31st Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Condor Laucke) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
– It is with deep regret that I inform the Senate of the death yesterday of the Honourable Sir Denham Henty. Sir Denham Henty was a senator for Tasmania from 1950 to 1968. From 1956 until 1968 he was a Minister, in turn holding the portfolios of Minister for Customs and Excise from 1956 to 1964, Minister for Civil Aviation from 1964 to 1 966 and Minister for Supply from 1 966 to 1 968. During 1966 and 1967 Senator Henty was Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Before his election to the Senate, Denham Henty had had a long and distinguished career in local government, having been a Launceston alderman from 1943 and subsequently mayor of that city in 1948 and 1949. Thus, on his election to the Senate in 1949, Senator Henty was well equipped to represent his State. He bore the name of one of our great pioneering families and, as a Minister, played a significant and continuing role in the economic development of this nation.
Sir Denham Henty ‘s death is a matter of particular sadness for the Senate. The work he did after he retired as Leader of the Government in this place in formulating references to committees will be ever remembered as a great contribution to the Senate committee system. As a result of his endeavours, the Senate established the select committees on air pollution and water pollution, two of the most significant developments in the history of the Senate committee system. From that initiative ultimately grew the system of select committees. Ultimately we saw the flowering of the legislative and standing committees which have served the Senate so well.
Senator Henty was a man well liked on all sides of the Parliament. He was highly respected by all senators and members. He always enjoyed great popularity. Many of us who were members of the Parliament at the time will recall the kindliness and ready friendship which he offered to all people with whom he came in contact. To Lady Henty and the family of the late Sir Denham we extend our deepest sympathy. I move:
– I rise to support the motion of condolence moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers). Senator Henty, as the Minister has indicated, had a long and distinguished career in this Parliament. 1 met him once but I did not know him really in any personal sense. I recall that when I came to this place immediately after his retirement his name was held in high regard in parliamentary circles. He was a very good representative of his State in this Parliament. I suppose, as a Tasmanian, that every time one thinks of Denham Henty one thinks of the Launceston Airport terminal. I am sure that neither he nor his family would mind my recalling the fact that in Launceston there is a very fine airport terminal for which the people of Launceston can thank, I think in a very large degree, the efforts of Denham Henty. Despite some criticisms that might have been made at the time, I have always enjoyed the facilities at the Launceston airport terminal, and perhaps if it had not been for his endeavours the facilities might have been similar to those at the Canberra Airport. I support the motion and I am sure that we all share the sentiments that have been expressed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. On behalf of the Opposition I would like to convey its sympathy to the relatives of the late Denham Henty.
-As a long time colleague of the former Senator Henty, I take the opportunity of joining in the motion that has been moved by my Leader expressing deep regret at his sudden death. I recall that the former Senator Henty was a member of the original committee that founded the Liberal Party of Australia in Tasmania in 1945. He, with our colleagues, most energetically applied himself to the spadework of building the organisation and to his endeavours, particularly in northern Tasmania including the north-east and the northwest, great credit goes for the success and soundness of the foundation of the Party in that area. Right through his long parliamentary life he never ceased to involve himself in the organisational work of the Party which he did with great distinction and acceptance by Liberal Party members.
He was at all times a great advocate, a purposeful advocate and an effective advocate for the interests that he discerned as being worthy of Tasmania’s advancement, particularly that of northern Tasmania. He was the type of person who was not a theorist and was not merely a spokesman, but a man of practical insight who saw how causes can be effectuated in politics. I believe that was his real talent. Quite properly it was a tribute to his attitudes to Parliament and to his efforts that he was appointed to the Ministry early in this career, an appointment which was supposed to have caused some rivalry between him and me. Naturally there was always the consciousness of mutal co-operation with regard to the matter.
I always take pleasure in recalling that the first Bill that he introduced into this Senate was, if my recollection stands me in good stead- I have not had the opportunity to consult any record- a Bill to license customs agents. I do not know its correct title, but he introduced that Bill into the Senate as his first legislative measure. It provided for the establishment of a board for licensing and an appeal to a single judge. I took the occasion at the outset of my speech on that legislation to say what a model measure it was from the point of view of establishing a proper opportunity for consideration of original applications and a proper, but not too elaborate, appeal system. I recall with the utmost appreciation the work which Sir Denham did in all the distinguished ministries he held. He applied himself with unremitting attention but had that faculty of combining with his work a happy attitude which attracted co-operation from colleagues, and an ability to induce persuasion in the Opposition.
The erection of the Launceston Airport has been referred to. It will stand as a worthy monument to Sir Denham Henty. It is the loveliest airport in Australia, sited with a perspective where one can see in the distance the lovely mountains of Ben Lomond across the rolling pastures glistening there in the greenness of Tasmania. It was established at a time when costs seemed to be a little high but, compared with costs today, it shows the shortsightedness of those people who will not build as the opportunity arises and the work is available. To build that airport today would cost five times its original cost. I mention that because there was an atmosphere of misunderstanding when reference was made to the airport. It is the doorway to Tasmania from the point of view of our terrific volume of air traffic. More lovely still are the flowers which adorn the airport, both in the front and in the surrounds, which were the personal selection of Faith
Henty. They stand as a tribute to her artistry, which is personified in that garden.
I need say no more. I speak because we as a country, this Parliament in particular, and in special degree this Senate, owe to Sir Denham a real debt. I therefore wish to be associated with the expressions of sympathy which have been made to Lady Henty and the family on this rather sad occasion.
-It was with very deep regret that I learned yesterday of the passing of Sir Denham Henty, with whom I served in this Parliament for a period of almost 25 years. I had known ex-Senator Henty even before his election to the , Parliament- during the time in which he was the Mayor of the City of Launceston, the city in which I was born. We lived close to each other in the same suburb, and our lives ran a very similar course despite the fact that we were ideologically opposed politically. During all my experience of Sir Denham I found him to be a man of great courage and a man of very high principle. As the Mayor of Launceston, he supported the city and helped to promote its development. I recall his time in the Senate as the Minister for Civil Aviation when he made his mark in such a noticeable way by being responsible for the erection of the Launceston airport terminal. In many other ways also he carried out his duties in that portfolio with distinction.
He was Leader of the Government in the Senate. During the period that he served in that capacity the support and loyalty that he was able to obtain from his colleagues was quite noticeable. He retired, I think wisely, and had a period of quiet and rest, although I saw him often moving about the city of Launceston. Every time I met him he greeted me as though I was a very close friend. I respected him very much indeed. I am certain that the years he had in retirement were a great comfort to his wife, Lady Faith, and his family. I would like to be associated with this condolence motion and offer my very deepest sympathy to Sir Denham ‘s widow and family in the great loss that they have sustained.
– I would like to be associated with this motion of condolence. I am of a different generation from Sir Denham ‘s, but it was he who was my first real connection with the political world of northern Tasmania. I would be safe in saying that he as much as anybody influenced my involvement in the world of politics at a fairly early age. He received great respect from me and I think from all Tasmanians of every political persuasion. He was a real public man. He was a great mixer and was able to participate wherever this was required. Most of all, as Senator Wright said, he was very much the practical man. He was never one for going into a lot of fiddling about when there was a job to be done. He had the gift of clear vision. As we all know this in itself is not enough. He had a clear vision to which he was able to apply a very strong persuasion and a great deal of hard work. He believed in politics and the place of politics in democracy. He encouraged people to become involved. He would always go to a meeting which required political intervention and when he thought he could get other people to become involved. I know that he will be greatly missed by all Tasmanians.
-I want to add a few words to those that have been said already in respect of this motion of condolence. Sir Denham Henty was a senior Minister when I first came to this place. He was a very easy bloke to get on with. In fact, in the many upheavals in which I have been involved in this chamber, he was probably the only senior Minister who was never responsible for removing me from this chamber. He was a very tolerant man who would rather argue out a matter with you on the floor of the Senate. I recall that on one occasion when the first Navy patrol boats were to be built in this country, I approached him and suggested that some of the boats ought to be built in Queensland. He agreed to this in a very formal sort of way. On one occasion he went to Queensland to find out how the construction plans were proceeding. There had been some delays. He said to me across the chamber that it was a pity he had so many boats built in Queensland because of the slowness of the State and the construction program. I do not think he was referring to the State Government at the time.
On one occasion when he went to Queensland, his VIP aircraft- it was one of the old Viscountsbroke down at Brisbane Airport. He again said in a jocular sort of way when he came back that there were two discoveries he had made: He had spent so many hours at Brisbane Airport that he realised the city needed a new airport. Also, he said that it was time the Government got rid of the Viscount aircraft from the VIP fleet. That happened shortly afterwards. He was a friendly man after he left the Parliament. Politics never seemed to intrude into his thinking. I have satisfaction in joining in the wishes of sympathy to his surviving relatives.
– I too would like to be associated with the sentiments expressed in this chamber. I took Sir Denham Henty ‘s place in this Chamber. I had a close association with him both prior and subsequent to that. In my maiden speech I made a reference to Sir Denham. I said something which I think can be aptly repeated today. I referred to his role in the development of the committee system and in particular to his foresight in relation to the creation of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. I said:
It may well be that the future generations will pay homage to the foresight of that man. I believe that not only did Sir Denham play an active and important part in the development of this nation during his term in this House, but that it may well be we shall all realise that his greatest contribution came in the select committee system which he, more than anyone else, encouraged and nurtured.
I do not wish to repeat what has been said by others. I simply add my support to the motion.
-I wish to be associated briefly with the tributes that have been paid to Sir Denham Henty. I take up the point which has just been made by Senator Rae about the Senate select committee system. When Sir Denham was Leader of the Government in the Senate he visited the United States of America and he became aware of a number of very serious problems, one relating to air pollution and one to water pollution. I understand that on his return he worked particularly hard for the establishment of the air pollution and water pollution select committees. Mr President, you will recall that he entrusted the chairmanship of one of those committees to yourself and the other one to me. As a result of that the Senate committee system as we now know it was very firmly established in the life of the Parliament. The practice of committees has of course been a feature of Parliament over the years, but in these latter times the committee system, as we now know it, owes a great deal to Sir Denham Henty. He was a great encourager and he provided opportunities for honourable senators to fulfil themselves in their political and public life. We remember those opportunities gratefully. I join in the expressions of sympathy to Lady Henty.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honourable senators standing in their places.
– I seek leave to make a short statement on the death of Mr Aldo Moro, former Prime Minister of Italy.
– In a tragic and senseless act of barbarism Mr Moro was murdered by terrorists. Italy has been deprived of one of its greatest political leaders. In recent times he has done a great deal to seek, through democratic processes, to build a consensus which is fundamental to the maintenance of democracy. This is perhaps the most serious of the attacks on the very foundations of democracy which we have yet experienced. I am sure all honourable senators will join me in extending to the Government and people of Italy, and to the family of the late Aldo Moro, our profound sympathy. Mr President, the plague of terrorism has claimed another victim. In the face of such a tragic and barbaric incident, we can all resolve again that democracy can be protected and will finally prevail only by a firm defence against such terrorism.
– by leave- I support the remarks of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Withers. This is one of those occasions when it is difficult to know what to say. One wonders just what motivates people to take this sort of action. This is indeed a tragic event. I am sure all of us realise that, quite apart from the loss of a particular life, what has been done and the way it has been done is not only a tragedy but a warning to everybody. I concur fully with the remarks of Senator Withers.
– I present the following petition from 294 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned respectfully showeth:
That Item 6469 of the standard Medical Benefits Table is the means by which payment is made for the slaughter of thousands of unborn babies every year.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should ensure that Item 6469 is removed from the standard Medical Benefits Table.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
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:
That Item 6469 of the standard Medical Benefits Table is the means by which payment is made for the slaughter of thousands of unborn babies every year.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government should ensure that Item 6469 is removed from the standard Medical Benefits Table.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Button, Senator Jessop and Senator Tehan.
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs. Has the Prime Minister recently telexed all the State Premiers seeking their comments on the Income Tax (Arrangements with the States) Bill which was introduced into the Parliament last year? The Bill gives the States the option to introduce an income tax. Has the Prime Minister received any replies from the Premiers and, if so, will the Minister indicate the contents of those replies? Will the Minister also indicate whether that legislation will be reintroduced into the Parliament before it rises?
– As to the last part of the question, I think that the Bill has either been introduced or is about to be introduced in the other place, but I would need to check that. As to the Bill itself, Senator Wriedt has correctly reminded the Senate that the matter was floated in legislative form prior to the last general election and it is my recollection that it was then circulated to the States. The Bill to which the honourable senator referred relates to Stage 2 of federalism, which allows the States either to decide upon a rebate- that is, by positive action to create an incentive for their States to attract more persons and more business- or to impose a surcharge. It ought to be recalled that the Bill does not require the States to do anything. They need do nothing; they need never seek to apply a rebate or to impose a surcharge. Initiative with regard to taxation, whether it is direct or indirect, has always been with the States, except under the squeeze imposed by the Whitlam Government. I am unaware of what the response has been from the States. I will direct the question to the Prime
Minister and see whether I can get an answer in a form that I can give to Senator Wriedt.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. My attention has been directed to an article which appears in today’s issue of the Australian Financial Review and which is entitled: ‘Surprise US vote alters Austn beef outlook ‘. If I may, I read briefly from the article:
The Senate has voted for a law which, had it been in effect over the past 10 years, would have reduced beef imports by 26 per cent, according to one US Government study.
Half of US beef imports come from Australia.
Further on the article states:
The legislation was sponsored by Senator Lloyd Bentsen, a Democrat from Texas- where the cattle industry is almost a religion.
It would change the law that has controlled US meat imports since 1 964.
In view of the importance of the United States beef market to Australia, will the Minister check on the accuracy of this article? If the article is correct, will the Minister draw this matter to the attention of the Hon. Vic. Garland, the Minister for Special Trade Representations?
-I have not seen the report to which the honourable senator refers. I take it that so far the legislation has passed only the United States Senate. There is no indication as to whether it has also passed the United States House of Representatives. I take it that there is no indication of whether the United States President will exercise his veto. So, even if it has passed the United States Senate, it may still have two hurdles to go. The honourable senator raises a matter of particular importance to a very important industry in Australia. I shall seek the information that he desires as early as I can.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Administrative Services in his capacity as Minister representing both the Minister for Defence and the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to questions that I asked him on Monday and on Tuesday regarding the establishment of a defence communications satellite ground station at North- West Cape. I remind the Minister that his answer on Monday was that he did not know and his answer on Tuesday was that I should not get excited. He said further on Tuesday that it was a facility similar to the one which operated there before and that it has now been reactivated. I now ask the Minister: Is that correct? Is it not a completely new facility? Is the facility related to naval communications? Is it covered by the Pine Gap agreement?
-As the honourable senator knows, I admitted quite openly and frankly on Tuesday that I thought the information which I had given on Monday was not correct. That is one of the problems associated with representing in this place Ministers from the other place. I have no knowledge of the matters which the honourable senator has raised. I will attempt to obtain the information for him before the end of Question Time.
– I direct to the Minister representing the Treasurer a question concerned with the interest rate being charged by banks on Bankcard. Can the Minister say whether banks in Australia have acted in concert in striking an interest rate of 1 8 per cent for Bankcard? Is the 18 per cent interest rate subject to an interim authorisation under the Trade Practices Act? If so, when will the matter be dealt with by the Trade Practices Commission? Has the Government considered that Bankcard is being used as a device to enable banks to lend money at exorbitant finance company rates instead of at overdraft rates? Do Bankcard accounts express the interest charges at a rate per month and not per annum? Is this practice not a rip-off of people who are persuaded by extensive advertising programs to use this system instead of paying by cash or by cheque and who formerly have had confidence in their banks and may not now appreciate the very high rate of interest being charged? I ask: Firstly, will the Minister take some steps to encourage a more competitive approach to Bankcard interest rates so that banks might follow the downward trend of other interest rates? Secondly, will the Minister expedite a hearing of the matter by the Trade Practices Commission? Finally, will the Minister require banks to disclose the annual rate of interest on all Bankcard accounts?
– According to my score of numeracy and literacy- certainly numeracythere are nine parts to that question. However, I am subject to challenge on that calculation. Incidentally, I have no personal knowledge of the matters raised by Senator Lewis because I do not avail myself of a Bankcard. I could respond to certain parts of the question but some of them require detailed information and some of them are related to policy matters. It seems to me therefore that the best thing for me to do is to request Senator Lewis to put the question on notice so that I can get a full answer to each of the nine parts of his question.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, concerns the purchase of Boeing 727 aircraft for No. 34 Squadron. Is it correct that the Minister for Defence stated last Thursday that the aircraft proposed to be purchased for No. 34 Squadron would have spare parts and service supplied by the domestic commercial carriers? Is it also correct that the Royal Australian Air Force requires that any aircraft owned and operated by it must use spare parts held by the RAAF and that servicing must be carried out by Service personnel? Which is the correct position? What is the estimated cost of each aircraft if the RAAF is to undertake the complete provision of spare parts and service?
-I am unaware of what the Minister for Defence said but, as I understand it, one of the reasons for purchasing the Boeing 727 aircraft was that they would be able to be linked in to the whole of the domestic system which uses the same type of aircraft. As to whether there is some regulation which forbids the Royal Australian Air Force from doing such a thing, I am totally unaware. I will seek that information from the Minister for Defence, and I will also seek for the honourable senator information as to the estimate of cost.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Resources. I refer to the recently announced government statement in regard to the new export development scheme which has been widely accepted by the business community. Is the Minister aware of the difficulties which small businessmen engaged in the export trade are having in servicing orders sent from overseas which are delayed in Australia because of strikes and other deficiencies occurring in the handling of mail? I cite an example of one businessman who lost a contract with a German firm because a letter posted there on 3 January did not reach Australia until 23 April. Does the Minister recognise that small businessmen do not have the same access as larger firms have to sophisticated communications equipment and that their reliance on mails seriously undermines their efforts to develop export markets? Will the Minister consider, as an adjunct to the export development scheme, implementing a scheme of assistance to such businesses for the establishment of more effective communications systems with overseas countries?
– The honourable senator has put forward a very interesting suggestion. I do not know whether he has in mind a system which would assist individual businessmen directly or whether he has in mind that there ought to be some common service into which they can link. If the honourable senator could provide me with further details of any proposed scheme he may have in mind I will pass the details on to my colleague who, I am quite certain, would be interested in such a scheme.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications been drawn to a statement in the Courier-Mail of 9 May by Dr R. Goodman, the President of the Queensland Council for Children’s Films and Television that television stations had provided ‘barren’ programs for children in the May school holidays? Is the Minister aware of whether Dr Goodman’s comments apply equally to the Australian Broadcasting Commission as to the commercial stations in Queensland? Will the Minister convey Dr Goodman’s comments to an appropriate body to determine whether it is possible to have better television programming on the ABC and commercial stations in subsequent school vacations?
– I have not seen Dr Goodman’s comments in the Courier-Mail of 9 May. I will seek them out and read them. I will also draw the attention of my colleague in another place to them. I am not aware of how the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s programs for children compare with those of the commercial channels. I am aware that virtually over the lifetime of television in Australia parents have expressed concern at what they regard as both the poor quality and the paucity of children ‘s programs in Australia. My recollection is that the Senate Standing Committee on Education and the Arts has, or had, as a reference, children’s television. I am not able to check that. However, Senator Ryan has just been kind enough to indicate that that is so. I regard this as a very important reference. I say this merely to indicate to Senator Colston that it is one other means of ensuring that some action will be taken. From an educational point of view I regard the provision of suitable children’s programs as a very important matter, although I must say that I feel personally that television, because it sees more than it hears, is not necessarily a good, rational educator. It tends to be emotional rather than rational and is, therefore, very limited. There is also the fact that because we are subject to such a limited number of channels, until we can get coaxial cables and optical fibres we are limited in our choice. Nevertheless, I must say that the programs have tended to be poor and have detracted from the real source of education, that is, reading, in order to learn abstract concepts. I will convey the honourable senator’s comments to my colleague in another place.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware that the annual report of the Australia-Japan Foundation, which was tabled in the Senate yesterday, did not contain a report by the AuditorGeneral on the financial statements of the Foundation? Does the Australia-Japan Foundation Act require the annual report and financial statements to be accompanied by a report of the Auditor-General when presented to the Parliament? If so, will this report have to be reprinted and represented to the Parliament? If that happens, what will be the likely additional costs incurred by the failure in the first place to comply with the Act?
-There are always problems in tabling reports. I do not know whether or not the Act requires the Auditor-General’s certificate to be tabled. The honourable senator says that it does. I once used that in this place as an excuse for reports being late in tabling. I said that in many statutory authorities there was a statutory requirement for the certificate of the AuditorGeneral to be presented with the report and that, if the Auditor-General ran late in issuing that certificate, the statutory authority had no control over when the report would be tabled. I well recall that an honourable senator who sits behind me said that that was a piece of nonsense and asked why the report could not be tabled earlier. Perhaps the executive authority of the Australia-Japan Foundation has been reading the remarks of some of my colleagues and felt that it was more important to present a report on its activities than to obtain the certificate of the Auditor-General.
– You do not condone that sort of breach of the Act?
-I realise that but perhaps it is an interim report. As I understand it, I am calling on memory, there was a financial statement at the end of the report. I looked at it but it did not mean much to me. Evidently there was no Auditor-General ‘s certificate attached to it. I take it that the burden of the honourable senator’s complaint is that the certificate is required. The honourable senator has referred me to section 25 of the Act which states that the report and financial statements of the Foundation shall be furnished, together with the report of the Auditor-General, and is to be laid before the House within 15 sitting days. It is not for me to give interpretations and I do not know whether ‘together’ means actually in the same document or that the certificate of the AuditorGeneral is to be provided within 15 sitting days. That is a matter for my colleague the AttorneyGeneral, not to advise the Senate, which would be contrary to Standing Orders, but to advise the Auditor-General. I take note of the honourable senator’s comments. I will refer them to my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs and ask him to take them up with the relevant authorities.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory. Can the Minister inquire into the circumstances in which the supporters club of the Canberra City Soccer Club was given a food concession at the Bruce stadium? Was that concession taken from the club and does the new operator of the concession, backed up by the Department, still expect the supporters club to do all the cleaning up jobs although he is the one who is making substantial profits?
-My attention was directed to this matter by an article I read in a magazine recently. It may have been a soccer news magazine. The controller of the ground set out some of the problems as he saw them. I think clubs had a concession to sell sweets but they were required by the Department of the Capital Territory to clean up. The requirement extended to washing the seats used by the 6,000 people who sometimes attended. Concern was expressed that a concession had been given to a private operator. The complaint was that the new types of sweets and icecream containers were creating quite a problem. The honourable senator’s question is very appropriate. The concession should have been granted to the private operator on a basis similar to that which previously existed. I hope that the club was not disadvantaged in any way because originally it was required to clean up the ground. I believe clubs cleaned up by using much voluntary labour. A similar basis should be required of any other operator. I am unaware of the basic facts of the matter. I shall seek information from the Minister for the Capital Territory.
-My question to the Minister for Science is prompted by the continuing need for information for the significant minority of Australians who still smoke.
– They are dying off.
-We have some smokers here. What testing programs are undertaken by the Government to provide information likely to allow consumers to make discriminating decisions on the matter of smoking?
-This matter is mainly within the hands of the Minister for Health. I think the Department of Health requires the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories, which is one of my areas of responsibility, to carry out tests on various cigarettes to ascertain the nicotine and tar content. From time to time statements have been made by the Government indicating the tar and nicotine contents of various cigarettes. I recall that recently Dr Nigel Gray wrote to me asking whether there was a continuing program. I think he wrote on behalf of the Australian Cancer Society. The Australian Government Analytical Laboratories in Melbourne have a smoking machine. I know that in the past AGAL has carried out important tests to ascertain the levels of tar and nicotine.
My recollection is that in recent months the Department has sent to the Minister for Health the results of tests on 99 different Australian brands of cigarettes. The information is with the Department of Health at present. In the forward program onward testing will look at overseas brands of cigarettes and in particular at cigarettes from Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. Between now and the end of this calendar year that work will be carried out by AGAL. My recollection is also that the Department of Health has asked whether my Department will conduct tests to ascertain the level of carbon monoxide gas that may be emitted from cigarette smoking. Apparently this has an effect on health. I do not know whether the study is being carried out by AGAL. Apparently the tests relate to an important decision on whether smoking affects health.
– I address to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence a question relating to coastal surveillance and defence operational capability in northern Australia. The Minister will recall that in a recent response the Minister for Defence expressed the opinion that the needs for surveillance were changing and that the Government had agreed that they should be reassessed and consequently had set up a committee consisting of the heads of the relevant departments. Can the Minister report on whether the committee has finalised its recommendations to the Government and, if so, when the Parliament may be informed of those recommendations and what is proposed in connection with this task? If that information is not available, will the Minister make a statement before the parliamentary winter recess?
-I cannot recall with any accuracy whether the report of the Permanent Heads has been received. I will attempt to get the information today for the honourable senator. I will ask my colleague in the other place whether he would be prepared, if the report has come to hand, to put down a statement on this matter.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware that difficulties are being experienced in extraditing Australian citizens who go to Israel and apply for and are granted Israeli citizenship? I understand that two persons who have been widely mentioned in the media over recent weeks have taken up Israeli nationality under Israel’s sacred and virtually automatic law of return. They are Melbourne lawyer Morris Glickman and Igal Makler who was managing director of VIP Insurance, a company at present in serious financial difficulties. Is it a fact that such a grant of Israeli citizenship places the applicant beyond the terms of the extradition treaty? If so, can the Minister say whether any steps can be taken to rectify the position?
-My colleague in the other place advises me that he is aware of Press reports concerning the possibility of extradition from Israel of two businessmen who are reported to have travelled recently from Australia to Israel. An extradition treaty between Australia and Israel has been in force since 3 January 1976. Article 8 of that treaty provides that either party may refuse to extradite a national of that party. This discretionary provision accords with international extradition practice which does not recognise any strict obligation on countries to extradite their own nationals. I understand that an Israeli law which is due to enter into force next month will prevent the extradition of Israeli nationals. The Australian authorities have maintained, and are continuing to maintain, close contact with Israeli authorities in these matters and our understanding is that the Israeli law has been framed so as to avoid Israel ‘s becoming a haven for criminals. Questions on Israeli law are matters on which my colleague the AttorneyGeneral can advise.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Social Security, refers to persons charged with alleged conspiracy in New South Wales who apply for special benefits on the ground of hardship. Is it a fact that the Department is requiring such people to produce records of interview with the police before such cases are considered? If those people refuse to produce such records of interview, is it a fact that the cases will not be considered? Is there not a danger that the Department may be seen to be judging evidence which more rightly should be judged in the courts?
– This is the first time that a matter of this nature has been brought to my attention. I will have it investigated immediately and I will see whether I can have some information by the end of Question Time.
-Has the Minister representing the Treasurer noted the death-bed conversion of the Labor Party to the concept of foreign investment, as evidenced by the reported statements in New York of a leading Labor spokeman, Premier Dunstan? Has the Minister also noted the absence of such pejorative expressions as ‘multinational giants’ and ‘capitalist exploiters’ from the Premier’s current vocabulary and the positively ‘tickle my tummy’ approach that he is adopting at the Waldorf Astoria? Now that the Australian Labor Party seems to be getting over the phobias of its recent past, will the Minister do what he can to speed up the current review of the operations of the Foreign Investment Review Board with a view to doing away with some of the pettifogging bureaucratic procedures which at present bedevil and hinder foreign investment in this country?
-I am aware of the phenomenon of conversion. In the past Mr Dunstan has been a fervent federalist and can cite scripture for his purpose, as Shakespeare would say. I am aware of signs of conversion; I am aware that overseas investment is being sought. I commend this as a good thing when done by any member of the Australian public. I am delighted that we are no longer in the business of cat-calling and name-calling about multinationals and foreign investors. I say emphatically and with all the force I can command that foreign capital in Australia can be of absolute good to Australia provided the controls available to Commonwealth and State governments are used fully for the good of Australia.
Those people who want to get into an argument about the ‘wicked multinationals’ should read through the newspapers and Congress reports from America for the early twentieth century, when American dialogue was continuously to the effect that it was quite clear that the United States of America was being taken over by British and European capital. History did not quite take that course. I am bound to say that the aid of United Kingdom and European capital built the greatest nation on this earth. The United States by its regulatory powers was able to use that capital for good and to mitigate harm. Whether tickling the tummy is part of the Adelaide Festival of Arts I am unaware, but I note the point. However, I shall take up the more serious point raised by Senator Chaney that there is a need to look towards speeding up any arrangements which are not already committed. I shall take that part of the question to my colleague the Treasurer.
– Is the Minister for Science aware of any continuing problem of shortage of medical staff in our Antarctic services? If so, is he able to tell the Senate what steps are being taken to rectify the position?
-At this time of the year the Antarctic Division of my Department does not experience a shortage of medical staff. Basically, we prepare for the enlistment of officers to man our stations during the extended winter period from about Christmas of one year to about the following Christmas. We have experienced difficulty in the past in having the necessary medical officer at every station during that time. At the moment we are not experiencing a shortage. But the point raised is particularly important. During past years we have been embarrassed at times by being unable to secure medical officers to spend the necessary time in Antarctica. There is a variety of reasons for that. It has been suggested to me that there might be a lack of financial incentive to spend a very harsh winter down in the Territory with the isolation which is created and, perhaps, the inability of one officer to communicate with people of his own kind and to progress as he would wish to progress during the 12 months period.
We have had a recent review of the operations of the Antarctic Division. Medical research is a matter which I feel is of importance. When I was at the McMurdo base and travelled to the South Pole I was alerted to the fact that even there medical research was being undertaken by the United States of America. A professor of medicine was conducting psychological and other tests and was doing work on, I think, immunology. He was undertaking work in relation to the expeditioners who have gone to Antarctica on behalf of their country.
I believe it is important that Australia undertake a similar type of research. Generally, the Australian medical officers have not been involved in a great deal of medical research during the period they have been in Antarctica. The direct response to Senator Wriedt is that currently we are attempting to find a new scheme of arrangement whereby medical officers may be encouraged to find greater benefit in their duty in the Antarctic Territory. I believe that it will be necessary for us to work with universities and probably medical teaching schools over the next period in order to do that adequately.
– My question which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications follows from a question asked by Senator Colston. It arises from my concern that the influence of television on children is so great that we have a duty to ensure that optimum standards prevail in respect of both children’s programs and television advertising. Could a permanent advisory body on children ‘s television be established to operate in conjunction with the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal?
-Senator Walters rightly reflects the concern of the community with regard to the quality of both radio and television broadcasting, but specifically television broadcasting, for children. My understanding is that the Australian Broadcasting Tribunal, when it held its public hearings last year, had before it special evidence from a variety of individuals and organisations relating to children’s television and broadcasting. At that point my understanding becomes incomplete because I do not recollect what the Tribunal has recommended in that regard. Therefore, I am unable to say whether there is at this moment in contemplation a permanent advisory body. There may or may not be. Nevertheless, the suggestion is one that needs close scrutiny. I think it is one that merits being submitted to the Minister concerned. I will certainly do that.
I am bound to say, without in any way denigrating the ability to upgrade the quality of children’s broadcasting at the moment, that one of the great disabilities is that whilst we use the spectrum in the way we do, by using the ether to transmit the signals, there is a grave limitation on the number of channels and therefore a grave limitation upon the time available for children’s programs. I think the real breakthrough will come when we are able to have specialised stations and specialised transmissions on a fulltime basis for these programs. That will come either with the introduction of coaxial cables or by means of the laser beam which is transmitted through an optical fibre. Either of those systems in the longer term offers a very great opportunity. Nevertheless, in the short term we need to improve the position. I will transmit the idea to my colleague.
-Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate give an assurance that the Government will not accede to the call of Sir Philip Baxter to spend $ 1 5m a year on germ and chemical warfare research?
-I have no knowledge of the call by Sir Philip Baxter on this matter. I will pass the question on to the Prime Minister.
– The Minister representing the Minister for Environment, Housing and Community Development will recall that yesterday I asked him a question concerning the Great Barrier Reef and oil drilling. I refer to two parts of the answer to that question. The first part is:
We only hear of occasions when there is some kind of dispute or conflict between governments. Ninety-nine times out of 100 there is amity and unity.
Am I to infer from that that out of the last one hundred occasions when the State and Federal Governments have been negotiating, only once has there been a lack of amity and unitybecause it was a matter of Aboriginal affairs? The second part of the answer to which I refer is:
I have no doubt in the wide world that in a matter of such considerable concern the Commonwealth and the Queensland governments will work in amity and to a common purpose for the preservation of the Reef.
Am I to infer from that that neither the Commonwealth nor the Queensland Government views the matter of Aboriginal welfare and wellbeing as being of considerable concern?
– Let me make it clear that any inference that Senator Bonner might draw, as suggested in the latter part of his question, from my answer would be utterly wrong in terms of my answer. 1 say emphatically that this Commonwealth Government, of all governments in Australia, has shown the most practical and intelligent concern for the welfare in all forms of the Aboriginal people in Australia. I lay that firmly on the line. It is inevitable that from time to time there will be discussions between the Commonwealth and the States, whether on Aboriginal affairs, barrier reefs or a multitude of other things, in which there will be points of disagreement. It would be impertinent of the Commonwealth Government to say that at all times it is right and that by ordinary discussion and argument and dialogue it might not be persuaded as to the viewpoint of a State. The reverse is equally true, so the rigidity of a polarisation of State rights or a centralist attitude must be wrong.
The whole purpose of my answer yesterday was to say that this Commonwealth Government is committed to dialogue with the States. As with this Parliament, where the only things that are really reported are not the 80 per cent, perhaps, of Bills that go through without any amendment or opposition, only the disputed circumstance, the pimple on the nose, is reported. I want to make it clear that nothing in my answer suggests in any way that we would downgrade the priority we give to Aboriginal affairs. Nor, in my view, have events of the two years of our Government given any indication of that being the case. We will pursue the policies, as I know them, perfectly and I believe successfully in both cases the honourable senator mentions.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Social Security relating to procedures for investigating complaints against recipients of the supporting mothers’ benefit. Is the recipient’s pension withdrawn as soon as a complaint is made and comes under investigation or does the recipient remain in receipt of the pension while the investigation is carried out and lose it only if she is found to be ineligible on completion of the investigation ?
– I find it difficult to give a generalised answer to a question that relates to an individual benefit. If a person is eligible to receive the benefit it is paid; if a person is found to be ineligible the benefit is terminated. I wonder in what circumstances the honourable senator raises the question, whether it is with regard to the receipt of income or to some other matter that can be readily determined. Where an investigation is made as to eligibility it is followed through until the matter is determined. Of course, upon termination of the benefit there is a right of appeal. These are the procedures and eligibility must be sustained for the benefit to be continued.
– I have a supplementary question. When a complaint is made against the recipient of a supporting mothers’ benefit at what point is the benefit withdrawn? Is it withdrawn at the outset of the investigation or at the completion of the investigation?
– Again I ask: By whom is the complaint made? Is it made as an anonymous telephone call to the Department or on a determination of eligibility? That is the point at which I find it difficult to make a general statement. If a complaint were made it would be investigated. If as a result of the investigation the eligibility is not sustained the benefit would be terminated. A pension or benefit would not be terminated simply because a complaint was made. An investigation needs to be made and eligibility determined.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, or to the Minister representing either the Minister for Defence or the Prime Minister. Did the Minister authorise the use of an aircraft from No. 34 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force, to fly two Government Ministers to Darwin on 9 May 1978? Were Bernard Francis Kilgariff and Stephen Edward Calder also passengers on that aircraft? If the answer is in the affirmative, who gave the authority for Messrs Kilgariff and Calder to travel on the VIP flight? Was permission to travel on the aircraft granted for compassionate reasons? If not, what was the reason?
-I know that two of my ministerial colleagues were going to the Northern Territory last night: I assumed, because of the time they were leaving, that they would be going on an aircraft from No. 34 Squadron. Because of the time they said they were leaving, I assumed that they would not be able to do the trip by commercial aircraft. I have no knowledge of who went with them but I shall make inquiries. Only three people can authorise the use of those aircraft. They are the GovernorGeneral, the Prime Minister and the Minister for
Defence. I shall make inquiries in the first place of my colleague the Minister for Defence.
– I ask the Minister for Social Security whether she can indicate what progress has been made on the proposals to establish a national institute on mental retardation in Australia?
– I understand that a submission has been received by my Department, or by me, from those who are keen to establish an institute. As I recall it, the submission related to the role of State governments and their participation in the formation of such an institute. My Department is examining the proposal and State governments also need to examine it. As I recall, I have had no further reports on the submission, but my Department is examining it and I hope that State governments are also.
– The Minister for Social Security will recall that on Thursday, 4 May, I asked her a question relating to Commonwealth funding for kindergartens in South Australia. In reply the Minister stated:
It could be that pre-school education is not receiving the emphasis in that State that many people would desire.
In answer to my supplementary question the Minister further stated:
In view of the fact that the South Australian contribution to pre-school funding has jumped from 20 per cent in 1975-76 to 50 per cent in 1977-78, whilst the Commonwealth’s share has declined by a similar amount, and as that clearly indicates that the Commonwealth has abdicated responsibilities originally undertaken by it, does the Minister still claim that the South Australian Labor Government is not giving the correct priority to pre-school funding?
– It will be recalled that when Senator McLaren asked the question I referred to the fact that the Commonwealth Government makes a block grant to the States as a contribution to pre-school education. I believe that the Labor Government of South Australia, as it has been termed by Senator McLaren, would insist that pre-school education would be its responsibility and that it would be responsible for its own program in that State. In fact, it has made many consultative arrangements with regard to pre-school education throughout the South Australian community. The Federal Government has made a contribution to preschool education. It does not accept as its primary responsibility the extension of the funding arrangements that were made some years ago. Bulk funding is given to the State so that it may make its own choice as to the level of support it will give to individual pre-schools. When I said that it could be that pre-school education had not had the priority in South Australia that it had in Victoria, for instance, I pointed out to the honourable senator that the Victorian Government had promised free pre-school education to every Victorian child. That is a commitment made by the Victorian Government and it shows the priority that that Government places on preschool education.
Future funding for pre-school education for the South Australian Government or for any other State Government is a matter of budgetary consideration. However, I pointed out also when answering the previous question that at the time when the bulk funding arrangements were made many advances were made in Federal-State financial relationships and greater access to general funding was given to all States. It is from that general funding that any State Government is able to make whatever contribution it chooses to pre-school education. If it so chooses, it can see that pre-school education is available to every child in its State.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr President. In view of the fact that the Minister has said to me that the South Australian Government would insist that it is its responsibility to fund pre-school education, can the Minister say whether she has recently received a letter from Mr Hopgood, the South Australian Minister for Education, pointing out the anomalies which exist in this block funding and the problems that the State is running into because of it?
– What I was implying was that a State Government would insist that pre-school education is its program to be developed in the way it chooses throughout that State. It therefore has to make financial arrangements to see that the program is able to be implemented. The Commonwealth Government makes a contribution but the State Government decides on the program and decides on how the balance of that program will be fundedwhether by contribution from parents or community groups or whether by the State Government totally.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Post and Telecommunications. I refer to the overtime ban imposed on 9 March, some nine weeks ago, by 450 mail sorters in Adelaide as part of a dispute, which began in October last year, over the payment of a tax-free meal allowance of $3.90 when overtime is worked. Is the Minister aware that last week Australia Post’s public relations officer said that the backlog in mail would not be cleared for another six weeks? In the light of this, I ask the Minister whether he is aware that two weeks ago- seven weeks after the bans were imposed- the State manager of Australia Post said that 15 extra workers, as recommended by Commissioner Clarkson of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, had been employed a fortnight earlier and that it would take a further three weeks to train them fully. That means that this extra stafF would have been available early next week. In view of this, can the Minister say why the Australia Post public relations officer has now said that these extra personnel who would assist in clearing the congestion of mail will not be available for a further four weeks? Will the Minister investigate the reason why these confused statements have been made?
– I am aware, as indeed all people in South Australia and elsewhere are aware, of the effects of the overtime ban by mail sorters in Adelaide. The ban relates to the ques-tion of meal money. I am aware that statements have been made about the time required to clear the backlog but I am not aware of the specific statement of the public relations officer. I cannot immediately throw light on the confusion which Senator Jessop has revealed. Accordingly I will seek the information and let him have it.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Health been drawn to comments made by Special Magistrate Tom Pauling, as reported in the Northern Territory News of 9 May under the heading: ‘It’s inhuman, says Coroner’. Mr Pauling drew attention to the fact that the psychiatric ward at the Darwin Hospital has not reopened due to a shortage of staff caused by staff ceilings. Will the Minister indicate what action is to be taken in the light of this further evidence of a lack of health services in the Northern Territory brought about by a shortage of staff?
– I am not aware of the newspaper article to which Senator Robertson refers, nor have I any information with regard to the closure of the psychiatric ward. I do not know whether that was the result of staff ceilings or whether it was the result of the unavailability of qualified staff to perform the duties which may be required to be performed. However, as the honourable senator will be aware, the Northern Territory is advancing towards the management of its own affairs in health and other matters and I feel sure that that will enable the people of the Territory to decide the priority to be given to the services which they demand for the people of the Territory. I will refer the matter of the psychiatric ward to the Minister to see whether any information is available and what help may be given.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Reports indicate that the Tasmanian Government has submitted a revised proposal for ‘purely a squid feasibility study’ for federal approval, on behalf of Japanese interests. Can the Minister advise whether such a proposal has been received and whether the application is in conformity with the guidelines laid down by the Minister in his Press releases of 1 9 January and 10 March this year?
– I am unable to answer the honourable senator’s question in a way that will be of benefit for him. I understand that a number of applications have been received from foreign countries for feasibility studies of joint fishing ventures in Australian waters off Tasmania. I do not know of the specific instance to which the honourable senator refers but I will make some inquiries of the Minister for Primary Industry today and attempt to get an answer for the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs. I refer him to the following election promise made by the Prime Minister on 21 November 1977:
The Government intends to grant Service pensions to qualified allied ex-service personnel on the same basis as Service pensions are granted to British Commonwealth servicemen resident in Australia.
When will the enabling legislation be introduced into the Parliament and will that legislation also include an extension of other repatriation benefits to these personnel?
