31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned members and ex-members of the Citizens Forces of Australia respectfully sheweth:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray
Your honourable House take appropriate action to resume the award of the several distinctive and historic Reserve Forces Decorations and Medals to members of the Royal Australian Naval Reserve, Citizens Military Force (Army Reserve) and Citizens Air Force. by Senator Douglas McClelland.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth objection to the Metric system and request the Government to restore the Imperial system.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Sheil.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Jessop.
– I give notice that eight sitting days after today I shall move:
That the Australian National Railways general by-law, contained in Australian National Railways by-law No. I and made under the Australian National Railways Act 1917, be disallowed in respect of clauses 1 7, 1 8, 34 and 54.
- Mr President, I advise the Senate the my colleague, the Attorney-General (Senator Durack), is unavoidably absent today. I ask honourable senators to direct to me any questions which they would normally ask him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Does the Minister recall that in an answer given by Senator Withers on Tuesday to a question asked by Senator Thomas concerning the need to provide coal loading facilities in Botany Bay and to upgrade coal handling and loading facilities in other places, Senator Withers referred to the burgeoning demands of our overseas markets for coal and the fact that it would be a tragedy for Australia if we were unable to avail ourselves of this opportunity to supply these markets? In view of the hundreds of millions of dollars of capital investment required to develop and upgrade these facilities, can the New South Wales Government or, indeed, any State Government be reasonably expected to find these large sums of money from its own resources? If not, is it the Commonwealth’s intention to provide finances for these vital projects? If the Commonwealth is not prepared to do so, are we to assume that this tragedy to which Senator Withers referred quite correctly, will be allowed to take place? Are we to allow overseas capital to do the job for us or is the Commonwealth prepared itself to borrow the necessary capital overseas?
– The whole question of infrastructure development and therefore infrastructure financing has been before the Premiers Conference. Of course, at one level a certain amount is always obtainable within the general borrowings through the Loan Council. The Commonwealth recognises that Australia is entering into a new developmental stage which may require more capital for infrastructure borrowing. As I have informed the Senate in recent days, there have been discussions between the Premiers and the Commonwealth about a method of development of infrastructure borrowing which would conform with the 1927 Financial Agreement, and the gentlemen’s agreement, yet perhaps enable wider freedom of movement by the States.
I think the answer to Senator Wriedt ‘s question lies in the fact that the development of such projects would be a combination of the Loan Council borrowing program plus additional capacity to borrow on an infrastructure basis. I am not sure that we, as a government, are yet in a position to release the details of discussions between the Premiers and ourselves on infrastructure borrowing. It may well be that this matter remains to be discussed finally at the June Premiers Conference. I will look that up. It is a matter of considerable importance. If I can give further details, I will let Senator Wriedt know.
-Has the Minister representing the Attorney-General seen recent Press reports that the South Australian AttorneyGeneral, Mr Duncan, and the South Australian Government are considering the encouragement of class actions at law? Has the Federal Law Reform Commission investigated this question? If so, will it be reporting in the very near future? Has the Attorney-General considered the problems affecting the legal profession in the United States where class actions have developed rapidly in the last few years? Since the issue has been raised in one State only, can the Minister say whether action taken in this area should properly require a uniform approach by all States and the Commonwealth?
– I have a general knowledge of the subject about which the honourable senator has asked- that is, that Mr Duncan intends taking some action in South Australia. I do not know what co-operation exists between the Commonwealth Attorney-General and the State Attorneys-General. Therefore, I suggest that the honourable senator put his question on notice. I am quite certain that the AttorneyGeneral will give him an early reply.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and follows a question asked earlier in the week. Can she inform the Senate of the number of persons who had their unemployment benefits terminated during the investigation by field officers commencing on 8 February, in which they concentrated on unemployment benefit? Can she give us the reasons why payment of this benefit was terminated?
– As I stated earlier in the week in response, I think, to more than one question on this subject, there are no statistics as to the number of people who have had their benefits terminated as a result of field officer activity. The field officers are part of the administrative process in determining eligibility. Information that is received by them on their visits is added to that which is in the Department. We have no statistics that would show numbers of people whose benefits have been terminated as a result of a particular week of activity or as a result of field officer activity in general. Hundreds of people or thousands of people go on and off unemployment benefits for short periods as a result of the work test, the income test, and information supplied by the beneficiaries or collected by field officers. I am unable to state any numbers that would be directly related in accurate terms to field officer activity or to any particular week of visits.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. Could the Minister clarify her answer? Do I understand that she is saying and agreeing, at least by implication, that there was a field officer survey which concentrated on this area. Do I understand that the Department conducted a specific program starting on 8 February, concentrating on unemployment beneficiaries and removing beneficiaries from the rolls for various reasons, yet it has not kept statistics of the results of those inquiries? How does the Minister know that that inquiry which was set up was efficient and achieved any purpose? What did we learn from the conduct of that inquiry?
– We have had considerable discussion on this matter in a variety of ways. I have said continually that the operation of the field officers is part of the process of determining eligibility for pensions and benefits. It was stated recently that there had been concentration on the area of unemployment beneficiaries and that the activity of field officers in that area involved an attempt to visit all those who were in receipt of unemployment benefits at a particular time. That concentrated activity continued for some time. Other field officer activity is also being undertaken by the Department. I am unable to cite statistics showing that a certain number of benefits were terminated as a result of visits or in a particular week.
The honourable senator also asked about the results of the inquiries and the efficiency, achievement or purpose of the inquiries. I am able to say that we regard field officer activity in the Department as a very useful method of assisting us to determine eligibility for benefits. The former Government also recognised the value of field officer personal visits to determine eligibility for benefits. I have said previously that because of the increase in the number of beneficiaries we have been unable to maintain the ratio of field officer activity that was established by the former Government.
– This was a concentrated effort.
– May I complete the answer and deal with what the honourable senator has just raised. Because of the increase in the number of beneficiaries, we have not been able to maintain the ratio of field officer activity that was thought appropriate by the former Government because of the increase in the number of beneficiaries, but it was thought that some concentration for a period on the area of unemployment benefits would enable us to bring up to date the records of the Department. A number of people will have their benefits terminated, not by the field officers but as a result of the full facts being available either to the Commonwealth Employment Service or the Department of Social Security. Field officers themselves do not terminate benefits.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development. Following the winding up of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission and the impetus given to the reconstruction of Darwin, the building industry after giving invaluable service is now tottering on the brink of economic disintegration. I ask the Minister: Now that the Government has indicated its intention to develop uranium in the north, will building of the uranium town as envisaged in the Fox report commence shortly so as to utilise the well organised construction industry in the area before it is wound up either voluntarily or through financial collapse? If so, will the Government be responsible for financing construction of the new uranium town? If not, how will it be financed? If it is the responsibility of government, what government authority will be responsible for the construction of the township?
– By way of introductory comment may I say that the termination of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission at its last meeting does give us, as Senator Kilgariff indicated, an opportunity to acknowledge that the Commission, the building industry and the community, after somewhat difficult times in the planning stages, have done a darned good job, and that ought to be conveyed to them. Indeed, those of us who visit Darwin regularly have seen in recent times quite dramatic improvement following the damage by the cyclone.
I understand that the planning of the uranium township is now well advanced. There have been discussions between the mining companies, the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Department of the Northern Territory, which are essential in terms of planning and conservation. The mining companies will, of course, have primary responsibility for the construction and development of the town. Undoubtedly the companies will be anxious to utilise as far as possible the services of the existing construction firms in that area. I would be happy to ask the Minister to ensure that the mining companies are made aware of the existence of the resources and skills available in the building industry in Darwin. I will certainly convey the information in the honourable senator’s question to the Minister. Discussions have been held with the mining companies on the arrangements for the new town. The question of financing the town is still under consideration.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Special Trade Representations: Has he seen a report that Australia’s Ambassador to Brussels, Sir James Plimsoll, has told the Government that uranium cannot be used as a lever in attempts to sell more
Australian beef on the European Economic Community market? Is that report correct? Further, is the Australian Government concerned at its apparent inability to get a reasonable proportion of agricultural products on to the EEC market and, in view of the announcement of the Minister for Special Trade Representations that he now expects to receive a reply by 9 June from the EEC to Australia’s trade submission, and in view of the importance of the whole matter generally to Australia, will the Government consider making that reply public when it comes to hand?
-I have not seen the statement attributed to Sir James Plimsoll and I think therefore it would be rather improper for me to comment on it. The honourable senator is quite correct in saying that there is an inability for Australia to get our agricultural products into the European Economic Community. At times, as the honourable senator would know, it is even worse than that. The EEC, having a surplus of agricultural products which have been produced under enormous subsidy, has then dumped its products on our traditional markets at dump prices and further disadvantaged the Australian exporters. That is also one of the problems which my colleague the Minister for Special Trade Representations is pursuing in his European talks. As to whether the reply to the Australian Government’s request, which is due by 9 June, ought to be published, I will pass the suggestion on to my colleague whom I represent and ask him to give consideration to it.
– Is the Minister representing the Treasurer aware of the spate of similarly worded telegrams and messages being received by senators this week relating to the Government’s recently announced tax reforms? For example, I produce this long and no doubt expensive telegram received by a number of senators. Even today anonymous publications giving various arguments have been received. Is the Treasurer at all surprised by this orchestrated campaign? Does the proposed legislation relating to the so-called Curran scheme come within the usual objections to retrospective legislation where taxpayers have arranged their family affairs and incurred substantial expenditure on the basis of long-standing laws and fully accepted tax principles? On the other hand, do these Curran schemes really represent a speculative ramp by some taxpayers to avoid paying normal tax on incomes which they will still continue to earn in any event? Is it a fact that under these schemes hundreds of millions of dollars of tax moneys have already been denied to the Commonwealth, thereby increasing the burden of tax on the normal, honest taxpayer?
– A number of honourable senators and members have shown me some volume of communications, including lengthy telegrams and other missives, similarly or identically worded, suggesting that there is some organised approach in this matter. I am asked whether the Treasurer is surprised. I remind Senator Missen of Dr Johnson’s reply when he was caught by his wife in the broom cupboard with the maid. His wife said: ‘Dr Johnson, I am surprised’. He said: No, madam, you are astonished; we are surprised’. I do not know whether in fact the Treasurer is either astonished or surprised. I think he is neither.
Now I address myself to the substance of the question. This is an important matter. I think I should say that, in deciding that this amendment should apply after 16 August 1977, the Government recognises that retrospectivity is involved. On this occasion the Government makes no apology for acting retrospectively to protect the public revenue. Generally the Government has supported the view that the rights of taxpayers under existing legislation should not be altered retrospectively. However, the Government believes that, whilst in most cases the public interest can best be served by not applying tax legislation retrospectively, on this occasion the public interest requires a departure from the general practice. The Government’s decision reflects its view that the abuses in the Curran scheme are so blatant and of such a magnitude that they constitute a serious detriment to the general body of taxpayers. The Government also has in mind that it is doubtful whether any person entering a Curran scheme in recent months could genuinely have believed that there was no risk that his or her enjoyment of the benefits of the scheme would remain totally immune from retrospective legislation. This is especially so in the light of the clear warning against tax avoidance given in last year’s Budget Speech. In fact, some promoters of these schemes have offered money back guarantees in the event of the scheme being retrospectively struck down.
It is important to emphasise that the amendment will not be retrospective to earlier financial years. The effect is that losses generated by allotments of shares under Curran schemes from and after 17 August 1977 will be denied deductibility against income earned during this and subsequent financial years. I remind the honourable senator that the former Labor Treasurer, Mr
Crean, made a clear statement indicating that the Labor Government would strike down these schemes. I think, therefore, that there is a very strong case to act as the Government has done. I draw the attention of all honourable senators to the wording of the Budget Speech which, I think, gave ample warning that blatant tax avoidance would be dealt with.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I ask: Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the growing concern and alarm of the Greek community at the problems occasioned by the raids on citizens allegedly involved in the fraudulent social security claims? I refer particularly to the very large public meeting which was held in Sydney on Tuesday evening. Will the Minister assure the ethnic communities that the problems associated with bogus social security claims are not a reflection on the Greek community? Further, is it true that, by allowing the investigation to continue for more than a year, the whole incident has been grossly misrepresented to the detriment of the ethnic communities?
– I have already assured members of the Greek community in Australia that the alleged frauds under the Social Services Act do not in any way involve the total Greek community. They involve those people who have been charged and are the subject of court proceedings about which I am unable to comment at this time. I have given my most firm assurance to representatives of the Greek community and to any individual who classes himself as being a member of that community that actions by certain people in no way damage the reputation of a community in this country which enjoys the highest reputation.
With regard to the second part of the honourable senator’s question which implied that because the investigation was allowed to proceed for as long as it did, some problems have resulted. I would say that the investigations were undertaken by the Commonwealth Police in a way in which they believed to be proper in order to prevent abuses of the Social Services Act. They have conducted their investigations and accumulated evidence. It, of course, will be a matter for the court to evaluate the evidence. Senator Gietzelt may wish to raise some questions at that stage, but I am certainly not in a position at this time to discuss methods or investigations undertaken by the Commonwealth Police in the pursuit of their responsibilities on behalf of the Commonwealth.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is it true that a major health fund in New South Wales is to encourage some of its contributors to leave the fund and to move to Medibank to enable the fund to avoid payment of nursing home benefits? Will this advice, if followed, place contributors in any jeopardy? Will the Minister indicate the view of the Government on the suggestion?
– It is a fact that there has been a report that one of the funds has taken the action referred to in Senator Baume ‘s question. The Minister for Health wishes to make known the Government’s approach to the action proposed by the health fund concerned. Before the revised nursing home benefit arrangements were introduced from 1 October last year, discussions were held with the private health insurance industry. The principle was accepted by private health organisations that they had a role to share with the Commonwealth the responsibility of bringing nursing home patients within the ambit of health insurance arrangements. It was a logical extension for the private health insurance system to provide cover for the ill person not only for medical services and hospital treatment but also for care and attention in a nursing home.
The Minister for Health is most concerned at the action reportedly taken by the Hospitals Contribution Fund of Australia. Apparently the action is based on a recent amendment to the Fund’s rules approved under the National Health Act enabling it to suspend membership in certain circumstances. This amendment to the rule was directed primarily at providing protection to contributors who, because of difficulties through such causes as unemployment and sickness, would not be able to meet their contributions to the Fund. It also enabled the executive committee of the Fund to suspend membership for other reasons approved by it. A major example given in the application was temporary transfer interstate and a desire to join a local fund. The application of this rule, as reported, is outside the intentions drawn from the application. The Minister for Health is having his Department discuss the matter with the Fund as a matter of urgency. He emphasises that the action reportedly proposed by HCF must cause confusion in the minds of residents of nursing homes. Obviously he is concerned at the situation which has been drawn to our attention by Senator Baume. I hope that the discussions which will take place between the Department and the
Fund will resolve this matter. A person requiring treatment in a nursing home can hardly be regarded as being given reasonable treatment if he does not have his insurance status at that time and does not receive the benefits to which he is entitled. So it is a matter of some concern to the Government and action is being taken to enable urgent discussions to take place.
-I ask the Leader of Government in the Senate whether it is a fact that General Yoga Sugana and General Benny Murdani, two top ranking intelligence officers who played leading roles in the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, are coming to Canberra for talks with Australian officials? If so, when is this visit to take place? In view of the critical roles played by these generals, especially Benny Murdani in the brutal seizure of East Timor by Indonesian forces, which has repeatedly been condemned by the United Nations General Assembly, will the Government now reconsider its refusal to allow the Timorese leader, Mr Horta, to make a private visit to Australia?
-I have no information on the matters raised by the honourable senator but I shall seek that information for him.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, relates to the location of units of the Public Service in the Australian Capital Territory and in particular the Division of National Mapping. I ask the Minister: Is it not a fact that the Division of National Mapping which is currently located in Queanbeyan and which was located there temporarily, is to be transferred to Belconnen in the Australian Capital Territory in order to be closer to other relevant units of the Public Service? Will the Minister indicate progress towards finalising this arrangement?
– How far do the poor people have to drive?
– I take it that Senator Grimes is not interested in helping to resolve the problems of the officers concerned. I am well aware that Senator Knight has shown a continuing interest in the problems of these officers who are attached to the Division of National Mapping. The Minister for National Development has informed me that he is sympathetic to the problem of the Division. He is hopeful that the question of its future accommodation can be answered very soon. The matter has been referred to the Committee on the Location of Government Employment. I like that title. It is hoped that a report will be provided for government consideration in the near future. I shall arrange for the Minister for National Development to keep Senator Knight informed of the progress.
– I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General: In view of the interest in government and politics generated through seminars, symposiums et cetera, will he contact the Attorney-General to have a review made of the prices charged for copies of High Court judgments, particularly the recent finding on the Privy Council decision? I was astonished to learn that the price of a copy of that judgment was as high as $11. As these publications are about the equivalent of the Daily Hansard in size, why is the cost for a copy of a judgment so much greater than that for a Daily Hansard, especially as law students and other interested people should be entitled and encouraged to read these documents by having them available at a much more reasonable price?
-I think the honourable senator would know as an ex-President that copies of Hansard are sold at a loss; that the price at which Hansard is sold bears no relation to the cost of its production. This is quite proper, because people should have access to Hansard at a cost well below the cost of production. I am interested in the matter which the honourable senator has drawn to my attention. I shall certainly pass his request on to the AttorneyGeneral.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for National Development seen critical commentary by the Premier of South Australia, Mr Dunstan, reported in last week ‘s South Australian Sunday Mail regarding the Federal Government’s proposed legislation to amend the Australian Atomic Energy Act? Does the proposed legislation give the Commonwealth full powers to mine uranium anywhere in Australia, or is it particularly in relation to the mining of uranium at Ranger in accordance with the Memorandum of Agreement introduced by the Whitlam Government? Are the South Australian Premier or his departments still having discussions with the Federal Government on the feasibility of establishing a uranium enrichment plant in South Australia?
– I am aware of the reports of the remarks by the Premier of South Australia to which Senator Young referred. The honourable senator asked three questions in essence. As to the first question, the Atomic Energy Act 1953- that is the existing Act- already makes provision for the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to mine uranium for the purpose of ensuring the provision of uranium for the defence of the Commonwealth or for any other purpose of the Commonwealth. That is a very wide function. The functions of the Commission also provide for co-operation with the appropriate authorities of a State in matters associated with mining uranium in that State. A fundamental purpose of the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill is to enable the Atomic Energy Commission to undertake the functions envisaged for it in relation to the development of the Ranger project.
Proposed amendments to the principal Actthat is, the Atomic Energy Act 1953- will make clear the power of the Commission to engage in the Ranger project in accordance with the Memorandum of Understanding dated 28 October 1975 between the Commonwealth Government and Peko- Wallsend Ltd and the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd. As to the third question asked by Senator Young, he will be aware that some time ago the South Australian Government and the Premier showed a keen interest in the question of attracting a uranium enrichment plant to South Australia. Subsequently the Labor Party conference made decisions that must have caused considerable embarrassment in that regard. I am not aware whether in more recent days there has been a resumption of practical interest by the Premier of South Australia -
– Or a continuing one.
– Or a continuing one- in what would be a very significant asset to a State which has limits to opportunities for industrial development. I am not aware whether there is a resumption or a continuing interest by the Premier, but I will seek to find out and let the honourable senator know.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health and is asked on behalf of Senator Robertson, who is away from the Senate on parliamentary business. Parents of children attending schools in the Darwin area have complained that dental clinics in the schools are not operating. The Department of Health has advised the parents that the clinics cannot be opened because of shortage of funds. Would the Minister agree that this is an untenable situation, particularly as the public dental clinics are desperately short of staff? Since the responsibility for finance for the employment of school dental staff is a Federal responsibility, will the Minister indicate what action will be taken to enable the clinics to open and so provide this most necessary service?
– I have no advice on the matters raised by Senator McAuliffe on behalf of Senator Robertson. I will refer them to the Minister for Health to see whether the statements are accurate and whether a response can be given to the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Do the provisions of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Act permit senators and members who have been members of State legislatures to enter the Commonwealth parliamentary pension scheme and to obtain credit for their period of service in the State legislature? Secondly, can this procedure result in such senator or member obtaining an immediate or accelerated entitlement to a Commonwealth parliamentary pension payable on death or retirement? Thirdly, does the procedure require such senator or member to contribute some or all of the proceeds received from State schemes to the Commonwealth scheme and, if so, what contribution is required? Fourthly, is it possible for a double benefit to be obtained by retention of some or all of the State retiring allowance while receiving full credit for the period of State service in the Commonwealth scheme?
