. Their intention was- and remains, as it was made quite clear in the speeches we heard today- to abolish the States and to seek the centralisation of power, particularly in relation to tax collection and the capacity to expend money on programs, in the hands of the Federal Government here in Canberra.
It has been the purpose of the Fraser Government since being elected in 1975 to seek the devolution of power both by means of expenditure and by means of alterations to laws. As was demonstrated by Senator Carrick during his earlier speech on the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill, it is the intention of the Fraser Government to have a working relationship with the States in a way which is relevant to the whole power process within the Commonwealth. That is directly opposed to the Opposition’s approach. I thank Senator Wriedt for bringing that matter to our attention today so that we can remind ourselves again of the tragedy- I could almost say it was a comedy tragedy- of the period between 1972 and 1975.
Let us look at some of the questions that have been raised today by the Opposition in this debate, pitiful though they were. We note that Senator Wriedt has raised in quite an orderly fashion the sums of money which the States would have received under the Whitlam Government’s formulas that applied up to 1975. He said that during the last three years the Federal Government has not passed on some $367m in real terms to the States. What Senator Wriedt ignores is that he is basing his argument entirely on the fact that only one issue is involved, namely, that it is the question of inflation which makes the difference. That is not so. Another factor involved includes the alterations to the programs themselves. One has only to contemplate the effects of the State government in South Australia and Tasmania selling their railways to the Commonwealth to realise the significant effects- I think that we can count up bills amounting to almost $120m in those two sales alone- upon the finances–
– You did not oppose it. You supported it.
- Senator Bishop interjects. All I am seeking to establish here is a point which the Opposition clearly is overlooking when it is making these arguments against the Commonwealth. I wish to come down to a very simple discussion about this whole matter. If the States are so badly off, why is it that they are able to cut taxation in the way they have in their Budgets last financial year? Why is it that they have been able to further extend their finances? I do not hear any comments from Opposition senators about those matters. Why is it that the States have been able to increase the numbers in their public services? Senator Wriedt cited the figures. There has been an increase from 777,000 public servants to 951,000 public servants in the last two and a half years. Those figures compare with a reduction in the Commonwealth Public Service in the same period. If the States are so starved of funds, how is it that they can organise themselves to make sure that they can do all those things?
Senator Wriedt made the point that the great burden of unemployment has fallen upon the States as a result of this Fraser Government’s policies. The States are employing more people through their public services. In a sense, we must agree with the Opposition on this point. If we properly support the principles of devolution of power and the devolution of proper monetary control, surely we agree with the principle that more people must be employed at this level rather than at the Commonwealth level. Therefore, we do not see any argument in that policy. We congratulate the States on taking such a major step in providing sympathetic concern for the unemployed people in this situation. We know of the difficulties in industry. But that is not to say that the State governments do not have a proper role in ensuring that such steps go ahead. Senator Wriedt also made the point that the States now receive a guaranteed share of income tax which is set at 39.8 per cent of the last year’s collections. This was exactly what the States sought at the last Premiers Conference. Yet the honourable senator complains about the fact that we have changed the policy since the 1 976 Premiers Conference when the share was established at 33.6 per cent of the current year’s collections.
A fundamentally different principle is involved. Yet he makes a point to complain about the fact that this is somehow depriving the States of their finances. Obviously, Senator Wriedt is out to make simple political points in trying to establish some support for his counterpart in Tasmania who has been saying these outrageous things in the Press in that State in recent days. Let us look at some of the effects of the recent payments to the States through the reimbursement grant system. I will cite the figures from the Budget documents. Payments to the States in the 1976-77 financial year increased by 14.3 per cent. In 1 977-78, that increase in payments was down slightly to 13.5 per cent. But we must make it clear that this is prior to the deduction made for inflation. In the 1976-77 financial year the consumer price index rose by 13.4 per cent which means that in real terms the funds going to the States increased by less than one per cent. But what is the position in 1977-78? We find that currently inflation is running at around 9 per cent or hopefully even less. When we compare that inflation rate with the 13.5 per cent increase in funds this financial year, we see that there has been a real increase in funds provided to the States of over 4 per cent, greater than the rise in inflation that was budgeted for in the gross domestic product in Australia. This clearly demonstrates that the States are doing better under the new federalism policy.
We must remind ourselves also that it was the Whitlam Labor Government during the period 1972 to 1975 which, apart from its determined policy in relation to the law and the use of section 96 grants amongst other things, sought through inflation and interest rates, thereby creating more unemployment, to destroy the States and their basis of finance as well. We all know that State finances cannot react as quickly to the effects of inflation as can Commonwealth finances. This is simply because their tax base tends to be calculated on capital values rather than in accordance with rising salaries as is the fact generally in the case of the Commonwealth. All these things created definite problems for the States and obviously cause a great deal of trouble for them in those years. Those problems have to be overcome now through the increased generosity of the Fraser Government. Hopefully, they will lead eventually to a greater degree of independence for the States in future years. It is the future with which we are concerned in this policy. It is a forward looking policy. It has been supported by the people at elections in 1 975 and 1977 when they clearly demonstrated their interest and agreed with the general thrust of these policies.
Let me turn to some of the benefits which have flowed to the people of the various States since the federalism policy was introduced. I will cite the situation in my State of South Australia where payroll tax exemption for a small business has been granted to a significant degree amounting to a tax cut of some Sim. Secondly, probatethat is, death duties- between spouses has been abolished leading to a reduction of $4m to $5m being collected in the form of death duties. I might add that that came about after a great deal of pressure from the public and from the Opposition in my State which the Government, up until that time, did not recognise. Also, concessions have been introduced in respect of land tax which has cost another $6.4m in lost revenue. Stamp duty reductions and a reduction of rates of duty, particularly in regard to housing, have saved the community another $3m. Those savings add up to some $ 1 5m in my State.
It might be said that perhaps that has led to some increase in the deficit in South Australia. It could well be that there has been some change in those circumstances. However, an examination of the deficit picture reveals that for the period of the great socialist experiment from 1972 to 1975 when compared with the present position the accumulated total deficits for all the States in the 1973-74 financial year amounted to $32.8m. In the next financial year, 1974-75, there was a great leap forward to $77. 8m in the total deficits of the States. In the first year of the Fraser Government’s period of office, when the new federalism policy was just commencing, the total deficits turned into a surplus of $2 1.4m. In 1977 that surplus, on an adjusted basis- bearing in mind a particular technical factor which was involved in South Australia- was $ 12.6m. Those figures demonstrate clearly the success of the federalism policies, inasmuch as the States are no longer suffering a deficit but are in fact growing under the benefit of these policies.
I am pleased that the States are reacting to the increased area of confidence in the Federal Government insofar as there are now far better relationships between the States and the Federal Government. Senator Walsh made the point that there have been some six Premiers Conferences since this Federal Government came to power in 1975. He ignored totally, of course, that it was very necessary in that time to settle a lot of long term details and that the Conferences went very well during that time, when one considers that so many fundamental matters were up for discussion and determination. I conclude by commending the Federal Government, the Fraser Government, on its initiative of introducing this far-reaching, far-sighted policy. I thank the Opposition for again bringing this matter to our attention and giving us the opportunity of examining again the paucity, weakness and pitiful nature of its policies and particularly of highlighting the policy of centralism which almost brought this country to the step of ruin between 1972 and 1975.
– Before I call Senator Gietzelt, I draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the President’s Gallery of a former senator, George Branson. On behalf of honourable senators, I extend a very warm welcome to him. We wish him a happy sojourn in the Senate.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
– On the initiative of the Australian Labor Party, the Senate is discussing the problems associated with Commonwealth-State financial relationships- a problem that has plagued Australia since Federation in 1901. It is a question of establishing areas of responsibility and of supplying the necessary finance for the respective arms of government to carry out those responsibilities. We introduce this matter because we believe that Fraser ‘s federalism is in tatters and is not effectively carrying out the aims set by the present Government when it came to office in 1976. The facts are that the State Premiers criticise the manner in which federalism is operating. I do not know which newspapers honourable senators opposite read, but certainly the newspapers that I read indicate clearly a growing area of disillusionment by the States about the operation of Fraser’s federalism.
I suppose we could be thankful for the fact that the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) was the first speaker for the Government in this debate, because we were able to see him again on his hobby horse- a hobby horse which I think is best described as a rocking horse- going up and down in the one place. It was a rhetorical speech. Most of his contribution did not deal with the benefits for the States, but was a tirade that we have heard constantly in this place against Mr Whitlam and the Whitlam Labor Government.
The incredible facts are that the statistics and the Budget documents show that in the period of the Labor Government the States received the greatest amount of funds in the history of Federation. I am referring to the amounts they received year by year and to the total amounts paid to the States. It may be true that in the first year of the first Budget of the Whitlam Government the States expressed some concern about the inadequacy of public funding to the States. That was an understandable position, because when Labor came to power in 1 972 it had to pick up the tab for so many years of deficiency so far as community and public services were concerned. In the first six months in office we could not bring down a Budget which would make up for the financial and social neglect that were so characteristic of those 23 long years of liberalism.
The facts are, of course, that in our subsequent Budgets we took gigantic steps to rectify the problems of Commonwealth and State relations. We recognised for the first time in the history of this country the right of local government. We made history by making direct grants available to local government- a fact that is now overlooked by Senator Carrick and by other honourable senators opposite who speak on this matter. The fact is that for 23 years local government had asked for the right to be given a share of Commonwealth revenue, but it had been refused, Budget by Budget, until we came to office in 1972. In our 1974-75 Budget we made provision for local government. It was a very important historical development.
Let us examine the funding arrangements that existed. For example, the total amount of grants for general purposes, specific grants and grants for capital works- generally, all of the moneys that the Commonwealth pays in the form of loans or direct grants to the States- in the first Whitlam Budget increased by some 30 per cent compared with the Budget for the previous year, that is, the last year of the Liberal-National Country Party Government. In the subsequent Budget, the 1975-76 Budget, there was an increase to the States of 85 per cent when compared with the base year- the last year of the Liberal and National Country Party Government. The Budget documents bear that out. Therefore one can say only that Senator Carrick is completely misleading the Senate and the Australian people in his endeavours to say that -
– Order! That is an imputation that a person is misleading the Senate or misleading the public.
– He has misled the Senate in the way in which he represented the figures in this place. He has suggested–
– Order! Senator Gietzelt, you must rephrase your remarks.
– With respect, Mr President, Senator Carrick quoted today the figure of 18.4 per cent. I think that was the amount to which he referred. The Budget documents show, for example, that in general revenue from 1976-77 to 1977-78, the increase was 16.6 per cent. That is also borne out–
– Order! The honourable senator must not impute that a person is misleading the people of Australia.
– Well, he is misinterpreting -
– Order! I ask Senator Gietzelt to rephrase his remarks.
– If the word ‘misleading’ upsets you, Mr President, all I can say is that Senator Carrick was misinterpreting the Budget documents, that he was not referring to the documents which were made available to all other honourable senators and that he was endeavouring, while the Senate proceedings were being broadcast, to create a false impression in respect to the years in which the Labor Government made available moneys to the States and what his Government has done over the last two years. All I can say from my reading of the article in the Sydney Morning Herald headed ‘Fraser’s Faltering Federalism’, is that the figures that were produced by the economic editor of that newspaper, which I regard as being a reputable newspaper, are the figures on which I am prepared to rely because they compare exactly with the figures in the documents that have been made available to us. The Minister suggested in his contribution to this debate that all the States are satisfied with the amounts of money that have been made available to them, but he knows from the Premiers Conferences which have been held that the six State entities have met in their own right with a view to caucusing against the Federal Government. Yet the Minister ignored the basic fact- and he knows that is what happenedthat at each of the conferences the six Premiers have in a variety of ways, as Senator Walsh has indicated, expressed considerable disappointment at the way in which the federalism policy is being applied.
The same Minister had the temerity to suggest that in some way or other I was breaching my Party’s policy or I was afraid to express my view in respect of local government authorities having a share of Commonwealth revenue. Let me put the record straight. In the debate the honourable senator said that I did not support the general principle of local government authorities having access to federal funds. In fact, I was the instigator at the local government conferences in New South Wales and in my own area in convening conferences to establish the very principle that local government should have a fixed share of Commonwealth revenue, and I make no apology for that. I think it ill-becomes a Minister to suggest that someone who is a member of the Labor Party is not prepared to support that principle. He knows as well as I do that the acrimony between the State governments and the Commonwealth Government has not evaporated with the introduction of the federalism policy. He knows as well as I do that the States want access to funds to enable them to cany out their responsibilities. Naturally the States do have responsibility for certain areas. He knows as well as I do that in 1971 when the Premiers asked for a fixed share of Commonwealth revenue they were aware of the fact that income tax collected annually by the Commonwealth was in fact a growth tax. For the Minister to suggest that the only time there had been a growth component in income tax in Australia was in the Whitlam years is in my view a misleading statement to make in a debate of this nature because in fact income tax has been growing steadily budget by budget ever since the end of the war, and particularly in the inflationary years. Similarly, the Minister attempted to assert that the highest rate of inflation occurred during the period of the Whitlam Administration, but the statistics show that the highest rate of inflation in Australia post-war occurred in 1951- the period of the Menzies Administration, a Liberal-Country Party Government.
We take issue with Senator Carrick not because he has not responded as a Minister should in a debate on federalism but because he has endeavoured to create impressions in this place and publicly that the State Premiers are happy with the arrangements, that the States are better off. He ignores the very point that the previous speaker on the Government side made in respect of the position in South Australia and Tasmania regarding the taking over of the railway systems by the Whitlam Government- financed by the Whitlam Government and criticised by honourable senators opposite- as a contributing factor towards the very creditable way in which those respective States have been able to manage their domestic budgets. We accepted our responsibility and increased payments. The largest single component in Commonwealth expenditure of federal revenue was the amount paid to the States. Payments by the Commonwealth to the States between 1973-74 and 1975-76 increased by 85 percent from $4,360m to $8,555m.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Every Prime Minister who has assumed that high office since the end of World War II has in one way or another finally accepted the mantle of centralism and every government since then the mantle of a centralist government. I think it is wrong in a serious debate about Commonwealth-State relations to try to bring down to the lowest common denominator the suggestion that the Labor Government’s whole philosophy was based on the priniciple of centralism. I think it has to be saidand said time and time again- that a national government in any country has to accept responsibility for economic management. To that end, the States and local government authorities have to play some part- a subordinate part- in the pursuit of proper management of the economy.
I am weary of debates in which it always seems to be suggested that centralism is some sort of a bogey in the public sector. There is never any mention in the Parliament or elsewhere of the tremendous development of centralism within the private sector and the way in which the major corporations centralise power within that sector. If it is valid to attack, as the Federal Government has done, the move towards centralism, it is equally wrong to see centralism applied to the private sector. We have seen the States, in the pursuit of responsibility in economic management, being forced into a somewhat subordinate position, which today can only be described as one of stagnation. It is for that reason that the Opposition want to discuss the question of Commonwealth-State relations. We assert that in these circumstances federalism is a political gimmick. It was a phrase that was carried in 1975 and, after two years’ operation, it seems to have lost its motivation.
– Order! The honourable senator ‘s time has expired.
-The Senate is debating a matter of public importance, the words of which are:
The effect of the ‘new federalism’ on CommonwealthState financial arrangements.
First, I think it is significant to make a very brief comment on the word ‘new’. It is true that it was one of the policies which swept us into office with an overwhelming majority in 1975; but I think one must remember that we are now in the year 1 978. The policy has been tried and it has been an enormous success. In fact I think it was one of the successes of the Government during the life of the last Parliament. I think it is true to say that one of the major issues in the 1975 election campaignSenator Gietzelt is still propounding the proposition- was that federalism will not work and that all power should be centralised in Canberra. I suppose this debate is about philosophies because we on this side of the chamber propound the policy of division of powers, the right of the States and local government to receive their legitimate share of the tax revenues of the Commonwealth and to spend it without direction by the Commonwealth on items which they think are of greatest priority. I suppose we can look forward to a number of debates of this kind. We may even reach a similar situation to that which has been the case since Federation with debates between the free traders and the protectionists. Honourable senators on this side of the House very definitely support the federalism policy as against the centralist policy, which was the policy of the Whitlam Government during its period of office. As I have already said, and as previous speakers from this side of the House have said, in 1975 and 1977 the people of Australia left us under no illusion that they supported overwhelmingly our philosophy.
But I think we have to look at the record to see what the facts are and what has been done in this area. I would like to have incorporated in Hansard some figures from the 1977-78 Budget Paper No. 7 showing payments to or for the States and local government authorities for this financial year. Table 2 sets out the funds to States for recurrent purposes. It shows what has been happening. In 1 974-75 the total funds for recurrent purposes were $3, 735m and this year they are up to $7,222m. That shows the whole picture. The figures do not lie.
– Quote the whole picture; do not quote j lust part of it.
– I am happy, Senator, rather than to argue with you across the floor, to have incorporated the whole of that table, if you are agreeable.
- Senator Tehan, would you please direct your remarks to the Chair.
- Mr President, I gather that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) has no objection to the incorporation of the whole of Table 2 which is on page 6 of that
Budget Paper. I seek leave to have it incorporated.
The table read as follows-
– I think the figures speak for themselves because in this debate the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs (Senator Carrick) has been accused in strong terms of treating the truth lightly. If the facts are on record no one can dispute them. I think that in a debate of this nature we on the Government side are afforded the opportunity of reviewing the three years during which federalism has been in operation, giving the necessary examples and statistics to prove the great benefits bestowed on the States and local government. There is an old adage that the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
– It certainly will be.