-Of course, the Government is well aware of the promise made in the policy speech referred to by Senator Harradine.
The policy is being considered from the point of view of introduction of legislation but I cannot indicate when such legislation will be forthcoming, nor can I say exactly what the terms of it will be.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Education. I refer to a report in the National Times of 24 April 1978 which describes a campaign by Canberra residents to prevent schools in the Australian Capital Territory from charging supplementary education fees. Is it true that education in government schools is supposed to be provided without cost and that no existing legislation authorises the collection of school fees? Is it also true that regardless of that, supplementary school fees are being levied on students and that conscientious objectors- parents and their children- are being made the subject of threats and persecution? Will the Minister inquire into this disturbing situation and take steps to ensure that fees are charged only if legislation exists authorising their collection?
– I saw the article in the National Times of 24 April to which Senator Missen has referred. In the recent meeting of Senate Estimates Committee B a considerable dialogue on this matter took place between honourable senators and officers, particularly those from the Australian Capital Territory Schools Authority. As a primary answer I direct Senator Missen ‘s attention to that dialogue as a basis of information. In fact, what the officers indicated was that in Australian Capital Territory schools, as in all schools in Australia, it is the practice particularly of parent bodies- parent school boards and parent councils- to make charges to cover certain items and this has the blessing of schools. In the Australian Capital Territory charges are made for materials for special purposes- for example, for woodwork, metal work and dressmaking- where in many cases the finished product is the possession of the student. This concept, I think, has been hallowed by immortality ever since schools started. My advice from the officers- I think it will be found in Hansard- is that there is no compulsion for the fees to be paid and that the matter is handled by parent bodies and school boards. These matters are not accounted for from the public purse; they are not legislated for in the ordinary way, nor are they in any other legislative situation in Australia. Should Senator Missen, having read that text, have further questions, I would be happy to seek out the information.
– My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, relates to regulation 162 of the Family Law Act 1975 which makes it necessary for members of Parliament, as it does for members of the public, to obtain leave of a judge or magistrate or the Registrar of the Family Court before transcripts of evidence and information that may be helpful to them in determining an inquiry made on behalf of a constituent can be obtained. I wonder whether the Attorney-General is aware of how extremely difficult this restriction makes it for members of Parliament to act in true conscience on behalf of those constituents? Would he give some consideration to an alteration of the regulation which would at least enable members of Parliament to be fully aware of the true situation? Perhaps the concessions could be on a similar basis to the concessions that are available already through other courts, both State and federal.
– The reason for the problem mentioned by Senator Coleman is the fundamental difference between the procedure of the Family Court and procedures of other courts of Australia in that the Family Court is not open to the public. That was a very firm policy decision of this Parliament when the Family Law Act was passed after a lengthy debate here and in another place in 1974 and 1975. 1 think Senator Coleman ‘s question basically is concerned with that matter of principle. I am aware of the problem which the restriction has caused. I am aware also of a good deal of opposition to it, but I do not want to express a personal view in relation to the matter, particularly as the Family Law Act may well be reviewed by a parliamentary committee in the near future. I have not been made aware of the particular problem of members of Parliament getting leave to obtain transcripts in relation to constituents. I will look into it and see whether this can be facilitated.
– This morning Senator Button asked me a further question in relation to the satellite terminal at North West Cape. I have some advice from the Minister for Defence which is as follows:
The only satellite terminal which has been installed at North West Cape is the one to which the Australian Government gave its approval in October 1977 and which is of the same type as the one that operated there till 1 973. It is related to naval communications. No further ground station is at present being installed.
We are aware that the United States plans to replace the existing terminal with an improved terminal possibly in 1980-81. The Government has not yet received a formal proposal for any replacement of the existing satellite terminal. When and if such an approach is received the Government will examine the proposal on its merits and will announce its decision at the appropriate time. The matter would in these circumstances be considered in the context of the United States-Australian agreement but specifically concerning the north west coast. This agreement is quite separate from the Pine Gap agreement.
- Senator Grimes asked a question of me earlier today with regard to the recent police interviews in connection with an abuse of the Social Services Act. He asked whether the people claiming special benefit were required to produce the records of interview with the police and whether, if they refused to produce such records, they would be refused a special benefit. He also mentioned that there was danger in the Department’s assuming guilt before court proceedings had been completed. I undertook to obtain advice on this matter. I am assured by the Department that these statements were not necessary for the consideration or the granting of a special benefit. I am advised that in some of the earlier interviews these statements were requested in order to obtain an indication of income which might have a bearing on the eligibility for special benefit. I am advised that these statements were voluntarily submitted and that there was no compulsion at any stage by the Department for the production of a statement to the police nor was the benefit denied because such a statement was not produced voluntarily. The information provided to the police on the statement was used to check the income that the claimant had advised to the police so that eligibility could be determined for special benefit on a basis of hardship.
– I have received a letter from Senator Keeffe proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion, namely:
The failure of the Government to honour their expressed obligations to the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island.
I call upon those senators who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.
More than the number of senators required by the Sessional Orders having risen in their places-
– The terms of this matter of public importance describe the type of debate that will take place in this chamber today. They read:
The failure of the Government to honour their expressed obligations to the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island.
As I make my contribution to the debate I will raise the various points which will prove, I believe, that the statement I have made is consistent with the failure of the Government to act in the way that it said it would a few weeks ago. It is a sad day that this debate has to take place at all. Had the Government kept its promise that it made several weeks ago, the situation would have now been resolved. It failed to do so. On this issue, as it has on other issues, it has knuckled under to the arrogance of the Queensland Government and the machinations of its Premier. If anyone heard the AM program this morning they will know to what I am referring. The Premier was critical of the discussions that are being held in the Northern Territory today. He said that a handful of Aborigines were holding up the progress of this country. This is not so.
There are people in the gallery today- I will put some of their names on record- who are sad and disillusioned. They have continued in this battle for their own land through their whole lifetime. I refer in particular to the Chairman of the Aurukun Council, Donald Peinkinna, to the former chairman, Francis Yungaporta and to the others who are here: Barry Njakyunkwokka, Roy Landis, Rowan Pootchemunka and Benjamin Kongotema. These people have been at the forefront of the struggle over a long period. Some time ago I wrote to the Secretary-General of the United Nations complaining of the lack of action by the Federal Government and of the drastic action that was taken in the then projected takeover of Aurukun and Mornington Island by the Queensland Government. I received a communication from the representative of the Secretary-General saying that the matter had been referred to the United Nations office at Geneva. I have now received a letter from Mr Jacob Moller, Chief, Communications Unit, Division of Human Rights, phrased in these terms:
Dear Senator Keeffe,
Your letter of 21 March 1978 (with enclosures) addressed to the Secretary-General, has been forwarded to this office for handling under existing procedures.
In accordance with the procedures set out in resolution 728 -
The next line talks about the various subsections of the Economic and Social Council and 1 (XXIV) of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, a summary of your communication will be included in a confidential list of communications which will be submitted to the Commission on Human Rights and to the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities. A copy of your communication will also be forwarded to the Member State of the United Nations to which it explicitly refers.
There are a number of enclosures, including the terms of the relevant resolutions of the United Nations and standards under which the matter can be dealt. I refer in particular to the Economic and Social Council and to resolution 1 which is set out as follows:
Welcomes the decision of the Commission of Human Rights to give annual consideration to the item entitled “Question of the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including policies or racial discrimination and segregation and of apartheid, in all countries, with particular reference to colonial and other dependent countries and territories,” without prejudice to the functions and powers of organs already in existence or which may be established within the framework of measures of implementation included in international covenants and conventions on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and concurs with the requests for assistance addressed to the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities and to the Secretary-General;
There was some criticism when I wrote to the United Nations. It is a great tragedy that we have to go outside this country to achieve justice for our own Australian citizens. When this matter was first raised the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) caused certain matters to be recorded in an information paper from his Department. I want to read parts of the paper into the record. It shows how far this Government has backed off in its responsibility in relation to the decisions of the 1976 referendum. The information paper refers to the Commonwealth decision on 3 April 1978 and states:
The Government has decided to proceed with legislation to free Aboriginals on Queensland reserves from the provisions of the Queensland Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Acts which give State officials overriding powers over the management of communities on Aboriginal and Islander reserves.
Each Queensland Aboriginal reserve community will continue to be managed by the Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement or a religious organisation until the community clearly states it want self-management, and the Commonwealth Minister makes a declaration.
The legislation will provide Queensland Aboriginals with the same opportunity to manage their affairs as all other Australians. All Aboriginals outside Queensland already have these rights.
In particular, the legislation will put into effect the clearly stated wishes of all Aboriginals in Aurukun and Mornington Island for self-management.
We should take particular note of the next paragraph which reads:
The Commonwealth decision implements the Liberal and National Country Parties’ policy of Aboriginal selfmanagement, endorsed by the Australian people in December 1975 and 1977.
The information paper goes on to refer to a number of other things a few of which I shall read. Under the heading ‘The Constitutional Basis’ the paper states:
The 1967 referendum empowered the Commonwealth under Section 5 1 .26 to legislate for Aboriginals.
There is no doubt that the Commonwealth Government has the authority. The paper then says:
While the States retain concurrent power to legislate, any Commonwealth legislation prevails.
Yet we have backed away with the wishy-washy legislation we put through the House a week or two ago. The paper continues:
There was almost a 90 per cent ‘ Yes ‘ vote for the 1 967 referendum in Queensland. The lowest ‘Yes’ vote in any one of the eighteen Queensland electoral divisions was 84 per cent; therefore, the vast majority of Queenslanders support Commonwealth responsibility in Aboriginal affairs. Alone of the States, Queensland has refused to negotiate arrangements with the Commonwealth, following passage of the Aboriginal Affairs (Arrangements with the States) Act 1973 for the Commonwealth to assume ‘responsibility for the planning, co-ordination and financing of activities … at present the responsibility of the States ‘.
I make a final point from the information paper. The Minister, when referring to the Queensland Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Act, stated:
The Commonwealth Government considers the provisions of the Queensland legislation are discriminatory and outdated, primarily because they give Government officials extraordinary powers to manage and direct the lives of Aboriginals and Islanders on reserves, trusteeship of reserves and the right to negotiate on behalf of Aboriginals and Islanders about land use, in particular exploration and mining on reserves; power to manage the property of Aboriginals and Islanders.
The Minister, in his second reading speech on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Selfmanagement) Bill, in the first paragraph stated:
This Bill will guarantee the right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island communities on Aboriginal and Island reserves in Queensland to manage their own affairs. Its provisions are all directed to ensuring that, if the communities have chosen not to be administered by officials of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islanders Advancement, they will not have official management foisted upon them. If communities now managed and controlled by Government officials consider that they are ready for self-management and are prepared to take responsibility for community affairs as reserve communities elsewhere in Australia have done, they may apply to have the legislation cover their reserves.
Not even the spirit of that legislation has been kept by this Government. That spirit has been kicked to death by the Queensland Government. When members of the Opposition moved amendments to the Bill in this chamber, they said that at least three clauses ought to be backdated to 3 1 March. Of course that was not done.
Later on that afternoon after debating the Bill and after the Senate had risen for the two weeks’ recess, we had not reached the local airport before the Queensland Premier announced that the reserves no longer existed; he had declared them both Crown land. In a Press statement issued on 22 March 1978 the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs stated:
It is no longer good enough for officials and Governments to decide what is in the best interests of Aboriginals. Aboriginals must be free of paternalistic, bureaucratic control. All Commonwealth policy and action is designed to that end.
We believe they are ready for self-management, they believe it and they are going to get it.
He and, in fact, the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) both denied on 10 May 1978 that that was ever said. The North Queensland Land Council set out its policy in a very succinct way, in half a dozen paragraphs. I propose to read only three or four of those paragraphs because I think they also ought to go into the record on this historic occasion when the Government is repudiating the Aborigines of this country. The policy states:
In the case of the Aurukun and Mornington Island Communities of course no negotiations have been held with Aboriginals. In relation to the last two so-called agreements that were made neither the State Government nor the Federal Government discussed them with the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island. The document of the North Queensland Land Council in a general paragraph states:
There are two different types of land claims- traditional claims and needs claims. Traditional claims are where there are strong tribal ties to the land e.g. Ti-Tree, Peret or Kendall River at Aurukun. Needs claims are where the Queensland Government has interfered so much that Murris from different areas have been brought in to confuse the picture: e.g. Palm Island and Mapoon would probably be considered needs claims.
Ti-Tree, Peret and Kendall River together with two or three other areas are the homelands of the people from Aurukun and their tribal groups and it is to those areas that they have returned. This is the last thing that Mr Bjelke-Petersen wants to see happen. Four of those people whose names I read out a few moments ago wrote a letter to the Vice-President of the United States when he was in Canberra a few days ago. It is now history that he refused to accept the letter. The relevant information is set out in the last paragraph of that letter. It was to have been handed by the VicePresident to President Carter. It states:
We ask for your help as President of the United States as one of the reasons we are losing control of our land and way of life is because the Queensland Government wants our land so that the Tipperary company-
That is one of the three companies in the consortium- an American company- can mine the bauxite in the ground at Aurukun. We think that you would consider it wrong if Aborigines were to lose their land so that an American company can make money.
It was signed by four senior men. When the letter was not accepted a short Press statement expressing disappointment was issued by the Aurukun Council. It was authorised by the Aurukun tribal leaders who on that day were in Canberra. The statement read:
The Aurukun people have just heard that the VicePresident of America has been unable to see us and receive a letter written by us to Mr Carter. We cannot understand why because we are sure the American President and VicePresident are concerned about injustice in the world, even when it occurs here in Australia.
The American Vice-President is a guest of the Australian Government, and must be polite to a host. This might be why he has been unable to see us. We hope, however, that by some other means he might learn about our plight and tell Mr Carter that not only is the Australian Government allowing our land to be taken from us, but also does not seem to want Mr Carter to hear about it.
It is a well known fact around Parliament House that the Prime Minister is most anxious to get the Aurukun people out of this city. Allegedly he has had delicate negotiations with the Premier of Queensland. There have been no delicate negotiations. The Premier has used a sledge hammer to get this Government to fall into line and this Government abjectly, without any backbone, has fallen into line. The reason for this matter of public importance today is to hope that the Federal Government will be shamed into taking some action.
An open letter was written to the Prime Minister on 7 May 1978 and signed by the consultant for the Aurukun community, Mr Frank Purcell, for and with the consent and knowledge of the Aurukun Council and tribal leaders. It contains some very pathetic paragraphs. I do not want to read all of it but I shall read certain sections. The letter states:
Dear Mr Fraser,
The Aurukun Council and their supporters were very happy to have an interview with you for two hours on Thursday, 4 May 1978.
We came to you believing that we had your support and with our trust in you in the fight against the Queensland Government. We came away totally disillusioned with you, and your government, as an ally.
You listened to the Aurukun people say they wanted nothing to do with the Queensland Government.
You stated that you did not wish to have a confrontation with Queensland about Aboriginals. The Aboriginal people time and again put to you that they did not wish to be under a Queensland local government Act and a lease with the Queensland Government because ‘they do not trust the Queensland Government’.
You heard and you did not respond.
You told us that what we are asking was not politically achievable having regard to the standards which you have set. The despair and disappointment of the Aurukun Council was obvious when we sat around in a small room in a Canberra boarding house and spoke about what to do next, because you had failed us.
That is a pathetic message. The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace on 26 April at the height of the worst part of the Aurukun disputealthough probably the worst part is now- issued a Press statement, which reads:
In a letter to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Ian Viner, the Chairman of the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, Bishop W. Murray, has expressed the Commission’s support for the rights of the Aboriginal and Islander people to self-determination, and to direct ownership of their tribal lands. The Commission further stated that Governments must secure these rights, by special legislation if necessary.
The Commission said that the Australian Government cannot avoid the responsibilities entrusted to it by the Australian people in the 1 967 Referendum. In the event of any State Government being unwilling or unable to adequately guarantee the rights of the Aboriginal and Islander peoples to self-determination, the Australian Government should not hesitate to use its constitutional powers in the manner and to the extent desired by those peoples.
The Commission resolution arose from its concern about the recent events relating to the Aboriginal and Islander peoples at Aurukun and Mornington Island, and allegations that the Queensland Government may be preparing to permit mining in defiance of the peoples’ rights to consider the proposal and determine the matter for themselves, in the absence of a demonstrated competing right arising from the common good.
Two years ago, when it was proposed to allow mining on the Aurukun Reserve, the Commission had considered the situation in some detail, and expressed to the Minister the view that no mining should be permitted without adequate prior consultation with the people, and their approval.
Every day it is becoming more obvious that everyone in Australia except the Queensland
Government and the Federal Government supports the Aurukun and Mornington Island people in their bid for self-determination. In a Press statement issued on 3 May 1978 Mick Miller, the Chairman of the North Queensland Land Council said:
The Queensland Premier has pulled the wool over Mr Fraser’s eyes again. The Queensland legislation regarding Aurukun and Mornington Island is not the result of any compromise with Canberra.
Mr Bjelke-Petersen has been planning to replace the Aborigines’ and Torres Strait Islanders’ Acts with this legislation for twelve months.
On the 17th of May, 1977, the Queensland Cabinet considered this matter on the oral submission of the Premier. The basic strategy was decided then. Queensland Cabinet Decision Number 26409 records the discussion.
Part of the reason for that was to get the Director of the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement, Mr Patty Killoran, off the hook. Yesterday the Management Committee of the Victorian Aborigines Advancement League sent me the following telegram:
The Victorian Aborigines Advancement League questions the ability and sincerity of the Federal Government in coming to a satisfactory agreement with the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities on the question of the land rights and self management. We also suggest that the Federal Government being unable to reach a satisfactory agreement with the Aboriginal people of Australia on the question of land rights and self-management bring indigenous experts from Papua New Guinea or American Indian Community to act as mediator between the Government and Aboriginal people of Australia on the question of land rights compensation and self-management.
Also a few days ago I received a telegram from Monty Prior. He spoke for a large group of people and indicated that the Aborigines wanted land rights and nothing less than that. On 9 May the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs was reported in the Australian as follows:
Substantial gains had been made for the people of the Aurukun and Mornington Island Aboriginal communities as a result of negotiations with Queensland ministers, said the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner.
Two-hour discussions between Aurukun councillors and the Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, on Thursday night had also been very valuable.
Before I close my remarks I want to point out two things in relation to that. In the first place, within the past 24 hours the Queensland Premier has said that the only alterations to the proposed local government legislation are of a very minor nature. If the Premier says that, they will be of a very minor nature. Mr Viner ‘s claim that the two-hour discussions with Mr Fraser the other night were very valuable is also a misstatement of the facts of the case.
The extraordinary powers given to the Queensland Government under the new legislation will do a number of things. The legislation will take away a lot of the rights which the Aborigines rather dubiously hold now under the present legislation. That is how bad this new legislation is. But why should we expect the powers which the Queensland Government will retain under the proposed legislation to be exercised any less discriminatorily than the powers it has under the Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Act are exercised? Under the Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Bill the Queensland Government has a number of powers. Another objectionable thing about this legislation is that it is referred to as an ‘Aboriginal Lands’ Bill. The only way that term is applicable is that through that legislation the State Government, in collaboration with the Federal Government, is taking away land from the Aborigines in these two communities.
That Bill gives the Queensland Government power to do the following: To set aside any part of the lease for unspecified public purposes, such as mining, tourism and national parks; under clause 1 6, to sack the Aboriginal council if it does not act in accordance with the wishes of the Queensland Government; under clause 27 (2), to determine who can enter into either shire; under clause 34, to approve or not approve the appointment by either shire council of a town clerk; and under clause 1 8, to appoint an advisory committee consisting of two appointees who are Queensland Ministers and one appointee who is the Commonwealth Minister for Aboriginal Affairs- the Commonwealth Government will again be outnumbered by the State Government- who would assist the shire to formulate policy towards the control and management of the shire and would advise the shire in a number of matters, including fiscal management, economic planning, administration and the making of by-laws. This is the most shocking piece of legislation that has ever been introduced into the Queensland Parliament. I hope that public reaction will go a long way towards having it either broken down or not used at all.
In summary, the Aboriginal and Islander people of Queensland want both pieces of legislation abolished. They want the right to their tribal lands, the right to land they need, and the right to self-management. They want to be able to live as normal human beings. It is fair for them to ask for this. It is a great tragedy when both the Federal and the State governments combine to take from these people their freedoms, their land and everything that belongs to them.
– It is a sad day when Senator Keeffe uses the words he used when he concluded his statement. He spoke of the Federal Government’s role in the negotiations which are taking place with regard to the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities. To suggest that the Federal Government is attempting to take away the rights of the Aborigines in those communities is quite contrary to the whole movement being made by the Federal Government to ensure that the right of self-determination of those two communities is assured.
It is precisely two months since 10 March when a letter from the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islander Advancement was written to Professor Busch informing the Uniting Church in Australia of the intention of the Department of Aboriginal and Islander Advancement to assume the administration of Mornington Island and Aurukun on 31 March. During those two months there has been active and detailed co-operation by the Federal Government to ensure that those communities are granted the opportunity to determine their own affairs. I have a chronology of the events of those two months. I think some of them should be stated- not all in detail- to show the activity of the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and of the Federal Government as a whole.
On 10 March the letter to which I referred was written to the Uniting Church. On 13 March the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islander Advancement, Mr Porter, handed that letter to Professor Busch of the Uniting Church. On 1 5 March the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs released a Press statement in which he made a commitment that the Government would take whatever steps were necessary in respect of Aurukun and Mornington Island, ranging from financial assistance to the communities to the introduction of special Commonwealth legislation. That Press statement was headed: ‘Commonwealth Government will act on Aurukun’. Mr Viner concluded the Press statement by stating:
It is the concern of the Uniting Church that the wishes of the Aboriginal people should prevail. All indications so Tar are that the people of Aurukun and Morington Island do not want the takeover. I will know more about their feelings after my meeting with them in Canberra on Friday.
On 16 March representatives of the Aurukun and Mornington Island councils visited Canberra for discussions with officials of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. On 17 March the Aurukun and Mornington Island representatives and their legal adviser met the Minister for Aboriginal
Affairs. The honourable member for Leichhardt, Mr Thomson, also visited the Aurukun community on that day. That was just one week after the first advice was written by the Queensland ministry and just four days after it had been received by the Church. That activity was quite intense because at that time the Commonwealth Government realised how disturbed the people of the Aboriginal communities were. Senator Keeffe said that there are present in the Senate chamber today the chairman of the Aurukun Council and other Aborigines who are supporting him in a delegation to Canberra. He said that they are sad and disillusioned men. I would say to them that they are present in Canberra today, a day when consultation is being held with Queensland and when progress is being made with regard to the proposed legislation to be introduced in the Queensland Parliament.
On 20 March 1978 the Uniting Church in Australia replied to the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islander Affairs. On 22 March, the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs announced the Commonwealth’s intention to introduce legislation for self-management on the Aboriginal communities. He informed the Queensland Acting Premier of that decision made by the Commonwealth Government. On 27 March, some Government private members and senators of this Parliament visited the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs issued a Press release which reaffirmed the Commonwealth’s intention with regard to legislation. It will be recalled that on 29 March, the Minister for Transport (Mr Nixon) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs met with the Queensland Premier and other Queensland Ministers in Brisbane. They agreed to shared responsibility with regard to these matters. The Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Islander Affairs met Professor Busch and others to discuss the future arrangements on the communities. On 30 March, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs went again to Aurukun and the Queensland Premier announced a cooling off proposal.
We then come to the month of April when the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs went to Mornington Island, and the Commonwealth’s Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities) Self-Management Bill was introduced on 5 April. Self-management legislation was passed and Queensland announced the revocation of the reserves. The selfmanagement legislation was assented to. This is all part of the record of negotiations which have been occurring during the past two months. On 1 1 April, the Queensland Premier and the Queensland Minister for Local Government and Main Roads and Minister for Aboriginal and Islander Affairs visited Canberra for talks with the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and other Commonwealth Ministers. An agreement was announced on 1 1 April to which I ought to refer at this stage. Some of the comments made by Senator Keeffe totally ignored the contents of the joint statement that was issued by the Prime Minister and the Queensland Premier on 1 1 April. It states:
Recognising our mutual obligation with regard to the wishes and the welfare of the Aboriginal peoples at Aurukun and Mornington Island, the two Governments after long and earnest discussion, have reached the following agreement that in order to achieve self-management for Aurukun and Mornington Island communities:
a local government authority for each to be created on the boundaries of the existing reserves;
the local government council will consist of the existing councils until the next State Local Government council elections which will take place next April. These councils will be the managing authority;
in order to support the communities, there will for each one be a co-ordinating and advisory committee to the Council consisting of people representative of authorities delivering services including one representative of the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs.
The Queensland Government has offered to consult with the Commonwealth Government on the terms of legislation required to provide for self-management through the operations of local government, in order to achieve mutual agreement between the relevant Ministers. In the context of that agreement, the Queensland Government plans to gram to each local government authority a special lease of the area, to secure the preservation of the people ‘s traditional rights, use and occupancy of the land. The Premier of Queensland, after conferring with his Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs (Mr Porter) and his Minister for Local Government (Mr Hinze) believes that action in terms of this agreement could be introduced next week into the Queensland Parliament.
The following note is attached to the statement:
The Commonwealth Government has set out to ensure that the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island have the right to self-management. The agreement with the Queensland Government ensures that they will have a local authority established under the legislation, the terms of which are to be arrived at after consultation with the Commonwealth and with the agreement of the Commonwealth. Just as important, the people’s traditional rights to the use and occupancy of the land are to be preserved under a special lease, the terms of which are once again to be a matter for mutual agreement. At each point the Commonwealth will consult with the Aboriginal people of these communities to ensure that their wishes are respected. We hope that this will provide a working arrangement which will achieve the Commonwealth’s policy objectives in the field of Aboriginal affairs. If agreement cannot be reached to these vital questions, the Commonwealth will have to use its constitutional power including the power to acquire. We are confident that with good sense on both sides, this will not be necessary.
The statement released by the Premier of Queensland and the Prime Minister on 1 1 April contained very important points. The agreement that was reached at that time ensured that the Commonwealth Government must be consulted about amendments to the local government legislation and that these amendments would be discussed with the communities. The committees of State and Commonwealth officials supporting the councils will be advisory only and concerned with the co-ordination of government services. That was part of the agreement, arrangements and outcome of the discussions that were held. Many other things were brought forward at that time. I do not wish to be tedious in reiterating them because the statement from the Prime Minister and the Queensland Premier on 1 1 April shows the intention. The first words of that statement are:
Recognising our mutual obligation with regard to the wishes and the welfare of the Aboriginal peoples . . .
That is why I say that today is a sad day. As those discussions are proceeding we are faced with a debate on a matter of public importance which deals with the failure of the Government to honour its expressed obligations. It is absurd to talk in those terms in view of the discussions which are being held and the amendments which are to be brought into the Queensland Parliament next week to the Bill which was introduced in that Parliament earlier. After 1 1 April, further discussions were held. On 17 April, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs met with Queensland Ministers in Brisbane. On 1 8 April, he met with council representatives in Mount Isa. On 19 and 20 April the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs again visited the Mornington Island and Aurukun Communities. On 26 April the Aboriginals from Aurukun and Weipa South visited Brisbane for discussions with Queensland Ministers. Also on that date, the Queensland Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Bill was introduced. On 4 May, the Minister for Transport and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, together with Commonwealth officials, visited Brisbane for discussions with the Queensland Ministers of Local Government and Aboriginal and Islander Affairs. A deputation from Mornington Island, including its legal adviser, Mr Purcell, met the Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra. It can be seen that there have been very active consultations and efforts to reach agreement on this matter. For it to be suggested that it would be more fruitful to hand letters to the Vice-President of the United States of America for presentation to the President of the
United States of America overlooks the Australian Government’s commitment to see that the terms of the referendum which was carried overwhelmingly by the Australian people in 1967 are upheld. It also overlooks completely the commitment of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Government as a whole with regard to this matter.
I am sorry to have heard it reputed that when the Prime Minister had consultation with the Aboriginal people he did not give them the feeling that they had his support. I want to assure the people who have been engaged in discussions on this matter, whether they be members of the Church which has given support to the communities, members of the communities concerned or Aboriginal leaders, that there is very great support for them in the Government with regard to their objectives and their wishes to determine their own future and to accept the responsibilities of running their communities in a way that will be of benefit to all the Aborigines who are living in them. The Bill which was introduced in the Queensland Parliament was brought to the Federal Government for consideration. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs looked at it only briefly prior to its introduction into the Queensland Parliament. The drafting instructions had been seen previously by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The meeting last Thursday in Brisbane between Mr Viner, Mr Nixon and the Queensland Ministers has resulted in certain proposals being considered by the Queensland Cabinet. The reponse to the proposals from us were received yesterday and the amendments to the Queensland Bill will be introduced in the State Parliament next week.
– Could you inform us of what they are?
Senator GUILFOYLE At this stage I do not have details of them to place on the table, but they are amendments that would put into effect in more detail the agreement that was reached on 11 April. They would certainly uphold the commitments that we have made to the Aboriginal communities and to the people of Australia.
– Two more full stops and two more commas.
Senator GUILFOYLEThat may be Senator Keeffe ‘s cynicism, but perhaps if we were all to work together on this matter we would achieve more. I think that if we were to work together instead of trying to be divisive on the matter we would achieve more in the mutual interests of the Aborigines of Australia and of the Australian people.
– They want to work together.
– I do not think there is any incentive in what has been said by Senator Keeffe for us to believe that they want to work together. I think the concluding statement that he made with regard to the intention of the Federal Government to deny to the Aboriginal people their rights shows that he has no wish to work with this Government to achieve those rights. If he believes that there is constructive work that he can do or if he feels he is trusted by people to talk with government on their behalf, I believe that he should do those things rather than deal with the matter in the way in which he has dealt with the matter in the Senate today. I think what could be achieved by our all working together would be in the interests of self-management of these communities. The amended Bill is to be introduced into the Queensland Parliament next week. I would think that at this stage whatever sensitive arrangements can be made ought to be made, and they should not be made on the basis of confrontation which is the way in which Senator Keeffe has addressed the Senate. A confrontation can work only to the detriment of all those who are seeking one common end; that is, the opportunity for Aborigines to live in these communities in the way in which they determine and for the support of government, the Church and other groups which want to work for their benefit to be maximised to the greatest degree possible.
The agreement of 11 April is quite basic to what we are talking about. The agreement itself did say that management of the two reserves will not be taken over by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs under the provisions of the Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Bill in that State as the Queensland Government had proposed. The first departure from what could be termed the beginning of all of this was the letter of 10 March informing the Church that it could assume administration. So that is the first thing that ought to be noted about the agreement of 1 1 April. The Commonwealth Government intervened originally because it had the strong belief that the Aborigines did not want to be taken over by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs. I think we discussed quite fully our attitude to that action when we debated the Bill in the Federal Parliament. Many historic matters were discussed at that time, and much of the correspondence between the Church, the community and the Government was revealed to the Senate at that time. I think it would be only restating the obvious if we were again to go over that ground.
On 1 1 April the agreement did ensure that the Aboriginal communities would obtain secure tenure of the former reserves. That was a noteworthy advance on what had been everyone’s belief with regard to the Queensland Government’s intentions. The agreement provided for security of tenure in a long term lease, guaranteeing Aborigines traditional land rights and securing their right to the use and occupation of the land. When the land was reserved the Aboriginals had few legal rights and, as demonstrated, the reservations were likely to be revoked at any time by the Queensland Government. As leaseholders under this agreement of 1 1 April they will have property rights and the terms of the leases must be satisfactory to the Commonwealth after consultation with the communities. That is the message which we ought to be giving today- the terms of the leases, the satisfaction of the Commonwealth Government and the consultation which needs to be held with community leaders and community people. The other important point is that the communities will have the final decision on whether or not to accept and sign the lease. The communities will be able to maintain their relationship with the Uniting Church in Australia although under the Local Government (Aboriginal Lands) Bill, when enacted, the Church will no longer manage the reserves. I believe that that agreement was mutually acceptable to all concerned. The Church does not seek to maintain its management role under the Act, and the councils and other community bodies will be free to enlist the help of the Church in the provision of community services and in the recruitment of staff. I think the negotiations that were part of the chronology of events that I listed show that the consultation between Mr Viner and the Church and the Aboriginal communities is one that allowed us on 11 April to believe that this agreement was in the interests of the Aborigines and would be acceptable to all those who have been involved. If a satisfactory agreement on a scheme of self-management and land ownership by the two communities can be worked out between the two governments it will mark the end of a period of conflict and uncertainty in which the people of the two communities were the ones who suffered. If the Commonwealth Government is not satisfied with the terms of both the local government legislation and the leases, it will exercise its constitutional power to acquire land in the interests of the Aborigines.
It has been said and said again that if at the end of all of this discussion and consultation the Commonwealth Government is not satisfied with the tern i of the legislation and of the leases it will exercise its constitutional power to acquire land in the interests of the Aboriginals. The Commonwealth will provide financial support to the communities to give them a greater capacity to manage their affairs and to assist them in welfare and enterprise activities. Those commitments have been made and announced and have been the subject of discussion and negotiation. I believe that if we are working towards the advancement of the Aborigines and we are seeking to help them to determine the way in which they will live in the future, co-operation in achieving those ends would be the better way of dealing with the matter, rather than to talk at this stage, and on this day, of the failure of the Government. I believe that adds to the confusion in the minds of the Aborigines as to the intention of the Commonwealth Government. It certainly provides them with no certainty that the intention of the Government will be upheld. I ask all those who are dealing with this matter on behalf of the Aborigines and the leaders of the communities to accept the commitment that has been given time and time again by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, by the Prime Minister and by other members of the Government, that if the legislation which is introduced and the terms of the leases which are to be offered are not acceptable to the community and are not in accordance with the agreement that was made on 11 April the Commonwealth Government will then consider the position and deal with the matter.
I said at the beginning of my speech that we had been dealing closely with the matter for two months. I ask that it be accepted as a reasonable proposition that two months’ negotiation for such important legislation is not much to ask from those who seek to push these things forward without satisfactory conclusions being reached. Two months in which we can change the nature of the way in which Aborigines will live in Queensland in the future seems to me to be a very short period of time, given the energy expended by the Minister himself and by others working for the Aborigines, to pursue this matter to an ultimate conclusion. I would say that the two months from 10 March to 10 May have been two months in which much community attitude has been developed which is supportive of the cause of the Aborigines. A lot of understanding of the needs and wishes of the Aborigines has been created. It has certainly been two months in which the energy of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has been quite selflessly expended in reaching agreement on this matter.
To consider that we are living in a country in which we ought to be seeking confrontation with a State government seems to me again to overlook the nature of our country. We are at present negotiating with a State government. If as a result of those negotiations we believe that our own responsibilities and our own obligations are not able to be met, we will then take further steps to ensure that they are met. I hope that during the course of the remainder of this debate in the Senate today we will point to these past two months as being ones in which there has been a great deal of education and in which a great deal of public opinion has been developed. I believe that all of that process has been to the benefit of the Aborigines. I assure the Senate that the outcome of the discussions which will be held with regard to the amendments that will be made to the Bill next week in the Queensland Parliament will be closely watched by the Federal Government. If further announcements are to be made at a late stage they will be made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. The debate that has been brought upon us by the Opposition in the Senate today in no way enhances those discussions.
– I was touched by the appeal of the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) for co-operation to try to better the position of the Aborigines.
– Try a bit of co-operation.
– I am offering it, if the honourable senator would have patience. I think that this is a question beyond party politics and there should be co-operation. I speak for myself and I think for a majority of the members of my party when I say that if the Minister can demonstrate at any time a desire to assist Aboriginal communities she will have the full co-operation of the Opposition. If the Minister were to read the speech I made on 6 April in the debate on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities SelfManagement) Bill 1978 she would see that I commended every statement that had been made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) on the question of Aboriginal affairs. I also commended some of the statements made by the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) on the question of Aboriginal affairs. But I did condemn the Government’s actions. Statements have been made about what the Government wants to do and what it will do, but nothing is done for the benefit of the Aboriginal people. In fact, since the Government came into office its action in cutting down the allocation of funds has been to the detriment of the Aboriginal people.
– The handout.
-The handout? There is a lack of recognition of the responsibility of the Government to the Aboriginal people, and yet the honourable senator says that they should not get the allocation because it is a handout. According to the Minister, the Government will cooperate in the carrying out of the joint agreement between the Queensland Government and the Commonwealth Government. In relation to each point in the Minister’s speech she said that the Commonwealth will consult with the communities and, if the communities do not agree, the Government will use its constitutional power and acquire land. Now we find that the communities did not agree with the Bill introduced into the Queensland Parliament, and Mr Viner and Mr Nixon- why Mr Nixon?- went to Queensland to discuss amendments to the Bill. But have the amendments been submitted to the Aboriginal people? The joint agreement said that matters would be discussed at every point, but the Minister has referred to the Commonwealth not being satisfied. That should be tied in with the reported approach of Mr Fraser to the delegation from Aurukun that met with him last week, when he said: ‘We do not want a confrontation with Queensland; we want to settle this matter by agreement’. It does not matter about the Aboriginal people. They have been sold down the drain. Does the Government expect co-operation from the Opposition while it sells the Aboriginal people down the drain? Why are the amendments being discussed with Mr Nixon and Mr Viner and not with the Aurukun people, who are the ones who should consider them? When Senator Keeffe read out the clauses of that Bill it was apparent that in no way could the provisions be satisfactory to the Aurukun people.
My complaint is that over the last two months everyone has been commending Mr Viner ‘s statements, Mr Viner’s unselfish activities and the amount of energy he has expended; and to give the appearance that it was doing something the Government introduced the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-Management) Bill. In order to make the Bill effective in Queensland, the Labor Opposition submitted certain amendments. At the time the Bill was introduced and subsequently passed, the Government knew that it provided no solution to the problem of Aurukun and Mornington Island. I am in a position to say: ‘I told you so’. It is not a position I like being in, but on 6 April I stated:
Therefore reserves and communities will continue to be identified according to the Queensland Acts. This whole Bill could be defeated by the passage of legislation declaring that Aurukun and Mornington Island are not Aboriginal reserves.
That was known, and I supported it. Senator Wright interjected:
Do you mean an alteration on the part of the Queensland Parliament?
The only thing in which I was wrong was that it did not need an Act of the Queensland Parliament, it needed only a gazettal. Before we got home that night, action had been taken and those places were no longer reserves. However, that was not only my belief. As I pointed out then, back in 1974 a Country Party senator told us that that would be done. Yet the Government introduced legislation knowing that it could never operate in this particular area. The Opposition moved an amendment to clause 3 of the Bill, definitions, in which ‘Aboriginal Community’ is defined as meaning a community for Aborigines established, or deemed to have been established, under or by the Aborigines Act. The community ceases to be a community under that Act when the Government declares that it is not a community. As an amendment to that definition Senator Gietzelt moved:
Aboriginal Community’ means a community of persons that, on 3 1 March 1 978, was a community for Aborigines for the purposes of the Aborigines Act.
All that Senator Gietzelt sought to do was to insert a date prior to the passing of the legislation so that we could forestall any action by the Queensland Government to make the Act inoperative.
– That might have invalidated the legislation. That was the risk.
– All right. On two occasions Senator Guilfoyle gave the Government’s reasons for rejecting the amendment. She said:
I pointed out to Senator Gietzelt and the Opposition that if we were to accept his amendments, in particular those in relation to reserves which seek to freeze the status of the land, they could raise constitutional difficulties and invite a constitutional change which could set aside the whole of Bill now under consideration. That is one of our concerns. It must be remembered that these reserves are Queensland Crown land. We cannot interfere with the use of Crown land.
I was involved in the discussions during the Committee stage of the debate, but as a result of the Minister’s explanation I dropped out of the discussion because I believed that the point had some validity. Not being a legal man like Senator Missen, I could not argue the legal constitutional point. During the division that followed I spoke to a legal member of the Senate whose legal opinion I have great respect for. I asked him why he had not entered the debate when he knew that the Minister was wrong. He said: ‘I did not know the clause. I had not looked at it and I was not going to become involved in something I did not know about.’ I do not believe that a constitutional act can be made unconstitutional by changing a date. All that our amendment sought to do was to change the date.
– To insert a date.
-To change a date. Do the legal luminaries say that a constitutional act can be made unconstitutional by changing a date? When it came to the question of referring the Bill to the Senate Standing Committee for the purpose of consideration, Senator Martin said that perhaps the Government could accept some of the Opposition’s amendments to the Bill. I wanted to have discussions which dealt with these other issues and which went beyond the ambit of the reference to the Standing Committee. Because the discussion was cut short as the Senate was not prepared to adjourn it, and because there was some doubt about whether the motion was ever carried, the matter was declared to be referred to the Committee. That is where the situation stands at this time.
No one really knows what power the Australian public gave to the Commonwealth in the referendum of 1967. It gave the Commonwealth power to make particular rules for the people of any race over whom it has power to make laws. So the Commonwealth has power to make particular rules for Aborigines. Whether the courts will uphold the proposition that that gives the Commonwealth power to acquire land to establish settlements is something I do not know. That is a matter which I would be very hesitant to put to the High Court, if that were to be the end of the matter, in view of some recent judgments which have been given by it. One such decision was to the effect that the Commonwealth has power to acquire property on just terms from any State or person for any purpose in respect of which the Parliament has power to make laws. Let us put that decision to the test. Everyone realises today that the problems of the Aurukun and Mornington Island reserves can not be settled until we have acquired the land and have given it to the Aboriginals under conditions similar to those on which we have given land to the Aboriginals of the Northern Territory. Nothing else will satisfy the Aboriginal people. Nothing else will satisfy those people in Australia who believe injustice for Aboriginals.
I do not suppose that the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs can determine this matter by expressing an opinion. We may have to get a judgment from the court. Let us acquire the land and see what happens. If we do not have the power to acquire land, we should tell that to the Aboriginals so that they do not build up false hopes. If we do not have the power to acquire land for the purpose of establishing settlements then we must make another appeal to the Australian people to give us that power. Let us not run away from this issue and let us not make grandiose statements about what we are doing in sympathy for the Aboriginal people. Let us show some sincerity. There will be no lack of unity if sincerity is shown.