– No doubt this matter is dear to the hearts of some of our members, including some of the more recent arrivals in another place. I am not expertly advised on this, but my understanding as to the first question is that it is possible to obtain credit for a period of service in the State legislature. As to the second question, which asked whether that resulted in immediate or accelerated entitlements, I believe that that is so but I would need to check it. The third question asked whether some payment of proceeds was required, I believe that that is so but I will check it. Senator Chaney also asked whether it was possible to obtain a double benefit. Because that matter requires spelling out, I will seek the information and make it available to all members of the Senate.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Health inform the Senate whether or not private health funds are using statistical information provided by Medibank? If so, on what basis does Medibank charge the private health funds for those services?
– I will seek the information that was requested from the Minister for Health and see that the honourable senator is advised.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. It follows the questions I have asked in the past few months relating to the payment of pensions overseas. Is the Minister able to confirm that an ex-serviceman receiving a Service pension and going to live outside Australia loses that pension permanently? How long can an ex-serviceman receiving such a pension be outside Australia before that pension is lost permanently? When this situation is compared with that of those who come here for only a short time so as to be eligible for a pension and who then return home, does it not show discrimination against those who fought for our country in favour of those who came here once the fighting had finished?
-I have no direct information on that matter. I will ask the Minister to give the honourable senator an answer at the earliest possible time.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Administrative Services who is in charge of electoral matters. By way of preamble let me say that a young constituent reported to me that, on finding her name was not on the electoral roll prior to the last Federal election, although she had filled out a card, she was told by the officials: ‘Do not worry about voting this time.’ She reports that a ‘gentleman with a foreign accent’ beside her in the office was similarly advised. I ask: Is it current practice in the Commonwealth Electoral Office to dissuade people from voting? Is the Minister satisfied with the efficiency of the system for having new voters placed on the roll? If this girl had not persisted, would she have been fined for not having been enrolled at the time of the election?
-I would like to be absolutely certain that that in fact was the advice given. I take a guess that the advice should have been: ‘Even if you are not on the roll, go along on polling day and apply for a section 121 vote because there may have been a printer’s error and your name may have been dropped off the roll but you will still be properly on the roll through the central index.’ As the honourable senator would know, a large number of people throughout Australia attend at polling booths on polling day. When there are six million people on the roll there will be some errors. The Electoral Act contains specific provisions for the section votes. I hope that that would have been the advice given. If the honourable senator can let me have further details- I understand that she would be reluctant to do so publicly- 1 will have the matter investigated thoroughly by the Chief Electoral Officer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services. Is the Minister a trustee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund? Is it a fact that Mr Clyde Holding, formerly the Leader of the Australian Labor Party in Victoria, received on retiring from the Victorian Parliament a sum in excess of $200,000? Has Mr Holding applied for the benefits under the Commonwealth Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund? If so, what is his obligation as to payment from the fund received from Victoria? Is it the whole or part of that fund? I ask further–
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. The matter that Senator Wright is raising now follows a question that was asked by Senator Chaney of Senator Carrick. Every one of us knows, as I think Senator Carrick indicated in his reply, that the provisions of the retirement scheme apply to every member of this Parliament and to every member who comes from a State Parliament, irrespective of his political party. For Senator Wright to single out an instance is, I believe, grossly unfair to the person he has named. He should not be allowed to proceed along the lines on which he is proceeding to ask the question. I do not know how Senator Withers intends to reply to it but I suggest that it is a gross act of indiscretion on Senator Wright’s part to name any member of this Parliament, irrespective of which side of the House he is on.
– I cannot uphold the point of order but I ask Senator Wright to continue his remarks in a general way.
– Is it not most desirable that these matters of exploitation should be made public?
-I assume that the honourable senator is not accusing Mr Holding of having done anything illegal. I have no knowledge, nor do I intend to seek any information, as to what he may have received from the Victorian Government. I take it that his entitlements there arose under an Act of that Parliament. It is not for me to enter into criticism of an Act of a State legislature. If the Victorian Parliament desires to pass legislation which confers certain benefits on its members, that is the business of the Victorian Parliament and it is none of my business. It has been the tradition of the trustees of the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund not to disclose details of individual cases. That is much the same as the principle under which the Minister for Social Security operates her Department and the Minister for Veterans ‘ Affairs in his Department. The individual affairs of people are not exposed to public gaze. I think that all honourable senators will accept that proposition without reservation.
– Not when it affects public money.
-If the honourable senator is propounding a proposition that he is entitled to ask my colleague, Senator Guilfoyle, about the pension affairs of any of the two million pensioners in Australia, that is a proposition I reject.
– I would not discuss it, anyway.
-I believe that they ought not to be revealed. There is no reason why members of Parliament as to their retirement fund should be in a position different from other people. I know of no amount which Mr Holding may or may not have received. I suggest that anybody who wants to discover that should look at the Victorian Act and attempt to calculate the amount. An examination of the provisions of the Commonwealth Act would have to be made to determine whether he was entitled to come under that Act. As I understand the position, every senator and member of the Commonwealth Parliament is obliged by law to make a contribution of 1 1 ‘a per cent of the current parliamentary allowance into the Parliamentary Retiring Allowances Fund. There are no exceptions to that rule. Once a person qualifies in respect of time or numbers of parliaments, amounts must be paid out which are fixed by an
Act of this Parliament. I think it is a little extravagant to talk of people being in a position to exploit something when they are complying with the Acts passed by the Victorian Parliament and by this Parliament.
– I direct a supplementary question to the Minister for Administrative Services. The Minister referred by way of analogy to the Social Services Act? Is it not a fact that the Social Services Act expressly requires confidentiality? Is there any such provision in the Act which the Minister administers? Does he not accept an obligation to inform this Parliament as to his administration?
-The only obligation I would see, if it is not statutory, would be one of decency.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Is it correct that the Australian Government is considering lifting the present restrictions on the export of merino rams from Australia. If this is correct, when will the announcement be made public and when will the first shipment take place?
– I understand that discussions are going ahead relating to the possible lifting of bans that were introduced some years ago. I am unable to state the position exactly on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry whom I represent in the Senate. I will seek the information for the honourable senator and give him an up to date reply.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I acknowledge that the first part of the question might be thought to be slightly parochial, but I suggest that it is not more so than some other questions asked in the Senate chamber. Is the Minister aware that the public telephone booth and also the letterbox at Toolondo, Victoria, have been removed, leaving no public telephone access between Noradjuha and Balmoral, a distance of approximately 60 miles? Will the Minister arrange for these facilities to be replaced? The second part of the question is perhaps more appropriate to this chamber. Have the authorities under the Minister’s control adopted a general policy of removing rural services which do not return to the Department a satisfactory profit? Does the Government believe that all Australians should live in large cities? If not, will the Minister direct the authorities under his control to alter their present policies of closing small rural services?
– I do not regard the question as one that is essentially parochial. It uses as an example a particular deprival to illustrate the difficulties of people living in country districts in respect of access to services. I have to confess that I was not aware that the public telephone booth was removed from Toolondo, Victoria. I accept that it has happened. I accept Senator Lewis’s description of the consequences. If indeed it means that no service exists within 60 miles that is a deprivation and is a matter to which attention should be drawn. I certainly will make representations to the Minister about this matter to see whether he can use his good offices with Telecom Australia to have the telephone booth replaced as a first step. My understanding of the terms of the Act under which Telecom operates is that it is not a requirement of the Act that every type of service must make a profit. Clearly, the essence of post and telecommunications must be service for the public in the first place. I will seek help from my colleague in another place. It is not the Government’s desire that all persons should live in large cities, nor does it favour large cities. Indeed, the Government believes strongly in practical decentralisation, if decentralisation is by choice and if the governments and the communities can develop the facilities to attract people to country districts. On that basis, I think it is a very sensible question. I will ask the Minister to give it close attention.
-Does the Minister for Social Security recall that in her answer to me seven weeks ago she undertook to give consideration to granting unemployment beneficiaries the automatic right to have their benefit paid while they were appealing against departmental decisions to cut off their benefit? As she has now foreshadowed further delays while appeals can go to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal during which time, unlike other pensioners, the unemployed person will have no income at all, can she announce that subject to the usual worktesting arrangements the unemployed person can continue to receive his or her unemployment benefit until the case is decided?
– I have had the matter put to study in the Department, and I am giving consideration to it. In relation to the delay while awaiting replies and responses from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal the fact that a matter relating to unemployment benefit is under appeal does not prevent a person from becoming eligible to receive unemployment benefit while that appeal is being heard. I will consider again the matters that have been raised by Senator Primmer. When any alteration to the present conditions are ready to be released I will see that an appropriate announcement is made.
-Mr President, I should like to say that I was delighted by the parochial question of the honourable senator from Victoria. Since becoming a senator I have almost been brainwashed into believing that such questions were the prerogative of Tasmanian senators. To lay that at rest, I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations: Can the Minister assure the community that the Government will take action if the threat of the waterside workers in Western Australia to declare black the ships whose masters allowed farmers to load sheep is carried out? Is the Government considering taking action under section 45 D of the Trade Practices Act?
– Export the scabs.
-I do not think that provocative interjection does any good. I understand that an arrangement has been entered into by the parties to the recent dispute whereby there will be a conference at which all these matters will be raised and, we hope, resolved. I imagine that if the conference is to be succesful it would be far better if there were no provocative statements made on either side of the dispute until the conference has been held.
– You do not call a scab a scab?
-Obviously, Senator Cavanagh does not want the dispute to be settled. Again he is interjecting about scabs. I would have thought that he would have heeded the appeal by Mr Hawke of the Australian Council of Trade Unions that this is a period when people ought to stop making provocative statements so that industrial disputes of great magnitude can be settled sensibly, but evidently Senator Cavanagh has no interest in having the matter settled. He would rather inflame the passions and revive the dispute.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs is of a two-tiered concept. In the first instance, can the Minister indicate what progress the Government or the Minister has made in the creation of an immigration appeals tribunal for people who have been denied citizenship and for the handling of kindred immigration decisions? Secondly, can I draw any inference from the delay in replying to question on notice No. 4 asked on 2 1 February regarding citizenship applications which have been delayed for periods longer than six months?
– I am unable to advise the honourable senator in regard to an appeal tribunal for citizenship applications. I will refer to the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs the matter of the delay in replying to question on notice No. 4 and ascertain whether an early answer can be given on that matter.
– I direct a question to either the Minister representing the Minister for Industry and Commerce or the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. Can either Minister advise when it is expected that the responsible Minister will be making a statement relating to revisions of the export incentive scheme?
-I understand that my colleague the Deputy Prime Minister will be making a statement in the other place some time this day.
-Mr President, I think my question properly is directed to you. I refer to the informaton about the Senate which is displayed on the lower floor on the Senate side of Parliament House. This informaton is inspected by thousands of people each year. I ask you, Mr President: Are you aware that under the heading Procedures to Resolve Deadlocks’ it is stated that ‘to date there have been two double dissolutions ‘? There is no mention of either the double dissolution of 1974 or that of 1975. Will you have steps taken to bring this information up to date to include the double dissolutions of 1974 and 1975 so that it will show that there have in fact been four double dissolutions?
– I shall look at the display and consider the matter.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Senator Withers will recall that on 7 April I asked him a question concerning the visit to Australia of Mr Vladimir Kuzin who has been positively identified as having engaged in clandestine activities against foreign countries as a KGB agent. Senator Withers may recall also that
Senator Rae on Tuesday night implied that my mention of the KGB exemplified paranoia. Is the Minister in a position to inform the Senate of the truth or otherwise of an item in yesterday’s Canberra Times which indicates that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics has withdrawn from proposed science talks because of the Government’s presumably strong opposition to the presence of another KGB agent in Mr Kuzin ‘s delegation? Will the Minister take Senator Rae aside one day and draw his attention to those sections of the Hope Royal Commission, which was appointed by Mr Whitlam ‘s Government, which show that a non-communist government, such as Australia’s government, should be alert to attempts by KGB agents to pose as members of science, trade and similar delegations?
-This matter was first drawn to my attention on 11 November 1975 when the late Senator Greenwood asked a question of Senator Willesee about the same gentleman. I assume that Senator Harradine would know that it was my late colleague who first raised this matter in this place, as far as I can discover. The information I have from my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs is as follows: The Soviet Embassy informed the Department on 5 April that the review commission meeting in Canberra would not now be held. It specifically referred to the unfavourable publicity in the Australian Press concerning Mr Kuzin and to the refusal of a visa to one member of the Soviet delegation. The agreement which was concluded in 1975 promotes co-operation between Australia and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics primarily through exchanges of working scientists in the areas of earth sciences, entomology and plant protection, plant sciences, radio astronomy and textile technology.
This was to have been the second review commission, the first having been held in Moscow between 24 and 27 May 1976. The meeting was to have reviewed progress made under the agreement and to discuss future co-operation. It was hoped that the meeting would agree on a specific program of exchanges for 1978-79 and on priorities for co-operation in the period up to 1980. The postponement of the review commission should not, however, unduly affect the operation of the agreement. It is true that a visa application for one member of the Soviet delegation was rejected. Reasons for such decisions are not normally given even to the government concerned. The next meeting of the review commission will probably be held in Moscow but no date has been fixed
As to the honourable senator’s suggestion as to what I ought to do with my colleague Senator Rae, that is a matter which I feel would be an impertinence for me to raise with a colleague of such long standing.
-I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I preface it by reminding him that following the devastation caused to Army aircraft located in Oakey in Queensland late in March when about $lm damage was done by a freak storm, the Minister for Defence promised that an inquiry would be held. Can the Minister say, firstly, what were the results of that inquiry, if it has been completed, and, if it has not, when the outcome is likely to be known? Secondly, can the Minister say what, if any, precautions have since been taken at other bases in Australia to protect aircraft from accidental or nonaccidental damage? Is the Minister aware, for example, that at Edinburgh airfield in South Australia a number of what I believe to be Orion aircraft can still be seen every day standing quite a small distance apart on the tarmac, providing a disturbingly ready target either for natural destroyers, such as storms, or man-made ones? Can the Minister assure the Senate and the people of Australia that our regrettably small number of defence aircraft will be suitably and sensibly protected in the future?
-As to the latter part of the honourable senator’s question, I think that assurance can be given not just for the future; it always has been and always will be the practice. I assume that the honourable senator, when she talks of the inquiry, means a Service inquiry. I do not know whether the inquiry has completed its task. Therefore I would not know what are the results. All I would say is that if the honourable senator casts her mind back, she would know that when a Service inquiry was held into the destruction of naval aircraft at Nowra, my colleague the Minister for Defence made a statement and, from memory, that report was tabled in the Parliament. Whilst I cannot say that the same procedure will be followed, I think it is a reasonable assumption that it most likely will be. I will find out for the honourable senator from my colleague when he expects to receive the results of the inquiry.
-Earlier this week Senator Primmer asked me a question regarding
Australian Army mapping operations in West Irian. The Minister for Defence has supplied me with the following information:
Australian Defence Force personnel are returning to Irian Jaya for the final stages of Operation Cenderawasih, a joint survey and mapping project designed to provide accurate maps of Irian Jaya. Operation Cenderawasih continues a co-operative mapping program begun in 1970. The program provided an extensive coverage of Kalimantan and Sumatra before commencing in Irian Jaya in 1976. The program’s objectives are to train Indonesian surveyors in modern mapping and survey techniques.
The 1978 operation commenced on 1 April and will last until September. A party of 58 Australian Army and Royal Australian Air Force personnel are based at Biak, an island off the north coast of Irian Jaya. The 1978 phase will involve aerial photography by RAAF Canberra aircraft and recording accurate heights with a chartered Queenair aircraft equipped with a profile recorder. No ground survey parties will be involved this year as Indonesian and Australian surveyors completed geoceiver grid fixing last year.
The first maps to be produced from the data gathered during Operation Cenderawasih will be completed in 1981. Map production will be carried out in both Indonesia and Australia. The field party was withdrawn from Irian Jaya in September last year because ground survey work had been completed and weather conditions were unsuitable for further aerial photography. The Australian party again will be withdrawn in September this year for the same reason.
Finally, my colleague informs me that internal security in Iran Jaya is a matter for the Indonesian Government.
– Following a question asked of me yesterday by Senator Brown relating to a particular species of bug, I have been advised by my scientific advisers, after an investigation of the matter raised in his question, as recorded in Hansard, that they are unable to identify any pest species with a name like the one Senator Brown committed to Hansard but that they believe that Grapier may be an approximation to the scientific name of one of the pasture scarabs, Rhopaea. There are many species of pasture scarabs with at least 20 such species in the Northern Tablelands of New South Wales where the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has done most of its research on this problem. These grubs attack grass roots and also the roots of underground pans of plant crops. All commercial species grown on the Northern Tablelands are attacked by one or more scarab species.
Pasture scarabs are very widespread. Some are Northern Tableland species while other strains occur in Victoria. CSIRO is collaborating with the Victorian Department of Agriculture’s Hamilton Research Station in studying them. The grubs are susceptible to many insecticides but the use of some, such as DDT, is restricted and others, such as fensulphation, are very expensive. CSIRO research on the tablelands of New South Wales has indicated that grub populations in pastures in that region may be kept low by alternating light and heavy stocking rates annually on each half of the property. The State Department of Agriculture should be consulted by farmers wishing to adopt this method or other methods of control.
-On 4 April Senator Mulvihill asked me a question without notice which was in three parts. In essence he asked: Does Australia intend taking independent action to ban Liberian flag tankers? As a member of the Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Malaysia complex of nations which surveys oil tanker mishaps, is this matter on the agenda for action? If so, when? I am advised by my colleague the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) that Australia is a party to the Internationa] Convention for Safety of Life at Sea. Liberia is similarly a party to that Convention and Australia is therefore obliged to accept certificates held by Liberian vessels. It would be against the spirit of the Convention if Australia unilaterally decided to ban Liberian tankers from calling at Australian ports. Nevertheless, my colleague is very much concerned about tanker safety, as we all are. Marine surveyors of the Department of Transport inspect all tankers visiting Australia under a tanker surveillance program which was formulated in conjunction with the industry.
On the international scene Australia took a very active pan in the recently concluded International Conference on Tanker Safety and Pollution Prevention in London. This Conference was called by the Inter-Governmental Marine Consultative Organisation following the large number of tanker accidents which occured about 12 months ago off the coast of the United States of America. The Conference agreed to additional structural, machinery and equipment requirements to improve the safety of new and existing tankers. The requirements for surveys, inspections and certification of tankers in existing conventions were examined and, where necessary, were strengthened or new arrangements were formulated. In answer to the second part of the question, my colleague the Minister states that he is unaware of such arrangement between the countries mentioned.
-( Western AustraliaLeader of the Government in the Senate)- For the information of honourable senators I present the report of Sir Robert Mark to me on the organisation of police resources in the Commonwealth area and other related matters. On 23 February 1978 the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), advised the Parliament that Sir Robert Mark, a former Commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police would advise the Government on the organisation of police measures in the Commonwealth area and measures for protective security and counter terrorism. Sir Robert was accompanied to Australia by Sir James Haughton, Her Majesty’s former Chief Inspector of Constabulary. I have now received Sir Robert’s report and, in view of the wide public interest shown in the community during Sir Robert’s visit, I table the document for the information of honourable senators and members. The Government will now put the recommendations made by Sir Robert to study.
I table the document in this way without commitment to enable the views of all sections of the community to be taken into account during the Government’s consideration of the recommendations made. I take this opportunity to thank Sir Robert Mark and Sir James Haughton for undertaking this difficult task and for their ready and enthusiastic co-operation.
-by leave- I move:
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-(New South WalesMinister for Education)- For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Australian Education Council Working Party on the supply and demand for teachers in Australian primary and secondary schools 1978 to 1985.
-(New South WalesMinister for Education)- For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the meeting of the Australian Education Council which was held in Auckland, New Zealand, on 27 January 1978.
-(New South WalesMinister for Education)- On behalf of my colleague the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) and pursuant to section 38 of the Australia Council Act 197S I present the annual report of the Australia Council for 1976-77.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the Schools Commission report for the triennium 1979-81. 1 seek leave to make a statement relating to the report.