– I readily concede that. I think a number of people on the Government side would agree with me that when this policy was first mooted there was scepticism and doubt from both the States and local government. Since the policy has been in operation and we have seen its effects, the attitude of both the States and local government has been overwhelmingly in favour of it.
I remind honourable senators on the opposite side of the House that there was a Premiers Conference shortly before the last Federal election. The Premiers came to Canberra to see the Prime Minister and they all went away happy. I think on that occasion they were given 39.87 per cent of the previous years ‘ personal income tax collections. For the record, the figures show- I have them here- that the States now receive a guaranteed share of personal income tax on a percentage basis. We have passed the eternal arguments about a fixed sum. This share is fixed on a percentage basis of personal income tax. Nothing could be fairer than that. The attitude of the Federal Government is typical of the federalism policy. We give a certain amount to the States and a certain amount to local government. In that context their general revenue funds were increased by 19.6 per cent in 1976-77 and by a further 18 per cent in 1977-78. As I have said before, in 1977-78 the total share will be 39.87 per cent of the previous year’s personal income tax collections. Local government, which is in a similar position, now receives 1.52 per cent of income tax collections. It was guaranteed in the policy speech of the Government parties that this figure would be increased to 2 per cent.
Those honourable senators who move around the States we represent find that all municipalities, without exception, are happy with this situation, particularly when they compare it with the situation under the Labor Government where they had to go to a regional centre and public servants came down from Canberra and told the local government people not only what they were going to get but also what they had to spend it on. That is basically one of the fundamental differences in the two philosophies. On the one hand is the Government’s policy which leads to autonomy and discretion for State and local governments on how they will spend these moneys. The dread hand of centralism does not take control at every point directing that the money must be spent on this or that. State Grants Commissions have been set up to deal with local government allocations and the proportion of tied specific purpose payments in the total Commonwealth funds available to the States has been greatly reduced in favour of untied general revenue funds which the States are free to spend as they choose. Again, this is an example of our federalism policy in action.
The States now can reduce their taxes. The record proves that. If we look at the record for 1976-77, we see that there were reductions in State taxation. This occurred again in 1977-78 with the exception of one small area in Tasmania. Time probably will not permit me to cite the 1976-77 figures but I shall refer to the figures for 1977-78. There was taxation relief in probate duty in New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia annd Tasmania. There was a reduction in payroll tax rates in all States. There was a reduction in land tax in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania; reductions in gift duty in Victoria; in workers ‘ compensation in Victoria and Queensland; in stamp duty in New South Wales and in poker machine tax in New South Wales. It goes on. Road transport permit fees were abolished in Queensland, and the statutory levy on the Hydro-Electric Commission in Tasmania was abolished. All payments to the States, including Loan Council borrowings, totalled $ 10,207m in 1977-78. That is the picture of federalism in operation.
Let us deal for a moment with Tasmania. Senator Wriedt, who led the debate on this matter of public importance, foreshadowed this debate last weekend in Tasmania’s Press. If only for that reason, I think it is relevant to give some details on Tasmania. The main charge in today’s debate, so far as Tasmania is concerned, is that it is in some way disadvantaged by the Government ‘s policy. As the Minister assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs said, one must look at the situation in the light of the Whitlam Labor Government’s performance which had the effect of increasing the consumer price index in Hobart between December 1973 and December 1975 by 25.9 per cent. All honourable senators know that inflation was running at a rate of over 16 per cent in December 1975. The current rate of inflation, of course, is less than 9 per cent and falling. Under the tax sharing arrangements, Tasmania has been assured of the greatest flow of Commonwealth untied funds in its history. In the two years from 1975-76 to 1977-78, Tasmania’s share of general revenue assistance has risen from $ 156.8m to $2 14.6m or 36.8 per cent. Local government in Tasmania also has shared in the recent boost to Tasmania’s revenue. In 1975-76, Tasmanian local government received only $2.29m of revenue assistance. This year it will receive $5.29m, an increase of 130.8 per cent. In addition, this Government ‘s policies provide for urban public transport. Tasmania will receive at least $5m over the next five years. An amount of $3m has been made available for rural arterial roads in 1977-78, an increase of 20 per cent over the previous year. In addition, an amount of $4.9m has been made available for rural local roads in 1977-78, an increase of 20 per cent over the previous year.
The Callaghan report which was commissioned specifically for Tasmania’s welfare contains no specific expenditure proposals but the implementation of the 10 point plan may involve the Commonwealth in substantial expenditure. With regard to mining, the Commonwealth Government has looked after the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Co. Ltd and is still prepared to do so. Freight equalisation is another initiative of this Government which has helped Tasmania. There is no doubt at all in my mind that this debate is an opportunity for honourable senators on this side of the House to stress again to the people of Australia what federalism is all about. Not only does it provide both the States and local government with more revenue but probably more importantly in the long term it gives to Australian citizens, the local people who know the local conditions, the right to set priorities, autonomy and discretion in the spending of funds. I return to my opening remarks. If there is to be a debate about philosophy, if there is to be a watershed between federalism and centralism -and that is what it may well be- let us look at the situation. In 1975 and 1977 the people of Australia overwhelmingly supported this Government. I have no doubt that after hearing this debate they will continue to do so.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) agreed to:
That the business of the day be called on.
– I seek leave to deliver a report to the Senate relating to my recent visit to Antarctica.
– It is now 31 years since Australia began operating on a permanent basis in Antarctica. During those years this country has built up a knowledge and understanding of the Antarctic and thereby enhanced its credibility. A great many changes have taken place in systems, practices and procedures over those years and the trend is continuing.
A new and exciting chapter has been added to Australia’s outstanding record of progress since its founding in 1787. World attention is being increasingly focussed on the Antarctic and its undoubted resources and possibilities. We must accept that a new concept in international cooperation, understanding and goodwill has been established in the Antarctic and it is my fervent hope that this will continue so that that great remote, harsh yet potentially rich and incredibly beautiful desert land may set a new pattern in human relationships and thereby enhance the lives of mankind on this earth. We owe it, I believe, to those adventurous men who, in the early years, set the pattern for polar exploration and to the 12 Australians who have lost their lives in this country’s service in the Antarctic in the last 3 1 years. I, and I am sure, all of us would want to see Australia, acting in responsible co-operation with other nations, play its full part towards the achievement of that objective by clearly indicating our fullest commitment towards the attainment of that most worthwhile and desirable goal.
On 10 January 1978, I left Melbourne on the polar ship Thala Dan for the Antarctic. The journey had a fourfold purpose, namely: To put a party ashore at Commonwealth Bay- the site of Mawson ‘s Hut- for the purpose of inspecting and ultimately reporting on the physical condition of the hut and its contents; secondly, to effect the resupply and effect a total personnel changeover at Casey base; thirdly, to complete the resupply and effect a limited personnel changeover at Macquarie Island on the return journey; and fourthly, to carry out a limited program in the earth and marine sciences wherever possible. The ship arrived at Commonwealth Bay on 1 8 January and within two days the necessary accommodation for four members of the survey party had been erected and serviced and the required stores and equipment put ashore. This was a first class operation.
On 19 January the ship left Commonwealth Bay for Casey, stopping briefly at the French base of Dumount D’uiville to enable officials of our Antarctic Division to pay our respects and extend good wishes to our French counterparts. Casey base was reached on the morning of the 24 January where during the 6 days of the visit the changeover was effected. On the night of Sunday, 29 January, the ship sailed for Macquarie Island which was reached on 6 February, departing again on the night of 7 February for Melbourne. The journey was completed on 13 February after covering almost 6,000 miles in a period of 34 days.
Because I am in the quite unique position of being the only member of this Parliament yet to visit an Australian Antarctic base and, for that reason, am in a special position to report my impressions direct to the Parliament, I am very happy to respond to the invitation of the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) to provide this report which, I hope, will lead to a wider understanding of Australia’s role in the Antarctic with its quite unique, special problems and needs, and perhaps a realisation of how the solutions of at least some of those problems can be achieved.
While my report makes reference to questions such as the future of Mawson ‘s Hut and some deficiencies in amenities which I believe should be provided for the comfort, contentment and convenience of expeditions, its main thrust is directed to five areas of principal concern. These are: Firstly, Australia’s physical presence in the Antarctic and the related matter of sovereignty; secondly, the communications system; thirdly, the science program; fourthly, Macquarie Island and its function in the overall Antarctic context; and, fifthly, marine resources in the Antarctic. The report concludes with an appropriate acknowledgement of the very great assistance which I received from all quarters and which made my journey both interesting and valuable.
Australia’s Physical Presence in the Antarctic
It is accepted that Australia proposes to maintain its presence in the Antarctic. This has been publicly stated on many occasions over a number of years by government Ministers, and as recently as March this year by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr Peacock) during the recent Special Antarctic Treaty Meeting of Consultative Parties held in Canberra. We claim soverignty over an area of 6 million square kilometres in Antarctica- or, expressed in other terms, threesevenths of the total Antarctic continent. Leaving aside for the moment Macquarie Island, we have three bases, occupied on a year-round basis with a total complement of 66 persons. The establishment of permanent bases commenced in 1947.
I would suggest that our principal objective in Antarctica would be to pursue a vigorous, well planned, ongoing scientific exploration program in both earth and marine sciences with adequate logistics, and operating during the limited summer season from November to February. Such is not the case at the moment. Our bases are inadequately manned, undertake extremely limited scientific work, have no clearly designed, well planned ongoing program, and because of the timing of changeovers, a great deal of the favourable but limited summer season for field operations is lost.
This is quite distinct from the arrangements followed by many other countries who have active Antarctic programs. I mention specifically the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics- neither of which recognises our sovereignty claims- Britain, New Zealand, Chile, and others. Particularly in the case of the United States and the Soviet Union, and to a somewhat lesser extent other countries, summer teams of between 850 and 1,000 are engaged, and these numbers are substantially reduced when climatic conditions between March and October make operations hazardous, costly and minimally effective.
I would strongly urge that Australia adopt this procedure, the success of which, as previously mentioned, would depend upon updated transport systems and back-up logistics. The pursuit of a policy such as this would give added credibility to our claims of sovereignty, currently in suspense under the terms of the Antarctic Treaty. This Treaty comes up for review and possible renegotiation in 1991 and Australia’s all round performance in the meanwhile will, I suggest, have a significant bearing on our credibility at that time.
The Scientific Program
During the period of my visit to the Antarctic I had the rare opportunity of speaking, on numerous occasions, with a number of well known scientists in the desciplines of geology, zoology, botany and oceanography, all of whom were concerned to ensure that Australia’s activity and indeed credibility were raised to the highest achievable level. There was a general acceptance of the problems of financial stringency but a recognition that nevertheless our effort must and could be extended in a number of essential areas. They, like myself, became acutely aware of the limitations posed by our present communications systems and equally lamented the absence of a well planned ongoing science program designed to cover a period of three or perhaps five years; but, in any case, one which would be so designed as to enable maximum benefit to be derived from our Antarctic activities. The scientists concerned, and no doubt a great many others, would be happy to co-operate in the formulation of such a program.
In due course when the several reports from the members of the scientific team become available it will be apparent that a great deal of scientific work needs to be done and can be done if we are to have any real appreciation of the resources of our Antarctic territory. It would be both unrealistic and wasteful to expect experienced scientists to spend a whole year in the Antarctic when, with a better communications system and a realistic approach, based upon the conception of an adequate summer program, far better results would ensue. To enable this position to be achieved I would strongly urge the upgrading of the science component of the Antarctic Division with an ability to co-opt scientific personnel from our tertiary institutions and from other areas from which practitioners in the several sciences can be drawn.
I commend the recent establishment of a Department of Antarctic Studies at the University of Melbourne, opening up as it does an entirely new area of intensely interesting study and affording an opportunity for greater utilisation of the highly sophisticated and considerably undercommitted scientific equipment and laboratory facilities in our universities and other tertiary institutions. These facilities are immediately available and the cost of their use would be minimal. It is possible that the funding of some scientific work related to the Antarctic could be done from science grants, such as was the case on Macquarie Island during the past summer season.
By far the most urgent question for early determination is that of shipping. Currently Australia relies for its physical communication on shipping, both for resupply of food and equipment and for transporting personnel. This applies equally to the Antarctic bases of Mawson, Davis and Casey as to the sub-Antarctic station at Macquarie Island. Two ice-strengthened ships of approximately 2,000 tonnes, namely the Danish vessels Nella Dan and Thala Dan are leased each year, the former directly from the Danish company J. Lauritson for 130 days and the Thala Dan under a sub-lease from the French for 50 days. Because of the critical limits on ship movements in the Antarctic dictated by climatic conditions, which limit these operations to the months of December to February, it would not be possible at the present time to carry out our program with fewer than two ships of the capacity of those now engaged, due to the fact that the servicing of each base commits the full capacity of both ships for the journey from Australia to Antarctica and return.
Experience has shown that it is hazardous to attempt to navigate vessels in the region of our three Antarctic bases beyond the end of February and in fact problems in negotiating the pack ice even during the normal operating period have been encountered in the past. On one occasion in recent years a ship was trapped in pack ice for three weeks. It must be understood that the resupply and changeover operations of our three Antarctic bases in ideal conditions entails a stay of at least a week at each base and operational programming under present conditions must be a source of constant concern and anxiety to the Antarctic Division of the Department of Science.
A further matter of concern must surely be the expense of transporting each new expeditionnumbering on an average 22 people- to each of the three Antartic bases and bringing the returning party to Australia. For at least eight days both en route to Antarctica and on return the total expedition is ship-bound and the cost must be considerable. Add to this cost the permanent ANARE staff and the Army transport contingent who must accompany each expedition, plus any additional scientific personnel who take advantage of the stopover to carry out a limited scientific program and, further, the daily cost of approximately $700 for the two helicopters which are needed to assist in the changeover program- and they are absolutely essential- and some appreciation of the expense incurred in the re-supply and changeover operation can be gauged. Additionally the Macquarie Island changeover adds further to the cost. I am informed that the daily hiring rate of each ship is now of the order of $8,000 to $9,000.
The foregoing must highlight the urgency of a close examination of our present shipping arrangements and focus attention on the need for an alternative system of transporting personnel to and from our bases. There seems to be no alternative at the present time to the use of a ship or ships to transport heavy equipment; but a possible alternative- the use of aircraft for personnel transport and for carriage of a substantial quantity of non-bulk cargo- must be examined as a matter of some urgency, both for practical reasons and in terms of the expense involved. It would seem to be possible, with the use of skiequipped aircraft and at a very low cost, to provide immediately a landing strip within 1 1 kilometres of Casey. Indeed, by an arrangement with the USA a ski-equipped Hercules aircraft operating from the American base at McMurdo Sound is scheduled to visit Casey in November 1978 and possibly January 1979.
The technical problems associated with the undertaking are not great and little preparation of the landing area is necessary. Furthermore, should the proposal now under examination for the provision of a landing strip for wheeled aircraft at Davis base be proceeded with, the second of our three bases in the Antarctic could be serviced. The cost, in this instance, since it entails the preparation of a conventionally constructed landing strip, would be quite considerable but it would have year-round usability for wheeled aircraft and in time could be upgraded to provide a staging point in an air service for our developing South American trade, thereby reducing the distance from Australia by some 2,000 miles.
The provision of air facilities such as I have outlined would have a number of very distinct advantages. Firstly, it would facilitate transport of personnel and equipment and enable the changeover to take place in early November, with the added benefit of enabling full programs to commence two months earlier than is now possible, and thereby take advantage of the favourable weather conditions which obtain from November to February. Secondly, it would facilitate the work of scientists, who could undertake extensive summer programs of both earth and marine sciences without the present severe limitations of a few days during the ships changeover or the alternative of spending a whole year in the Antarctic. This latter would dissuade experienced scientists from visiting an Antarctic territory, and from very lengthy discussions with members of the scientific team with whom I travelled I became aware of the limited, while at the same time significant, work they were able to do.
Little scientific work can be done in the field other than in the restricted summer period and I am convinced that there is a real possibility for considerable improvement. It would be safe to say that with the use of aircraft as I have suggested we could accomplish in one year more than is currently achieved in five years. This would be a conservative estimate. A third consideration returns me to the subject of shipping. Were a system of use of aircraft to be instituted, I believe that one ship, now under study and designed for a composite role in polar operations -oceanography marine science studies, et cetera- could meet our several requirements. Fourthly, under these arrangements, it would be possible for us to extend the use of small aircraft for servicing our field operations and substantially reduce the time now being taken in planning and executing extended traverses and field activity.
Attention should be drawn also to the problems which arise in the event of a serious illness occurring on one of our isolated bases. The availability of an airstrip, as was recently demonstrated, could be critical in such a situation. Rarely do Australian expenditions see other than the members of their own group from the time they are put ashore in Antarctica until the ship returns 12 months later to relieve them. A few years ago in a similar situation to that which occurred at Davis base in January this year, an Australian expeditioner died because there was no way either of getting the urgently required medical attention to him or getting him quickly to a hospital where essential surgery would be available. My final comment on this particular question is that while operations by ships are, in normal circumstances, limited to the three months of December to February, it is possible that subject to suitable weather conditions, aircraft could operate on a year-round basis.
Macquarie Island, which lies in the subAntarctic approximately 900 miles south of Tasmania, requires for the maintenance of its present functions approximately 25 per cent of the current ANARE budget of $8m. It is also serviced by an ice-strengthened vessel and involves a critical two weeks of the time of one of the two ships under lease. It is questionable whether Macquarie Island should be an ANARE responsibility since there is no question of its sovereignty. It is part of the Esperance Municipality in Tasmania and it is difficult to see why it should involve either the physical or financial resources of the Antarctic Division- already stretched to the limit- or the use of a special ice-strengthened ship in other respects.