– I support the matter of public importance which has been raised by the Opposition, for to me it is not only a matter of public importance but also a matter of very deep and grave concern to a section of the Australian community. That section of the community- that is the people of my race and in particular the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island- has a grave and deep concern over the Queensland Government threat of what will happen to them. Many honourable senators on this side of the chamber are as gravely concerned about this issue as I am and as are the people we represent, namely the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island. I have received great support from a number of my colleagues, and I pay tribute to them for the kind of assistance they have given and for the concern they have shown.
We are discussing a matter of public importance which has been brought forward by the Opposition. It is just simply that. It has no teeth; it can do nothing. All it does is allow honourable senators to stand up and to reiterate what has been said in this chamber time and time again. I refer to a speech I made in this chamber on 12 March 1974. What I said on that occasion is perhaps just as relevant and just as important today, if not more important, as it was at the time I said it. I stated:
I believe it is time- to adopt a phrase- that Aboriginal advancement and the cause of the Aboriginal people became an issue far and above Party politics. I say to you, my colleagues: Stop taking political kudos from a problem that should be concerning us all. I believe that the indigenous people of this nation are entitled to be given opportunities, encouragement and assistance to enable them to become respected and responsible members of the community. Let us stop making this matter a political football. I have listened in this chamber and read the Hansard of the other place and I have seen where the Aboriginal people have been tossed from one side to the other as though they were a political football . . .
Perhaps those words will now fall on more receptive ears than they did at that time. The situation I spoke about in that speech is still going on. I made a speech on land rights some little time ago. I wish to read from that speech also because those things which my brothers and sisters of Mornington Island and Aurukun are endeavouring to achieve and are concerned about are embodied in that speech. I stated:
I baulk at the task of adequately describing this mystic affinity which has been handed down from father to son for nigh on 40,000 years. Even I, the urban and so-called sophisticated Aborigine, can not explain, nor escape from, the strong ties that bind me to the earth of this continent. Still today, one of my greatest joys is to walk upon virgin land, untouched and unsullied by the whiteman’s progress . . .
This absolute love of the land moves us all. It is completely foreign to the white Australian, who looks upon land as a selfish possession, a symbol of wealth, something to be fenced off and enjoyed to the exclusion of all others . . . Land ownership, particularly to our tribal brothers -
I make this reference in particular because of our concern today for the people of Mornington Island and Aurukun– is something which defies adequate definition. Perhaps land ownership can best be described as a continuing dynamic notion, not bounded by geographical limits of a government surveyor. It is a living, breathing entity, made up of earth, sky, clouds, rivers, trees, rocks, and the spirits which created all these things. It is the place wherein our spirits will reside in the great dreamtime. It is an extension of our very souls, it is our everything.
But what of the attitude of the Queensland Government and of the Queensland Parliament to these things? I went on in that speech to say:
In what is termed the Deep North of Australia, we have colonialism personified by a government whose policies are outmoded, outdated, and reek of racism. In our State, Queensland, we have the worst case of racial discrimination, the great white father image, whose policies are designed to oppress our people and keep them dependent on the State Government . . . These attitudes must not be allowed to continue and relegate our people into the category of second class citizens. I have and will continue to attack these antiquated and discriminatory laws, both outside and inside the Parliament.
This argument is all about the attitude of the Queensland Government. There is no point in my going over again the events that have taken place since that time not so very long ago when the Queensland Government decided to take over the management and the running of the Aurukun and the Mornington Island reserves against the wishes of the people and against the wishes of the Uniting Church in Australia which had been administering those two communities for nigh on 70 years.
Thousands of words have been written about this matter, television interviews have been conducted on it and radio programs have been devoted to it, so there is no point in my going through all those things which took place. I want to talk about the legislation which was introduced by the Queensland Government. It has been said time and again- it has been said in this chamber today- that it must be satisfactory to the Commonwealth Government, it must be satisfactory to the Opposition and it must be satisfactory to me. I say that it does not have to be satisfactory to any of those groups; it has to be satisfactory to the people who are sitting in the President’s Gallery, the Aboriginal people. If this legislation is not in keeping with their wishes, it is no good, because it will not give the people that to which they are rightly and justly entitledselfmanagement and self-determination in their own communities and security of tenure of the land so that they will have something that they can say is theirs.
Why is it necessary now for the original owners of that land to go cap in hand to governments to have returned to them that which was rightfully theirs? It was not given to them by Prime Ministers of this country or by Premiers of Queensland. That land was given to my people by God Almighty- not by a white man. White men came and took it away from them, and now all they are asking for is the return of that land so that they can live on it.
– And we are still squabbling about giving it back to them.
-That is right. White men are still squabbling over whether they should give it back to them. The Australian people are supposed to be God-fearing, Christian people. In this place we say prayers every morning. Yet we deny the people something which was given to them by the Almighty. They were in possession of it long before Captain Cook discovered it. I hate to use that word ‘discovered’. He could not have discovered it because it was not lost in the first place. We had it. But here we go again, squabbling about whether the people should have the right to their own little bit of earth that means so much to them. It is their everything. It is life itself to them. But it is denied to them.
As we know, the Queensland Minister for Aboriginal and Island Affairs and the Minister for Local Government and Main Roads, the Honourable Russell Hinze, introduced the legislation into the Queensland Parliament. I have had an opportunity, along with a number of my colleagues, to examine it and I find that many of its clauses are totally unacceptable. I cannot accept them; yet I am not really the one who should be accepting them anyway. As I said earlier, it should be the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island. I have set out my thoughts on approximately 16 clauses and have advised the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, the Honourable Ian Viner, of them so that he could use them in Cabinet discussions if he wanted to. As I am not a member of the Cabinet I do not know whether he did so but I understand that the Government has been in contact with the Queensland Government, and has advised it that the Commonwealth Government is not satisfied with a number of clauses and that in its present form the Bill is unacceptable.
In view of the limitation of time I will not go through all the clauses. Suffice to say that, as far as I am concerned and as far as the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island should be concerned, the most important one is clause 6 which says, in part, that the Governor in Council shall grant to Council of the Shire of Aurukun a lease of the whole or part as he thinks fit. There is no certainty that the people will get all the land. The Commonwealth Government, the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) have stated that the reserve lands as such should be handed to the Aboriginal people of Aurukun and Mornington Island on lease with the elected councils as the trustees.
– That was the agreement between the two governments.
– That was the agreement made here in Canberra between the State and Federal Ministers. Now that has been thrown out the window. I believe that that agreement has to be adhered to and that that clause of the Bill must be thrown out. I believe also that clause 7 is not in the best interests of the people. It says that the grant is not to include improvements. Does it mean that the houses, the shops, the stores, the garage, the boats, the ramps, the tractors, the motor cars and the trucks will not belong to the people and that the Queensland Government will own them? If it is to own all the improvements, what are the people supposed to own? They will have nothing.
The Federal Minister has contacted the State Government. 1 understand that the Bill has been taken before the Queensland Cabinet and that the Queensland Minister has stated that the Bill will be re-introduced next week. If I know anything about Queensland, the Government will want to rush that Bill through in one day and have it become law. The Federal Government has a responsibility and a duty to ensure that the Bill is not passed in its present form. Even when the Bill is introduced I believe that the Federal Government has a responsibility to ensure that it lies on the table for at least two weeks so that all people can have a look at it and see whether it is a good or a bad Bill. If it is anything like the draft Bill, I certainly will not be happy with it and I will certainly be raising my voice in objection to it. I hope that sanity will prevail in the Queensland Parliament but I do not hold out a great deal of hope for it. I hope that the Queensland Government will listen to the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and have the clauses changed so that the Bill is acceptable to the people and so that the people will not be denied their fundamental rights.
– I rise to support the Opposition on the matter of public importance submitted for discussion by my colleague Senator Keeffe. There is no real doubt about the failure of the Government to honour its obligations, and nothing has been said so far from honourable senators opposite to suggest otherwise. In fact some on the Government side, including the last speaker, Senator Bonner, said that they supported the proposition. The Opposition is drawing attention to the situation and, despite what the previous speaker said, I think it is valuable that we do so. The matter must be drawn to the attention of the people of Australia. I intend to spend a few minutes drawing attention to some of the cultural factors which I believe increase the enormity of the crime, if I may call it that.
The Aboriginal people at Aurukun and Mornington Island- the Wikmunken people, the Lardil people and the Bentick people- are in a particularly difficult situation, as are other people who have been under mission influence for some time. I am not denying the contribution made by the mission people. They have done some wonderful work. They have made mistakes but I have a great deal of respect for the work which they have done. In fact a former Director of Social Welfare, Mr Giese, made the comment that in the Northern Territory if it had not been for the mission people the Aboriginal race would have died out. The Aboriginal people are in certain difficulties as a result of having been exposed to mission influence. They find it hard to understand the actions of some people. They find it hard because of the force of their own tradition, the cultural mores which they have adopted and the patterns of behaviour which they have developed over the years. These have been reinforced by the mission influence. They have been taught to tell the truth and to keep their word, which is the normal Christian doctrine. So the result at present is that the people find it very difficult to understand actions, and we have to appreciate their mores and their attitudes.
The first of these is that a man tells the truth and if a man speaks his clansmen will believe what he says. This is in distinct contrast to our own society. I do not have to elaborate on that. To that attitude is tied the thought that the man keeps his word; that if he gives his word, he keeps it. The second major point is that once a decision has been made it is kept, and one does not have to go back to people time and time again and ask them what are their views. I have raised the situation of Nandjiwarra Amagula who criticised us for doing this. I wonder what the Northern Land Council thinks about the present exercise with the four members of the National Country Party once again asking it what it wants in terms of the present Bills. The third factor is that law is sacred and unchanging. I read a comment made by Burramarra from Elcho Island, who is one of the clan leaders:
Aboriginal tribal law is one and the same Tor all yolnu people. We keep it whole as one law and no Aboriginal person will try to conquer, overcome or change that law.
They believe that the law of the white man should be the same, and that it should be obeyed and not circumvented. The fourth factor is that the lawman, an elder, is looked up to. Elkin was one of the first to comment on this in his book Men Of High Degree. The people of Aurukun and Mornington Island and other Aboriginal people believe that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), by their very positions, are men of high degree and should be trusted and honoured. They find it extremely difficult when they have to accept that their idols have feet of clay. We do not have this difficulty. We have come to accept duplicity in some people. I believe that the Minister has lost a good deal of face and I think it is most unfortunate that this has happened. I have stressed this point previously.
The comment I made on the law leads to one of our own precepts. By ‘our own’ I mean that it is a white precept. It is that justice must not only be done but must be seen to be done. I draw attention to the comments made in the Melbourne Age of 8 May under the heading ‘Blacks lose faith in PM’. The article reports a letter written by the people of Aurukun to the Prime Minister as follows:
We have lost faith in you ‘, they said.
Consultation with us has been a joke’.
In yesterday’s open letter, the Aurukun leaders say: ‘We came away totally disillusioned with you and your Government, as an ally’.
It is clear what the people of Aurukun think. Why do they think like this? Why have they lost faith? What is their objection to the comments that have been made? The obligations are there and the promises have been made. It is quite clear that the policy of this Government is one of self-management, self-determination and land rights. The Queensland people will see this policy. They will see what has been done in the Northern Territory where the Federal Government decided to be a pacesetter. If nothing had been said, if the Prime Minister or the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs had done nothing more than to simply state their policy statements and if the people had followed what happened in the Northern Territory, they could have assessed the Federal Government’s obligation to the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island. But, of course, they do not have to rely on this. There are other statements which reinforce this. Other people have quoted national newspapers. Being parochial I will quote from the Northern Territory News of 6 April.
– An excellent paper.
– It is an excellent paper. The Northern Territory News comments:
The Prime Minister said that while there may be a ‘mild degree of disputation’ between the Commonwealth and Queensland all Australians needed to concern themselves with the welfare of the Aboriginal people.
Later, the article states:
The Commonwealth supported the people of Aurukun in their litigation over the mining agreement which was taken to the Privy Council in line with decisions made by the Government in 1976.
On 10 April the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs made a comment. The Northern Territory News of that date states:
The Aboriginal Affairs Minister, Mr Viner, today hinted at strong Federal action to finalise the Queensland Aboriginal reserves issue.
He said the Commonwealth recognised its constitutional obligations, ‘ and we expect to. be in a position to be able to fulfill them’.
But from the Commonwealth’s point of view, looking at its constitutional obligations, we have to decide on the basis of the work that’s been done over the weekend- the various options that will be put before Cabinet- just what ought to be done to bring the matter to finality, and finality in the interests of the people ‘, he said.
Of course, he was referring to the discussions with the Queensland Government which Mr Viner went to Queensland to have. What have people had to say about the legislation that was drawn up as a result of those discussions? I think the first comment ought to come from the Uniting Church in Australia. I will read part of a letter from Reverend Brown to Synod officers, which states:
Under that agreement -
That is, the agreement between the Prime Minister and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs- the Queensland Government was to grant a lease of the former reserves to the two communities, and draft legislation to enable the two communities to manage their own affairs as shires. The agreement also provided for the establishment of an advisory committee for each of the communities.
Later, the letter states:
Our worst fears have been more than fulfilled. The legislation provides not for ‘self-management’, but for management and control by the Queensland Government. It is as far from self-management as East from West. It has the same effect as if we had handed over to Mr Porter on March 3 1. If passed, it will result in the total destruction of the two communities. It is in irreconciliable conflict with the ‘selfmanagement’.
That is the legislation that was agreed to by the Federal Government. It is quite obvious that Government supporters, from what was said by Senator Bonner this morning in drawing attention to support that he is receiving from his colleagues, do not agree either. I understand that Senator Bonner rejects 2 1 of the 36 clauses of the legislation. Yet in the Melbourne Age yesterday the Minister is reported to have said:
We have sought to gain substantial benefits for them -
That is, the Aurukun people- against the position they were faced with when Queensland announced it would take over the management of the two reserves from the Uniting Church.
In other words the Government has tried to do this and it has failed. This has been clearly documented by the evidence which has been presented in the media and by what was said this morning. It is a clear case of a failure to honour an expressed obligation. What makes it worse, of course, is the fact that this failure is based upon political considerations. The decisions were taken for political reasons and not for the high flown comments that were made by the Prime Minister and the Minister earlier.
The question, of course, is: Could the Government have done anything? Clearly, the answer is yes. This was referred to by Senator Cavanagh. The first step would have been to acquire the land. Senator Cavanagh raised the question of whether this is constitutionally possible. Many people believe it to be so and I am certainly of that opinion. Senator Cavanagh made the point that even if we do not believe it is so, we ought to go ahead and try it and be challenged afterwards. Let us face it: It would not be the first time we have done this. If we have the constitutional right, what are the other problems? I would say that there are none. At current usage the property would not cost a great deal. I refer here to a report which states:
The Department of Aboriginal Affairs in a submission to the Minister estimated the acquisition costs of the reserves . . would be $211,964 for Aurukun and $63,469 for Mornington Island . . .
Surely that is a small price to pay for the credibility of this Government. Surely it is a small price to pay for the welfare of the Aboriginal people. Yet did this happen? Not at all, and the following reason is given:
However, the Prime Minister said to the Aurukun delegation on Thursday, 4 May, 1978, that ‘money was not a consideration’. The Prime Minister simply lacks the fortitude to honour his commitments in the face of oppositin from the National Party.
It is quite obvious that the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island do not want Queensland control for the same reason as the Northern Territory people do not want it. The Northern Territory people have looked at the record of the Liberal-National Country Party in the Northern Territory and they are not particularly happy. The Queensland people have looked, as Senator Bonner has looked, at the record of the Queensland Parliament and they are not particularly happy either. So they do not trust the Queensland Parliament. They do not want control by that Government and they do not want the legislation because it gives extraordinary powers to Queensland officials. Let me give the example which has been mentioned in the other place.
Just how do these extraordinary powers affect Aborigines? Barry Nakyoungwokker, the vicechairman of the Aurukun Council who is in Canberra at the moment, experienced the extent of the powers in 1970. Over a number of years Barry had managed to save $1,000 which he kept in his Queensland bank account. He decided to use the money to build himself a house, so he bought building materials and organised a team of kinsmen to give its assistance free to help him build his house. When the house was completed he applied to the Queensland Department to withdraw his savings. Of course that is significant; he had to apply to the Department to be allowed to withdraw his own savings- but let us not enter into that in the short time available- so that he could pay off his debts. The Director of the Department replied pointing out that the department manual provided that no purchase of an unusual nature such as houses, motor cars, horses, boats et cetera were to be made without reference to the office, reporting the full facts, and if the items purchased were second hand, an independent valuation of the items to be purchased had to be forwarded, and withheld Barry’s savings. We must remind ourselves of the obligations and promises that have been made. The obligations that were made in 1967 are clear. The promises that were made were for self-management, self-determination and land rights.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
-Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was reminding the Senate of the Government’s obligations and promises in this matter. I drew attention to the fact that the obligations and the promises were in three areas -self-management, self-determination and land rights. The Government stands condemned on all three counts as they relate to Aurukun and Mornington Island. The Government has broken faith with the Aboriginal people. It is no secret that I believe that land rights is the key issue in this matter as it is the key issue in a number of other matters dealing with Aboriginal people. There is no doubt that the Minister believes this also. Without quoting, I simply refer honourable senators to the speeches made in this place and in other places at the time the land rights legislation was introduced. It is clear what could have been done. The Government has chosen not to do it. I strongly believe that honest people who have a feeling not only for Aboriginal people but also for the principles of democratic government must support the proposition that the Government has failed to honour its expressed obligations to the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island.
– I think it is rather unfortunate that we are having to waste the time of the Senate today with this discussion of a matter of public importance, namely:
The failure of the Government to honour their expressed obligations to the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island.
One thing that should have come out of all the discussions over the last few weeks is that the Commonwealth Government has very limited powers to act in this area. The referendum of 1967 changed section 51 (xxvi) of the Constitution. The Government then had the power to legislate for the welfare of the Aboriginal people. It has become quite clear that to legislate to do anything other than what we set out in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-Management) Bill which was passed by this Parliament is just not possible. If the Government wants to do anything else years of litigation will be involved. It will do nobody- the State Government, the Federal Government and the Aboriginal people themselves- any good. The Aboriginal people are the meat in this sandwich. We know that Federal Ministers have been to Queensland to discuss this matter. We will not know of the arrangements arrived at until legislation is introduced into the Queensland Parliament next week. The discussion of this matter of public importance is quite premature as the arrangements which will be made will possibly cover the problems that honourable senators are talking about here today.
The history of the conflict has been given. Very briefly, it stems from a resolution of the Queensland Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia last year. The Church indicated to the Honourable Charles Porter that it was willing to discuss government administration of these two mission stations. Since then Professor Rollie Busch has made it quite clear where he and the Uniting Church stand on this issue. I quote from one of his Press releases:
Since this controversy first began some weeks ago the Queensland Synod has stood consistently for the right of the peoples of Aurukun and Mornington Island to manage their own affairs, and to have a voice in determining their own future. From this position we have never deviated, refusing to be drawn into irrelevant discussions about the merits of State versus Federal control. The crucial issue is still the same- the right of Aboriginal people to manage their own affairs.
I think in all these debates we should never lose sight of that facet- the right of Aboriginal people to manage their own affairs. We realise that these debates are used to cast a lot of aspersions, mud if one likes, at the Queensland Premier and the Queensland Government. Unfortunately, the fundamental blunder in this whole affair was made by the Honourable Charles Porter in announcing the takeover without any reference to or consultation with the Uniting Church. The whole problem can be sheeted home to that fact. As I said in the speech on the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders (Queensland Reserves and Communities Self-Management) Bill 1978 the tragedy of tragedies is that the whole thing could have been averted if there had been proper consultation. The Honourable Charles Porter saw fit to announce a takeover, a coup if one likes, and has not to this point given any justification for his having done so.
As I said, we are not aware of the arrangements which have been made. It is quite premature to discuss an MPI of this nature today. The opportunity has been taken once again to denigrate the Queensland Government, the
Queensland Premier and the Aboriginal legislation. I think that people ought to be aware of the fact that the Aborigines in Queensland have, over a long period, had a continuing input into Queensland Acts concerning Aboriginals. We hear mainly from southern media and southern politicians about this regressive legislation in Queensland. From the rot we hear, one would think Queensland was a police state. There is no difference between travelling from Brisbane to Cairns or Mount Isa or Longreach and travelling from Sydney to Melbourne. So much rot is talked about Queensland. We are possibly one of the most progressive States in the Commonwealth, along with Western Australia.
Senator Keeffe, the knocker from north Queensland, supposedly a representative of that area- every time he speaks he attacks Queensland- has brought up this unnecessary MPI. The Queensland Aboriginal Acts have had a lot of input into them by Queensland Aboriginal and Island people for some time.
- Mr President, I will seek your indulgence at the end of this debate to make a personal explanation in relation to the insulting statements just made by the honourable senator.
– You can always seek leave to make a statement.
– Speaking to the point of order, if Senator Keeffe considers the statements insulting he should ask the honourable senator to withdraw them now and not ask to make a personal explanation.
– I point out that at present three commissioners are reporting to the Queensland Cabinet on the redrafting of the Queensland Aboriginal Acts. They are the Chairman of the Aboriginal Advisory Council, the Chairman of the Islanders Advisory Council and a representative of the South Pacific Islanders Council. The Queensland Cabinet has given assurances that it will legislate on the recommendations of this Commission.
The unfortunate part of this incident is that the Aboriginal people have been made a political football. A sorry and sordid treatment is being handed out to these people at present. This country should have a conscience about the past treatment, the past atrocities and the past injustices that have been perpetrated on this race of people. It is not a history of which we can be proud. Unfortunately, as a balm to our troubled conscience, we have thought that the best thing to do is to hand out money right, left and centre. We cannot buy a person’s respectability or legislate to give him dignity. The unfortunate part is that if there is any discrimination in Queensland it is against the white people in the lower socioeconomic groups. What has made the situation worse is a white backlash has been fermentingsomething that was never intended. It is something that is present. It is something that we want least of all. The situation has been made worse by using these people as a political football. Senator Keeffe was the first to start using these people as a political football and politicising their troubles. That fact has been known throughout Queensland for some considerable time.
– That is an unnecessary and insulting statement. I seek its withdrawal.
- Senator Collard, you cannot make imputations against an honourable senator.
-Do I have to withdraw?
– Out of respect to you, Mr President, I withdraw that statement. In these last two weeks, unfortunately, there has been a parade of people on both sides of this argument carting these Aboriginal people around Australia to put up their respective arguments. I find it very degrading. They are a fine race of people. At present they are a bewildered people, as I said before, seeking to find their place in our society. To support some particular argument of either side they have been hawked around Australia almost as exhibitions.
I conclude by saying that the outcome of this undignified and at times belligerent posturing by both the Federal and Queensland Governments and the blatant grandstanding by political opportunists has no doubt satisfied some sort of honour, but the dismay and the limited trust of the bewildered people of the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities are being reinforced daily by the posturing of people such as those who seek to make mileage out of the unfortunate circumstances in which our indigenous people find themselves in our 20th century civilisation. It will take a lot of understanding and genuine action to retrieve the situation and to assist these people in their assimilation into our society. We all owe it to these people to help to keep this problem out of the political arena, to work to understand the peculiar difficulties confronting them and enable them to play with dignity a positive role in our community.
– I agree with Senator Collard that this debate is probably a waste of time because if what he has just said is indicative of this Government’s attitude to the problem, we are indeed wasting time that could better be used. It seems then that it is pointless to again urge the Government to stand behind the pledges it gave to the Mornington Island and Aurukun people. Senator Collard ‘s statement on the years of litigation that might result from this Government using the powers it has to acquire this land for Aborigines sounds to me very much like blackmail. If we go ahead and acquire the land they will spend years and years in courts in litigation. That was not the principle or the feeling behind our original idea of what was going on, nor I am sure was it in the minds of the Mornington Island and Aurukun people. But evidently it is behind the thinking of some people in the Government. It is typical of so many of the statements that have been made. It is obvious now that the high flown statements, the purple prose that has issued forth, are nothing but bland window dressing. Like fairy floss, every time a bite is taken, their substance vanishes. This Government is all talk and no action.
Why these people who are so vulnerable in today’s world should be used when making these grand, empty gestures is beyond me. It appears that the Government is not the slightest bit interested in giving independence to these people. If it was, nobody could be so naive as to believe that a Queensland premier of the sort we have at the moment has the rights of these people at heart. He has shown clearly that he is much more concerned with the bauxite beneath the reserves than he is with the people in them. This Federal Government has shown that its real concern too lies in that area. I have a great deal of sympathy with the Aboriginal people at the moment who are saying that they would be better off if a treaty between white Australians and the Aboriginal people was drawn up. Then perhaps they would have some rights and someone would listen to them.
How could a Federal Government believe a premier who, out of sheer pique, a sheer sense of self-importance, ended a program to treat trachoma amongst Aboriginal people when for every one white person in Australia who is blind there are 10 Aboriginal people. That was indicative of how he felt about the Aboriginal people in Queensland and how he would act. Aboriginal people want self-management; they want some freedom; they want the chance to stand up, the chance to run their own lives, to make their own mistakes and to establish their own lifestyle. They want freedom from a repressive government that treats them like idiot children. They want to manage their own affairs and make their own mistakes. They could not possibly make more mistakes either in their own affairs or in our affairs than we do. The Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) said that the Government would not flinch from using its powers to acquire land if necessary to protect the position of the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island, but their interests would best be served by cooperation with the Queensland Government. Of course they would best be served if there were the slightest sign that anything like co-operation was forthcoming from the Queensland Government; but there is no sign whatsoever. Why does the Government not use its powers to acquire the land?
The people of Australia showed how they felt about Aboriginal people when we held the referendum on powers to legislate for Aboriginal people. The Government has that behind it and it should take the opportunity to go forth and use those powers. How long, we wonder, can the farce go on with no evidence of co-operation. While the Aboriginal people find themselves homeless in their own traditional grounds, what is the Government doing? We have some indication of what the Queensland Government is doing from the plan that it has drawn up for the Aurukun township. It further demonstrates what is in store for the people of Aurukun. The 87 houses erected by individual members of the Aurukun community are to be removed to make way for roads and empty public places. Other useful facilities are also to be cleared, such as the Church, the community sawmill and the community workshop. Also virtually all the mature mango trees which provide the community with vitamin C and cover during the summer months are to be removed. That is what the Queensland Government has in store for these people unless the Federal Government steps in and makes good the promises that it has made.
Giving in to people whose moves are clearly part of a broad strategy to dispossess the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island of their land is cynical. It is as though nothing has happened. The Government has not kept its promises. It is a fair assumption that this Government believes, with the Queensland Government, that a handful of Aboriginals should not be allowed to hold up the economic development of our country. That is the heart of the matter. For ‘economic development’ one can read ‘mining’. I recall a cartoon which appeared at the beginning of this confrontation, snowing an Aboriginal sitting on each side of a pile of bauxite. One Aboriginal was saying to the other, ‘The only problem we have to work out, is it State bauxite or is it Federal bauxite’. I think that is what this matter is all about. To get the rights, the Queensland Government has vilified the Presbyterian Church, the Aboriginal people, the Federal Government. What else will it take? Does it believe, with the Queensland Premier, that the real fight is with the Presbyterian Church, that the Presbyterian Church really wants 30 per cent of the gross profit from the mining?
The welfare of all Aboriginals and their fair and just treatment must be paramount. In this squabble the Federal Government must now use the powers it has to acquire the land and give these people back their humanity. We are supposed to believe in the potential goodwill of a State government that ignored the report of its own ombudsman in 1976 to consult over amending the Aurukun Associates Agreement Act. Throughout 1977 it consistently denied that the Government had any plans to control the mission, at the same time orchestrating a campaign of vilification against both the community and the church. Yet on 1 April 1978 it advised the Church and the Federal Government that it was taking control. From then on we have the sorry spectacle of a Federal government that backs off and backs off. There is indecisiveness and compromise because the Federal Government does not really want to see these people free of the tyranny of the Queensland Government. It just wants to know where the bauxite is going. Now can we have some decisiveness and an honesty and an honouring of the promises that have been given to these people of Queensland.
-In the very limited time that is allowed in this debate, I rise to speak on this subject. I believe that it is an important subject and I do not join with Senator Collard on my side who says that it is a waste of time. It is not a waste of time to discuss this issue this week in this Parliament. I cannot for one moment agree with the suggestion that he made that we cannot know what amendments will be made to the Queensland legislation until they are introduced. I think we have a right to know them and I am surprised we do not know them. I believe above all that those members of the Aurukun and Mornington Island communities who are here today and who are concerned have a right to know what amendments are proposed.
Therefore, I think it is a matter of importance to the Parliament that we discuss this subject. At the same time, I think the phrasing of the matter of public importance is unfortunate when it alleges the failure of the Government to honour its expressed obligations to the people. During this debate this has not been shown to be true. I expect the Government to honour its obligations and, in fact, to ensure that, if any legislation from Queensland is to be accepted and effective, it should accord with agreements which have been made by the two Governments and which can be useful to the people of those two Aboriginal communities.
I remind the Senate of what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner, said only a few weeks ago in relation to these matters. He stated: . . the Government’s decision was based on its commitment to the principle of Aboriginal self-management, their right to be as free as other Australians to make their own decisions and determine their own futures, and their right to be free of paternalistic management of their affairs by Government.
He concluded his statement by saying:
We believe they are ready for self-management, they believe it and they are going to get it.
I, as a member of this chamber, will work to see that they get it. I expect the Government to do that. I expect it is doing just that in its present negotiations. The conclusion which the Opposition has drawn that the Government somehow will not manage to do this, or that it will accept unsatisfactory legislation which is anathema to the people of those communities is something which I certainly do not accept at this time. I see no evidence of that being so.
We have obligations under the referendum proposal which was carried in 1967. I believe that it gave this Parliament a very substantial power. Speaking personally, I cannot think of anything short of acquisition which in the long run will be satisfactory. 1 find it very hard to believe that the proposed local government set up will be very satisfactory. It will be very difficult for the Aboriginal community to operate under the terms of local government legislation. Aurukun leaders have told my Committee- the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs- which is looking into the existing legislation, that this is something which worries them very considerably.
Let us assume that something can be done and that some legislation can be agreed upon. The important point is that there must be effective self-management. That is what we are pledged to provide and that is what we must achieve. There must be consultation with the Aboriginal leaders to see that they are happy with the results of those negotiations. We have legislation which was passed through this Parliament and which is designed to assist the Aboriginal communities. I think we have to look at that legislation again.
The Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs is pledged to do that. We are to ensure that if that legislation continues to operate as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs wants it to operate- it will relate to all the other reserves- then it will be effective and useful. But it is my personal view that ultimately land rights will be needed.
I think we ought to do as Senator Bonner has done, and look at the various aspects of the legislation which has been introduced in Queensland. Many people on this side of the chamber support Senator Bonner in what he is doing. He is not a lone voice in the Parliament on this issue. Many of us believe he is acting courageously, with the best of intentions and motives. We back him in what he is doing. We believe that he has the interests of the people of those communities at heart.
If we look at the legislation which has been introduced into the Queensland Parliament one of the conclusions we can arrive at straight away is that it in no way represents the carrying out of the agreement which was made between the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) and the Queensland Premier on 1 1 April. The legislation is supposed to recognise our mutual obligations with regard to the wishes and welfare of the people. Therefore, the wishes of the people should have been considered first and foremost. We know that the Queensland Government brought some people to Brisbane and put them on television. But these people did not include authorised representatives of the community. This action was taken in an endeavour to confuse in the public mind the wishes of the community.
It was expressed that the aim of the agreement was to achieve self-management. That was the commitment of the Queensland Premier and of our Prime Minister, who, as I realise from a number of conversations with him on the subject, sincerely supports those propositions. But the agreement was that a local government authority should be created on the boundaries of the existing reserves. The legislation now before the Queensland Parliament does not give that guarantee. Senator Bonner made it clear in his speech that that legislation leaves it open to the Queensland Parliament to give a lease for all or for some part of a reserve ‘as it thinks fit’. The legislation does not commit the Queensland Government in any way to give to the Aboriginal communities, lands which were in those existing reserves.
The agreement went on to provide that the local government councils, which were to be set up, were to be the ‘managing authority’. Anybody who reads the Queensland legislation as it now stands will realise that this requirement does not give the council that ‘managing authority’. The Queensland legislation makes the councils very much subject to other authority. It enables the Queensland Government to dismiss the councils if it sees fit. One could imagine that those councils could run foul of the complications of local government administration and it could be very easy to dismiss them if it suited the purpose of the Government.
The agreement also provides for each council to be subject to a co-ordinating and advisory committee. According to the agreement between the two leaders the committee was to consist of representatives of ‘authorities delivering services’, including one representative of the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs. But what do we find in the legislation which has come forward? It provides for the committee to consist of three people- two State Ministers and one Federal Minister. It is quite clear where the majority lies. The legislation does not provide for the inclusion of other organisations which have contributed to the welfare of the people and which the community might want to assist them.
Under the agreement the Queensland Government was to consult with the Commonwealth on the terms of its legislation. There might have been some consultation, but I very much doubt whether the final legislation bears any great resemblance to whatever might have been agreed at those consultations. The legislation contains a lot of other aspects which I think were not the subject of consultation between the two governments. I challenge the Queensland Government to show how it has complied in any way with the terms of that agreement. Of course, mutual agreement between the two Ministers was not achieved under the methods of preparing this legislation. Therefore I say that the major aspect of this matter is that the legislation before the Queensland Parliament is not what the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island want and it does not come anywhere near the agreement reached between the governments.
In a few moments left let me mention various aspects of the Queensland legislation which were not mentioned by Senator Bonner. I believe that this legislation will have to be amended substantially and drastically if it is to accord with the principle of self-management. The lease needs to provide that there will be an entitlement for control over the improvements on the land and not just control of the land itself; it needs to provide that the councils of the communities will have the right to sublet and to collect rent; and it needs to provide that the power to dissolve the council, which is left in the hands of the Queensland Minister for Local Government and Main Roads, will be taken away. The legislation provides that he must consult the Federal Minister. What does that mean? It means nothing whatsoever. He could consult over the telephone and then go and dismiss the council. That clause provides no protection whatsoever.
The agreement provided that each local government council should have a co-ordinating and advisory committee in order to support the communities. Instead, the legislation provides that those committees are to assist the Government in the ‘control and management’ of the communities. That is the very antithesis of selfmanagement; therefore, that provision surely must go. In addition to that and many other matters, the legislation confers powers upon the Queensland Government to remove the shire clerk. It confers powers upon the Queensland Minister to decide who shall have the right of entry or exclusion. The Minister can overrule decisions by the councils. In all these and many other ways the present Queensland legislation is a falsity so far as the agreement between the two governments is concerned.
I believe that our Government will not prove recreant. I believe that it will prove strong in this issue. I trust that it will be strong in its negotiations. We should negotiate while there is any possibility of reaching agreement. Nonetheless, I believe that we have to seek very drastic alterations to the legislation. It is therefore desirable that this Parliament should express itself loud and clear in support of the people of Aurukun and Mornington Island and ensure them selfgovernment, which they richly deserve.
– Order! The discussion having reached the limit of two hours allowed by Sessional Order, I now call on the Business of the Day.
-Mr President, I wish to make a personal explanation. I did not demand the withdrawal of one of Senator Collard ‘s remarks when he made it.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, Mr President, I was misrepresented. Senator Collard stated in his remarks that I was continually knocking
Queensland and that one could gain the impression from the way in which I spoke that it was a police State. I want to say this: I am not a knocker of Queensland. It is the best State in Australia. I do strongly oppose the Queensland Government which is the worst State Government in Australia. For the edification of Senator Collard, I state that Queensland is also a police State.
Debate resumed from 8 May on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– It is fitting and proper that the Senate should be debating the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill which deals with the very important issue of land rights in Territories which are under Commonwealth control. During this session, the Parliament has spent a considerable amount of time on discussions about the responsibilities of the Federal Government as they relate to land rights and the rights of Aborigines in Queensland. We have adopted something like a common stand in many respects, even though one sometimes is appalled at the degree to which some Government senators seek to impute improper motives and make highly critical extremist statements relating to the attitude of the Australian Labor Party in respect of the plight that Aborigines find themselves in some 220 years since white civilisation came to this continent. It must be said that with the passage of time, during the last decade or so, the question of Aboriginal land rights has become a very important issue in the thinking and the consciousness of Aborigines. It seems to us that the question of land rights has become almost a predominant issue in their thinking. This is not difficult to understand. Therefore, one finds it difficult to appreciate the reluctance of those people- more often than not they are found on the conservative side of the politicswho still resist the recognition that the Australian community and the parliaments generally owe to Aborigines.
The Opposition does not oppose this Bill as a whole, although it will be our intention to move some amendments which we believe will strengthen it. We hope that the Senate will regard the amendments as genuine attempts to realise the objectives of those people who support the rights of Aborigines to land rights, to realise the objectives which the Government set itself in the original legislation and to realise the objectives of the Party that I represent. In saying that, it must be asserted that there is a measure of uncertainty and confusion. Some people might even be prepared to say that the whole question of land rights in Australia is in somewhat of a schemozzle at the moment. To an extent there has been a great deal of shadow sparring and we have not as yet reached the point at which we can say to the Aborigines that we have fulfilled this important demand that they have made upon the Australian community.
The Opposition is prepared to support this piece of legislation because the Aborigines want it. They are waiting for it. They want some action taken on land rights. As a consequence of that, whilst we are critical of the Bill and will be moving amendments to try to strengthen it, we will not be opposing it because, with all its limitations, it does represent somewhat of an advance on the position that exists, for example, in Queensland, the State which was the subject of a debate which has just concluded in the Senate. It is necessary that some of the machinery measures in the amending Bill which the Senate is now discussing should be passed to enable the realisation of the objectives of the Government, the objectives of the Opposition and the objectives of the Aborigines themselves. At the same time, it must be said that the Bill does not represent just an amendment to the existing legislation which was passed in 1976. In some respects it represents an abridgment of land rights. It erodes the very principles upon which the original legislation was based.
As the Opposition reads this piece of legislation, in a sense it represents a step backwards. When it erodes the principles upon which the legislation was originally passed by the Parliament in 1976, those principles must be restated. They were the basis upon which the original land rights legislation was enacted. There are one or two defects in the legislation which the Opposition thinks are unnecessary and which we intend to oppose at the Committee stage. Since this legislation was enacted in 1976- it has been in operation for almost two years- it has been found that some of the procedural amendments that were required to ensure effective administration contain some difficulties and that some of the interpretations of it needed some strengthening. So there is some minor justification for the legislation which the Senate is now discussing. I want to go back to what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) said in his second reading speech in the House of Representatives. That second reading speech was also delivered in this chamber by the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick). It was then stated:
It was the intention in the drafting of the principal Act -
That is the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act- that in establishing a Land Trust it ought to be sufficient to describe in general terms the beneficiaries of the land held by the Land Trust.
Legal advice subsequently received by the Government has shown that the Act requires specific identification of the Aboriginal groups involved. Given this advice, the establishment of land trusts has not been possible. I want to remind the Senate that that very point was made in the debate when this Bill was being considered several years ago. As a result of the defect the Minister has been unable to recommend to the Governor-General the grant of any land to land trusts because of the difficulty of identifying in specific terms the benefiiciaries involved. To determine the traditional owners to the degree of detail required by the original Act would be a complex and time consuming task, a task intended to be the long-term responsibility of the land councils in establishing a register of traditional owners under section 24 of the Act. Therefore, there is a need- we concede it- to amend the Act to ensure that the specific identification principles originally intended will not be required. This will enable- I am sure this is why the Aborigines are anxious to see the legislation considered- the early establishment of land trusts to hold title to the land described in Schedule 1 of the principal Act, which includes all of the major Aboriginal reserves in the Northern Territory.
Along similar procedural lines, the Bill also contains provisions to extend to the Aboriginal Land Commissioner the same protection and immunity as a justice of the High Court of Australia. The provisions state that that Commissioner may administer an oath or affirmation to a voluntary witness and impose penalties in the event of a failure to give an answer or if false information is given. Clearly, this and other amendments contained in this amending Bill merely seek to rectify situations that would have held up the full implementation of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act of 1976. To the extent that the amendments are in line with the original intentions of the Act the Opposition has no quarrel with them. Rather, it is necessary that they be passed because there is a need to realise the objectives of both the Aborigines and this Parliament. The Opposition welcomes that aspect of the legislation.
I am prepared to pay some tribute to the Government for the alacrity with which it has recognised the deficiency in the original legislation and to commend it for the progress that it has taken on this matter to see that land rights are given to Aborigines. However, it must be said that certain aspects of this amending Bill appear to us to erode the principles of the 1976 legislation. I hope that remarks we will make on this Bill will receive the due consideration of the Senate. What were the principles of the 1976 legislation? The Minister stated those principles in his second reading speech in 1976, when he said:
Of course, when one looks at the definitions in other Acts dealing with land rights and Aborigines, whether it be the Queensland Act or our own Acts, one finds that in the minds of Aborigines, land represents premises. To them land is not just a piece of earth upon which they walk; it has a greater emphasis and impact upon them. Land is their place of home. Just as whites put a fence around their piece of land and doors and locks on their houses and that is regarded as their property, we have to see that property in the minds of Aborigines means the land upon which they have resided and which they have used generation by generation, century by century and era by era. So when we talk about land rights we are talking about a definition which goes much further than that which might superficially be the opinion of the general community. In his second reading speech the Minister said:
The Aboriginal Land Rights Act is a unique and historical piece of legislation. It provides the opportunity for Aboriginal people to participate in matters affecting their lives in a way which hitherto has been denied them. This needs to be accepted by those people who have in the past been making decisions for Aboriginals and by those who have been able to take decisions which might vitally affect Aboriginals without thought for Aboriginal opinion.
We can only say that with the effluxion of time and in the course of evolution, we all have come to appreciate that past policies on Aboriginal affairs have been paternalistic- I think Senator Missen used that phrase a moment or two ago. We saw ourselves as do-gooders, people who could sit in judgment and decide what was good for Aborigines. That era, thank God, has passed. We are in a period where Aborigines want selfdetermination, self-management and land rights. I think it is up to the Parliament to recognise that that is a justifiable and proper demand to be acceded to by the legislature. The Minister went on to say that a further aspect of the Government’s policy in relation to Aboriginal land rights is to allow Aborigines ‘as owners of their land, to follow their own lifestyles on their own land to me extent that they choose, to participate in and influence the course of development of and on their traditional land, and to take advantage of the full range of opportunities which development may open up to them ‘.