– Honourable senators will recall that in announcing in the Senate on 20 October 1977 the financial programs for 1978 for both the Schools Commission and the Tertiary Education Commission I indicated that the Government had accepted the proposal that each Commission present a comprehensive report early in 1978 on the needs and priorities in its area for the 1979-1981 rolling triennium. The Government looked to these reports to provide valuable advice to assist it in deciding on firm financial guidelines for 1979 together with indicative guidelines for the following two years. I have already tabled the report of the Tertiary Education Commission, and I now present the report by the Schools Commission which makes recommendations in relation to the needs of schools and the allocation of resources for the triennium 1979-81.
Before reaching its own conclusions about this report, the Government is anxious to have a full understanding of the implications of the recommendations it contains and of the reactions of the major interests involved in schools. Therefore, I will be seeking comments from the State governments, from the non-government school authorities and from parents and teachers groups in relation to both proposed policy changes and to the recommended funding allocations before the report is considered by the Government. Because the guidelines must be settled within the context of preparations for the next Commonwealth Budget, I must ask the various interested parties to let me have their views no later than 5 May. When that information is available to me, I will move quickly to invite the Government to take decisions and issue guidelines for the 1 979- 1 98 1 rolling triennium.
I turn now to the major recommendations in the Commission’s report. The Commission has noted that the State government systems, with the help of Commonwealth grants, have already reached, or will shortly reach, levels of expenditure equivalent to the original resource targets. At the same time, many non-government schools are still far short of the targets. In this situation, the Commission sees a continuing need for the Commonwealth to provide direct grants towards the running costs of both government and nongovernment schools in the States. It has developed, as a new concept, resource standards which it believes should be accepted as the national targets. These are virtually unchanged from the existing targets but are presented in terms intended to illustrate the level and configuration of services in schools which attainment of the targets would allow.
The Commission has estimated the standard costs applicable to these revised targets at $845 per primary student and $1,446 per secondary student, expressed in December 1977 prices. These figures do not include the value of the specific purpose Commonwealth programs which are estimated at $33 per primary student and $25 per secondary student. For government schools in the States the Commission proposes recurrent grants for the three years 1 979- 1 98 1 at a steady 7.5 per cent of the national standards, made up of a basic allocation of $78 per student at both primary and secondary level, together with a supplementary grant on a dollar for dollar basis up to $10 per student for those States with recurrent resource use below the target standards. For non-government school running costs, the Commission proposes that the present sixlevel subsidy scheme be changed, over a threefour year phasing-in period, to a three-group scheme. A basic Commonwealth per capita grant of 20 per cent of the standard cost would be paid to all schools with additional grants of 10 per cent and 20 per cent being paid to schools in Group 2 and Group 3 respectively.
Under this recommendation, schools and school systems will choose the group they wish to be in, based on the level of private effort they are able or willing to sustain. The Commission expects that schools presently in Levels 1, 2 and 3 would under this recommendation join Group 1; Group 2 would comprise schools for the most part presently in Levels 4 and 5; Group 3 would comprise schools currently at Level 6. In each case, it is assumed that the State government would make a contribution of 20 per cent of the Commission’s proposed standard cost. The additional grants to schools in Group 3 would be conditional on the schools reaching a level of private effort of 25 per cent of the standard cost. However, schools or systems unable or unwilling to come to an understanding with the Commonwealth on that basis would receive subsidies based on the existing percentages of target resource standards, that is, 33 per cent for primary schools and 31 per cent for secondary schools.
Whereas the Government decided in 1978 that the per capita grants to non-government schools should be linked to average per pupil expenditure in government schools, the Commission has now recommended a new approach. Under the proposed arrangement, the nexus of the percentage subsidies would be with Commission standard costs rather than with national average running costs in government schools. The grants recommended by the Commission for non-government schools would be expected to bring most Group 3 schools to 85 per cent of target resource standards by the end of the triennium. The report illustrates the continuing needs for capital funds for both government and nongovernment schools and proposes a total increase of 3 per cent on present funding levels.
In relation to migrant and multicultural education, the Commission has recomended a substantial increase in funding for both government and non-government schools to overcome the remaining imbalance of funding and to upgrade the services provided. In addition, it has recommended the provision of $ lm annually for initial support for the teaching of community languages in schools. The Commission proposes that the disadvantaged schools program be retained at present levels throughout the triennium, but that the sub-program for country disadvantaged areas be enlarged. In special education, the Commission has proposed continuation of the present level of funding, and contemplates additional amounts as a contribution to the
Government’s election proposals for removing the burden of expense on the families of handicapped students. It proposes also that the present program for children in institutions be expanded.
The services and development program, including the schools travel and exchange scheme, is envisaged to be retained at the present level. The special projects program, including individual innovations grants, and the support for education centres are recommended to receive small increases. As new initiatives, the Commission is recommending the provision of funds to promote school level improvement and evaluation involving the school community; and funds to support projects in selected areas for development of choice in government schools.
The overall effect of the Commission’s recommendations would require funds 5 per cent greater in real terms in 1979 than in 1978 and a further 4 per cent in 1980 and 3.3 per cent in 1981. Expressed in estimated 1977 price terms, the allocations would be $656.63m in 1979, $682.95m in 1980 and $705.29m in 1981, compared with $625.25m in 1978. The present indicative planning guidelines provide for a one per cent increase in real terms in 1979 and again in 1 980. There is a minority report by a part time member of the Commission which highlights issues in non-government school funding.
Honourable senators will appreciate that the Commission’s proposals constitute a substantial modification of the existing arrangements for Commonwealth grants towards recurrent expenditure for both government and non-government schools. In addition, the Commission foresees the possibility of more fundamental changes in the way of financing schools and intends later in the year to publish a discussion paper canvassing various alternative approaches to the recurrent funding of government and non-government schools. The Commission believes that it is unlikely that any conclusion arising from that discussion paper could lead to new proposals for Commonwealth funding of schools inside two or three years. The Commonwealth will examine the various proposals in the present report against the background of its own basic policy for the education of children in both government and non-government schools. I remind the Senate of the essential substance of that policy.
Our objectives for Australian school children include the widening of educational opportunity with discrimination in favour of disadvantaged groups; maintaining and pursuing educational quality and excellence; and encouraging choice and diversity in schooling. We aim to achieve these objectives through a continuing commitment to adequate funding of both government and non-government schools. We seek also the provision of reasonable capital facilities to an approved standard and the promotion of community participation and increased autonomy for the school community. In specific terms we have linked the per capita grants to nongovernment schools to government schools recurrent expenditure and have undertaken a step-by-step policy of providing a basic per pupil grant to non-government schools in the States equivalent to 20 per cent of the average running costs per pupil in government schools.
The Government is pleased that government schools in most of the States have already achieved the targets for resource use set by the Interim Committee of the Commission and that the remainder are likely to do so at least within the original time scale. It wishes to see the best possible standards achieved for government schools. It is concerned that non-government schools which cater for 2 1 per cent of all students continue as a group to lag behind the targets. The Government has noted that the Commission, in reviewing the subsidy scheme for nongovernment schools, has, in accordance with its Act, recognised the need to ensure that those schools also achieve acceptable resource standards. In this regard the Commission has sought a way forward in the proposals it has made and those proposals are now open for public analysis. I invite honourable senators to study carefully this report from the Schools Commission. In addition to the issues raised by its specific recommendations, it contains much important statistical data and provides the basis for a national discussion of means of improving Australian schools. I seek leave to move a motion to take note of the report.
- Mr President, I move:
-The Opposition welcomes the publication of the Schools Commission report for 1979-81. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in his concluding remarks referred to the desirability of all honourable senators taking note of the details of the report and considering the issues raised by the Schools Commission in its recommendations. I join with him in making that commendation to the Senate because the report is complex and difficult, but it has in it recommendations which are of fundamental concern to the future of education in this country.
In his statement the Minister has dealt with some of the issues raised in this report. He has drawn attention to the Government’s anxiety to have a full understanding of the implications of the recommendations in the report and of the public reaction to those recommendations. I think that everyone concerned with education would welcome having the same opportunity to consider the report as the Minister suggests to honourable senators, because in the Opposition’s view it is essentially a very responsible and comprehensive report which makes a quite valiant effort to grapple with some of the difficult problems inherent in the development of education in Australian schools. I note, as the Minister did in his statement, that the Schools Commission suggested a discussion period lasting until July. The Commission has indicated its intention also to publish what I think is referred to as a Green Paper relating to some of the fundamental issues involved in the funding of government and nongovernment schools. As the report states, it deals with: fundamental issues and fundamental considerations relating to standards, needs and the responsibilities which ought to be undertaken by those currently involved in providing necessary resources for schools.
I should add to that statement that again the report displays the commendable concern of the Schools Commission for the interest of pupils in both government and non-government schools.
I will single out one or two specific matters in the report upon which I wish to comment at this stage, subject to the over-riding concern which I think both the Government and the Opposition share for a close study of all concerned parties of the contents of the report. Some of those specific points are: The report notes a significant improvement in the standards of all schools since the development of the first Schools Commission program. I mention that because I believe it is an important fact to record. In the sometimes complex and irrational debate which takes place about education in the community at large, there are ill-informed assertions to the contrary. Toying with the truth to assert that only government schools have done well out of Schools Commission funding does not enhance the quality of the debate on education in this country. Secondly, I draw attention to the fact that the Minister in his statement refers to guidelines. The Commission, at the conclusion of its introduction to this report, had this to say:
The Commission hopes that the Government will take decisions on the funding for the 1979-81 triennium on the financial proposals in this report (which are stated in December 1977 price levels and anticipate continuation of current indexation principles) without the need for further separate funding guidelines.
I mention that because, in a sense, the two statements throw into sharp relief the respective roles of the Schools Commission and the Government and highlight questions of responsibility in relation to education. The Schools Commission responsibility is in terms of its charter to the children of Australia. The Government’s responsibilities are readily conceded as being wider than that. Of course, it is the prerogative of the Government to consider spending in all areas of Government endeavour within the context of its overall economic strategy. But I point out to the Minister that, in exercising that prerogative, the Government is put on notice by the recommendations of this report. If it ignores them it runs the risk of lowering educational standards in Australian schools and the very real possibility of engendering again into the Australian community a divisive debate about education in government and non-government schools, a debate which plagued this country until 1973.
– Ha, ha!
-Senator Withers laughs, but does not read.
– What nonsense.
– Until 1972, the Australian Labor Party was opposed to any support.
– I am very interested in the Minister’s selective recall of events gone by. We can debate that at a later time if he likes. At Question Time on Tuesday the Minister said that he could not recall something that happened in 1975, a memorable admission if I may say so. A third point I make is that the Opposition’s policy on this matter is fundamentally based on the needs principle. All Australian children have a right to an education of the highest standard and until all schools are up to that standard we should concentrate on the poorer schools, whether they be Catholic schools or State schools.
A fourth factor which is constantly a source of public discussion in the Australian community is the quality of education in Australian schools. Everyone who is interested in education expresses a concern about quality. It is something which in a sense cannot be quantified and about which there is much conceptual illusiveness. I should mention this in the context of the report because in some matters which may very well properly relate to the quality of education, mainly concerning the roles and functions of schools, their committees, their staffs and so on, the Commission’s report embarks on some new and perhaps in a sense speculative suggestions about guidelines for the development of procedures in schools which perhaps will do something to alleviate the apparent confusion which exists because of changes which have taken place and which are taking place. I emphasise the concern of the report throughout by implication with the question of education quality. The Government, in the statement made by the Minister, has set out the basis of the Government’s education policy. On the seventh page of his statement, the Minister for Education gives what he purports to be a summation of the Government’s position. He said:
Our objectives for Australian school children include the widening of educational opportunity with discrimination in favour of disadvantaged groups; maintaining and pursuing educational quality and excellence; and encouraging choice and diversity in schooling.
That is an exemplary statement of aim but one which still leaves certain doubts about what the Government’s intentions are, doubts which are not present in the Schools Commission report because the priorities which the Commission has are quite clearly spelt out. We would welcome in due course a statement from the Minister perhaps making more explicit the intentions which are spelt out in that paragraph which I read from the Minister’s statement. I say that because in the Governor-General ‘s Speech this year it is stated, on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser), that from now on this would be a Government for all Australians, for the majority and for the minority. The Opposition sees it as the task of both the Government and the Opposition in the Senate to examine the question of school funding in the light of that statement in the Governor-General ‘s Speech.
We are concerned that old divisive issues should not be re-opened, that in educational policy the injunction of the Prime Minister should be taken into account and that the welfare and good of the majority of children- those in government and poorer parochial schoolsshould be considered as a prime issue. What we fear is that a situation could arise from the Government’s response to this report which is not consistent with that statement of good intention. We fear that that situation could arise, not so much because the Minister said anything in his statement which would concern about that, but because of the Government’s direction last year to the Schools Commission to work towards a basic 20 per cent grant per pupil in all schools- I emphasise this- including those whose resources are well in excess of standard State costs. As a result of this, the Commission has felt obliged to adopt in this report 20 per cent as the basic level of grants. This would be all very well if we had a situation of buoyant economic growth. But that is not so. The position is dependent to that extent upon what rate of growth the Government adopts to determine whether we will be in a situation in which potentially large transfers from government to non-government school could be needed. If that happened, the Opposition believes that it would be divisive and it would oppose it in principle. If the Government were mindful at a later stage to send guidelines back to the Commission asking, in effect, for a resolution of the policy with the growth proposals, the Commission at least should be free, as an independent assessor, to reconcile the growth proposals in whatever way it can, consistent with what it sees as the priorities.
It should be noted also that the Government guidelines of last year to the Schools Commission force it into a position of using money which could have gone to needy schools to be used for schools which are in most cases above the States school standard. Although the numbers are not great the principle is there. The money which will be used to bring Level 1 schools, the wealthier schools in Australia, from 14 per cent of state school costs to 20 per cent could have gone to Level 6 schools in the private sector, the non-government sector. They, of course, are largely the poorer Catholic parochial schools which need it more. So, it is not only state schools which are being squeezed by the Government in this sense but also the poorer Catholic schools. Such schools quite understandably are concerned about a number of matters. They are worried about the maintenance of effort. They are under stress, in trying to extend their systems to growth areas and to make up for the loss of religious teachers on their staffs. They should be aware of the Government’s attitude towards them, which, in fact, amounts to discrimination in favour of the wealthy.
It should be noted from the Schools Commission report that the number of Level 1 schools going from 14 per cent to 20 per cent of state school costs is greater than the number of schools going from 33 per cent to 40 per cent of state school costs. The Commission has felt it incumbent upon it to recommend that in its report. If there is any question of guidelines contrary to the wishes of the Schools Commission, if there is an imposition by the Government of guidelines, responsibility for the outcome of the final reconciliation should clearly lie where it falls- with the Government. The Opposition believes that the Schools Commission acted responsibly also in holding standard state school costs. There is a matter here which I would like to elucidate from the Schools Commission and from the report in relation to the Schools Commission estimate of sufficient funding being available to hold those standard costs, given present input. Subject to that qualification, it seems to us to be a very responsible and statesmanlike attempt by the Schools Commission to settle on the three sources of funding in schools and to settle again a potentially difficult and divisive question.
There are one or two other matters in the report which should be mentioned. The first of those is the question of a number of specific proposals made imaginatively by the Commission in relation to migrant education and schools which are disadvantaged because they are in the country. There is no doubt that country areas are still disadvantaged in a major way in regard to education and that the position has been made worse by unemployment in rural areas. Once again, it is the Government’s responsibility if money is, in effect, forced away from the program recommended by the Commission. The Government has to accept responsibility for that decision. The report also contains an important chapter on the question of capital expenditure for schools. I am not able to go into the details of this at the moment but I point out that there is a very interesting and significant discussion of needs in the capital area contained in this report.
The Minister pointed out also that there is a minority report. One need make only a preliminary appraisal of the report to see that it talks of assessing output of schools as distinct from input. It talks in terms of cost benefit analysis. It indulges in a somewhat doubtful analysis of the terms of the Schools Commission Act. Throughout, it seems to be predicated by a somewhat divisive assumption of the desirability of increased government funding for private schools without private effort and with no accountability. There are many important issues involved in the minority report, but a preliminary reading of it suggests that the author walks where angels fear to tread.
I have said that this is a comprehensive and difficult report. It discusses a number of complex issues and lays open the way for further discussion in the community and for further discussion by the Commission on some of the fundamental issues which the report raises. We commend that suggested process of discussion. We share the Government’s view to this extent: We commend to honourable senators a close study of the report.
Debate (on motion by Senator Carrick) adjourned.
– Honourable senators will be aware that during the debate on the Cooperative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd (Loan Guarantee) Bill 1978, I promised the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) that I would provide him with certain documents for his information and for the information of other honourable senators, I now lay on the table the following documents relating to the Co-operative Farmers and Graziers Direct Meat Supply Ltd: The financial accounts for 1976-77 and the unaudited accounts for the latest six months, ended 3 January 1 978.
– I present the report and the transcript of evidence from the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on Australia and the South Pacific.
Ordered that the report be printed.
Senator SIM (Western Australia)- by leave- I move:
The Committee during its deliberations on this reference has become aware of a transition in Australia’s relations with the countries of the South Pacific. Before World War II Australia and other metropolitan powers performed administering functions in their respective South Pacific territories without any visible attitudes or programs aimed at change in the constitutional status of their territories. The post-war period heralded a change in the status of many South Pacific countries, and this process is still going on. As more South Pacific states become selfgoverning and independent the aspirations and expectations of their people change. As these countries have increasing contacts with countries outside their region so too, in turn, external countries become more aware of the South Pacific states, and relations develop. Far-reaching events and elements such as the 1973 petrol crisis, the 200-mile exclusive economic zones and the complex implications of the proposed new international economic order, make their impact in the South Pacific region and bring these states into greater involvement with the world community.
It was pleasing for Committee members to note during this inquiry that Australia is in the process of developing a new awareness of the countries and peoples of the South Pacific region. At the official level contacts are growing, Australian diplomatic representation in the region is expanding and Australia’s development assistance to the region has increased significantly. Australian business interests in the South Pacific are aware of the need to improve their image and are making efforts to that end, and contacts are increasing between Australian and South Pacific peoples at all levels of society.
However, I hasten to add that while these developments are taking place and there is a genuine effort being made by Australia to be a good neighbour and member of the region, the task is far from complete and there are no grounds for complacency on our part, nor should we relax in our efforts to achieve better relations. Australia is a large and populous nation by South Pacific standards and therefore our role in the South Pacific should be such that we do not attempt to dominate, whether consciously or unwittingly, the affairs of these new and sensitive states in the region. Australia is a member of the region and in so being should maintain its efforts to assist its neighbours in the region in a genuine and sensitive manner to ensure the development of good relations and a harmonious region.
This report deals with Australia’s role in the South Pacific and therefore reflects what the Committee has been able to ascertain on Australia’s performance as a member of the region. The Committee was unable to travel overseas, although I might add that three members of the Committee did have an opportunity to visit the region and have discussions with island leaders. Their impressions are reflected in the report, but because of the Committee’s inability to travel overseas as a committee it was very aware of the danger of reflecting only comment and opinion gathered in Australia. It is important when conducting an inquiry into a subject such as Australia and the South Pacific that the views and comments expressed are balanced by contributions from Australians and people in South Pacific countries. Unfortunately, the Committee was not able to obtain sufficient evidence from South Pacific sources or to examine at first hand Australia’s presence and the reaction to this presence in the South Pacfic region. The members of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence have welcomed the new initiatives by Australia to improve its image and they hope that its efforts and contributions are maintained with a genuine desire to be a worthwhile neighbour in the South Pacific region. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
-by leave- I will be rather brief. I think the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence, Senator Sim, has said all that needs to be said, but I should like to confirm some of the points which he made. Firstly, I must say as a member of the Committee that I think the Committee members generally agree that we felt we were severely inhibited by our inability to travel throughout the South Pacific region during the time of the inquiry. This seems to me to be a continuing problem faced by Committees of this Parliament when they wish to look into matters outside the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth. We were able in the past to travel in the Indian Ocean because the Cocos (Keeling) Islands come under the umbrella of Australia. I believe that we have an equally important task to perform in the South Pacific but, because anywhere east of Norfolk Island is beyond the pale as far as Commonwealth expenditure is concerned in relation to committees, there is no provision for committees to travel in this area. Admittedly some members of the Committee have been in this area. I was in the area but not for the specific task of looking at the relationships between Australia and the nations of the South Pacific. I believe that had we been able to go there the report of the Committee would have been much fuller and it would have been a much better report than it is.