Unlike the Antarctic Continent the resources of Macquarie Island are already well known. Its functions- the main of which are meteorology and upper atmosphere physics- are operating satisfactorily, and it can be adequately serviced by a conventional ship. In view of the urgent need to establish a further base in the eastern region of our Antarctic territory, it seems obvious that serious thought must be given to relieving the Antarctic Division of the Macquarie Island commitment. I cannot conceive of any great problem in effecting a change which would permit the functions of Macquarie Island to be maintained, especially having regard to the critical need to reinforce our Antarctic presence, and looking realistically at our priorities. Such a change would enable ANARE to concentrate its endeavours in Antarctica and enable a strengthening of its administrative and organisational resources to better fulfil its principal purposes.
Though little has been done by way of study of the marine resources of the Southern Ocean and particularly in waters adjacent to the Australian Antarctic coast, and estimates are largely guesswork, it is generally believed that these are quite vast and potentially of enormous social and economic value. A number of countries are actively exploiting the resources in the waters of the Antarctic. Thousands of tons of krill, squid and cod are taken each year, and in increasing quantities. Earnest consideration should be given, when designing a polar vessel and establishing its several functions, to possible use in marine resource studies. It is conceivable that an uncontrolled exploitation of the fish resources of the Southern ocean could ultimately lead to a serious ecological imbalance.
Although I have already spoken at some length on this subject- Senate Hansard, 2 March 1978-1 believe it is necessary in a report of this kind to restate the views which I then expressed. Mawson’s Hut is an historic landmark and provides visible, tangible evidence of Australia’s activities in the Antarctic dating back some 67 years. The history of the epic journey of Douglass Mawson and his party is legendary, and as the focus of public attention is turned on the Antarctic, highlighted by the unique discoveries, so the hardships and privations suffered by the early pioneers in that harsh environment are becoming increasingly better known. I firmly believe that Mawson’s Hut, the exterior of which is showing advanced signs of deterioration, should be restored and kept in good order. Above all it must be retained in its present location.
This is the least a grateful country can do as a gesture of appreciation to those whose outstanding service to this country in Antarctic exploration in the early years of this century did so much to enhance our standing and highlight the initiative, courage and fortitude of our countrymen.
As I have said, the exterior cladding of the hut could be carefully removed and used in the construction of a replica which could be appropriately located, preferably as part of an Antarctic museum, in Australia. I repeat, it would be a crime to remove this visible tangible evidence of man’s endeavours in the Antarctic from a focal point of those early endeavours.
Life on an Antarctic Base
The men and women who man our Antarctic bases live in a strange vast white world which is harsh, remote and isolated and which imposes upon them demands and stresses which are unique to that area alone. Because of this it is necessary for me to stress the need for the fullest recognition of the special needs of people living and working in this environment. While I am happy to say that, in the main, there is a high level of accommodation to and contentment with their circumstances, some areas of genuine complaint do exist and it is appropriate that I list them as matters which demand attention. There is no shortage of food and this is due to the wise policy of ensuring, for obvious reasons, that supplies are maintained on the basis of two years’ needs. I suggest, however, that quantities be adjusted in accordance with recommendations made from time to time to ensure that shortages in some commodities and surpluses in others are corrected.
Over the past year I have drawn attention to the concern of expeditioners about their inability to vote at elections and referenda which occur during their term in the Antarctic. I sincerely hope that steps to correct this deficiency are pursued to a satisfactory conclusion. I must also highlight the fact that telegraphic and telephonic communication between our Antarctic bases and home appear to be extremely limited and expeditioners would gain added contentment from an extension of the present limited provision for home calls and messages.
At Casey I found that no provision existed for a gymnasium. In view of the extreme climatic conditions in the Antarctic winter with virtual confinement indoors, coupled with the limited opportunities for outdoor recreation, the provision of facilities for recreational activities is quite urgent.
Finally on this there there are obvious deficiencies in the overall standard of expeditioners’ private quarters leading to a diminution of privacy, which, with a limited number of people living at close quarters for twelve months, takes on an added importance. It is my earnest hope that these relatively modest requirements can be provided with as little delay as possible.
I would like to conclude my report by extending my thanks firstly to the Minister for Science, Senator Webster, for facilitating my visit to the Antarctic and thereby making it possible for me to examine and observe at first hand the range of our activities in that remote but increasingly significant part of the world. To that I want to say how indebted I am to the officers of his Department who assisted me in every way possible throughout the journey; to the members of the 31st Expedition en route to and during our visit to Commonwealth Bay (Mawson ‘s Hut site) and at Casey Base and to the returning expeditioners from the 30th Antarctic Expedition- whose friendship, understanding and helpful advice I most warmly appreciate and about whom both as groups and individually, one could, in other circumstances, say a great deal, with more time than is appropriate in a report of this kind. To the seven members of the scientific contingent I am greatly indebted for sharing with me their knowledge, interest and advice and companionship.
Finally I would be remiss if I did not pay a tribute to Captain Peter Grantholm and all members of the crew of Thala Dan whose expert navigation and vast knowledge of the Antarctic gained from many years operations in the vastness, vagaries and hazards of the Southern ocean and the relatively uncharted waters around the Antarctic coastline, have made it possible year after year for Australia to achieve her purposes and objectives flowing from its Antarctic commitment. It has been both an honour and a privilege and a quite incredible experience to have made this journey and it is my purpose to pass on the knowledge gained as widely as possible. It is for these reasons that I so readily accepted the invitation to report my thoughts, reactions and recommendations direct to the Senate and to the Parliament of Australia. I seek leave to table the report.
– I lay on the table a report of my visit to Antarctica from 10 January 1 978 to 13 February 1978.
– I seek leave to make a short statement.
-Senator Devitt has enjoyed a most unusual experience. It has been of benefit to this Parliament and is undoubtedly a unique experience. Today is a day of note for Senator Devitt. I understand we have heard probably the last address he will make to the Senate before he moves on to do other work for the Parliament. I think it should be put on record that he has, in this report, served a great purpose for the Parliament and I congratulate him on it.
Senator Devitt undertook the very difficult and risky task of going for six weeks to the Antarctic on one of the vessels which serve our Antarctic territory and it was not without some thought by him that he undertook that task. He has reported to me on several occasions on the work he did and I believe that his report will serve as a guide for the Antarctic Division to follow. It has certainly alerted me as Minister to some things which no other member of Parliament has experienced. Senator Devitt is the first member of the Federal Parliament to set foot on an Australian base in the Antarctic Territory. I thank him very much for giving that address and I wish him well in the future.
-I seek leave to move a motion. It arises out of the presentation of a statement this morning by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) in reply to a question.
– I move:
This statement is now available to the Senate for its examination. It is a joint statement by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Queensland Premier relating to the agreement that has been reached -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I do this with the greatest deference. I hesitate always before doing this. To clarify matters, as I understand it, the Minister concerned did not put down a statement. The Minister sought leave to incorporate in an answer to a question the terms of the statement. So, a statement has not been put down. Although I do not want to deny the Opposition in due course the opportunity to have some debate on the statement if it is necessary, I do not want the forms of the Senate altered in such a way that we go on indefinitely without prior consultation.
– Order! The facts are that a statement was sought to be incorporated as a statement. It is that statement which Senator Gietzelt seeks to have the Senate note.
– In seeking the Senate’s concurrence to take note of the statement I think it is appropriate and timely to make some comments upon it. I am sure the Senate would accept that over the past several weeks it has exercised a great deal of its time on the problems associated with Aurukun and Mornington Island. In the Opposition’s view, this statement, which purports to recognise an arrangement that has been entered into, represent a great disappointment to the Senate as well as to the Aborigines in those two communities. It is certainly not a cause for celebration to find that the Queensland Government has been able to persuade the Australian Government to enter into an agreement which will nullify the effects of the legislation which this Parliament passed last Friday afternoon.
I remind the Senate that, even though there was debate on several matters relating to amendments to the Bill, the views of the Senate were expressed strongly on the general direction of that legislation. Yet that legislation has been substantially aborted by the agreement that has been reached between the Prime Minister, Mr Nixon, Mr Viner and three representatives of the Queensland Government. Some people regard that agreement as a sell-out of the Aborigines of Queensland, and I must associate myself with those sentiments. When one examines this document one can come to the conclusion only that the agreement is worse than the original compromise, which was very quickly torpedoed by the Prime Minister last Friday week. It certainly must be a very sad day for Senator Bonner and those other honourable senators on the Government side who took part in the debate on the matter of public importance on 1 5 March, who took part in the second reading and Committee stages of the debate on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-Management) Bill and who supported a motion yesterday to refer to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs all the matters that were raised in the Senate about the effectiveness of the legislation.
It seems to me, speaking on behalf of my colleagues, that Mr Viner and Mr Nixon have broken their word to the Aborigines and that the assurances that were given to me by the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in this place, Senator Guilfoyle, in the debate that took place several weeks ago, have now been put aside. That is a matter for great regret. This agreement represents a victory for the Premier of Queensland. It represents a victory for confrontation. It is a defeat for the Federal
Government and it is a defeat for democracy. It has cast a pall of gloom over all those Aborigines in communities in Queensland who felt that they had an advocate in the Senate, who felt that they had an advocate in Senator Bonner and his colleagues and who felt that they had an advocate in the Prime Minister. I am sure that, as the Senate Standing Committee looks at the legislation and the matters referred to it associated with Aurukun and Mornington Island, it will come to the realisation that the agreement itself is an abrogation of the undertakings that were given by the Prime Minister and by the Government to the National Aboriginal Conference this very week.
One can come to the conclusion only that the Aborigines of Queensland have been betrayed as a result of this agreement which can only be described as infamous and denying justice at the very point in time when we felt that the principles of self-management were going to be applied, in the first instance to Mornington Island and Aurukun. We have to reflect that blacks all over the world, whether they be in the United States of America, Africa or any other countryor indeed in our own country- have had to struggle for the basic right to be recognised as human beings, as being part of a community. We had thought, perhaps in our naivety, that we have reached the point in Australia where we had accepted our legal and moral obligations. We thought that, despite our criticisms, the passage of the Bill last Friday would have established beyond all reasonable doubt the very important principles of self-management for Aborigines in Queensland. But that was not to be. Not only have the reserves at Aurukun and Mornington Island been removed from the control of the Australian Government, by decision of the Queensland Premier last Friday; they have now also been brought into the province of local government in Queensland. In that sense the Minister for Local Government has the right- as such Ministers have in other States- to dismiss elected councils. That is one of the principles that have been embodied in this agreement. The Minister for Local Government will control the affairs of Aboriginal communities in Queensland, which control had hitherto resided with the Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs.
We want to record our disappointment with this agreement. We believe that the agreement seriously lets down the Aborigines of Queensland and has placed this Parliament in a very invidious position. It has created a situation which cannot be tolerated by the Aborigines of
Queensland, the people of Queensland or this Parliament. In those circumstances I believe that the Senate should take note of the statement. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Webster) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The speech read as follows-
The purpose of this Bill is to seek the approval of the Parliament for the ratification by Australia of the International Sugar Agreement 1977 and to authorise the Commonwealth to on-lend to the State of Queensland funds provided to the Commonwealth from the International Sugar Agreement Stock Financing Fund, together with possible drawings by the Commonwealth from the International Monetary Fund Buffer Stock Financing Facility. On 13 October 1977, the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, Senator Cotton, made a statement to the Senate on the outcome of the United Nations Sugar Conference 1977 which negotiated a new International Sugar Agreement. I am pleased to be able to inform the Senate that the Agreement entered provisionally into force on 1 January this year. Australia has signed and undertaken to apply the Agreement provisionally pending finalisation of ratification procedures. To date, 37 sugar exporting countries and 1 1 importing countries have joined the Agreement. Together these countries account for about 84 per cent of free market sugar trade, the major non participant being the European Economic Community.
Because of the nature of world sugar trade it has long been accepted that some form of regulation of supplies on the so-called free market is essential if sugar producers are to receive reasonable and stable returns for their product and if sugar consumers are to be assured of reliable and stable supplies at reasonable prices. The events of the last few years- a period when there were no internationally agreed market regulatory mechanisms- clearly demonstrate this need. As a result of a slowing down of production increases, setbacks in domestic production in several large importing countries and a rundown in stocks, world prices rose from £143 per long ton in January 1 974 to £650 per long ton in November of that year. Between January and June 1975 world prices declined to £ 128. At the time the International Sugar Agreement was being negotiated world prices were steady but at a depressed level of around £100. This low level of prices was largely the result of an expansion of production following high prices in 1974 and 1975 but it also reflected consumer reaction to high prices and a growth in industrial demand for alternative types of sweeteners.
The world sugar market has been in surplus throughout most of 1976 and 1977. Without the introduction of some brake on production and the level of supplies available for world markets, the prospect was for deteriorating market conditions for producers in 1978 and probably beyond 1979. Crop reports in most countries are favourable and leading world market analysts predict a surplus for the 1 978 season of 4.5 to 5.5 million tonnes. Without the umbrella of the Agreement there would have been the almost certain prospect of the world price falling to as low as £50 per tonne.
It may be helpful to honourable senators if I briefly restate the main provisions of the Agreement. The Agreement is aimed at establishing a price range of SUS0.11 to SUS0.21 per lbequivalent, today, to around SA212 to SA405 per tonne. Provision is made for review of the price range and upward adjustment when this is considered appropriate. The price range will be defended by a combination of global export quotas and stockholding provisions. Quota and stock accumulation provisions come into operation when prices are low; quotas are suspended and stocks released as prices rise towards the maximum. The cost of storing stocks will be substantially assisted by a stock financing fund which will derive its income from a charge of SUS0.28 per lb made on sugar traded on the free market. These financing provisions, which ensure that the cost of stockholding will be shared equitably between consumers and producers, are a unique feature of the new International Sugar Agreement and are important not only in relation to sugar but also because of the possible implications for other commodity agreements. The Agreement empowers the Fund to make loans to exporting members, to help them defray the costs of holding stocks. In addition to this, following the negotiation of the International Sugar Agreement, the International Monetary Fund has expanded its Buffer Stock Financing Facility to cover nationally held stocks. Australia as an exporter under the ISA may, under certain conditions, be in a position to obtain such IMF Finance.
The Bill now before the Senate provides authority for the Commonwealth to on-lend to Queensland, on appropriate terms and conditions, funds provided from the International Sugar Agreement Stock Financing Fund. It also provides for the on-lending to Queensland of possible drawings by the Commonwealth from the International Monetary Fund Buffer Stock Financing Facility. Although the price range provided for in the Agreement is some 10c per lb, the intention of the negotiators was that the Agreement should stabilise prices at around $US0.14 or $US0.15 per lb. At this price level it is considered that efficient producers will obtain reasonable levels of returns, that consumers can be assured of secure supplies at reasonable prices and that the price substitution threat from alternative sweeteners, such as fructose-glucose syrups, will be held to a reasonable level. These artificial sweeteners have been developed in recent years to such an extent that they threaten to make further inroads into the sucrose market.
Honourable senators are no doubt aware of the vital importance of the sugar industry to Australia, and will welcome the many benefits that membership of the ISA has brought, and will bring, to this great Australian industry. There are some 7,000 cane farms in a strip of land extending over 1 ,000 miles along the eastern coastline. The sugar industry is itself a large scale fully integrated industry. Sophisticated heavy engineering, transportation and handling industries depend heavily upon it and are essential to it. The sugar industry directly and indirectly provides work opportunities for some 100,000 people. The welfare of whole communities depends on this industry. The value of Australian sugar exports in 1976-77 was $A638m. This represented 12.4 per cent of the value of Australia’s rural exports and 5.5 per cent of our total exports.
Sugar production is also of considerable importance to developing countries. Some 35 developing member countries export sugar and the economies of many of them are almost wholly dependent on export earnings from the sale of sugar. Australia, as a developed country, has a responsibility to work for the orderly development of a world economic system which takes proper account of the position of developing countries. We have accepted commitments in international fora such as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development to lend our support to reasonable and realistic approaches for achieving more favourable and more stable conditions for trade in commodities.
The International Sugar Agreement is a first and important step under the UNCTAD Integrated Program for Commodities. The Agreement is one of the most sophisticated international commodity stabilisation agreements yet negotiated. It is an Agreement which has been very carefully negotiated by countries with the paramount objective of stabilising world trade in sugar, in a manner beneficial to both producers and consumers, to both developing countries and developed countries alike.
For the first time in recent years, the United States is a member of an International Sugar Agreement. The United States Administration looks to the Agreement as providing a cornerstone for a new domestic United States sugar policy which is being established. The United States Sugar Act, which for many years limited total United States imports and provided little access for Australian sugar, expired in 1974. After a period of trading wholly as one of the world’s largest free markets the United States has found it necessary to find ways to protect its own producers of cane and beet sugar against the disruptive effects of low world prices. For this reason, the United States Administration took a very important part in the Sugar Conference. The United States was largely instrumental in developing some of the provisions of the new Agreement, including its stocks provisions and the stock financing fund to which both importers and exporters will contribute. The United States has a special interest in ensuring the successful operation of the Agreement.