We in the Opposition fully share the view expressed in that statement but we take issue with Senator Collard who talked about assimilation as against the very important distinction that the Aborigines should have and require the right to make the decision of whether they want to be assimilated into a white civilisation. I do noi accept that our civilisation is necessarily the only civilisation that they would want to consider. They have shown in various ways in recent years that they do not necessarily want to be assimilated and integrated into our community. They want to follow their own lifestyle and to the extent that they do, it is their decision. As the Minister said in his speech in 1976, they want the right to participate in and to influence that decision-making process. They are very fine principles. 1 would find it difficult to accept that the majority of members of this Parliament would disagree with the principles that the Minister expressed in 1976. There would be some. It is clear that there is a division of opinion amongst the conservatives in the Parliament; there are those who have not yet fully understood what the question of assimilation and self-management means. However, I know that there are not many Government senators who would disagree with what I am saying. Certainly they would not disagree with the words expressed by the Minister on behalf of their own Government. Yet I would agree that certain sections of this amending Bill disagree with those principles; they nullify and erode the principles which the Minister expressed in his speech on the 1976 legislation.
The proposed new sub-section in section 12 of the principal Act provides that any grants of land in the Alligator Rivers Area (No. 3), is subject to the condition that the land council for the area directs the land trust to enter into an agreement with the Director of National Parks and Wildlife to lease the land to him for the purposes of the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Act of 1975. Therein is a negation of that principle. Proposed new sections to be inserted after section 12 provide that if the land council and Director car not agree on the terms of an agreement the Minister, after consulting with the Director and the council may appoint an impartial arbitrator to determine the terms of the agreement. That envisages a situation where there is a disagreement. That puts a limitation upon the rights of Aboriginals to determine their own affairs and to have access to their own land.
The land council and the Director must then enter into an agreement, or if the land council refuses- and obviously that is more than a possibility, having regard to the extensive negotiations which are now taking place- the Minister may enter into an agreement on behalf of the land council. So when the land council refuses to direct a land trust to grant the Director a lease in accordance with the agreement or where the land trust refuses to grant the lease at the direction of the land council, the Minister may grant the lease on behalf of the land trust. That is a conditional position and it is a position which erodes the principles of the 1976 Act. Thus the Minister’s enunciation of principles would appear to be very hollow indeed. It appears that the Aborigines as owners of their land, will be allowed ‘to follow their own lifestyles on their own land to the extent that they choose’, only to the extent that they allow their land to be used for such purposes and under such conditions as are set out in this amending legislation. So much for land rights.
– It is only in relation to that national park area.
– We are arguing about a Bill which seeks to change the existing 1976 legislation and to remove the provision for free and open decision making in respect of land rights and all that flows from that. So land rights are affected by this amending legislation. It negates the 1976 principles. The Bill removes the power of the Aborigines to decline to make an agreement with the Director of National Parks and Wildlife for the use of their land.
Quite frankly, we can see no need for this aspect of the legislation. We see no reason why the Aboriginal people should not have priority over parks, wildlife, land, flora and fauna. As Senator Bonner made the point so well in a debate some weeks ago, the land was freely available to them until white civilisation wanted it. Whether it wants the land for a park, for mining, for a town or for some other public purpose, when that point is reached white priority takes over from the rights of Aborigines to title as expressed in the land rights concept. In fact, the Opposition sees every reason why the Aborigines should have a priority over the needs of white civilisation. I can foresee, certainly not in the lifetime of any member of this Parliament, a steady erosion of land rights, of titles, as society develops and as civilisation requires land for this or that purpose. That will act as an impediment to the whole principle of land rights. Any grant to a land council of land from the Mudginberri and Munmarlary pastoral lease:, would depend on that land being leased as a national park to the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. More than that, the Minister may intervene to appoint an arbitrator if the land council fails to see eye to eye with the Director.
The Aborigines are not to be given prior dominion over the land and its natural assets. That is, the Aborigines will be put in a secondary position. The rights which in the 1976 legislation rested with the Aborigines may now be given to the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and I would feel much asssured if the Minister for once would have discussions with the land council first and with the mining interests last. I imagine that there is an overwhelming acceptance in this Parliament of the principles that Aboriginal land rights are sacrosanct, that we do owe them something in return for the persecution of the last couple of centuries and that we do owe them some loyalty. I would put those priorities much higher than our priorities to mining companies, which in the great majority of cases are foreign owned and have no concern other than the exploitation for their own purposes of the mineral resources that may lie within these areas and the accumulation of profit and capital, which in most cases goes out of the country.
One further aspect of this Bill causes the Opposition some concern. New sections are to be inserted after section 23 of the principal Act to empower any person authorised by the land council to obtain information and documents relating either to uranium mining operations in the Alligator Rivers Region or to the applications made by the lands council to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory concerning matters affecting the environment of the Alligator Rivers Region. Penalties are provided for furnishing false information or for refusing to grant access to an authorised person. The land council may apply for a court order if necessary. An authorised person, a member of the land council, or a member of the staff of the land council may not reveal information thus acquired- this is embraced in the Bill- except in the performance of his functions and duties: but he may reveal such information to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory, the Minister, the permanent head, an approved officer of the relevant department, or a person authorised by the Minister. The permanent head or authorised officer may use the information only for the purpose of advising the Minister. The penalty for such information being made available except in those circumstances is a fine of $1,000 or 6 months imprisonment. It seems to me that that is a harsh and tyrannical penalty to be imposed on a land council or those associated with the defence of the rights of Aboriginals in the land rights movement. It is intimidatory and acts in a way that will prevent the free flow of information which is essential if we are to realise the objective of land rights for Aborigines.
Firstly we are told that Aborigines are to be granted land rights over certain areas, but then they must lease them to the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. Then we are told that Aborigines are to have full access to information relating to uranium mining operations in the Alligator Rivers Region but that they can use the information only in such ways as are laid down in this Bill. That is a restriction of the democratic rights and liberties of the Aboriginal people, who must be affected by such empowering and overpowering restrictions, to understand and comprehend what is going to happen to their regions and to their land.
This amending legislation protects mining interests from disclosing incriminating material concerning environmental protection. It is proposed to penalise representatives of the land council for disclosing such material. Again the penalty will be a fine of $1,000 or 6 months imprisonment. I am sure that if honourable senators were to give their attention to this proposal they would see that it has nothing to do with Aboriginal land rights. Indeed, it is exactly the reverse. In effect, it will gag people and prevent them from making public matters of which they become aware in the performance of their functions as members of a land council, a land trust of or any other committee of deliberation. I cannot understand a government which claims to have an affinity with these principles, a government which has expressed itself on many occassions as being interested in open government, seeking to place in this legislation such restrictions upon the right of access to information. The secrecy provision prevents the Aborigines from disclosing material to the public, I draw to the attention of honourable senators opposite the fact and that this provision was neglected in the otherwise detailed second reading speech of the Minister. The Minister has given no justification for it, and the Opposition would be interested to know what justification there is for such secrecy provisions. The provisions protect the power of corporate secrecy and make Aborigines impotent to challenge a company if it considers that disclosing its technical information might tend to incriminate it in regard to the protection of the environment.
It seems to be the express intention of this Government to bring about a change in the relatively passive state of the Northern Territory. We will see great changes. If the Government’s policy is put into effect, surely there must be no restriction upon the disclosure of information in the areas of development that will flow from the Government’s decision. In those two matters it would appear that the principles underlying the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act have been undermined, and I think the Opposition is entitled to ask why such provisions have been placed in the legislation. In that regard, it is apparent that in certain aspects of the amending legislation the Government is saying that the promotion of the processing, mining and exporting of uranium should take precedence over justice, land rights and the very principles of self-determination for the Aborigines. When it came to the conflict, the Government put other interests before the attainment of the principles in the field of Aboriginal affairs and before the interests of Aborigines. I put it to the Government and to the Senate that when there is a conflict over these issues the paramount responsibility is to the Aborigines.
It is my purpose to argue, therefore, that the rights of the Aborigines should take precedence over any supposed urgency of promoting a package of uranium Bills. The Labor Party would argue that our primary responsibility rests with the Aborigines. We would argue that the sacrificing of the rights of Aborigines which could come about as a result of this amending legislation puts their rights at the altar of uranium mining and export. It is foolhardy and unnecessary and places in jeopardy the very objectives that this Government claims were the reasons for the enactment of its legislation in 1976 and 1978. Notwithstanding those areas of criticism, because the Aborigines see the Bill as a step forward in overcoming some of the defects in the earlier legislation, the Opposition does not oppose the Bill but will be moving three amendments at the Committee stage.
– This is an occasion on which the Government is bringing forward a Bill with the apparent support of the Opposition although, as is usual in such cases, no doubt there will be some heated debate about the merits of the Bill. It is a difficult Bill to debate in a speech on the motion for the second reading, in a sense, because it is not a Bill which sets new directions for Aboriginal land rights. It is a Bill which makes a number of amendments in order to meet problems that have arisen under the present Bill. It does appear to me that to some extent Senator Gietzelt has misunderstood the thrust of the Bill in a number of particulars. He has expressed concern about the fact that the Bill represents an erosion of the principles established in the original Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. I think it is quite clear that that is not the case, and no doubt it is a matter on which there will be further debate during the Committee stage. In fact, it is the sort of Bill that can more properly be dealt with at the Committee stage. In my view, this Bill quite clearly extends the rights which were granted under the Aboriginal land rights legislation and it removes some of the problems which were not foreseen at the time that legislation was passed.
Senator Gietzelt made a number of complaints about the fact that some restriction has been put on Aboriginal ownership. He referred at some length to the areas which will form part of the Kakadu National Park. It is simply not right to describe this legislation as some new restriction, because in fact the land about which we are talking and which is subject to the arrangements contained in this Bill was not Aboriginal land under the provisions of the original legislation. This legislation in fact represents an extension of Aboriginal land rights beyond those granted in 1 976. The extension is made subject to a number of conditions which follow the recommendations of Mr Justice Fox. Of course, the Aboriginal communities involved made recommendations to the Fox inquiry. Mr Justice Fox recommended that the land should go to the Aborigines subject to a lease to the National Parks and Wildlife Service. That recommendation is not one which the Government dreamed up as a restriction on Aborigines. It is a restriction which in fact was put forward by Aborigines themselves.
My attention has been drawn to the second report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. On page 204 of that report it is pointed out by the Fox inquiry that it regarded the wishes of Aborigines for land rights in the area as of prime importance in any consideration of the establishment of a national park. The inquiry goes on to say that the Northern Land Council proposed that the areas within the region claimed as Aboriginal land- this is the area about which we are talking now- should be a national park. In fact, it was a recommendation which came from the Aborigines themselves that the procedure we are following now should be followed. Therefore it seems to me to be a quite unfair criticism of this Bill to suggest that it represents a stepping back from the 1 976 situation, when one bears in mind that in fact we are granting a greater area of land to the Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory. This move has been subject to arrangements which have as their genesis the suggestions of the Aborigines themselves. So I do think that that passage of Senator Gietzelt ‘s speech did the Government rather less than justice.
The other matter in Senator Gietzelt ‘s comments which concerned me was his claim that in some way the Government was fostering a closed government and the restriction under this legislation of access by Aborigines to information. The fact of the matter is that the legislation, together with the other Bills with which we will be dealing shortly, provides very extensive powers to the Aborigines concerned, not only in relation to access to information but also in relation to the enforcement of standards which are imposed upon mining companies. What this Bill does by way of restriction is to place penalties on a disclosure of that information for purposes other than the proper purposes of enforcing the restrictions. In other words, the information to which the Aborigines are given access is for the purpose of enforcing standards; it is not for the purpose of disclosing it to the commercial rivals of the mining companies. The restrictions which are imposed are restrictions which are simply in fairness to those who are trying to carry on business in that area.
I think the really significant aspect of the amending Bill which is before us is not the amendments which it contains, although some of those amendments are of importance. I refer, for example, to the amendment which will enable us now to proceed to vest land in the Land Trust. As a practical matter that is important. What I see as the real importance of this Bill is that it amounts to a confirmation of the principles which the Government espoused in 1976 when it promoted the land rights legislation in this Parliament and saw that legislation passed through this Parliament. All honourable senators will be aware that in the last year or so there has been some fairly determined lobbying in an attempt to get the Government to move back from those principles. Every honourable senator in this chamber will have received representations from different interest groups suggesting that what was done in 1976 is a disaster and should be altered substantially. They do not suggest that we should alter that legislation in the way in which we are altering it now but that it should be altered in a way which would substantially diminish the rights of Aborigines in those areas. I welcome the statement contained in the second reading speech, which was delivered in this chamber by the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle), which makes it clear just what is motivating the Government and which makes it clear that the Government is acting in the knowledge of the sorts of pressures that I have mentioned but that it is determined to maintain its stance. I shall read that passage of the second reading speech because, following Senator Gietzelt ‘s comments, I think it is appropriate that it should be reiterated. The Minister in this place said:
We are aware that moves by Aboriginal people to assert their rights as provided by the Aboriginal Lands Rights Act have caused some people to become wary and even fearful of the new situation which now prevails. The Minister - that refers to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Viner- has said in the past that this new confidence being demonstrated by the Aboriginal people is a measure of the success of the Government’s policy which provides for Aboriginal self-management. The Aboriginal Land Rights Act is a unique and historical piece of legislation. It provides the opportunity for Aboriginal people to participate in matters affecting their lives in a way which has hitherto been denied them.
These words which follow are particularly important:
This needs to be accepted by those people who have in the past been used to making decisions for Aboriginals, or for those who have been able to take decisions which might vitally affect Aboriginals without thought for Aboriginal opinion.
That in fact has been the position in Australia for the whole of the period of settlement. The fact of the matter has been that Aborigines have provided as little fetter to non-Aboriginal activity as have kangaroos. They have been pushed back whenever it met the commercial, social and economic convenience of the rest of the population The significant aspect of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill which was passed in 1976- now the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act- is that it represents a stop to that process which has gone on throughout European settlement in this country. I welcome the Minister’s affirmation that people dealing with areas which are subject to Aboriginal rights now have to accept that Aborigines do have rights in these matters and that they have to be accommodated accordingly.
The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs further went on in his speech to affirm the policy that we should allow Aboriginals ‘as owners of their land, to follow their own lifestyles on their own land to the extent that they choose, to participate in and influence the course of development of and on their traditional land, and to take advantage of the full range of opportunities which development may open up to them’. Again that is an important statement because it is implicit in that statement that at times Aborigines will make choices which will not suit other people; but they will be choices which they make in their own freedom to make them, to follow their own lifestyles and to live their own lives on their own land. I support that concept and I believe it is important that the Government has reaffirmed the principle.
I shall refer now to some of the opposition which has arisen over recent months to the Aboriginal Land Rights Act, and I shall make some comments on it. I wish also in chiding some of the critics- I refer here to the Australian Mining Industry Council- also to chide the Northern Land Council in regard to one particular. I think it is a pity that the Northern Land Council has chosen in the preliminary comments it made on the draft Northern Territory legislation- the complementary legislation- to claim Aboriginal ownership of minerals. When we passed the land rights law we set out quite clearly, specifically and expressly in that law that the ownership of minerals remained with the Crown. What we did, however, was to give the Aboriginal people, the owners, extensive rights to the surface which meant that persons seeking the minerals could take them subject to the greater right of the Aborigines to surface use and to surface enjoyment.
I am sorry that the Northern Land Council has really added strength to the opposition of the Australian Mining Industry Council to the Bill by using the expression ‘Aboriginal ownership of minerals’. I am referring to the comments which were forwarded to all of us and to page 4 of those comments in particular. There is a lot of false argument in this area. It is alleged that Aborigines are being given a special right which is not possessed by any other section of the community. It has been said that for the rest of Australia minerals belong to the Crown and that private land owners cannot prevent the mining of minerals. That claim is simply not true.
I refer to another document which I am sure was sent to all honourable senators. It is headed Mining Review’ published by the Australian Mining Industry Council. In bold type on the front page of that document it asks:
Who owns Australia ‘s minerals?
Underneath that it states:
Public ownership of minerals in Australia is a legal principle which has been observed from the earliest colonial days.
I cannot speak for the rest of the colonies- I come from the colony of Western Australia- but I would like the Senate to know that, from the earliest colonial days in Western Australia, land which was alienated from the Crown carried mineral rights. All early grants of land in Western Australia carried the minerals, which became the property of the owner of the land. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) and I have had a minor difference of opinion on this matter. I think the relevant year was 1896. He thinks it was 1899. His memory is much better than mine, so it is probably 1 899. In any land title in Western Australia where the fee simple was granted prior to that date- 1896 or 1 899- the minerals belong to the private owner.
– Gold and silver, too?
– Not gold and silver; I am speaking of minerals other than the royal minerals. The same provision applied to the grants of land to the Midland Railway Company. They all contained a grant of minerals to the Railway Company. That was the company that built the line to Geraldton. I must say that in the case of most of that land the mineral rights have reverted to the Crown under legislation which was enacted in the 1960s or 1970s- whenever it was that the railway company reverted to the Crown. So there has been a resumption of mineral rights in those cases.
Even more significant than that are the current provisions of the Western Australian Mining Act. Those provisions ensure that the private owners of land in Western Australia- for example, owners of farming land- are protected absolutely against any surface interference with their land. It is true that a prospector can enter private land and take off20 lb or 30 lb of samples, but to go beyond that he has to get a tenement under the Mining Act. I refer the Senate to section 1 40 of the Mining Act which provides:
Except with the consent in writing of the owner and the occupier of the land, no mining tenement shall be granted or occupied comprising private land-
that is in bona fide and regular use as a yard, garden, orchard, vineyard, plant nursery, plantation or land under cultivation;
It is the last category that is significant because land under cultivation’ is subsequently defined as ‘land being used for the purpose of cropping or pasturing’ and ‘land, whether cleared or uncleared, used for the agistment of stock in the ordinary course of management of the owner’s land of which the land so used forms the whole or any part’. In other words, if a person owns 6,000 acres of land in Western Australia of which 3,000 acres are cleared and 3,000 acres are uncleared and if he uses the uncleared land for the agistment of stock during dry seasons, which is normal farming practice in Western Australia, he could absolutely prevent any miner from mining his land unless the miner goes to a depth of more than 100 feet below the land. If the miner could get access through a neighbouring property and go underneath the land he could get away with it but he cannot interfere with that person’s land to a depth of 100 feet. In practice that means that in the case of major minerals such as bauxite, uranium and beach sands the owner of the land has the absolute say in whether his land should be mined.
The Australian Mining Industry Council should bear that in mind when it puts out such pamphlets, distributes them to members of Parliament and makes statements suggesting that there is something peculiar about the rights which are being granted to Aborigines in this case. I see a very clear parallel between the protection of farmers in Western Australia and the protection which is being given to Aborigines under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. I chide the Australian Mining Industry Council for what I see as a rather deceptive form of presentation in at least part of this document. On page 3 in a section dealing with the problems surrounding proposed developments in the Northern Territory it states:
In the case of one project, the proposals of the Northern Land Council would mean that it would receive 36 per cent of the operating profit (before taxes and royalties)-
I understand that is the claim being made by the Northern Land Council with respect to the Ranger project. I have not seen documentation of that but I understand that it is the Ranger proposal that is to be negotiated. The statement goes on:
I think that is a misleading statement because the Ranger project is, of course, only partly owned by private participants. The Commonwealth has a majority capital share in the project and it is entitled to 50 per cent of the profits. Even if the Northern Land Council’s opening negotiating position were accepted- it may not be- and even if it received its 36 per cent, the equity participants would receive 64 per cent of the profits. It still might be a quite outrageous proposition. That is a matter which is open to debate and on which I am sure there will be differences of opinion. It is a pity that the AMIC should state that the private participants’ are receiving 16 per cent each. I think that gives an inaccurate picture to the person who is reading the publication and who may not have knowledge of the other facts that I have mentioned.
Some very well known names are listed as being on the Executive Committee of the Australian Mining Industry Council. Sir James McNeill is listed as the president, although I think he may have resigned recently from that position. Other well known names include those of Mr Rod Carnegie, Sir James Foots, Sir Brian Massy-Greene, Mr Irwin Newman, and lots of other people who are very important in the community and in the mining industry. I would have thought that they would have been extremely cautious about putting out a company prospectus that would contain information in that form. It does them, their organisation and the mining industry less than justice to have arguments put forward in that form in the name of the Australian Mining Industry Council. I say publicly that I am disappointed that that sort of argument is used to mar what I think is meant to be a genuine contribution to public debate in an important area.
The real point of what I have been trying to say in the last 10 minutes is simply that, under the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act we have given considerable rights to the Aboriginal owners of land. That was done as a conscious act of policy in 1976. Certain things flow from it, including considerable inconvenience to people who would like to take up mining on that land, and who would probably make less profit than they would make if the land were waste land of the Crown and open for them to take simply for normal government royalties. The fact is that some owners have to be considered and their rights have to be taken into account. The participants will have to sit down and work out what those rights are worth commercially in a trading situation. Again, that situation is not unique. Messrs Hancock and Wright, who as a matter of fact once employed me, carry off 2lA per cent of the gross profit of Hamersley Iron Pty Ltd on the basis of an agreement which they negotiated with Hamersley Iron. That information is contained in the prospectus of that company and there is nothing confidential about it. They obtained that right on the basis that they had temporary reserves over certain mineral deposits. They sat down and did a very good deal. I do not begrudge it to them. It has greatly increased the Australian equity in the Hamersley project and that is a good thing for this country. It will not be a bad thing for this country that some of the enormous cash flows that 1 believe will be generated from the uranium industry eventually will find their way into the Aboriginal communities which own these northern areas. I have no doubt that in the long term it will free the taxpayers of Australia of what is at present a considerable economic burden.
I commend the Government for bringing in this amending legislation. I believe that some problems remain in the legislation and I would like to refer to them. In this legislation, as in the existing Aboriginal Land Rights Act. there are provisions for arbitration. There are a number of situations in which, in the absence of agreement between the Northern Land Council and a miner, the Government or perhaps in this case the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the matter under dispute can be put to arbitration. That is an essential provision because obviously, if an Act simply provides for an agreement and if the parties cannot agree, then the whole Act is nullified and we will get nowhere. It bothers me that an issue can be sent to arbitration with no guidelines provided for the arbitrator. I think that the mining industry has a fair complaint with respect to the possibilities of arbitration over something like the Ranger project and the conditions under which mining might be carried out. I think it is a fair complaint that there is a possibility that in arbitration about the terms of a lease from the Aboriginal owners to the National Parks and Wildlife Commission the terms of that lease really will depend on the person who is chosen as arbitrator. He will have to try to find some guidelines from the Act and that guidance will have to be by way of implication rather than any expressions contained in it. I believe that the real problem lies in the fact that if the arbitrator chosen is unsympathetic to either side it could result in an unjust decision.
I understand that it has been too difficult to draw up guidelines to help arbitrators in these circumstances but I think that simply underlines the quite impossible job that an arbitrator would be asked to do. I suggest that the Government bend its collective mind to the problem and do something to define the principles that arc to be followed by an arbitrator in each of these circumstances. In the case of mining I think that one principle which has been expressed is that the minerals belong to the Crown but that would be the only obvious guide which is available to the arbitrator at the moment. I do not think that there is sufficient protection for the nation, for the Aborigines, for the miners or for anybody else in these at large arbitral provisions. For that reason I commend the matter to the Government for further attention in the hope that we might have a further debate on the land rights legislation next year, unfortunate as that might seem to some honourable senators. I commend the Bill and I await with interest the Committee stage where I think it will be demonstrated that the fear expressed by Senator Gietzelt that this Bill reduces the rights of Aborigines rather than enhancing and protecting them is in fact groundless.
– I want to speak briefly in this debate. I share the fears that were expressed by Senator Gietzelt. Before I go on to the general thrust of the discussion I want to add my bit to a couple of remarks made by Senator Chaney. He referred to what he called the unfortunate statements that were published by the Australian Mining Industry Council. I think that we ought to know that the Australian Mining Industry Council has conducted a fairly vicious campaign over a long period of time against the granting of land rights to Aborigines in the Northern Territory, or, for that matter, anywhere else. Quite frankly, some of the statements that it has made from time to time have not been strictly in conformity with the truth. I suppose the companies feel it is all right to use psychological warfare against a group of people who they think might in some way prevent them from making the kind of profits that they feel they ought to make out of their investments. That sort of campaign is being conducted not only in relation to uranium in the Northern Territory; it is being conducted in other places as well.
A second point made by Senator Chaney related to the 1 976 legislation on land rights. When that particular Bill was being dealt with in this chamber the Opposition moved 26 or 28 amendments. All were rigorously and vigorously opposed by our political opponents. If the Government wants to assist on this occasion it might do a better job for the Aboriginal people and, indirectly, for its mining friends if it accepted some of the amendments that were moved to the legislation at that time. I do not know why this cannot be done. In the previous debate the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) referred to co-operation and a bipartisan approach and to taking politics out of some of the more emotional matters that come before this chamber. This is one sided because the Labor Party is always expected to co-operate and the Government is always prepared to do the bashing. If the Government is going to adopt rigid proposals in relation to this piece of legislation, it cannot scream if we start to criticise it.
I remind Senator Chaney that the alterations suggested by the Opposition during the lengthy debate on the land rights Bills in the other place would not, in most instances, have seriously upset the Government if it had accepted them. In what was, I suppose, a political sop to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly of the time, a number of sensitive areas in this legislation were sent to the NTLA for complementary legislation. We know what happened. We know about the famous delegation that came from Darwin to Canberra to persuade the Government to change the legislation. We know what happened when the first draft was prepared and had to be pulped because somebody got at it in the night. Now, after this great lapse of time, the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly has decided that it will do something about complementary legislation. Today government representatives are in Darwin again battling it out tooth and nail with the Legislative Assembly. I suppose the real fly in the ointment in this case is the National Country Party because its members are the ones with the hard line attitude, not that members of the Liberal Party are much softer.
The Northern Land Council recently put out a short Press release regarding the complementary legislation. I think it ought to go on record to indicate the types of problems which will continue to bug this country so far as the activities of mining organisations are concerned. The Northern Land Council stated:
The Northern Land Council is not satisfied with the Complementary Legislation which was introduced into the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly today in Darwin. The legislation deals with matters which were delegated to the Local Legislative Assembly by the Federal Parliament when it passed the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. The first attempt at passing Complementary Legislation was made by former majority leader, Dr Goff Letts, early in 1 977. That legislation was severely criticised by Aboriginals and was largely the reason why Dr Goff Letts lost his seat in the Legislative Assembly elections last year.
Then a select committee was set up. Every time unpopular legislation is put before this place or the other place, but particularly this place, it is becoming a favourite habit of ours to pass it, even if it has to be bulldozed through, and then refer it to a standing committee or select committee for investigation. I venture to say that before this Government is many months older there will be a lot of things it will regret about its uranium legislation. I refer in particular to the whole package deal which is before this chamber today. I refer again to the Press release of the Northern Land Council. It states:
The Northern Land Council considers that the legislation introduced this morning is an improvement on the last attempt. However, the Council maintains that the recommendations of Judge Woodward and Senator Bonner, and the desires of the Aboriginal people themselves, have still not been sufficiently reflected in the proposed new legislation. The Complementary Legislation ‘package deal’ consists of ten draft Ordinances designed to bring Territory law into line with the new policies reflected in the Federal Land Rights Act. The Majority Party proposes that these Ordinances will now be available for discussion until they are passed into law during the next sittings- which will probably be in May.
Another rather strange thing is that the Fox report recommended that there be indefinite discussion on all the legislation. As recently as today I received a telegram on this matter from the Queensland Conservation Council. The telegram stated:
The Queensland Conservation Council urges you to oppose the passage of uranium packages. Lack of nuclear codes Bill to ensure public participation in framing codes will threaten all environmental legislation. The implications of the amendments to Atomic Energy Act and Approved Defence Projects Act for civil liberties are frightening and without precedent. Such important legislation cannot be rushed through without proper debates.
That non-political organisation felt that it had to make some comment about the way in which the Government was handling the package of legislation.
The ten draft ordinances which will be dealt with by the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly are: The Aboriginal Land Ordinance 1978; the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Ordinance 1978; the Aboriginal Sacred Sites Ordinance 1978; the Mining Ordinance 1978; the Petroleum (Prospecting and Mining) Ordinance 1978; the Coal Ordinance 1978; the Crown Lands Ordinance 1978; the Social Welfare Ordinance 1978; the Special Purposes Leases Ordinance 1978; and the Cemeteries Ordinance 1978. The Land Council went to considerable trouble to analyse the complementary legislation. If, as a result of deficiencies in some of these Bills, or otherwise, the Government succumbs to the National Country Party, it will have to hand over more complementary legislation to the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. The Press release continues:
The Northern Land Council is satisfied with the provisions in the Aboriginal Land Ordinance which allow traditional owners to control entry onto their land like other private property owners. The Land Council is also satisfied with the amendments to the Territory Parks and Wildlife Conservation Ordinance which provide that where a wildlife sanctuary has been declared on what is now Aboriginal land, then it should cease to be a wildlife sanctuary unless the Aboriginals agree to its continuing status as a wildlife sanctuary. The Council is also satisfied with the technical amendments to the Social Welfare Ordinance, the Special Purpose Leases Ordinance and the Cemeteries Ordinance.
The Council is not satisfied with the provisions of the Aboriginal Land Ordinance relating to closure of seas, the protection of sites contained in the Aboriginal Sacred Sites Ordinance, the principles contained in the three Ordinances relating to mining and the amendments to the Crown Lands Ordinance.
The Northern Land Council support Judge Woodward ‘s recommendation that the seas adjoining Aboriginal lands should be closed out to the two kilometre mark. This is necessary to create a buffer zone around Aboriginal land, to protect -
– I take a point of order. I find no relevance in the present debate to the Bill which is before the chamber. Mr Deputy President, I seek your ruling on the matter.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator DrakeBrockman) I do not uphold the point of order, but I suggest that Senator Keeffe should keep to the Bill a little more than he has been.
– I would not have mentioned this aspect, except merely in passing, if Senator Chaney had not devoted a large part of his speech to dealing with precisely the same thing but in a different way. It is good enough for a Government supporter to raise these things. They have some relevance to what is likely to happen in the Northern Territory. I did not object when Senator Chaney was raising this matter. The only reason he is objecting now is that I am making a much more comprehensive statement and pointing out the weaknesses that are likely to arise in the package of Bills. The Northern Land Council continues:
The proposed new legislation to protect Aboriginal sites is no better than the old Native and Historical Objects Ordinance which it seeks to replace.
The platform is there. Regardless of what might happen in relation to the current package of Bills, a whole number of things can still go astray because of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act of 1976 and the complementary legislation that is expected.
I say quite frankly that uranium ought to be left in the ground until the day we can find some safe way of disposing of the waste and using it. If these Bills are meant to provide safeguards, technically or otherwise, that is all to the good. It is obvious that the Government is determined to go ahead with the mining of uranium regardless of the fact that uranium had a very short term life as a fuel generally. A uranium pill cannot be put in a petrol tank to keep a car moving. One cannot put it into an oven to cook meat. There are lots of ways uranium cannot be used. The only way in which it can be effectively used- there is some doubt about this- is as a means to create electricity.
I do not think that any of these Bills have provided adequately for the sorts of safeguards that ought to be incorporated in them. We have to remember that when uranium mining goes ahead it will transform the whole social and cultural aspects of the Northern Territory. If safeguards are not provided for the protection of Aboriginal lands, Aboriginal sacred sites and Aboriginal lifestyles there will be an absolute disaster. The Government will not be able to sit back and blame the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly. If the Government gives the Assembly authority to do things it has to accept equal responsibility. The Government will be able to attach some blame to the mining companies, but at that point they will not be worried. They will recreate, all over the Northern Territory, their Rum Jungles. They will damage the environment totally and completely as they did in the Rum Jungle area. When the Government panicked a few weeks ago and decided that that area ought to be cleaned up all the spare uranium ore was shifted down to Snake Creek. The Government took it down in the dark one night and did not tell anybody it was there. The Government does not know whether the uranium ore will damage streams in the Snake Creek area. A safety study was to be carried out. I hope that somewhere along the line before these Bills are finished with, the Minister will explain what safeguards were used in transferring the ore from Rum Jungle to Snake Creek and whether there is any danger to the environment or human beings in that area. It becomes imperative for the Government in its mad campaign to go-ahead to mine uranium to legislate for every possible safeguard.
The setting up of a mining area near Aboriginal land can be and has been disastrous. It probably will be disastrous on this occasion. What happened at Weipa is a first-class example of what mining interests can do to Aboriginals, to their lifestyle and to their culture. What happened at Weipa is a long-lasting tragedy for Queensland. It does not matter what belated action is taken now to repair the situation; it is too late to be effective at all. In the early days the sacred sites were bulldozed. This happened in the Pilbara region and in the Northern Territory previously. The Government has to guarantee in either this Bill or the other Bills in the package of Bills that such things will not occur. If mining goes ahead and safeguards are not effective any cultural or social disaster, as I said earlier, must be partly the responsibility of this Government.
I do not propose to continue speaking any longer. My forecast is that there will be a time in the future when this Government will be very sorry for having gone into uranium mining because of the pressures applied by the transnational uranium mining organisations, and by certain people in the Australian community, and the fact that having been compelled to take this action in a hurry it will suffer more pangs of conscience, if it has one. The Government will have to answer for other things in the future. I share the worries expressed by my colleague Senator Gietzelt when he opened the debate on this Bill. Senator Chaney said that we have no need to worry. I hope he is right. I think we have a lot of worries in front of us. I suggest that if the Government wants to be co-operative it should accept the amendment that we will move to this Bill and to other Bills as they come up for debate.
– I rise to indicate my support for the Bill to amend the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976. I do not intend to take a great deal of the Senate’s time. I will make a couple of points to indicate why I am supporting the Bill. It appears that when the original Bill was introduced into this chamber some things were not properly taken care of. The second reading speech of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) indicates that now there will be changes to make the Bill a better Bill for the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory. The Government has received legal advice that the Act requires specific identification of the Aboriginal groups involved. The lack of this feature in the Act has not made it possible for a trust to be established. This Bill will amend the Act to allow that to happen.
It is important that this be done because the time it would take to identify all the owners of the lands under the Act in the Northern Territory would be possibly five or six years. I do not think there is any necessity for specific identification of owners in the Northern Territory anyway, because the Aboriginal people themselves know who owns what land and they will sort this out for themselves. All that is needed is that a trust should have the deeds and title of the land and, working in conjunction with the Northern Land Council, that trust will work these things out. I was Chairman of the Joint Select Committee on Aboriginal Land Rights in the Northern Territory. My colleagues and I were well aware that the Aboriginal people in the Northern Territory knew where the lands and the boundaries were. They did not need anybody to survey the land for them. They knew from their own experience and their own understanding of their culture which was their land, and I can assure the Senate that they needed no assistance from us or from anyone else. This amendment was required. The Act must be changed to enable it to state what was intended in the first place.
Secondly, this Bill will allow the creation or the setting up of other councils. When the Committee visited the Tiwi people they told us that they would prefer to have their own council for their area. They were not quite happy with the Northern Land Council. We did not agree with all their criticism of the Council. I have a great respect and admiration for the Chairman and the Council. I believe that the Council is doing and will continue to do a magnificent job. That did not alter the fact that the Tiwi people felt that it was not good enough; they preferred to have their own land council. Under this Bill provision will be made for its setting up. I indicate my support for the Bill and hope that it will have a speedy passage and that we will all make sure that it is passed so that its provisions can be implemented as soon as is humanly possible.
– I am concerned to make a contribution in this debate because of the particular interest which this Bill has to me as a senator from the Northern Territory. I think I have made the point in this place on many occasions that I see land rights as being vital to the Aboriginal people. This point has been stressed in a number of debates and was mentioned again during the discussion of the matter of public importance this morning. I am concerned that the Bill might weaken the principal Act. The principal Act that was passed last year, in my view, presented the absolute minimum in provisions. The Labor Party presented a number of amendments to try to express the view of the Aboriginal people. It is interesting to note that the Aboriginal people, both in the Northern Territory and in Queensland, have recognised the fact that the Labor Party was trying to put their view. I must stress strongly that I deplore any action which will weaken the principal Act.
The Government is committed to land rights. This point was made this morning. 1 remind honourable senators of some of the emotional speeches made by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner) and some honourable senators in the debate on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Bill. I remind honourable senators of the public statements and statements to the land councils that have been made over the last two years by the Minister and of the speeches that have been made on the campaign trail, all supporting the proposition of land rights. But I stress that it should be full land rights not land rights when it suits the Government. We must avoid the concept and must be seen to avoid the concept of giving away or granting land that nobody else wants.
I will not canvass the material that I presented before in the land rights debate and in other debates but I would like to read an extract from Land Rights Discussions- Milingimbi and Nan.galala’ which was reported by Beulah Lowe. I have mentioned Beulah Lowe before, the linguist who has worked for many years in the Northern Territory. Under the heading ‘Re Land-Ownership’ she reports:
The concept of land-ownership of Aborigines is different from that held by Europeans. Certain territory is regarded as belonging to a clan, who have received it from their fathers, fathers’ fathers and fathers’ fathers’ fathers, all of whom belong to the same clan. This does not mean, however, that this particular clan has exclusive rights to their clan territory. Even though the members of this clan are regarded as the land owners, there are other clans who also have certain rights over the land. These are mainly those clans to whom the land stands in the relationship of mother ( opposite moiety), mother’s mother (same moiety but a different clan) and mother’s mother’s mother (opposite moiety). This relationship is very close.
Because of this, the clan owners are not the only ones who are able to make decisions regarding land and they are not the only ones who should receive any benefits accruing from the land (e.g. mining royalties). They are certainly regarded as being in charge of the land (if they are adult males), but if they were to make a decision regarding the land which the other clans did not agree with, their decision could be overruled.
So I reiterate the point which has been made by Senator Bonner already that there is a clear indication that the Aborigines fully understand the situation regarding land rights, and they are well aware- if I can use that phrase- of what they believe. They also believe that their ideas have been accepted by the Government. They have seen the establishment of land councils; they have seen the appointment of land trusts; they have seen the appointment of the Land Commissioner. They believe that the land that they justly claim is theirs will in due course be granted to them. They also believe that they have the control over the land which is theirs. This Bill, as I read it, removes that right, lt removes the power of the Aborigines to decline agreement with the director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. It is clear that the land can be vested in the Director if it suits the Government. As far as I am concerned and as far as the Aboriginal people are concerned, this is completely objectionable and opposed to the principles of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. Later in the proceedings the Opposition will move an amendment to try to rectify this objection.
Another complaint that I have about the Bill is that it puts different obligations on the mining companies and on members of the land council in the matters of secrecy. I cannot see how this can possibly be justified. It will certainly be rationalised, but I cannot see how it could possibly be justified. We will move an amendment on this matter also. I am pleased to see that the Act will retain control in the hands of the Federal Government. I will have more to say about that in a later debate. I emphasise that I will support the wishes of the Aboriginal people in this matter of control. They have given us a clear indication of their wishes. There is a clear indication that they want to see the Federal Government retain control.
I wonder why it is that so often in debates about Aboriginal matters there seems to be a need for urgency. Again I express extreme concern about it. I think it would have been seen that Bills passed in haste are regretted at leisure. We have had ample evidence of this over the past two years. There is no real evidence for any urgency in this matter. The Government is adopting the same ‘frightened fawn’ approach to mining that it has adopted to a number of other situations. The companies concerned have exerted pressure, and the Government has overreacted. I remind honourable senators of the brave words of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) about the welfare of the Aboriginal people being paramount. It has already been indicated by my colleagues that the Opposition is not opposing the Bill. If the numbers are used to push through the other legislation in the package some protection will be needed. I ask those people who are really interested in Aboriginal welfare to consider seriously the amendments.
– I thank the Senate for the debate on the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Amendment Bill 1978. The comments of honourable senators have been noted. I simply say that this is a Bill which gives effect to the Government’s decision on uranium mining as they affect Aboriginal land. Those decisions followed from recommendations made by the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry. The Bill also rectifies administrative deficiencies in the original legislation, the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act. which have become obvious since the implementation of that Act and clarifies the intent of certain sections of the Act.
The more important amendments associated with uranium mining will enable the granting of Aboriginal land, which was recommended by the Ranger Inquiry as principal recommendation 5 on chapter 1 5 of the report. It will provide for Aboriginal land claims to be made over land in stage 2 of the Alligator Rivers Region, notwithstanding that land might have become part of a national park. That recommendation was made by the Ranger Inquiry in principal recommendation 2 (c) on chapter 1 8 of the report, in association with the first paragraph of page 307 of the second report of the Ranger Inquiry.
The Bill will provide also for the lease of Aboriginal land as national parkland, which puts into effect principal recommendation 2 (h) and (j) on chapter 1 8 of the report. The scheme envisaged by the Ranger Inquiry in its report was quite clear in that the land was to become Aboriginal land over which a lease would be given to the Director of the National Parks and Wildlife Service for the purpose of establishing a national park. The Bill puts this scheme into effect and ensures that the Ranger project area will become Aboriginal land and not a national park.
The Bill contains several clauses. I understand amendments are to be moved by the Opposition. But I do want to point out that the purpose of the Bill is to rectify administrative deficiencies in the principal Act and to clarify certain of its sections. The amendments contained in this Bill which relate to uranium mining are consistent with the Government’s acceptance of the recommendations of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry as they relate to Aboriginal land. I note that the Opposition does not oppose the Bill but wishes to move some amendments. I suggest that we should move into the Committee stage to deal with those matters which the Opposition wishes to raise.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 8 May on motion by Senator Carrick:
That the Bills be now read a second time.