It was unfortunate that the Committee received very little evidence from the indigenous people of the South Pacific. We did talk with the people and it was apparent that the South Pacific islanders are great talkers, but they find it very hard to put pen to paper. In that circumstance it would seem ideal for committee members to go there and talk to the people rather than expect them to put pen to paper and give their feelings on what is going on in their communities, particularly in relation to the question of Australian trade and aid. A reading of the report will show that the Committee sought to cover all aspects of our relationships with these islands and these people. But in relation to aid and trade I certainly felt that the Committee was not able to get the sort of gut response that the Committee should have got from the indigenous people on those tiny islands.
One or two matters which did crop up I think are fairly basic and down to earth matters that governments of this country should look into further. Firstly, because a large number of the peoples in the South Pacific still live in a subsistence agricultural situation it appears that there are times in the year when there are exotic tropical fruits and vegetables lying on the ground or rotting on the trees for the want of markets. At the same time, those fruits and vegetables are at such a high price on the Sydney and Melbourne markets that the average Australian is prohibited from buying them. In the opinion of the Committee there is a need to have a look at our trade and our quarantine laws in this regard. The evidence given to the Committee would suggest that in many cases our quarantine regulations are unnecessary, and they are an inhibiting factor to trade between the South Pacific islands and Australia in relation to those items.
One other matter that I should like to mention is that every day, every week in every year we see thousands of Australians trip off to the South Pacific as tourists. One can pick up any paper at the weekend and see all sorts of package deals and package tours arranged for those Australians who can afford to travel- in recent days, more so than retired people. Possibly people get the impression that money spent by tourists who visit Fiji, Nauru or some other exotic tropical island goes into the coffers of the people there. It seems to me from inquiries and evidence given to the Committee that all too often indigenous people receive very little of the tourist dollar that leaves this or for that matter any other country. It seems to me- and this may be beyond the ability of this Government or this Parliament to correct- that by and large the indigenous people on those islands get only the tail end jobs, the dirty jobs. One would hope that the entrepreneurs of tourism in those areas and the governments in those areas soon will make sure that the indigenous people get a better deal from tourism by ensuring that the locals are able to move up the scale in relation to the type of job opportunities that tourism can provide. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
– by leave- One is reminded in this discussion of the words of Robert Louis Stevenson, in talking about the South Pacific and his home in Vailima above Apia in Western Samoa, who wrote: ‘Few men who come to the islands leave them. They grow grey where they alighted, and the palm trees shade them and the trade winds fan them till they die’. This is true of a lot of people who have served Australia in the Pacific. When a person works in this area, as I have, he meets some remarkable Australians who are known in their own country and who have served in both Papua New Guinea and the Pacific with remarkable distinction and with a very great capacity. I think one could acknowledge their work a little on a day like today.
I think it was Senator Primmer who commented on the problem of getting the South Pacific peoples in particular to discuss their own problems, and this is true. I have attended many of the meetings that these people hold. They have what they call the ‘Pacific way’ in which people get involved in a discussion and when something controversial comes up there is a long and stony silence during which nobody talks. It is a period of great reflection. It is then expected that the oldest and wisest person present will have something to say, and the youngest and brashest restrain themselves and in due course a little later will make themselves heard. We see lots of these sorts of situations in discussions throughout the whole of the Pacific in the various meetings that take place. It is a product of the life these people have come from and the life they have lived in running their countries in the style of village and community meetings. When all the problems are discussed by the chiefs and tribal elders everybody is supposed to take part and people are not expected to speak unless they know something about the problems, but they are encouraged to try to learn so that they can speak at these meetings. I think, without doubt, it would have been beneficial for more members of the Parliament to have spent more time in this area for reasons which I hope I will illuminate.
I have risen principally to speak about the Senate and the work of the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. The work carried out by that Committee in some of its foreign affairs examinations has been quite notable. I think that the work on Japan, carried out under the chairmanship of Senator Sim, is a work of substantial value and quite considerable quality. It is much used and is a good reference work. I believe that when I have a chance to read this report I will find that it is of much the same quality. It is always to be expected that there will be areas of deficiency in a report because of lack of time but the fact that somebody in the Parliament has taken up this job and has done some serious work on it is a matter of substantial importance. As time goes on those efforts will increasingly be recognised.
As we look at the Australian scene we could make all sorts of comments about our position in foreign affairs. But our zone of substantial interest and influence is Papua New Guinea,
New Zealand and the South Pacific. It is in this area that Australia has to play a positive, useful and in many ways a dynamic role. Australia is now doing this. Many honourable senators have been involved in the meetings of the South Pacific Commission and I think many would probably know about the South Pacific Forum meetings. I suppose many know about the South Pacific Economic Co-operation Bureau which is really the secretariat economic development group of the South Pacific Forum.
Another matter of great importance that is being developed is the interdisciplinary movement that can take place and ought to be encouraged between the University of the South Pacific at Laucala Bay in Fiji, the University of Papua New Guinea, and James Cook University at Townsville in north Queensland. Those universities are all working in what I call the tropical disciplines- tropical agriculture, tropical medicine and tropical veterinary science.They are increasingly learning to interchange knowledge, academic staff and students. From the Australian point of view, we have a great deal to contribute from what I call the wet tropical north and its studies and understandings as they develop from the James Cook University. I hope that information will increasingly be made available to the University of the South Pacific and indeed to the University of Papua New Guinea. They are three areas of substantial learning that can make a great contribution. The East- West Centre in Hawaii has done a lot of work in the Pacific region but I do not think it has been as effective as one would have liked. When one makes inquiries about the relationship between the East- West Centre and the other three universities that I have mentioned, one feels that they are not working together quite as well as one would like. That is something that I would suggest all of us who are interested in this area might try to help develop.
The increased Australian interest in the Pacific, particularly in the form of aid moneys and projects, really developed from the South Pacific Forum meeting in Nauru in 1976 when, looking at the whole scene, it became quite clear that the people of the South Pacific looked to Australia increasingly for help. We had a good reputation; we always gave help sensibly; we did not try to be too paternalistic; we tried to be good neighbours and good friends; but because of size and change they looked to us increasingly as what I might call a very big, good, useful neighbour. Therefore, our role was seen as needing some substantial enhancement and the Australian Government did that. I think I tabled the aid program in this chamber. I think we quadrupled our program over a period of time.
When one goes out to the various territories- I have been to most of them- and talks to the people there about what Australia is actually doing, one gets a very encouraging response. Australia tends to provide aid for specific projects rather than giving a lump sum. We ask the countries how we can help them, they usually suggest a project which is examined and the money is then provided. The Solomon Islands, the Cook Islands, the New Hebrides and Fiji are now becoming increasingly aware of the outside world and would like to be better developed and better appreciated. They want to be their own people. That is how they would like to be treated. They do not want other countries to be paternalistic. I think that is an important factor to bear in mind. They regard Australia today as a good neighbour, a good friend, very helpful, not pushy, anxious to be of service but, equally, most anxious that they should be their own people. This is the interpretation we have and it is very valuable to us.
In this new world of what is popularly called the ‘north-south dialogue’ two things should be considered: When the developed countries will move to help under-developed countries that they do it in the right style and, secondly, that they do it at all. That is very important. Australia’s record in aid programs and in genuine help will stand comparison with any other country. We ought to be proud of it; we ought to be proud of the people who are engaged in it. If we then look at the South Pacific- in particular the program mentioned in this report of the Senate Committee, which I believe is so valuable- we must think about the change that will take place in the new economic zone program. Taking a map of the Pacific as a total area, if one draws around every island a 200-mile economic zone, one will get a great surprise because, instead of the South Pacific being as it is now largely ocean with dots of land, the map becomes mostly dots of expanded land and very little ocean.
The whole scene is changing in a resource hungry world. Therefore nations such as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and China are showing an increasing interest in the Pacific just as Japan has long had a substantial interest in it. We are therefore moving in this scene as a powerful, useful friend in a world of very substantial foreign policy initiative. I can assure honourable senators that they will find that the work done by the Senate Committee will come under substantial notice and will be of interest not only in this country but elsewhere. It ought not to be forgotten either that the United States of America, while in effect a metropolitan power- as are the United Kingdom and France- has a substantial interest in the Pacific. While the United Kingdom is probably withdrawing its Pacific interest fairly substantially and France is changing its status, the United States is a Pacific nation of consequence. It has a substantial stake in the Pacific, and it has a particular interest in Hawaii, which is a State of the United States located in the North Pacific in about the same location as the Cook Islands are located in the South Pacific. It is important that the United States should be encouraged to take an active part in the development programs and the assistance programs in the interests of the South Pacific. People in the South Pacific believe that if it could be induced to do that, it would be useful for the region as a whole. I also believe that is true.
I turn now to a couple of events of particular moment that have been happening lately. Australia, as Senator Sim said, through the years has taken a strong commercial interest in the Pacific region. Some people have criticised Australian commercial interest in banking, travel, plantations and activities in various other industries. I do not think those criticisms can be sustained. I took some trouble myself to look into them and I could not establish anything other than fairly genuine help. But those things will change with development and people will become conscious of the future aspirations of the people of the region. There has been a recent development of some importance regarding Western Samoa.
The Government of Western Samoa, the Bank of New South Wales and the Bank of Hawaii have joined together to provide a banking structure for Western Samoa. That seems to me to be the sort of development that ought to be expected from commercial financial houses. They should help a country, if that is the wish of the people of that country, and at the same time they should take the part that those people would like it to take. That is one of the developments that has taken place recently that ought to be noted. I hope there will be a further expansion of that activity because while there has been some talk of a Pacific Development Bank one really cannot see it at the moment having sufficient capital base to get off the ground. Far more activity may be needed from joint nations such as New Zealand-Australia-United States of America in helping with banking activities within the range that the island state chooses to have helped. The Asian Development Bank is a very strong financial factor which is little used in the Pacific region. It does not take a great deal of interest in the region, which I think is a pity.
Another comment that I might make concerns ECAFE which was the economic development group of the United Nations. Of course it has now had its name changed and it is the Economic Commission for Asia and the South Pacific. But it does not do as much work in the Pacific as many members of the Pacific island state believe it should. That I think will have to be looked at as time goes on as a United Nations expenditure exercise. The United Nations Development Program does some work in the Pacific, but mostly on projects which are not of great magnitude. When one considers the developments mentioned above and one other factor, because of the Australia-Papua New Guinea- Japan relationship and the Australia-New Zealand-South Pacific relationship, there is a substantial and increasing interest in what is going on in the North Pacific- the Carolines, the Marshalls and the Marianas. I believe that one of these days there will be far greater development in what I call the ‘north-south’ movement than has been the case to date. I expect in time to see much more movement of people from the north down through the north Pacific States, such as North America, through Papua New Guinea into Australia and out to New Zealand and the Pacific. That is the logical development in the resource world into which we are moving when these island states gain access to the resources of the ocean and the seabed within the 200-mile radius around their island states. Because I have been interested in this area for many years, I thank Senator Sim and his colleagues for the work they have done and I hope that they will be able later on to expand it.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sim) adjourned.
– I bring up the 60th report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances relating to the amendment of the Defence Force (Salaries) Regulations contained in statutory rule 1978 No. 3.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– by leave- I present this statement on behalf of the Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Adermann). Honourable senators will understand that the use of the personal pronoun I’ refers to that Minister. His statement to the other place reads:
Honourable members will recall that Darwin was virtually destroyed by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day 1974. The destruction it caused was the worst suffered by an Australian city. It was turned into a ruin without essential services such as power, sewerage and water. Its survivors mostly lacked even basic shelter. The majority of the population had to be evacuated and the life of the city was completely disrupted. Between 50 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 nearly 50,000. After evacuation, the population was reduced to 10,000. The then Labor Government- with the full support of this Parliament- immediately established the Darwin Reconstruction Commission which came into existence on 28 February 1975. At the time it was thought that it would take five years to rebuild the city.
Due to the energy and initiative of the Commission, the building contractors and the local people, and the splendid support of the Australian community as a whole, the rebuilding of Darwin has been mostly completed in just over three years. As honourable members will appreciate, the difficulties involved in rebuilding a city as remote as Darwin were formidable. The logistics involved in securing adequate labour and materials were daunting and it is to the credit of all concerned that these were overcome in such a relatively short period.
Over this period the Darwin Reconstruction Commission spent in excess of $300m. On housing alone, it spent $130m. It produced 1850 new and 800 rebuilt houses, 144 new and 128 rebuilt flats- a total of almost 3000 new units. This works out at almost 2.5 houses completed for every day since the cyclone. In addition, the Home Finance Trustee also provided special commonwealth funds on concessional terms to private individuals so that their homes could be reconstructed without unnecessary hardship. These loans totalled over $38. 5m.
In addition to housing, the Commission undertook massive expenditures in the areas of education and health. Over $25m was spent on the completion of new pre-schools and primary schools at Wanguri, Tiwi, Anula and Wulagi as well as the restoration of existing schools. A new high school at Dripstone costing $6m is about to be built. Some $54m was expended on the provision of health facilities including the reconstruction of the Darwin Hospital, community health centres, dental clinics and the construction of the new Casuarina hospital complex. Other major services such as electricity and sewerage restoration, the reconstruction of various office buildings, airport facilities water supply and the provision of other essential services accounted for a further $9 1m.
Over the past three years, the population progressively returned until today Darwin is in substantially the same position as it was before that tragic Christmas Day of 1974. Its population has returned to normal and it is once again a healthy and growing city. This could not have been achieved without the dedication and hard work of all those associated with the Commission. I pay tribute to the successive chairmen of the Commission, particularly Mr Clem Jones who has occupied this position since November 1975 and who has made a most significant contribution to the work of the Commission. The members and staff of the DRC are to be commended for their untiring efforts over the past three years. I can say little more than I am proud to have been associated with this organisation which formally ceased to exist yesterday. On behalf of the citizens of Darwin and the Northern Territory generally, I would like to express my deep appreciation for the contribution made by the Darwin Reconstruction Commission and all those people, men and women alike, who have been associated with it. I am sure all members of this Parliament share my appreciation for the work of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. Mr President, I move:
– I wish to be associated with the Minister for Science (Senator Webster) and other honourable senators in their commendation of the work done by the Darwin Reconstruction Commission. It will be understood, I think, that I have a particular interest in this matter since I was in Darwin during the cyclone and remained in Darwin and was involved in that wonderful sociological experience which followed the cyclone. In addition, I was a member of two citizens ‘ committees set up by the Government, the first led by Mr Ian Barker, Q.C., and the second led by Dr Reid. I join with Senator Kilgariff who last night praised the work of those associated with the Commission. He made particular reference to Dr Patterson and Mr Clem Jones. It is very gratifying to see a Government supporter commending the work of Labor Ministers and the work of Mr Clem Jones who was a Labor mayor at the time. I am completely convinced that Senator Kilgariff was sincere in his remarks and I, and I am sure, all other members of the Labor Party will appreciate the comments he made.
I take this opportunity to remind the Senate and the public, particularly those in Darwin, of some of the actions taken at the time of the cyclone. Memory is a strange thing. It tends to block out those things which it finds distasteful, as well as those things which were unpleasant to us at the time. It will block out any recollections of more pleasurable experiences. I draw attention to the work of the Labor Government of the time, the departments which were involved, the officers of those departments and people generally. As other honourable senators have done, I pay special attention to the work done by the former Minister for Northern Australia, Dr Rex Patterson. I would not exclude, of course, many other members of the Labor Ministry and the Labor Party generally. I commend Senator Georges, who was the first Labor parliamentarian in the area after the cyclone. He contributed a great deal to assist, particularly in the work of evacuation. The Prime Minister of the day arrived shortly afterwards and his Ministers made visits within the first three or four days.
I mention the wonderful spirit of co-operation that existed at that time in Darwin and interstate. The Minister for Science in his statement made some reference to this spirit. Full support was given to any activity which was suggested. I was very pleased to note in this morning’s Canberra Times that Dr Stack also made mention of this situation. The report states:
We are still deeply conscious of the debt that we owe to all Australians for the way they came to our aid after this northern gateway was wiped out ‘, Dr Stack said.
It transcended all political considerations and showed that Australians can work toward national objectives if given the right leadership. ‘
I think it is fair to say that the right sort of leadership was given at that time. I have spoken previously in this place of the work done by voluntary agencies. Today I want to contain my remarks and speak of the work of the Government and its departments. I shall mention some of the special activities carried out at that time, since they deserve special mention.
The first thing I comment on is the evacuation. There was some degree of criticism of the evacuation later on. After all, hindsight is a wonderful thing and, looking back on the situation, we are able to make all sorts of decisions. The fear of disease was such that the decision was made to move people out. This was a massive operation in which the civil airlines and the Royal Australian Air Force co-operated. The local committees set up in Darwin handled the situation at the local end and the Federal Government and its departments organised the arrival of the evacuees in the States. The speed at which the city was cleaned up after the cyclone is certainly worthy of mention. The organisation which was carried out by the Department of Housing and Construction was magnificent. People were brought in from Queensland and from some other places to restore the electricity supplies and they did wonderful work. The essence of what I am saying is that the operation was organised quickly and carried out quickly. The same comment applies to the emergency food and shelter which was arranged by the local committee with government support. In fact, it is fair to say that we had hardly finished eating our Christmas turkey when we were able to move into shelter and have food provided for us.
As well as commenting on some of the small areas I shall comment on some of the structures which were established by the Federal Labor Government. Also I shall make some comment on the involvement of Government departments. There was a high degree of involvement and a lot of good work was done. As we are speaking specifically about the Darwin Reconstruction Commission I shall obviously mention that body. The Minister commented in his speech that the Darwin Reconstruction Commission was established by 28 February. Honourable senators will recall that the cyclone occurred on 24 December. The Commission immediately set to work on planning the new Darwin. Under the guidance of Dr Patterson it produced not one but several alternative plans. At this early stage the people of Darwin, whether they were living in Darwin or outside, were involved in assisting in the replanning work.
An organisation was set up to reflect public opinion and I have already commented on that. It was known by two different names but was basically a citizens’ committee. The first committee was organised very quickly under the chairmanship of Ian Barker and, a little later, a second, more elaborate type of organisation, was set up by Dr Reed. This organisation was funded by the Government and given every assistance. It is fair to say that many members of that committee, of which I was one, travelled interstate to get the views of people living in camps in the States. I used what was called the R and R fare which the Government gave to everyone who was in Darwin at the time of the cyclone to travel to Western Australia to find out from people living in camps in Western Australia what they thought of the new plans for Darwin. Many people used the fares to go away on holidays. I make the point that this was involvement of the people of Darwin. I have to compare this situation, unfortunately, with the situation which exists at the moment. A comparatively small alteration has been suggested to the town plan and it is very difficult for people of Darwin either to see the plan or to make recommendations about it. The Minister has already been kind enough to give me some material on this matter in response to a question I raised.
The point I am making in regard to the DRC is that the operation was organised with understanding and sympathy. Labour was brought from the south so that local people would be free to build homes for those whose homes were not being built by the DRC. The Minister has mentioned the special shipping arrangements which were made so that material could be brought to Darwin. Credit must go to Mr Finger who was the manager of the DRC at that time. I have to agree with the Minister and I commend the almost military logistics of the organisation. The temporary accommodation which was provided filled an urgent need. There were many problems. If the Patris had not been in the harbour at the time we would have been in extreme difficulty. Senator Kilgariff in his comments last night drew attention to the problems faced by building firms in Darwin at present because they have little work to do now that the DRC has completed its operations. I suggested that this situation was complicated by cuts in government expenditure. Last night Senator Kilgariff made a special call for the Government to recognise the problems faced by the building industry. I call on the Government, as I have done many times before in this place, to increase government spending in the Northern Territory as assisting the building industry will have an effect on the whole economy.
The next thing I mention is the Darwin Disaster Welfare Organisation which was established and funded by the Government. This organisation was set up, with the sort of understanding that I mentioned earlier, to assist those people who might have suffered psychologically as a result of the turmoil which followed the cyclone.