Unfortunately, the EEC has not joined the Agreement. It has indicated that it is prepared to negotiate terms of accession with the International Sugar Council, but as yet it has not entered into these negotiations. It is most inequitable and most unsatisfactory to all other participants that the highly industrialised EEC bloc, the world’s largest producer of sugar, has not yet decided to join the Agreement. At a time when other producing countries, most of whom are developing countries, are subjecting themselves to production and export cutbacks, the EEC is expanding its production and its surpluses and is doing so with the use of heavy subsidies. The EEC stands alone at this time in the world sugar community as one entity which is not yet prepared to accept an international discipline for the greater good of the world sugar community. I hope that the EEC will promptly reappraise its position, with a view to enabling it to negotiate appropriate terms of accession to the Agreement by accepting disciplines and obligations comparable to those assumed by all other sugar exporters. Nevertheless, I believe that even without the EEC as a member, the new International Sugar Agreement will operate to restore a measure of order and predictability in the sugar market, which has been singularly lacking since 1973. EEC membership would help to improve the operation of the Agreement, but I am satisfied that with its present membership the Agreement offers the Australian sugar industry and sugar industries throughout the world the prospect of more stable and prosperous years ahead. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Georges) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1 1 April on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– in reply- I understand that all honourable senators who desire to speak in the second reading debate on the Maritime College Bill have done so. I thank all honourable senators who have contributed to the debate and to acknowledge that it is always very pleasant when a piece of legislation is accepted unanimously. This is not always the case in this place. However, I almost sought advice from the Family Court because there seemed to be a wide spread of claims in respect to the parenthood of the legislation in this situation. Indeed, there almost seemed to be some kind of polygamous goings on. I noticed that the possessiveness of a wide variety of people about the conception of this College was very real. Let me say simply that it is good to have such enthusiasm even though there sounded from my point of view to have been a measure of promiscuity on the pan of some people who made the claims. In order to put the record slightly straight, I say that the Government Parties to which I belong, as a matter of record in their policy statement entitled The Way Ahead’ stated in 1974, that they would establish a maritime college. Just to put the record straight again, I remind Senator Harradine- it is not always that I disagree with him- that before we were privy to the knowledge that Mr Barnard was to go to higher places, we made a statement well in advance that the College would be sited at Launceston. We can take some pride in parenthood. But let us not dispute that.
I acknowledge what Senator Wriedt has said. He has a keen maritime background. I think we would all acknowledge that this Bill represents a big step forward for Australia. It will suffice for me to say this: A continent with such a tremendous coastline and which has such potential marine resources is slow- I make these comments in respect of all of us and it is a mote in our eye- in establishing our own Australian Maritime College. However, it is good that the establishment of that College is under way. I think that we can say that the period from birth to adolescence has been a fairly speedy situation. Certainly, the gestation period has been speedy and the program is moving well now.
I indicated in my second reading speech that we hoped within a year or two to enrol about 500 students in what will be a considerable industry. I hope that the College will attract people from a wide range of countries and that Australia will come to be regarded in its region of the world as a country with some expertise in maritime matters, an expertise that we would want to impart to others. I have some knowledge of the dietary problems and protein deficiencies of the people in the developing countries. I believe that in the decades ahead in the search for proteins, protein from the sea will be of major significance. I hope that Australia, in a wider sense of responsibility, would look to that fact. We will proceed, as in all things, to secure excellence. It will be an immensely costly venture. The original estimates of cost are now nearly trebled. Senator Wriedt quite rightly mentioned the need for simulators. He was referring to deck simulators, engine room simulators, and other kinds of simulators. These are pretty pricy little pieces of equipment. They cost about $3m each. We will move on this matter. I do not want to delay honourable senators except -
– What is the present estimate of the cost?
– The original estimate of the cost was in the order of $ 1 Om. The present estimate of the cost, although it has not been thoroughly rectified, will be in excess of $25m. But that will depend a very great deal upon the time program in which we approach the purchase of about $1Om worth of” simulators. That will alter the whole ball game. I do not wish to delay the passage of the Bill. I thank honourable senators for their assistance. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 5- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 6 (Seat of College).
– I wish to make a brief comment in respect of clause 6. 1 do not wish to delay the Committee. Clause 6 states:
The seat of the College shall be al, or in the vicinity of, Launceston in the State of Tasmania.
I wish to put on record something that I referred to in a debate on the previous Maritime College Bill in 1976 and to correct an impression which I believe has been given in at least one speech during the second reading debate. I refer to the siting of the College at Launceston. When Mr Summers’ report was first presented it seemed that a likely site for the College would be in Tasmania. For many years, a former distinguished Minister for Education, the Honourable Kim Beazley, had proposed that Tasmania was an ideal place for tertiary institutions and for educational institutions generally. He was a great advocate of the proposition that this Maritime College would be ideally situated in Tasmania. Since the Summers’ report came out and long before I have spent a great deal of time in the advocacy of Launceston as the site for the College. The then Prime Minister, Gough Whitlam, agreed with this proposal and we had many meetings with people like Lance Barnard and Justin O ‘Byrne who were great advocates for the site of the College being at Launceston. We had many meetings in Parliament House during 1974 and 1975. I know that the same sorts of meetings were taking place among members of Parliament who sit opposite.
It was eventually decided by the Government -not by any individual on our behalf- that the site should be at Launceston. I will concede that it had been decided previously by the present Government parties that the site should be at Launceston. This fact was made known in the Press in Tasmania and was certainly known by members on both sides of the Parliament well before the Bass by-election occurred and before any pre-selection for that election was made. The record shows that to be so. I was present at the time and know that to be so. I merely wish to put that on the record.
– In a spirit of ecumenical approach to this matter, if I may put it that way -
– Where does ecumenical come into it?
Honourable senators interjecting–
– I wait for the interjections to conclude. They have all been sotto voce. None of them contributed markedly to the debate. I therefore continue my remarks without paying any particular attention to any of them. I wish to indicate that in my speech yesterday I omitted reference to a fact of which I am aware, that is, that the Labor Party- possibly a little belatedly but eventually, and well before the Bass byelection come to a conclusion. I wish to confirm what Senator Grimes said. I thought there had been an unwarranted besmirchment of the whole of this matter by an honourable senator who suggested that the siting of the college was the product solely of the Bass by-election. I did not suggest that. Senator Grimes asserted, and I confirm, to the best of my knowledge, that that was not so. Launceston was selected because it was the best site.
-I point out to the Committee that so far as the discussions on the site were concerned, I was privy- as a member of the Australian Council of Trade Unions executive at the time- to information relating to the discussions that took place amongst maritime unions in respect of the establishment of a maritime college. As mentioned last night, a number of those unions were not in favour of the establishment of the Australian Maritime College at Launceston. I believed that it was the appropriate site. Indeed, those of us within the trade union movement were made aware that politically this was the most appropriate site.
I listened to what Senator Grimes said, and nothing that he said suggested that there was any announcement by the then Government until the Bass by-election that the siting would be at Launceston. The record would prove that that is the case- that there was no public commitment or statement on behalf of the then Government that the site would be in Launceston. The comments I made last evening still stand- not only was the site the most appropriate for the establishment of the Maritime College but also that that became a reality was dependent largely on the Bass by-election. In fact, the decision and announcement made by the then Prime Minister, which were followed by legislation during his Administration, were witnesses to that fact.
-That was the Whitlam Government.
– That is correct. It was also to the credit of the current Prime Minister, Mr Malcolm Fraser, that one of the first statements he made after becoming Prime Minister was that he would reintroduce that legislation which was introduced by the previous Administration for the establishment of a maritime college. Of course, legislation was introduced for the establishment of the Interim Council. That legislation received the unanimous support of this chamber and, indeed, of the other place. This legislation, likewise, is receiving the unanimous support of this chamber and is expected to receive the unanimous support of the other place.
– I do not wish to drag into the political sphere the setting up of an important national institution such as this. I merely said what I did to put the record straight. The implications- in fact, the only interpretation I can make- of Senator Harradine ‘s remarks last night were that the Australian Maritime College was sited at Launceston and that the site was chosen by the Australian Labor Party because of the pre-selection for the Bass by-election and the Bass by-election. I repeat my assertion- I cannot make Senator Harradine believe what I say- that the decision was made before then. The decision was common knowledge and was reported in the Press before that occasion. To suggest that the only reason this college was sited in Launceston was due to the Bass by-election or the result of a preselection for the Bass by-election was to besmirch the establishment of this institution which is an important institution and which, I believe, will be of great benefit to the people of this country.
– That suggestion was not made, senator.
– If Senator Harradine reads his speech he will find that he said it. Why did he bring it up?
-In the light of the rather incredible speech just made by Senator Harradine, I simply refer to the editorial in the Examiner of Friday, 9 May 1975, before the Bass by-election had been announced. In its editorial the Examiner talked about the siting of a maritime college in northern Tasmania. The editorial talked about the fact that it was the logical course to take and that it appeared that all parties supported that site. I deprecate the attempt by Senator Harradine to introduce an element into this debate which has been the only discord- an attempt to introduce a besmirch - ment of the whole of the work which has been done by a lot of people to try to find the best site and to develop the best site for an Australian maritime college. It is not something which was born out of the incidence of the Bass by-election, however much Senator Harradine may regard it that way. I can say only that if he regards it that way that is perhaps some indication to the rest of the chamber of his attitude towards politics.
– I give the lie to the statements that have been made by Senator Rae. At no stage did I suggest that the siting of the Australian Maritime College was the result of the Bass by-election. In fact, I gave credit to the work that was done over a long period by the then Opposition parties in regard to the siting of the college at Launceston. As I mentioned, I was involved in discussions and, indeed, privy to information at meetings when the question was raised as to where the maritime college would be sited. This was well before the Bass by-election. Even well before the Bass byelection, I was convinced that so far as Tasmania was concerned Launceston would be the appropriate place for the siting of such a college. What I said last night was to the effect- and it cannot be denied- that the Bass by-election gave a stimulus to the establishment of the College, and it is a good thing that such situations occur politically because there are many occasions when we cannot get a very great idea off the ground until such time as the political climate is adequate.
– I accept Senator Harradine ‘s explanation of what he said last night, and I am delighted to have heard it.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 7 (Functions of College).
– In my speech in the debate on the second reading I asked the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) whether he would give consideration to the suggestion that the Australian Maritime College be in the position to have courses which could be availed of by urban fire brigades for training to cover ship fires. I wonder whether the Minister has given any consideration to the suggestion and whether he has any comment.
– I have heard the suggestion. It is almost certain, I would think, that that kind of training might not come under the definition of ‘maritime-related’ training, although it may, if it is extended to fire fighting on ships. Therefore, if it does not come under the definition, of course, it is beyond the terms of the Australian Maritime College. This is the kind of suggestion that can well be looked at. I will take it up. I will discuss it with the principal. If in fact it is something that can be directly related to the maritime industry, I will certainly ensure that it is encouraged.
– Are we to gather from the Minister’s reply that the words ‘maritime-related’ contained in clause 7 (a) will not permit the establishment of courses or perhaps simulated situations in which experienced fire fighters could engage in courses which would give them the expertise and training to deal with major ship fires? If that is what is being suggested, I would suggest to the Committee that the matter be deferred and that the Government introduce whatever amendments are necessary to allow for such training.
– I believe that what Senator Harradine has just mentioned is an activity which definitely would be maritime related. That is my own belief. I do not think there is any need for an amendment.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 agreed to.
Clause 9 (Courses of Maritime Training)
-Clause 9 provides:
The College may, in pursuance of arrangements between the College and the Minister for Transport, conduct on behalf of the Commonwealth-
short courses of maritime training; and
examinations and assessments for marine competency in accordance with the Navigation Act 1912.
I ask the Minister: What is proposed in relation to the current provisions in the Navigation Act in relation to the existence of the totally new institution proposed by this Bill and supported by the whole of the chamber? For the information of honourable senators, what is the position in relation to any necessary amendments to the Navigation Act 1912?
– I wonder whether the Minister can express a view on the suggestion which I made last evening in my speech on the second reading debate about the possibility of re-examinations for certificates of marine competency for marine officers who have not been at sea for some years.
– As I understand it, the Navigation Act and regulations enable the Minister to approve certain training facilities and mandatory short courses, and there is some limited provision for the acceptance of college examinations in lieu of departmental examinations. That is the present position. On the establishment of the Australian Maritime College it is intended that the theoretical parts of the new certificate of competency examinations, when they become operational after the passage of the proposed legislation, should be incorporated in the College program of training and assessment leading to diplomas, degrees, et cetera. The clause, as it is worded, covers the existing situation and any new situation that might arise. I am satisfied that the clause is adequate to deal with the the point raised by Senator Rae.
In reply to Senator Lewis, I cannot see any difficulties about the suggestion of reexaminations. I see this as being an initiative of the Minister for Transport. In other words, if the Minister were to ask the College to take that action, it could come within the terms of this Bill.
-Perhaps I have a misunderstanding, but I think it would be of interest to clear up this matter. I ask: Is it a fact that currently amendments in relation to the Navigation Act and regulations are being drawn up to enable them to accord more nearly to the situation which will exist upon the creation of the institution by the Bill we are considering.
Senator CARRICK (New South WalesMinister for Education)- The answer is yes, they are.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 10 agreed to.
Clause 11 (Constitution of Council).
– I wonder whether the Minister has had time to consider the suggestions which I made last evening about the need to have practical professional seamen on the Council of the Australian Maritime College. I suggested that the legislation should provide that a percentage- perhaps 50 per cent, although that may be a little high- of the members of the Council should be holders of current certificates of marine competency. If the Minister does not agree with that suggestion, will he agree that at least a certain number of the persons appointed under clause 11 (1) (b) by the Governor-General should be holders of current certificates of marine competency?
– In anticipation of the answer by the Minister to the suggestion put by Senator Lewis, I wonder whether consultation has taken place with the maritime unions. I include the Merchant Service Guild in that category. On a more personal plane, I wonder whether in selecting people to serve the Australian Maritime College, with all due respect to those engaged in the maritime industry who have the know-how, the College may require the services of some person with governmental knowledge. Can the Minister hazard a guess at whether people of the calibre of a former member of this Parliament and officer in the Royal Australian Navy, Captain Sam Benson, have been considered.
-If I may deal first with the matter raised by Senator Mulvihill, the maritime unions are, and therefore were, represented on the Interim Council. The Government deliberately sought their views. The Government acknowledges that they have an important volume of experience and expertise to bring to bear on the subject, so they were incorporated in the Interim Council. The Interim Council also recommended this form of legislation and this approach. Clearly the experience of the Interim Council will guide us.
In answer to Senator Lewis, I point out that on the Interim Council there was a significant proportion of people with the qualifications that he had in mind. The Government is enormously conscious of the need for people with hard, practical, senior experience. I think the appointment of the principal is some indication of that and it shows the standard we are setting. I would ask the senator to consider not binding the Government in such specific words. As a lawyer, he will know that the words may delimit because in the end when we have to strike a balance of so many different interests, as we must do in this very complex situation, we might be delimited and defeated in other activities. I give an undertaking that the Government will keep it strongly in mind, as it did with the Interim Council. There are about eight or ten different categories of persons or representations that one needs to bring together to form the concept of a maritime college, and we will certainly do that.
– During discussions in the second reading stage of the Maritime College (Interim Council) Bill, I raised for the consideration of the Committee and of the Minister the need for representations of the maritime unions to be involved with the
Interim Council. I would be doing less than justice to the Minister if I did not at this stage congratulate him publicly on ensuring that those suggestions were carried forward. It is a credit to him and to those people responsible that the Interim Council has worked so well and that it has suggested this clause, which I support.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 (Election of staff members).
– I raise the following point only to ensure clarity. Clause 12 provides that:
Of the two staff members -
That is, members of the Council- one shall be elected by the whole of the teaching staff of the College and the other shall be elected by the senior teaching staff of the College.
There is no definition of ‘senior teaching staff’ of the College. However clause 24 provides that:
The Council may make Statutes, not inconsistent with this Act with respect to any of the following matters:
The persons who are to be respectively regarded as members of the teaching staff, and as members of the senior teaching staff, of the College for the purposes of act.
It would seem therefore that the position is that clause 12 is governed by whatever statute is enacted by the Council pursuant to its powers under clause 24. I seek from the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) confirmation that that is so, firstly, because some concern has been expressed that the senior teaching staff might get two bites of the cherry and, secondly, to make sure that everybody knows who it is who gets two bites of the cherry.
– I can speak with some measure of authoritative understanding on this matter as a result of a query outside this chamber some days ago I think from Senator Rae. I sought legal definition of this and was assured that the definition of ‘senior teaching staff’ would be fully catered for precisely as he indicated under clause 24 ( 1) (c). I am personally satisfied that this is so and I do not think it needs any further qualification.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 13 to 17- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 18 (Disclosure of interest).
-Clause 18 reads:
I think this provision is appearing for the first time in proposed legislation coming before this chamber. It is a matter of some concern to me. It has been suggested that some other Acts be amended to provide in similar terms. I have no concern at all about the disclosure of pecuniary interests. I fully support that idea that there should be disclosure on any such bodies as councils of academic institutions. It seems to me to be patently absurd if we have a situation in which a member of the academic staff of an academic institution who is an elected member of the council is precluded by a provision such as this from being present and participating in any discussion about matters such as housing, superannuation or any other matter which can come before a council for proper consideration, deliberation and decision.
-Is he, under this legislation?
– I raised this question because if this provision does not preclude him, let us get that clear. I think it probably does preclude him. I think it should be amended. I do not propose that amendment because I do not want in any way to hold up this Bill. I raise this matter so that it may be given further thought. What we need to do is to amend it so that it reads:
A member who has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in a matter being considered or about to be considered by the Council otherwise than as a member of, and in common with the other members of, an incorporated company or an association which consists of more than 25 members . . .