– The Opposition will oppose outright the first of these Bills, namely, the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill 1978. It will also oppose and seek to amend the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978. 1 shall concentrate my remarks mostly on the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill and subsequent speakers will pay more attention to the second Bill we are debating. As is generally known, the Australian Labor Party is opposed to uranium mining in general, at least at this stage. Even if the Opposition were not generally opposed to uranium mining, it would still oppose these Bills, especially the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill, for reasons which I shall detail later. Our general objection to uranium mining is based on arguments which I think are fairly well known. I shall not repeat them in exhaustive detail. Our opposition is based mainly on the weapons proliferation danger and, probably more importantly, on the disposal of waste- on the fact that no safe technology exists for the disposal of nuclear waste.
Reinforcing the Government’s policy is a claim that the guidelines established by the Government make the use of nuclear technology acceptably safe. There are very serious doubts about whether the guidelines laid down by the Government last year will in fact be enforced by the Government or observed by the countries to which we may ultimately sell uranium. Other doubts arise because the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has also incorporated in the Government’s policy an objection to fast breeder reactors. Indeed, the policy is backed partially by the contention that the freer availability of uranium- in particular Australian uranium- on world markets will remove the need for other countries to move into fast breeder technology. From previous statements made by the Prime Minister last year at the National Press Club it appears that he is of the opinion that only fast breeder reactors produce plutonium. Not only is that wrong as a matter of technical fact, but the point is that it is also a fact that conventional fission reactors using uranium 238 will produce more plutonium in producing any given quantity of electricity than a fast breeder reactor would produce in producing the same quantity of electricity. The plutonium would not be as concentrated, but it would still be produced and, in fact, it would be produced in greater quantities.
More importantly, on the matter of waste disposal I want to make this point: If the Government really believed that there was safe technology for the disposal of nuclear waste and if it wished to maximise Australian control over uranium which might be exported from Australia it would insist upon- not just allowthe spent fuel rods from reactors being stored in Australia. If that were done the only uranium which would be outside our physical control would be that which is actually being used in a reactor overseas or the uranium which for six months after that use is in the form of rods which are being stored in the preliminary cooling process. The Government has done the opposite. It has repeatedly stated that it has absolutely no intention of storing reactor waste in Australia. That shows up a very serious inconsistency in the Government’s policy. It demonstrates very clearly that the Government lacks faith in its assertion about the alleged acceptability of the risks entailed with nuclear technology.
As an aside to that argument I mention that if in fact the nuclear waste were stored in Australia it would maximise the employment generating potential of the move into the nuclear system. I suppose I should make it quite clear that I am not advocating that particular strategy. I do not believe that the Government’s assertions of the alleged safety of nuclear technology are accurate. The Government makes those assertions; the Government should back up those assertions, if it really believes them, by advocating the policy of storing waste in Australia. It does not do so because it knows that such a policy would be unacceptable. Either that is the case or it lacks the capacity to draw out any sort of logical deduction. 1 want to make it very clear that, as well as being obliged as a member of the Australian Labor Party, to support the policy of that Party, I personally support that policy, at least for the present. However, I can conceive that at some stage it might be necessary to move into nuclear technology. Most of the nations of the world might at some stage be compelled to do so. However, there is clearly no urgency to do so now. In my judgment, it is not acceptably safe to move into nuclear technology now, given the other options that we have and, in particular, given the fact that the world has sufficient coal to supply energy needs for at least 100 years and probably for 200 years. In 10, 20 or 30 years time, the options may be more limited, the risks may be less severe than they are now and, therefore, the conclusions may quite reasonably be altered.
I also mention that some of the people who are opposed very strongly to nuclear energy see the issue in terms of a capitalist plot. They say that the capitalist system is attempting to impose nuclear technology on the rest of the world. Whatever reservations one might have about the morality of the capitalist system- I have quite a few- that explanation plainly is inadequate. It fails, to account for the fact that in addition to many of the Western industrialised or capitalist countries moving into nuclear technology, the
Union of Soviet Socialist Republics in particular, Yugoslavia and the People’s Republic of China also are moving into the widespread use of nuclear energy. Obviously, the capitalist plot theory fails to account for the reality of what is happening in those countries. I think that the opponents of nuclear energy would make their case more credible if they would mention that fact more often.
A feature which is common to the use of nuclear energy, in both capitalist and communist countries, to use rather crude terms, is that it has a military application. That is the reason nuclear energy has been developed and why so much money has been spent on research and development in those countries. It was done for military purposes and the commercial purposes represent a spin-off. In particular, Russia, which is probably the world’s worst nuclear vandal, ought to be censured by the opponents of nuclear technology. I certainly censure Russia in this respect. General objections to the mining of uranium or to the movement into the nuclear fuel cycle aside, the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill is a most unsatisfactory piece of legislation to use as a vehicle for Government policy. Firstly, the purpose of the amendment is avowedly and openly to enable commercial operations to be grafted on to the principal Act. The Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) in his second reading speech stated:
Amendments to the Act contained in this Bill will enable the Australian Atomic Energy Commission to participate on behalf of the Commonwealth in a joint venture with Peko/EZ.
The Minister, later in his second reading speech stated:
Accordingly, we are proposing amendments to sections 1 7 and 34 of the Atomic Energy Act which will substantially broaden the basis of the Act and clearly authorise the participation of the Australia Atomic Energy Commission in the Ranger Project for the purpose of ensuring the supply of uranium.
The Government has clearly acknowledged that the purpose of this amending legislation to the Atomic Energy Act is commercial. It has tacked this commercial purpose or objective on to the principal Act, that is the Atomic Energy Act of 1953, which incorporates all the sweeping defence powers which the Commonwealth can assert for itself. The Fox commission explicitly recommended against the use of the Atomic Energy Act for this purpose. I shall read two short quotations from the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry Second Report. It recommended:
That the Atomic Energy Act of 1953 not be used for the grant of an authority to Ranger to mine uranium.
This recommendation subsequently was rejected by the Government. In a statement made on 25 August last year, the Prime Minister said:
In both the statement of the Prime Minister at that time and in introducing this legislation, the Government has rejected the recommendation of the Fox commission that it would be wrong to use the Atomic Energy Act of 1953 for this purpose. I know that Government supporters have said, and that probably Government supporters who subsequently participate in this debate will say, that the Labor Government at some time in the past planned to use the Atomic Energy Act for this purpose. I have two comments to make in respect of that matter: Firstly, it was not the intention of the Labor Government to use the Atomic Energy Act. It was perceived from opposition to the petroleum and minerals authority legislation and by the ultimate rejection of that legislation on a legal technicality by the High Court of Australia that the general hostility of the Liberal and National Country Parties which dominated the Senate of the day would prevent the then Labor Government from passing a more appropriate Act. That constraint does not apply to this Government today. But more importantly, the Memorandum of Understanding which was concluded between the then Labor Government, Peko Mines Ltd and the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd back in 1974 had tacked on to it a clause which stated:
. shall not become effective until Australia has affirmed them following consideration of:
Apart from the constraints which the Labor Government of the day faced and which this Government does not face, there was always within that Memorandum of Understanding a provision to make the Memorandum inoperative if the Ranger uranium inquiry made particular recommendations and if those recommendations were accepted by the Government. Ultimately, the Labor Government did not have the opportunity to do anything about the matter.
When we delve back into the history of what happened just 44 months ago it is more than a little ironic that today the Liberal and National Country Parties should attempt to use the Atomic Energy Act of 1953 as the vehicle to cany their uranium mining policy. On 19 September 1974, the Senate disallowed regulations proclaimed under the 1953 Atomic Energy Act to provide the basis for uranium mining in the Northern Territory. The attack on those regulations was led in the Senate by Senator Durack who now, to compound the irony, is AttorneyGeneral. I shall quote some of the statements made by Senator Durack at that time about the use of the Atomic Energy Act for the purpose of providing a legal vehicle for the commercial exploitation of uranium. He stated, inter alia:
I have emphasised that adequate laws already exist in the Northern Territory and in the States under which people and companies seeking to explore for and to develop uranium must obtain exploration licences and licences to develop mines. They can do so only in accordance with the laws governing mining development generally in the State or Territory.
That very point to which Senator Durack was then drawing attention is at the core of the current arguments which the Government is having with the States in respect of State rights. Senator Durack then went on to say that the States have regulations for mining and that they ought to be allowed to occupy this field. That seems to be basically the same argument which people supporting State rights are using against the Government today. Senator Durack continued:
At that time he was referring to the Minister for Minerals and Energy-
What Senator Durack really appears to have been objecting to there was not the use of regulations but the sweeping powers which the principal Act conferred upon the relevant Minister. I will quote just one of them at this stage, from the Atomic Energy Act 1953, section 4 1 . It states: (2.) Subject to any conditions or restrictions specified in the authority, the person so authorized in relation to any land may -
That is, authorised by the Minister-
Finally, sub-section (3) states:
All prescribed substances -
Prescribed substances are uranium, thorium and, I think, any substance containing any of the elements with an atomic weight above 93- -and minerals mined or otherwise recovered in pursuance of an authority under this section that are not otherwise the property of the Commonwealth are, by force of this section, vested in the Commonwealth.
That means that the Commonwealth asserts its right to seize any of those prescribed substances. So Senator Durack ‘s objections, expressed in 1 974, were really objections to the principal Act itself, the principal Act which the Government is now using as the linchpin for its uranium mining policy. Senator Durack continued, in another context:
At least that would give the Government some sort of powers in relation to uranium which, apparently, the Government would not have over minerals generally throughout Australia.
He seemed to be objecting in that instance to the fact that the regulations and the principal Act gave the Government powers over uranium which it did not have over minerals generally. That is ironic when one looks at clause 5 of the amending Bill now before the House which extends the definition of minerals covered by the amending legislation to ‘minerals found in association with uranium’. So this Liberal Party, which said three and a half years ago that it was a terrible thing for the Federal Government to attempt to proclaim rights over minerals other than uranium, is now introducing an amending Bill to do precisely that. Senator Durack continued:
The object of the Act -
That is the 1953 Act- - and the wide powers given under it were, of course, at that time dictated very much by the strategic character of uranium as to its use in the production of atomic weapons and the great concern which was held at that time in respect of that subject. The Act itself was coloured by views as to the great strategic importance of uranium.
Moreover, the Commonwealth Government has adequate powers in regard to the national interest as far as mining, including the mining of uranium, is concerned under its export control powers generally and under regulations that have been made under those powers.
In making that statement Senator Durack clearly rejected the use of the Atomic Energy Act for any purpose other than defence purposes. He correctly identified the genesis of the Act- that it was seen as something that was strategically necessary at that time and it was something that was required for national security. I do not share that view, incidentally, but that was the way it was seen at the time and he correctly drew attention to it. He said that it would be quite improper to use it for any other purpose. That is precisely what the Government is doing with the first Bill that we are now debating.
I have said a fair bit about Senator Durack. Even more importantly, 21 Liberal Party and National Country Party senators who voted for the disallowance of that regulation in 1974 are still in this Parliament. They are: Senators Baume, Bonner, Carrick, Chaney, Sir Magnus Cormack, Cotton, Davidson, Drake-Brockman, Durack, Guilfoyle, Jessop, Laucke, Martin, Maunsell, Missen, Rae, Scott, Sheil, Sim, Townley and Withers. Twenty-one of the Liberal Party and National Country Party senators who in 1974 disallowed regulations made under the Atomic Energy Act of 1953 on the grounds inter alia that it was quite improper to use an Act which was primarily a defence Act, or associated with the defence powers of the Commonwealth, for commercial purposes, presumably will all support a Bill which will do precisely that.
I do not have very much time left in which to speak but I wanted to make three points about the principal Act. The principal Act asserts sweeping rights over property, State laws and individual liberties. In the property section it says- I shall not quote all of it- in section 4 1 : (1.) Where it appears to the Minister that a prescribed substance, or minerals from which, in the opinion of the Minister, a prescribed substance can be obtained -
A prescribed substance is any element with an atomic weight above 93- if I remember correctly- is or are present on or under the whole or part of an area of land … the Minister may . . . authorise a person to carry on . . . operations . . .
That person may carry on operations on that land, erect buildings and so on. Finally, there is an all-embracing sub-section which states:
Section 41 (3) gives the Minister power to seize control of all prescribed substances in the Commonwealth. In other words, it claims virtually unlimited powers over property. In relation to the States section 38 of the principal Act says: ( 1 .) The Regulations may-
So in relation to a prescribed substance- that in itself has a pretty broad definition- the principal Act asserts that the Federal Government has power to pre-empt any State law. Of course, the amendment to this Bill broadens even more widely the definition of a prescribed substance to include ‘minerals found in association with uranium’. Then it repeats section 38 (4.) of the principal Act- I think this is something like the relevant clause in the Constitution- which states:
Nothing in this section affects the operation of a law of a State or Territory of the Commonwealth, except to the extent that that law is inconsistent with an order in force under this section.
I think that is the same wording as a section of the Constitution but presumably, since it was repeated in this Act, the Government of the day wished to make it perfectly clear that this preempted virtually all States ‘ rights over mining.
On the question of individual liberties, section 47 of the principal Act- one needs to put this into context; this is the section which specifies offences under the Act- says with respect to these offences:
What that says is this: You do not have to prove that anyone acted to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth; you just have to think that he acted as if he might have wanted to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth.The penalty for that crime under this principal Act is up to 20 years imprisonment. I do not believe that that sort of legislation can ever be justified, certainly not in peace time. It ought to be very clear to any small ‘1’ Liberal members of the Government that the use of that sort of legislation cannot be justified simply to provide a legal vehicle to carry the uranium mining policy. May I observe in passing that those State Premiers who recently have purported to show some concern about alleged States ‘ rights have been a bit tardy. If they had wanted to protest against the infringement of States’ rights or, more importantly in my view, the gross and scandalous infringements of the rights of the individual and the denial of the most fundamental principles of AngloAustralian jurisprudence, they should have started protesting 25 years ago about the Atomic Energy Act.
As I said at the beginning, I am not going to say very much about the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill. The major defects of the Bill are its enormous scope and the fact that it leaves far too much to regulation. Indeed, the Bill demonstrates very well just how ignorant we are of the whole question of nuclear safety and waste disposal. Proposed codes, so the Bill states, may be made public for security and debate. There is no compulsion on the Minister to make them public before they are finalised, and clearly the process of consultation with the States has broken down already. I think the current score is that four or five States have formally protested to the Government, not about this measure but about the legislation associated with the Government’s uranium mining policy generally. Some people might say that there is a strong case for withdrawing the Bill and redrafting it. I think the opinions of the State Premiers are well known enough to make repetition of them unnecessary.
The Opposition proposes to move several amendments to this Bill. In brief, the amendments are, firstly, to necessitate a public inquiry before the confirmation of the nuclear codes; secondly, to establish an environmental protection advisory council independent of government control; and, thirdly, to require that codes not be confirmed until after public inquiry and findings have been reported to the Minister. The fourth and fifth amendments are rather technical legal matters concerning enforcement and remedies and the safeguard of civil liberties. For the reasons I have stated with regard to the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill, it is quite clear that the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill should be rejected by the Senate, particularly in view of the fact that three and a half years ago Liberal and National Country Party senators rejected regulations made under the Act on the grounds that it was improper to use an Act rooted in the defence powers of the Commonwealth for commercial purposes, and the regulations were disallowed. Twenty-one of those senators still sit in this Parliament. If they are consistent they should all vote against this legislation.
– It is with pleasure that I enter the debate on the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill, which the Senate is debating concurrently with the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill. I should like to deal briefly with some of the comments made by Senator Walsh. It is rather interesting that Senator Walsh took the line that he did. He made a more constructive speech than he normally does and I congratulate him for it. However, the reasons he put forward for the Opposition opposing this Bill seemed quite technical to me and were not convincing at all. It is well known that when the Labor Party was in government it set out as fast as it could to export uranium with nothing like the safeguards that are proposed in this legislation. It is obvious that
Senator Walsh takes the right wing Labor view exemplified by the President of the Labor Party, Bob Hawke, and not the view taken by people like Mr Uren and some honourable senators who will be speaking during the debate on this Bill.
The Government is determined to enforce these safeguards, and it was suggested by Senator Walsh that that might not be so. One example of this determination that has already been reported in the Press indicates that one foreign country has gone home empty handed because it could not comply with the conditions laid down by the Federal Government. With regard to the subject of waste storage in Australia, I reiterate that the Government has made a firm commitment that it will not store waste from overseas. I would like to dispel any argument on that score. It is the Government’s firm undertaking that the Commonwealth of Australia will not store any waste from overseas. There are no plans whatsoever for the use of uranium in Australia, apart from the very small use to which uranium has been put over the last 20 years in the production of isotopes for medical purposes. Senator Walsh suggested that we should be putting more effort into coal. The environmentalists, who are sincere on this issue, will point out to Senator Walsh and to others that the use of coal can be more damaging to the environment than the use of uranium.
-Yes, there is a lot of rubbish from coal. One of the points that is forgotten by the Opposition is that, whether we like it or not, some 27 countries have made a firm commitment to use uranium. If we did not participate in the marketing of uranium we would be denying those countries energy that they so badly need. In addition, if we did not participate in the marketing of uranium we would have absolutely no control over its use throughout the world, no control over safeguards, weapons proliferation, and all those problems. By taking such a firm stand the Government has exerted a tremendous influence over the use of uranium in the world. Senator Walsh mentioned some of the objections put forward by the States. I point out to the honourable senator and to the Opposition that those objections are only in relation to the codes that we establish. I am sure that through consultation we will overcome those difficulties. That is not to say that there are not difficulties in regard to the Northern Territory’s involvement in these Bills, and I intend later in my speech to address myself to those matters.
I support the Bill before the Senate. However, I do not support the present form of the Environment Protection (Alligator Rivers Region) Bill, the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill or the Environmental Protection (Northern Territory Supreme Court) Bill. I worked fairly closely with Senator Kilgariff on some suggested amendments, and I hope sincerely that the Government will accept some of those amendments and allow me to support the Bills. The purpose of the proposed amendments is to give the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly some involvement in environment protection and some control of parks and wildlife in the Northern Territory. Some weeks ago I visited Darwin and the site of the Ranger and Pancontinental uranium mines in company with Senator Kilgariff. Senator Walters, Senator Messner, Senator Baume and Senator Collard. We spent about six days in the Northern Territory, with two days at the actual mine sites. During our stay we met representatives of the Northern Land Council, the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory, Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd, Pancontinental Mining Ltd, and the Northern Territory National Parks and Wildlife Commission.
We drove from Darwin to Jabiru, the site of the Ranger deposits, a distance of about 260 kilometres through some of the most beautiful country I have seen in Australia. We spent one and a half days on the sites of the uranium mines and flew back from Jabiru to Darwin, detouring through the beautiful range country around Arnhem Land and Mount Brockman. We were fortunate in that the wet season has just ended and the flood plains were still at their maximum beauty. The birds and flowers, the ranges and escarpments around Arnhem Land and Mount Brockman, and in particular the Jim Jim Falls, are certainly worth seeing. Those areas contain some of the most beautiful country we have in Australia. Unfortunately, I did not visit the Queensland Mines Ltd site at Nabarlek, but I understand that the country in that area is also very beautiful.
I was particularly impressed by the responsible attitude taken by the mining companies in that area. They have a tremendous feeling for the land. They conduct different studies. They are certainly terribly conscious of the preservation of the environment. People with expertise are employed by the mining companies to do all they possibly can to preserve the very valuable environment. Pancontinental also employs a man called Mr Bob Randall who is an Aboriginal. He was raised and has spent most of his life in the area around Jabiluka. He is employed mainly for the purpose of instructing the people, who will be working for the mining companies in that area in the Aboriginal cultures and to appreciate the significance of that land to the Aboriginals. His job is to bring home to those people who are working in that area the importance that area has for the Aboriginal people. Bob Randall is a very fine person. It is rather interesting to note that during the whole of the time that we spent in that area he and his family were the only Aboriginal persons we saw.
A remarkably small area is involved in this mining venture. About two weeks ago I spent a whole day looking over the Latrobe Valley area in Victoria where a gigantic project to increase the production of brown coal is being embarked upon. Whereas the Pancontinental mine, which is the richest known deposit of uranium in the world, would fit into an area less than one kilometre square, the area covered by this enormous projected mine in the Latrobe Valley is many hundreds of times larger than that. The Latrobe Valley has some of the best dairying country in Australia. Land in the area sells for about $ 1 ,000 per acre. Yet I have not heard one person protest about what could be regarded by some environmentalists as the misuse of that very valuable land. Yet we have had an enormous amount of protest from ill-informed people from all over the world about the mining of what is a very small area of the Northern Territory.
I have a tremendous sympathy for the mining companies in the Northern Territory. Already they have spent many millions of dollars. It will be some years before they get any possible return at all from that money. Pancontinental in particular has not even been permitted to build an all-weather road to the site of their land, and that creates a tremendous disadvantage for that company, lt has tens of thousands of dollars of machinery which is lying around idle. It cannot do anything until the Government and the Northern Land Council come to some agreement. An example of that is that we were told when we were at Pancontinental ‘s Jabiluka site that the site originally chosen for the tailings dam has been found to be fairly unsuitable and that it would like to investigate a new area for siting its tailings dam. The present restrictions placed on the company by the Northern Land Council and the Federal Government prevent the company from doing any investigation or drilling at all in the area in order to work out a suitable substituted area for its tailings dam.
I say by way of general comment that in my opinion the Bill will go a long way to allowing mining to begin. The important point is that much of the preparation work which will have to be done before mining commences will have to be done in the dry season which is just beginning now. If it is not completed in that time the whole project will be put back by at least 12 months. The difficulty is that once the preparation work commences and the mining commences it will be some years before the production of yellowcake can actually begin. If we miss out on taking advantage of the coming dry season, it will mean that our present commitments of yellowcake to overseas purchasers will not be met. We have sufficient yellowcake stored in Australia only to meet commitments for a very few months. If the uranium project does not get off the ground very quickly we will not be able to meet our present commitments.
I will not speak any longer. My colleague, Senator Young, who is Chairman of the Government parties National Resources Committee, will have a great deal to contribute to the debate. He has much more expertise in this area than I have. In conclusion, I wish the Bill a speedy passage, and I commend it to the Senate.
-The Senate this afternoon is debating two Bills cognately- the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill 1 978 and the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978. My comments will concentrate on the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill. My colleagues on this side of the chamber who will follow me in this debate no doubt will speak on that Bill as well but will speak also on the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill. The Atomic Energy Amendment Bill will facilitate joint participation in the mining of uranium by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and Ranger Uranium Mines Pty Ltd. The Atomic Energy Act 1953, which we are amending by this Bill, gave the Minister power to exercise control over nuclear materials but only in connection with defence or with a Territory. This amending legislation, if passed, will extend the power of the Act to cover under the Constitution many other purposes in the Commonwealth.
In the last 12 months or so many people have spoken, both in this place and in the House of Representatives, on various aspects of uranium mining. There have been many speakers earlier this afternoon on matters connected with this package of Bills, and there will be speakers to follow on these Bills this afternoon and this evening. Thus a lot has been said on this topic in this place. That being the case, most of the matters which I regard as being of importance have already been canvassed, both in the current session and in previous sessions of the Parliament. In view of that, I probably will not take as long to deal with the matters in the Bill with which I want to deal as otherwise I would have taken. However, I do intend to outline, and to outline forcibly, my personal opposition and that of the Australian Labor Party to the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill. I regret that the Bill has been brought before the Parliament. However, it is here. Now that it has come before the Parliament I am happy that I have the opportunity to reflect a large body of public opinion which is opposed to the Bill- public opinion which comes not only from political circles but also from the general community. Therefore I will be opposing this Bill with all the vigour that I can muster, and I will be voting against it.
I am amazed that there are so many people in the Parliament who are able to sweep away the reality of the risks associated with waste disposal and with the problems of weapons proliferation. I cannot do that. Waste disposal is a problem which was mentioned very forcibly in the Fox report. Nothing which has happened between the presentation of that report and now has solved the problems of waste disposal. The problems of weapons proliferation are of equal importance, and perhaps are even more important. Those people who cast aside these problems of waste disposal and weapons proliferation cast aside their moral responsibility to protect their fellow man. They cast aside also their moral responsibility to protect forthcoming generations from the folly of proceeding now with uranium mining.
The Australian Labor Party is firm on this matter. While questions of waste disposal and weapons proliferation remain, Australia’s uranium deposits should not be developed. I fully support that stance and in doing so I know that at least I am doing something to safeguard the rights of future citizens of Australia. My conscience is clear when I take that stance. I suppose that people will have different ideas on the problems associated with uranium mining. Those people who hold ideas different from mine are probably able to rationalise their ideas in a way similar to the way in which I explain my stance. But I sometimes wonder whether in the future their consciences will be as clear as mine. Mine will be clear, in the knowledge that I opposed this Bill and other Bills associated with it.
If Australia mines in accordance with the provisions of this Bill, 1 believe that we will be faced inexorably with premature problems of waste disposal and problems associated with nuclear weapons. However, we must be realistic. The
Government has the numbers in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. Therefore it is almost a fait accompli that the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill will be passed. Yet there is a strong body of public opinion that it should not be passed. If it is passed it will be a vehicle to allow uranium mining to go ahead in the Northern Territory. Because there is a strong body of public opinion the Government can expect that the opposition to this measure will continue. It will continue within this Parliament and also outside the Parliament. Those people who will be opposing the measure outside the Parliament will be doing so because their consciences tell them that that is not the proper way to go about the problems associated with nuclear material.
– They will stay within the law, will they not?
-The great body of people who are opposing this measure outside the Parliament will stay within the law. Like me they will certainly still voice their disapproval of this Bill and the associated Bills. There is no point in breaking normal laws to voice one ‘s opposition and to try to effect changes. But let us be honest. When so many people are opposed to a principle such as this there will be a few who will break the law. But when that happens- it will happen- one should not blame the vast majority of people who are opposing it in a peaceful way because a small minority decided to go about it in a different way. I think the honourable senator would probably agree that that is what will follow.
My basic and overwhelming objection to the Atomic Energy Act and the amending Bill which is before us is that they will allow uranium mining. I have already mentioned that. Also there has already been mention of the appropriateness of the use of this Act to control uranium mining. My colleague Senator Walsh has already mentioned some aspects of the Act. I am not interested in the niceties of legal argument about the use of this Act but I am interested in why the Government should use an Act which contains harsh, repressive measures. Let us examine some aspects of the Act, which is to be the vehicle for uranium mining in Australia. If we had to have some legislation to allow uranium mining to go ahead one would not expect that it would be necessary for it to contain the repressive measures contained in this Act which can in fact he used.
Sections 44, 45 and 46 of the Atomic Energy a dc;il with the communication of restricted information, the acquisition of restricted information and the removal of restricted information. When one examines those three elements one can imagine that the provisions are reasonable. They would seem to me to be reasonable provisions if that were as far as they went. But if we look at section 47 (a) we see that it contains a disgraceful affront to civil liberties. Section 47 (a), which deals with proof of intent in relation to those three elements that I have just mentioned, states: it is not necessary to show that he was guilty of a particular act tending to show an intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth and, notwithstanding that no such act is proved against him, he may be convicted if, from the circumstances of the case, his conduct, or his known character as proved, it appears that he acted with intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth;
So no proof is really necessary. A person can be convicted in relation to offences under sections 44, 45 and 46 if it appears from his conduct or his known character as proved that he acted to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth. On that basis he can be imprisoned for 20 years.
I think there are grave dangers in that section. There is no doubt in my mind that, as uranium mining in Australia proceeds, dossiers, for want of a better word, will be kept on people who are opposed to uranium mining. They may be being kept already. From my background of” work before I became a member of Parliament, I am well aware that in one particular State at least dossiers are kept on people because of their attitude to certain problems within the community. If such dossiers are kept, will they be taken as proof of a person’s conduct or character? People may think that what I have said is far-fetched. I will not go into the details of a personal problem which I once faced and about which most people in this chamber know. It was in 1975 at the time of the filling of a casual Senate vacancy. Some people may remember that a document which was written by an ordinary person- the contents of which did not have to be proved and some of them could not be proved because the people who were supposed to have said various things had died years before- was brought before the Queensland Parliament in order to denigrate my character. If that could happen to a person who was a nominee for this place it could very well happen to any person in Australia. These documents, which do not require proof but which are brought out of closets or made in surreptitious circumstances, could be used under section 47(a).
If this were required for the security of Australia’s defence there might be some justification for it but this Act will no longer be used just for the security of Australia or for any of its territories as it once was. It will be the vehicle for commercial uranium production in Australia. Why should we have such repressive measures which can and which possibly will be used for something concerning commercial production in Australia when one knows very well that there is great division in public opinion on this matter throughout Australia. I refer to section 47 (b), which in some respects is just as repressive. It states, in part:
Anyone who wants to examine the full section may do so. That part of section 47 places the onus of disproving intent to prejudice the defence of the Commonwealth on the defendant. In other words, the onus of proof is on the defendant. These are repressive sections which, taken by themselves and with sections 44, 45 and 46 of the Atomic Energy Act, can cause a person to be imprisoned for up to 20 years. I do not believe that we should be debating such an amendment to an Act which will be used for commercial production of uranium in Australia. Section 50 allows for detention and arrest without warrant of a person suspected of having committed certain offences. This, again, is a basic breach of civil liberties in Australia. Section 54 states:
No action lies against the Commonwealth, a State, the Commission, a constable or a peace officer in respect of an arrest, apprehension, detention . . .
If one is wrongfully detained or arrested under the provisions of this Act, no action lies against the Commonwealth or the State or the Atomic Energy Commission. Finally, I refer to section 58. The sections I have mentioned are not the only provisions of the Act which I find disturbing. Section 58 states:
A person who does any act preparatory to the commission of an offence … is guilty of that offence.
For this he can be imprisoned for up to 20 years. What is the definition of ‘preparatory’? We do not know. I sometimes have my suspicions about the way in which the Government is using this measure as part of the legislation it requires to enable uranium to be mined in Australia. One suspects that this measure is being used to suppress public opinion and to intimidate those who oppose uranium mining. I certainly hope that this is not so but if it is so, this Government will find that there will be such a groundswell of opinion that the oppression and intimidation will not be successful. As I mentioned earlier, when Senator Baume interjected, there will be a long and serious battle in Australia against uranium mining. That battle will not stop with the passing of this legislation and I am proud to say I will be in the forefront of this battle, as will the Labor Party.
The threats of proliferation and weapons disposal which loom over us are too great to be disregarded. Therefore, somewhat unusual actions are required of the Opposition. We have outlined those unusual actions. Companies that are involved in uranium mining and those associated with it are well aware of what our actions will be. As well as expressing our point of view that uranium should not be mined, we are expressing a determination that we will not honour any commitment of a non-Labor government until we are sure that the problems associated with uranium mining are solved. Once they are solved we will look at our position again. But while there are disposal problems and problems of proliferation- as indeed there are- we will not support any commitment of a non-Labor government.
Senator Thomas who spoke before me said that this Government had made a firm commitment that it will not store waste from overseas. I have two comments to make on that. This Government has made lots of commitments. I remember that just before I became a member of this place the Government made commitments not to disband Medibank. It has done everything it possibly can to do so. It made commitments to provide employment opportunities for everybody in Australia. It has done everything but that. There is another aspect that one should look at. Senator Thomas said that this Government will not store waste from overseas. If that is the case there is still a waste problem. We are transferring the problem from one place to another. If we mine uranium we should have the moral responsibility to know that if some problems are not here they will be elsewhere. There are problems. Our position with regard to not honouring commitments of a non-Labor government until we are certain that the problems are solved is not a negotiable position. We will not move in our opposition. We care too much for the present generation of Australians and for future generations even to contemplate the possibility of negotiation.
When speaking of uranium and the prospects of nuclear proliferation one should be mindful not only of belligerent nations and governments but also of terrorists. I have some misgivings about at least one country with which we seem to have entered into an arrangement in regard to our uranium. In addition, one does not need much imagination to consider the possibilities if terrorists use uranium in a belligerent way. A most unfortunate and disastrous incident happened overseas in the last 24 or 48 hours with regard to a former head of government. This gives us a clear indication of what terrorists will do. They have no regard for life or for what they might do with the weapons that they could produce. I urge those who say that it cannot happen to read some of the reports of how it can happen, of how terrorists could get hold of this material and use it against humanity. There is no guarantee that uranium mined in Australia will not end up being used in this way.
The Fox report outlined the possibility in plain and indisputable terms. It would be folly to suggest that this possibility would not occur. I believe that if this Government really wants to take an international lead- in some respects the argument being presented about uranium mining is that we must take a lead and help the rest of the world- it would be far better off contributing towards solar energy research. Uranium, if it is used, will not last for ever as a source of energy. For as long as the human race is likely to want energy it will be able to obtain it from the sun but the amount of solar energy research being done in this country is pitiful indeed. In this financial year one of our major organisations, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, is spending about $1.5m, including overheads, on solar energy research. Prior to the debate this afternoon I was wondering how many times Parliament could be called together for $1.5m, the amount which we are giving to perhaps the best research organisation in Australia to spend on solar energy research. That amount of expenditure probably would be incurred in calling Parliament together five or six times on a weekly basis. The Australian Research Grants Committee has provided extra funds but for 1978 only a quarter of a million dollars has been made available. If we want to show the world that we are taking the lead in solving the energy problem we have to provide more funds for this area of research. This could have tremendous long-term effects.
Earlier Senator Thomas outlined how he recently went to the Northern Territory and visited the area in which uranium mining will proceed. Along with a number of other honourable senators I had the opportunity of visiting the Kakadu National Park and some of the uranium mines which are outside it. I went with the Senate Standing Committee on Science and the Environment. The members who participated were Senators Jessop and Bonner from the Government side and Senators Melzer, Mulvihill and myself from the Opposition. I agree with the comments of Senator Thomas about the beauty of this area. He explained it in a very apt way. He was almost poetic in some respects. One does get almost poetic when one looks at this area. It is an area of great beauty. It is an area of great significance to the Australian environment. I have made a point of not only having a look at the Kakadu National Park and the proposed uranium sites in the Northern Territory; on a number of occasions I have gone to Mary Kathleen in my own State where uranium mining is proceeding. If one has not seen such areas one debates a Bill such as this on a theoretical basis only.
We travelled extensively in that area of the Northern Territory. We travelled principally by air, by both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopter. We took a great amount of time. After having seen all that area I am nowhere convinced that there are no dangers to it if uranium mining proceeds. If uranium mining proceeds there and the area is spoilt because of pollution effects, it will take millions of years for it to return to its present beauty. I saw the area during the wet season and I was given a good indication of the problems that could occur if the mining of uranium takes place there. I conclude by saying that I cannot be a party to the amendment to this Act. I will be voting against the Bill.
– This afternoon we are debating a Bill to amend the Atomic Energy Act and also the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978. These two Bills are in a package of some six pieces of legislation which relate directly and in some aspects indirectly to the proposed mining of uranium in the Ranger area. This package of legislation deals, as I said, with amendments to the Atomic Energy Act, with aspects of the environment in the Alligator Rivers region where the mines are situated, and with Aboriginal land rights. These Bills have come into being because of the Government’s concern to make sure that all aspects of the mining, milling and exporting of uranium are covered by legislation. That point must be emphasised. They even cover aspects of the environment.
We heard a lot today about the Atomic Energy Act. This Act has been in force since 1953. We are amending the Act to bring it more into line with the present day and, in particular, to incorporate the Ranger uranium project. We are dealing with a very important piece of legislation. Basically we are debating whether Australia should mine and export uranium. This issue goes back a long way and a lot of concern has been expressed. An in-depth inquiry has been held. I refer to the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, established by the Whitlam Government in 1975, of which Mr Justice Fox was appointed Chairman. He presented his first report, dealing with the physical aspects of the mining of uranium, in 1976. In his second report, in 1977, he dealt with the environmental aspects.
Much of this package of legislation relates directly to recommendations made in the Fox reports. Both reports supported the mining of uranium with certain qualifications. These matters have been considered very closely by the Government. I will go even further and say that they have been considered by the Parliament itself. The issue could not be treated lightly, nor was it treated lightly. The Government has certainly not endeavoured to make any snap decisions and many debates have taken place in this chamber and in the House of Representatives. I am pleased to see that in this debate so far no Opposition member has accused the Government of trying to deal with the matter in haste or said that sufficient debate has not been allowed. Pages and pages of debate on this matter appear in Hansard. Hours and hours have been spent in debating the issue in this chamber and in the House of Representatives.
The issue of the mining of uranium is a controversial matter among quite a few people in the community. At times the matter has become very emotive, as Senator Colston said when he was speaking earlier. It is also a very political matter. It is interesting to note that when demonstrators so often vocally express their views on the issue of uranium they condemn the Australian Government and some other governments, but I have yet to see them burning an Eastern European flag or a Russian flag. Yet we know uranium is being mined, milled, enriched and used for energy in those places.
– How many reactors are there in Russia?
– One does not know the number of reactors in Russia or in some of the Eastern European countries. However we do know that they exist. I have had discussions with people in East Germany who have said quite openly that they mine uranium, send it to Russia for enrichment and then get the enriched uranium back to use in their own nuclear reactors. I will not give the source of my information because the people might be in trouble, but it is a fact of political life that this is what is happening. Yugoslavia also has a nuclear reactor. Those countries cannot understand why we are taking so long to mine our uranium. Of course there is a difference between our systems and we have to make sure that this Parliament and the country have sufficient time to debate the question.
Honourable senators from the Australian Labor Party today have stated quite emphatically that they are opposing this legislation. They have also spent some time in condemning certain aspects of and particular points in the legislation. In totality, honourable senators opposite are still opposed to the amending legislation. The Labor Party at its conference in Perth proposed a moratorium on uranium mining. One wonders how much longer that moratorium will continue. One also wonders how many members of the Labor Party deep down are in favour of the mining of uranium. As we know, they are tied to a federal policy and so they will support their Party decision. I do not say that in any derogatory way whatsoever but I say it to show clearly that there is a division of thinking in this country about the mining of uranium and that division even exists within the political party to which honourable senators sitting opposite us in this chamber today belong. That division is also present in the trade unions.
We know that there are many trade unionssome powerful trade unions- that are wholeheartedly in favour, and have publicly expressed that they are in favour, of the mining and the exporting of uranium whilst there are other trade unions that are diametrically opposed to the mining of uranium. Senator Colston said that he and many of his friends in the Labor Party will be doing all within their power to make sure, even if this legislation is passed, that the mining will not get under way. They might also have to deal with a few people who may be Labor supporters in the sense that they belong to certain unions affiliated with the Labor Party and yet those unionists themselves and their unions are in favour of the mining of uranium. An article in the Press stated:
In Sydney, yesterday -
The article appeared prior to the Parliament resuming- the national secretary of the Building Workers Industrial Union, Mr Pat Clancy, said that Soviet trade unionists supported their country’s nuclear energy development program because they were satisfied with Soviet nuclear safeguards.
Russian workers were confident that their country’s nuclear wastes were being disposed of safely.
Mr Clancy was speaking on his return from Moscow where he attended celebrations marking the 60th anniversary of the Russian revolution.
He said that Russians were developing nuclear energy as part of their 5-year plan, which had been discussed by everyone involved in the industry.
So one can see in that report that there is no criticism whatsoever of the Russians; a statement is made as to what is happening. Unfortunately when uranium is mentioned some people tend to become rather emotive and see it in the form of a mushroom cloud going up into the sky, and they recall Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I wish to quote from the Windscale report. Mr Justice Parker conducted an inquiry into the reprocessing of uranium in the United Kingdom. This report came out only a few weeks ago. Page 3 of that report states:
It is the lack of such information which renders the public or some members of it suspicious of those who operate the nuclear industry and exposes them to anxieties which are needless. In saying this I do not intend to imply that there are no grounds for anxiety in certain respects. There clearly are. It is equally clear, however, that many of the anxieties which are felt are without foundation and spring from a fear of anything nuclear, no doubt partly due to the fact that the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs with their devastating effects were the opening events in the development of nuclear power.
I think that is a very valid statement. To go further, anti-uranium lobbyists also tend to create very emotive situations in the community and at times come out with some fairly hefty propaganda that tends to mislead people. Whilst I might be taking up some time, nevertheless I think I should give one example. On page 70, paragraph 13.3, of the Windscale report Mr Justice Parker states: . . I was shown a film entitled ‘Caging the Dragon’ … It dealt to a large extent with the question of safety at Windscale. At the beginning of the film there was a shot of Windscale closely followed by pictures of a man who had suffered severe radiation burns. Shortly thereafter there was a reference to a fire which had occurred in 1 957 in one of the original reactors at Windscale followed by a sequence showing huge flames emerging from the top of a tower. Pictures of these flames were repeated twice more during the course of the film.
He then goes on to say that when he made further inquiries he was informed that the pictures of the flames were in fact pictures of the flames from a flare stack at a coke works in Sheffield, miles away, and that the pictures of the radiation victim had been taken from a medical journal and represented the victim of an accident in connection with the weapons industry in the United States of America. He gave that as an example of how misleading the propaganda can be on so many occasions. He expressed an extreme concern at this fact and at how emotions can be stirred up in people by such misleading information.
In previous debates in this place we have mentioned that Australia is a very fortunate country because it is not short of energy resources, with the exception of crude oil. But many countries that are not so fortunate are very concerned about the impending energy gap. They are also very much aware that as time goes on this energy gap will become progressively worse. Figures that have been taken out on the consumption of energy in the world show an average rate of growth of some V-h per cent in consumption over the last 50 years. If we take that as the base figure, it has been estimated that some two and a half times more energy will be required by the year 2000 than was used in all previous years. I shall give some figures in connection with the main energy resources. They are 1975 figures- I have been unable to get later ones. In 1 975 oil supplied some 45 per cent of the world’s energy needs; coal supplied 30 per cent; natural gas supplied 18 per cent; and hydro-electric and geothermal power supplied some 5.7 per cent. It has been stated that those resources are not likely to contribute any greater percentage in the future.
There is a limited amount of oil and natural gas in the world. It has been estimated that at the present rate of consumption, and taking into consideration also present known reserves, oil could be depleted in some 30 years or more, natural gas in a little longer period, and brown coal and black coal could last for about 200 years. One can see clearly that the world had decided to go nuclear because of the limitations upon the reserves of energy resources. When I say that the world has decided to go nuclear, we in Australia have had nothing to say about or no influence whatsoever over the decision made by other countries. I think that is the point that we have to make. I heard Senator Colston say today that of course we do not have to supply other countries with uranium; we will not have the trouble with proliferation because, if we do not supply uranium, it will not arise. Let me assure Senator Colston that the world has gone nuclear and will continue to expand its nuclear facilities. There is a world demand for uranium and there will be a world shortage of uranium particularly if we do not supply. All that will do will be to send up the price of uranium, relatively increasing the reserves of uranium around the world.