As Dr Patterson said at the time, its purpose was basically to protect the individual against bureaucracy. I do not like the use of such a word because it separates ‘them’ and ‘us’, but I think it explains what Dr Patterson had in mind. He saw a need for people to be protected against too sudden a change and for people to be assisted in the transition period. The voluntary group cooperated magnificently in the exercise involving the Darwin Disaster Welfare Organisation. The work of Mr Harry Giese, who was chairman of the group, and of Mr Norman, who was the executive director, must also be mentioned. I have mentioned in the chamber before the Darwin Cyclone Tracy Relief Trust Fund. This Fund was set up and financial assistance was given to it. It is to the credit of the Government that none of the money contributed by the people of Australia was spent in administration. The Government carried the whole of the processing of the applications and every cent which was contributed to the Fund was distributed by it. I mention that yesterday it was necessary for me to raise the point that we need to expedite the winding up of the Fund. I would like to see the Minister take some action on that matter now.
The Department of Repatriation- I see Senator Wheeldon, who was Minister for Repatriation and Compensation is with us at the moment- made a magnificent contribution by providing 50 per cent of all uninsured property losses and setting up within the Department an organisation to handle and process the claims. Small businesses were not forgotten. A committee was set up to assist small business people to become re-established. Not only were low interest loans provided, but also people were given assistance to set up their businesses again. The Housing Trust has been mentioned before in this place. Low interest loans were given to enable people to rebuild. Unfortunately, some problems have occurred since 1975, but the Minister for the Northern Territory, Mr Adermann, has stepped in and given valuable assistance by providing more money and further staff when staff was short. Honourable senators may recall that as a result of the first cuts in staffing the Housing Trust almost wound down.
The Department of Defence played its part also. Aeroplanes were made available for evacuation, ships were made available for transport and the Army and the Navy must get special mention for the wonderful work they did in helping to clean up Darwin after the cyclone. The Department of Housing and Construction gave assistance to the Commission in its early stages and also gave a lot of help to people who were rebuilding. I recall a rather amusing incident. I left for work one morning and came home to find a new roof on my home. It had been supplied by the Department of Housing and Construction at no cost to myself. No doubt I have omitted to mention some departments. I apologise for that. Hopefully, at a later stage I will be able to develop the theme of the action taken by the Labor Government and of the magnificent support given by people in the Territory and interstate.
I have mentioned already that the period after the cyclone would provide great material for a psychological study. Much has been written about that period but not all of it is authentic. There have been some good contributions and some that are less so. I hope to see a full study undertaken before all the material is completely cold. At the time of the cyclone and just after, people said: ‘Thank God for a Labor government ‘, feeling that some other government might not have reacted with the same generosity, the same sympathy and the same understanding. I will not debate that proposition at this point. I commend the work done over the years by the Darwin Reconstruction Commission, its chairman and by the staff who were employed during this operation. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move:
That unless otherwise ordered the Senate at its rising adjourn until Tuesday, 2 May 1978, at 2.30 p.m. unless sooner called together by the President or in the event of the President being unable to do so owing to illness or any other cause, by the Chairman of Committees.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business.
Debate resumed from 16 March, on motion by Senator Rae:
That the Senate take note of the report.
– As the Senate would be aware, Senator Rae is the Chairman of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations. In that capacity, he tendered the report on the Australian National Gallery by the Committee, which was prepared as a result of a motion carried by the Senate on 2 1 September last year. On that date, this resolution was carried by the Senate:
That the annual report of the Australian National Gallery for 1975-76 be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations for investigation and report as to the reasons for the delay in its presentation.
The matter arose simply because there had been considerable delay in the presentation to the Parliament by the Australian National Gallery of its annual report. The Committee engaged in a detailed inquiry into the matter, and its report was tabled in the Senate I think some time last month. It will be seen from the report that the Committee accepted the explanations which were given to it for the delay. It will be noted that at page 9 of the report the Committee concluded that:
Referring to the late Sir Alan Carmody, who tragically passed away yesterday, the report continues:
Mr Carmody conceded that it was an error of judgment not to advise the Gallery to present the report to the Prime Minister in February 1977 when the Auditor-General’s report was received, and he assured the Committee there would be no repetition of this incident. We accept his assurance.
It was agreed unanimously to accept his assurance. The details of the events leading up to the reason for the Committee being required by the Senate to investigate the matter are set out chronologically in the report of the Committee and appear at pages 6 to 9 inclusive. I think the gravamen of the matter is really the desire of the Senate and the Parliament to ensure the presentation of annual reports by departments, and by statutory bodies which are required by statute to present an annual report, as soon as possible after the end of each financial year. This was a case of an annual report being presented to the Parliament in September 1977 for the financial year 1975-76. The Committee pointed out at page 1 3 of the report:
On the more general aspect of monitoring the timeliness of annual reports from statutory bodies and other governmental institutions, we are concerned that there is no parliamentary machinery to ensure the regular presentation of reports.
We went on to indicate that one of the recommendations of the Joint Committee on Publications in its inquiry into the purpose, scope and distribution of parliamentary papers was as follows:
That departments, statutory authorities and other governmental institutions which are not required, by statute, to present an annual report to Parliament but which have had occasion to table an annual report in recent years, be encouraged to continue to present an annual report to Parliament on a consistent basis.
Another recommendation of the Joint Committee on Publications was as follows:
That at the conclusion of each year’s sitting, or as often as may be deemed necessary, the Committee table a return in Parliament recording the tides of those reports of author bodies which have not been tabled during the stated statutory period or within a reasonable period of time following the completion of the period to which the report refers.
The Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations did conduct the inquiry required by the Senate. The Committee accepted the reasons for the delay which were provided in evidence given before it. We accepted the assurance that a delay of the type which had occurred would not occur in the future. We took advantage in our report to draw to the attention of the Senate and of all statutory bodies which are responsible for the tendering of annual reports to the Parliament that those bodies are responsible for the timeliness of the presentation of their annual reports. We as a Committee had drawn up a list of statutory authorities which are responsible for tendering annual reports to this Parliament. The list is of some magnitude. I have forgotten the number of foolscap pages involved.
If I recollect accurately, only this morning the annual report of the Australia Council for the financial year 1976-77 was presented to the Parliament. That report, for a period which ended in June last year, is presented to the Parliament only now. Frankly, that is not good enough. If this Parliament is to be taken notice of by statutory bodies, we as a House of Parliament should insist that these bodies tender their reports when we are considering their estimates- a time when their reports are of much greater interest than they are some eight, nine or 10 months later. The work of the Committee in this inquiry was of short duration, but I pay tribute to my colleagues who are members of that Committee and to the staff of the Committee for the way in which the inquiry was conducted. I particularly commend Mr Crebbin, the Chairman of the Gallery Council, Mr Mollison, and all those other people who very ably assisted the Committee.
-I have not read the report on the Australian National Gallery by the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations, but in the absence of any very earnest interest being evidenced by the presence of supporters of the
Government parties- the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), the Deputy Government Whip and I being the only representatives of the Government here at this time- I take one or two minutes to speak in support of what Senator Douglas McClelland said. I preface what I have to say, which is of relevance, with a remark which appeared in one Canberra journal this morning. It referred to the Federal Parliament as a necessity of irrelevancies.
– It was ‘an irrelevant necessity’.
– An irrelevant necessity, have it as you will. That is why wo do not get a response even to the commands of Acts of Parliament that annual reports should be forthcoming. If they are to be of any use they should be before us before we debate the Estimates. Why do we not get any response? It is because there is no real interest in the reports and, secondly, because the Senate puts itself into a position of powerlessness in its consideration of the Estimates. We have Estimates committees that inquire and get information, but a stand has never been taken to reduce one item by threepence. It is an insult to the intelligence of an assembly of men and women, 60 in number, maintained at great cost, that a Budget should be presented in which there is not one item out of thousands that their judgment requires to be revised.
Senator Douglas McClelland has instanced the delay in annual reports. It was only the night before last that I had occasion to mention this to the Senate. There may be here one or two honourable senators who were not present then, although I doubt it, but I persevere to try to get the nail driven home. The last report from the Apple and Pear Corporation that the Parliament has dealt with is the one for the year ended June 1976. Notwithstanding the absence of a later report, the Government brought before us a measure extending the financing and borrowing powers of the Apple and Pear Corporation without making one comment upon the delay in the report. Madam Minister, if the Parliament is prepared to give you the money without taking any responsibility for it whatsoever, and if you are prepared to bring measures before the Parliament without insisting upon the departments producing annual reports for the forum before whom the measures are being submitted, you are presiding over an experience of decay and disintegration in the parliamentary system that will not continue for too long. The process of decay and deterioration in parliamentary systems relevant to the whole world today is of tremendous importance as compared with its ambit 10 years ago. Once these trends get up any sort of momentum, you can well understand that the confrontation of the cattlemen and the meatworkers averted by only a whisker this week, will be the forerunner of your demise.
It takes very few purposeful, knowledgeable, hard-working people to achieve a position of predominance over decaying institutions. We should remember what was said by the then Mr Justice Dixon, the leading justice in the Communist Party dissolution case, when he struck down an arbitrary Bill that did this Parliament no credit. I supported that Bill, with my inadequate understanding, but I never supported it again after I received the enlightenment of Mr Justice Dixon, who said that history, and not only ancient history, shows that when democratic institutions have been superseded they have been superseded not seldom from within. I rise therefore to reinforce the remarks of Senator Douglas McClelland, hoping by brevity and abruptness, as a final effort before 30 June, to get some recognition.
– I should like to add briefly to the remarks made by my colleague Senator Douglas McClelland on the report of the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations relating to the Australian National Gallery report for 1975-76. Senator Douglas McClelland has commented quite adequately on the reasons why it was decided that a Senate Committee should investigate the late submission of that report, and the Senate should be grateful for the work of the Committee. It has produced a very clear document explaining why the report was late, and I think we can draw from the document the understanding that reports, at least from the National Gallery if not from other government bodies, will not be late in future. I emphasise that it is particularly incumbent on bodies such as the National Gallery to comply with requirements such as the one to bring down a proper annual report promptly.
The area of acquisitions of paintings for the National Gallery unfortunately is a controversial one in our community. Successive governments from time to time have been forced into a very defensive position because of criticisms of particular acquisitions by the Gallery. I suppose it is understandable in a community such as ours, where a variety of tastes and degrees of importance are attached to such a body as the National Gallery, that there should be criticisms of government money allocated in this manner. But is not helpful to governments of any complexion, when they are seeking to establish for the people of Australia an important national art resource, as the National Gallery is doing, to be impeded in their work by the failure of such bodies to make proper information available to the Parliament in the first instance and then to the community. It is of vital importance in every area of government expenditure that there be proper and prompt accountability for money spent. That is even more important in controversial areas such as the acquisition of works of art.
Although I recognise that the National Gallery is in a very early stage of development, in my view it should look to making acquisitions that it has so far made more accessible to the general public, to the community whose taxes pay for these art objects to be obtained. From that point of view, I welcome the recent Aspects of Australian Art exhibition, which has been mounted by the National Gallery in such a way that it can travel throughout Australia and Australians outside Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney will have an opportunity to see some of the fine works that have been acquired. I should like to say too that it should be possible at this time for the National Gallery to make public a list of acquisitions. I understand that such a list is not yet available, certainly not readily, and again in the interests of community acceptance of public money being spent in this area, I think a public acquisitions list with a proper description of acquisitions and some explanation of why they have been brought into the National Gallery should be forthcoming in the near future.
The only other comment I wish to make is that it seems to be the case that the National Gallery has suffered in its early years of development from the Government’s staff ceilings policy. I understand that new staff has recently been appointed to the National Gallery, but the situation is still not satisfactory. If we are to have the sorts of things that the community wants from a national gallery- information about its operations, access to the works of art, explanations as to why particular works of art have been acquired- then clearly adequate staff is required. I conclude by expressing the hope that the Government will enable proper staffing arrangements to be made for the National Gallery so that it can develop properly as a national resource.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 March, on motion by Senator Button:
That the Senate take note of the report.
-At the outset I wish to thank the Senate for the indulgence it granted me by adjourning the debate on the previous occasion when other honourable senators were heard, because of my unavoidable absence on that day. I thank the Senate for its recognition of the fact that for many years I have taken a special interest in the stevedoring industry. The reason for my interest is illustrated by the following passage at page 7 of the annual report of the Apple and Pear Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1976 which I quoted in the Senate the other night:
Hobart, for example, is regarded as the most costly fruit loading port in the world, with loading rates less than half those achieved in competing southern hemisphere countries such as South Africa.
It is not surprising that I, a resident of Hobart, having represented the State of Tasmania for a number of years and having witnessed, to my shame, the collapse of the apple export industry, try to understand the stevedoring industry. The reason for the difficulty is the absolute incapacity of government to bring economy into the stevedoring industry. By the aid of this report in a moment or over the next few minutes we will see not what I say but now what a candid, fearless report by the Stevedoring Industry Authority itself- the Government’s own instrumentalitysays in damning terms as to the incapacity of the Government to control the stevedoring industry. There is reference not only to apples but also to oil. I draw the attention of honourable senators to the following statement in the Australian of 3 April:
Oil companies have lost millions of dollars because of an unsettled dispute with maritime unions.
This dispute is mainly on the question of who should crew the oil tankers. It is the stevedoring industry, in combination with the Seamen’s Union of Australia, that is effectually boycotting ships when they come to Australia. In the last three weeks there have been boycotts of ships going from Australia. It seems to be the prevailing idea within the Government and in high places that these are industrial disputes. This dispute involving the Seamen’s Union has some elements of an industrial dispute, but a pure boycott of the export of goods from the country by one union that wishes a certain policy as to how much livestock should be exported is no more an industrial dispute than if it were being brayed about by a herd of goats.
We have the illustration of black bans being imposed on ships from overseas delivering crude oil to refineries throughout Australia. Two ships in Adelaide are now banned and two more- one already standing off and one due to arrive in Botany Bay this week- have also been banned indefinitely. According to the article in the Australian:
A 27-day ban on the British oil tanker, the Texaco Southampton, recently closed part of the Kurnell lubricating refinery in Sydney.
It cost the company, Caltex, more than $lm. . . . Shell estimates that it has lost more than $ 1 m.
Mobil Oil Australia Ltd estimates that it has lost $800,000. We also have the example of Utah Development Company and coal. Fortunately those deliveries are going on. In all the circumstances our coal trade is expanding due to the innovation that has been made in the actual method of winning the coal, but in the transport of coal and iron ore, this country is losing millions of dollars a year.
Let me refer now to the special situation of the waterside workers and Tasmania. In the Mercury, the Hobart newspaper, of Wednesday, 12 April- that is, yesterday- we find reference to the ban recently imposed by the waterside workers. They staged a strike for improved wages and conditions. The strike has been terminated. I have endeavoured to ascertain from the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations (Mr Street) the basis on which it has been terminated, but of course no information has yet been supplied to me. The Waterside Workers Federation of Australia was able to threaten Tasmanian trade, and ships in every port- Devonport, Launceston, Flinders Island and Hobart- were immobilised. Tasmania, being an island State, will be cut off while ever such a strike continues. What was the remedy? The Australian Labor Party Premier of Tasmania prefers to rely upon a supplication to the union to treat Tasmania as especially dependent on shipping and, by grace of the union, to exempt Tasmania from any ban.
That might be understood by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to be already a recognition by some elected parliaments that they have to go cap in hand to the union to obtain the services that the people require to be supplied. This represents a clear betrayal of the authority vested in elected parliaments for them to make the laws pursuant to which the people of the community carry on their trading and other activities. If a chamber of commerce said that it was going to stop this trade or if a chamber of manufactures were to call a halt in all the factories of a particular State we would have an illustration of how absurd that position is. Yet the union position is of special importance, and the
Premier of Tasmania says, in terms of appreciation, that the union will consider the Tasmanian position. The article in the Mercury carries the headline ‘A special deal for Tasmania’ and the subheadline states:
The Waterside Workers Federation had exempted the Straitsman, Empress of Australia and Sydney Trader from their stoppage.
When one reads down into the text, referring to the Minister one finds:
He said that he appreciated the co-operation of the WWF in recognising Tasmania’s dependence on sea transport, in line with the agreement between the State Government and the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
Although the agreement related to disputes over wage and conditions issue, the WWF appeared to appreciate Tasmania ‘s difficulties.
Then one finds, as far as the Empress of Australia is concerned, the following text that is fed out for parliamentary representatives to accept as their relative situation vis-a-vis the responsibility of the unions:
The Empress of Australia was allowed to sail carrying only passengers and their vehicles. Cargo containers and cargo vehicles were not loaded or unloaded.
That was the unacceptable position with which Australia was faced by the Chifley Government before it went out of office in 1 949. That Government so clearly understood what was really motivating these bans that in 1947 it removed Mr Healey and Mr Roach from the then Stevedoring Commission and replaced it with a board. The Menzies Government came into power and dithered and bothered about until 1957 when it replaced the board with the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, the Authority whose terms of operation expire at this time and which has delivered to us the last report of its responsibility. It is to that report that I address myself in my remarks to the Senate.
I think that it is appropriate at the outset to pay a tribute to Mr O’Connor, the director of the Authority, who has delivered this report. I think that his earnest and purposeful endeavours to obtain equity and work in this industry over the last ten or 12 years are deserving of the highest praise. But the incubus of inertia, the lack of support by governments and, of course, the monopoly power of the union and the militancy of its members so much encouraged by Senator Mulvihill in his speech, have meant that Mr O’Connor’s health has been impaired severely. He retires with a recognition of failure expressed in the termination of the Authority of which he was director. I think that the country is indebted also to the efforts of his staff to try to get some sense into this industry.
What does the report reveal about the immediate present and the future? It is a predicament that is dismaying not merely from the point of view of the stevedoring operations but inasmuch as they lie at the very threshold right across the centre of activity of maritime export or import which is vital to the trade of this country. Having regard to the position of our exports in markets abroad, we need no internal weapons to damage our industries further. As we know, the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority was established in 1957. At that time, the problem was to get work out of the personnel in the stevedoring union. A provision was carefully inserted into the Act. It dealt with bulk cargoes which were then developing into quite a significant trade with mechanical devices largely dispensing with waterfront labour. The use of such devices was beginning to grow at that time. Bulk cargoes now represent 60 per cent of our export trade. The termination of this Authority under the terms of the original Act enhances the risk that those cargoes, along with other cargoes, increasingly will become subject to the influence of the monopoly obstruction of the union that by the statute is still given not merely preference in the industry but monopoly rights in the industry.
The significance of that fact can be understood by a reference to an excerpt from an article written by Mr Laffer in the Journal of International Relations in June 1977. At page 1 14 he had this to say:
When he returned to Australia -
I interpolate to say that it was in August 1971:
I will quote what Fitzgibbon said:
The experience already indicated . . . that the only effective answer in the sense of protecting dock workers against technological changes in the stevedoring industry lies in an international approach . . . It is essential to have policies not just consistent with the needs of the industrialised countries but also consistent with the needs of the newly developed countries . . .
The conference -
That is to say, the conference that Mr Fitzgibbon had attended: . . disclosed the value of International affiliation, if only for one reason- contacts that could be made and understanding that could be developed of the problems of other countries.
I now continue to quote the author of the article:
With the development of containerisation in the 1960s Fitzgibbon gave much attention to the significance of technological change. Regarding containerisation, Fitzgibbon wanted to protect waterside workers’ jobs from its impact and, conversely, exploit it to their advantage.
That is a significant insight into the purpose for which these activities are being developed. They are being developed to bring in international unionism in conjunction with the operation of the Seamen’s Union of Australia and so put the union out of the reach of national governments, such as the Fraser Government, to control the waterfront adequately. It is one of the consequences of the termination of the operations of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority that that risk grows greater. It is a risk that should be watched with the utmost vigilance so as to prevent the destruction of a trade that has grown up without interference from the monopoly waterfront union and which handles 60 per cent of the exports from this country. It therefore represents a major item in the economic management of the country.
The termination of the Authority leads to a second ramification. When the Authority was created in 1957, it was recognised that disputes of an industrial nature within the waterfront should come within the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. Certain disciplinary powers were given to the Authority but disputes of an industrial nature were still the province of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. One of the sequels to the introduction of permanent employment on the waterfront in 1967- ten years after the Authority commenced operations, despite the insertion of a provision in the arrangements that were made for the acceptance of permanent employment, was an entitlement for employers to seek compulsory redundancy retirements from the industry if a surplus of labour developed. In 1972 the unions took strike action, in the absence of resistance by the Government. The report strikingly makes reference to this fact in terms, I would think, of unparalleled severity of criticism on the part of a government authority of its Government.