If he is a member of a staff association and there are more than 25 members, that is fine: Let him be there and let him be able to contribute to the consideration by the Council of matters which may affect him. By all means require disclosure of pecuniary interests. It would be extraordinary if, for instance, the Council of the Maritime College was considering housing for staff and it did not realise that a staff member of the Council may have some potential pecuniary interest in relation to that matter. Let us ensure that it is disclosed. But let us not have it so that it precludes that person from continuing to offer whatever he can to the consideration of matters which can affect staff members of an academic institution. I raise this matter and I ask the Minister to comment on it. I do not wish this legislation to be held up but rather I give notice that if any honourable senator seeks to introduce such an amendment to the Australian National University Act or some other piece of legislation, then we will all have had time to give it some thought. I may not support that. In fact I may at some stage in the future propose an amendment to this Bill which we are considering tonight.
– I am grateful to Senator Rae for his comments and I will ensure that they will be put under close study for the future. I think he knows that clause 18 is a standard clause. I say that in no defence of this clause because standard clauses already in use could have defects, of course. As I understand it this clause is similar to a section in the Act incorporating the Canberra College of Advanced Education, the Australian Film and Television School and, I think, the Darwin Community College. It could well be looked at in the widest sphere. The salaries- the first line of pecuniary interests- of staff will, of course, be determined by the Academic Salaries Tribunal so there is no sense of bargaining across the table of the governing body. Equally, superannuation will be determined under the conditions of the Superannuation Act. In the case of disputation, there are impartial bodies to decide these things.
If an individual member has a direct pecuniary interest which might affect his judgment on any matter, that member can be asked either not to participate or certainly not to vote on the matter. This is the standard procedure which I believe is followed everywhere. It is even a Cabinet procedure to disclose pecuniary interests. Whilst I do not say for one moment to Senator Rae that there is not the possibility of anomalies in what I have said, I think I have largely covered the points he raised. May I take the point on board, if that is a good term in respect of the Australian Maritime College, and pipe it to the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Durack).
-I refer the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) to the last line of clause 18(2) which states:
It is the word ‘deliberation’ which causes me some concern because legislation of this type has been introduced in Victoria in relation to local government. As I understand it, the Victorian experience is that often a council is deprived of the knowledge and wisdom of the councillors who know most about the subject under discussion. That is what worries me in this provision. It may be that the people who have to leave when the subject is being debated are the very people whose views ought to be heard. One can discount their views by taking into account the fact that they have an interest, and I agree that perhaps they ought not to vote on any decision to be made by the council. But not to be able to put their expert view, which I take it is the correct interpretation, is, I think, an unfortunate consequence of the wording of this clause.
– I may be walking on quicksand because I do not have precise legal knowledge but I take it that ‘deliberation’ means dialogue between members of the council. I do not see that this clause would debar, prior to the actual dialogue, the presentation by an expert of evidence on any particular item. If there is any anomaly in my understanding of the matter, I will again take the point on board for the future. I believe that in the plain meaning of the word, in the homely meaning of the word, it simply means that the person cannot stay for the ebb and flow of discussion in the council so that the person can see the stresses and strains. I believe that expert opinion could be presented at the start of the discussion. I hope I am right. If the lawyers advise otherwise, I will simply take this point on board because this area can always be improved. This is the type of legislation which will need refitting and refurbishing over the years.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 19 to 27- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 28 (Staff of College).
-I refer to the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) the matter which I raised last night concerning the possibility that this legislation should contain limitations on the terms and conditions of the staff of the College. I am not suggesting that the legislation should get down to fine details but the question of the general terms of appointment of staff causes me concern. In clause 26-1 appreciate that we are dealing with clause 28- the Bill quite specifically limits the term of the appointment of the first principal to five years and the term of the appointment of any subsequent principal to seven years. Yet clause 28 divests the Parliament of any limitation on the appointment of staff and authorises the College to employ its staff on such terms and conditions as the council determines.
It seems to me that the terms of appointment of staff should include such matters as whether they are appointed on a tenured basis, that is for life, or on a non-tenured basis, that is for a term of years; whether staff are to have sabbaticals after three years, five years, seven years or ten years; whether staff are to be entitled to study leave after any specified term of office. It seems to me that they are matters on which the Parliament should express its views with regard to a maxima. I believe that the Government should make a decision on these matters and include them in this legislation and I anticipate that they should be included in further legislation which will soon be coming before the Senate in relation to other educational institutions to be established by the Commonwealth.
-I certainly share Senator Lewis’s concern about the tenure of office of various people in tertiary institutions in this country. We have certainly adopted the British tradition of giving people in universities lifetime tenure. I understand that this does not apply so much in colleges of advanced education. Rather than being concerned to write into this legislation and, I assume, every future piece of legislation setting up any sort of college strict views on tenure, I wonder whether the Government has considered introducing guidelines to councils, by legislation or other means, as to the views of the Parliament and the Government on what is reasonable tenure in universities. There is a very different situation in American universities in general and a very different attitude to tenure than the one we have inherited from British tradition. I think it is important that we do not allow councils of this type to give people lifetime tenure as has happened in many of our universities.
– I put it to Senator Lewis and Senator Grimes that the points they have raised are significant in the wider sense rather than in the particularity of this Bill. They raised two perhaps contending thrusts. On the one hand, inherent in all our legislation and all State legislation which sets up tertiary institutions is the idea that if we set up a council we give it statutory authority. Inherent in that, because we trust that council and put it together in a particular way, is our giving to it freedom to go about its business. I shall make some points on that in a moment. On the other hand, whenever we set up a body in a managerial fashion, whether in private industry or as a public body, we ask that body to discharge its managerial role to achieve the maximum productivity in that situation. It is inherent in what we do that this should be so.
Unless the honourable senators think that that is simply a casual or simplistic answer, I want to say that in the broader sense I am conscious that the community feeling- I suggest it is also the parliamentary feeling- is that whilst in relation to statutory corporations, particularly educational bodies, we should be zealous to preserve academic freedom, we, as a Parliament, have a responsibility for the correct discharge of our duties, particularly in the administrative sense and in the sense of efficiency in terms of money. Of course, we are widening this responsibility by our Estimates committees.
I put this idea to the honourable senators. I think it will meet with their favour. I have invited the Tertiary Education Commission in the past year to look at a wide range of subjects relating to the matter. Firstly, on behalf of my Government, I asked it to consider a fairly contentious matter, namely, study leave- sabbatical leavewhich I think has been raised. I know that the matter of tenure is in the mind of members of the Tertiary Education Commission. As Senator Grimes said, it has come out of the past and has developed a certain inertia. It may not be related to current times. I shall be having talks with the Ternary Education Commission about the whole matter of tenure and all that it means in respect of all tertiary institutions. I think notice should be taken of that suggestion, rather than our hastily seeking to amend an Act because it would take a great deal of thought to determine what we want. I do not want the two honourable senators for one minute to take this suggestion as some gentle escape clause on my part; that is not so. I think that honourable senators will find that the Tertiary Education Commission is now treating as deadly serious its responsibility in terms of ensuring the efficient administration of our Tertiary Education Commission. I acknowledge what both honourable senators said.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 29 to 31- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 32 (Fees).
– Sub-clause ( 1 ) of clause 32 states:
Fees are not payable to the College except as provided by this section.
Sub-clause (2) states:
The Council, with the approval of the Minister, may determine, or the Minister may direct -
I emphasise the words ‘or the Minister may direct’- that fees are to be payable to the College in respect of such matters as are specified in the determination or direction.
I wonder why it is that when creating an autonomous institution- a statutory authority, charged with a responsibility to carry out a purpose- we incorporate into the legislation which establishes that institution a capacity for the Minister to direct the Council to do anything at all, let alone anything in relation to fees. I am not sure what is in mind in relation to the charging of fees at the Minister’s direction. I should have thought that if the Council were to get so out of hand that it was totally irresponsible we would disband it by passing some form of legislation.
I raise the question because this provision does seem to me to make an intrusion into the autonomy of an institution which is intended to be created to carry out a function. The clause provides that the Minister may direct the Council on what fees are to be payable. It seems to me that once we have that sort of intrusion we might as well not have bothered to make the institution autonomous. If there is a need to introduce fees in this or any other institution, let it be by specific Act of the Parliament rather than by ministerial direction. I do not wish to hold up the passage of this Bill in any way, but I do wish to register both a query and, prima facie, subject to any answer the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) may give, a protest about that provision.
– I come in on a slightly different tack to Senator Rae on this clause, although I can understand his query. I can imagine that at some time a government may want to change its mind and to change the situation with respect to fees in a tertiary institution and to have the means by way of legislation to do so. It seems to me from reading this clause that the council, with the approval of the Minister, may determine that fees will be payable. Does this mean that any decision which the council makes to charge fees must have the approval of the Minister? Does this mean that if the council finds it necessary to charge service fees for some extra curricula activity or if it needs to charge sports union fees, which is common enough in universities, it must go to the Minister for approval to charge those fees? One wonders whether this is necessary in an institution such as this, in the same manner that Senator Rae referred to the role of the Minister in another way.
– This provision is not in any way unusual; in fact, it is usual. The decision whether to charge fees of any main kind in tertiary institutions is a political one made by government. The intention here is quite clear, in my mind. First of all, it is to state as a generality that fees will not be payable for ordinary tuition as such. The clause acknowledges that there might be a desire and a need, for example, for fees to be charged for services to industry, which often are provided in technical colleges or other colleges. Indeed, it might be desired to charge a general service fee or even a fee for special short courses- something which is quite different. Let me give some parallels to that.
-It could well be. In the technical and further education colleges, for example, we do not charge fees for the vocational courses, but we do charge fees for certain non-vocational courses. Those provisions apply. I agree with Senator Grimes that student union fees might need to be paid. Governments of the day have always held the view that since the total costs of running an institution are the responsibility of this Parliament and since, on top of that, the philosophy of the payment of fees is essentially a socio-economic philosophy of great complexity, those matters can be determined only by governments. To that extent, the decision to charge fees should be made after reference to government. As honourable senators know, I have the strongest view- they have heard me expound it- that there should be consistent with efficiency the minimum of intervention in the decision-making of a tertiary institution. Nevertheless, consistent with that, this is much the same as happens in other institutions. If we find that it needs tightening, I would be prepared to tighten it in the future.
-My concern is that we should not have a situation where the administration of a college such as this has to run to the Minister for absolute trivia. I suppose it gets down to a definition of fees. I pay fees at my child’s state high school for book loans and that sort of thing.
– And for returning books late to the library.
– Yes, that sort of thing. Does this clause bind the Council or the administration of the College to run to the Minister for permission to charge that sort of fee? I would be very concerned if that were so.
– Let me state this to Senator Grimes, and I think he will understand the position. If an institution were permitted to charge fees of significant kinds without recourse to this Government and this Parliament, the first thing that would happen would be that parliamentarians would act to take the case to the responsible Minister and to seek some kind of judgment. I know of no more sensitive area than this, and I think Senator Grimes will acknowledge that. One only has to be a Minister responsible for Australian Capital Territory education to understand what happens with school boards.
– But they are unusual.
– I know they are unusual, but let me make this clear. If the working of this arrangement were that the Minister had to be consulted on petty things, of course that would be put painlessly to death straight away. It is the basic principles that are involved, and I have a sneaking suspicion that every honourable senator in this chamber would want the decision as to fees retained at a ministerial and governmental level because some vital principles are involved.
– I am sorry to find myself in a degree of disagreement with the Minister. I want to be quite clear the point that I was raising in relation to clause 32 (2). I would rather hope that we have a situation where fees are not generally payable, but if the Government wants to change its policy then through the Parliament it puts a change of policy which introduces in respect of whatever educational institution it wishes to impose the payment of fees upon, legislation which covers all of them. My objection to the provision in clause 32 (2) is that it means that at some time in the future some government may on a whim decide to change a policy about which the Parliament has one very firm view but about which a particular Minister may have a different view. It is in that aspect of ensuring that Parliament, having created, continues to have an interest in that which it has created that I raise this question. I wish to make it quite clear- not in relation to any particular Minister, any particular government, any particular time- that if the Minister of the day wants to change something like this he does it by specific legislation at the time, not by his capacity to give directions.
– I wish to intervene in this debate, which concerns the question of the payment of fees in a tertiary college to be established, we are told, at a cost to the taxpayer of something in excess of $2Sm. No doubt the College will be staffed and operated at an annual recurring cost of considerable dimensions, no doubt accruing to the benefit of a student personnel who will derive a lifetime of increased emoluments due to the education that the College gives, not merely a literary education or an abstract education but a utilitarian education. It amazes me that a government that I support introduces into a statute the principle as an ordinary principle that fees shall not be charged. The cost of an institution of this sort and the cost of tertiary education generally requires that those people who qualify for the higher emolument occupations should pay in a moderate degree for the education that is given.
I can understand the benevolent spirit that pervades politicians when they are dealing with taxpayers’ money- often very different from the spirit with which they deal with their own. But the fact is that since tertiary institutions became free there has been no difference whatever in the availability of tertiary courses to the people whom it was supposed to encourage, that is to say, the children of people on the lower incomes. What it has led to is a cauliflower proliferation of unemployed wives and secondary persons taking three and four degrees at the expense of the institution. I disagree radically with the fundamental idea that this institution is not to charge fees. Secondly, what really brought me into the debate was a remark that fell from the Minister, and I will be corrected if I am wrong. He said, as I heard him, that there may be a wish within the institution to authorise union fees. In universities today, which are mainly under State control, overwhelmingly financed by the Commonwealth, we find the State recouping no part of its expenditure through fees. It is a free university system so far as the government is concerned, and then the union moves in and puts upon the student population extravagant imposts in the way of fees for so-called unionism, part of which are to go to indirect political purposes. It amazes me that in an institution being created by the Commonwealth, where we have direct responsibility and direct control, we are contemplating and putting forward union fees as an instance of the possible imposition of fees- so far as I can see in the Bill, uncontrolled. I protest.
– As to Senator Rae’s points, I do not think there is any doubt at all that if any government sought in any institution to change significantly the levying of fees upon students it could not get away with it in any subterranean way. That would be a matter of very considerable public debate. In any case, this is a principle that is not in any way new. We have a series of colleges and universities directly under Commonwealth control, and a large number of others influenced by Commonwealth finance. It has not been sought to alter the situation with regard to the Canberra colleges or the Darwin
Community College, and honourable senators would have supported the principle in the past in that legislation. I suggest that there is no need for amendment in that regard.
I turn to Senator Wright. The fact is that since the first tertiary institution was introduced in Australia- if my memory serves me, it was in the mid- 19th century either in my State or in Melbournefees have been charged directly to students for sporting, recreation and union dues. That has gone on for the most part untroubled, fully supported by the whole community. Those of us who have been through universities will be well aware that it is part of the established nature of the university, except for one aberration that has emerged in recent times. I doubt whether anybody would say that it is not the responsibility of government to deliberate upon the responsibility for the student to pay those sporting and recreation fees, which are an essential part of a college and which I take it Senator Wright would agree should not be borne by the taxpayer. So the levying of sporting and recreation fees- I think we would be as one on this- ought to be in the fullest sense a levy upon the student and not the taxpayer. In any case, that has been so in history. I would agree with Senator Wright that a situation has emerged in which there have been bad practices in relation to the student union fraction of the total student fees that are paid. There have been two or three abuses. There is evidence I think that part of those fees have been used for purposes other than for direct student, university or tertiary college purposes without the authority of the individual student. That is a matter which is being closely looked at by the Government to see whether it can rectify the situation.
The Government believes that there should be no way in which there can be abuses of those fees. Equally, as Senator Wright pointed out, students should be able to opt out of payment of union dues as distinct from sporting and recreation dues if, in conscience, they believe that the fees are being used wrongly. There are a variety of methods emerging to do this. In the Australian National University an opting out clause is already emerging. In respect of this legislation the whole question of the democratic governing of student activities and the payment of student dues, whether they are sporting and recreation dues or union dues, is under consideration by my Government. Honourable senators will have heard my remarks at Question Time. Like Senator Wright, they will be aware that there are a number of court actions under way at the moment which will require decision and clarification and even appeal before we know what is the exact position. I give a clear undertaking to Senator Wright that the Government will take these points on board and it will have two quite clear views on them: There will be no abuse of student fees for wrongful purposes and students who conscientiously object to a particular use of fees may opt out. That is the democratic process. I simply say that the rest of the matter has been in process since time immemorial. I thank Senator Wright for raising this matter. It is a matter that should be dealt with in the generality of 19 universities and 85 colleges. So the principle should be uniform. I thank honourable senators for their contributions
Clause agreed to.
Clause 33 agreed to.
Clause 34 (Application of Moneys).
-Clause 34 provides:
The moneys of the College may be applied by the College only-
in payment or discharge of the costs and expenses of the College under this Act;
in payment of any remuneration or allowance payable to any person under this Act.
The words I wish to direct attention to are the words ‘costs and expenses’. I have discussed this clause with some eminent legal men who express a view that the words ‘costs and expenses’ are somewhat more limiting than the words that were used, for instance, in the Australian National University Act which refers to any payment or discharge for the purposes, rather than the costs and expenses, of the university or college. I note that clause 33, sub-clause 1 states:
There are payable to the College such moneys as are appropriated by the Parliament for the purposes of the College.
If we can appropriate moneys for the purposes of the College presumably the term ‘costs and expenses’ is intended to be interpreted as being related to costs and expenses which come within the overall term ‘the purposes of the College’. If that is the proper interpretation of clause 34 when read in conjunction with clause 33, it would not be appropriate to regard the words costs and expenses’ as being a limiting phrase as opposed to the term ‘purposes’ which has been used in other similar pieces of legislation. I raise this point because I think it is something that must inevitably arise for the concern and consideration of the Council of the Maritime College, when it is appointed. It may obtain some assistance in interpreting the Act. Will the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) confirm that it is his understanding that clauses 33 and 34 can and should be read together and that ‘costs and expenses ‘ will be governed by ‘purposes ‘ of the college and, therefore, it is the broad and not the narrow interpretation which ought to be applied?