Most countries can get uranium in their own countries at a price. Any coastal state can obtain uranium from the sea if it is prepared to pay the price, which runs into hundreds of dollars per lb. No country is likely to do that unless it has extreme reasons for needing it. In answer to comments made earlier by Senator Colston, the sort of country which might do that would be the country which wanted to make an atomic bomb but could not get any uranium any other way. In that case price would not matter. At the present time there are some 194 nuclear power plants in the world in some 20-odd countries. Some 213 further plants are under construction, and another 100 plants are on order. According to my figures, another 307 nuclear reactor plants are in the planning stages. This shows just how much the world has decided to go nuclear.
One of the interesting countries is Iran. Last week in Canberra the Iranian Deputy Prime Minister and senior members of the Iranian Administration had discussions with some members of our ministry concerning Iran’s requirement of some 1,000 tonnes of uranium per annum. Let me remind the Senate that, as I understand it, Iran is the second biggest oil producing oil country in the world, with exports totalling some 5,300,000-odd barrels of oil a day. Yet Iran has decided to go nuclear. It already has two nuclear reactors under construction and is planning to have another 20 reactors operational by the 1990s. It hopes to have another eight or nine reactors operating by 1 985. This is a country which is sitting on great supplies of what is rapidly becoming a scarce energy source, yet this country is prepared to share that energy source and at the same time to make sure that in the interests of conservation and looking to the future it will go nuclear. Iran could easily sell much less of its oil if it wished, still be a wealthy country and not have to worry about going nuclear.
I think this is a good example for the Opposition. We are an energy rich country. We are sitting on a source of energy which the world is requiring because the world has decided to go nuclear. Yet honourable senators opposite are saying that they do not want Australia to go nuclear for certain reasons, making many claims, such as that it would be dangerous to do so et cetera. I do not think that Australia should ever get the image of being a selfish country. That is the image we will get if we do not share and accept our responsibilites towards those countries which are facing what will be in the not too distant future an energy problem and eventually an energy crisis unless something is done to close the gap.
It has been mentioned that coal could help to fill the gap. Yes, coal will help, but there are limitations on coal- both economic and physical. Heaps of comparisons have been made between uranium and coal. In a normal nuclear reactor 1 lb of uranium has the heat equivalent of some 20,000 lb of black coal. With a fast breeder 1 lb of uranium has the heat equivalent of some 2 million lb of black coal. So we would have to transport a terrific amount of coal to fill the energy gap sufficiently to meet all the requirements of the world. So on the economic side alone there would be great limitations on the ability of coal ever to fill the gap. I repeat, the world has decided this, not Australia. That is why the world has turned nuclear. It has been estimated also that at present deaths in coal-fired power plants are 1 1 times higher than deaths in the nuclearpowered plants with the same generating capacity and that injuries in the coal industry, because of the volume of work undertaken, are seven times higher than injuries in the nuclear industry. That estimate comes from an atomic industrial forum which was held in the United States in 1975.
Concern has been expressed about radiation. Workers at the Atomic Research Centre at Lucas Heights in Australia get something like 100 rem of radiation per annum- a rem is a measure of radiation. It is interesting to note that if one takes an air trip from Sydney to Perth one gets some 3 rem of radiation. If one goes from Sydney to London one gets 1 7 rem. So if one kept travelling for long enough one would get a lot more radiation than one would ever get working in a nuclear reactor station. The Windscale Inquiry has made it perfectly clear that there are no great problems regarding radiation in reactors at all. I should like to quote again from the report by Mr Justice Parker on Windscale. Dealing again with risk factors, he stated:
If, however, such a person is told that, as has been estimated, such risk ( 1 in a million) is the same as that involved in smoking 1 Vi cigarettes, travelling SO miles by car or 2S0 miles by air, rock climbing for 90 seconds, canoeing for 6 minutes, engaging in ordinary factory work for 1-2 weeks or simply being a male aged 60 for 20 minutes, it would mean a great deal to him.
If a man is asked if he will accept a 100 per cent increase on a natural risk he may well be alarmed and say that he will not. If he is told that the increased risk is merely the same as any one of the above list, particularly perhaps the last, he would probably consider himself, and be considered by others, to be of exceptionally timorous nature . . .
Yet the risks involved in those situations would be the same as those for a man working in a nuclear station. One could go on and give more examples, which Mr Justice Parker has given. So much has been said about the problem of radiation and so much has been totally misunderstood by people in the community because so much has been fed to them which is entirely wrong.
Criticism was made today about the fact that we are amending the Atomic Energy Act, because on a previous occasion we did not support a Labor Bill to amend the Act in this place. Let me say firstly that there is a history to all of this. We all recall the introduction into this place of a Bill known as the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill, which sought to nationalise the mining industry of Australia. We were not prepared to accept that and in due course we rejected the legislation. The same thing happened with regard to regulations which were proposed by the previous Whitlam Government to be included in the Atomic Energy Act. We refused to accept them because we were not prepared to see any industry, in this case the mining industry, being nationalised by backdoor methods. It is interesting to note that the Memorandum of Understanding which was drawn up and agreed to by the previous Whitlam Government and Peko Mines Ltd and Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasiathe two companies involved in the proposed Ranger mining project- includes the following in sub-clause 6 (e):
In particular, Australia-
Shall grant any necessary and appropriate authorities under the Atomic Energy Act. The initial authority shall be granted for a period of twenty-one years.
This shows clearly that the Labor Party was prepared eventually to work by democratic means, not socialistic means, to involve itself in work under the Atomic Energy Act. It is interesting also to consider sub-clause 6 (a) of the Memorandum of Understanding, which states:
The relevant proportions of contributions of capital from time to time including working capital shall be:
The Commission-72½ percent
Peko- 13¾ percent
EZ- 1 3¾ percent.
In that case the Commission was the Atomic Energy Commission, the government agency- in other words, the Government. The Memorandum of Understanding goes on to state in subclause 6 (c):
In other words, under the Memorandum of Understanding those two companies were to receive 50 per cent and the Government was to receive 50 per cent of the net return even though the Whitlam Government was prepared to put in some 72 per cent of the capital.
– Who signed the agreement on behalf of the Labor Government?
– It was signed by Mr Whitlam, Dr Cairns and a few other people. The signatures are all there on the document. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he is not happy with the position. Mr Newman, the Minister for National Development, stated in his second reading speech on the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill that the Prime Minister: . . indicated that this Government is most conscious that the Memorandum of Understanding would not have been our preferred approach to mineral development. However, the Government would not wish to disturb arrangements entered into in good faith by the companies with the previous Government.
That is an important point to remember when criticism is continually levelled against the Government because it is making amendments to the Atomic Energy Act. There is a great need for us to accept our responsibilities in this country and to make sure that we do not develop further the energy gap that is widening throughout the world today. I want to repeat that Australia has not forced other countries to adopt the use of nuclear power. They have made their own decisions. Countries as diverse as Russia and Switzerland have made this decision. Switzerland, one of the most peaceful countries in the world and the home of the International Red Cross, has gone nuclear. These countries have gone nuclear because they could see that there is no alternative to fill the energy gap than nuclear power generation. Once a decision was made to adopt nuclear power and a great number of nuclear reactors were established and proposed to be established throughout the world, a need existed to make sure that a sufficient volume of uranium was available as feedstock for those nuclear reactors. If we do not ensure this, we will be forcing countries to hasten the development of fast breeder nuclear reactors.
Rather than express my opinions on whether Australia should mine uranium, in the time remaining to me I would like to refer to other very important comments. Firstly, let me say briefly that Senator Colston, speaking on behalf of the Australian Labor Party in the debate today, has said that nuclear waste is a problem.I suggest to honourable senators who say this that perhaps they should look to what is happening in France. By 1985, France will introduce vitrification processes whereby uranium waste can be held in an almost insoluble state. The report of the Windscale inquiry states that a major plant will be operating in the United Kingdom either in the mid or late 1980s. We know that West Germany is introducing a similar process. Technology will continue to advance. I will not accept the rationale of the Opposition that one of the main reasons it will not support this legislation is on the basis of the nuclear waste problem. There is a great need for us to commence the mining of uranium. In this way Australia also can have a say with regard to the International Atomic Agency, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, et cetera. As a big exporter of uranium, Australia can have a big voice in these important areas. At this stage, I wish to quote from what I think are very important statements made by people who hold responsible positions. I refer firstly to what was stated by Mr Bob Hawke, the President of the Australian Labor Party, in July 1977. He said: lam not convinced as a matter or intellectual integrity of the arguments for leaving uranium in the ground. If we leave it in the ground, we have done nothing about the dangers, the disposal of nuclear waste, about terrorists acquiring weapons, nothing about people occupied in the generating plants in West Germany, Japan and the United States.
Mr Hawke goes on to state:
I regard that as a very sound statement. I would like to state to the Senate the summary of the main conclusions at the World Energy Conference held in Istanbul, Turkey, in 1 977. There is not time to read all the conclusions. However, the conference stated:
With the doubling of world population to 8 billion people, world energy demand is expected to grow by between 3 and 4 times . . . Because of the declining oil resources and production towards the end of the century there will need to be a tremendous effort of substitution, particularly by means of coal and nuclear fuels. . . . The projected increase in electricity demand cannot possibly be met without a major contribution from nuclear power including breeder reactor application. . . . Despite maximum efforts to promote, by research and development and other means, the development of alternative renewable energy sources, no hope is seen for such energy sources providing more than a minor contribution by the end of the period.
That is the year 2000. The summary continues:
Thus solar energy use will increase substantially to the point that at the end of the period considered it will provide as much useful energy as that provided by electricity at the present time -
– Order ! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
-The honourable senator who has just resumed his seat has introduced nothing new into this debate. He has repeated the continuous coverup, the shibboleths and the evasion of the issues. I would like to make it quite clear that the Australian Labor Party has a policy of total opposition to the opening of any new uranium mines until we are satisfied about the safety of the mining operations and the adequacy of the nuclear safeguards. There was nothing in Senator Young’s speech that attempted to deal with those problems. He quoted from various parts of the Fox report that suited his argument. But I would like to draw the attention of the honourable senator to the fact that in the Memorandum of Understanding made during the time of the Labor Government there was a qualification that subject to the final findings of the Fox uranium report, the Labor Government would make certain arrangements. But Senator Young carefully avoided mentioning that.
He said nothing during the whole of his speech to assure the people of Australia that there is an obligation on his Government to be able to present a clear cut case that the mining in and the proliferation of uranium from this country have been cleared by our scientists so that not only this generation, including the people who will be engaged in the physical act of mining and transporting uranium and eventually treating it, but also the generations to follow will have an assurance that their interests and rights are protected. Senator Young said that no one has accused the Government of dealing with this matter in haste. Of course, it is very fine to be able to say that there has been no haste. This is so for the simple reason that honourable senators opposite have been able to use their numbers on every occasion when they have debated this matter to do what they desire. The fact that there has been no haste presents no justification for the Government amending the Atomic Energy Act in the way it intends.
The other night when I was watching television I saw a previous chairman of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission, Sir Philip Baxter, applying himself to a different aspect of this whole problem of nuclear power which, at its fullest projection, will decide the fate of mankind. At this time when people are racing around the world holding secret conferences, when the tensions of the world are such that members of the general public are not being fully informed of what is going on and when deputy heads of state can visit a country for what are almost clandestine meetings, it can be seen that there is a great deal more in uranium mining and the future use of nuclear power than meets the eye.
This is a very emotional and controversial matter because the future of the earth is involved both directly and indirectly in the decisions that we are making here. We are still using the term atomic energy, when on all other occasionsexcept in this amending Bill which is the hidden clout in the Act- every other reference is to nuclear power. Atomic power- the splitting of the atom- was a great discovery. But the scientists, the technicians and the people associated with the nuclear industry have advanced a long way since the days of the splitting of the atom. This technique holds within itself the unknown and unknowable of our inhabitation of this planet.
I charge the Government with dishonesty because it has taken the view that it can misrepresent the facts about uranium to the Australian people. I place on record my total opposition to this objectionable amendment to the Atomic Energy Act. The Bill is amending an Act which is related to the defence power of this country. The Government’s dishonesty lies in the fact that the legislation extends the defence power into commerce and into external affairs. Examples of the use of uranium in the United States have shown the impossibility of being certain that waste resulting from the treatment of uranium can be disposed of safely. It is absolute nonsense to say that the lethal waste, which contains plutonium 239- the enormous life period of that substance is well known- can be disposed of by burying it in caverns and underneath the earth’s surface. Only last week in the virtually safe geological area of Tasmania we had an earth tremor of a level which registered on the Richter scale. That tremor shows that regardless of where on this earth we find a place that may seem to be temporarily suitable for the disposal of waste, it could possibly be subject to a disturbance such as an earthquake and that lethal substance could be liberated.
A promise has been made- in my view it is a specious one- that the lethal substance can be disposed of by vitrification. That is a matter for the scientists at the laboratory table. But the vast quantity of accumulated waste that already exists in the United States is such that it would challenge the ability of scientists more than ever to find the proper technique by which to dispose of it. In introducing this legislation, with forethought and determination, the Government has decided to join the nuclear club.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Before the sitting was suspended for dinner I had made the point that the haste to mine and treat uranium and to develop it throughout the world for power purposes had been attributed to the possible shortage of fossil fuels. I point out to the Senate that while the major international oil companies, the people who control the oil in the various reservoirs of the world, are selling the fossil fuel as fast as they can take it from the ground, the automobile industry, although depressed at the moment, goes on its ravenous way consuming the fossil fuels. The cost throughout the Western world is becoming so great in the provision of highways, parking lots and the like that, as far as
I can see, the argument that there is a tremendous problem facing the world in relation to fossil fuels is not as great as it is made out to be. It is my view that because the possibility of generating power from an alternative fuel has been made economically feasible as a result of the rising cost of fossil fuels, the people who have found a new dimension, because they can obtain uranium, develop reactors and supply energy, are taking advantage of the situation.
The legislation before the Senate goes much deeper than the sheer economics of making a fast buck from a commodity about which scientists are uncertain and about which the people of Australia are concerned and confused. I believe that this legislation, and the proposed bulk mining of uranium in Australia, will create a great deal of turmoil in this country. It will split the country into two. There are people who are opposed to the mining of uranium and the use of nuclear energy and its consequences, such as the lack of certainty about disposal of the waste. Worst of all, in the hands of people who are not responsible finally, uranium could eventually be used to destroy the whole of the earth’s fabric through the use of thermo-nuclear bombs. In addition, the mining and transportation of uranium will immediately expose the country around the uranium mine sites to the diffusion of radioactive materials.
It is a natural consequence of this legislation that at this very moment in the Northern Territory the Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Anthony), the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Mr Viner), a member of the Senate and a member of the House of Representatives are confronting a problem that is pressing now and will grow. The consequences on their tribal life of mining the radioactive material are unknown to the people most directly affected by it, but they have a great capacity for survival. In their own way, using their own natural ability to foresee events in order to ensure their own survival, they are making an issue of this matter now before it is too late. That in itself should be a great lesson to the Australian people, who are being hoodwinked by the propaganda machine which daily and weekly is pushing out the idea that this is a safe proposition. It is my view that Australia is being hooked into international nuclear politics in a way that will keep us irrevocably in the uranium pipeline. It has been very well and forcibly said that we are losing the flexibility that we have as a nation to be able to say to other countries: ‘You have taken the wrong path by playing around with fire, with a substance that can be of such great danger to mankind. ‘
A lot of people will not understand the point I am making but I have been in this Parliament for a long time and I have been on the hustings in this country. Honourable senators opposite do not understand the battle we had to convince members of their party that they should not get involved in Vietnam. We were told lies by the propaganda machine about the necessity to become involved there through the South East Asian Treaty Organisation pact. We were told many things about containment and the arrows coming from the north, and they were a whole lot of lies. Not only did we lose our men and shed the blood of our men in Vietnam; we also lost the flexibility that enabled us to go to the forums of the world and stand up as a people who have always been known to be fair and square with their fellow men.
In this legislation we are backing ourselves into an indefensible corner. We will be hooked into the pipeline of supplying fuel to the nuclear industry, to people who say that they will adopt the safeguards. Where will the General Electric organisation or any of the other major organisations be in 100 years’ or 200 years’ time? Many of these multinational companies are folding up all over the world. They have no responsibility even to their shareholders, let alone to posterity. Yet we are asked to believe that they are conscientious and forward-looking. On every indication that we can find, they can give no guarantee, either to this generation or to future generations, that they can dispose of nuclear wastes. Other speakers have made the point that these substances could fall into the hands of illintentioned people who could trigger off international incidents from which there would be no way out.
I would like to refer to a special report on the storage of uruanium waste that was presented last year through the Four Corners forum. Quite a number of authorities from the United States took part in a seminar on the mining and exporting of Australian uranium, and it was concluded that the matter is far from settled in the minds of the Australian people. For that reason, we on this side of the chamber will continue to use whatever methods we can through the media to warn the Australian people, whenever we have the opportunity, as we have done on so many occasions in the past when we have seen thoughtless people, opportunists, people after a fast buck who have been prepared to sell their fellow men down the drain for the immediate gain, disregarding the longer range view that we have taken on these matters. This report states:
In the United States, the White House, Congress, and the nuclear industry itself are trying to answer some of the questions still unresolved.
Yet, after listening to the contributions made in this debate by honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber, one would think that the issue was cut and dried, that everything in the garden was rosy. But the deeper one delves into the whole problem the more uncertainty one finds exists. One of the participants in this Four Corners program, Jeff McMullen, a commentator of the Australian Broadcasting Commission based in the United States, made this observation:
It seems we’re building the pyramids of a new age. A nuclear plant lasts just 35 years. You and I may live to be 100, and even the Neanderthal man is only 75,000 years old. But the radioactive waste inside these pyramids will be dangerous for 250,000 years. As our society believes that any progress involves a certain degree of risk, we’re going to weigh that risk by asking one basic question: whether the problem of atomic waste has brought us to the threshold of our ability to manage our own plant.
The problem is as serious as that. Here we are in a democratic country which has vast resources, amongst which is uranium, and the Government is making a determined effort to contribute to what could be the cycle for the destruction of the fabric of this earth. The situation is as serious as that. Yet Government senators will not face up to that very serious situation. It is a source of amazement to me that the Japanese people are able to be sold the idea that they can gain temporarily from the use of thermo-nuclear power in the generation of energy when they have experienced Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They should realise that minor accidents have occurred at reactors in the United States. It has been more by good luck than by good management that these accidents have been hushed up. But the fact that they can happen, that they will happen, and that human lives are threatened by the possibility of an increase in the number of accidents of this type in nuclear reactors is a matter that should be exercising our minds.
One of the people interviewed on this Four Corners program was a man who has devoted himself to the public good in the United States. He is often criticised and even despised by the selfish, greedy, avaricious, self-seeking, so-called capitalists who dominate so many parts of the privileged section of the Western world. I refer to Ralph Nader. He calls the so-called plans of those who defend the safeguards, or so-called safeguards, in the nuclear industry a blueprint fantasy. In that interview he said:
The nuclear industry and the government have been saying for years that they think there is a solution for radioactive waste disposal for 200 or 500 thousand years, but they haven ‘t found it, and one of the reasons they haven ‘t found it is because it’s probably the most extraordinarily difficult technological solution ever devised in our civilian economy. It is horrendously difficult and horrendously costly and if it wasn’t for the sudden rise in oil prices in the last few years we wouldn’t even be talking about nuclear now.
Those observations come from people who have lived in a country where the development of nuclear energy is going on apace. Ralph Nader went on to observe:
There is enough radioactive waste now, enough plutonium in the United States and other countries to produce hundreds of nuclear bombs or if they are exposed to the atmosphere to destroy hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people, so that that’s the criteria by which we judge whether there should have been radioactive waste disposal solved before the nuclear power plants were on line.
That is the simple proposition which we on this side of the chamber are putting forward. If it can be proved that the disposal of nuclear waste is foolproof, if it can be proved that there is a means of disposal so that the waste will not be a menace to people employed in the industry and so that it will not be used by people of evil intent for waging war against their fellow man, and if it can be proved that the substance will not be used by terrorists who wish to gain some temporary advantage, then civilisation will continue into the future. But it will do so only if the problems are solved before we embark on what is, in my view, the commencement of a very dangerous and a very harmful experiment in human behaviour.
Man is at a threshold of his evolution. The scientists have got ahead of the ordinary citizen. The great faculties which have been provided and the great improvements in the exchange of information and knowledge which have been made in the recent past have enabled man to come to grips with so many of the unknown quantities which face mankind. It is now a matter of which road we take. Do we take the road along which history unfortunately has led us in the past and on which we have to follow the continuing animal cycle of war, of want, of hunger, of misery and that type of thing? Or will man be able to choose the path on which he can emancipate himself from the darkness of the past and use his great developments to his advantage?
We live in a world which unfortunately has not been able to emancipate itself from the selfishness, the greed and the avarice which has brought about so much unhappiness and friction in the past. I believe that at this time in our history when we can embark upon an era in which man can be liberated from many of the disadvantages of the past we should tread very warily in the use of thermo-nuclear power. I will admit that to follow that path could be of tremendous advantage to mankind, provided the safeguards are there. On the other hand, it could bring about his destruction. The Government is finding that there are minor disturbances and uncertainty in its own ranks. I sincerely hope that that influence will prevail in persuading the Government to scrap this legislation and to wait until we have the safeguards for which we are asking. By doing so it will maintain some sort of unity within its own ranks. But if it is not very careful it will split not only the people of Australia but also its own organisation on this issue. As I started off by saying, I support the attitude of those on this side of the chamber who believe that those safeguards should be assured before we tie ourselves into the cycle of nuclear power generation from which there will be no withdrawal once we start along the path.
– I support the Government on these two Bills, the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill 1978 and the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978. After hearing some of the speakers from the Opposition I think it would have been interesting to have been a member of a chamber such as this when the first Stone Age man carved out the wheel. It would have been more interesting to have been here when the first motor car or the internal combustion engine were invented.
– The locomotive.
-Or indeed the locomotive, or electricity. It would have been interesting to listen to all the concern that would have been voiced at that time. Nobody in his right mind would have realised that the motor car, the wheel, the locomotive or electricity would have taken such a toll. Civilisation has never made an advance in its history without there being commensurate risks. The thing that possibly distinguishes us from the animals is that we are able to accept those risks and, what is more, to overcome them, so that any new advance or new technology can be used for the benefit of mankind.
Senator O ‘Byrne said that everything should be foolproof. I have been a member of this chamber for two or three years, and I guess that if this chamber were a bit more foolproof than it is at present we would probably have more con.stuctive debate and we would get on with the legislation a lot sooner. He also mentioned that Australian society will be split in two on this matter. I would say that the ratio is probably at least 90 per cent in favour of uranium mining and probably a lot less than 10 per cent against. As he mentioned, a lot of propaganda has been put out, but it is propaganda from a minority of people, who seem to be Jeremiahs or prophets of doom. They are concerned not so much about the advancement of civilisation as the holding back of any advancement. So we get a lot of untruths, half truths, mis-truths and everything but the truth about the nuclear fuel cycle.
We have heard Senator O’Byrne mention the problems of radioactivity around the mines. I suggest that the ore that we are going to mine is already in the ground. What are we going to do to it around the mines that will make it any worse? We have been living in these areas, we have been walking around them and over them, we have been digging into them, and nobody has been the worse off for centuries. So it is quite misleading to start talking about the excess radioactivity around the mines. At one stage he quoted from the Four Corners television program. Knowing Four Corners penchant for objectivity I hope that I never reach the stage where I have to use Four Corners as my authority in any speech that I make in this chamber. Mention was made of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and I suppose we all share in the horror of that. I have said this before and I am afraid I will have to say it again as the message does not seem to have filtered through: It is the war that is horrific. Once a person dies, he is dead. It does not matter whether he is shot, bayonetted, blown to pieces or burnt. Once a person dies, he is dead. It is the war that is horrific. Leaders of nations and we as governments of nations should spend our time working against the proliferation of war.
The nuclear power cycle probably has a better track record than any industry when it comes to accidents- another cause of concern to the prophets of doom on the benches opposite. To my knowledge there has not been one death in the nuclear power cycle attributable to the nuclear reactor part of the nuclear power generation cycle. That speaks well for the nuclear power cycle. Because it is a new power and because of the emotional outbursts, possibly from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we have been able to take commensurate safeguards all the way down the line, and it has a track record that is second to none. For this reason alone, we should be looking more seriously towards further use of nuclear power.
Terrorism was also mentioned, and the fact that somehow somebody might be able to get hold of some radioactive waste and use it to hold a nation to ransom. I have touched on this subject in previous speeches. We hear the same arguments ad nauseum from honourable senators opposite and I guess we have to use the same arguments for rebuttal, but I hope that at some time in the future they might be able to see the truth of this matter. As I have said before, it would be far easier for terrorists to get hold of some germ such at botulism or cholera and put it into a city’s water supply. They could destroy the population and take over the city intact if they so desired. Instead we hear all the ballyhoo about terrorists maybe getting hold of some radioactive material and holding a nation to ransom. Do honourable senators think that the terrorists could get hold of it and make an atomic bomb, considering the thousands of scientists that were used in project Manhattan to make the first atomic bomb? To think that terrorists could do that sort of thing overnight is beyond belief.
The first Bill, the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill, flies in the face of recommendations from the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry, but the Government has decided to use this as an instrument by which the Atomic Energy Commission can buy into the Ranger project and thus we can keep faith with the Memorandums of Understanding that were laid down by the Whitlam Government. As they were laid down by the Whitlam Government one would not expect to hear the tirades that we have heard from honourable senators opposite. Let me remind them that they know as much about business as they know about atomic energy. As I recall- we are bound by this- the Australian Goverment is going to put in 72 per cent of the capital and is only going to receive 50 per cent of the net profits. If that shows any business acumen, it beats me. As far as I am concerned, it is beyond belief.
One thing that concerns me about this package is that we are setting up too many departments. As Senator Thomas mentioned, a few of us have been to the Northern Territory to look at the uranium province and to talk to the people there. One finds that the mining companies are not quite sure with whom they are dealing at any particular time. That was the situation previously. Unfortunately the passing of the legislation will not make the situation any better. The Government intends to appoint a scientific adviser. The National Parks and Wildlife Service will be involved. The people there will not have any one person to whom they can turn. I can see a lot of problems in this, and I think that the Government should pay attention to it in the future so that the process can be speeded up, so that uranium mining can be started and, more importantly, so that the companies can have one person in the Government with whom they can deal when they have problems to get them tidied up.
We must exercise some speed with this legislation. We have been criticised for rushing into it. If we are rushing into uranium mining I would hate to see us really stalling on any particular subject. As is well known, the mining companies have carried out a lot of exploratory work there and are now waiting for us to play our part so that they can get into operation. If they do not begin operating in the dry season, as people who have been there and as those who come from the Territory know, they will literally lose 12 months. I believe that our stockpile will run out before they will be producing yellowcake. We are not going to be able to meet existing contracts. We have to show some speed and in fairness to those people who have invested a lot of money up there we must allow them to get going.
In addition, there are many contracting companies in the Territory, and as the reconstruction of Darwin is winding down they are in a good position to be able to tender for contracts and help get site and mine construction off the ground. If we stall for much longer they will leave the Territory and it will be so much harder for the mining companies. The second Bill, the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill, is mainly a machinery Bill which will allow us, when the mines commence, to lay down certain regulations under which the rnining operations can take place and which will allow for safeguards, for the men working there and those who would be involved down the line in transport and other ancillaries.
When all is said and done a uranium mine is just another mine. I wish a lot of people would realise this. With all the legislation that we are bringing in to deal with the uranium package, one would think that we were embarking on something that is completely new, something that is dangerous and something that the whole world should be wary of. All we are doing is opening up two, three, maybe four mines. A uranium mine is just another mine. Its track record is far better than normal mining operations. I have explained before, but I guess I will have to do it again, that there were problems in underground uranium mining. For many years on the Continent uranium was mined along with lead. Because of the uranium there were releases of radon gas and miners died from the results of what they called a choking disease, which turned out to be lung cancer. But many thousands more have died from black lung contracted in the coal mines for the same reason of lack of adequate ventilation. When proper ventilation was provided the health of the miners improved dramatically. The mines that we have had in
Australia to this time have been open cut mines and the mines that are envisaged in the Northern Territory in the immediate and near future will be open cut mines also. The radon gas will be so insignificant that it will not be able to be measured. The mines there will be ordinary, hard rock open cut mines, nothing more and nothing less, and no more and no less dangerous than any other mine of a similar operation.
I think governments can be too sensitive to minority opinions, and I think we are being too sensitive in this particular area. As I said, we are laying down too many regulations, all because of our sensitivity to minority opinions. Unfortunately the minority in our society makes a lot more noise than its degree of support would indicate it is capable of. In the speech that I made on 18 August last year on the second Fox report I quoted the problems of decreasing fossil fuel reserves and our increasing demand for energy. I will not go into that at this time but I advise any honourable senators who are interested to look at the situation in which we will find ourselves in the near future. Even if we did find massive amounts of crude oil in the near future, just because we have found it does not mean that we must use it up wantonly. Blind Freddie and his dog would know that we will run out of it some time in the future, probably sooner than we would like or anticipate.
As I have said this is but a machinery Bill to provide safeguards for the mining of uranium. It will also provide safeguards for anything else that we might want to do with uranium in the future. I suggest that the Government should look very quickly at the possibility of undertaking our own treatment, our own conversion to uranium hexafluoride, our own enrichment, our own fuel fabrication and even our own fuel processing. If safeguards worry the Opposition so much, if we carried out all those parts of the whole process, we would certainly be able to tie up all the safeguards. At the present time we export yellowcake. Firstly, it has to go either to the United States of America or Great Britain where it is converted into a gaseous form known as uranium hexafluoride. It is no worse than any other gas. It is no problem other than that it is very corrosive, but then again we have lots of corrosive substances being carried around this country in stainless steel rail and road tankers. From that stage the main method of enrichment at present is by diffusion. This is done mainly in America where there are massive factories.
To give the Senate an idea of the amount of power involved to establish diffusion enrichment plant in Australia, of the type operating in
America now, such is the amount of power used that it would require electricity generation of greater capacity than all the power generation in Queensland today. There is the other method, of course, of using the centrifuge process. In this method one centrifuge can be used in which the hexafluoride is put through a million times or a million centrifuges can be used and the hexafluoride put through once. It does not quite need the amount of power used in the diffusion process. What we must do is process the hexafluoride so that the U-235 which is fissionable material found in its natural state in yellowcake at around .7 per cent or, to be more precise 7202 per cent can be enriched up to 3 per cent, to enable fission to take place. We are looking at a weight difference of only three neutrons in each atom. Yet it must be done and that is why we must have these very complex processes. I believe that work is being done- our own Atomic Energy Commission at Lucas Heights may be working on this also- whereby a laser process is used. I understand that that is still very much in the experimental stage. I seriously suggest that not only should we consider processing the material into hexafluoride in Australia but also that we should look at the enrichment program which would enable us to get the commercial trade off and to provide more safeguards.
We should also be looking at fuel fabrication which is also a profitable process. Once again this would give us safeguards. We would be controlling the whole process from the mine to the nuclear reactor. Then, we could be looking at reprocessing and we would have the cycle complete. Much has been said about reprocessing and the use of plutonium. The Opposition has stated that it is a very dangerous substance. Plutonium is an alpha emitter and a cigarette paper will protect anybody from the radiation effects of plutonium. We hear such inane remarks about how a handful of it would destroy every person in the world. How would we distribute a handful of plutonium around the world and, what is more, with all the bomb tests that have been done, it is estimated that there are between 7 tonnes and 9 tonnes in the atmosphere already. So much for this very dangerous toxic substance plutonium. For a bomb to be made out of plutonium it requires almost pure plutonium 239 and the plutonium that comes out of the power reactors is not pure plutonium 239, it has other impurities in it such as plutonium 240 and plutonium 241. It is not bomb-grade plutonium. It is possible, probably under extreme difficulties, to make a bomb out of that material. It is debatable whether it would explode. I think one such bomb has been exploded but massive technology is needed to do that.
Reactor grade plutonium is gained by using the Purex method of reprocessing. We now have a process known as the Civex method which is presently being worked on and considered by the International Fuel Cycle Evaluation Committee. The plutonium produced from this method cannot be used in a bomb. What is more, it is deliberately kept impure. Strontium and caesium are retained in the substance. Any terrorist who gets hold of it does not live for too long. It is deliberately kept impure so that it can kill in case the wrong people get hold of it. Nonetheless, it is still able to be used in fast breeders.
We are looking at a process whereby we can reprocess this material. It cannot be used in bombs and it will be unsafe for terrorists if they get hold of it. However, it can be used in fast breeders. Until we reach a situation where something better comes along- I, like everybody else, hope that something better comes along- we will have fast breeders. In talking about fast breeders we are looking at thousands of years of energy. I certainly have no hang-ups about using fast breeders for power generation.
I conclude by referring briefly to one point. A few years ago the French mined some of their uranium from Gabon in Africa. They found that the uranium was not acting as it should in the nuclear reactor. They could not work out why. As I have said, because of the natural radioactive decay process the amount of U-235 found in the mother material is 0.7202 per cent. That is upgraded to 3 per cent to enable fission to take place. When the French scientists started to do their homework they found that the amount of U-235 in the uranium being mined was from 0.7101 per cent down to as little as 0.42 per cent. This, of course, caused them a great deal of concern. They were not quite sure what had happened.
From one of those pieces of scientific detection which come along every so often and which make interesting reading the French scientists were able to determine that between 1 .7 and 1 .9 billion years ago we had natural reactors. It just goes to prove I suppose that there is nothing new under the sun. We have patted ourselves on the back because of our great introduction into the nuclear fuel cycle, but we had natural reactors, as I have said, between 1.7 and 1.9 billion years ago. What is more, the reactors operated in the natural environment for 1 50,000 years. The reactors were formed because the right amount of natural U-235 was available at the time.
Sufficient water crystals were in surrounding materials to act as a moderator. Thus, a chain reaction took place. Natural reactors were operating here on Mother Earth for 1 50,000 years without any help from the Government side and without any opposition from the other side of the Senate. The waste products are in the ground and they have not worried anybody all this time. It is just now when the homework is done because it is found that the uranium being mined is not up to scratch that it is realised that this earlier process had taken place. We pat ourselves on the back about technology, but Mother Nature beats us to it every time. It gives me great pleasure to support the Bills.
-The Senate is debating the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill and the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill. Listening to Senator Collard speaking on the subject I had the feeling that somebody had given him a drink. There was an awful degree of heady excitment about the whole thing as he contemplated the glorious future which he was painting. I am surprised and disappointed that he has not seen fit to give evidence to the United States Congressional Committee which has expressed its concern, for example, about the establishment of a nuclear reactor in the Philippines. If Senator Collard gave evidence to that committe it would fold up. No longer would there be any reason for it to have doubts, feelings of insecurity or fears about the establishment of a nuclear reactor in the Philippines.
I am surprised that Senator Collard did not give evidence to the Fox inquiry. It is quite clear on the basis of what he has said that he has not read the conclusions of Mr Justice Fox. Mr Justice Fox would not have felt the need to utter any warnings about the development of uranium mining in Australia if he had had the benefit of Senator Collard ‘s views on the subject. I am also interested in the optimistic scientific views which Senator Collard put forward, as I said before, in an atmosphere of heady excitement.
– I thought he said it was science fiction.
– At one stage he said it was science fiction. But listening to Senator Collard I was reminded of the remark of a great physicist, other than Senator Collard, and that was the great British physicist Lord Rutherford. Lord Rutherford commented that no scientific theory was worthwhile unless it could be explained to a barmaid. Senator Collard was singularly unsuccessful in explaining his theory to me.
Government supporters interjecting-
– If Government supporters will restrain their apres-dinner excitement I will finish what I was saying. I am, of course, much more humble that the sort of barmaid Lord Rutherford was thinking of. That point should be taken into account by somebody like Senator Collard when he is addressing the Senate and particularly the Opposition in the Senate.
– Will you introduce me to some barmaid?
-I said earlier that I thought somebody had given the honourable senator a drink; clearly it was not a barmaid. I will be pleased to introduce the honourable senator to a barmaid if I have the opportunity at some later stage.
The two Bills before the Senate are designed to facilitate the uranium mining industry in Australia. It is no secret that the Opposition opposes uranium mining and opposes both Bills. The basic reason for that opposition to uranium mining is a commitment in the context of inadequate safeguards. Everything we have said on this subject over many months now has been confirmed by a variety of reports from overseas relating to the sort of concern which the Opposition has had from the beginning of this debate. That concern was not absolved by the publication of the glossy folder of pamphlets with which honourable senators and members of the public were provided last year and it is not absolved by the sort of legislation which is now before the Parliament.
I shall refer to a number of other reasons why the Opposition is opposed to this legislation. Firstly, let me draw the attention of Government supporters to one reason which is relevant in the current context. In the Senate, government supporters get a great deal of satisfaction from explaining to us in great detail the virtues of the so-called new federalism policy and the way in which co-operation with the States is handled by the Fraser Government. The reality of new federalism in operation, as we all know now, is that if the Premier of Queensland stands the Federal Government up on a particular matter in which the Government has not only constitutional power but also constitutional obligations- like the question of Aurukun and Mornington Island- then the Government goes to water. That is new federalism in operation in that situation.
The other situation in which we see the new federalism in operation is when the Government does not want to consult with the States or does not see fit to consult with the States or does not think it has time to consult with the States. Then no consultations take place. That is another aspect of the new federalism as it does not work. I do not need to be cited as an authority on that proposition, nor does anyone on this side of the House. One can refer to such eminent authorities on that matter as Sir Charles Court of Western Australia and Mr Rupert Hamer of Victoria.
I want to refer to some particular provisions of the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill 1978 that concern me and on which perhaps other honourable senators on this side of the House have not spoken in great detail. I shall just enumerate in simple form some of the objections that we have. First of all, it provides a right to mine. Secondly, we regard the Atomic Energy Act 1953 as being totally inappropriate to control commercial or civil uranium mining. The Atomic Energy Commission is an inappropriate body to be responsible for commercial uranium development. The second report of the Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry- the report of Mr Justice Fox which Senator Collard clearly has not read or has disposed of in his mind as being a totally irrelevant document- stated that the Atomic Energy Act 1953 should not be used for the grant of an authority to Ranger to mine uranium.
The Opposition believes that, in spite of that injunction from Mr Justice Fox, the Government wants to continue to use the Atomic Energy Act for two specific reasons. The first reason is that the Atomic Energy Act, which dates from 1953, contains specific provisions based on the defence power which will offer the Government a means of intimidating and suppressing public opposition to uranium mining. This in our view is a disreputable use of the Act. Secondly, we believe that the Government is seeking, by means of this vehicle, to have comprehensive control of uranium mining throughout the country and direct government involvement not only in uranium mining but also in other forms of mineral development. Those are some quite substantial and simply stated objections that we have to the use of the Atomic Energy Act as the vehicle for proceeding with commercial uranium mining in Australia.
I point out that the Fox report objected to the use of the Atomic Energy Act on quite specific grounds. Firstly, as I have just said, the security provisions of the Act are inappropriate for a project with purely peaceful interests, and it is always said that this project is one with purely peaceful interests. The Inquiry regarded this Act as inappropriate to deal with that situation. I remind honourable senators again that the Atomic Energy Act is based on the defence power. Secondly, the Fox Commission of Inquiry said that there might be conflict between Aboriginal land rights and the provisions of this Act. That must be seen again in the context of the remarks made in the Fox report regarding the inappropriateness of the Atomic Energy Act for uranium mining for peaceful purposes. Thirdly, we believe that there could be a very real conflict of interest- the Fox Commission pointed this outbetween the entrepreneurial or commercial activities of the Atomic Energy Commission and its responsibilities under the Act to supervise local environmental protection measures. It is really only this sort of government, the Fraser Government, which could devise the sort of extraordinary situation- that extraordinary conflict of interest situation- of having a Minister for Business and Consumer Affairs. That was the first extraordinary contradiction in which this Government got itself involved and it is not surprising that it is quite capable of doing the same thing in relation to uranium mining. The breathless haste with which Senator Collard delivered his speech tonight is typical of the Government’s attitude to this whole problem. Of course there can be a very real conflict of interest.
– I thought it was a very considered, quiet and logical argument.
– I am very interested in Senator Jessop ‘s views and I am delighted that he was pleased with his colleague’s efforts but I hope he will listen to what we have to say, too, because even he is capable sometimes of absorbing additional material. There is a very obvious and clearcut conflict of interest between an organisation or statutory body which is involved in commercial mining, and a body which is responsible for supervising local environmental protection issues. That is a clear conflict which the Fox Commission pointed out and which we again point out in this debate. The two interests just do not logically go together. They do not belong together. They represent different interests but are being administered by the one body.
Those are the sorts of simple and fundamental objections which we have to the use of the Atomic Energy Act and to the Bill which is designed to amend that Act. If the conflict of interest situation to which I referred is to be resolved, there should be a separate statutory body responsible for the administration of nuclear safeguards. I again point to the fact that the Atomic Energy Act was designed for quite specific purposes- the political circumstances in 1 953, not the political circumstances in 1 978.
I shall turn briefly to the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill 1978. The stated purpose of this Bill is ‘to provide for a code of practice so that nuclear activities are effectively controlled throughout the country in the interests of health, safety and the environment’. That is a splendid purpose and if uranium mining is to take place nobody can properly object to that purpose. But it specifies ‘in the interests of health, safety and the environment’. Of course the provisions of this Bill go far wider than questions of health, safety and the environment. Again, this legislation offends demonstrably against concepts of civil liberty and it offends grievously against this Government’s professed interest, which has been continuing for a long time now, in freedom of information legislation. I suppose it is only nine months since I described that legislation as an anatomical freak, a gelding before it was born. Honourable senators on the Government side told me to wait until I saw their freedom of information legislation. I am still waiting. I have seen numerous Bills come before the Senate which show not the slightest reflection of an understanding of the concept of freedom of information and freedom of information legislation. This is yet another example.