The report points out the disastrous consequences that accrued in the oversupply of labour. Consequent huge redundancy payments and enormous payments of idle time simply submerged the whole possibility of the industry carrying on unless there were a change. All that was brushed aside at the demand of the union. It took strike action when governments failed to enforce the Woodward conference agreement, which was the basis of the permanent employment arrangements of 1967. The waterside workers then developed a claim- they have persisted with itthat they would not go to arbitration but would operate a system of collective bargaining. They said that they would demand and receive an agreement from the employers in the industry every two years.
The Waterside Workers Federation refuses to recognise the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. It pursued this line of thought in 1974, encouraged by the Labor Government. It continued with that line in 1976, acquiesced in by the Labor Government’s successors. In 1976 it was acquiesced in because the waterside workers adopted the same tactics as they adopted when they wanted to get the permanent employment arrangements accepted in 1967. They went quiet. In the two years of the negotiations under the Woodward conference there was unparalleled peace on the waterfront, so that those who represented responsibility were seduced into thinking that the union was becoming acquiescent.
In 1976, when the unions were negotiating hard for the expiration of the Authority’s jurisdiction and hoping that it would be dismantled so that new worlds in the stevedoring industry would open up for them to conquer, the unions went quiet. This year, after the agreement expired- there was still non-acceptance of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission- the waterside workers announced a series of strikes around Australia. Those strikes continued until the waterside workers took up the strike recently against live sheep exports to the Middle East. The cattlemen support the export of live sheep. Although for the moment the waterside workers in the main have gone back to work- I do not know whether they have gone back to work at the two major ports involved, but I have been informed that they have gone back to work at all Tasmanian ports- I do not know the basis vis a vis for the contest between collective bargaining and the arbitration system. I have no information that they have accepted the jurisdiction of the arbitration system for the purpose of the conditions on the waterfront.
The expiration of the Authority’s position in the industry poses an issue of the utmost importance in the industry. Should one union- the seamen have it to a certain degree, but the waterside workers have it absolutely- in the country have an absolute statutory monopoly to supply labour for this industry? One union resolutely refuses to recognise the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and persists every two years with a determined policy of collective bargaining. If it succeeds it will create a very important problem from the point of view of precedence in other industries, for the continuance of the arbitration system.
The next point I wish to raise is that this report shows the conditions that have been granted due to the militancy of the union, its monopoly power and the weakness of government to discharge its responsibility. If the conditions created are transferred to industry generally in Australia, they would simply create an incubus of economic difficulties in which the wage weight on industry today would be insignificant compared with the general wage obligations on industry. Let it be remembered that when the Woodward conference got final agreement, and the Government acquiesced in an experimental basis in regard to permanent employment, it was carefully provided in the terms of that conference agreement that the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the unions of Australia recognised that the conditions to be established were no precedent for adoption in other industries; they were not to be made a basis of claim for extension into other industries.
That, of course, was 10 years ago, and we have experienced the results. Now that we can see the conditions that prevail in this industry, I think we should be alarmed at the possibility of genuine encroachment of these conditions into industry generally. If they continue in this industry- they will be savage enough in this one isolated industrythey w2l be an imposition in such a vital area that they will create a great weakness in our economy.
At page 8 of this report there is a reference to the fact that the men employed under normal wage provisions averaged, at permanent ports, $229.60 per week for 24.7 hours- that is to say, $229 a week for 25 hours. Under the special agreements for container work, the average was $295 per week for 3 1 hours. The report brings to our notice that, despite the decline of 12.4 per cent in the work force, the total gross payments credited to waterside workers at all ports, excluding long service leave and redundancy payments, increased by 4.8 per cent to a total of $129,160,992. Total payments to waterside workers, now numbering roughly 10,000 personnel, amounted to $129m. Despite a reduction in the number of personnel, payments are increasing to a rate of $22 1 a week for 25 hours work. Overtime payments are additional. Then there is the question of redundancy.
As I have pointed out, one of the cardinal terms of the permanent employment arrangements was, as could be foreseen- and the report I am referring to makes this clear- that as mechanical means developed in the industry it would be necessary to have less and less manual labour. Therefore, in decasualising the waterfront and altering the basis of waterside employment from casual work to weekly employment- now called permanent employment- it was a cardinal condition that the Authority, if application were made to it by the employers, should have the right compulsorily to retire men with proper long service payment, with proper redundancy payments, paying all sick leave and annual leave up to date, but if the number of people registered were in excess of labour requirements the Authority, with responsibility to provide quotas and to ensure that the labour was usefully employed, had the power under that arrangement compulsorily to retire people on the terms- quite generous terms- to which I have referred. But, when the situation was put to a test in 1972 and the first effort was made at retirement, the employers succumbed to the resistance and the Government acquiesced. As the report that I am referring to says at page 24:
The agreement provided for compulsory retrenchments at permanent ports in a redundancy situation where there were insufficient volunteers to leave the industry or to transfer to other ports short of labour.
On the same page the report says:
The non-implementation of this vital pan of the NSIC -
That is the employers package, the National Stevedoring Industry Conference- package deal and its disastrous consequences would not have eventuated had the Government of the day taken a firm stand from the beginning and had supported the efforts of the Authority to ensure that the agreement was honoured.
There the Authority squarely and expressly places the responsibility for the downfall of the situation on the failure of the government of the day to stand up to its responsibilities and take a firm stand to enforce a vital provision which was essential for the economic operation of the scheme. Easy is the descent to hell, as Virgil tells us, and there the descent has been going on since.
The next disclosure in this report is a disclosure which completely confirms what I had to say when the stevedoring industry legislation was before us, but the report is so graphic that I must take the opportunity of putting on record, perhaps for the last time, the degree of waste and decay that the Government in this instance, by its own special program, arranged- an entire responsibility of government. The Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Street, thought that he had to precede any transformation arrangements terminating the Authority and putting the industry back in the employers’ hands. He thought he could see sufficiently far enough into the future and he said: ‘We have got about a thousand men too many’. Under the advice of a conference presided over by Mr Justice Robinson at first and then the Ministerforsaking the advice of his colleagues and preferring the advice of Sir Richard Kirby, who was paid upwards of $6,000 at the rate of $125 a day- was misled, I believe, into the situation of accepting an extravagant program of redundancy payments, the like of which ought to shock the whole community. But there does not seem to be even an understanding of it in the market place, apart from the one or two ship owners who were involved and the one or two correspondents who take notice of this in the Australian Financial Review from time to time.
The total cost of severance payments to the 872 men was $ 12.4m. Of that amount, $9.8m was paid to the 558 men over the age of 60, all of whose registrations were cancelled in January 1977. Two of those men whose 65th birthday coincided with the date of cancellation received nothing. The other 556 men averaged $17,700 per man, the maximum payment being $30,462 and the minimum being $33. Pension payments were reportedly paid on the basis of normal age retirement rather than early retirement as had been agreed at the conference. As well, they received payment for accumulated sick leave, annual leave and long service leave. This is the Authority’s report which I go on to quote:
According to the Maritime Worker–
The Government’s authority thinks it has sufficient status as the industry journal of the Waterside Workers Union to know- the official journal of the WWF, total payments ranged from $47,500 for a man just turned 60 to about $ 10,000 for a man almost 65.
I want honourable senators to carry through this idea of redundancy benefits into the textile industry, the metal trades industry, the shop keepers and the pastoral awards and then see what sort of a country we would get. This was an arranged payment at the insistence of the Government and agreed to by the Government. It was recommended by Sir Richard Kirby, with all the inhibitions that that should have created, but it was the Government’s responsibility entirely. That was in a period when the Government was asking all other employees to accept a modified increment to their wages because of the inflationary crisis. The report says that the cost of severance payments to the 314 men under 60 was $2. 6m. The maximum payment to those workers under 60 years of age was $ 14,000- that is to six men 59 years of age- and the minimum payment of $4,500 was made to 120 workers. Between December 1976 and June 1977 the number of registered regular waterside workers at all ports fell by 1,101 from 11,437 to 10,336 workers as a result of the application of the redundancy arrangements and natural attrition. So we achieved a reduction of 1,101 workers at that enormous cost. But unfortunately it was of no purpose and of no benefit to the industry. The report goes on to give figures for idle time during the April- June 1977 quarter. Despite these arrangements to make surplus labour redundant, page 7 of the report states:
Notwithstanding the record expenditure on redundancy, the cost to the Authority of full shift idle time at permanent ports . . . amounted to $16, 124,662-only $1,479,154 less than during the previous year. The daily average number of those waterside workers on idle time on normal working days was 1,901 or 30 per cent of the daily average number available for employment.
Notwithstanding this extraordinary, extravagant and irresponsible payment on redundancy, the idle time continues to represent 1,901 normal working days through the year or 30 per cent of the people on the register receiving full payment at the rate of $22 1 for 25 hours of normal working time. So with these payments- according to the Maritime Worker, $47,500 to the fellow who has best served- one would expect an improvement. The Authority on page 23 of the report gives a table which shows the costs of idle time incurred during the quarters preceding and following the implementation of the special arrangements. Taking like with like, in the quarter July-September 1976- before these arrangementsidle time cost about $4.7m. In the quarter July-September 1977- after the arrangementsidle time cost about $4.6m- a reduction of about $100,000 at such extravagant cost. I call attention to the problem that the cost of idle time poses. I asked a question in the House, making reference to idle time, because I thought it my duty to bring it to the attention of the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations. He was good enough to reply on 3 1 March- just a few days ago. In his letter the Minister stated:
Idle time expenditure for the 10 weeks prior to the commencement ofthe new arrangements on 5 December 1977 amounted, I am advised, to about $3. 5m and this, when adjusted to cover a 13 week period, would produce a figure similar to that expenditure incurred for the quarter immediately preceding.
I interpret that statement as being an acceptance by the Minister of the point that was made by the Authority in its report that idle time has not been reduced. The Minister continued:
The new arrangements place the responsibility for the overall management of the labour force on the industry parties. I have approached the employers about the extent of idle time payments and the labour surplus of which they are indicative, and I have sought their advice as to how they propose to ensure, in the light of the report of the National
Stevedoring Industry Conference, that the labour force is properly attuned to labour requirements.
– How would they react?
-They have retreated every time a problem faces them. Of course every employer has to retreat when confronted with monopoly union labour unless the Government will enforce the law or make the law strong enough to bring economy within the union. So I simply bring to the attention of the Senate the perilous predicament of the whole situation.
The last of the matters I intend to raise, and to which I call the attention of the Senate, concerns the funding arrangements for the new set-up, which appear on pages 15, 16 and 17 of this report. Honourable senators will remember that the Parliament was persuaded to apply two levies- a cargo levy and a man-hour levy. Only because the proposals that were put to the Parliament varied significantly from those that the Authority advised the Government to accept, I draw particular attention to them. In one respect in particular the proposals varied; that is, the effect upon the smaller ports of the new arrangements. All that the Authority states on page 16 of the report where it quotes its submission deserves study but I do not deem it appropriate to read to the Senate the whole of it. I shall read a part of it concerning one item. Paragraph (g) states:
The exposure draft -
That is, the assessment of draft scheme that was put before the Parliament by Mr Stevens, the financial adviser for a few months before the actual Bill. That is called the exposure draft.
That is what the Authority advised the Minister when commenting upon the exposure draft. On page 17 the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority report continues:
While the final report went some way towards meeting the points raised by the Authority it still, in the Authority’s view, fell far short of providing a complete and satisfactory framework for future funding arrangements in the industry or one whereby the interests of smaller ports would be protected.
The question of how to defray the redundancy costs was left to be decided at the time it occurs taking into account the circumstances which give rise to it.
The report continues:
Redundancy continues to exist and is again worsening.
The subsidisation within each of the two classes of ports, referred to by Mr Stevens in the paragraph quoted earlier, is not adequate for the protection ofthe interests of small ports.
If the employers at each of the permanent ports have to bear their own costs of idle time, either individually or collectively, some of those ports will be seriously disadvantaged and their viability prejudiced. The cost of that item of expenditure alone for conventional stevedores will vary greatly between the ports. In the March quarter of 1977, it would have ranged from 32c per man hour at Fremantle to $6.99 per man hour at Hoban. At the latter port, the cost in the June quarter would have been $7. 1 1 per man hour.
My colleague Senator Walters will recall that when this matter was being considered by Parliament, without the aid of the report of the Authority, this matter was strenuously examined, as was the statement made without qualification that the new arrangements would provide a degree of subsidisation for the small ports but would leave them at no disadvantage whatsoever. These are features that cause me tremendous concern about the disintegration of parliamentary ceapparent government, where we see without apparent concern a monopoly union retaining its monopoly position in industries such as this, challenging the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission and receiving payments unparalleled and unimagined in any other industry while continuing to insist successfully that employers provide surplus labor which creates a terrific amount of idle time. As a senator from Tasmania, who has seen in the period in which I have been in this place the absolute destruction of Tasmania’s special apple industry, untold damage to an industry which had been especially established in Tasmania- the textile industry- and the whole of the shipping arrangements to Tasmania now dependent upon the meek pleas of a Labor Government to the Australian Council of Trade Unions, I wish to express my sense of utter shame at the failure of this Government and its predecessors to get sanity into this industry whose deficiencies have now been demonstrated and exposed, not upon my say so alone but by the last and final report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority which has received in return its death sentence.
-I do not think it is necessary to take as much time as Senator Wright has taken to talk about -
– You would if you knew as much about the subject.
-Neither Senator Walters nor Senator Wright has been here as long as I have. On every occasion on which a Bill concerning the stevedoring industry has been debated in this place, Senator Wright has taken the same point of view that he has taken today. That point of view is purely a legalistic, enforcement point of view- the thought of a conservative lawyer who knows little about industry. From Senator
Wright’s remarks one would think that every dispute in the community and in industry could easily be settled by the law. We know from practical experience that that is not so. In Australia today there is a dispute which concerns this Government and the Australian Council of Trade Unions. We know that that major dispute which has been concerning the country cannot be settled by the law or by government or employers alone. It must be settled in concert with the labour forces. The Government has had to rely this year upon the good offices of the ACTU and Mr Hawke, who is much maligned in this Parliament, to settle a critical dispute within the country. That will always be so and it is not new. One would think from Senator Wright’s observations that that is a new state of affairs in society. It is not. It has been going on for ages. It has been going on certainly since the war when in every major dispute which affected the waterfront, it was always left to Albert Monk, the President of the ACTU, finally to enter into the problem area to settle the argument between the waterside workers and the employers and /or the government.
Always Ministers for Labour, be they Liberal or Labor, have looked upon the ACTU as the national organisation of workers which they should call upon for consideration and negotiation. I am pleased to know, after listening to Government speakers in this place, that there is a quite conciliatory attitude that negotiations in this very important dispute, which has not yet been solved but which is nearly solved, should be conducted with the ACTU and the unions. The idea of the 1967 national conference was, in fact, to achieve that sort of relationship. It had many up and downs. Senator Wright knows as well as I do that for many years the aims of the conference were achieved but he has been a consistent opponent of them because that is his point of view. I know from practical experience that in every circumstance in industrial relations there must be conciliation. The aim of Australian arbitration proceedings and laws is to make sure that that aspect of negotiations is available. It pays off. I notice that every time Senator Wright debates this matter, he never talks about the increase in productivity. Today he talked briefly about the changes in the industry. All honourable senators know that in the old turbulent days the waterside workers and the employers were always boxing on. There were more direct struggles and more time and much more money were lost then than are lost now. We know that in those days productivity was low. On many occasions I and my colleagues have mentioned the rate of productivity as reported by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. The current report, to which Senator Wright referred, states at page 8:
Cargo handled by waterside workers at all ports totalled 50.37 million tonnes, 5.7 per cent more than the 47.66 million tonnes handled in 1975-76. Non-bulk cargoes accounted for 30.08 million tonnes (up 7.0 per cent) and bulk cargoes for 20.29 million tonnes (up 3.8 per cent). In the overseas trade, imports of non-bulk cargo increased by 17.8 per cent and exports rose by 5.5 per cent. In the coastal trade, non-bulk cargo loaded and discharged increased slightly by 0.2 per cent. . .
At page 9 the report states:
Additional container and roll-on/roll-off vessels were introduced during the year. The number of working visits of container vessels in the overseas trade continued to increase (up 20.8 per cent) as the number of conventional vessels continued to decrease . . .
In this regard the waterfront industry is not much different to ordinary industry. In any industry where productivity is increasing because of technological gains, new machinery and automation, workers are faced with the threat of redundancy. In the motor vehicle industry the unions have negotiated severance pay. It is not as good as the American severance pay. The scheme is similar to that which has been established in the United States for over 20 years. Severance pay in Australia is a practically new concept. Of course, in this industry it goes back a little longer. Generally speaking severance pay in America has always been much more liberal and it pertains to many matters, including pension rights. That is not new. It is a fact of industry. If workers’ jobs are to be affected by technological changes the workers are entitled to some sort of guaranteed working hours.
In America, the electrical trades union has agreements which give its members a working week of 25 hours. It has improved the pay and conditions of its members as my colleagues know. That is not a new concept in Australia. It is growing. In the future in Australia, as in all Western countries, because of the impact of automation we will have to face up to shorter working weeks. We will have to face up to the fact that more and more people will be displaced by industry. Whether the cost is borne by the government or by the employers is a matter for debate within the industries concerned. I quickly repeat my point that, as is well known in Australia, there has always been the circumstance where not the law, but the Australian Council of Trade Unions or some special organisation has had to come in and help settle disputes. That cannot be done simply by force. This recent dispute highlights that situation. I was rather surprised to hear Senator Wright talking about the Premier of Tasmania having recourse to the ACTU. The Tasmanian Government has recourse to the law but the ACTU agreement was much more effective than the law which could be applied.
Let us look at the American scene and think about the 14 week coal strike. I ask: Who finally settled that dispute? It was not settled by force. It was finally settled by negotiation. The miners’ claims were greater at the end of the strike than they were when the miners first went out. Our country has not yet experienced the disturbances that have occurred in industry in America. We are often proud and we say what a great country the United States is. It has made all sorts of advances. But in comparison the number of industrial disputes in Australia has lessened in recent years. We all know that. We should recognise that fact. I have been involved in most of the debates on this matter, sometimes as a Minister. I recall Senator Wright taking the same view he took today. But he has never mentioned the facts of the industry. He objects to Mr Fitzgibbon, the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia and apparently other unions making contact with their international colleagues. He says nothing about the multinational companies which have their own international unions and standards. They are the bodies the organised employees have to face. They form an organised opposition and they are monopolies. Without going into the details of the dispute affecting the seamen, I point out that they are out to do what vehicle builders in South Australia are trying to do. They are trying to protect their jobs by ensuring that traders around the country, operate on the basis that a certain number of Australians are on the staff or are members of the crew. That is not unusual.
In the case of the recent dispute in Germany over the economic decline in that country, the aim of the United German Consolidated Trade Union Movement was very similar to the matter we have been talking about today. Disputes are not settled by the law. They have to be settled by agreement, otherwise they will break out again and become more trouble than they were before. Senator Wright has been a consistent opponent of the scheme. I have always thought that the national agreement was a step forward. I know it has had its ups and downs. But the fact is that the Government which Senator Wright supports and the Australian Labor Party Government knew that something had to replace that agreement. We never ascertained what sort of organisation should replace the scheme. But the arrangement is being negotiated at present. In the circumstances of the industry we have to negotiate a satisfactory arrangement between the employers and the waterfront unions to make sure that we do not create bad feeling which we know all about.
– My name was mentioned earlier by Senator Wright so it would be recreant of me not to participate in the debate. I think Senator Bishop’s theme was on the human relations side of industrial disputes.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Robertson)- Order! Senator Mulvihill, you have spoken before. Will you seek leave to speak again?
– There was a misunderstanding. I seek leave to speak in the debate.
-I almost made history like a certain test cricketer at The Oval in 1910 who bowled two successive overs. It would have gone down as a record. I return to the serious side of the debate. Senator Bishop pressed the theme of the human component in industrial relations. The fact of the matter is that the mass of statistics produced by Senator Wright show that the overall membership of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia numbers slightly fewer than 10,000. Anybody who has studied the subject of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and affiliations would know that that number used to be considerably higher. I know the dilemma that we face. The unions cannot adopt the Luddite technique of the nineteenth century when they smashed machinery which they saw as a threat to their jobs. In many cases stevedoring companies were quite happy to make separate agreements in order to get continuity of employment. Senator Wright would well know that as lifting methods became more sophisticated, and as we moved away from the trolley and other rather mediaeval methods of lifting, we probably needed people who had more aptitude in the new techniques. In the past we had a manual group and a winchman. Today far more people are operating lifting equipment. Equally, the frequency of error is greater. If one makes a mistake one can crush one’s workmates. One can do irreparable damage to cargoes, particularly in this era of containers.