– I had some forewarning of the question raised by Senator Rae. My advice is that the wording of clause 34 (a) is used in quite a number of Acts and has weathered the storm. That is the first point. So far it has not been under any challenge. My advice is that the terms ‘costs and expenses’ and purposes’ should be taken together and interpreted in the widest sense to include the purposes of the College. So there would be no limitation there. As I said earlier, any new piece of legislation such as this will develop certain anomalies. It has been good to have a debate of such quality tonight. I will refer the points raised to the legal people to see whether they can give me a view on it now or, at least, bear the points in mind for the future.
Clause agreed to.
Remainder of Bill- by leave- taken as a whole.
-Clause 39(1) provides:
The Council shall, as soon as practicable after 31 December 1979, and after each succeeding 31 December, prepare and furnish to the Minister a report of the operations of the College during the year ending on that date, together with financial statements in respect of that year in such form as the Minister for Finance approves.
In this legislation we are creating a statutory authority, an autonomous institution. In clause 39(1) we are introducing for the first time the Minister for Finance as opposed to the Minister for Education. Although it is not stated in the Bill we know that the funds for the College will only be supplied provided the Council of the College has ensured that it has kept accounts and made submissions to the Tertiary Education Council. Only after the Tertiary Education Council has received budgets and other appropriate documents, approved them and recommended them to the Minister for Finance, will the Council of the Maritime College receive the necessary funds to enable it to keep going in relation to recurrent or capital expenses. The point I raise is that if the financial statements which are required to be provided under clause 39(1) must be in such a form as the Minister approves, may this not lead to a situation in which there is a duplication and an unnecessary cost because we have created a separate body, the Tertiary Education Council, by legislation in this Parliament? We have given it responsibility to vet the form of accounts and the form of submissions. We have given it the responsibility to make recommendations to the Government and now we are going to say that whatever the Tertiary Education Council may require by way of accounts, the Council of the Maritime College may also be required to submit accounts in perhaps an entirely different form which would be determined by the Minister for Finance. I raise this again simply to obtain a comment from the Minister for Education. It is perhaps one of those things that requires some further consideration as to whether it may not have bugs in it. I raise it. I invite the Minister’s comment.
-I thank Senate Rae for detecting something in the Bill which I and others certainly did not detect. As a former member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Public Accounts and being aware of the necessity for institutions such as the Tertiary Education Commission to be responsible to the Parliament either directly or indirectly through the sorts of committees we have set up, I too query whether this sort of innovation- I believe it is an innovation- is a good thing. I hope, having experience of the investigation of the activities of some statutory corporations, that we are not setting up a situation of confusion here and even giving people a let-out for proper accountability to this Parliament by enabling them to say, ‘But the Minister for Finance agreed to this. The Minister for Finance said that we should do this’, and creating great difficulties in our ability to make institutions such as this accountable to the Parliament.
– Let me respond to Senator Grimes first. It is not a question of getting approval for the expenditure but of the form in which the expenditure shall be presented. Therefore in that regard we do not have the intrusion by the Minister for Finance. Here is a dilemna that I think the honourable senators understand. On the one hand we uphold this principle of freedom and the rights of the statutory authorities and yet, as all honourable senators will know, this Parliament- I think, rightly- is seeking more and more the right to probe. For my part, I have no objection at all to the most searching scrutiny by Parliament- I could not have objection anyhow- but I would encourage it, because I believe that it in no way interferes with the essence of academic freedom.
It does help towards accountability for financehere are the two situations together- and it helps towards efficiency.
It is true that the Tertiary Education Commission is a body which seeks to find out what is the state of education in a particular institution or groups of institutions year by year and for triennia or otherwise, and then recommends the spending of the money. What is sought here is that the Minister for Finance should prescribe the form by which the expenditure which has occurred shall be stated so that it can be analysed. I do not see too much conflict in this. Frankly, there will always be the intervention of the Minister for Education himself who, collectively with the Cabinet, will be interested to see that there is no conflict in this regard. He has the absolute responsibility to see that. In the end, the efficiency of the tertiary institutions is the primary and essential responsibility of the Minister for Education of the day. So long as the Minister for Finance merely prescribes the form in which the statement of expenditure is presented, I personally do not see any undue duplication. 1 have very little doubt about the fact that the Tertiary Education Commission might find it a useful document to use in its own journey. If a conflict occurs, the Minister of the day can take it up and this may have to be altered.
– In order to help the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) appreciate the point I was making let me say that there has been a recent example, which I do not wish to cite specifically, of an authority which was created by the Parliament in 1975 and which has not yet reported to the Parliament. When we try to find out why it has not reported to the Parliament we find that it is because the Minister for Finance says that the accounts ought to be kept in one way; the AuditorGeneral says that he cannot certify them because the direction of the Minister for Finance, which means the direction of the Department of Finance, says another thing; and the statutory corporation says: ‘We cannot keep them anyway in that sort of way because it is inappropriate ‘. There has been a barney going on for nearly three years as to how to keep the accounts because too many people have been introduced into the decision making process of how to keep the accounts. I think that, where something such as a statutory authority is set up with the Tertiary Education Commission or something else over the top of it and with the Auditor-General having a responsibility to look at the accounts as well, the Minister for Finance should be left out of it for once.
-This institution, through the Tertiary Education Commission, is responsible to the Parliament for the expenditure of its funds. I believe that the appropriate body to determine the form in which it should report the expenditure of those funds is through this Parliament- if necessary through the officer of this Parliament, the AuditorGeneral. Without getting anecdotal, I too was involved in an investigation by the Public Accounts Committee of a body which was responsible for the expenditure of funds given to it by this Parliament. The accounting responsibility was given to a tertiary institution and what happened was that no accounts were kept because there was no clear direction. Such institutions are responsible to the Parliament. The officer of the Parliament concerned in this case is the AuditorGeneral. I suggest that if anyone should be giving directions as to the form in which the accounts should be kept, apart from the Parliament, it should be the officer of the Parliamentthe Auditor-General- and not the Minister for Finance, or we will end up in the situation to which Senator Rae referred.
– I will be very brief because honourable senators have been very helpful in this journey and I think that they want the Bill. As I understand it, virtually all or most of the accounts presented, except by some statutory bodies, are presented in the form that the Minister for Finance lays down. Sometimes they are modified by requests from the AuditorGeneral that the presentation of the expenditure should be in a particular way. Frankly, I do not believe that there is conflict. If, as Senator Rae suggests, such a confusion should occur- I hope that I am not the Minister to whom he referred -
– I give you that assurance.
– With that qualification may I say now with some more enthusiasm than I might have shown, that I believe it is the Minister’s responsibility, if the honourable senator is diagnosing a defect in the ministerial situation, because I see it as the responsibility of the Minister to see that those kinds of frustrations do not occur. They are constantly in mind. As Senator Grimes would know, sub-clause (4) of the clause states:
The Minister shall cause copies of the report and financial statements furnished by the Council, together with a copy of the report of the Attorney-General, to be laid before each House of the Parliament within 1 S sitting days of that House after their receipt by the Minister.
– But why introduce the Minister for Finance at all?
-Only because it is helpful and in the presentation of expenditure statements, which have to be made anyhow and have to be subject to invitation by Parliament to be perused, it is desirable that they be in a standard form that all honourable senators would be used to and in a standard form which the AuditorGeneral over a period has himself acceded to. So I would think that there is some merit in this proposal but, if there is not, we can amend it.
Remainder of Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill (on motion by Senator Carrick) read a third time.
– Earlier today Senator Thomas directed to me a question concerning the delay in the delivery of the West Australian newspaper. I am advised by Senate officers who have been in touch with the circulation manager of the newspaper that the reason for the delay arose from problems in the production of the newspaper. Due to these production problems, it has not been possible for copies of the newspaper to be despatched on the late night aeroplane from Perth, as would normally be done, and the copies have not been leaving Perth until around midday of the following day.
I was advised also that there has been some delay in the delivery of the Courier-Mail, which has sometimes been arriving on a flight later than is normally the case. Inquiries are being made to see whether this situation can be rectified.
Debate resumed from 1 1 April on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The purpose of this Bill is to enable the Australian Government to provide a Commonwealth guarantee for a loan to the Cooperative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd of $4.5m for a period of not more than three years. The Commonwealth’s action is to be made on the condition that the Victorian Government provides a similar guarantee. Certain conditions are set down in clause 5 (a), (b) and (c) with an all-encompassing final clause which enables the Treasurer (Mr Howard) to prescribe whatever other conditions he thinks. The Opposition is aware of the tremendous efforts being made by the directors of CF and G to retain ownership and control of the meatworks at Brooklyn. A Victorian Supreme Court action is in process to prevent Protean (Holdings) Ltd from proceeding with the purchase of the abattoir for the sum of $ 10.25m. This sum, when combined with an alleged sum of $5m in reserves, would apparently give the shareholders a payout of 60c in the dollar. The shareholders comprise 10,000 farmers and their associates living in Victoria.
With the parlous state of the meat industry, the suspicion amongst a section of primary producers that they are being exploited by meat processing companies and the desire to have a window on processing and distribution costs, I can understand the strong desire on behalf of producers to maintain control of the works. For these reasons, the Opposition does not oppose the Bill. However, it has some concern about the general principles surrounding the provision of Australian Government guarantees to corporations in financial difficulties. Having had contact with the meat industry, I am aware of the risks associated with the growing and processing side and thus any guarantee to a meat processing company demands the closest scrutiny. Regrettably, the CF and G has had an unfortunate commercial history. It was formed in 1959 by a large group of Victorian farmers. It extended its operations into meatworks and export and local market selling.
In 1 968 the Commercial Bank of Australia Ltd placed it into receivership, Mr L. P. Smart, an accountant of Marquand & Co.- a substantial and reputable firm of Melbourne accountants- was appointed administrator. By 1970 the Cooperative was trading profitably and in 1974 it paid its first dividend for a long time. Mr Smart became the managing director in 1974 and on the basis of his performance that was a reasonable appointment- at that time. The Cooperative expanded its operations. To do so it borrowed the substantial sum of $6. 4m from the Australian Industry Development Corporation which, of course, is a Government statutory body. One of the conditions of the loan was that, in addition to Mr Smart being managing director, the AIDC appoint four out of the seven directors. Thus the Corporation had effective control of the Co-operative. In hindsight, the AIDC placed too much faith in a reliance upon Mr Smart or relied too much on his background. It is now a matter of history that he embezzled a total of $ 1.862m from the Co-operative. Those funds were siphoned off to various subsequently insolvent beneficiaries, including a gentleman by the name of Mr Maxwell Newton.
Inevitably the Co-operative ran into further trouble and in June 1975 the receiver moved in. Legal action is being taken against Mr Smart but it has still not come before the Victorian Supreme Court. The Victorian Government, belatedly last year at the instigation of the Victorian Farmers organisation in 1976, instituted company fraud squad investigations into Mr Smart’s activities. I believe that these are still continuing. In February of this year hold-up bandits stole a company payroll of $110,000. Some of the more recent problems are unrelated to the physical operation of the plant. In addition, the traditional risks associated with meat processing and reflected in the Co-operative’s earlier financial results indicate need for careful stewardship of any loan guarantee because there is a real risk with the meat industry that the guarantee may be called upon. The Opposition therefore proposes two amendments, which I foreshadow at this stage.
In clause 5, after paragraph (b), we will insert the following paragraph: (ba) the articles of the society are amended to provide for representation or the Commonwealth on the Board of Directors until the amount borrowed is Tully repaid;
The second amendment is to clause 5 after paragraph (c), insert the following paragraph: (ca) the State of Victoria appoints a full-scale inquiry into the operations of the society in order to ascertain the precise reasons for its current financial difficulties; and
As an indication of the vagaries of the meat industry, I seek leave to table a seven year summary of three major public companies involved in meat abattoir operations, The results have been prepared by the Sydney Stock Exchange Research Service and are for the companies F. J. Walker Ltd, Conkey & Sons Ltd and Anderson Meat Industries. I seek leave to have the table incorporated in Hansard.
Later: Leave granted to table document in lieu of leave to incorporate document in Hansard.
– In addition to the huge fluctuations in consolidated net profits, F. J.
Walker Ltd made a loss of $2m in 1974 and a loss of $436,000 in the subsequent year. The consolidated net profit of Conkey & Sons Ltd fluctuated between a peak of $441,000 last year and a low of $61,000 in 1975. The earnings figures on each 50c ordinary share are more revealing. The profit of Anderson Meat Industries Ltd reveals the same results. These companies are all larger than CF and G, but in many years they would not have been capable of meeting loan commitments of the size of those with which CF and G will now be required to meet. In the three companies I have named, total liabilities are small relative to total assets, and there are substantial amounts of shareholders’ funds.
By comparison, we have no idea, from the information presented to the Parliament, of the true financial position of CF and G. There is no balance sheet or profit and loss statement and no statement from the receiver showing current assets and liabilities together with an income and expenditure statement. The Treasurer stated that at present CF and G is insolvent, with creditors claiming more than $14m but that the Cooperative is trading profitably. In view of the seasonal nature of the meat processing industry, it would be important to have some idea about the period over which it had been operating profitably. Some assessment of the current levels of profitability of the Co-operative to meet the loan commitments which the Commonwealth or the Victorian governments propose to guarantee would be important also.
We have no desire to delay the passage of the Bill, but we do believe it is important that the Parliament should have the following information: Firstly, a statement by the receiver of the Co-operative as to the assets and liabilities and an income and expenditure statement for the last 12 months; secondly, a statement by the receiver or some other competent or suitably qualified person about the capability of the Co-operative to repay a loan of $9m over three years and the state of the assets which would have to be liquidated in the event of the Commonwealth and the State governments having to exercise their guarantees; thirdly, a statement by the receiver or some other similarly qualified person about the likelihood of recovering any of the funds allegedly misappropriated by Mr Smart; and, fourthly, details of the loan which the CF and G has raised.
In view of the Co-operative’s fluctuating fortunes, I think it is important that this information should be available. It would also enable us to assess whether the Treasurer’s reasons for rejecting our amendment in the other place are justified. The Opposition is concerned that the Commonwealth should be providing a guarantee- in other words, creating a contingent liability- but has no influence over the beneficiary of the guarantee. In the commercial world this condition would not be acceptable. I note that the honourable member for Indi (Mr Ewen Cameron), during the course of the debate in the other place, said:
Not only should officers of the Australian Public Service have access at all reasonable times, but the Commonwealth Government should be represented on the board of the Cooperative, filling at least two seats.
The unfortunate events surrounding the AIDC involvement in the CF and G and Mr Smart’s removal of funds deserve the fullest explanation. I am somewhat at a loss to understand why the Victorian Government has not proceeded with more haste. The sums involved are large, and the interests of a large number of shareholders and creditors are adversely affected. I can understand why the National Country Party in the Victorian Parliament recently moved:
That the Treasurer and the Minister for Housing no longer possess the confidence of the House for their failure to initiate a full inquiry into the affairs of the Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd, particularly prior to the company being placed in receivership in 1973.
I would have thought that inquiry would have been necessary so that the Treasurer could be absolutely sure that during the period of the guarantee the Commonwealth could be certain that the interests of the shareholders were being protected. I realise that the Australian Government cannot force the Victorian Government to hold the inquiry but, as a co-guarantor, such a request would not be unreasonable. In addition to the information I requested earlier, I would be pleased if the Minister could provide me with the details of the sorts of conditions which the Treasurer might contemplate under clause 5 paragraph (d).
In concluding my remarks, I stress that we are not opposed to the concept of assisting this farmers organisation. Having had some experience of it during the time that we were in government, we believe that this type of co-operative is in the interests of the farming community. Nevertheless, we believe also that before any government authority or statutory authority is committed to large sums, as the AIDC will be in this case, it is incumbent on the Government to ensure that the financial affairs of the Cooperative are made known to the Parliament so that a proper judgment can be made before the action contemplated is put into effect. It will not be necessary for the information that I have sought to be provided by the Minister this evening. I trust that during the Committee stage or in reply to this debate tomorrow he will bring forward the information that I have sought.
– My remarks on the Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd (Loan Guarantee) Bill will be brief. I understand from the information available to me that this Co-operative has had a very chequered career and is a worthwhile organisation. We should at least give it a chance to see whether it can pay its way in the next few years. It seems to me that the Co-operative, which has as many as 10,000 shareholders in Victoria and some from my own State of South Australia, has proved that it is capable of making a profit. It appears to be quite undercapitalised in its present operations. This, no doubt, has occurred because of a lack of appreciation of the financial needs of the Cooperative over a long period. It has not been helped by the matters which the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) brought to our attention earlier.