– This is irrelevant.
-Senator, I would not come in here after dinner and try to say the word irrelevant’. The honourable senator is not making a very good job of it.
- Mr President, I take a point of order. I am offended by what the honourable senator has just said and I would like to remind him that his speech must have some relevance to the subject before the Senate. I consider that what he is saying at present has no relevance to the debate.
– Order! What Senator Button is saying is relevant to the debate and I call on him to continue his remarks.
- Mr President, I take a further point of order. Implied in Senator Button’s comment was the suggestion that Senator Jessop was not capable of giving diction to certain words.
– Order! I could discern no intention or inference in that direction.
-Thank you, Mr President. Before I was interrupted I was dealing with the provisions of the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill. I was seeking to make some of the same points about this legislation as I sought to make about the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill. When I say that this legislation offends against civil rights- a matter in which Senator Jessop has now lost interest- I want to remind people like Senator Jessop of statements about this matter of civil liberties which were made in the Governor-General’s Speech earlier this year. On 21 February, in delivering that Speech, the Governor-General said on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser):
My Government will carry out a continuing programme of law reform, particularly with a view to protecting civil liberties and enhancing individual rights. Constant vigilance is required to ensure that the rights of individual citizens are not eroded or ignored.
As I was saying a minute ago, the legislation before us does not reflect anything of that pious intention expressed in the Governor-General’s Speech, as has been the case with a lot of legislation which has been before the Senate since that statement was made. For example, I argue that clause 13 of the Bill in question is quite offensive to any notion of civil liberties and is quite contrary to the high sounding phrases expressed in the Governor-General’s Speech. I say that because under that clause a Minister can be authorised to take whatever action he considers necessary to control and eliminate hazards associated with a situation.
What sort of action can a Minister take? It does not say? There is no definition of the expression ‘the situation’. What are we expected to understand by the expression ‘the situation’? If one looks at the clause in detail one sees that it provides that if the Government decides that a situation exists as a result of nuclear activity a Minister is given extremely wide powers to deal with that situation. The extent of those powers will vary according to a totally undefined situation. The powers could include powers of search, seizure and detention, control of buildings, control of property and the movement of people, control of employment, censorship of the media and things like telephone tapping, to give some examples which might be hypothetical but which might be real.
I raise this in the context of this legislation because when we are dealing with a situation of a nuclear society the problems of civil liberties are vastly different from the sorts of problems of civil liberties which we have been used to in the past. Senator Collard can brush these issues off, but throughout the world people and governments are concerned about terrorism in relation to nuclear plants. They are concerned about theft in relation to nuclear plants. They are concerned about a whole range of possibilities which can arise because of the existence of a nuclear industry in particular countries. Of course, a whole range of questions can arise. Because that is so governments will more and more see fit to project remedies or methods of stopping those risks from arising and methods of dealing with a vast variety of hypothetical situations such as the ones to which I have referred. In the book entitled Civil Liberties in the Nuclear Society the author, Mr Richard Refshauge, had this to say:
The security described by Dr Flood and Mr Grove-White (in their book, Nuclear Prospects: a Comment qf the Individual, the State and Nuclear Power) include very substantial vetting of individuals in the nuclear industry but also in the electric supply industry. Thus, many thousands of individuals, a large number of them in the non-government sector, would become objects of routine security service investigations into their ‘political associations’ and ‘character defects’, justified by the scale of the risk presented by possible sabotage or theft of fissionable material. Obviously, such vetting would err on the side of greater security and less individual freedom and the danger of a new McArthyism is real. Not only would individual privacy be invaded but job security and tenure would lie in the hands of the security service with little right of appeal or redress.
We do not have to agree with that view, but we have to take it into account in considering the sort of legislation which will be introduced in a country like this- the sort of legislation which is now before the Parliament. We do not have to agree with Richard Refshauge ‘s view but for goodness’ sake, we have to take it into account when we consider the sloppy drafting of some of the provisions contained in this Bill- the totally vague and uncertain clauses of this Bill, such as clause 13.
It is sometimes said that the Australian Labor Party is inconsistent in some of these matters. I suppose all of us in politics from time to time appear to be that way. But if one looks at this situation of civil liberties in relation to defence legislation and legislation of that kind, one sees history of consistency going back through Labor Party attitudes to this type of legislation which was very well illustrated, I think, by the late Dr Evatt when he introduced the Approved Defence Projects Protection Bill in 1947. He said then that some of the groups who opposed the testing range project: . . were moved by a desire to protect the Aborigines, and theirs was a perfectly legitimate argument to put forward. When the Bill is examined, it will be seen that scope for advancing opinions of that character in regard to defence projects -
He was referring to defence projects and not commercial projects such as we are dealing with now- will remain. Although freedom of information is vital, the Parliament cannot, and will not, tolerate attempts to prevent the carrying into execution of carefully-planned defence projects.
Pacifists or persons who believe that there is a special duty to the Australian Aborigines when a work of this kind is contemplated might strongly advocate, at an early stage, the entire prevention of such a project. I do not believe that persons in that category should be made liable to criminal sanction without having regard to the circumstances. Even with respect to boycott, the question of reasonable cause or excuse seems to me to be one to guard against the application of the criminal law to borderline cases where it is not proper that the sanction should be applied.
That was stated in relation to defence protection legislation. It is in sharp contrast to the attitude of this Government when one takes into account, as I have said, the Governor-General’s Speech and the lofty words spoken in that Speech about civil liberties and the sorts of provisions contained in this Bill, such as clause 13 to which I have specifically referred. I might have referred also to clause 14 of the Bill, which allows the Government to suppress any information relating to the performance of companies or government agencies in meeting health, safety or environmental protection standards which are described in the legislation and will be specified in the codes of practice. One wonders why this provision is necessary. Surely people have a right to know whether companies and others involved in this operation are observing the standards which we are properly entitled to expect.
The essential points which I have tried to make are simply these: The debate about the pros and cons of uranium mining and uranium export will go on. There will be differences of opinion within this society which we will have to face up to as legitimate differences of opinion. If we are to face up to that problem as a problem of a democratic pluralistic society and if we are to provide legislation which recognises the fact that we have the pretensions of belonging to a democratic pluralistic society- quite apart from Senator Collard ‘s theories about the positive virtues of uranium mining and enrichment; the glorious nirvana which he painted for us- this Parliament has an obligation to ensure that the sorts of things which the Governor-General said are not merely empty rhetoric but that we in the Senate and in the other place believe in them. We must understand that the Parliament operates in a society in which there should be freedom of discussion and debate on these matters and that persons involved in that process of freedom of discussion and debate should not be subjected to the sort of pernicious powers which are available to the Government under the Atomic Energy Act and which will be available to the Government if the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill is passed.
It was on those two specific points that I wanted to speak in this debate tonight. It is very important that those points be made, regardless of one’s views about the development of the nuclear industry on the larger scale. I join with my colleagues on this side of the Senate in saying that both Bills should be rejected by the Senate because they are not worthy of a Parliament in a so-called democratic and pluralistic society.
-This evening we have heard two Opposition senators speak in this debate. I thought that both honourable senators were intending to oppose uranium mining in Australia. It was fascinating to hear both of them give away any such objections at the end of their speeches. Earlier in the evening we heard Senator O ‘Byrne at the very finish of his speech throw in his hand when he recommended to the Government that it should tread very warily. He acknowledged that uranium could be of tremendous advantage to mankind, subject to certain safeguards. That is precisely what the Government is doing by these Bills which we are considering tonight and by the other Bills in the package of legislation which we will consider at a later stage. Senator Button also gave it away at the finish of his speech when he talked about empty rhetoric, the freedom of discussion and debate and the pros and cons concerning uranium mining. It seemed to me that so long as there was an opportunity for the expression of freedom of opinion about uranium mining in Australia, Senator Button would have no objection to it other than that he would not have used the vehicle of the Atomic Energy Act for this purpose.
The Atomic Energy Act, which will be amended by the first Bill that is the subject of the debate tonight, was chosen by the Australian Labor Party when it was in government as the vehicle for the task that it was contemplating. On 31 October 1974, the Whitlam Labor Government tabled in the Parliament a statement announcing large scale uranium development in the Northern Territory, commencing with the exploitation of the Ranger deposit, to be followed by the development of the Nabarlek and other deposits. Also tabled in the Parliament at that time was an agreement between Peko Mines Ltd and the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd for the joint development of the Ranger deposit with the Commonwealth. Almost 12 months later to the day, on 28 October 1975, that original agreement was elaborated upon in a further Memorandum of Understanding. It is interesting to note that it took a year for that Memorandum of Understanding to be negotiated. The reason for that is simple. It was a result of very substantial negotiations which had taken place between the parties. As I have said, that Memorandum of Understanding had been carefully negotiated, and it was the result of 12 months of hard work.
That was the situation when this Government came to office. The Government is now being criticised by the Opposition for carrying out the terms of that Memorandum of Understanding. It involved the Australian Atomic Energy Commission in 7216 per cent of the development, Peko Mines Ltd in 13% per cent of the development and the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd in 13% per cent of the development. At that stage, the Labor Government had chosen the Australian Atomic Energy Commission as the vehicle for its negotiations, and it had used the Atomic Energy Act for this purpose. Of course, the Atomic Energy Act, as it then stood, needed some amendments to enable that Memorandum of Understanding to be carried out. That is the reason, for the amending legislation which is before the Senate tonight. It facilitates the joint participation in the mining of uranium by the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and the other partners in the mining venture at Ranger.
Secondly, the Bill adopts a recommendation of the Fox report by extending the power of the Minister to exercise control not only for defence purposes but also for all proper constitutional purposes. Previously, the Act had limited the power to defence purposes only. I quote from page 181 of the report of the first Ranger Uranium Environmental Inquiry:
There would seem to be little doubt that the Commonwealth has constitutional power to assume full control for all proper purposes, and we suggest that consideration should be given to its doing so.
That is one of the amendments which is sought to be made to the Atomic Energy Act. The third and final purpose for this amending legislation is to allow for proper safeguards to be applied in accordance with our international and bilateral commitments. The Bill provides for much stricter control over the mining of uranium and generally in dealing with the acquisition, production, transportation, treatment, processing and storage of uranium. In effect, the amendments to the Act would enable the Government to ensure that Australia fulfills its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in the handling of uranium. I find it extremely difficult to believe that Opposition senators could be serious in their professed objections to the Bill amending the Atomic Energy Act.
The second Bill which the Senate is debating this evening is the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill. At first glance, it may appear to be a relatively complex Bill. In effect, it is simply a Bill designed to establish mechanisms. It really does not do anything by itself. It enables other things to be done. It simply enables the creation of codes designed to protect the health and safety of the people of Australia and to protect the Australian environment from possible harmful effects of nuclear activities. I repeat that the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill is simply an enabling Bill designed to enable Australians and Australia to be protected. Let us look at the Bill. I draw attention to something that Senator Button said a few moments ago. He alleged that the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill goes beyond the protection of the health and safety of the people of Australia. I ask Senator Button this question: Why does the Bill contain these words in its first substantive clause? Clause 3 states:
The object of this Act is to make provision, within the limits of the powers of the Parliament, for protecting the health and safety of the people of Australia, and the environment, from possible harmful effects associated with nuclear activities in Australia, and this Act and the regulations shall be construed and administered accordingly.
As a lawyer, Senator Button would well know the limitation imposed on the Bill by the words shall be construed accordingly’. Quite clearly, those words will limit the interpretation of this Bill if ever it is challenged in the High Court of Australia. The Bill also talks about codes of practice. I refer to clause 8 by which the GovernorGeneral may from time to time by order in writing approve codes of practice. I refer in particular to sub-clause (3) which states:
A code of practice may-
specify standards to be observed . . . to be taken with respect to nuclear activities;
That means that the Government will be able to lay down standards in relation to nuclear activities which will have to be observed right throughout Australia. Sub-clause (b) of the same clause states that the Government may recommend practices and procedures to be followed for the achievement of the standards referred to in the previous paragraph. Those recommendations are not obligatory but they will be guidelines for the States to achieve the standards which the Government will set down in its codes of practice. I am surprised to hear that the Opposition is opposing a Bill which simply sets up the framework for the protection of Australians and Australia. Quite clearly, the lengthier debate would take place on the nature of the codes, which may be dealt with in the Senate when the Government brings them forward as regulations. As someone said in another place, it seems that the Opposition has developed a psychotic blockage about uranium, so much so that it cannot see that the people of Australia want us to go ahead with uranium development, and that these Bills and the others which are in the package to come before the Senate later this evening are designed to do just that while protecting the people of Australia.
Clearly, Australia must expect to develop. We want to provide benefits for the needy in the community and the Opposition is very keen to spend the money of the people of Australia on provision of all sorts of ‘benefits’, but it fails to realise that if this country is to spend money on itself there must be some surplus from our overseas trade. By 1985 Australia will have to import more than half of the crude oil it now uses. The estimated bill for that crude oil is $2 billion per annum. The export of minerals, including uranium, will help us to pay that bill. What is the world position? It is acknowledged that by the year 2000 there will be a shortfall in fossil fuels. In Britain, the Department of Energy has produced a Green Paper acknowledging that there will be a shortfall in fossil fuels and concluding that the shortfall will have to be overcome by nuclear electricity generation. That is what this legislation is all about. Last December the people of Australia judged whether Australia should mine, mill and export uranium. Their decision was overwhelmingly in favour of the mining of uranium. There is no question that it is the wish of the people of Australia that we proceed as soon as possible with this work. It seems to me that it is time the Opposition realised this and helped the Government to get on with the job. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
-In the time that I have available to me I intend to direct my remarks to the very sorry aspect of the bringing before this Parliament of this legislation, particularly as it reflects the manner in which the States have been literally ignored by this Government. But before doing so and bearing in mind that many of the issues in this debate have already been canvassed by speakers from both sides of the chamber, I want to refer briefly to the comment that was just made by Senator Lewis in which he said that the Labor Party appeared to have some psychotic blockage about the development of the uranium industry. There is a great deal of intelligent opposition all around the world to the development of the uranium industry. It is not only here in Australia within the Australian Labor Party but it is also all around the world. We should at least respect the fact that people who do oppose the development of the industry do so for good reasons. I might make one or two points on which Senator Lewis might reflect before he talks about psychotic disturbances in people simply because they take a view on this particular subject. I have before me a report from the Committee on Government Operations of the United States Congress entitled Report on Nuclear Power Costs’ which was recently provided in the United States Congress. It made points such as this:
Radioactive waste is a significant and growing problem- at least 3,000 metric tonnes of spent nuclear fuel are now being stored at commercial reactor sites with an additional 17,000 metric tonnes expected to accumulate in the next decade- yet there is still no demonstrated technology for permanently and safely disposing of this waste.
Is it a matter of psychosis if some person, party or group of people is concerned about the implications of that, knowing that there is no safe repository for that material known in the world at present and that it will remain active for thousands of years? If we in this generation choose to blow ourselves to bits because of our stupidity, does that give us the moral right to hand on a poison to thousands of generations ahead of us? I ask Senator Lewis to consider that aspect of the matter. The report went on to say that in the United States construction costs of nuclear plants have risen 10 times faster than the cost of living over the last two years. The average construction cost now of a nuclear reactor is no less than $3,000m. They are the son of capital investments in which we are becoming involved throughout the world when we talk about building nuclear plants. The report continues:
Rising costs and increasing demand have reduced orders for new nuclear plants and increased cancellations and deferrals of others. Orders are down from 41 in 1973 to 4 in 1977.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has a comment to make. It says in its latest report:
Based on present trends of nuclear power growth the supply of uranium will exceed demand by 21 per cent or 21,000 tonnes in 1985,
World reserves of low cost uranium have been upgraded by 48 per cent.
The agencies 1975 predictions on the growth of nuclear power production has been cut by 42 per cent.
I think that in fairness Senator Lewis should consider that these are not emotional arguments; they are arguments based on fact and on a genuine concern by members of the Australian Labor Party about where our involvement in the nuclear industry in the future will take us.
Mr President, I want particularly to concentrate on the other matter to which I referred initially, that is, the attitude that this Government has adopted towards the States in the development of this legislation. Following the Government’s decision on uranium mining it decided to develop a uniform code of practice to apply to all uranium mining activities in Australia. The Government decided to involve the States in that practice. On 3 1 August last year the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) wrote to the Premiers. I will quote from his telex. I want to document this because I believe it is important that the Senate and the people of Australia understand the cavalier manner in which this Government has treated the States through the whole of this operation, bearing in mind that it is a government which claimed when it came to office that there would be a new age, a golden age of cooperation between the Federal and State governments. I want to document the sorry record that we have seen in this particular case. This is what the Prime Minister said in his telex of August last year:
My Government has decided to accept this recommendation -
He is referring to the recommendation relating to the mining of uranium-
I recognise the contribution which State authorities have already made in this field and believe it is essential that this task of developing further elements of the code take place as a joint exercise and to this end I invite participation in this work by officials of your State.
That was the first communication the Prime Minister had with the States. The next communication of substance received by the States was on 3 April 1978, some 8 months after the Prime Minister’s original communication. During that time the Commonwealth had considerable opportunity to discuss with the States the development of its legislation. The legislation itself is only one aspect of the development of the code. It is even stated in the second reading speech that after this legislation is passed- if it is passedthere will be considerable delays before it can come into operation. In other words, there is still considerable time in which the States and the Northern Territory can be consulted about the provisions of the Bill. Obviously there is no urgency about the Bill, despite the arguments relating to the so-called dry season.
Notwithstanding the promise given by the Prime Minister, the Government failed to consult the States on the drafting of the Bill. The next communication received by the States was a telex informing them that they would be briefed on its details and the procedures for developing the codes at a meeting to be held in Canberra. That communication, which was dated 3 April, stated:
Further to the Prime Minister ‘s letter of 3 1 August 1 977, 1 understand the Prime Minister will shortly send you a draft copy of the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill. It is proposed that a meeting to brief appropriate State officers of the details of the Bill and the procedures for developing the codes will be held on Friday, 7 April . . .
So eight months later the States were faced with what amounted to a fait accompli, the Government having gone ahead and drawn up the Bill. One can understand the response from the States. The Tasmanian Premier immediately sent a reply on 5 April in which he stated:
It concerns me that a Bill has been drafted without the assured consultation between your Government and the States, and that it appears that the Bill is to be introduced into the Parliament shortly.
In view of the national importance of this legislation I request an assurance from you that the States will be consulted and given an opportunity to comment on the Bill prior to it being proceeded with.
The South Australian Premier also expressed his concern in a telex that he sent on 7 April. These were his comments:
Now, however, it appears that you may intend to introduce legislation into the Commonwealth Parliament without any consultation with the States as to its terms. At the official level there appears to be considerable confusion and it has not been possible to ascertain, except from news reports, what may be your intentions in this area. The definite impression is given that you plan to press ahead with legislation that is extremely far reaching in its scope and raises many serious and fundamental questions of acute concern to the citizens of all States. Many areas of specific State responsibility would appear to be involved.
I seek your personal assurance that you will not proceed with the legislation until the fullest of consultations have been held with the States.
A reference to the breach of the promise to consult on the legislation was contained in the Prime Minister’s letter of 10 April to the Tasmanian Premier. This is what the Prime Minister said in reply:
The assurance I gave in my letter to your predecessor of 3 1 August 1 977, to which you refer was in relation to the development of a nuclear code of practice to cover all uranium mining activities. In fact the object of the legislation at present being considered is to provide for the preparation of such a code of practice and the Commonwealth has no intention of acting without consultation with the States.
That was the Prime Minister’s reply. It was his attempt to get out of his obligations. He told the Tasmanian Premier that the States would be consulted on the codes but not on the Bill. Significantly, the Minister at the table, the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick) made a very similar remark in answer to a question I asked him on 4 May. These were his words:
In the letter which I shall seek leave to incorporate in a moment there was no suggestion that the States would be consulted in terms of the legislative measures of the Bill itself.
Those words were clear; there was no suggestion of misinterpretation. As a result of that, and particularly as a result of Senator Carrick ‘s remarks, there was a very sharp response from the Premiers of Western Australia and New South Wales. The Liberal Premier of Western Australia, Sir Charles Court, was very upset when he learned of the Government’s statement that it had no intention of consulting with the States on the legislation, apart from the actual codes. In reply to the Prime Minister on 5 May Sir Charles Court said:
I must protest at this distinction between Bill and codes. It is entirely artificial. I have always expected that the codes would be developed as a joint exercise. Their implementation would then be by incorporation into existing State Acts and regulations or by joint Commonwealth-State legislation where these State avenues were inadequate.
He went on to say:
As I have already noted I would prefer to solve these before the Bills become law rather than have to consider legal challenges at a later date.
It was not only Sir Charles Court who took exception to the stand taken by the Commonwealth but also the Acting Premier of New South Wales, Mr Ferguson. He too replied to the Prime Minister and said:
I am disturbed by reports that the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Federal Affairs has stated that consultation with the States will only relate to the codes Bill. If this is the case then it is most unsatisfactory as consultation should cover the full areas of uranium development as they affect the States and Commonwealth.
Notwithstanding the States’ reactions, there was no consultation on the Bill. It was introduced on 10 April this year. The meeting to brief State officials was delayed until 1 1 April, the day after the Bill was introduced. At that meeting the States were told about the provisions of the nuclear codes Bill but not about the provisions contained in the other Bills. There has been no communication since that time by the Commonwealth on the development of the uranium package. It is no wonder that the Acting Premier of New South Wales and other Premiers are seeking consultation, not only on this Bill but also on other provisions relating to the development of uranium mining. The States tend to be particularly sensitive about any suggestion that they are not being consulted by a federal government. They are always sensitive about intrusion into fields that they consider involve the rights of the States. There is a long history of that sensitivity, and any one who has been in government knows full well that it is very often difficult to determine where those responsibilities lie. But one could not envisage a more important area than the one with which we are dealing- the delevopment of the uranium industry- in which to have proper consultation.
The nuclear codes Bill is one of the most important pieces of legislation ever introduced into the Parliament. For example, clause 8 enables the Governor-General to approve a code of practice for controlling nuclear activities, which includes mining, production, processing, storage, handling, transportation and possession and disposal of prescribed substances. Prescribed substances include uranium, thorium or other substances declared to be capable of being used for the production of nuclear energy. The definition of a prescribed substance is particularly wide and the codes could cover beach mining as well as uranium mining. In any event, the definition of nuclear activities is so wide that many activities involving State governments could cut right across the codes.
It must be stressed that the content of the codes is totally unknown. The codes may, under sub-clause (3) of clause 8, specify standards to be observed, practices and procedures to be followed, prohibit a range of activities, make provision for licensing of mining, and give directions to particular persons. The seriousness of the measure was recognised even by the Government because the Bill provides that the codes cannot come into operation unless State Ministers have been consulted and, after they come into operation, they can be disallowed by either House of the Parliament. Those provisions are serious enough but they are not nearly as wideranging as some of the later provisions in the Bill. For example, clause 1 1 permits the GovernorGeneral, if he is of the opinion that the laws of a State or Territory dealing with nuclear activities are inadequate, to make a regulation which supersedes any State laws and has the force of law in the State or Territory. Those regulations continue in operation even if the State makes appropriate provision for controlling nuclear activities. Although clause 12 seeks to limit the effect of those regulations, any regulations passed under clause 1 1 are likely to be wide ranging and intrude into many State activities.
Senator Button, who spoke earlier this evening, referred to clause 13. During the course of his comments a point of order was taken in which it was said that the matters of which he was speaking were not related to this legislation. So let us look again at clause 13. It says that the Minister may authorise a person to issue any orders the Minister considers necessary to control or to eliminate any hazards, assumed or otherwise, to the health or the safety of persons or the environment from any nuclear activity. Such an order can remain in force for six months, and any person who fails to comply with any direction given in pursuance of the order is liable to substantial penalties.
– What is wrong with that? You would not argue with that?
– It is interesting to hear the honourable senator say that because that is the very point that Senator Button was making. I think it was Senator Jessop who took the point of order on Senator Button in order to give the impression that what he was saying was not important. So I do not see how Senator Jessop, all of a sudden, can justify his change in attitude. It is no wonder the States have protested; these factors are important to them.
The Bill also provides for the creation by code, by regulation and by ministerial order of law which will affect the lives of the average citizen in a variety of ways. It is not just the mining and processing of uranium with which we are concerned. The Bill covers a whole range of regulations and directions which may be issued in circumstances connected with the possession, the transportation, the handling and the disposal of radioactive and similar substances. These are indeed wide ranging measures and it is understandable that we, as the Opposition Party, are concerned and that the States also are concerned. Of course, the States reacted very strongly. On 3 May the Premier of Victoria, Mr Hamer, sent a long telex to the Prime Minister in which he pointed out that the Bill provided for only token consultation, that it was designed to force the Commonwealth views on to the States, and that it was unconstitutional. He pointed out the Victorian objection to the Bill- I use his words- ‘in terms of both its content and validity and the manner of its introduction’. As it turned out, all six States objected to the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill. Many suggested that they would be forced to take action even in the High Court if the Commonwealth persisted with the legislation. All of them requested the Prime Minister not to proceed with the Bill until adequate consultation had taken place.
The provisions of the amending Bill to the Atomic Energy Act come into the same category. Clause 10 of that Bill enables the GovernorGeneral to make wide ranging regulations concerning the acquisition, the production, the transportation, the storage or the possession of any prescribed substances and to control by way of licensing various mining activities throughout the country. Because the Atomic Energy Act was conceived originally as a security measure the penalties for breach of it are extremely severe.
The States maintain objections to the amendments to the Atomic Energy Act similar to those they have in respect of the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill.
– What States have objected to the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill?
-There have been two States. Three of the States have been quite specific in restricting their remarks to the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill. By looking at the telex sent by Sir Charles Court I can see that his concern extends also to the National Parks and Wildlife Conservation Amendment Bill, quite apart from the Bills with which we are dealing now.
In consequence of the failure of the Commonwealth to consult with the States, the Prime Minister announced that he would amend the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill in a minor way, namely, by delaying the proclamation of key sections of the Bill until further consultation had taken place. Naturally enough, this step did not fool anybody. Presumably he thought that by doing that he would be able to convince the States that he was in fact taking sufficient steps to satisfy them. But Sir Charles Court, the Liberal Premier from Western Australia, took a very different view, because he said in a telex dated 4 May:
I share the concern of the other Premiers as reported to me, and consider the Commonwealth must refrain from carrying forward any legislation which seeks to impose codes of practice without obtaining State agreement.
Overall there are a number of far reaching implications embodied in these Bills which must be examined further to enable heads of government to come together to resolve.
I put it to you, Mr President, that it is unlikely that Sir Charles Court, who would not be the political enemy of the Prime Minister, would take such a strong stand unless he felt that there were very good grounds for doing so. Even the Premier of Queensland, who seems to get a lot of publicity in relation to many matters, who could not be described as an opponent of this Government, and who could not be described as an opponent of uranium mining, had to raise his objections with the Prime Minister. This is what he said on 9 May:
I therefore strongly urge that the passage of the Bill through the Senate be delayed and that consultations be held with the States prior to further discussions in the Senate.
Mr Corcoran, the Acting Premier of South Australia, also was not impressed by this move by the Prime Minister to satisfy the States. This was his reply:
Your proposal that the legislation should be proceeded with and passed into law rapidly but with proclamation to apply to only the Northern Territory is unacceptable. The legislation should be withdrawn to enable the fullest of consultations with the States to enable all issues to be examined fully.
– When was that statement made?
- Senator Jessop asks for the date of that statement. I am sorry to say that there is no date on my copy of the telex but I can assure the honourable senator that it is a genuine copy. The Premier of Tasmania had this to say to the Prime Minister:
I am pleased that you have recognised the need for consultations, as urged by a number of the States. However, the amendment of the legislation so that certain sections will not apply to the States until appropriately proclaimed is unsatisfactory to us. We regard it as quite undesirable that legislation, which could potentially be used against States’ rights and civil liberties in unspecified circumstances, should be passed. Proclamation can take place without further parliamentary consideration.
I put it to the Senate that it is highly unlikely that every Premier in Australia would take such a strong stand in seeking the deferment of these Bills, and in some cases other Bills that are part of this package, unless they had good grounds for doing so. I do not believe that Sir Charles Court, the Premier of Western Australia, for example, or Mr Hamer, the Premier of Victoria, both of whom are Liberal Premiers, would deliberately and literally stand up the Prime Minister unless they felt there was good reason for doing so. I find it difficult to understand why the Government is prepared to push this legislation through the Parliament, having ignored the States for eight months in the preparation of the legislation. There are many people in this chamber who say on many occasions that they are here to represent their States. Are we to understand that all six Premiers are wrong in their complaints? Is every one of the Premiers wrong? A unanimous stand has been taken by them yet the Government continues to ignore them.
I indicated at the beginning of my remarks the manner in which I would be spending most of the time available to me. I wanted to make quite clear to the Senate the need for the Government to consider what it is doing before it goes ahead with these Bills. On behalf of the Opposition I move the following amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, add ‘the Bills be deferred and not proceeded with until after full and proper consultation with the States’.
I trust that the Senate will consider the amendment seriously. I invite honourable senators opposite, particularly those who have spoken here on many occasions about the need to consult with the States, to support the amendment. That consultation is something with which I personally agree. From my experience in the Ministry I appreciate the need for consultation and how much easier it is if governments and Ministers talk to each other before they set about enacting legislation.
These problems are difficult enough, particularly in an area such as the one we are dealing with now, but to ride roughshod over all of the six State governments is not an example of the sort of co-operative federalism which we were told and which we are repeatedly told is supposed to be the policy of this Government. It came in saying that there would be a new age and that the States would be given due consideration in the drawing up of all legislation that affected them. Yet in this case on this vitally important matter they have been literally ignored. Is it any wonder that they are complaining and objecting, and demanding of this Parliament that these Bills be deferred?
– I listened with a great amount of interest to Senator Wriedt ‘s contribution to the debate and I had the distinct feeling that he had his tongue in his cheek. After all, the present Government is proceeding with a course of action that was set in train by the Whitlam Government and, of course, endorsed by the honourable senator who has just resumed his seat. In embarking on that course of action the Government has an obligation to the people of Australia because the nuclear industry in Australia will provide no fewer than 10,000 jobs directly and indirectly and will produce export earnings of about $25,000m over a period of 25 to 30 years. I thought that the Opposition would have been endorsing the Government’s action at this time, particularly in view of the fact that the Whitlam Government chose to support the Ranger project which is sponsored by Peko Mines Ltd and Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia Ltd to the tune of 72lA per cent of the capital investment for a return of profit of something like 50 per cent. So I find the Opposition’s attitude quite incredible.
Of course, I can understand the temerity of Senator Wriedt in adopting in the Senate tonight a stance which is quite opposite to the stance he would have been adopting if he were still in government. Probably that is the reason why he chose to attack Senator Lewis. That is the only motivation for which I can excuse him. Not only did the Australian Labor Party in government support uranium mining but also the President of the Australian Labor Party rendered his support to it in principle only last year. At the present time we are dealing with a matter that is quite significant not only to Australia but also to the world. After all, the world is facing a crisis in energy and the world is looking to Australia, which has an abundant supply of uranium, to help to form a bridge in the energy gap which will be created by the rapidly exhausting fossil fuel supply. Therefore it is very important that the Parliament of Australia passes the Bills that we are contemplating at the present time and enables the Ranger project to proceed before the next wet season. There is an element of urgency about this legislation.
Much has been said during the debate so far, and it appears to me to be notable that speakers on the Government side have introduced matters of substance backed up, in my view, by a factual analysis of the important aspects of the implications of uranium as an energy source to Australia and to a world facing a rapidly increasing demand for energy and a critical -
– We have not explored half of those sources of energy, have we? We have cut back funds for solar research and we have poured them into other areas.
– The honourable senator introduces a matter which happens to be very dear to my heart. I know a little more about solar energy than she does. Obviously it will be 30 years or so before solar energy is developed to a degree at which it can replace the conventional source of energy to stimulate globes such as the ones we have in this chamber tonight. It is all very well to talk about solar energy as a direct energy source. I applaud the suggestion that we ought to be encouraging everyone in Australia to have in their homes a direct solar source of heating water for domestic requirements, but it is a different matter to introduce solar energy to exploit the hydrogen economy, to which I think the honourable senator was probably referring. Many scientists would support what I suggest is the truth, and that is that it will be perhaps 20 or 30 years before we can replace to any substantial extent the fossil fuels in that way.
– Where are we going to get the finance?
– Finance has nothing to do with it. The Americans are providing an incredible amount of money for research in this area. I applaud them for doing so, but it is not as simple as that. There are many reasons why the honourable senator’s argument can be completely destroyed. Another thing is that we ought to be looking towards the time when nuclear fusion replaces nuclear fission. When that happens, I think the world’s problems as far as energy is concerned will be largely solved. But that process is not easy. Nuclear fusion can be applied now in a laboratory situation, but industrially it requires heavy water to be heated to an extent of one million degrees centigrade to introduce nuclear fusion. That is a very difficult thing to pursue. It is certainly occupying the minds of scientists in Australia. Even Sir Mark Oliphant, who agrees that this is the ultimate answer to the world’s energy- I believe that that is true- says that it will take probably 50 years before that source of energy is available to the world. So we have to provide this bridging source of energy, and the only answer that we can come up with is that nuclear energy is the bridging source of energy until the alternative sources are perfected.
Let me revert to what I was trying to say. What we on this side of the chamber have said is backed up by a factual analysis of the aspects and implications of uranium as a bridging source of energy. We have stressed its importance to Australia in providing job opportunities and its importance to the world which is facing a rapidly increasing demand for energy and a critical decrease in the supply of conventional fossil fuel. The speeches from the Opposition have been characterised by inaccuracies, half truths and emotional nonsense. That was brought home to me very clearly by a recent visit to the Atomic Energy Commission at Lucas Heights. There I met scientists and was able to examine the work they were doing and to listen not to half truths or emotional nonsense but to evidence based on scientific fact.
– Did they tell you that when I was president of the shire they asked me to make sure that certain commercial development did not take place within a three-mile radius?
– They would not even know who you are, because you really do not count a great deal in New South Wales. What I was trying to suggest objectively is that before I visited the Alligator Rivers area I visited the Atomic Energy Commission. There I found 320 scientists from all disciplines who were very concerned about environmental aspects. They were very concerned about the outlook for the particular area with which we have been dealing tonight. They had set about environmental monitoring over the preceeding five or more years to determine the way in which mineral development and mining operations should take place. I believe that I learned a lot from them. Anyone who has any doubts about the nuclear question ought to go to Lucas Heights and talk to people who know a lot more about the scientific facts than people who pose in the Press–
– I was a member of the council when approval was given for the reactor to be constructed there. We were asked not to approve of certain development within a three-mile radius.
– You ought to be ashamed of yourself.
– They were afraid of the consequences.
- Senator Gietzelt is slightly upset about my remark that this Government is pursuing a course of action that was set in train by the Whitlam Government. An agreement was signed by Mr Whitlam, Dr Cairns and other people, and the Government is pursuing that course of action.
– That was before the Ranger inquiry.
-Senator Gietzelt talks about the Ranger inquiry, but he has not studied it properly.
– He is not on the list of speakers.
– I am glad Senator Thomas reminded me of that. It could be an added incentive for Senator Gietzelt to interject persistently. I remind him that the Government did not take any legislative action until the two Fox reports were presented to it. What we are discussing tonight is based entirely on the recommendations that were put before us as a result of the two inquiries authorised by the Whitlam Government. I can understand the attitude of the Opposition to the point I have made.
I return to the irrelevant and emotional attitude of the Opposition to these matters. I suggest that we ought to be considering a little more the advantages of the exploitation of the vast reserves of this particular commodity in Australia. I think that between 20 per cent to 25 per cent of the world’s uranium is in this country. That is a large proportion of this resource. I think we must regard ourselves as being somewhat responsible for providing energy to countries which do not have our natural advantages. Therefore, I think we are obligated to allow these Bills to pass as quickly as possible in order that we can pursue the economic advantages overseas and provide other countries without our natural advantages with a resource that is most important to their development.
I refer to a statement made by Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, Mr David Owen, who is, of course, a Labour Minister. When addressing the ministerial meeting of the Conference on International Economic Cooperation in Paris on 30 May last year, he said:
The community has a deep commitment to constant progress in permanent dialogue between industrialised and developing countries of which the CIEC is an outstanding example. We are totally dedicated to the elimination of poverty and disease and to the growing world-wide co-operation which is necessary to achieve that aim.
The problems of the world ‘s poor cannot be solved without the active and wholehearted participation of the wealthier countries. Quite apart from the moral imperative, there is an economic imperative which binds us together. Developing countries need the co-operation of international insitutions as well as developed countries to finance their development.
Balance of payments problems affect rich and poor countries, deficits must be financed until they can be corrected if world trade is to prosper for us all. Industrialised countries need markets for their products in developing countries as well as raw materials supplies for them.
Developing and industrialised countries alike need increasing resources of energy. A world shortage of energy will not increase wealth but increase poverty.
That is a significant statement coming from a British Labour Minister. He continued:
A sharp jump in energy prices can produce inflation and recession affecting every nation.
Eighteen months ago, no comprehensive intergovernmental discussions on energy problems had ever taken place. Now, as a result of the detailed discussions, we have achieved far greater mutual understanding of the problems we all face. We have agreed that it is important for the economic well-being and progress of all countries that adequate and stable supplies of energy should be available. We have also agreed that appropriate measures should be taken to assist developing countries to develop and diversify their energy resources, by improving the flow of investemnt funds and technical assistance.
I think those words ought to be regarded as important in the context of this debate. I think we should reflect also on what Mr Dunstan has said.
– Who is he?
– I do not know him very well, but they tell me he is the Premier of South Australia. He is not a very well known personality, but at least he seems to be adopting a liberal stance in America at the present time. I heard him on A.M. this morning, and he was encouraging foreign investment in Australia, particularly multinational investment in South Australia. I found that quite incredible, in view of the fact that Mr Dunstan has turned his back on the importance of industrial development in South Australia. At one time, not very long ago- a matter of 18 months or so- South Australia was taking the lead in uranium enrichment. In fact, in 1975 the State Government of
South Australia incredibly enough established a uranium enrichment committee and it made persistent representations to Canberra to ensure that the first uranium enrichment plant would be established in the northern Spencer Gulf area.
– I suspect they are still working behind the scenes on the same thing.
- Senator Young states that he suspects that they are still working behind the scenes.
– He has no evidence of that.
– I have the evidence. The chairman of that committee is Mr Bill Davies, who was in the Premier’s Department. I understand that a few people in South Australia who are on that committee are completely frustrated because of the inhibitions placed upon that committee by the ridiculous attitude taken by the Labor Party at its conference in Perth. The Labor Party said that we ought to have a moratorium.
– Do you believe we should sacrifice lives?
– The honourable senator talks about sacrificing lives. It should be recognised that a lot of nonsense about loss of life has been spoken on this subject. People do not regard radiation or nuclear medicine as having an effect on the saving of life or the prolonging of life. That has been the attitude in the world for a long time. People have X-rays without any trepidation at all, yet X-rays subject the body to incredible doses of radiation. People accept that. Senator Young gave the example today of people flying in aircraft at 35,000 feet. Those people subject their bodies to a lot of radiation. We accept that. At the Atomic Energy Commission at Lucas Heights over lunch one of the scientists commented that the glass of wine that Senator Mulvihill was drinking at the time was radiating more radiation per moment -
– I raise a point of order. Senator Jessop raised the same point of order earlier in the evening. The remarks that he is currently making are irrelevant to the subject of the debate. Senator Mulvihill ‘s drinking habits have nothing to do with radiation hazards. I consider these remarks irrelevant.
– There is no point of order.
– I was having a glass of the same wine. It did not worry me at all that the glass of wine was emitting more radiation at that moment than the whole of the Lucas Heights establishment. We seem to disregard the importance of that fact.
Another point was made to me which I think ought to be regarded as fairly significant. The New York railway station which is built of granite emits many times the amount of radiation that would be permissible for any atomic energy power station in America. Any power station in America emitting the same amount of radiation would not be allowed to operate. That shows how stupid are the comparisons. I do not know why Senator Coleman becomes excited when she talks about loss of life and that sort of thing. We ought to take into account the damage being done to the environment by conventional power stations. Mr President, do you realise that in order to keep you in Australia with your energy requirement something like 3 tonnes of coal has to be burnt? In doing so something like 5 tonnes of carbon dioxide and many kilos of nitrous oxides are liberated to the environment. These create tremendous environmental problems which are not evident from nuclear power stations.
Nuclear power stations pose no threat to the atmospheric environment at all. They are the cleanest form of generating energy that can be devised. Yet we go along happily recognising that the world’s energy requirement is such that we have to build a power station every nine days. We are liberating all this carbon dioxide to the environment which is increasing, slowly but surely, the temperature of our close environment to a degree- Senator Coleman says she is worried about life- which will necessitate serious contemplation in the future. The ice caps will start to melt and the continents will be threatened by increasing floods. I believe that in every continent everyone will be hoping for Noah’s arks. It is a serious environmental threat. Moreover, the nitrous oxides and other gases that are liberated from conventional power stations pursue a course which takes them to the ozone area and would endanger the environmental shield and increase the threat to life in this world. Nuclear power stations do not do that. We have to rationalise our attitude to the emotional matters that are raised by people who are opposed to uranium enrichment and who, in my view, are opposed to the development of underdeveloped countries. There is a moral obligation on people in countries such as Australia who have abundant supplies of energy.
It is also interesting to hear suggestions that nuclear power generation threatens people who are mining nuclear materials. Another matter that was brought to my attention at Lucas Heights was the fact that coal mines, particularly underground mines, emit more radon- most mining in the world is underground- and, therefore, this subjects the miners to more radiation than uranium mining. Even phosphate mining is a very serious source of radiation for miners. The Opposition does not worry about that. It talks about uranium as though it is something that is unique and something that has radioactivity which in itself is a reason to prevent mining. It does not suggest that we ought to stop coal mining or phosphate mining which emit far more radiation than uranium mining has ever done.