To take Senator Wright’s argument to its logical conclusion we should indulge in some drastic pruning. He implied that a man received a golden hand shake at the age of 55. This is not so when one considers their whole working life. I wonder how and where we would absorb these men who are in their fifties. I am not trying to be unpleasant by saying that. I know that many times an employer finds it difficult to give a man who has been maimed in the service of the firm permanent, selective duties. Some members of the Waterside Workers Federation, who are in their fifties have industrial scars, splayed toes or they are minus the top joint of a finger. These things do not kill but they are more likely to occur in these industries than in the commercial industries. The union bargains for a reasonable phasing out period. In the initial period of two or three years- I do not cavil at the aggregate amount given in the figures Senator Wright produced- the workforce is gradually being reduced. It could well be that in the ports outside Sydney, Melbourne and probably Adelaide, there is a certain period when there is idle time. Senator Wright referred to that problem. What is the alternative? We can get the pruning knife out and reduce the work force. But we will have situations of tide fluctuations, industrial impasses overseas, and ships being held up on their way into port or coming in at a weekend or at night. Honourable senators should realise every time they look at the television screen in a nice lounge room with the concept of la dolce vita, the good life, that people still have to work in foundries. They still have to work on a cold pier on a winter’s night or even in the morning. Some honourable senators believe in the capitalist enterprise syndrome of the carrot or some other system. I believe that under socialism the labourer is worthy of his hire. We have to offer those incentives.
I want to take the matter further, because Senator Wright referred to remarks made by Mr Fitzgibbon, the National Secretary of the Federation, about counters to multinationals. Senator Wright’s Government has a classic problem at the moment. I have been harrassing the Attorney-General (Senator Durack) about it. We have a number of multinational tyre companies. One in particular does not want to engage redundant workers from other industries and make tyre builders of them; it wants the finished product- trained tyre builders from Montevideo in Uruguay because it has a plant there as well as plants in Canada. It is much easier for that firm to bring the trained operative from overseas. I know that Senator Wright’s responsibility is as much towards the unemployed people in Hobart and Launceston as my responsibility is towards the unemployed people in Sydney and its outer suburbs. These are the human problems we face.
To take the matter a little further, the port of Mackay is a classic illustration of what happens when there is a drastic scaling down of the work force. Mackay is in the heart of the sugarproducing area of Senator Keeffe ‘s State and is a sugar-exporting port. The waterfront work force is down to 40 men. I suppose the National Country Party honourable senators from the north would be up in arms if I suggested that the people in the south who use sugar should ask whether they could expect any reduction in the retail price of sugar because the work force had been reduced.
Let us take Senator Wright’s argument a bit further. He suggested that we should turf out additional waterside workers in Tasmania. What would that do to the economy of the apple growers? I pay tribute to Senator Wright for his loyalty and dedication to and support for the apple growers in Tasmania. He knows that in any industrial dispute labour is only one factor. One of the greatest threats that the apple growers in Tasmania and on the mainland have had to face has been the ‘fat cat’ European Economic Community countries, which are trying to get Australia into a corner with regard to so many of our primary industries. So let us not say that if we had some blood and sand agreement on the waterfront, we could reduce the number of workers there to a minimum so that they could be driven by the fear of being made redundant and of the penalty rates being scaled down and that the apple producers would thrive, because this would not be the case. Senator Wright knows what life is about; that as quickly as one overcomes one hazard another manifests itself.
I know Senator Wright has had a lot of experience in legal matters. It is very nice for us a week or a fortnight after some dispute to sit down and ask people to cool off. I know that if Senator Wright were operating an overhead crane in a port and somebody did something silly which caused an accident, he would shout out a few obscenities to that person. The foreman might suspend him. Senator Wright, the legal luminary, could have been a militant waterside worker. It is an accident at birth where we finish up. Senator Wright knows that. One can never remove some of those conflicts.
– I do not believe that Senator Wright would ever shout obscenities.
– Let me just say that he would be terse with the boss. We are trying to establish a system of mediation. I suppose one man’s militant is another man’s moderate; it depends on the attitude one takes. I know people in the Miners Federation, who are members of the Labor Party, and who, when they went to a Labor Party conference, were regarded as being to the Left. In the pit, with people of other parties which were towards the Left of them, they were regarded as being right wingers. All these tags we put on people just leave me cold.
The fact is that Charlie Fitzgibbon is one of the most competent men in the trade union movement. He is so competent that he has held very high office in the international field. Senator Wright referred earlier to my condoning certain trade union attitudes. He knows that I have said before that I do condone certain attitudes on safety issues and legitimate wage claims. I do not have to go into details; I simply say that if he is talking about political strikes, there have been very few. We could go back to certain events in the 1950s, but I would not do that now. Charlie Fitzgibbon has run a very tight ship. He has adapted himself to various changes. The Americans, the British and even the Scandinavians and the people in Hamburg still have conflicts on the docks.
Senator Bishop intruded a question about the United States scene. Its national coal strike went on for much longer than any strike I can think of here, and Senator Wright knows that. As a matter of fact, a man who has almost been canonised in industrial relations and a man who suffered lots of ups and downs, namely, Mr Bridges, has led strikes on the West Coast and on the East Coast of the United States which have gone for much longer than any strikes here. That has not caused the United States Congress to flap about it; it has let people talk about it. One can bite on the bullet, but what one calls a democratic society has limitations, and I can think of a few of them.
The fact is that if people talk for over a week or a fortnight, it is to get people in the mood- to get them to come together and reach agreement. During the suspension of the sitting for lunch Senator Bishop spoke to me about timing in disputes. He pointed out that if Bob Hawke had suggested to an affiliated union three days ago what he might have suggested today the unions three days a go would have bitten his head off. I say this to the Australian Cattlemen’s Union and to similar organisations: Finally, at the end of a week or two, some sanity is reached. Again and again we talk about labour recruitment. We know the effect of the education system. We are in a dilemma. When people look for employees the least they hope for is people with a bachelor of arts degree or an even higher qualification. On the other hand, there is the attitude that when one reaches his thirties and has been around and is stuck for a job one can work on the waterfront.
Today in so many manual operations there are physical and various other hazards. I mention a case or two in point. I point out that I am not adopting an inverted class attitude. I know a couple of civil engineers and a surveyor who have been made redundant. They are chaps in their late twenties or early thirties. They said: We want to kill a bit of time; we want experience’. They applied to join the Public Transport Commission of New South Wales as shunters and were rejected. As honourable senators can appreciate, there was nothing wrong with their IQ. I rang the people they had seen and said: What went wrong with Mr X?’ I was told: ‘He is about 14 stone 8 lb, and 5 feet 8 inches high. He is too heavy. If you left him in a marshalling yard he would lose either a foot or an arm the first time he was on night shift’. That is not a derogatory remark for the industry to make about that fellow. I was told that the industry had to reduce compensation claims. I am happy to say that this fellow now has a job in his profession. I think that this case should bring a little humility to us when considering this concept of people working in foundries and on the waterfront. Industry cannot take on just anybody any more. The industry has to be enhanced.
Senator Wright talked about costs and levies. Of course, things have to be paid for. Recently with my colleague from Victoria Senator Melzer, I visited the school at the Port of Melbourne where people are being trained on how to use lifting appliances- how to use ropes, slings and all these sorts of things. It was very nice; these people had about a month’s schooling. Of course, it has to be paid for. That gets back to the question of the levies which are involved in this situation. I point out to Senator Wright that while we have ‘red butted people’ in our society, whether they be employers or employees, we will have these conflicts. To reduce the number of these conflicts requires a sense of timing. I think we can reach a stage of brinkmanship; we have that a lot. Honourable senators should not forget- it stands out very starkly- that Bob Hawke cannot overawe people to the extent that perhaps Albert Monk did because, with a better educated rank and file trade union movement, people who are faced with a recommendation to go back to work and who have their own inner feelings about the situation will reject the recommendation.
For different reasons than Senator Wright, I have some reservations about the proposed new structure- not so much with respect to the area which concerns him but with respect to the fact that with containerisation there are components outside this structure. I refer to the Transport Workers Unions of Australia, the Federated Storemen and Packers Union of Australia and the Federated Engine Drivers and Firemen ‘s Association of Australasia. There could be times when these people will be out to protect their areas within the broad stevedoring work force. The honourable senator picked out the waterside workers, but if one looks at the air traffic controllers, and I would call them the middle-class militants, I am certain that most of them vote for the Liberal Party; some might even vote for the National Country Party, and that is their right. But do not get the idea that the Labor Party gives people a prod to go out on strike. A lot of people in the small white collar unions and technical unions would be horrified if it was suggested to them that they should vote for the Labor Party, much less for ACTU affiliation. They do not want either.
The new militants are militant in the sense that they feel they have got something and they want to hold it. In an industrial campaign it is difficult to energise people on something new if they are given only a little, but when something is being taken from them people become fearful. There is a doctrine abroad at the moment that if weekend penalty rates are tampered with we will have a new industrial Eldorado with jobs for everybody. It is all very well for people with nine to five jobs to be scornful about penalty rates, but it is the people who work at the weekend or after 6 p.m. or before 9 a.m. who feel the gap in the society in which they live, and they are militant about it. I make the point that I do not think Senator Wright’s doomsday philosophy is valid. I do agree that, like other industries, the problems of this industry will change from time to time. But I say respectfully that while the ACTU maintains its role of mediator and while we have trade union leaders of the calibre of Charlie Fitzgibbon things will not be as bad as Senator Wright suggests.
In conclusion, I think it is accepted that we will have this problem until 1985. We have to find 125,000 new jobs, and I emphasise new jobs. By that time birth rate adjustments might have returned us to a more stable society. It might be better, it might be worse. At the moment, whether we are talking about keeping waterside workers in jobs or phasing people out on favourable terms, things are going to be difficult. Things are difficult in the maritime industry at the moment. Who knows, it could be the motor vehicle industry in a few months time. I do not know and I will not hazard a guess, but those are the problems we are facing, as are many other countries.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 23 February, on motion by Senator Button:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
– I moved on the previous occasion that the Senate take note of these papers, and I did it for the very obvious reason that I believed the Senate should take note of them. I do not wish to delay the Senate today with a detailed discussion of these two papers because in some ways events have intervened since I moved that motion a few weeks ago. However, I think it is appropriate to record the vastly increased contribution by the Commonwealth to educational expenditure on schools in the past few years and the results of that increased expenditure, which are revealed in the most recent report of the Schools Commission. Baldly stated, the consequence is that there has been a considerably improved standard in all Australian schools, both government and non-government, as a result of that Commonwealth involvement. It is important to recognise, wherever the debate may lead in relation to the qualitative issues in education, that that is a fact which has emerged and which suggests that, in terms of the States Grants (Schools) Acts, the result has been a marked improvement for schools in this country.
The only other thing I wish to add is to remind the Senate that that increased effort in terms of expenditure by the Commonwealth has had a fascinating and salutary effect in relation to government expenditure generally on schools. There has been an indefinable and elusively explained response by State governments to the initiatives of the Commonwealth Government in school expenditure. That has been a contributing factor to the improved standards to which the Schools Commission has referred. As I said, I think it is important that we record these matters in the Senate. I have no further observations to make at this stage.
– The point made by Senator Button in relation to these two reports was very well taken, as events have proved since the reports were tabled. It is important to observe, when one looks at reports of this kind, that the arrival on the education scene in Australia of the Commonwealth Government some years ago has brought not only a greater expenditure in terms of funds and an increase in the standard of education but it has also brought a questioning throughout the community of the age-old phrase ‘value for money’. A great deal of money has been spent and is being spent on education. Indeed, the two reports before the Senate indicate something of the extent to which those funds are expended. At the same time, there is concern amongst people in certain areas about the quality of education. We hear a great deal of discussion today about numeracy and literacy, the problems of grammar and punctuation, communication and expression. Not all of those are defects that it is alleged are the fault of the education system or the school.
A whole range of areas and elements come into our discussions on these matters. The influences of the home, the new influence of the media, the new outlooks and new areas of activity in which children and students are engaged all have an effect on the education system as a whole. The money that is being allocated by the Commonwealth, as outlined in these two reports on financial assistance to the States for government and non-government schools, also has a bearing. I would hope that the Department of education and the Commonwealth Minister for Education, with the vast amounts of money that are being spent and the great amount of interest and support activity that is going on, will look to these various areas of quality and take note of the comments that are being made by leaders in the community. In that way education will be not only education for degrees but education for life, which involves community living, communication, and all the other new and wonderful facets that are emerging from our society.
In relation to the two reports that were tabled in the Senate in February, the general public and anyone interested can determine the various amounts allocated to particular institutions. The first of the two papers we are discussing relates to the 1976-77 report under the States Grants (Schools) Act. This was initiated by the LiberalCountry Party Government in 1972 and took effect towards the end of that year. It provides for a certain amount of Commonwealth financial assistance for a period of five years through to 30
June this year. If one looks at that report in relation to the Act, one will see that the Act is just a single program piece of legislation which provides for building projects for both government and non-government schools.
In regard to the other report under the States Grants (Schools) Act 1976, the grants by the previous Labor Administration for the 1976 calendar year were confirmed by the caretaker Government in late 1975 and enabling legislation was introduced and passed early in the 1 976 autumn sittings. This is unlike the other Act because, instead of being a single piece of legislation, it is a multilateral program which provides grants for a number of educational areas. They include migrant education, disadvantaged schools, special schools for handicapped children and special projects as well as building and other developments. The multilateral program is yet another area in which Commonwealth expenditure on education is reaching out into all sections of the community.
In our society there are certain kinds of people whom we might generally call disadvantaged, who are in just as much need of appropriate education as any other section of the community. These disadvantaged people may be disadvantaged for a whole variety of reasons. It may very well be that they may not be able to maintain the same ability to earn an income as other sections of the community. On the other hand it is the duty of the country, and that means the duty of the Commonwealth and the States, to provide educational and other opportunities which will enable them to live satisfying lives and also, where possible, to provide them with opportunities to earn an appropriate income and to enjoy a standard of living that is appropriate and one that will keep them on a level with the rest of our society.
The two areas which were of interest to me in the reports were the general field of migrant education and only one of the sectors of the disadvantaged schools, which I am relating to the isolated children situation. In the first instance I refer very briefly to the migrant education problem. In an answer given by Senator Carrick, the Minister for Education, to a question in the Senate towards the end of last year he pointed out that over the last four years funding for migrant programs had risen from just over $6m in the 1974 period to a figure of over $9.5m in the 1977-78 period. In dealing with matters of child migrant education the Minister went on to say that the allocations had moved from $13m in 1974-75 to $2 1.8m in 1975-76, following a change to funding through the Schools Commission. In 1976-77, the latest period for which figures are available, the funding rose to $26m. This is the general trend in the Government’s allocations for migrant education.
With it not only goes the whole matter of the English language but also other areas of education which, in addition to allowing for advancement in the field of communication, provide for a general understanding of our style of life and opportunities for integration into the Australian community. The funding for migrant education is also distributed throughout the States so that there is an allocation according to needs of the various States. But migrant education is not only confined to those people who come here as migrants in the accepted term. New English language programs will have to be provided for those people who are described on arrival as refugees. The Minister, in the same answer, said that this would involve an expenditure of $820,000 on adult migrants and some $144,000 on child migrants. In summary the Minister said that rather than there having been any reductions in this area there had been significant increases in the migrant program.
In the other area to which I have referred and which is related to the reports, there is the development of the Government’s expenditure program concerning assistance for isolated children. This was the subject of an inquiry by a Senate committee. It was a very long inquiry. It was not only an inquiry relating to the education of children living in isolated areas; it was also shown to be an inquiry of some national importance. It involved areas of social welfare, economic development, cultural advance and community stability. Of course, these four areas are very much a part of any education program in which a government may involve itself. As long ago as 1972 when the present Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, was the then Minister for Education, he interested himself in the problems of the education and advancement of isolated children. It was my privilege to attend the annual meeting of the Isolated Children’s Parents Association held that year at Bourke in New South Wales. In a message sent by the then Minister he indicated that he had arranged for discussions between a number of departments. They related to the School of the Air situation and the costs involved in the purchase of new equipment. He went on to point out that he had had several discussions in connection with the education of people who live in remote areas and that it was his objective to achieve such improvements as were possible.
Since then there has been quite a considerable development in grants for isolated children. As recently as a few weeks ago the Minister for Education announced a considerable number of improvements in the extension of financial assistance to people who live in isolated areas. They were aimed at the beneficiaries under the Assistance for Isolated Children Scheme, which was a scheme implemented by the Whitlam Government. The improvements were not only for the benefit of low income families but they took into account also the depressed area of rural incomes. The additional expenditure relates to short-term grants and assistance in the boarding areas as well as the special supplementary allowance. All of these matters are part of a wide-ranging pattern of expenditure which the Government is engaged in and which are reflected in the two reports which were tabled in the Senate and which are the subject of discussion today.
– I am a little startled that this debate has come on quite so soon today. I had expected that some honourable senators would speak for a little longer on some of the earlier topics on the Notice Paper. I would like to say a few words about these reports. This subject interests me, both as a parent and as a teacher- as a parent whose children are attending an independent school, as a teacher who has taught for many years in a state school and as one whose husband and parents also teach in state schools. A great deal has been said about funding increasing standards in education, the concern the community has for value for money which Senator Davidson quite rightly pointed out, and the concern that we all have for quality in education and for increased numeracy and literacy.
However, one wonders whether perhaps we are looking a little too closely at the amount of money being allocated and not as closely as we could at the way in which it is being spent after it has been allocated. We have grants for special projects, recurrent grants and grants for all sorts of things- which are spent it seems to me, in a period of decreasing numeracy and literacy in some areas, in a way which leaves much to be desired. For instance, I wonder why $17,500 is spent on what is described as a multi-level program for the intergeneration of the expressive arts, whatever that means, when perhaps the same amount of money could more aptly be spent on the provision of an additional classroom for a school which would then decrease class sizes. It also surprises me that $250,000 is spent on a resources centre when teachers in the same school have classes of a size which are too large to effectively enable them to use that resources centre. It is wonderful to have videotape machines, colour televisions sets, a plethora of tape recorders and other equipment provided in schools. But I question the value of this equipment and I question the value of spending money on it when we have class sizes of 35 pupils, despite what the figures tell us. When we have classes of 35 pupils or even 30 pupils I wonder how efficiently a teacher can make use of the hardware and the software which is provided by the money made available under these grant schemes. I wonder how many teachers have the time or the inclination to teach a class of 35 pupils how to use tape recorders and cassettes to the best possible educational advantage. I wonder how many teachers use the television sets and videotape machines provided in schools in lieu of providing good quality teaching. I question in fact whether we are obtaining value for money from the grant schemes discussed in the reports before the Senate today.
There is no doubt that we are a materialistic society. I wonder whether this is particularly good. It seems to me that instead of providing tape recorders and television sets for students to relate to and videotape machines for their use we could better spend the money allocated in providing classrooms and additional teachers so that our students grow up relating to something human rather than relating to something with buttons, cogs and wheels- an inanimate object with which they cannot communicate. Therefore, I question the priorities that schools and States have in placing items on their lists of priorities. Too many people seem to see the possession of these items which are visible to the electorate as more important than providing people. I grant you, Mr President, that we can provide many more tape recorders and television sets for $10,000 than teachers and that the $18,000 it costs to provide one demac classroom in a school in South Australia would give benefit to only that one school. But it would not have nearly as much electorate appeal as providing tape recorders which would cost that same amount of money.
I therefore question most seriously the political pragmatism that is used in the spending of money. Whilst I agree that it is very necessary to keep educational standards high- and we will do this only if the Commonwealth justifiably provides money to be spent by the States- I do not agree that the way the money is being spent is necessarily in the best interests of the student. It may well be in the best interests of the State. It may well be in the best interests of the Commonwealth Government to provide this money. But I question very seriously whether it is helping to lift the general standard of education in a period when literacy and numeracy- skills involved in reading, writing and adding up- are being queried by such a large percentage of the population. It seems to me to be a little irrelevant to have tape recorders, rock gardens and television sets- things- in schools for students to relate to when we are not teaching them how to communicate with human beings. It is not possible to ask a tape recorder a question. It seems that we are not providing the teachers necessary to enable our students to ask them questions. Mr President, it seems that I must seek leave now to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement relating to export development initiatives which was made in another place by the Minister for Trade and Resources (Mr Anthony). Honourable senators will understand that the personal pronoun ‘ I ‘ relates to the Minister for Trade and Resources and not to me.