I mention this matter because I believe that cooperatives of this sort in the farming community at the moment play an important role. On top of that there is an outstanding meat works at Brooklyn which already is in operation. It employs some 500 to 600 people. It ought to be given the chance to see whether it can survive in a financial condition where its requirements are stabilised as a result of the action the Government is now taking. I believe that Senator Wriedt adverted to one or two points which need to be discussed at a later time. I do believe that we ought not to hold up the progress of the Bill at this stage of the game. The government should proceed as quickly as possible to ensure that assent is given to this guarantee Bill. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– I shall not speak for very long, but the history behind this Co-operative and the Government’s involvement, directly and indirectly, with it were very lucidly and comprehensively outlined in the House of Representatives yesterday, by my colleague the honourable member for Gellibrand (Mr Willis). I suggest that if anyone wants to get a very good background brief on this matter he should read Mr Willis’ speech. I observe in passing that Mr Willis’ excellent and lucid background notes stand in stark contrast to the very brief and incomplete second reading speech given by the Treasurer (Mr Howard) in which we were told virtually nothing about this Co-operative or its past history. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) has repeated some of the major points concerning this Co-operative, but I have been informed- I cannot vouch for or verify this statement- that no recent balance sheets or perhaps no balance sheets at all are available from this Co-operative. I request the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), as Senator Wriedt has already done, to endeavour to obtain for our information an accurate, up to date and preferably audited balance sheet showing just what the trading operations of the Cooperative have been recently and an outline of its other debt commitments. As Mr Willis pointed out in the House of Representatives, it seems somewhat unrealistic to expect that a company which is virtually insolvent or at least in a highly illiquid position in which this one is can negotiate a loan of this magnitude and pay it back within three years as the Bill requires it to do. It is highly likely, I think, that some re-financing will have to be obtained from some source or other if the cooperative is to continue operating.
I make just two other points. It is not very satisfactory- and I do not just direct these remarks at the present Government because I think past governments, including the one I supported as a back bencher, have done similar things- to provide special government assistance on the ad hoc basis that this Bill seeks to do in this instance and as we have done in the past. At the very least I believe the Government ought to produce a set of guidelines laying down in broad terms the conditions under which governments will either make funds directly available to rescue failing businesses or, as it is doing in this instance, to guarantee loans raised from other sources.
I would be interested to know also what is the philosophical position of the Liberal Party on this issue of financial public assistance to private business. Apart from certain inconsistencies in past behaviour of this Government- and I mention in passing that two Government back benchers in the House of Representatives who have a vested interest in this co-operative were good enough to declare their vested interest in the second reading debate; and that is something on which there should be clarification- the lack of clear guidelines and the fact that some companies have sought assistance and been rejected and other companies or co-operatives like this one have sought and been granted Government assistance, if one takes a broader look at the Liberal Party one sees that the action of this Government is particularly hard to reconcile with the attitude of the Premier of Western Australia back in 1974. 1 have in front of me an extract from the Australian Financial Review of 18 November 1974 headed ‘WA mining ultimatum’. The report states:
Mining companies hoping to launch big ventures in Western Australia have been told that the State Government will refuse access to mining tenements or off-shore leases if they accept financial help from Australian Government bodies.
The report went on to say:
Mining Executives say that they have been written to, telephoned or, in some cases, summonsed to government offices to be given the warning.
In effect if they accept help from such semi-independent bodies as the Reserve Bank or the AIDC they will be persona non grata with the State Government.
One executive was told: ‘We ‘re sick of learning for the first time in the Australian Financial Review about the latest mineral venture to be launched in this State’.
I think that last part of the article gives us a clue to the real reason behind the attitude of Sir Charles Court at the time. It may not have been an objection to public funds being involved in private business per se but that Sir Charles Court was sulking because he was deprived of the opportunity to obtain the fixes he seems to require periodically and very frequently to feed his egomania. If the announcements were made by somebody else about impending mineral developments Sir Charles Court was unable to posture, as he normally does, and puff himself up with his own windy rhetoric. But the clue that it gives us is to his attitude in other respects. The policy put forward by Sir Charles Court at that time can only accurately be described as one of economic sabotage in that he was willing, and indeed that he attempted, to coerce mining companies into refusing funds from government or semi-government bodies which would have enabled mining enterprises to get off the ground simply because it deflated his ego when he was not able to take the credit for it, to grandstand and to posture in the way that he normally does.
Sir Charles, of course, had presided over the great expansion of mining which was, given the state of the world mining industry at that time, that is in 1960s, inevitable. As a result of having presided over those inevitable events he evidently persuaded himself, with the assistance of a very gullible Western Australian newspaper and a number of other Western Australians, that he was responsible for the inevitable events and what he called the great developments which followed. When tested, of course, under more difficult circumstances, that is, in the last three years, Sir Charles Court has been shown to be a miserable failure.
– To what Bill are you speaking.
– I am speaking on this Bill and I am seeking enlightenment on the attitude of the Liberal Party towards the principle of government financial involvement in private business, because 3 1/2 years ago we had a Liberal Premier- who is still a Liberal Party Premierblackmailing mining companies.
– Order! Senator Walsh, we are now discussing the Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Limited (Loan Guarantee) Bill. Please direct your remarks specifically to that Bill.
– I do not know what is specific but I suggest that the question of guidelines which will outline the attitude of this Government, and hopefully of the Liberal Party in general, to the question of advances of public money to private businesses is relevant to this Bill and relevant to any future applications of this nature which are likely to come forward. I request the Minister for Education to state in his closing remarks whether he and this Government support the type of attitude expressed by Sir Charles Court in the past, that companies which accepted financial assistance from government or semi-government bodies would be denied access to mining tenements or off-shore leases. I would be very interested to know whether that represents the policy of this Government. If it does not, I request the Minister clearly to dissociate this Government from the attitude of economic sabotage adopted at that time by Sir Charles Court.
– I briefly rise to support the Bill because I understand that in the interests of people whom I represent it is necessary that this Bill be passed with urgency and that it be available at the earliest possible date for a supreme court hearing in Melbourne. I should say two things at the outset. The first is that the people whose interest I seek to protect in supporting this legislation are the 10,000 primary producer-farmer shareholders. The second thing I should say is that I have no shares in the Co-operation Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd. I say that for the benefit of Senator Walsh in case he feels that I have failed to declare an interest. I have no financial interest in this co-operative. Because Senator Walsh has raised the question of the propriety of a government assisting a company in the situation which this one is in I have to spend a few minutes, however briefly, on explaining the peculiar and unusual reasons this legislation is necessary.
I do not want to refer in great detail to the history of the co-operative. That has already been canvassed. Senator Wriedt gave details and in the other place a number of speeches were made. The situation simply is that this co-operative initially was formed by some 10,000 primary producers for the purpose of controlling their product from the time it left the farm, until it was slaughtered and ready for sale. The co-operative was formed about 20 years ago. It traded successfully for some time. In 1 969 a scheme of arrangement was approved by the Victorian Supreme Court. Under the terms of that scheme the co-operative raised some $700,000 from its shareholders and Mr Leslie Phillip Smart, a senior partner in the chartered accountants firm of Marquand and Co.- a prominent firm in Melbournewas appointed administrator. Under his administration the company continued successful operations. It was completely viable.
– In 1969. It traded satisfactorily and into a strong financial position.
– Order ! It being 1 1 p.m., under sessional order I put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
-The Co-operative then agreed to purchase the Bendigo and Ballarat abattoirs, which were operating at a loss, from the Victorian Inland Meat Authority. This purchase, together with substantial extensions and improvements to the main works of the Authority at Brooklyn, was possible because of a loan of $6. 3m from the Australian Industry Development Corporation. Under the terms of that loan the AIDC had the right to appoint four directorsa right which I understand it never in fact exercised. A further stipulation under the terms of the loan was that Mr Smart would be appointed not only chairman of the board but also managing director with virtually dictatorial powers. That appointment was indeed outside the rules of the legislation under which the Cooperative was constituted.
Although Mr Smart was a very capable manager, figures which I have before me indicate that between the years 1971 and 1974 a total amount of $ 1.862m of the funds of the Cooperative, made up of 35 individual payments, was transferred out of the books of the company through the firm of chartered accountants of which Mr Smart was a senior partner before undertaking his employment with the Cooperative. I have details of these payments. I briefly make the following points. The money channelled- an amount of $ 1.8m- was an essential part of the working capital of the company. It was not surprising that the company later in 1975- as I have already said, these payments were from 1971 to 1974- found itself in receivership. The strange thing about this channelling of $1.8m over a period of four years is that it was not discovered by the auditors of the Cooperative. I think Senator Walsh will agree that some very unusual circumstances are involved in this matter.
As I said at the outset, my concern is for the 10,000 farmer shareholders in the Co-operative. The receivers appointed were Messrs John Hilliard and David Alexander Crawford from the firm Peart Marwick Mitchell and Co. A writ was issued out of the Supreme Court of Victoria claiming $ 1.862m from Smart. Details of the statement are recorded in Victorian Hansard. The matter has not yet come before the Court and I feel that I should not comment further on the actual writ.
All that remains to be said now is that since 1975 the company has traded viably and I can do no better than to quote briefly from the last auditor’s report by a gentleman from the firm Arthur Anderson and Co., which is a well known firm of chartered accountants. The report stated:
In my opinion, however, the amount of $1,1 38,729 shown as operating profit for the period ended 28 June 1 977 in the accompanying profit and loss account is a true and fair view of the operating profit for the period.
That gives a clear indication that the company is viable and that it can trade itself out of its present situation. In addition, I quote from a report of the receivers and managers for the period ended 28 June 1977. It is brief and I read it because it is important. It states:
The trading activity at the Brooklyn Works, which is now the only one owned and operated by the Society, consisted of the operation of a service works. The killing capacity has been increased over that available during the previous year. The favourable conditions resulted in the generation of a positive cash flow, and subject to a continuation of the past year’s trading conditions, the Receivers and Managers believe that the Society is capable of trading out of its difficulties subject to the adoption of a reasonable Scheme of Arrangement providing for the repayment of secured and unsecured creditors.
– Who said that.
-The receivers of the company said it. This legislation is to guarantee a loan of $9m that has been arranged jointly between the Victorian Government, providing $4.5m, and the Commonwealth Government which is also providing $4.5m. The company itself has $5m in liquid funds. Its debts at the moment are $14m. This legislation will enable its 10,000 shareholders about whom I am concerned to get a better return on their shares. Above all it will allow them to retain control of their Co-operative and to continue trading. For those reasons I commend the legislation to the Senate.
– I am forced to address some remarks to this Bill because of the way the Government is trying to railroad this legislation through the Parliament at this late hour. I place on record my protest. Once again we find that this House is not being used as a House of Review. Because of the way the Government has re-arranged its business today, a Bill of great importance, involving an amount of $4.5m of taxpayers’ money, has been introduced and because of its urgency as a result of the Supreme Court action, which has been explained by previous speakers, Opposition speakers in the main have had to curtail their remarks so that their criticism is cut to a bare minimum. I want to say just a few quick words- I do not want to hold up the proceedings and keep honourable senators here all night- to the Opposition’s amendment which was moved by our Leader, Senator Wriedt, that in clause 5 after paragraph (b), insert the following paragraph: (ba) the articles of the society are amended to provide for representation of the Commonwealth on the Board of Directors until the amount borrowed is fully repaid.
We have been told this evening that one Liberal Party member in particular in the other place agrees with that amendment. He feels that the Commonwealth ought to be represented and I feel also most strongly that, because we are lending this money to a co-operative that has twice gone into liquidation, it is time that the Commonwealth had a representative on its board. Sub-clause (c) of clause 5 states:
What I am concerned about is that this will in effect mean that the Minister will not act until there is some evidence that the conditions of the guarantee are not being adhered to. This may well be too late to take corrective measures. If the Government had a representative sitting permanently on the board, he would be able to keep the Government informed if things were not going the way they ought to be under the conditions of the guarantee. That would give the Government time to take some measures to safeguard the $4.5m of Commonwealth taxpayers’ money that is involved. Of course I think the Victorian Government should have some concern for the $4.5m that it has to put up. Altogether the loan involves an amount of $9m. That is why I express my concern.
Our amendment ought to be carried so that we have some insight into the workings of the Cooperative. As Senator Tehan has just pointed out, it has not been a properly run venture in years gone by although it is claimed in recent times that it is showing a profit. It might again fall back into the errors of its ways perhaps in the very near future and the taxpayers’ money would then be in jeopardy. We may be able to take some remedial action if we have a voice on the board rather than waiting until the Minister gives some direction that the Public Service Board officers investigate the documents of the company. I return to the second matter that I raised- that is, the Senate is not being used as a House of Review. Every time there is a Senate election we are told by honourable senators on the other side of the chamber that the Senate must be maintained; that it is a House of Review; that the Senate in looking at legislation acts as a safety device. Yet we find that all we do in respect of every Bill of importance that comes into this place is rubber stamp it. That is because the Government has the numbers. Senator Missen cannot truthfully say that this is in fact a House of Review. It is a Party House. As I have said on many occasions, when the Labor Party is in government the Senate acts as a House of frustration; when the Liberal-National Country Parties are in government, the Senate acts as a rubber stamp.
– in reply- Lest anyone misinterpret the remarks of Senator McLaren, there is an understanding between Senator Wriedt and the Government that there are grounds for some expedition in passing this Bill. As I understand the position, the Opposition agreed with those grounds and was willing so to do. I think that should be understood. I thank those honourable senators from both sides of the chamber who have co-operated in this regard because as honourable senators will know it is desirable that this legislation be passed. I seek to do that. I will not keep the Senate overlong.
asked whether the Parliament might be provided with a series of statements, in the first instance the balance sheet and profit and loss accounts, and, in the second instance, a series of statements from the Receiver. I have spoken to Senator Wriedt informally. I think he would permit me to say that I have informed him that I will be able to provide the profit and loss accounts and balance sheet probably by Question Time tomorrow. He has advised me that he would be happy if I were to make those documents available to the Parliament, preferably after Question Time. Consistent with the advice I have been given that they will be available by that time, I undertake to do so. If they are not available, I undertake to have them tabled at the earliest possible time. I am advised that the data from the Receiver is not available. Should a further search reveal the availability of any further trading information, either tomorrow or subsequently, I will ensure that it is made available to the Senate because I believe that the Senate should be fully informed.
I will deal with the queries raised by honourable senators very quickly. One honourable senator asked about the ability of the Cooperative to repay the loan after three years. The answer is that this will depend on the trading fortunes of the Co-operative in the next three years. It is presently making adequate profits in the present financial year to pay interest on its debts. The likelihood of recovery of approximately $2m from Mr Smart is, of course, the subject of a matter now pending before the Victorian courts. I have been asked about the details of the loan agreement. I seek leave of the Senate to incorporate the details in Hansard.
The document read as follows-
How has the Government protected its guarantee? Answer
The management structure (board and senior staff) is to be reconstituted to the satisfaction of the two Governments.
The terms and conditions to be attached to the proposed borrowing have been approved by the two Governments.
No moneys would be paid out under the guarantee unless and until the lender has exercised all normal commercial steps to recover its moneys by selling the assets of CF & G etc. The total value of the Government guarantees is $9 million while the assets of CF & G were valued by Protean to be S 10.25 million- the price it is prepared to pay for the abattoir.
No further borrowings are to be undertaken by CF & G without the Government’s approval.
No dividends are to be paid while the guarantee is in effect (to further improve CF & G’s capital/debt ratio).
The Governments are to have full access to the financial accounts of CF & G while the guarantee operates.
The guarantees would apply only to the principal of the proposed borrowing; the interest will not be guaranteed.
– I refer now to the two amendments moved by the Opposition. They were, of course, moved in the other place and there has been ample opportunity to study them. The Government believes that in neither case is it necessary or desirable to accept the amendments. Accordingly, the Government will oppose them. With regard to the first amendment, the Commonwealth and Victorian governments will approve the reconstructed board and management of Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Limited and the two governments will ensure that there is sufficient commercial expertise which will understand the interests of the Government to make sure that the Cooperative will be properly managed. The Commonwealth and Victorian governments have a responsibility to ensure that the interests of the community are protected. There is no need for Commonwealth directors to sit on the board because the board will be reconstituted by the two governments in the interests of the community.
– Can you guarantee there will not be any more rollers on it?
– In answer to the interjection, nobody can guarantee human nature but, as Senator Primmer will know, we will try to the extent we can with the best of good will to do so. Mr Hamer, the Premier of Victoria, indicated in the Victorian Parliament the reason why there was not a need for a full scale inquiry, as was suggested in that place. He pointed out that the Victorian company fraud squad had been inquiring into the reason for CF and G’s financial problems. So an inquiry is now being conducted by the Victorian company fraud squad. In addition, the Government did not want to take action that was not in the best interests of the shareholders. In every case where there has been a public inquiry one result has been that the company has been wound up. In the case of CF and G it was extremely unlikely that a lender would provide $9m while a full-scale inquiry was in progress. The Government did not want to take action that would prejudice recovery of up to $2m under a civil writ by the Receiver in the Supreme Court. I put it to the Senate that they are in both cases cogent reasons. I thank the Senate and commend the Bill, unamended, to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Clause 5 (conditions of guarantee).
For the purpose of the protection of the financial interests of the Commonwealth, the Treasurer shall not give a guarantee under section 4 in relation to a borrowing of moneys by the Society unless-
– I move:
I noted that the Treasurer (Mr Howard), when signalling the Government’s rejection of this amendment stated that it would be incongruous for the Government still to have a direct representative on the board after the guarantee had been discharged. He seems to be quibbling about the difference between the loan itself being repaid and the Government’s guarantee being discharged. In spite of that objection, the Opposition still intends to proceed with the amendment, particularly in the view of the far from satisfactory past history of this company and the lethargic, to say the least, action taken in the State of Victoria between the 18 months when tie company become insolvent in June 1975 and the end of 1 976 when finally the court was asked t>i investigate this matter. The Opposition believes that the Government should have a representative directly associated with the management of the company.