– Does your argument amount to saying that whisky is not bad for you because brandy is worse?
– I do not know. Senator Button seems to be preoccupied with a subject which we are not discussing at present. I doubt that anything he says is relevant at all. I commend to honourable senators a book that I have read. I think time permits me to quote one or two extracts from it. The book is entitled The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear. It was written by Petr Beckmann. The first quote which I think is worthy of reading for the benefit of the Senate appears at page 102 and states:
There are several satisfactory methods of disposing of the final nuclear wastes, but if a decision were made by the NRC -
That is the Nuclear Regulatory Committee- tomorrow, there wouldn’t be enough wastes to implement it. We have some two or three decades before deciding whether there are even better ways than are now being considered, whether the wastes should be disposed of permanently, or whether they should be made retrievable.
Apart from a number of highly exotic proposals (which are quite unnecessary), the simplest and evidently most satisfactory is to bury the wastes deep underground, where the chance of them ever being reached by ground water is minimal. The obvious place are salt formations, partly because the salt is evidence that no water have ever been there for at least the last two hundred million years, partly because salt formations are self-sealing in the event of an earthquake. Is it thinkable to make nuclear waste disposal safer than that?
Yes, it is. British scientists have developed a method of sealing wastes into a highly durable glass -
This, of course, is a method of vitrification of nuclear wastes, and is commercially undertaken in France and contemplated by other countries at present. The book continues: . . making them fireproof, waterproof and earthquakeproof for many centuries.
A similar method of sealing nuclear wastes into glass was announced at the American Chemical Society’s Centennial Conference in New York City in April 1976.
If deep burial in salt formations, after sealing in fireproof, waterprool and earthquake-proof glass makes nuclear waste disposal an unsolved problem, what, pray, is a solved problem? The disposal of fossil wastes in people ‘s lungs?
– One that neutralises it.
– The honourable senator might be able to contribute something to the debate if he pursues the suggestion he has just made. The book continues:
Investigations of salt formations in Kansas proved unsuccessful, because nearby drilling holes were discovered that might have leaked water, but ERDA is now investigating other salt formations in New Mexico.
This technology has advanced to a stage where it is a commercial proposition and is being employed by other countries.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– My position on the mining of uranium has been made quite clear many times both here in this chamber and in the community. I fully support the amendment to the motion for the second reading moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Wriedt) earlier this evening. It states:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, add, ‘the Bills be deferred and not proceeded with until after full and proper consultation with the States’.
I will not refer to the States at this time. I shall refer to the rnining of uranium. I am opposed to the mining, exporting and the transporting of uranium and I shall continue to oppose that until such time as adequate safeguards- adequate to my mind- are found to protect the people who work in the mines, who process the rock or the soil and who transport the product.
The Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill does nothing to protect or safeguard human health or safety or to protect the environment. The two Bills now being debated cognately are the Atomic Energy Amendment BUI and the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill. I have seen nothing in either of these Bills that has made me change my mind on the issue of uranium. I ask how the miners’ health will be protected if they are exposed daily to radiation and to its harmful effects which may not be fully realised for many years. I do not want to put up people as guinea pigs. But I believe the Government is in fact saying: ‘We are giving you, the people of Australia, in times of massive unemployment, employment opportunities. We will allow people to mine uranium and allow company towns to be set up. We will establish jobs for you. Perhaps after the uranium has run out we will be able to ascertain, at the expense of your health, the risks that are associated with uranium mining’. We in Western Australia have already seen and are indeed still seeing the terrible effects on human health of asbestos mining. We are still getting reports of asbestosis and people are dying of it. I add that in a lot of cases very little and even no compensation is offered. In some cases no responsibility has been accepted by the company involved and no responsibility has been accepted by the Government. Over recent weeks we have seen newspaper reports of families of miners whose only involvement in the mining of asbestos was to accompany the husband or father to the mining towns. These people have been condemned to death.
A moment ago we heard Senator Jessop talk about the lives of people. I am talking about the lives of those people who were involved many years ago in the mining of asbestos and who have now contracted asbestosis and who are dying as a result of the contraction of that disease. I am saying quite clearly that we have seen people who have been condemned to death because of the mining of that product. We do not know whether we are condemning other people to death if we go ahead and mine uranium. Until such time as I am assured that death will not occur in 20 years or 25 years’ time, I will continue to oppose the mining of uranium.
In Western Australia we have seen situations where attempts have been made to get compensation for people suffering from asbestosis. We have seen people with asbestos fragments in their lungs who have not been able to establish that the period for which they were employed in the mining of asbestos was in fact the period when they contracted the disease. They might have worked in that industry for only a year and that may have been 20 years or 25 years ago. Over recent weeks we have seen the frantic endeavours of the Government of Western Australia to decrease workers compensation payments to those people for whom it will accept responsibility. It wants to reduce compensation from 100 per cent to 80 per cent of the workers’ wages. Will we now commit more of the same errors- I put this question to the Governmentbecause of the impatience of some getrich.quickbeforethemarketdriesup merchants? Will we say that it is perfectly legitimate to subject people to health hazards about which we know very little at this time purely and simply to line the pockets of a few companies and to create employment in a situation where we now have high unemployment? Will we hold this out as a little carrot?
In the case of asbestosis it has been established that it can take 20 to 25 years for the effects of the disease to show up. When this matter reaches the Committee stage- if it gets that far- I will ask what is the length of time that is required to establish nuclear diseases that can be contracted from working in mines, from processing rock and from transporting the material. Neither of these Bills will do anything to provide any form of protection for the health and well being of workers of Australia. My prime concern is the protection of the health and wellbeing of workers of this country. It will do nothing to protect the health and wellbeing of Aborigines any more than it will safeguard their land rights. In the last two days we have seen the frantic scurrying of Ministers and members of this chamber and the other place to Darwin in an endeavour to placate the Legislative Assembly and the Northern Land Council. My information received late this afternoon is that the negotiations have broken down, that the compromise proposals put forward this morning were rejected by the Majority Leader in the Legislative Assembly, Mr Everingham, and the Northern Land Council. The deputation from the Government- that is all one could call this group- decided that it would compromise even further. One of the proposals it put forward was that both the Northern Land Council and the Central Land Council should be represented on the Territory Parks and Wildlife Committee. According to my information that proposal was also tossed out. Perhaps that is a matter for another Bill which will be debated later in this chamber.
I have a statement that I would like to read. It raises some very interesting questions in my mind. Because it is a media release, it must raise some questions in the mind of the media as to the proposals which were put forward and which, according to this, were subsequently agreed to. This media release came from the Minister for Trade and Resources, Mr Anthony, in Darwin following talks with the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly and the Northern Land Council. I must admit that my copy of the media release is a fairly poor one. It is a copy of a copy of a copy of the original, I understand, with which it is not unusual for members of the Opposition to have to content themselves. He said in this media release:
The discussions were, of course, concerned with very serious matters of principle as well as practice. It reflects great credit on all the parties concerned that a satisfactory arrangement has been arrived at.
Senator Kilgariff had proposed certain amendments to the Government -
I am sorry, I cannot understand the next word, but it goes on to refer to Senator Kilgariff ‘s view and also, I understand, the views of the Northern Territory Executive as to how this could best be achieved. The media release continues:
The amendments originally proposed by Senator Kilgariff will stand as to substance in some significant areas and will be modified in some others.
In some instances assurances as to general consultation and due regard to the role of the Northern Territory Administration have been sufficient to meet the concern of Senator Kilgariff.
The Chairman of the Northern Land Council has made the point to me that the fact that such weighty issues can be resolved in the course of a day’s discussion is a good omen for the essential future co-operation between the Northern Land Council and the Northern Territory Executive. The specific amendments should be able to be introduced into the Senate within the next few sitting days.
I said earlier that we had seen the scurrying of Ministers and of members of this chamber and the other chamber to the Northern Territory. It would appear from that statement which I have read that the Government has capitulated to the National Country Party. In actual fact Mr Anthony has said so in that media release. He has said that they have accepted some of Senator Kilgariff’s original amendments and have decided to modify some others. Nevertheless, in this instance the Government has capitulated to the wishes of the National Country Party so far as the Northern Territory Legislative Assembly is concerned. But apart from the legal rights to land there is also the unique relationship of the land and of the Aboriginals to their land. Anyone who has had any involvement at all with tribal Aboriginals will agree with me that their whole spiritual being is intimately tied to the land and not just to sacred sites. How does the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill or the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill protect that intimacy?
When I first came to this chamber in 1974 I was elected as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control. The Committee’s activities were confined a few months after my appointment to the Committee but very much valuable work had been achieved by the previous members. During the time of my membership and in company with members of the then Opposition, some of whom still sit on benches on the opposite side of this chamber, I visited mining sites all over the country. We visited the coal mines in the Bowen Valley, the copper mines in Mount Isa, the nickel mines in Kambalda and the iron ore mining sites at Dampier. In amongst all of those we visited the proposed Ranger uranium mining site in the Northern Territory and talked with officials of the company.
I was one member of that Committee who came away most disturbed at what I had been told and what I had seen at Ranger. I was disturbed, for instance, that mining leases extended to within a few feet of Aboriginal sites, some of them sacred and some of them simply sites. I was disturbed that a ‘company town situation’ could not guarantee that those sites would not be desecrated. I refer in passing to the ‘company town situation’ because that is what will apply when the uranium mining gets under way. Any people in the Australian community who have worked in a company town will know exactly what I mean by that phrase. For those people who have not worked in a ‘company town situation’, it is a township built by a company and run by that company. The company can even determine, as happens in some company towns in Western Australia, whether the members of a person’s immediate family can visit that person and, if they do visit, how long they will stay and at exactly what point of time they will leave. It is a situation where the company is totally responsible for everything that takes place in the town. The company runs the local store, employs the doctors and the dentists- if indeed they do employ doctors and dentists. It is a situation where the company maintains the homes, if it provides housing- otherwise it might put people up in a caravan park for some time. The company even determines what trees one will plant or even whether any will be planted. It employs the teachers for the schools which it builds. If a teacher does not agree with company policy it is quite possible and highly probable that the teacher will not remain at the company school. It certainly is not the type of lifestyle which the majority of Australians would enjoy, I am sure.
I was concerned that it could be that very company town situation’ which would be responsible for the encroachment onto sacred and other Aboriginal sites. I make the difference between sacred sites and Aboriginal sites because to an Aboriginal a site does not have to be sacred. I came away from those meetings disturbed at the methods which were going to be employed by the company to dispose of the water that was going to be used to wash the uranium during the mining process. That was in 1974. In 1978 I have not heard anything, nor have I read anything, which has done anything to allay my doubts or concern.
If honourable senators on the Government benches want to know what the company’s proposals were for the disposal of that wash water waste in 1974, let me tell them about the great pride which an official of the company took in explaining to me that at the end of the mining operation they would have quite a large hole. That was how he described it. He said that they would put a three metre concrete base on this hole; onto that base they would empty the wash water waste; then they would put a three metre concrete topping on that. This, they thought, was a little unfortunate because it would still leave quite a hole. But they were quite happy to provide the money to build an artificial lake and thereby create a tourist resort for the near future. As I said, I came away from those meetings very concerned. I am still very concerned. We do not have adequate safeguards and these Bills will not provide those safeguards.
I have said already that these Bills will not even protect the environment. How can there be protection of the environment with the mining of uranium? The two are totally incompatible. Once land has been plundered there can be no restoration. There can perhaps be replacement but there cannot be restoration. I take this opportunity, Mr President, to draw your attention to Part HI of the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill, which is grandiosely entitled ‘Codes of Practice’.
The Government states that under clause 8(3) a code of practice may do a number of things. The clause does not state that it will do certain things and it certainly does not state that it should do certain things. It says simply that a code of practice may do certain things. Paragraph (a) states that it may: specify standards to bc observed, practices and procedures to be followed and measures (including measures for or in relation to the restoration of the environment from the effects of nuclear activities) to be taken with respect to nuclear activities;
I have said already that there is no way in which the land can be restored to its original state. How is it possible to dispose of atmospheric radioactivity? It has been disturbed already. How will it be possible to dispose of it? Earlier this afternoon in the debate Senator Baume expressed his concern for the plight of the mining companies. He pointed out that Pancontinental Mining Ltd was wasting thousands of dollars while its equipment lies idle. I must admit that I was quite touched by Senator Baume ‘s philanthropic concern and his compassion for the people who have come here uninvited to rape our country of our mineral wealth. What are they giving our country in return? They are saying: ‘We will abide by certain standards but make sure that those standards are very loose’. I have instanced already that there is no provision in either of these Bills for the protection of human beings. I believe that human considerations should take precedence over profit. Obviously, there are honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber who see profits as their prime concern.
Opposition members have been accused many times in the course of this debate, both in this chamber and in the other place, of being prophets of doom. I put it to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that it is the Government supporters who are concerned about ‘profits’ of doom. They are intent on lining the pockets of the few at the expense of the many. Senator Collard, in his contribution to this debate earlier this evening, used the same phrase which has been used many times by his Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser). Perhaps we should therefore accuse him of plagiarism. I am sure that Mr Fraser feels that it was an original phrase. Let me assure him that it was not. It is not enough for the Prime Minister or for members of his Party to say that Opposition members are the prophets of doom. It is the mining of uranium and the advent of nuclear power that forecasts doom not only for Australia but on a world-wide basis. Once the uranium leaves this country, we have no say in how it will be used. We rely very heavily on a flimsy piece of paper called the Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty. It is only a piece of paper. I do not believe that we can ignore the inherent factor of the proliferation of nuclear weapons of war by the mining of uranium. I believe that we have a responsibility to people not only in Australia but also throughout the world.
There are people in other countries who do not want us to mine our uranium. Last year we saw thousands of Japanese people concerning themselves with this issue when Australia was shipping yellowcake to Japan. The Japanese demonstrated their concern in their thousands. We have seen the same activity taking place in the United Kingdom -
– And in the United States.
-And in the United States of America, as my colleague Senator Gietzelt from New South Wales reminds me.
– And in the Soviet Union.
– This has occurred in a number of countries throughout the world. Some countries are concerned that Australia even now is well into the United Nations declared decade of disarmament. They see the mining of uranium as the continuation, the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Honourable senators will recall that I had to jog the memory of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Withers) last Friday to obtain an answer to a question which I asked in the Senate about the delegation to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Disarmament. It is now about 12 days before the Special Session on Disarmament is to take place and we still do not know who will be in the Australian delegation. We know, however, that the Australian Government has been part and parcel of certain proposals that have been laid down at the United Nations for the Special Session. But, of course, we did not obtain that information from the Government. The three documents that I have were given by the British Foreign Office to the representatives of the people who are concerned about disarmament in the United Kingdom. The documents were brought to Australia. But they were put down in the United Nations in September and November of last year and in February of this year. They are guidelines for disarmament. How can we be talking about guidelines for disarmament at the same time as we are talking about the mining of uranium? We have heard so often before the expression: ‘You speak with a forked tongue’. I make no bones about my stand on the mining of uranium. I do not speak with a forked tongue. But I accuse the Government of speaking with a forked tongue. I accuse the Government of participating in the United Nations Special Session on Disarmament at the same time as it is considering providing the world with the wherewithal to create nuclear weapons.
– People like Marcos from the Philippines.
– I ask honourable senators to imagine the position if nuclear weapons got into the hands of President Marcos in the Philippines or Idi Amin. What control do we have over that? The world is already aware of a shipment of uranium which went missing. Where is it now? No one knows. It may have finished up in Israel. On the other hand, it may have finished up in Saudi Arabia or in Rhodesia. We really do not know. I am saying here and now, as I have said many times previously, that if we mine uranium we must be prepared for the accusations that can be made about us throughout the world that we have been responsible for the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Senator Jessop made a brilliant suggestion earlier in the debate. He said that we must protect the Third World countries and assist in their development. He said that we must mine our uranium and we must give it to countries to enable them to develop their nuclear power stations. I presume this is what he intended we should be doing. But the majority of people living in the Third World countries do not even have a power point in their homes. They cannot afford a power point. They cannot afford nuclear energy. All nuclear energy will mean to the Third World developing countries is unemployment because machinery will be brought in to do the very work that the people are doing now. We have listened very closely to the arguments put forward by Government senators. I notice that a couple of them are present in the Senate chamber at the present moment- not very many because they are not concerned with this issue.
– There are about the same number of Government senators present in the chamber as there are Opposition senators.
– I thank Senator Wright. Perhaps he would like to draw attention to the state of the House. (Quorum formed). I am most grateful that some Government supporters have even attended the chamber.
– The Opposition has six senators present now. It had five previously.
– It is the Government’s responsibility to maintain the numbers in the chamber. We heard Senator Jessop earlier tonight discussing the sealing of waste in glass underneath salt layers in the earth. We have also heard this proposition put forward by the maniacal magnate of Western Australia, Mr Lang Hancock, who offered to do this in his very own backyard. Of course Mr Hancock still believes that Madame Marie Curie died of old age. He insists that his information comes from the Encyclopedia Britannica. Obviously he cannot read either. There are a number of honourable senators who cannot read.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– As I have very little time in which to speak I want to deal with only two or three matters, but I feel that some of the issues raised by Senator Coleman deserve immediate attention. For instance she said straight off that there is no interest in energy in the Third World and that we should have no concern for ensuring that it gets uranium for the development of its own industry. Does she not realise that the only way in which the Third World will become thoroughly viable in the world’s economy is by industrialisation and by the use of energy? That energy has to be cheap, in order to allow those countries to get moving.
Let us quickly look at one or two other issues. For the reasons that my colleagues have been outlining throughout the evening, I support uranium mining. I do not intend to go further into that, except to report that I have visited the area surrounding the Kakadu National Park and the mine sites and have been very interested to see the undertakings that have been going forward in that area. Certainly it is one of the most beautiful areas in Australia. Certainly the escarpment area and the Alligator Rivers Region deserve the highest possible standard of safeguards in the protection of the ecology. I was pleased to note that Pancontinental Mining Ltd which presently occupies the area around Jabiluka is undertaking studies into the ecology of the Magela creek which flows into the South Alligator River system and is consequently doing this work which no other body, by the way, has so far done. Of course, this has been supervised and assisted by the responsible body in the Northern Territory. So we have seen a great deal of concern in that area.
As to Senator Coleman’s reference to the washing of the wastes and the flow of the water into that river system, I can assure her from what I have observed that there is a great deal of study being undertaken so that those wastes will flow into the river system only in the flood season when they will be overwhelmed by the huge weight of water in the vicinity.
– I feel much happier now.
-Senator Button is always very happy when he hears people like Senator Collard assure him of the real truth of these matters. I hope that he will be able to convey that to the rest of his party.
– Do you know what happened at the Finnis River?
-We can talk about the Finnis River. I think that the example of Rum Jungle which has been raised by Senator Mulvihill is a very good one about which to talk. We looked at that area too. I agree that there are very big problems in the area. The fact is that we have come a long way since those days and I hope that the people of Australia and the Senate recognise this. That is what this debate today is all about. We are here to discuss the safeguards for the ecology, Aboriginal land rights and other issues.
Senator Coleman was discussing earlier the fact that she was shocked when she visited the mine site areas and saw that no controls were being implemented. She says that this was some time in 1974. 1 understand that in October 1974 the Government of which she was a supporter put down a document in the House of Representatives which was ratified 12 months later, on 28 October 1975, by the Whitlam Government which was in agreement with the Ranger partners as to mining in the area. That was the subject of the Fox report and is the subject of the debate tonight. It is also interesting to observe that on 15 October, just two weeks before that agreement was presented to the Parliament, Senator Wriedt became the Minister for Minerals and Energy. In fact, not more than 15 or 13 days later he apparently was one of those people who concurred in the agreement.
That agreement is the core of the legislation that we are debating tonight. Under the Atomic Energy Act we are now seeking to ratify that agreement and extend it into legislative form in order to protect the areas about which we have been talking. It is interesting to observe that the most stringent safeguards have been set down in the Atomic Energy Amendment Bill. I see that we are expanding our constitutional base from the defence area into the area of power relating to trade and, of course, to external affairs. Quite clearly this legislation does give the strongest power to the members of the Government who will need it in order to control the development there under proper conditions.
We observe that clauses 11 and 13 of the Environment Protection (Nuclear Codes) Bill have come in for some comment from the Opposition and from some State Premiers. I mention in particular the Acting Premier of South Australia, Mr Des Corcoran, who, together with senators from his State, is sending us telegrams.
– He might take the trouble to send them to us individually.
– I note that he did not bother to send them to us separately; in fact he sent us a group one which I received only today.
– It was not a telegram; it was a telex. You are misrepresenting the position.
– I acknowledge that point; Senator McLaren is correct.
- Senator Davidson sent it to me, with his compliments.
– There is discrimination even in South Australia. Mr Corcoran is complaining about the fact that there has been no consultation in relation to clauses 1 1 and 13 of that Bill as to the time at which this activity will be commenced. In fact, it mentions that the Prime Minister (Mr Malcolm Fraser) has given an assurance that those provisions will not commence to be enforced in relation to the States until the views of the States have been considered. That seems to me to be perfectly reasonable in the circumstances. We have a situation in which the codes of practice which are endorsed by the Fox commission report will, I believe, be thrashed out in Australia. Health matters and transport matters will be thrashed out in conjunction with the States. That is the point where the negotiations and consultations must occur. That is the guts of the issue. That is the guts of the safeguards relating to milling and mining, and they are the issues that have to be thrashed out in conjunction with the States. As to the broader proposition, quite clearly it is not an issue for the States in the immediate term. Rather we see the development in the Northern Territory going forward before the States are involved. Nevertheless, there is going to be consultation on the codes.
Donations to Australian Native Dog Training Society of NSW Ltd: Tax Deductibility- Unemployment Benefit: Appeals
– 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.
– I rise very briefly tonight to make a plea for justice for the Australian Native Dog Training Society of New South Wales Ltd, who ask to be encompassed within section 78 ( 1 ) of the Income Tax Act. In essence, in view of remarks in earlier debates, this organisation is trying to preserve a canine species related to the early days of this continent. All that it asks is that anybody who makes a donation to the organisation have the amount treated as a taxation deduction. I have taken the liberty of giving the Minister at the table, the Minister for Education (Senator Carrick), a copy of a letter from Mrs Walters, the very energetic and competent secretary of that organisation. I also seek the approval of the Senate to have that document incorporated in Hansard, as well as a news letter entitled ‘ Warrigal’ that expounds a little further the submission I am making. I seek leave to have the two documents incorporated in Hansard.
The documents read as follows-
AUSTRALIAN NATIVE DOG TRAINING SOCIETY OF NSW LTD
Wooleston Kennels, Anna Road, Bargo, NSW 2574 AUSTRALIA 2 May 1978
Senator J. A. Mulvihill,
Aust. Parliamentary Offices, Chifley Square, Sydney 2000.
We have a problem and are hopeful you may be able to assist.
As with most organisations, the raising of funds is a continual struggle. The running of raffles becomes an embarrassment when we have so few members, even though we do have valuable prizes.
To develop our HQ as a library, our grounds where schools and the general public can visit, various facilities have to be provided. I have leased the Society an area of land on which the building has been resited, and on which my husband and self have built three 90 ft x 20 ft yards. Before numerous dogs can be kept in these enclosures, kennels have to be built and a fence around the perimeter of the whole area (as a second line of defence, which all breeds require if kept in any numbers).
As I have some few shares in Utah I wrote to them asking for consideration of a grant to provide the finance for the building of the boundary dog-proof fence. Copy of the reply is attached.
Some months ago 1 wrote to the Taxation Department for consideration of our being given the status of approval under Section 78(1) (a) as recipients of tax deductible gifts. In their reply they stated we did not come into the categories in which approval is usually given. I did not pursue the matter at that time.
Although the promotion of an improved image for this native animal through a better informed public has always been my objective, interest in our progress is being shown by a wide variety of persons. A Dr Max Nicholls, a behavioural scientist and geneticist, University of NSW visited HQ attending our last Committee meeting. He was most interested in what I had to say about the lack of immunity the dingo has for common diseases and infections. In his work with Aboriginal children this same lack of immunity is causing countless deaths. Is there perhaps something in their makeup that can be identified from work with the dingo? He was also most interested in the material I have been collecting over the past 10 years relating to wolves, dingoes and other wild dogs, and has invited me to work at the Uni. to extend our knowledge and classify all available knowledge. I will be working with a senior lecturer and member Mrs Felicity Maclean who you may remember. I think it was her you spoke to at Wollongong. The prospects are enormous.
In the meantime I would be most grateful if you could advise us on how best we can put our case to the Taxation Department. I have sent a similar letter to the Premier.
Thanking you in anticipation. We really missed you at The Rocks. I lead your dog Peter and carried him up onto the platform to be presented with the trophy of our Society’s winning award for THE MOST OUTSTANDING CANINE EXHIBIT. You should have heard the applause.
Yours sincerely, Berenice Walters. Secretary
AUSTRALIAN NATIVE DOG TRAINING SOCIETY OF NSW LTD
AND THE DINGOES HAVE GOT IT’
A tumultuous roar went up from the thousands of persons gathered at The Rocks celebrating the Argyle Festivities.
As part of the procession we had just completed a triumphant march through the streets of Sydney and at the conclusion of the swearing in of the 1978 Governor of the Rocks, the presentations for the best of the various sections of the procession were announced.
The first award to be announced was for THE MOST OUTSTANDING CANINE EXHIBIT. Our group had been lead by Ken Walters carrying our green banner with the golden dog, clearly stating DINGO, AUSTRALIAN NATIVE DOG. Then followed members in double line, wearing our bright yellow and green T-shirts and leading our dogs. Bringing up the rear Graeme and Margaret Melling’s green Land Rover, gaily decorated with green and gold streamers, carried our Society sign high above the heads of the marchers.
It was a truly historic occasion. As in the Festival of Sydney parade, we were greeted with tremendous applause, people racing onto the road to give the dogs a pat.
Earlier, on our way to the assembly point our Patron, Mr Neville Wran left his car to meet us, and with ‘those are my dogs’ cheerily waved to members, informally chatting and making the acquaintance of Peter Pan, better known as ‘The Senator’s Dog’.
On the announcement that we had won the Canine Section, amid a tumultuous roar of approval from the thousands of persons gathered to watch the presentations, we were presented with a magnificant engraved trophy which had been donated by a Miss P. Ireland of Vaucluse. We are greatly indebted to the organizers, especially Mrs Shirely Ball, the President, and to Miss Ireland for giving us the opportunity to display our dogs under such ideal conditions, and to give the general public a chance to voice their approval.
During the day our stall was in the capable hands of Mrs Felicity Maclean, Mrs Nan and Miss Kathy Bingham, with the help of other members. Nearly $500.00 was raised with the sale of stickers, badges, T-Shirts, pockets and jam (Nan Bingham’s speciality), and nearly 500 pamphlets handed out. The general public were able to come and handle the dogs in the children’s playground area that had been thoughtfully made available to us by the organizers.
In awarding our group the most outstanding canine exhibit of the day, the people of Sydney clearly showed their acceptance and approval of the work and objectives of the AUSTRALIAN NATIVE DOG TRAINING SOCIETY OF NSW LTD.
MEMBERS PLEASE NOTE
Raffle- The current raffle for Colour T.V. will be drawn at our next Field day 20th May. Please Note. All butts and unsold tickets must be returned on or before that date. (Our Cert, of Reg. No. 1274.)
Pro forma- All current behavioural pro formas are required urgently for evaluation by Dr M. Nicols, geneticist and behavoural scientist. Please return completed forms at earliest convenience.
-I thank the Senate for that indulgence. Very simply this organisation has kennels at Bargo and is largely a selfhelp organisation. Indicative of people’s changing attitude, the Society has been a participant in major Sydney festivals on several occasions this year. The response of the people at large and their appreciation of the dingo relates to the legends built about it. If Senator Webster were here he would be able to confirm that the officers of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation have refuted a lot of the assertions that have been made about the dingo. All the organisation asks is that we preserve some of Australia ‘s early heritage.
I sum up in this way. Earlier this year, with my colleague and joint patron of the organisation, the Hon. Neville Wran, Premier of New South Wales, I marched in a festival in Sydney to the music of Sousa’s El Capitan march. It was very exhilarating, going up Pitt Street with a dingo on the lead and knowing that it was the first time since Captain Phillip’s era that these dogs had been able to walk in Sydney Cove and be proud of their canine ancestry. I say to the Minister that I have always believed that today’s preparations result in tomorrow’s success. That is a hint to the Minister to put to the Treasurer (Mr Howard) that donors to the Australian Native Dog Training Society are entitled as donors to a lot of other organisations to any taxation deduction benefits. I am not one to make threats, as the Minister knows. I would like a list of all the recipients of the benefits of section 78. However, I can say to the Minister that the documents he has at his disposal prove that this is a worthwhile organisation which is playing its part in the conservation of all that was good in Australia’s past. The defence rests on that note.
– I do not wish to detain the Senate for long. I was tempted this evening to make a speech in the adjournment debate in praise of Queensland justice, in view of the fact that the Opposition Whip, Senator Georges, has returned to us unharmed and ungaoled. However, I have a more serious matter to raise. In the last couple of years I believe that all of us have faced problems as members of Parliament by being presented with cases concerning people who have difficulty with our system of unemployment benefits, and particularly with our system of appeals when such benefits are terminated. In many cases the problem arises because we have a very complex system, a system which people who may not have had a very good education, who may not be used to coping with the bureaucracy or who may be unemployed for various reasons, have difficulty in handling.
I have often asked the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle)- I understand she is unable to be in the chamber to hear my speechwhether she will look at cases in general. I now ask her to look in particular at the case I bring forward tonight. I raise this case not because it is typical- in fact it is quite atypical- but because it demonstrates some of the problems that arise. The case involves a young woman named Kathryn McMillan who now lives at Geeveston in Tasmania. As I say, she is not a typical case.
She is well educated and it is because of her education and her ability to realise what was happening and to put down in words what is happening to her that I think she is a good case to demonstrate some of the problems that might face some of the less articulate, less intelligent and less educated people who are often in this position.
Miss McMillan left Sydney at the end of December last year. She had been unemployed and unable to get work for some four or five months. She was paid the unemployment benefit while in Sydney. Her nearest Commonwealth Employment Service office was at Redfern. There was no question that she was not eligible for the unemployment benefit. She was paid right up to the time she left Sydney, the last cheque being paid on 29 December 1977. She heard that she might be able to get work in Tasmania. This is something that I would not have thought possible at the time. Had she asked me I would not have advised her to go to Tasmania. But, as it turned out, she was able to get work there. Before she left Sydney she approached the office of the Department of Social Security in Redfern and asked whether her move to Tasmania would affect her entitlement to receive the unemployment benefit. She claims that she was told- I have no reason to believe otherwise- that if she registered at the CES office at the place to which she was going by 4 January, some seven days later, she would be eligible to receive the unemployment benefit.
This is not the first time I have heard this sort of story. Many people who are moving from one area to another are told that if they register within a period; usually seven days, they will be eligible. I can find nothing from the Department of Social Security or in CES manuals to lead me to believe that people should be given this advice; but, in fact, obviously frequently they are. One hears the story too often for it to be a fabrication. She went to Tasmania and registered. She received her cheque in Sydney dated 29 December 1977 and the form necessary for the continuation of her benefit which was due to be submitted on 4 January 1978. She registered and she forwarded this form to the regional office in Burnie in northern Tasmania. She received back in the mail in the next two weeks numerous forms, including forms from the Professional Employment Service with which she had previously dealt in Sydney. She received no further cheques or notification until 9 February when she received a cheque for $98.60. However, a continuation form was not enclosed with the cheque. Therefore in the period 29
December to 9 February she received two cheques- one on 29 December and one on 9 February.
On 27 February she received a notice that her benefit had been terminated because it was said, she had moved to an area of low employment. This notification was dated 24 February. No notice or no notification was received about the missed payments- the payments she had not received in the meantime. On the same day she received a notice from the Professional Employment Service asking her to seek employment in the non-professional field. Obviously she was in some financial difficulty. She then wrote back to the Burnie office. She was living on the west coast of Tasmania. She sent a letter complaining of the treatment she had received and appealing against the decision.
In fact, during the time she was on the west coast of Tasmania she was able to obtain parttime work. From the nature of the work she was performing, I believe she demonstrated her willingness to work. For instance, on one occasion she received some $49.50 and she received $48.50 for painting the local doctor’s house. She was employed by the local council in street cleaning activities, and she received employment on a fishing boat, which is a rather unusual type of employment for a woman but not that unusual. She was to be employed on that type of work for a month and went to sea. But, as so often happens, she suffered such considerable seasickness that a couple of days later she had to be offloaded and she was returned to shore. She then moved from that area to southern Tasmania. Since then she has been in continuous employment in the apple picking district of Geeveston in southern Tasmania. I believe this demonstrates sufficiently that she was certainly able to work.
In the meantime, not knowing what to do about her unemployment benefit, or her lack of unemployment benefit, and because of her nature, her education, and not being willing to lie down and take this sort of thing, she contacted the office of the Department of Social Security. Among other organisations she contacted the Unemployed Workers Union in Hobart which made some inquiries. It was found that her appeal had been forwarded to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal and that the letter of complaint she had written to Burnie, had also been forwarded as evidence to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal. It was found also that she was not to be called to that Tribunal, nor was she to be allowed to have representation at that Tribunal hearing, as we know people are not. She did not know when the appeal would be considered by the Tribunal. She later received a letter from the Tribunal- as people do- saying that her appeal had not been upheld but, of course, no reasons were given for that decision.
She presented the sorts of problems faced by many people who are not as articulate and not as intelligent as she is, and who cannot cope with the problem. Unless they see their local member or someone who can assist them, they get into great trouble. She has had no notification as to why she received no cheque from 29 December to 9 February. She received no notification initially as to why the payment of her benefit had been terminated, but on inquiry she discovered why. She appealed to the Social Security Appeals Tribunal but was unable to present her case. The only evidence which was presented from her was the letter she had sent to the Burnie office of the Commonwealth Employment Service. I am aware, of course, that there is no compulsion on the Tribunal to hear people, although a person may insist- if that person knows about it- on appearing before the Tribunal. But there is no general rule covering cases like this. The Law Council of Australia has recommended that people should be heard in these cases. It has also recommended that detailed reasons should be given to people as to why their appeal is not upheld.
We know that in the Repatriation Department, as a result of the Toose inquiry, people are now told why their appeal is not upheld or why a certain decision is made. That has resulted in a considerable diminution in the number of appeals that are made. I ask the Government to seriously consider this matter. The Minister has said that she intends to introduce a system under which those whose appeals are refused by the Social Security Appeals Tribunal will be able to appeal to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. I think that in order to prevent the Administrative Appeals Tribunal being flooded the very least reform should provide that people be given reasons why the Social Security Appeals Tribunal does not uphold their cases. I believe it is a matter of common justice that an appeals tribunal set up by the Commonwealth should tell people why it does not uphold their appeals.
This lady, through dint of much writing, the making of many inquiries and by going to people who could assist her eventually found out what was going on. But one can appreciate the difficulties of those who are not as forthright or as determined as she is. They get into a situation in which they are extremely confused and extremely frustrated by the system. Often they receive no unemployment benefits when they should. I think we have all dealt with cases where a few simple words from the member involved could in fact solve the problem which appeared insurmountable to someone who does not understand the system.
I think it is important that certain reforms should be made. For example, I believe that people who have their benefits terminated should first of all be told quite clearly why those benefits are being terminated. They should always be told that they have a right of appeal. Obviously this does not always happen. One continually gets reports that people are not being told. One only needs to read papers like Rough Justice which is produced by the Brotherhood of St Laurence to see examples of this claim. Secondly, when they do appeal, I believe that they have a right to be heard. When the Social Security Appeals Tribunal decision is made, they have a right to know on what grounds their appeal was rejected. Thirdly, I believe anyone in this situation who have gone for six weeks without benefits and without explanation should be given an explanation. I believe that the appellant and the people who are coping with our social security system and our Commonwealth Employment Service system should have complete access to the manuals, the guidelines and the regulations under which this system is run.
Finally, I go back to the first point I made. It seems that Miss McMillan was told that moving from Redfern to the west coast of Tasmania would not mean that she would lose her unemployment benefit. One hears too often of people who have been told by their home CES office that they will not lose their benefits if they take similar action, but when they get to the place to which they were moving, they are told that they have lost their unemployment benefits because they have moved to an area of low employment. As it happens, I doubt whether the rate of unemployment in the Redfern area of Sydney is lower than that of the west coast of Tasmania.
There may in fact be arguments whether she did move to an area of low employment. But I believe that the information given by officers should be consistent so that people will know where they stand. They should have full information on how the system works and how they can appeal. I merely make the request that the Minister look at Miss McMillan’s case in particular and at the whole structure of our appeals system and our unemployment benefits system to see whether they cannot be improved in times of such high unemployment.
– As to the case of Miss Kathryn McMillan described by Senator Grimes, I shall be very happy to ask the Minister for Social Security (Senator Guilfoyle) to look at the matter and to comment to the honourable senator about it. I shall bring to the notice of the Treasurer (Mr Howard) Senator Mulivhill’s representation on behalf of the Australian Native Dog Training Society of New South Wales Ltd, as to whether the society might be considered eligible for concessional benefits under section 78 of the taxation laws. Senator Mulvihill will be very well aware that there is a long queue. In this matter, my only undertaking is that I will put him and his dog Peter in the queue.
– Peter Pan.
– You see, Mr President, we learn. Senator Mulvihill has to declare his canine interests. The incorporated document told me that it was in fact Senator Mulvihill ‘s dog that won the championship at the Rocks. May I simply say that I am encouraged that a voluntary society is endeavouring to improve Australian knowledge of the behaviour of one of our native animals and to upgrade its general image and reputation. Like some of us, its public relations in the past has not been all that good. I commend the society and Senator Mulvihill. Of course I congratulate him on Peter Pan. He himself in these matters is the eternal Peter Pan. I commend the matter and will do something about it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 1 1.20 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice, on 14 March 1978:
– The Minister for National Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: ( 1 ), (2), (3) and (4). See the answer to Senate Question No. 168(pages 1309 and 1 3 10 Hansard, 2 May 1978).
Consular Posts: Los Angeles, Bombay, UNESCO (Question No. 217)
asked the Minister for Administrative Services, upon notice, on 8 March 1978:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 14 March 1978:
What will be the estimated finance advantage in 1977-78 to Victoria from other States consequent upon the implementation of Stage I of the Australian dairy industry marketing arrangements.
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I have been advised by the Australian Dairy Corporation, which is responsible for the administration of the Stage1 marketing arrangements for the dairy industry, that the extent of the revenue transfer to Victoria from the other States in respect to the 1977-78 pooling arrangements could be around $ 1.2m.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs, upon notice, on 15 March 1978:
– The Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s questions:
Funds were provided through the normal appropriations of the Department responsible for the adult migrant education program.
The most recent study, an independent evaluation, was undertaken by Professor King of Wollongong University. This evaluation, which was commissioned by the Commonwealth, was made during the screening of Series D of ‘You Say the Word ‘. The final report on the evaluation is not yet available but an interim report from Professor King shows that 49 per cent of the sample of migrants interviewed in Sydney, Wollongong, Melbourne and Shepparton watch the program and that 25.4 per cent said they were regular viewers. The interim report noted that ‘the program is reaching not just a “reasonable proportion” but a very high number of people in the sample ‘. The data showed that just over 64 per cent of the sample could not speak or understand English or were able to communicate only at a very basic level. The data in the interim report also showed that 76.4 per cent of the sample said that they watch the program to learn English and that 65.5 per cent said there were no problems in the present viewing times. The data indicates a substantial degree of participation in the program by the viewers in that 64 per cent of the viewers said that they repeated the sentences as required by the direct language components of the program.
The interim report draws attention to conflicting opinions in Australia and overseas concerning the efficiency of and optimal role television is able to play in language teaching and comments on the language teaching limitation of short and interrupted periods of contact with viewers which the program has. It also draws attention to the success of television education where sufficient resources- both human and financial- have been available and refers to experiences in a number of overseas countries.
The interim report goes on to state however that ‘the greatest and most important value of the television program, apart from being an efficient medium for language teaching, is in the fact that no other service can penetrate the large number of homes where isolated people are living in dire need for language acquisition’. (4), (5) and (6) The administration of the Migrant Education Television program is undertaken as a part of the adult migrant education program. The present position is that there is an agreement with a company to produce the program. That agreement is for the company (Ian Hamilton and Associates Pty Ltd) to provide the executive producer and to engage, with departmental approval, such other persons as are required to produce the program. The administrative arrangements also provide for continuing liaison between the production company and the responsible Commonwealth Department which now is the Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs. Three departmental staff are out-posted to the production unit in Wollongong to facilitate day-to-day aspects of the administration of the television production.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice, on 4 April 1 978:
– The Minister for Home Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Consideration is being given to implementing the scheme through the National, State and regional galleries, the Australia Council ‘s Visual Arts Board and such bodies as the Australian Gallery Directors Council.
Questions of protection of art works, including the cost of such protection and who should pay for them, are under examination in the process of developing an appropriate scheme.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 1 1 April 1978:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice, on 1 3 April 1 978:
– The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
1 ) Yes; the Board of the International Wool Secretariat consists of a Chairman, who is also Chairman of the Australian Wool Corporation, and 13 members of whom six represent Australia, three New Zealand, three South Africa, and one Uruguay. (a), (b), (c), (d) and (e) The Australian Wool Corporation uses a roster system of its members allowing a continual turnover of Australian representation at IWS Board meetings, of which there are two per year. Australian Wool Corporation representation at the meeting of the IWS Board scheduled for 3 1 May to 2 June will be Mr D. J. Asimus, Mr E. W. Barr, Mr T. B. C. Bell, Mr D. F. Jones, Mr P. D. Moore and Mr J. A. McGregor.
The amounts involved for the years in question have been:
-On 8 March 1978 (Hansard, page 419) Senator Georges asked me a question, without notice, concerning the computer tender for the Australian Bureau of Statistics and Department of Trade and Resources. The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I see no need to add to the information already provided on this matter in my statement on 7 March 1978 (Hansard, pages 458-62) and on subsequent occasions.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 May 1978, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1978/19780510_senate_31_s77/>.