– I seek leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
The statement read as follows-
The Government has decided to undertake an enlarged export development program designed to encourage Australian firms to increase their export sales and more actively pursue export opportunities. A comprehensive review of facilities and incentives for exporters has just been completed and I am pleased to announce a number of major initiatives which the Government has decided upon in this area. These encompass a wide range of export development activities, including export incentives, export promotion programs for both the manufacturing and rural sectors, the Trade Commissioner Service, the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation, the Overseas Projects Corporation, the promotion of Australian consulting and construction contracting services overseas, and the export of Australian technology.
The allocation of increased resources to export development as part of a major government priority to enlarge Australia’s external trade was announced in the Governor-General’s address at the opening of Parliament. That major priority was set in the knowledge that a renewed emphasis on export development was essential to the Government’s program of restoring full economic health to the country since export growth is one of the keys to greater prosperity and the creation of more jobs. The measures adopted are in accordance with the Government’s long term industry policy which includes encouragement for the development of export oriented industries. As well as encouraging the long term development of more competitive industries, the revitalised program will assist in the short term in taking up the slack in the manufacturing sector and help alleviate adverse pressures on the balance of payments and reserves situation. In formulating the measures which I now announce, my colleague, the Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr Lynch) and I have had the benefit of consultations with the Trade Development Council, the Australian Manufacturing Council and other industry organisations. We have been fully informed on the problems which exporters are facing and the difficulties which must be overcome if industry is to maintain and improve its export performance.
The Government will introduce legislation shortly for a new and improved export incentives grants scheme in accordance with its policy announced before the election. In addition, a number of changes will be made to the present Export Market Development Grants scheme designed to increase its effectiveness. These amendments follow consideration by the Government of the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on export incentives, which made a number of specific recommendations for improvements to the present scheme. The Government has decided to accept all of the Commission ‘s recommendations.
The new export incentives grants scheme will provide for the payment of taxable cash grants. The grants will be calculated on a formula applied to the increase in exports in the grant year over the average annual exports in the three immediately preceding years. Provision will be made for varying the base period relating to particular sectors to take account of special situations. The formula will be cumulative and regressive. It will provide that increases in exports of up to $500,000 will attract a grant rate of 15c in the dollar, and that as increases in exports go beyond $500,000, the increases in the grants will be based on lower rates.
The formula is as follows: For increases up to $500,000 the grant rate will be 15c in the dollar, for increases from $500,000 to $5m the grant rate will be 10c in the dollar, for increases from $5m to $10m the grant rate will be 5c in the dollar and for increases in exports above $10m the grant rate will be 2.5c in the dollar. This scale of grant rates has been changed from that announced earlier as a result of discussions which the Government has had with its trade and industry advisory bodies.
The new scheme is to cover exports of manufactured goods, some bulk farm and agricultural products, services provided overseas, value added industrial services provided in Australia performed on imported goods subsequently exported, and the sale of industrial property rights and know-how that are of substantially Australian origin. The new scheme is designed to provide incentives to those export sectors that will be most responsive to such incentives and to distribute the funds available in an equitable manner as between small and large exporters. Specific exclusions are minerals, wool, wheat, sugar, livestock and meat sold to the United States of America and Canada under quota. The scheme will operate with effect from 1 July 1977, with the first grants being payable in 1978-79. Grants will thus be based on the increase in exports in 1977-78 over the average of the three years 1974-75, 1975-76 and 1976-77.
The changes to the present Export Market Development Grants scheme are designed to improve its operation and simplify administration. The main changes are:
A single rate of grant of 70 per cent of eligible expenditure for all claimants in place of the present dual rates.
Removal ofthe provision which limits grant payments to 10 per cent of eligible export earnings.
Removal of the limitation applying to groups of corporations.
Extension of the scheme to include value added services in Australia performed on goods subsequently exported, such as repair to overseas owned ships.
Provision will be made for the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to review decisions taken by the Export Development Grants Board in relation to claims under the scheme.
Amendments to the present EMDG scheme will take effect from 1 July 1978 and will be reflected in grants payable to firms in 1979-80. However, as the proposed elimination of the dual grant rate would affect the benefits currently available with respect to promotions sponsored by the Government, a period of grace will be given at the 85 per cent rate for those promotions which have already received government sponsorship and which take place, or are intended to take place, on or before 31 December 1978. 1 will be introducing legislation to give effect to these decisions as soon as possible. The two schemes will complement each other and will provide exporters with real incentives to expand their export activities.
In recognition of the importance of the travel and tourist industry as an earner of foreign exchange and its potential to increase employment opportunities, the Government has decided, in principle to extend the coverage of the EMDG scheme to this industry. Relevant departments have been asked to examine, as a matter of urgency, the legislative and administrative action required to implement this decision. As a means of giving immediate encouragement to exporters, the Government has decided to lift the $10,000 ceiling on initial grant payments. In future, all claimants will be paid their grant in full as soon as this has been determined by the Export Development Grants Board. In order to eliminate uncertainty and provide exporters with a firm basis for forward planning both schemes will run to 30 June 1982. Both schemes will be administered by the Export Development Grants Board. The cost of the new scheme is expected to be about $66m a year and when added to the cost of the EMDG scheme, estimated at $34m including the additional items I have already mentioned, the total cost of these incentives should amount to $ 100m.
As a further measure of assistance, the Department of Trade and Resources will be intensifying its export promotion activities. An enlarged program extending over a three year period will be undertaken in order to provide the essential support facilities to enable companies to take the fullest advantage of the improved incentive arrangements. In addition, a comprehensive export consciousness and publicity campaign will be undertaken within Australia to increase awareness amongst industries of the benefits to be obtained from developing exports and to familiarise them with the range of assistance available from the Department of Trade and Resources. As pan of the enlarged export promotion program, Australian trade displays and Australian participation in international trade fairs will be held with more frequency in traditional markets such as South East Asia. In other markets, which in recent years have assumed increasing importance, such as the Middle East, our marketing efforts will be intensified. Supporting trade publicity activities will be increased generally.
The program of trade missions to assist industry in identifying new market opportunities overseas will be expanded. A government-financed Wool Worsted Industry Survey Mission is currently visiting Japan, the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany to investigate market prospects for high quality men’s garments made in Australia from Australian wool worsted fabrics. The successful special group visits scheme under which Australian manufacturers are actively encouraged to visit the Japanese market to assess sales prospects for their products will be given greater emphasis. Consideration is being given to extending this scheme to other markets. An expanded program of specialised industry trade missions will be developed to assist the promotion of product groups which clearly have export potential.
The Government has taken the view that the current level of government funding for the promotion of rural products overseas through the Overseas Trade Publicity Committee should be maintained. This decision means that exporters of rural products can plan ahead with confidence and in the knowledge of a consistent level of government support. Additional funds are being provided specifically to help the beef industry in its overseas promotional efforts. This is clearly necessary given the critical situation currently facing the beef industry, where problems of inadequate access to overseas markets have been compounded in recent months by the effects of the prolonged drought. The beef promotion program wil include a series of missions to the newer markets for Australian beef, visits to Australia of relevant officials and businessmen from these countries, participation in appropriate trade displays and publicity activities. The overall aim of the Government in this expanded export promotion program is to undertake a balanced and realistic level of trade promotional activities which will maximise market opportunities throughout the world for Australian exports.
A vital element in the export development drive is the Trade Commissioner Service. In recent years Australia’s trade representation has been strengthened in the Middle East, Asia and the centrally planned economy countries. The Government has just completed a comprehensive review of the Trade Commissioner Service against the changing patterns of trade and trading prospects in individual markets. As a result, Australia’s trade representation in the Middle East, the United States, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific will be further strengthened to meet the needs of Australian exporters. Trade representation at a number of posts will be adjusted to take account of these developments. Also, resources available to the Trade Commissioner Service will be increased as part of the expanded export promotion activities proposed. I am sure that the strengthening of the Trade Commissioner Service will be particularly welcomed by Australian exporters. A very close working relationship has been built up over the years between exporters and the Trade Commissioner Service. Exporters have strongly supported the continued existence of the Trade Commissioner Service. The Government has taken a firm decision that the Trade Commissioners Act will be retained and existing arrangements governing the operations of the Trade Commissioner Service will be continued. These arrangements have worked well to the benefit of Australia and Australia’s export industries.
EFIC Finance Facility
The Industries Assistance Commission in its report on export incentives has recommended that the capital goods export finance facility of the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation should continue. The Government has accepted this recommendation. The Government has been pleased to note the important contribution made to the development of Australian exports of capital goods by this facility. Since its introduction, the facility has been used to support the winning of contracts valued at some $130m. Using funds obtained from the trading banks at commercial interest rates EFIC provides loans on internationally competitive terms in support of exports of machinery and capital equipment and related services. The margin between Australian and overseas interest rates has been in the vicinity of 2!6-3!£ per cent and without government support for capital goods exporters most of this business would have been lost to Australia. The interest rate subsidy is payable over the life of individual loans, which may extend up to 10-12 years and accordingly annual calls on the Budget are relatively small. In 1977-78 the cost of the subsidy will be only about $ lm.
As the subsidy involves a forward commitment of government funds control is exercised through a ‘subsidy commitment authority’ which sets an overall limit on the extent to which EFIC may commit the Government to pay subsidies in succeeding years. The Government intends to ensure that Australian exporters of capital goods and services, who are required to offer extended terms to win business against overseas competition, are not at a disadvantage when it comes to obtaining competitive export finance. Accordingly, the Government has decided to authorise an immediate increase in the subsidy commitment authority from $ 17.5 m to $30m to allow EFIC to continue to support strongly exporters seeking export orders where extended credit terms are an important competitive factor. The new level for the authority will be reviewed when $25m has been firmly committed.
There will be no effect on the Budget this financial year and the budgetary impact will be minimal in 1978-79. On the other hand the benefits in the form of increased employment flowing from contracts won with the aid of the EFIC finance facility will be experienced within a reasonably short time. Discussions with the trading banks will be held as soon as possible to ensure their continuing involvement in providing funds for this important facility.
The Government has decided to give greater active support to Australian exporters, contractors and consultants in their endeavours to participate in development projects overseas. As already announced, an Australian Overseas Projects Corporation is to be established to assist Australian industry to compete for large-scale development projects overseas. Australian firms frequently seek government assistance to compete against overseas interests that are receiving support from their governments for projects in the Middle East and other new markets. The Overseas Projects Corporation will be a small specialist organisation which will operate on a commercial basis at the request of industry. The Government will provide the Corporation with initial working capital of $2m. The Government has completed its discussions with industry organisations and I have presented a Bill proposing the establishment of the Australian Overseas Projects Corporation to the Parliament with a view to the Corporation commencing operations during 1978.
The Government has decided to amend the Export Finance and Insurance Corporation Act to allow EFIC to establish a performance guarantee facility to help overcome the problems
Australian firms have been facing in meeting the requirement for performance and other contractual guarantees on overseas consultancy and construction projects. The EFIC facility will be supplementary to those facilities already available from the private sector and firms will continue to make their initial approach to their bank or private insurer. EFIC will cover that percentage of a guarantee not covered by a bank or other financial institution and will operate the facility on a commercial basis. The Government has also decided to undertake more active promotion of Australian consulting services overseas by significantly increasing the size of the Consulting Services Feasibility Study Fund. The fund was established in 1973 to promote the export of Australian consulting services by the provision of funds for feasibility studies and has been instrumental in gaining significant contracts for Australian consultants.
The Government recognises the potential contribution which can be made to export earnings through the sale overseas of Australian technology, expertise and know-how. International trade in technology is a major growth industry. With world trade in technology estimated to be growing at some four times the rate of international commodity trade, the Government believes there is considerable scope for Australian technology to be marketed profitably abroad. For example, Australia currently earns about $10m a year from the sale overseas of copyrights and royalties. At the same time we pay out about $70m. It is difficult to accept that the relatively low level of Australia’s earnings in this trade is a true reflection of the export marketability of Australian technology. It seems more than likely that much of the technology developed in Australia has not been fully exploited on overseas markets, or indeed, that a great deal of it has probably not even been considered as a marketable product.
The Government therefore will be more actively working with Australian firms and organisations to assist them in gaining a greater share of the increasing international trade in technology. Our initiatives will include a continuing program of seminars to create a greater awareness in Australia of the opportunities for technology export and the best means of marketing technology abroad. Through my Department, the Government will also sponsor participation in international technology fairs and arrange for investment and technology missions to visit and to assess overseas markets. Promotional expenditure incurred by technology exporters will, of course, be encompassed by the expanded export incentives scheme.
I believe that these wide ranging initiatives by the Government in the export field give an indication in the very clearest terms of the Government’s strong and continuing commitment to assist Australian exporters. Let me say, though, that whilst these initiatives, especially those in respect of export incentives, will entail increased expenditure by the Government, this should in no way be interpreted as any relaxation by the Government in its fight against inflation. We have been successful in reducing the annual rate of inflation to less than 10 per cent. We intend to continue with our policy of budgetary restraint and to lower this rate still further. The measures I have announced will provide a stimulus to the economy. It is now up to exporters, particularly in manufacturing industry, to accept the challenge offered by the government, make full use of the facilities and incentives being offered, and gear themselves for a period of renewed export development. It is only in this mannergovernment and industry in partnership- that Australia’s economic recovery can be accelerated and in this regard the Government has given a strong commitment to a major export thrust to facilitate meeting this objective as quickly as possible.
– I move:
- Mr President, I have not had time to study this statement. It is fairly lengthy. I assume that the Government will afford the Senate an opportunity to debate it. Obviously, the subject matter of the statement is very important. I trust that when the Senate resumes we will have an opportunity to debate it. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
-I present the second report of the Publications Committee.
Report- by leave- adopted.
-Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement relating to consideration by the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs of the reference concerning the provisions of legislation empowering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to live on reserves in Queensland and to manage and control their own affairs.
-As Chairman of the Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, I wish to acquaint the Senate and all interested parties with the course of action which the Committee proposes to take in relation to its newly acquired reference on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders legislation. Honourable senators will recall the debate in this chamber on Tuesday of this week when this legislation was referred to this Committee following passage of the legislation by this chamber last Friday. Although the action of the Queensland Government in effectively abolishing the reserves at Aurukun and Mornington Island has had considerable impact on the effectiveness of the Commonwealth legislation, a number of cogent reasons were advanced for nevertheless referring it to the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee.
Since that time there has been the announcement of the agreement between the Commonwealth and Queensland Governments which provides specifically for the control of Aurukun and Mornington Island. The Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee met yesterday to discuss its role in the light of these developments. On behalf of the Committee I then wrote to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner). Having mentioned the reference of this matter to the Committee on 1 1 April 1978 and recited our terms of reference I wrote in the following terms:
In the light of the Agreement of the same date entered into between the Commonwealth and the Queensland Governments, is it the intention of your Government to leave the legislation passed by both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament on 5 and 7 April 1978 respectively in its present form or, alternatively, is it your Government’s intention to regard the legislation as being of no further effect?
By letter of 12 April, the Minister advised as follows:
Thank you for your letter of 12 April. Yes, it is the intention of the Government to leave the self-management legislation for Aboriginals in its present form.
Thus, any community may seek a declaration from me in order that the legislation shall apply to it.
Accordingly, the Committee regards the reference as being of continuing relevance. The Committee will need to examine the effect of removing the area of immediate concern from the ambit of the Act. In dealing with this complex reference the Committee accepts that its primary concern is the constitutional and legal aspects of this matter rather than the difficult questions of social policy which arise in this area. The Committee proposes to advertise without delay and will directly draw the Committee’s reference to the attention of Aboriginal organisations, Queensland and other State governments, the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly, the Uniting Church and other concerned organisations. I propose to keep the Senate regularly informed of the Committee’s activities on this reference.
– by leave- Honourable senators will be aware that over the years the Senate has usually sat for three days each week, three weeks of each month with a week up to work in our electorates. This arrangement has been quite satisfactory for some honourable senators but has not necessarily been suitable for all members of the Parliament. You will remember, Mr President, that about 1 8 months ago I expressed some concern in this place about the strain that was being imposed on members of the Parliament, particularly members ofthe Ministry, by the pattern of sittings and by the stress to which they were exposed. I believe I spoke soon after the unfortunate death of Senator Greenwood. Since that time, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has had a committee from his own party looking at questions of the procedures of the Parliament and the sittings of the Parliament to try to provide some ideas which might be discussed in relation to sittings and other matters and which might provide for a more reasonable way of living and a more reasonable way of proceeding for honourable senators, bearing in mind the stresses to which they are subjected.
The sitting pattern which was introduced recently, which is a departure from what we have been used to, has been designed around the needs of parliamentarians. Specifically, it has been designed around the need to try to reduce, as far as possible, some of the travelling dme of honourable senators from outlying States, particularly those from Western Australia. They have had, as the Senate will know, a particularly irksome amount of travelling over the years. They spend anything up to 10 hours a week in the air. If they have been trying to leave Canberra and return to Canberra on the same weekend and also trying to cany out a full weekend of electorate duties, the strains to which they have been subjected have been unreasonable. The pattern of sittings which has been provided allows for two weeks each month in Canberra and for two weeks away from Canberra. The two weeks in Canberra are designed to provide both the Friday and Monday as sitting days, with the result that honourable senators can then spend the weekend in Canberra to recuperate, as it were. We have had only one such sitting period, although more sitting periods are planned for the remainder of this session.
The reason I rise is to draw attention to a number of rumours which are being circulated that the Government is in some way considering an early abandonment of the times of sitting we initiated. After all, they were initiated on a trial basis. If we can create a situation in which senators from Western Australia can stay in Canberra one weekend a month and then be free to go home for a fortnight we believe it will be to their advantage. I am not aware of any reason why rumours should be going around that we intend to abandon the particular sitting program which we introduced on a trial basis. I do not know how the rumours began, but it was announced in the House of Representatives today that that chamber will be sitting in May in accordance with a program which, I believe, continues to run the experimental program to which I have drawn attention. The House of Representatives will sit on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of the first week, and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the following week. This does not mean, of course, that that pattern of sittings will necessarily have to be continued. In concluding my remarks, I add that we have indicated at this end that the present arrangements will continue for the Senate for the present time. We have sought the views of all senators about the best method to adopt for the sittings in the period that follows.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The Senate stands adjourned until Tuesday, 2 May 1978, at half past 2 p.m., unless sooner called together in accordance with the resolution agreed to this day.
Senate adjourned at 4.30 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 22 February 1978:
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
The Aboriginal Community Centre was asked to take appropriate action where the evidence indicated that a misuse of funds had occurred. Following legal advice the Centre took steps to recover mis-spent funds from the persons responsible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 2 March 1978:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The new block (Stage II) at the Austin Hospital will contain-
192 general beds and 26 special beds, with shell space for the addition of 96 beds when needed; and
2 special theatres and 6 general theatres, with shell space for the addition of 6 theatres when needed.
Commonwealth funds are indirectly involved in the project. Financial assistance under the Hospitals Development Program is in the form of a block grant to the State ‘s program of hospital capital works as a whole, rather than by way of grants for individual projects. The hospital capital works program for each State is jointly approved by the Commonwealth and the State, but final responsibility for managing total funds both Commonwealth and State, and for the timing of work on approved projects, rests with the State. Grants allocated to Victoria since the commencement of the Hospitals Development Program are as follows:
The new block at the Austin has been included in the jointly approved Victorian program of works for which Hospitals Development Program block grants are provided. (3)I understand the Hospitals and Charities Commission approved the brief for Stage I in September 1966 and at the same time gave tacit approval for the preparation of the brief for the current project (Stage II).
I further understand that Yuncken Freeman Architects Pty Ltd, prepared the brief for the current stage, and it was subsequently submitted to the Hospitals and Charities Commission for approval in May /June 197 1.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, upon notice, on 16 March 1978:
Did the Queensland Premier or any representative of the Queensland Government advise the Australian Government Minister for Aboriginal Affairs or the Prime Minister that the Queensland Government proposed to take over the Aboriginal Communities at Aurukun or Mornington Island; if so, on what date was the advice conveyed to the Australian Government or a representative of that Government.
– The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 April 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780413_senate_31_s76/>.