– Although I did not vote against the second reading of this Bill, I think it is irresponsible and unacceptable. Inasmuch as the majority of the Senate is otherwise disposed, I did not feel, as a lone voice, that it was necessary to vote any other way. I was attracted to the Labor Party’s amendment requiring as a condition of the loan that a representative of the Government should be on the board and advised the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) that I wished to hear his answer to that suggested amendment. The Minister incorporated what he described as the terms of the agreement and I take objection to that expression as a description of the paper which has been incorporated. It is simply a very summarised form of heads of agreement. Whether it has been agreed to or not does not appear on it.
I take it that the document, which has been incorporated, contains the minimum stipulation which the Government will allow before it signs an agreement for the loan. This does to some extent reassure me as to the control of the cooperative, because the first paragraph states that the management structure- that is, the board and senior staff- is to be reconstituted to the satisfaction of the two governments. I do not have an abundant confidence in the business acumen of a government which will agree to this individual loan, for the specific reasons which- 1 will state. I think it is as possible to get proper security under that paragraph as it is by having on the Board a director nominated by the Government. Therefore, I do not see that the amendment is necessary. The reason I have no confidence in it is this: Paragraph (iii) of the document states, in part:
The total value of the Government guarantees is $9m while the assets of CF and G were valued by Protean to be $ 10.25m- the price it is prepared to pay for the abattoir.
That refers to the present purchaser who is prepared to pay that price. So be it. Let it be that his value is properly based. There is not a word here with regard to the liability situation, other than reference to the government guarantees. I have not heard from anybody that these assets are clear of all debts, both secured and unsecured, other than the government guarantees. If so, the margin is altogether unacceptable for a government security. It is not acceptable for a commercial security. No bank of any standing- not even the Australian Industry Development Corporation. I hope- would give a loan of $9m on a valuation of a whole undertaking of $ 10.25m, especially when it is not known what items in the assets structure have been credited as items of that total valuation.
– The second reading speech states that the creditors are owed amounts in excess of $ 14m.
– The company has $5m in liquid funds.
– I am sorry, but if that is so, the thing is hopelessly bankrupt at the present time. I hope it is not so. I do not wish to delay the Committee while we get an understanding on that. On the other point, though, with regard to the necessity to have a director whose function would be to keep in touch constantly with the day to day management and also to have access to accounts, one of the provisions in these heads of agreement is that the governments are to have full access to financial accounts of the Cooperative while the guarantee operates. From that point of view, I suggest that the agreement has sufficed for the purpose of this guarantee. I think the whole thing is a rickety, irresponsible and ad hoc program which no honourable senator, if he were dealing with his own moneys or other moneys in a professional responsible degree, would ever subscribe to such a guarantee.
-Briefly, I should clear up a couple of points raised by Senator Wright. Senator Missen said by way of interjection that the second reading speech by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) does disclose the information. I mentioned it in my speech. I mentioned by way of interjection what the Co-operative had in liquid funds. Briefly, it has debts of $ 14m. It has S5m in liquid funds and this $9m loan which is the subject matter of the joint guarantee by the State and Federal governments. This will put it in a situation in which it will pay all its debts and it will owe the mortgagee, who will be guaranteed by the State and Federal governments, $9m. I think I made it clear in my speech during the second reading debate that it will be able to trade itself out of a situation, having regard to reports both by the auditors and the receivers.
– In speaking to clause 5, I am rather gratified that Senator Wright has reinforced my earlier comments when I protested at the haste with which the Bill is being put through this place. Senator Wright has now cast even greater doubts in my mind about the safeguards which the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) said are embodied in this Bill. I think he said in his reply to the second reading debate that the taxpayers’ contributions were completely safeguarded. Now Senator Wright creates a further doubt in my mind. He said that the Bill is a very slipshod Bill. He has pointed out some of the things to which this chamber should have paid its attention during quite a lengthy debate. We should have thrashed out these issues so that we are reassured in our own minds that the Bill is all that the Minister says it is and that the taxpayers’ money will be completely safeguarded. When the Minister replies to the senators who have spoken in the Committee stage I hope he can enlarge a little further upon his statement that the taxpayers’ money will be completely safeguarded, in view of the fact that there will be no direct government representative sitting on the board to keep a watchful eye on the expenditures of this Co-operative. I hope the Minister will be able to allay my fears if he cannot allay the fears of Senator Wright.
– I shall be very brief indeed. There will be persons sitting on the Board who have the interests of the community, as defined by the Victorian Government and the Commonwealth Government, in mind because the Victorian Government and the Commonwealth Government will approve a reconstruction of the Board and management. So there will be quite a clear situation in that regard. As to the general picture, my advice is that no moneys will be paid out under the guarantee unless and until the lender has exercised all normal commercial steps to recover its moneys by selling the assets of the Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd. The total value of the government guarantees is $9m, while the assets of CF and G are valued by Protean at $ 10.25m. My advice is that cash in hand is sufficient in itself to discharge all creditors, whether secured or unsecured. The asset is unencumbered as such. Mr Deputy Chairman, I suggest that we should adopt the clause.
– I am more confused. If I understood both Senator Tehan and the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) correctly, the Minister has stated that the cash of the company, or the cash in hand as he put it, is sufficient to discharge the $ 14m total outstanding debt. I heard Senator Tehan say that the company had only $5m in cash. Could that be clarified?
– If I have caused confusion, Mr Deputy Chairman, I ought to try to correct Senator Walsh’s impression. What I thought I said, and the situation is, that as of now the co-operative owes $14m to various creditors, including a $6. 9m loan with the Australian Industry Development Corporation or whichever Federal body it is. Part of that debt would be discharged with the $5m in cash which the Co-operative has, and the rest would be discharged with the $9m which the Co-operative has by way of borrowings, which are the subject of the guarantee by the State and Federal governments.
– I have a further question, Mr Deputy Chairman, in view of the statement by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in that both the Victorian and the Commonwealth governments would have a hand in the restructuring of the board. All I can see in the Minister’s second reading speech is a statement to the effect that the guarantees will be conditional upon the approval of both governments of a management restructuring plan to be submitted to the Cooperative. Unless I misunderstood the Minister, he said that there would be a restructuring of the board. If that is the case, I ask whether the Minister will be putting down a statement in the Parliament when the board is restructured as to the personnel on the board and by whom they are appointed.
– I will see whether that can be done. I think it is a reasonable request, and to the extent that I can discharge it I certainly will.
– I would like a definitive answer on this question. I believe that Senator Carrick said that the cash on hand is sufficient to discharge all the obligations, meaning that the cash on hand now is $14m. On the other hand, Senator Tehan appears to include in the $ 14m the $9m loan that the Co-operative presumes it will get as a result of this guarantee having been given. In other words, if I understand the position correctly, the Government is guaranteeing a loan of $9m against the security of the market value of the assets, which appears to be $ 10.5m. Is that correct?
– I am advised that what Senator Tehan said is correct. It is the combination of the loan of $9m, plus the cash in hand, that would be adequate to meet the outstanding liabilities.
– In relation to clause 5, I move:
As the Committee is aware, there was a move in the Victorian Parliament for the appointment of a proper inquiry into the operations of the society.
– What date was that? How long ago was it?
-I could not tell the honourable senator off-hand.
– It was 8 March this year.
– I emphasise, in speaking briefly to the amendment, that the Opposition in the Federal Parliament is concerned that the Commonwealth Government and the Parliament itself be made aware of the true financial position of the company at the present time, in view of the circumstances which have led up to its present position. We are concerned to protect the interests of the Commonwealth. One could not help but be concerned at some comments that have been made during this debate, particularly in respect of government representation on the board of directors, which was the subject of the first amendment put to the Committee. The Opposition is concerned that this Government appears to be allowing itself to become involved in this matter without adequate information. No one is arguing; as Senator Tehan has pointed out, we all agree that our concern is for the interests of the 10,000 farmers involved in the Co-operative. At the same time, we have a duty as a Parliament to protect the interests of the Commonwealth and its investments. I should have thought that it would be in the interests of the Government itself to ensure that, before it got involved, the Australian Industry Development Corporation, which has had its fingers burnt on so many occasions in the past, made a proper investigation into the circumstances.
– I want to speak briefly in support of the amendment. Senator Carrick, in closing the second reading debate, forecast the Government’s opposition to this amendment for a reason that was also stated in the Victorian Parliament, I understand. That is, if the company was under investigation its ability to borrow funds would be prejudiced. I concede that in a normal commercial situation that is highly likely, but it does not seem to me to be a very convincing argument when the borrowings would be backed by a guarantee from the two governments. I do not think that is a very valid point, and I was not impressed by the reasons given in the House of
Representatives by the Treasurer (Mr Howard). Mr Willis pointed out in the House that an inquiry had been called for by, among other people, the directors of the company, the Victorian Farmers Union, in which there would be a high degree of membership of the shareholders of the Co-operative, and perhaps most significantly, the members of the National Country Party in the Victorian State Parliament, who have backed the Labor Party-initiated call for an inquiry. So we have the National Country Party, the Labor Party in the State of Victoria, the Victorian Farmers Union, which has virtually the same membership as the shareholders of the Cooperative, and the directors of the Co-operative all calling for an inquiry. The only resistance to an inquiry appears to come from the Liberal Government in the State of Victoria.
The Treasurer, when forecasting the Government’s rejection of the amendment in the House of Representatives, said:
I put it to the Opposition in this place that that is the right forum wherein to determine whether there should be an inquiry under Victorian legislation into a body which operates under that legislation in respect of conduct which is covered by Victorian law.
That might be a fair statement if the Victorian Government were providing all the funds, but half of this guarantee is being covered by the Commonwealth Government, and I suggest that that makes it the business of the Commonwealth Parliament. I think it is quite in order that, as a condition of the loan guarantee of $4.5m by the Commonwealth Government, an inquiry should be held. Given that just about everyone associated with this matter has called for an inquiry, it seems that the reluctance of the Victorian Government to agree might be associated with some fear as to what an inquiry might turn up, in view of the number of other peculiar dealings that have been exposed by way of inquiry in Victoria in the last couple of years.
-Could I make a couple of brief comments on the question raised. As I said in my speech during the second reading debate, a supreme court writ has been issued to recover the $1.8m involved. So legal action is in train through the civil courts to recover the money. The question raised here by the Opposition concerns a criminal prosecution of Mr Smart, and the Fraud Squad in Victoria has been busy on that for two years. I readily concede that the Fraud Squad has moved very slowly, but that action may still proceed. There are two things I wish to point out. First of all, we are not helping the shareholders by adding this provision to the Bill. The matter is before the Victorian supreme court to stop the sale to Protean (Holdings) Ltd in the interests of the 10,000 shareholders. The supreme court in Victoria has said that when the Federal Government passes legislation and the State Government passes legislation- and the two things are happening simultaneously- it will look at it. But if this legislation goes forward to the supreme court with a direction that nothing is to be done until the State Government appoints a full scale inquiry, it is my guess that the supreme court will allow the sale to Protean to proceed.
This whole exercise is designed to return the control of the company to the 10,000 farmer shareholders who started it off and who do not want to see their interests defeated by the machinations of a receiver who was appointed to handle the situation within the law. So, with the best will in the world the Opposition, by proposing this amendment, is not helping the people whom the legislation is designed to help. The amendment can only delay the Bill and perhaps stultify the whole action. For that reason I oppose the amendment.
– I would like to make a few comments in view of the remarks of Senator Tehan. I think on the three occasions tonight when he has risen to speak he has said that the reason for hurrying this legislation through the Parliament is to protect the shareholders of the company. What I am concerned about is the protection of the shareholders of the nation. They are going to become shareholders in this company to the tune of $4.5m from the time this Bill receives royal assent. If we take in the Victorian contribution there will be another $4. 5 m. So in total the taxpayers of Australia are going to be shareholders in the company to the tune of $9m. They are just as much involved as the 10,000 shareholders of whom Senator Tehan spoke. The taxpayers are the people for whom I am expressing concern. Now that we have on the record from various speakers that this Bill is not as tight as we would like it to be, if the company is not a success in the years to come we can come back to this place, turn up the record and remind the Government of the problems that were associated with the Bill and that those problems probably could have been avoided if the Government had not been in such a hurry to rush the Bill through the Parliament.
– I take it from what has been said that the borrower who is to be guaranteed by the Government is to have a first mortgage or charge on the unencumbered assets- the whole of the assets- of the company.
– That is correct as I am advised. For the reasons I put forward previously, the Government will support the clause as printed.
That the amendment (Senator Wriedt’s) be agreed to.
The Committee divided. (The Temporary Chairman- Senator Devitt)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) proposed:
That the Bill be now read a third time.
– I rise to rectify something which occurred during the second reading debate. I sought the incorporation of certain material in Hansard. I did not mean to have it incorporated; I meant to have it tabled. I formally put on the record that I intended to seek leave only to table the document.
-I take the opportunity at the third reading stage of this debate to mention that the person Smart referred to during the debate is the same person who recommended the continuation of turtle farming in the Torres Strait. It is my view that we should be taking another look at that project, in view of the relevations made in the Parliament today.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Carrick) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– As the hour is very late I shall detain the Senate for only a few minutes. I wish to refer to the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, an organisation created by this Parliament. The reason I bring up this subject at this late hour is that today in Darwin the winding up meeting of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission was held. The Commission has been ably chaired by Mr Clem Jones, a former Australian Labor Party Lord Mayor of Brisbane. As Chairman of the DRC Mr Clem Jones has done a tremendous job. In its first report the DRC said:
There is no doubt that cyclone ‘Tracy’ was the most destructive cyclone to strike a populated part of the Australian coast. None other has caused damage of the same magnitude.
It went on to say that the power of the cyclone was gauged to be up to 275 kilometres per hour. In its introduction the report states:
In the early hours of December 25, 1974, a small but exceptionally intense cyclone, codenamed ‘Tracy’ passed slowly and directly across the City of Darwin. The destruction it caused was the worst suffered by an Australian city. It was turned into a ruin; dislocated, without essential services; its survivors shocked, bereaved and mostly lacking even basic shelter; the majority of the population had to be evacuated and the life of the city was completely dislocated. Between 50 per cent and 60 per cent of its 1 1,000 or so houses and flats were damaged beyond repair with only a few hundred left more or less intact. Before the cyclone, Darwin was a vigorous, growing city with a population of about 48,000.
Immediately the Australian Government, which was then the Labor Government, took action to set up the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, which received the full support of Parliament. The work that it carried out was completed in some three and a half years- although the Parliament estimated that it would take five years. Nearly 3,000 houses were built by the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, which averages out at the rate of some 2.5 houses a day. The Federal Government spent about $300m on housing and the rebuilding of hospitals, schools and the various services. I suggest that private enterprise would have spent about $ 100m to $200m.
The people who have been associated with the Darwin Reconstruction Commission- Mr Clem Jones, the present chairman; the Minister in the Labor Government, Dr Patterson; the present Minister for the Northern Territory, Mr Evan Adermann; and very many other people- are to be commended. Not only is the Darwin Reconstruction Commission to be commended but also the people of Darwin, the various government authorities and, not least, the building industry. As I said, the hour is late, but today saw the end of a most efficient organisation that brought about the reconstruction of Darwin. Although it still has visible scars and some invisible scars, Darwin has now been rebuilt. It is a modern city. I think that any Australian would be proud to be associated with the move for its reconstruction.
– I thank Senator Kilgariff for drawing attention to the fact that today saw the termination of the activity of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. Today in another place the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann) made comment in a ministerial statement, which I hope to repeat in this place tomorrow after question time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.56 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
Have representations been made in relation to a weapons strong room for B Company 9 RQR at Sandgate, Brisbane; if so what has been the result of any representations made.
– The Minister for Defence has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Weapons have not been stored at the Sandgate Armoury since June 1976, when it was damaged during a break and entry.
Necessary repairs and upgrading of security had been included in this year’s works program and work is planned to commence in the near future.
Until the work is completed, weapons will continue to be stored in secure storage elsewhere.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
– The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, upon notice, on 1 March 1978.
Which organisations in what local government areas in New South Wales have: (a) applied for; and (b) received, grants under the Commonwealth Youth Support Scheme since 1 July 1977.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
As at 28 February 1978 the following organisations in New South Wales, in the local government areas indicated, have applied for and received grants under the Community Youth Support Scheme.
asked the Minister representing the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister, upon notice, on 1 March 1978:
What guidelines, if any, have been issued by the Public Service Board concerning agreements on staff exchanges between the Commonwealth and State Public Services.
– The Minister Assisting the Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
On 12 July 1976 the Public Service Board issued to all departments and authorities a circular containing guidelines for the operation and management of exchanges of staff. These guidelines are intended to comprehend a variety of exchange locations, including State Public Services. Copies of the Public Service Board’s circular have been placed in the Parliamentary Library.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Finance, upon notice, on 1 4 March 1978:
– The Minister for Finance has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Concessional carry-on and restocking loans to primary producers.
A subsidy to producers of $ 10 per head for slaughter of cattle in drought-affected areas.
Payments to local government authorities for supervision of slaughter and disposal of drought-affected cattle.
Under the longstanding natural disaster cost-sharing arrangements the Commonwealth meets all expenditures in excess of $2m by Queensland on agreed relief measures in respect of all major disasters in any particular financial year. Given these arrangements it is not possible to apportion expenditures relating to a single disaster, such as drought, between the Commonwealth and the Queensland Governments. However, the Queensland Government presently estimates that it will spend around $ 1 4m on agreed disaster relief measures in 1977-78 of which $2.5m will be on drought relief; the Commonwealth ‘s contribution to disaster relief in the State is therefore estimated at $ 12.0m in 1977-78.
Commonwealth natural disaster assistance to Queensland (and other States) takes the form of grants for measures where the State provides grants, and non-interest bearing loans where the State provides loans.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 12 April 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780412_senate_31_s76/>.